Friday, March 17, 2017

A Freeing Realization about Suffering

I have been really proud of our youth in the youth group these last months as we have been talking about the issue of why there is suffering, "bad things," loss, etc. in the face of a God who we say is all powerful, loving, and good. They have been sticking with this important and hard question which is often a stumbling point to people coming to faith ("If God is real, then why is there ______?"), and to Christians who find themselves in places of great loss, or suffering, or "unanswered" prayer.

Over the last many meetings I've given them many reasons for suffering and bad things. There is the natural result of the Fall and the curse on the earth—everything decays and dies, Creation groans and is in upheaval, etc. There are people's choices which God gave us to have, knowing it would cost Him His life on the cross—and our lives bear the consequences of both our choices and others choices. There is spiritual warfare—the Gospels and Acts show a multitude of times demonic work explained sickness, mental issues, etc. There is protecting us from our own sin, as in Paul's thorn in the flesh keeping him from pride. There is correction from a loving Father who is bringing us back on course, or shaping us into something we can't yet see His purpose in.

These are just some of the reasons we've talked about, and often times in the midst of hard stuff we can examine things and the Holy Spirit can point to one of those as the reason and we can often correct or address it. But . . . then comes those moments that loss that seems to have no explanation, nothing done wrong, to someone totally "innocent," and all in the face of a God we know could have stopped it. A God we say loves us and is good.

I asked the youth a very powerful question last night, one I believe God gave me to ask, and one I was hesitant to ask because the answer could rattle some people. The question was, "If you experienced some horrible loss of no seeming fault of you or the person lost (i.e., loss of a baby, parents killed by a drunk driver, etc.) and you asked me 'why?' what answer could I give you that would fully explain it and make it OK—make you say, 'Oh, now I understand. OK.' " Basically I said they could write their own perfect answer. The answer I knew would come, and which ultimately did, was, "None."

The youth had some good hopes and insight in the face of the question—recognition that we travel different paths and God works good from things, hopes for people to hold them and stand with them, etc.—but in the end we recognized that when you've just experienced that huge loss no theological explanation is going to make it OK in that moment. There are just some things that aren't going to make sense when we know in our heart God could have stopped it. And it always comes back to that. God could have stopped it. He is, after all, God.

When I first came up with this question, I asked it first of myself and I realized that there was no answer I could formulate that would even fully explain and make OK a situation like that for myself. All of the theology, and all of the explanations, fall fully short of a satisfying answer when we know God is sovereign, holy, good, loving, and all powerful, and we are weeping and broken in the face of horrible loss. Realizing I couldn't even fully come up with a "perfect" answer for myself freed me and some of the youth as well, and helped us see that often we spend so much time trying to understand (or explain to another who is suffering) a reason for something, when God is calling us to instead focus on trust. That is where we ended last night, with having to come to the answers to some basic questions in our hearts:

1. Do I believe God is good?
2. Do I believe God loves me?
3. Do I believe God is trustworthy?
4. Did I give my life to Him, as His?

So often we demand an understanding that we aren't going to get, and it becomes a hindrance to our realizing we can trust Him. So often we try and explain something to someone else that has no human explanation and we end up making it a lot worse. I've cringe when I hear Christians tell someone who just had a horrible loss, "God meant it for good" or somehow saying it is good. If everything was good then there would have been no point for Jesus, and Acts 10:38 would make no sense, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." If everything was good, and God's desire, then Jesus wouldn't have wept. More than once. And the Bible wouldn't command us to weep with those who weep.

God tells us He loves us, He promises to never leave us, and He promises to work all things to good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. In those truths and others we can offer someone (or ourselves) hope for the future. But He doesn't call all things good, and to someone who has just lost a child or had some other loss calling it good defiles the character of God. There are bad things, there is evil, and trying to understand why God allowed something we know He could have stopped can too often cause us to focus on answer we can't arrive at, or that will undermine our faith in God's love, instead of focusing on the cross that cries out, "I love you!" and trusting in that love . . . the same way we ask our children to trust in our love even when they don't understand why we are, or aren't, doing something.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

HAM, Science, and (Yes) Creation

Proud family with certificates and the girls' new radios!
This week our family completed a 7-week course (and passed our tests!) for an Amateur Radio (HAM) license. It was a lot of work and study and I am so proud of Mary Ann and the girls—they scored amazing scores! Though encouraged to get my license for some time, I’ve held off as I have a radio from the fire department I can talk on during fire calls. But, we made the decision to do this based on experiences we had during the Chimney Fire last August when we were in here, the fire was coming, we had no electricity, and I wasn’t officially dispatched on the fire so I couldn’t use my radio. There were multiple times that I needed to go out and help a neighbor, or scout the fire, etc., and Mary Ann and I were not able to communicate with each other (there is no cell coverage where we live), nor contact people around us. In one instances I needed to go and find a friend who had broken down just before dark in a burned over area trying to find lost cows while at the same time, back toward our home, I could see billowing columns of smoke as the fire was breaking loose. It was very hard to not be able to call back and check on things.

As I studied for this HAM course I found myself in awe—not just of the God who made these unseen radio waves and their intricacy and amazing capability, but also of man’s mind that could discover them, and harness them, and make everything from long distance communication to microwaves and so much more. As I looked at how incredible man’s mind is I had the thought, “It is no wonder so many people who are familiar with the amazing scope of what science has done then buy hook, line, and sinker science’s theories about both origins and the age of the earth.”

The problem lies in the vast difference between science that is observable and able to be tested and built upon, and science that is a theory of something that isn’t observable and can’t be tested. The amazing science that harnesses these unseen waves traveling around us can be tested and harnessed. If a mistake is found, or a theory is found to not hold up, then one can go back to the point of break and formulate a new theory and build upon that, slowly advancing. This is important, because everything built past the point of error is built on an error.

An example of this might be a car engine. It begins with some basic theories. These are tested. Different theories are combined (mechanical, electrical, physical sciences, etc.). These are tested, refined, some rejected, some embraced and built upon. When something doesn’t work you stop and fix it. After years of this you end up with some really amazing and advanced engines.

But, something like the origin of the earth and man, is not observable, and it can’t be tested. We can look at the evidence around us—the observable things—and form theories about what happened. We can, when available, read source evidence from accounts of something (like the Bible). But we can’t go back and observe what happened, and so our ideas about it are theories, based for each of us on different things.

The danger is this: unlike observable science in which you can correct a mistake before you move forward and build everything else on that mistake, this type of science doesn’t allow it. If you are wrong about origins, the age of the earth, etc., then everything—your entire foundation of life, and truth, and understanding, and worldview— from that point forward is built on a falsehood and is wrong (or at best, on a shaky foundation). This is very dangerous, as how we make decisions, assess values and priorities, view the Bible and God and eternity, etc. all spring from these first theories, and everything that is extrapolate out from them.

Yes, man’s mind—and much of science—is amazing! But it is only good if it is built on the foundation of the One who created it, and who told us how He did it. We see also, all around us, the horror of man’s brilliance when it is not harnessed to a partnership of God. Yes, our mind is amazing. But is was created to be in relationship to, and partnership with, and submission under, the One who made it and us. The One who gave us the Bible to tell us how He did it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

As Goes . . .

On Sunday's I've been really enjoying (and blessed by) the teaching I am doing through our history—from God's stunning spoken six-day Creation six thousand or so years ago, to the Bible and faith statements and stands we have today. It is so encouraging to see the threads that travel from the Old Testament through the New Testament, and how God is truly the same God in all the ages. It's always been about faith, it's always had a great cloud of witnesses, it's always been about His presence.

Recently I taught on Saul, then currently on David. I used the expression, "As goes the king, so go his people." It wasn't that it was bad the people wanted a king, it is the king they wanted (one like the other nations). We were created for a King. It is in our spiritual DNA. A great lie of Satan is that we ever believe we are our own boss. The Bible makes it clear that we are either slaves of Satan, or servants of Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are never our own.

As goes the king, so go his people. We share the fate and fortune of our king. If it is an earthly king, the nation goes with his rise and fall. And with our King as Christians, as goes our King, so goes His people. Christ was hated and persecuted and sacrificial on earth—and He's promised us that same road. Christ is victorious and eternal and fully in the Father's presence in Heaven—and He's promised us that same road.

But that's not the only "As goes . . ." (I am sure you can think of multiple). The one I would add is, "As goes your home, so go you." The world is the home for non-believers, but for believers, born again by the Spirit of God, it says our home is Heaven and we are just strangers and soldiers and travelers here, sent by our King with our King's authority to do our King's will.

With that in mind, let me share a striking example from my Bible reading this morning. It comes out of Luke 21 where Jesus is talking about the end times. He says, "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:25–27)

The people of this earth, in the times of the earth's distress (their home's distress) will be fainting with fear and foreboding. Seems plain enough. But then comes the striking contrast, that is only explained if we are inseparably woven into our true home as believers. He now adds, "Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28)

As those of the world fall with their home, those of Heaven, rise with theirs. As goes your home, so goes you. As goes your king, so go you. It is no wonder we are supposed to be so different from the world in every way. No wonder the world should be able to look at our lives and choices and stands and priorities and see a glimpse of the heart of the Father. Because we are inseparably woven into Him and our Heavenly home. May we live like it and not deny our heritage and King and homeland.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Only "Economy" That Matters

I had a thought the other day. It was, "What if I only got in Heaven (or for eternal enjoyment) what I freely gave or used in this life on or toward others?" I'm not saying that is theologically correct (or that it isn't), but there is no denying in an honest reading of the New Testament that there is a significant emphasis on investing now for eternity.

God's economy is much different than ours. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Where we put our treasures not only affects our future life past this earth, but it defines where our heart will be on this earth. Considering God is more concerned about our heart than any outward appearance, this makes where we store up our treasures a weighty issue—a heart defining issue.

In my Bible reading this week I've been struck by the emphasis on this that Jesus makes from different angles in Luke 16. There is the confusing parable of the dishonest manager. Setting aside all the different thoughts on who the people represent, etc., there seems to be a clear rebuke by Jesus in there of "the sons of light." While not saying dishonesty is good, there seems to be in His words a pointing out that the unrighteous are often more careful about securing benefits for their future (albeit worldly future) than the children of the Kingdom of God are about their future (eternal). He also, in the parable of Abraham, the rich man, and the poor man Lazarus in their interaction beyond the grave, says of the rich one who neglected the poor at his door, "Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Luke 16:25).

When Paul writes to the believers in Corinth he reminds them, ". . . For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). When we combine verses like these, with the multitude of other similar verses, it would seem that followers of Jesus are faced with two very different paths. We can invest in our now, and receive our reward in this life, or we can invest in eternity, and enjoy our reward for eternity. When we realize this economy, it is no wonder that Jim Elliot, a missionary killed in the 1950s in Ecuador, wrote in his journal this now famous quote, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

What are we investing in. Do the words of J.C. Ryle, about the parable of the dishonest manager, apply to us? These words are, "The diligence of worldly men about the things of time, should put to shame the coldness of professing Christians about the things of eternity. The zeal and pertinacity of men of business in compassing sea and land to get earthly treasures, may well reprove the slackness and indolence of believers about treasures in heaven."

It is a question worth asking. When we face that moment when we cross the line, and if we are able to see our life and priorities and "treasures" in perspective, will we be pleased with the choices we made, or will we wish we could do it over? If you could write your obituary, what would you want it to say? And what are you and I doing to bring that to pass?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Faithful in Little . . .

Isn't that beautiful! We are so blessed by the rain and the ponds that are finally full and holding water. We have gotten over 30" this winter so far, which is huge for us! I thank God for the rain we have so badly needed, and, like a friend recently wrote, ask Him to fill us all with His living water—to pour out His Spirit like He has the rain!

Some news, and a thought to share.

News: There is a bill coming up in Texas that would abolish abortion. I'd encourage you to be in prayer about it, and to share it with any family or friends who live in Texas who could spread the word and support it. I am waiting to write more about it until I get an answer back from the author regarding one concern I had in the wording of part of it, but the fact that a legislator is willing to sponsor a bill that doesn't simply legislate degrees of abortion (hence, still grant abortion some legitimacy) but actually abolishes abortion is huge. Please be praying and spreading the word. It is HB 948 if you want to look it up. It might be the springboard that leads to a challenge and overthrow of the unconstitutional Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

The following are some thoughts on something I read this morning in the Bible:

On Sunday mornings I have been teaching a series on how we got to where we are in our faith—our inherited history, how the Bible came to be, etc. We are looking at how we arrived to stand on the faith statements and doctrines we stand on, etc. I have been recently looking at David and how God said David was a man after His own heart, willing to do all that God willed. We've been looking at what in David's heart made God say that about him. Some of the cores are his obedience and his faith and his "high view" of God that trusts God and God's sovereignty and leaves in God's hands the things that are Gods. We have been blessed to see how God looks to a man's heart and not the outward appearances.

In Men's Group we've been talking about the talents, about being faithful in what God has trusted us with, about what our lives reflect about our true priorities and the weight we place on things earthly versus things eternal, etc. We only get one crack at this life. Are we numbering our days and living it fully for Him, investing in His Kingdom and modeling to our wives and children and co-workers and neighbors His values and priorities?

This morning in my Bible reading I came across Jesus' words in Luke 16:10 where He says, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much." This really struck me, and it struck me that it again (like with David, and like with how the Master only held the servants accountable for the heart of what they did with the talents He gave them) shows that God is looking past our outward appearances and deeds into the very core of our hearts.

It is similar to Jesus equating being angry at someone to murder, and looking in lust to adultery. He is saying the "rule" is really about the heart—and though you follow the "letter of the Law" you are still guilty of the "spirit of the Law" (the real intent of the Law) in your heart, where it matters. If you've been faithful in a little your heart says you are faithful. It isn't about the amount, but the faithfulness. If your heart is faithful to do the right in just the small things, it will be also in the big. Likewise, if your heart is to be unfaithful and not do the right in the little things, then it will be in the larger as well, because the unfaithfulness in the little is really reflecting your heart, which steers all.

Last night at Youth Group I shared with the youth how at West Point they'd say that your true character is revealed not in what you do when people are watching, but what you do when nobody is watching—when nobody will be praising you, or correcting you, or making you. When nobody is watching, when you are totally free to do just what you want, then your heart will be revealed. Are you faithful in the little? That heart will be faithful in the lot.

Things that are big to us are not to God. He spreads the stars our and puts them all in place. We tend to rank "things" and "sins," etc. God looks past all the "works" and into the heart. They say that the same sun that melts wax hardens clay. The same heart that is faithful in little (and when nobody is watching) is the same heart that is faithful in lot. And the same heart that is not faithful in the little (and when nobody is watching) will not be faithful in the lot.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139:23-24)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Chance to Help

Last month a young man named Cody May drowned in Texas, leaving behind a wife and seven children—six of which were adopted. He was between jobs and had no life insurance. I never met him, though I wish I had from all I've read by people who knew him. I am close friends with a man who roomed with Cody at an event they attended together and he said Cody was the real deal. It sounds like he was a gifted street preacher, and had a deep passion for the complete abolition of abortion. His adoption of six children says volumes about his willingness to not just stand against abortion, but to be a part of the solution for those who don't have an abortion but can't keep their child, as well as loving the orphans.

Here is a link to a blog post about a regular support option for Cody's family. It is a form of "adopting" these children who have already lost family before. At a minimum, if it isn't for you, I found the post really opened up new thoughts for me on what adoption means, what might the body of Christ's role be in that, what are different ways "adoption" could look like, etc. Even if the Spirit is not nudging you at all in to long term support of this family I believe that you will be tremendously blessed by reading this post, looking at the pictures, and reflecting on what it means to fulfill James 1:27 which says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

There has also been a fund set up for one-time donations for the May family. You can go to it by clicking on this link.

I can't imagine what it would feel like to suddenly be a widow, with seven children, some with special needs, in this world. I can't imagine how grateful I'd be if others loved my wife and children and took care of them if something happened to me. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

We all know many needs. Kimberly May and her family might not be a need God calls you to support. It might be that He makes you aware of it because someone you know might want to support it. But, no matter what, considering what God's love looks like in action around us can never hurt.

God bless you. May we each grow closer and closer into the image and body of Christ.

Encouraged by a Talent

Last night at Men's Group I shared a little about Jesus' parable of the talents in Matthew 25. I find in that popular passage some fresh encouragement, and a warning. I don't want to repeat the whole parable here, but I'll give a quick summary:

It comes after a passage about being watchful and prepared for the return of Jesus (the parable of the virgins) and before a parable about the future judgment (separation of the sheep and goats). Sandwiched between these two parables about watching for the end, and what will then happen in the end, comes the parable of the talents about how to live in the days while we are waiting and watching—how to live in the present aspect of the Kingdom of God.

In a nutshell a master leaves and entrusts HIS resources to his servants. He gives a number of talents (a talent was about 20 years wages for a laborer) to each, proportional to their individual ability. He then returns at some time later and settled accounts with them. To the ones who invested HIS resources wisely they were rewarded with praise and more to invest, and invited into the joy of the master. To the one who hid the talent and did nothing with it, he was rebuked, his talent given to one who had more, and he was cast out. I find in this parable tremendous encouragement, and warning. The warning first.

I believe that in America most Christians are probably the ones given the most talents. We are wealthy beyond measure by the standards of most of the world (even most "poor" among us). We have freedom to share the Gospel openly, and we have unlimited access to Bibles, teaching, resources, fellowship, etc. He has given us His name, His authority, His presence. God has trusted us with HIS resources—all we have is His and from Him—and He has made it clear His heart is for the lost, hurting, defenseless, etc. He has made it clear His heart is fixed on things eternal and not temporal. I wonder, what will Jesus say when He returns and evaluates what I have done with the "talents" He trusted to me? Am I numbering my days, using my time wisely, using the opportunities given, being His body, expanding His kingdom? As a whole, is the church in America wisely using her "talents"? Does she invest in eternity, model non-worldly priorities, contend for the abolition of abortion, reach out to the poor and needy and rejected?

On the other hand, this parable is, to me, tremendously encouraging. The master never expected more from his servants then their ability. He didn't point to the one who got and invested and made five more talents and said to the others, "How come you didn't make as much as him?" Rather, he judged and held accountable for each one only what he'd seen in them regarding their ability, and what he'd given them. He equally praised the one he gave two talents to who made two more. And in both cases, seeing them faithful with what he'd given them, he gave them more. What might we do if God saw us faithful and gave us more? If He poured out His Holy Spirit in greater measure? If He performed more miracles? If He brought us more lost into our sphere of influence? If He trusted us with more of His money?

It is easy to think the master was harsh in the way he treated the one who he only gave one talent to who did nothing with it. It is easy to say, "But he knew he didn't have ability." But that isn't true. Even one talent is worth (if a laborer today makes, say, $30,000–$40,000 per year) somewhere around $600,000 to $800,000 in today's terms! I doubt we'd be happy if we entrusted that amount to someone to who worked for us to invest and they produced nothing with it! All the master asked was that the man was faithful with the talent he had.

The widow who only gave a couple pennies, but whom Jesus praised above those who gave much more, is another example of God's heart in this. In a worldly sense (and we tend to look at those to our left and right a lot to compare ourselves) she gave less then the others, but Jesus only looked at what she had to work with and seeing that, He said she gave more. God knows our ability, He knows our situation, He knows our resources. He isn't asking us to do more than we are able to do. He is asking us to trust Him, to have His heart and mind, to invest eternally, and to be faithful in what we do have. And that, I believe, is really encouraging.

To close with a story I love, and that I think you will too, and that will make you smile. A dear friend of mine is a pastor and he had to go to one of those denominational meetings he hates. He was at a table, fed up with some megachurch pastor who was boasting in his numbers (I think it was 4,000 but I'm not sure). At the table was a pastor from Alaska who only had 40 and who was feeling bad. My friend finally had enough and turned to the Alaska pastor and asked how many people there were in his village. The answer was 100. He then turned to the megachurch guy and I think he had something like 400,000 in his town. My friend basically said, "So, this guy has 40% of his town going to his church that he has reached and is teaching. And you only have 1% of your town. What's your problem?" I am paraphrasing, and the numbers probably aren't quite right, but the point is sound and I believe is true. God doesn't ask the pastor of a village of 100 to do what a pastor in a town of 400,000 does. He just asks him, and us, to be faithful with what he has.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Tale of a Race . . .

Three men find out about a marathon they can enter, and all three feel they should enter it. Two men are very well off, very physically fit, and have tremendous resources at their disposal. The third is crippled and poor.

The first two men use their gym membership to the fullest. They train daily, they keep charts of their progress, they buy organic food and eat very healthy, etc. The third, the man crippled and poor, trains as best as he can within his limitations, and eats as best as he can within his financial boundaries.

On race day they all line up amidst a multitude of other people entering the race and spectators. The starting gun goes off.

The first of the two men with everything on their side runs with all he has. He focuses on the finish line and leaves nothing on the course. He pours it all out and crosses the finish line exhausted, having used every muscle and benefit of training and healthy cell in his body to do so, and having let no spectators or tiredness deter him from his focus. He collapses to the ground and from the ground he looks up and sees his time. It is a new record!

The second of the two men with everything on their side jogs along comfortably. He flexes his muscles to the crowd now and then and beams at their oohhs and aahhs. He is so physically fit and has been able to treat his body so well, that he has no problem finishing the race at a relaxed jog, in the middle of the pack, not really having pushed himself and still having a lot in the tank.

The third man—the one crippled and without a lot of resources to draw on—limps along. The bulk of the crowd leaves him far behind. But he pushes with all he has and gives it everything. He, too, leaves nothing behind, though his body is weak with out the nutrients it should have. He strains his body, he endures the pain, he keeps his mind and heart focused on the finish line. He finally crosses the line and he too collapses. He is near the back of the pack, and his time is no record, but he knows he held nothing back and left nothing behind.

Of these three men, which one or ones do you think crossed the finish line with joy, knowing he'd run the best race he could with what he was given?

Of these three men, which one or ones do you think had the sponsor of the race and those waiting at the finish line say, "Well done, you ran the race, you finished the course, you poured it all out, we are proud of you"?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Led by the Spirit?

“Led by the Spirit.” This concept can be abused, as in using, “I’m not led,” to avoid basic obedience and calls common to all Christians. On the other hand, the concept of being led by the Holy Spirit can also be avoided because people are afraid of the Holy Spirit, are afraid they’ll lose control of their lives, afraid they won’t hear the Holy Spirit, get uncomfortable living by faith and moment by moment, or because someone generally thinks Holy Spirit stuff is for weird churches.

But, being led by the Holy Spirit is an essential part of the Christian’s walk. Acts 16 gives a powerful example of this when Paul, in simple obedience to the Word of God, seeks to go into two different regions and is forbidden by the Spirit, and then led to Macedonia by a vision from God. To me this is the perfect example—knowledge of God’s heart and nature through His Word, and leading by His Spirit to fulfill that Word in the unique way God has prepared each of us for in each moment.

It is so easy to make absolutes from the Bible. Doing so avoids needing to live dependent on God’s moment by moment leading (I’m not talking about truths the Bible states, and I’m not saying there aren’t some moral commands that are absolute and non varying). Here’s a couple of examples, though, of areas we might make “absolute” that I believe God needs to leads in, instead.

Lying: God hates a liar. Yet . . . Exodus 1 tells us that God dealt well with the midwives who lied to Pharaoh to protect the Hebrew babies. And Rahab lied to protect the spies, and in Hebrews 11's “Hall of Fame” of faith she is praised for that. And you have to believe God blessed people who lied to hide Jews from the Nazis, and who deceive to smuggle Bibles into persecuted countries.

Surrendering Our Rights: Christ modeled that before man. He did not hold on to His rights as God, but gave them up to come and die for us to bring us to Him—and we are told in Philippians, in this context, to have that mind in us which was in Christ. Jesus washed the disciples feet when He had every right to have them wash His—and He told us a servant is not greater than His master and to do likewise. Our culture says, “You earned it, you deserve it, you are right, everyone else gets to do it,” and yet David, by holding on to his rights and what felt he was “entitled to” from Nabal almost committed grievous sin (1 Samuel 25). When we hold on to our rights and to what we are owed we model ourselves and not Christ. Christ says, “I am right, and I deserve it, and I earned it . . . but I don’t assert that, and I don’t force it, and in love I lay it down that you might know the Father and live.” And yet . . . before we make this a blanket rule, this idea of submitting and of surrendering our rights can be, and has been, taken to extremes in some marriages and cults and even some churches. It is used as a club to abuse others and break them into nothing, to wound, and even to cause people to violate God’s laws. I believe there are times when God will tell us not to submit, not to compromise, to stop and stand—but it is the Holy Spirit that must lead us in and through those times. We can’t make a blanket rule. In some cases God has rescued people from death, and in other cases He’s led them to share in His sufferings and die a martyr’s death.

I am finding tremendously this need for the Holy Spirit’s leading in my personal life in the area of abortion (actually, in every area, but this is one at the forefront right now in my heart). There are so many “formulas” for what is right out there, and so many people who feel their formula is the “right” way to fight this, to the point of bitter infighting and accusing toward one another within the ranks of people who sincerely believe abortion is wrong.

There is no denying that abortion is murder of Holocaust proportions that our nation has legally, and wrongfully, condoned. But what is each of our roles in it? I have friends that I deeply admire and love who are very active in street ministry, standing at the last moment of hope outside clinics. I can’t express the honor I hold them in, nor how God has used them to teach and grow and challenge me. I ask the question of myself, am I supposed to be there with them? From reading some posts and web sites (I've not felt this from my friends) I’d come away feeling that I was a failure, a hypocrite and even an evil pastor if I am not there on the curb. Some generalized posts and places on the web lead you to think that every pastor (or church) in the nation that is not on the curb is some evil person (or “religious” group of Pharisees) leading people into apathy and blindness. But what about pastors and leaders and others who are faithfully, and led by God, pouring into the people God has given them influence with, raising up disciples, multiplying the fruit?

In the military I was in a rapid deployment, front-line combat-ready unit. I was a recon (Scout) platoon leader, operating ahead of the front lines. But we’d have been of no effect were it not for all the unseen and unnamed people making our weapons, keeping our radios working, getting us fuel and food, etc. Any victory on our end was equally theirs. In football terms, since the Superbowl is approaching, whatever team wins will have the players all up there cheering and holding a trophy, but what about all the managers, trainers, scouts, financiers, etc.? That victory is theirs as well.

In the past in our youth group there were some girls who had babies out of wedlock. I am saddened at their choices to not remain pure until marriage . . . but then I think, “But they kept the baby!” Did Mary Ann and I have a role in that? How many people have we taught who maybe were a voice for the unborn around a dinner table, or in a workplace? How many people have we taught who maybe chose abstinence until marriage and never were put in the place of an abortion? How many babies were spared because someone never went to a clinic, or needed to? And how far has that fruit reached? People we taught who maybe taught others? We don’t know. How many babies were spared by the dollars our fellowship gave to help a local crisis pregnancy center buy an ultrasound? We don't know. We have people in our fellowship who have never stood on a curb but have poured themselves into the younger generations’s lives, loved and led them into a place of knowing God, and deeply affected the course of those youth’s lives. How many abortions were never even needed because of the impact they had? Are not those babies saved, too?

What is each of our roles in this issue? I believe God must lead us, and I believe we must be careful to not judge others in it. Is the person on the curb more valuable than the person faithfully teaching as God calls them—whose instruction maybe avoided people even going to a clinic? I don’t believe they are. Is the person faithfully teaching adults, or youth, or a neighbor or family member more valuable than the person on the curb? I don’t believe they are. I believe the questions for each of us (in this issue and any other) are:

1. What is Holy Spirit leading us to do in this moment?
2. Are we doing it unto God, for His glory, poured out with all we have?

As I’ve wrestled with this issue Mary Ann has reminded me, “If it is coming with guilt, then it probably isn’t from God. If it is coming with conviction, then it very well could be.” For me, in each moment, I need to ask, “Am I following God’s leading, or avoiding what I know He is leading me to do and be?” In the end that is what matters for me, and what I will be accountable for.

I do believe that many of us, myself included, abdicate (or aren’t even willing to hear) God’s call to them to do something (be it abortion, evangelism, helping the outcast, teaching others, speaking up, whatever). Often what God calls us to is uncomfortable and we might “buy” a clean conscience by just donating some money, or justify something away by saying “God hasn’t called me” because we are, truthfully, only willing to hear an audible voice combined with a written letter delivered personally by Gabriel (I have been guilty of this and my relationship with my friends has helped me see this).

I do believe that, as a whole, the church (the body of professing believers) in America is apathetic and asleep and neglectful regarding many matters near and dear to God's heart, and will have a lot to answer to God for. But here’s the thing, and it will really only matter to us if we truly want what God wants more than what we want. The thing is, if God is calling me to be on the curb any given day and I’m not, then I am wrong. But if He’s calling me to teach, and I’m on the curb for any reason than His leading, I’m not where I’m supposed to be either. This is really the crux of the truth in any issue we face. What is God leading and asking of us, and are we doing unto His glory, with all that we have, poured out? We are all a part of His army, and we all have different roles. And we only operate fully as a body when each member is doing his or her given part. I recognize that this will be used by some as a way to simply avoid uncomfortable places (and I will probably be guilty of this in the future as well), but they are not fooling God and that is something they will have to work out with God. I believe if they truly want to know what God wants He’ll convict and lead them. And if they don’t really want to know what God wants then the issue is far bigger than where are they supposed to be that day.


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