I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And, for me, I mean A LOT. And it’s been great. A lot of what I’m reading about is coming out in my preaching and teaching but also in my conversations with people inside and outside of the church. I know it may sound cliche but… I’m getting excited about some of this stuff and I seem to want to talk about it a lot. I might even be driving some of you nuts. Oh well. You’ll live.
In a way, what I’ve just said is precisely the point of this blog post. How so, you ask? Let me explain.
In our church, we have been talking about changing our entire culture of “how we do church”. We want to get away from the contemporary idea of “entertain me”. By that, I’m not referring to worship teams and such because we are one of those churches that still uses a piano and hymn books. What I mean is that everyone in our culture, even in our churches, has settled into the mindset that when we come to church, there are the “entertainers” and the “entertained”. According to that way of thinking, I as a Pastor am an entertainer and I have come to church to entertain the rest of you who have come, not to do any entertaining but to be entertained. Whether we like to admit it or not, that’s what many churches have come to. We want to move away from this to a place where we begin to think of every person in the church as someone who comes to serve. Maybe you come to the worship service to learn but you learn in order to go out and tell others what you’ve learned. We want to train every person to be a disciple-maker (a phrase you hear around here a lot, lately).
Of course, the idea of training every person to be a disciple-maker does not come without some resistance. Oh, everybody acknowledges that the Bible teaches that this is the way it should be. Nobody would stand up and say “I don’t think that’s right. That’s just your job, Pastor. You do the disciple-making and we just get to sit here and watch.” No, people know what the Bible says. But they wrestle with putting it into practice in their own lives. You all know what that’s like - you’ve been there.
Now, some people will get excited and want to jump on board, be trained and get working on others right away. Praise God! What a blessing! Sometimes, we might even have to pull back on the reins a bit and say “Whoa! Slow down. Let me train you a bit first!” But what a good problem to have! Others, however, are… apprehensive. They might think that when we say we want them to be disciple-makers, we intend for them to lead a small group study. Or maybe we want them to teach a Sunday School class. Or, frighteningly worse, dare we say, stand in a pulpit and preach a sermon! And the thought of these things is so intimidating that they just don’t take that first step to being a disciple-maker. That’s counter-productive.
Eventually, our goal is that some people will become teachers in a public setting. Obviously, that’s a necessity. But not everyone is gifted by God for such things. At the same time, every Christian is required to be involved in the process of making disciples (Have you read Matthew 28 recently?) What we’d like to see is every Christian involved in two specific relationships; first, in a relationship where they are following someone who is leading them to become more like Christ and who is helping them to become a disciple-maker and second, in a relationship where they are leading someone to become more like Christ and helping them to become a disciple-maker. It’s one to one. It’s “one life to a life for life” (another phrase you’ll hear around here more and more.)
But even that one-on-one disciple-making relationship might seem intimidating right now for some people who have never been involved in something like that. So where do they start? How can we encourage them to begin thinking about their responsibility to be a disciple-maker?
In their book, The Vine Project, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne suggest this: “If the goal of Christian ministry can be [imagined] simply as helping any individual person we know to take one step to the right (towards Christ or towards maturity in Christ), then this is a task that each and every Christian can embrace with confidence. If we call upon the average church member to take up arms as a gospel minister or a disciple-maker or an evangelist, then (rightly or wrongly) many will feel sufficiently threatened to run in the opposite direction. But what if we were to say the following instead? ‘Why don’t you pray for the person next to you (wherever that might be), and see if by your word and example you can encourage them to take one step - even one small step - to the right?’” (Page 98)
So, Christian-who-feels-intimidated-by-these-early-steps-of-disciple-making, there’s the first step you can and should take, even today. What can you do by your word AND example to encourage someone to take one step toward Jesus? Notice the word and. I didn’t add that, but I did emphasize it. Don’t comfort yourself by saying you’re showing an example and thinking that’s sufficient. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). You won’t win them with just your lifestyle, even if that does go a long way. What can you do, by your word and example, to encourage them to take one small step towards Jesus?
You don’t need to get up in a pulpit. You don’t need to stand at a lectern. You don’t need to sit at the head table of a class. Say something spiritually edifying to the Christian beside you who is sitting quietly in church. Or say it to the unsaved person sitting alone in the staff room. Or say it to your neighbour who is out watering their flowers. Whoever. Just start saying somethings to someones.
And all the while, you know what I’ll be doing? I’ll be working, by word and by example, to encourage you to take one step to the right.
I have been a father now for over 13 years. That's rather scary, really. In all sincerity though, I'm not afraid of the teen years; I enjoy my children more with every year that passes. I probably inherited that quality from my father since I have heard him say that he much prefers children when they are older to when they are younger. Now, don't get Dad and I wrong: we loved (and love) our kids while they were younger but we just appreciate the ability to reason with them, to have a conversation with them that is deeper than "No, don't put your toes in that!"
I've also noticed that I have learned a lot from my children in the last 13 years. Sometimes, I have learned from observing their behaviour. Other times, I have learned from observing mine. Many times, I have learned from listening to the instructions I give to them. Let me give you one such example that I have said to every one of my children at different times.
Maybe you can relate to this. Little Johnny is twirling around in circles in the middle of the living room. As if that's not bad enough, he happens to be holding a rope in one hand and the other end is tied to the leg of a terrified teddy bear. If you're a parent, or at least, if you have matured beyond the point of doing this yourself, you already see the danger coming! As surely as sparks fly upward, that teddy bear crashes into a lamp on the table, sending it flying into the glass candle holder and both of them come smashing down onto the hardwood floor, leaving scratches in the nice wood and spreading wonderful glassy cheer all over the living room. As your jaw drops to the floor, you hear yourself yell "Johnny, what did you do?" to which Johnny, faithfully, answers "I didn't try to do it!"
It's true. Johnny didn't set out to break the lamp or the candle holder and Johnny didn't plan on scratching up the hardwood floor. Johnny didn't even have a diabolical plan in the back of his mind that involved making more work for you. But all of those things did happen. Johnny didn't try to cause the damage but he also didn't try not to. That's what I have frequently found myself saying to my kids; "I know you didn't try to do it, but you didn't try not to do it either, did you?"
This morning, I was reading 1 Kings 11 in my devotions. That is the chapter that records the death of King Solomon. He was the wisest man to have ever walked this earth (except Jesus, of course.) But in the end of his life, the Bible records that "Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (1 Kings 11:6). What had he done? According to the Bible, Solomon had fallen into idolatry.
"For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem." - 1 Kings 11:5-7
The methods of worshipping these false gods were disgusting. In fact, they involved sexual immorality and burning their children as sacrifices. But the problem was, mainly, that they were not God and Solomon was worshipping them. He was guilty of idolatry. How did that happen? How did the son of David fall this far? How did the God-appointed heir to the throne, who built the Temple for the God of Israel fall into idolatry? If you could have asked him, he probably would have said "I didn't try to fall into idolatry!"
No. He probably didn't. But he didn't try not to either. You see, the reason that Solomon had fallen into idolatry is recorded in verse four, just prior to the above passage. It says, "And his wives turned away his heart." That was the problem. Solomon had "700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines." They were from all sorts of nations with different gods - they were Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites and maybe others as well. Solomon married women who did not worship God. The problem is that God had warned that this is precisely what would happen to those who married foreign women.
"You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly." - Deuteronomy 7:3,4
You see, Solomon should have known better than to marry women from other nations (not to mention marrying so many of them). Because of his obsession with women (which probably indicates a tendency to sexual sin) he allowed himself to disregard a command of God. He probably thought that, being the wisest man on earth, he would be able to keep himself from idolatry. It didn't work. Solomon married foreign wives who pressured him into worshipping other gods and 1 Kings 11:8 says "so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods."
You see, Solomon didn't try to fall into idolatry, but he didn't try not to either. If he had tried not to, he would have avoided a situation that would cause him to be subjected to pressures to sin. If little Johnny had tried not to break things, he would have avoided the situation by behaving differently. What about you? You probably aren't trying to sin (I hope). But are you trying not to?
As a parent, and one who realizes how much I am like my parents, I wonder how much my children will end up like me? So what am I showing them? If I keep having to say to them "No, you didn't try to but you didn't try not to either," maybe I should take a look at my life and see if I am actually trying not to sin. If I do, maybe my God will enjoy me all the more as I grow as a Christian. What about you? Do you have kids? Do you hear the same phrase from them?
- Pastor Mike
Over the years since I have become a Christian, I have not been able to make it out to as many special meetings, men’s retreats, prayer breakfasts (and other such things) as I would have liked. Frequently, the demands of secular work, the demands of my family or even the demands of the church have kept me from them. Oh well. It makes me enjoy the ones I make it out to even more!
When I do make it to some such meeting, I find I am always greatly blessed. For example, this last fall I was able to attend the WCBF Men’s Retreat in Alix, AB. Several hours in a car with a good friend, good, deep, Bible teaching on an important subject, prayer time with men of God as well as casual fellowship were an immeasurable help to me (not to mention the great food!). Not to sound too cliché, but I always come away from those meetings refreshed and having made some decision about growth and my commitment to Christ. This last fall, again, was no exception.
One of the things we will often hear in church before and after special meetings of this kind, whether it’s evangelistic meetings, youth retreats, ladies’ retreats, etc… is a particular prayer I’m sure you will relate to and it goes something like this: “Lord, please let the decisions made at (insert event here) stick.” Let the decisions stick. Stick? As opposed to what? Well, I guess the opposite of sticking would be slipping. We could be saying “Lord, please don’t let the decisions slip away.” Why do we pray these things? Sad as it is, the fact is that many such decisions do slip away. Some happen quickly, some take time. There is a song written about decisions that seem to be forgotten “between the altar and the door”. It’s sad, but it’s a fact.
This morning, I was reading in Hosea for my personal devotions. In this book, God compares Israel to an adulterous wife, repeatedly unfaithful to her husband. He rebukes Israel for her idolatry and pronounces judgment on them for it. Strictly speaking, Hosea is written to the Jewish people - the nation of Israel - and is an indictment against them for leaving the God of their fathers. But in the New Testament, we are told that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ” (2 Timothy 3:16,17) So then, according to Paul, the book of Hosea can be of benefit to you and I as well.
Let me give you several verses from chapter 5.
Verse 4: “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord. ”
Verse 6: “With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. ”
Verse 11: “Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after (human precepts).”
Verse 12: “But I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like dry rot to the house of Judah.”
Verse 13: “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. ”
These are sad verses. Israel had sinned by leaving the God Who had made them the great nation that they were and choosing lesser gods (who were no gods at all). As a result, He judged them as He had said He would. Their solution was, sadly, to run to even lesser beings - human kings - and to seek their help. But they could not help. So God says, in verse 15, that He will wait for them to repent and return to Him: “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.”
Then, for one bright moment, in chapter 6 verse 1, we read “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. ” Israel seems to be making a right decision! Praise God! But God knows the heart and see how He responds to them in verse 4: “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.” He says to them, in effect, “Israel, it’s great that you are again declaring your love for me. It’s great that you are making this wonderful decision to return to me. These are the words I want to hear! But they are nothing more than a morning fog! By the time the sun is fully risen, the fog has risen away and is no more. So will your ‘decision’ be. It looks great now. But in a short while, it will be gone. Forgotten, as if it never had been.”
As I read Hosea 6:4 this morning, God’s Holy Spirit gave me a stern poke. “Don’t be like that.”
What about you? How long do your decisions for the Lord last? That decision you made at the last retreat… That commitment you made following the message your pastor preached last Sunday… That promise you made to God after reading your Bible the other day. Will it stick or will it slip away? Is it anything more than a morning fog?
- Pastor Mike
he following is a post I recently placed on Facebook. It's really more of a quick rant than a detailed blog post but it gets to the heart of an issue that is getting out of hand today in Christianity. Hope you enjoy.
Reasons.org (Reasons to Believe) is a ministry that seeks to give "reasons to believe" Scripture based mainly on discussions of the Bible and science, much like Answers in Genesis. However, after a very brief look at their website (very brief - like 5 minutes), I am convinced that there is a severe problem with their view of the accuracy of Scripture. Ministries like theirs will eventually lead people away from the truth in more areas than one. Consider this:
Quote from reasons.org:
"One of the most powerful arguments in favor of the day-age (old-earth) interpretation of the Genesis creation account is what we might call the argument from the sixth day. Put simply, too many events occurred on creation day 6 to be squeezed into 24 hours." End quote.
And yet, these will often be the same people who will quote 2 Peter 3:8 in saying that the days of creation need not be 24 hour days but rather long periods of time.
Wait... Isn't it ironic that I would mention that verse now? Am I not, in effect, lending support to their view? No. And here's why. If we understand that God does not operate within the confines of time, then it is unnecessary to restrict how much He can do within a 24 hour period. Remember, although "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years," 2 Peter 3:8 also says that "a thousand years [are] as one day". Rather than saying that God accomplished in a long period of time what He says He did in one day (which casts doubt on His integrity), we can take this same verse and argue that God is able to accomplish, in one day, what should take a very large period of time. (Either of which, by the way, is taking the verse out of context anyways because it's not talking about Creation, it's talking about the Second Coming...)
What we have before us, with the reasons.org ministry, is a group of people who do not believe in the omnipotence of their God. They believe He is powerful - even the most powerful being in existence - but they cannot say with integrity that they believe He is omnipotent (all-powerful) because they do not believe He is capable of doing what Genesis 1 and 2 say He did. Don't believe my interpretation? Read the words of the article again: "Put simply, too many events occurred on creation day 6 to be squeezed into 24 hours." There you have it; God couldn't have done it.
If God is unable to do what the Bible says He did in Genesis 1 and 2, then I have to ask myself if He is able to do what it says in John 3:16? The Bible says He raises the dead. But we know, scientifically, that this is not possible. The Bible says Jesus walked on water. But we know, scientifically, that He could not have done so. Perhaps Reasons to Believe and their followers have not begun to deny these truths yet but, following their example so far... It's only a matter of time.
Maybe I seem a little harsh and a little quick to judge. But here's the thing - I believe that my God is all powerful and I believe He has the ability not only to create all that exists in 6 literal 24-hour days, making the earth only about 6,000 years old, but I believe He has the ability to accurately record His actions in a book. Let's face it - what people are really saying when they deny a literal interpretation of the Bible is that God either cannot or does not wish to communicate clearly with His people. Once again, how can I trust John 3:16 then?
Yes, some of the science out there would seem to contradict the Bible. In that case, I choose to believe the God who created the scientists, not the scientists who wish to find some other explanation for their existence. But I am also thankful for such ministries as Answers in Genesis and others that teach the Bible as historical, scientific, theological fact, show us that science (honest science) actually agrees with the Bible, and refuse to compromise just because of a little pressure and ridicule.
Imagine what some people would compromise if they were persecuted like Paul was. No thanks. I'll stick to my Bible.
Here's the link to the article I'm referring to: http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-sixth-creation-day-biblical-support-for-old-earth-creationism
When you're done there, try http://www.answersingenesis.org.
Thanks for reading. God bless.
Recently, I found an article on the CNN website regarding a new kind of phenomenon on the internet. Actually, it's not new, but it's newly becoming public. For some time now, there have been websites you could visit where you can watch actual videos of people being murdered. These have been considered to be in the deep, dark parts of the internet. Recently, however, some of these videos have begun making their way out into the public eye.
The one prime example is that of the recent murder and dismemberment of a chinese student in Montreal by a former porn actor. The man stabbed his victim to death and then proceeded to cut him into pieces, even later mailing parts of the victim to government offices and schools across the country. And no, I have not seen the video.
I had to ask myself, why would somebody videotape themselves murdering someone? And then why would they share it online? Let me suggest there are probably two reasons. First, there is a pride in sin and second, there is a deep desire to participate in sin.
What do I mean by these? Well, let's consider first the pride matter. I think this is just in line with what we are seeing in many parts of our culture today. Take, for example, the matter of homosexuality. This lifestyle, which was once considered shameful by our entire society, is now not only acceptable but promoted. You can take in an annual "gay pride parade" in quite a number of Canadian cities. These parades are examples of debased human morality where men and women (mostly men) walk around naked and show off their pride in their sinful lifestyle. We all have a conscience that knows this is wrong but many people have sadly ignored that conscience so long that they no longer find themselves ashamed of their actions and feel free to promote their sin to the world. I think the matter of these murder videos is somewhat similar. The murderer is filled with satisfaction in his crime and wants to share it with the world. Especially when there are people that are eager to watch! Romans 1:32 speaks about this: "Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Both those who commit the crime and those who approve of them (by watching their videos) are guilty in the sight of God.
And that leads us to the second reason; people have a desire to see these things take place that they, at their present place in life, are not able to or willing to take part in. Consider, for a moment, the subject of pornography. Let's face it; every one of us is a sexual being with sexual desires. However, because of a good upbringing, or because of convictions based on the Bible, many choose to control those desires and give place to them only in a proper marriage relationship. But this is not so for everyone. Many people would love to be involved in illicit sexual acts but are afraid to perform them themselves. So they watch videos of others performing them instead. (Of course, some are involved in them and also continue to indulge in pornography to satisfy the desires when they cannot be involved in an act at the very moment.)
The problem is that viewing pornography and other such videos or photos reflects an inner, deeper desire. Consider these verses, spoken by the Lord Jesus:
Luke 6:45, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
Matthew 15:18-20a, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
Matthew 5:28, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
The heart is the source of our desires and the motivator of our actions. The things we do and say outwardly reflect the things we feel and believe inwardly. In debating with the Pharisees, who believed that drinking from a dirty cup defiled a person, Jesus explained that it is not things from the outside that defile a person but the things on the inside that defile them and which eventually surface for all to see.
The problem with pornography is that it makes us guilty of adultery with those we are watching. The Lord explains that the reason we commit such sins of the mind and of the eyes is because the desire to commit such sin in actual deed exists in our hearts. That's a hard pill to swallow. If you love pornography, it's because there is a desire in you to perform those deeds in your body, whether you acknowledge so or not.
Now apply those principles to this new matter of murder videos and you end up with a scary image of your own heart. The reason people enjoy watching such videos is that it gives them a rush of satisfaction in their hearts and minds. It pleases their senses because it is an act that they would, in the deepest, darkest parts of their heart, like to commit. For whatever reason, taking the life of a person is quite satisfying to some people and these murder videos are a way to satisfy that desire in the privacy of your own home.
This makes me think of another problem. There was a day when homosexuality, adultery and fornication were crimes carrying legal repercussions. But because the hearts of men were slowly hardened toward these sins by their secret practice of them behind closed doors, our culture became overrun by those who practiced them. Little by little, those same people have taken places of leadership at various levels of our governments, making it easier for them to change our laws and legalize such actions. So here's a scary thought; if murder is beginning to follow the same pattern of taking place behind closed doors and receiving the approval of others outside, what happens when some of these secret killers begin to take office in our governments? Will murder become legal? Before you rule out that possibility altogether, let me turn your mind to the matter of abortion, which is entirely legal in Canada. Let me call you your attention the matter of post-birth abortions being proposed by some, which would allow for the killing of a young baby after birth (though nobody seems to be taking it seriously yet). Let me point out that the matter of euthanasia, though currently illegal, is still up for debate and may yet become legal. Let me also remind you that there also have been cultures throughout the centuries, and some continue today, where murder is culturally acceptable in certain situations.
As scary as it sounds, I believe it's only a matter of time before this happens. Not convinced? Consider Matthew 24:9, where the Lord tells His disciples that there will come a day, one still in the future, when Christians will be persecuted to the death. The Bible also tells us that men's love will grow cold and they will become more brutal and violent than before (Matthew 24:12, 2 Timothy 3:1-5). Where else can this lead?
For the Christian, this matter of murder videos should be a no-brainer. They should be regarded at least as bad as, or worse, than pornography. Believers should have nothing to do with them (1 Thessalonians 5:22). If we are to be holy as our Father expects, we should take no pleasure in sin (Leviticus 11:44,45, Psalm 5:4).
- Pastor Mike
Have you ever been reading through your Bible and found something that surprised you? I don't mean something new or something you'd never seen, but something completely unexpected? Last week, I was reading through the book of Hebrews and found one of those things. I was in chapter 11, reading about the Hall of Faith and there, right at the top of the list, was Abel. "Abel", I thought... "What in the world is he doing there?" Don't get me wrong, I am not saying Abel wasn't a man of faith, but I couldn't understand what he was doing in Hebrews 11. I had read this chapter many times before, but I had never thought of this.
I mean, think about it... What is Abel doing there in the midst of names like Noah and Abraham? Noah worked for over a century to build an ark to save himself and 7 other people, as well as some animals and all because God told him it was going to rain and flood. He had never seen rain. But he believed God! Abraham left his country to go to an unspecified new land just because God told him to. He also brought his promised son and heir, Isaac, to the top of a mountain, to offer him as a sacrifice, even though all the promises were to come through him and he did it because God told him to. Consider this; verse 32 mentions some other pretty impressive heroes of the faith like Gideon and King David who both did amazing things in defeating God's enemies against insurmountable odds and they did it because of faith in God! These guys are real faith-warriors! And many others are mentioned with good reason.
And then there's Abel. He offered a sacrifice. So what? So did Job and he's not mentioned here. Aaron did too and I don't see his name in this chapter. The same goes for Jacob and all of Aaron's sons and so many more. So how does offering a sacrifice make Abel qualify for the Hall of Faith? It seems to easy - too simple. And when I thought those things, I realized I had answered my own question. That's the point - it was simple faith.
We tend to be impressed with those who do great deeds in the name of our God, who conquer great enemies, who scale to high power, who preach God's Word with boldness before great crowds and at their own peril, who walk on the water with Jesus or cast out demons as though these are the only ones who have great faith. God shows us in Hebrews 11 that our hearts and our minds are wrong. The measure of faith is not a great deed; the measure of faith is obedience.
But just how simple was Abel's faith? Let's consider some things Abel knew. First, verses 13 to 16 tell us about a couple of things. In verse 13, the words "these all" mean that what is about to be said includes Abel and the first thing is that they had received a promise. In Abel's case, I believe that is Genesis 3:15 where God first promises the Messiah. Abel believed that the Seed of the Woman was going to come - though he didn't know Him by name yet, he looked forward to the arrival of Jesus Christ. Next we find that he understood he was a "stranger" and an "exile" on earth. In other words, this was not his home and furthermore, that he is an exile means that he has been punished. So it seems Abel understood that he was a sinner, separated from God by nature. Then we also find that Abel had a hope for an eternal Heavenly home. The result is that God was pleased to be his God. We also know, from verse 6, that since God was pleased with Abel, he apparently also understood that there is a reward to be had for faith.
Guess what? That's basic salvation knowledge. To be saved, a person must understand that they are a sinner separated from God but that by believing God's promise of salvation through Jesus Christ, they can be forgiven. Naturally, when speaking of these things with the unsaved, we make mention of Heaven and Hell, of reward and judgment, of life, death and eternity - all things that are included here in Abel's understanding.
So let me ask a question; Are you saved? Do you know these basic things that Abel knew? If so, then you already know enough to have sufficient faith to be a Hebrews 11 hero of the faith! The key, then, as we said above, is obedience. Will I obey Jesus Christ? Will I obey God's Word? Do I have the faith of Abel?
- Pastor Mike
Lately, I’ve been reading through a book I got from the LivingWaters Ministry (www.livingwaters.com). It’s called Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers by Randy Alcorn. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even order the book; it just came for free with some 180 videos I ordered. I’m finding that Mr. Alcorn’s book is good, despite being a little shallow. I’m only part-way through it now, but something has stood out to me.
In what is probably (I’m not done reading the book yet) the shortest chapter in the book, Alcorn addresses a question that is so often brought up by Pro-Choice advocates; “Is abortion right when pregnancy presents risks to the mother’s life?” In fact, that’s the name of the chapter.
I think that so many believers, myself included, have been reluctant to answer the question because we don’t understand the issue. Let me try to clarify; the question is this: If Mom’s life is threatened because of her pregnancy, is abortion right? The implication is that if it is not, you are condemning both mother and baby to death, just to uphold this opinion that abortion is wrong. In truth, the whole issue is filled with ignorance (the kind that just doesn’t know, not stupidity).
Although I don’t have express written permission, and will remove this long quote if asked to, I’d like to quote this whole (short) chapter and make some comments as I go. It is found on pages 76 and 77 in Alcorn’s book. His words are in italics.
Is abortion justified when a woman’s life or health is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth? It’s an extremely rare case when abortion is required to save a mother’s life. While he was the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop stated that in thirty-six years as a pediatric surgeon, he was never aware of a single situation in which a preborn child’s life had to be taken in order to save the mother’s life. He said the use of this argument to justify abortion was a “smoke screen.” Dr. Landrum Shettles claimed that less than 1 percent of all abortions are performed to save the mother’s life.
It is interesting that the U.S. Surgeon General himself would be so clear about the fact that abortions to save a mother’s life are (to him anyways) unheard of. From the rest of the article, we will find that they are not altogether nonexistent, but that such cases are extremely rare. These have, however, been used to lend credibility and morality to the killing of children in the womb. One could liken this kind of thinking to saying that since some murderers are to be put to death, we would be right to kill as many criminals as we want. Please don’t misconstrue my words to liken children to criminals – I am merely pointing out the absurdity behind the argument at hand. But this does not mean that we have reached a conclusion on the matter. Read on.
SAVE THE LIFE THAT CAN BE SAVED
A woman with toxemia will have adverse health reactions and considerable inconvenience, including probably needing to lie down for much of her pregnancy. This is difficult, but normally not life-threatening. In such cases, abortion for the sake of “health” would not be lifesaving but life-taking.
My wife had toxemia during her first pregnancy. It was a fairly severe case, though there have been far worse ones out there. Fortunately for her, this happened at about 34 weeks and our daughter was born at 36 weeks, so she did not need to endure it long. That being said, we are not unsympathetic to the inconvenience and discomfort caused by such an illness but we also recognize that it is not cause for aborting a child. With enough rest and medical attention, a woman and her baby can be kept well through the rest of the pregnancy. This is the case with the extremely vast majority of illnesses that a woman can face during her pregnancy.
However, if the mother has a fast-spreading uterine cancer, the surgery to remove the cancer may result in the loss of the child’s life. In an ectopic pregnancy the child is developing outside the uterus. He has no hope of survival and may have to be removed to save his mother. These are tragic situations, but even if one life must be lost, the life that can be saved should be. More often than not that life is the mother’s. There are rare cases in later stages of pregnancy when the mother can’t be saved but the baby can. Again, one life saved is better than two lives lost.
Friends of ours were faced with a situation where removing the mother’s life-threatening and rapidly spreading cancer would result in their unborn child’s death. The pregnancy was so early that there wasn’t time for the child to develop sufficiently to live outside the womb before both mother and child would die. The surgery was performed. But this was in no sense an abortion. The surgery’s purpose wasn’t to kill the child but to save the mother. The death of the child was a tragic side-effect of lifesaving efforts. This was a consistently pro-life act, since to be pro-life does not mean being pro-life just about babies. It also means being pro-life about women.
Notice that every effort is made to save both lives, but that only one is saved when only one can be. This is not a question of maybes but a matter of fact; if the baby cannot survive the pregnancy, then no abortion is being done. If the baby cannot survive the pregnancy, then all efforts should be made to save the life of the one who can be saved. If the baby can survive the pregnancy, let it. From the tone of this chapter, as well as the rest of the book, I don’t believe Alcorn is dealing flippantly with this issue; there has to be certainty that one life will be lost during the pregnancy before any child-endangering procedures should take place.
The point is that abortion for the sake of the mother’s health is unnecessary. It may be that a crucial, necessary procedure or treatment in the mother may tragically take the life of a baby, but this is not done intentionally.
Are there many more questions to be asked here? Absolutely. Is this the final word on the topic? By no means. But I think it is a step in the right direction for us to understand how to answer those who espouse abortion on the grounds of the mother’s health. “Smoke screen”… I like it. Don’t forget it.
And by the way – I’m no authority on medical issues, nor have I really studied out this issue enough to make dogmatic statements but I do know that killing children is wrong. (You’d think far more people would find that statement a no-brainer…?) In any case, if you feel I’ve left something out or missed the point here, feel free to let me know through Facebook.
- Pastor Mike
Although you will hunt in vain to find many New Testament teachings in the Old Testament, like, for example, the Church, there are many that are found there. It is surprising to me, though I know that God does not change, how many things there are that are consistent throughout the two Testaments. Think about it… 66 books written by over 40 authors over a span of about 1500 years. And yet, it all agrees. I mean, if you were to take 40 Baptists and ask them to write 66 books, you’d end up with 1500 opinions. But the Bible is perfectly uniform in doctrine. (I’m being sarcastic about the Baptists, of course!)
Although you may not have thought of it in such words, you probably recognize that the Old Testament does teach the doctrine of salvation. For example, in Psalm 21:1, David says “O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! ” But did you also know that the doctrine of eternal security – the teaching that you cannot lose your salvation – is also found in the Old Testament? In verse 4, David says of himself, “He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever. ” Certainly, David did not expect to live forever without dying (1 Chronicles 17:11), but He did expect to live forever and there is no hint of doubt in that statement. Verse 7 even teaches that it is not because of our own doing, but because of God’s that we cannot lose our salvation! This is reminiscent of the New Testament verse, 1 Peter 1:5, “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
It is wonderful that God so perfectly tied all of His doctrines together throughout the Bible. That knowledge should give us all the more assurance that He will never fail us and that our salvation is eternally sure.
- Pastor Mike
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3)
I’ve been in ministry now for about 4.5 years. That’s not a long time, I know. But every year, God puts before me some new challenges that I hadn’t faced before. Recently, I’ve had to face someone who obviously didn’t believe in the sufficiency and authority of Scripture in life…. Twice!
Before leaving on this trip, we had a man come to two services. After our Annual Business meeting, which he stayed for, he asked me who our Deacons are. I told him that since we didn’t have any other men in the active membership, we don’t have any Deacons at the moment. He asked me if the women in the church couldn’t be Deacons. “Well,” I said, “It would be awfully hard for them to be the husband of one wife.” That’s one of the qualifications of a Deacon in Scripture. (1 Timothy 3:12) He answered me, sarcastically, “And I suppose you think you get that from the Bible.” I said yes and he called me a legalist and stormed off to get his coat. I followed him, open Bible in hand to show him the Scripture. He informed me that I would be wasting my time on him with that! Wasting my time?!? By using the Bible?!? I answered him that if using the Bible was a waste of time, I will waste a lot of time with him. He left and we didn’t see him again.
This last Sunday I was in a church in Milltown, Wisconsin. The Friday before, I attended their Reformers Unanimous meeting to check it out, since I’d like to run one at PBC someday. I met a man who began asking me questions and then said, “I suppose you’re one of those premillennialists too…” I am and unashamedly so. He told me then that he would plan on being in church Sunday morning and would critique my message following the service. Well, Sunday he met me at the back door after the service. He said my message was “ok” he would write me a letter to critique it and send it up to me at home. I asked him if it would be about eschatology and he said that he has a hard time having the mind of Christ on these things. I asked him if he meant he can’t seem to think Christ-like on this and he agreed. I informed him that I don’t want his letter because my interest in doctrinal things is based on Scripture, not on man’s ideas. We ended up having a long discussion on many things.
That’s twice recently that I faced that. Just a week ago I was reading through First and Second Peter, preparing some messages for when I get back to Swift Current. As I spoke to this man, the verse above came back to my mind. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3) God has given us, in His Word, ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness. That means two things.
First, i don’t need anything else to tell me how to live or what to believe. God’s Word is sufficient for these things. All that I need to know for what to teach, all that I need to know to raise my family, all that I need to know to be a good husband, everything I need is in there! I need nothing else!
Second, it means that there is no other source of Truth that is able to teach me anything that will build me up and make me more godly. Nothing else has the quality of life found in the Bible (Hebrews 4:12), nothing else comes from the mind of God (2 Peter 1:16-21), no other book can give life (1 Peter 1:23). Not only do I not need anything else, but nothing else can help. Not only does this apply to me, but it applies to you also! This is the Truth, the Absolute Truth! Truth is not subjective; this is not true to me but untrue to you. It is true for all men, women and children the whole world over whether they recognize it or not.
If I am a legalist in the eyes of some because I believe in the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, so be it. I gladly bear the insult.
Do me and yourselves a favor – the day that some other book or source becomes the authority for life and godliness in my life and/or pulpit… Fire me.
- Pastor Mike
Have you ever been blindsided? That word can mean a couple of things. Often, it is used in the context of a car accident, where one person’s vehicle was struck by another that they didn’t even know was there. Sometimes it is used by people saying that certain events were unexpected; they took them by surprise. In any case, it usually means something like, “I didn’t see that coming!”
A couple of years ago, my son started saying that a lot. Actually, it was quite funny. He would be building this huge, lopsided tower of blocks that would eventually come crashing to the floor with a loud noise and he’d say “Whoa! Didn’t see that coming!” I would laugh, but inside I would think to myself that if he were a little wiser and a bit more observant, he would have known that would happen. Incidentally, he is no longer so surprised by falling towers.
Why not? Because he’s learned and become wiser. Ephesians 4:22 says “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires”. At one time, many of the things we craved, desired or lusted after ruled our thoughts and often our lives. We would chase after these things only to find that they didn’t bring the happiness, the joy, the satisfaction, the pleasure or the self-fulfillment we had expected. These desires were, as the text says, deceitful.
Scripture abounds in verses that teach that sin is deceitful:
Hebrew 3:13 “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Romans 7:11 “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.”
When God asked Eve what she had done, her answer to Him was “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Ever since the beginning of sin, it has been found to be deceitful.
The husband who loses his temper and yells at his wife momentarily thought it would relieve his stress, but it only brought guilt. The wife who spends time building an online relationship talking to another man who seems more sympathetic than her husband finds out she only brings shame. The teen who snuck out of the house to go to a party thought they would have fun but it only brought trouble. The young couple who thought their “innocent” physical relationship would bring pleasure only ends up finding that it brought sorrow. The thief figures what he stole would be enjoyable until he is caught and ends us with less than he started with. The Christian who follows the world thinks that they will enjoy the popularity and friendship but only ends up with a damaged testimony and conscience before God and others. People are blindsided all the time.
But a Christian should never be blindsided. How so? Because God has given us plenty of warnings and equipped us so that there are no “blind spots” in the Christian life. The next verses after our text read “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23,24) First, your thinking has to change. You have to start thinking Biblically about everything, and as we have already seen, there is plenty of evidence about the deceitfulness of sin in Scripture. We are even told of Moses and his decision; “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25) As a Christian, taught by the Word of God, you know that sin will never bring you joy; you know it will only bring guilt to your conscience before God. Oh, it will be fun at the time, but you will regret it! That’s why it’s so important for you to be in the Word of God – you need to know what is right and what is wrong before God.
Second, you need to live the new life, not the old one. The new life is one of righteousness and holiness – Christlike living according to God’s will with a pure conscience undefiled by sin. And, by the way, when your thinking is right and God’s will is always in your thoughts, this becomes a whole lot easier. Do these things and you’ll never be blindsided.
So now, if my son builds a funky shaped lopsided tower and seems surprised by it falling down, I know better – and so does he. He’s just playing it up or trying to make it look like an innocent mistake. Kids do it all the time…. Do you?
- Pastor Mike
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