Tag Archives: Christ-like

Giving attention to … the priority of Defending Human Life

In these five January Sabbaths (2016), we are reviewing our priorities of: ministering to children,  defending human life, pursuing holiness together,  holding up the word of God, and  spreading the gospel of God’s grace to the ends of the earth. Today, Defending Human Life. Like those silly “It’s What They Do” commercials, this is (simply) What Christians Do and have done throughout history ~ God’s people acting courageously contra mundum to protect and preserve the lives of ALL people, and to teach God’s truth about that value to the many:

  1. When Canaanite pagans were sacrificing their children to Moloch, Israelites were showing hospitality to strangers in their midst.
  2. When Romans were exposing their unwanted infants to the elements and to wild beasts, Christians were coming out of their catacombs at night to scoop up the helpless outcasts, adopt them, and bring them to Jesus Christ. Christians spoke out against the murderous gladiatorial games for decades, until a Christian emperor could finally outlaw them.
  3. It took way too long, but eventually Christians (like William Wilberforce within the British Empire) saw the evil hypocrisy of the sale of human beings into slavery based on race, and insisted that a Christian civilization must put all that away. Again, it took way too long, but it was Christian ministers, largely, who led in effective civil rights gains so that basic human rights could be enjoyed by people of all races.
  4. While Darwinistic naturalism eventually led “educated” moderns to devalue human lives as purposeless products of time and chance, Christians continue to say contra mundum that we are made (together and individually) in the image and likeness of God, intelligently designed.
  5. So as eugenics becomes a working option for naturalists (scientifically manipulating the human species in order to give evolution a boost), Christians have insisted that the supposed benefits of genetic tampering be held in check by a humble stance and by care for the weakest among us.
  6. Godless forces enjoyed a temporary win in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling of 1973 as that legalized abortion in the United States. But in the 43 years since then, those holding to a Biblical ethic see in each individual fetus God’s handiwork, leading to protective legislation and care centers and a more life-welcoming culture. Yet much work remains: More vigilant now, observe how we did not throw a party over China’s new TWO child policy!
  7. And while huge industries like pornography (amazingly enjoying “freedom of expression” status) and human-trafficking (still skulking in the dark shadows) benefit from ignorant devaluation of certain human lives (simply to be used and abused for the pleasures of those who are wealthy enough), we push in the power of the Lord of life for accurate assessment of value ~ for all.

Once one opens the Bible and takes it seriously, it is easy to see this perspective which will always bless all humanity and dignify its weakest members. After all, the institution of the hospital, the profession of nursing, and the impetus behind so many medical advances and respect for the disabled and the advance of literacy came historically from the Bible’s view of high human value. Our critics read this Book lightly, see that it tells of Heaven and Hell and Eternity, then accuse us of being so other-worldly that we are of no-earthly-good. Jesus taught and lived otherwise, and so have His disciples. In fact, Jesus taking to Himself a real human body puts such life in proper light, and then His raising up of Dorcas (who merely cared for/about widows) by His Spirit’s power seals the life-affirming message!

So while investing generously in our neighboring Pregnancy Care Center [http://www.pcclawrence.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/pcclawrence/] is our simplest application (to work out our own high valuation of human life), that is merely the tip of the iceberg concerning our contra mundum mission.

No Broken Windows Here (Holiness to the Core)

I begin with an analogy which, I hope, will make a spiritual point, producing helpful conviction. In the 1970s New York City (NYC) had a deserved reputation for being a center of violent crimes. I recall a book which became a film, The Cross & the Switchblade. This was made into a comic book when I was very young. Its drawings and then the movie truly terrified me. To that youngster, NYC was a den of violence, and I never imagined wanting to visit. NYC was full of illegal drugs, gangs, pornographic theaters, and general anarchy. In the 1960s and 1970s, NYC was the living incarnation of Sodom.

But something has changed! Those of you who are blessed to travel know that NYC today is regarded as a wonderful vacation spot ~ not just Broadway and Times Square. Each borough has its unique personality and appeal. Above all, NYC is safe ~ even if busy, noisy, & bustling. So, what happened? A mayor and a police chief collaborated to ‘change the culture.’ The NYC Police Department began writing tickets for what most people would call ‘minor’ violations, well short of what most folks consider to be real crimes (especially as compared to murders, rapes, and violent robberies). Hefty fines were being levied for breaking windows and spraying graffiti! In fact, even if the violator could not be identified, the building owner had to fix the broken windows and paint over the graffiti quickly.

The message? ‘We are now a law-and-order town, & that goes for all the laws on the books.’ This was actually called the “Broken Windows Policy.”   Early critics were certain this was crazy: ‘I mean, in a world of real limitations ~ with murder as the kind of crime which truly impacts dozens of lives ~ you are going to have officers chasing down graffiti artists?!’ NYC’s answer: “Yes!” And it worked … meaning, not only did the city end up with fewer broken windows and less graffiti, but the law-and-order message bubbled up into the more violent crimes, such that criminals moved out, or shifted their energies into behavior less likely to be apprehended.

I give an important caveat here: “The heart of man is desperately wicked.” We cannot really change a spiritual heart through the writing and enforcing of external laws. There are likely as many wicked people in NYC now as in the past. But something happened to shift NYC from being a murder capital to being a fairly safe city (for its vast size), & we Covenanters do thank the Lord whenever civil governments take seriously their God-given duties to enforce order.

My big and little point here (I do have one!): Think of yourself, like a city. You surely are aware of what you would call the big, problematic, long-term, hard-to-get-rid-of, serious sins in your life. Perhaps you have read books about this or that sin or addiction, that form of spiritual bondage. You may have enlisted a good friend as an accountability partner, confessing this or that episode. Sometimes you have enjoyed a stretch of good behavior (Yeah … victory in Jesus)! But then, it comes roaring back, perhaps worse than before … the seven skinny years eating up the seven fat ones. ‘Woe is me, a weak and carnal Christian, at least concerning this dominant sin. I suppose that I simply will have to bear this cross and wait for Heaven to finally enjoy real peace and purity.’ Wrong!

By our NYC analogy, consider if the big, public, and violent sin (like murder) reads the news and figures that, in your city, little problems like broken windows and some spray paint on the brick walls are okay. Now there are written laws against those violations, but with all the big stuff you must worry about, there really are no energy or cops or resources to devote to those. Thus, the world, the flesh, and the devil know that you are not a law-and-order town. May it never be! May you care about all of God’s law, whether you imagine that your transgressions are big or little, major or minor. My specific targets here are what the author Jerry Bridges calls “respectable sins” (like coveting, gossip, worry, envy, anger, and thanklessness). But who can care about these little, minor, inner sins of the super-spiritual people (which should bother Christian giants like Bridges), when I am worried about the really bad crimes?!

I urge those of you who are struggling against long term sins, who at times gain some victory, but then they come roaring back … to consider other sins, the inner ones, those small exceptions you have been allowing, though they are against the clear law of God. May God give you victory over the big and the little, the external and the internal. And may those of you who are not struggling against particular sins … get busy! We are not in Heaven yet, so there is sanctification still to pursue.

All of this matters for the glory of Christ. This progress is according to the promise of Christ. And this is empowered by God’s grace in Christ.

Giving attention to … the Good Stories God is Writing

I tell this story because I am jealous for our God to get more praise.  He has promised to build His church, to use us in the process, and to keep all the glory for Himself in the grand consummation of all things.  So when this happens before our very own eyes it is crucial that we praise Him aloud, and that we speak of this to one another so that we will be encouraged to play the roles God assigns.  Of all the characters in this tale, the least important one is the narrator!

Feiyan (true story, but names are changed) was born in China, raised in a thoroughly secular manner (in keeping with the new culture of this modern communist nation).  This means that his parents wanted for Feiyan a good education so that he would do well in the new technical economy.  Any time wasted on “religion” would be a return to the superstitious nonsense from which China is breaking free.  Long before Feiyan was a teenager, China could see that the United States of America would be a global power throughout his lifetime, so like many Chinese youth of his generation, Feiyan took 8 years of English instruction from Chinese teachers who were doing their best.  All of this with the hope that (someday) Feiyan could pursue a doctorate here.

Yet long before Feiyan could make any plans for himself, God was saving a Chinese gentleman who would eventually become Feiyan’s grandfather!  Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Feiyan’s grandfather was a Christian in an era when that was most unusual (and a major cross to bear).  But like every Christian grandfather, this man prayed for all his family.  8,000 miles away, God was stirring in the heart of an American youth named Andy a zeal for God’s glory in all the nations, and so Andy wanted to be a missionary, to spread this good news far and wide.  Oh, there are two more characters in our story:  A guy named Mitchel (who did not give very much attention to China or to Chinese in his first forty years) and a home-school mother in Lawrence.

Okay, places everyone?  Ready … and … ACTION!

The Chinese grandfather prays daily for his small family, even though it seemed to him that the entire generation after him grew up faithless, or just secular, through the Communists’ strong efforts to push aside God in every way.  Andy gets his taste of ministry in a foreign land, but God leads him back to a Midwestern university town to develop a cutting-edge ministry to international students in the middle of our nation.  His specialty is making it easy for shy Christians to have fruitful relationships with lonely internationals at their point of need ~ improving English conversation.  The home-school mother has a daughter who becomes best friend to a daughter of the guy named Mitchel.  By this time, Mitchel has developed much interest in China due to a well-timed “shoulder-tap” and a few teaching trips overseas, so that he is seeking opportunities to tutor Chinese scholars in English conversation through Andy’s conversation partnership ministry.  But by Session #2, Pastor Mitchel is taking advantage of “Western interest” to hammer away at the simple idea that the Christian faith makes a good difference in people and in the world.

Feiyan, Mitchel’s seventh international friend from China, isn’t buying it very much … but he does need to buy better furniture!  Through Craig’s List, Feiyan agrees to purchase a huge sofa-combo, but he needs a large trailer for hauling it home.  Mitchel’s wife (who travels everywhere) has such a trailer!  Well it just so happens that when they get to the door to purchase the furniture, it is that home-schooling mother of the best friend of Mitchel’s third daughter!  A tenuous connection?  True, but stay with me here!  A crazy charismatic prone to hearing from God, this woman says to Feiyan:  “This coincidence is too strange!  What I need (more than your money) is some extra room in my house, so if you will take away all of this furniture (including these things you did not come for), you can have it all ~ free of charge.  But I want you to know that Jesus Christ told me to do this.  So I bless you, in His name!

Well, one generous act moves the heart of the highly intellectual Feiyan (more than dozens of Mitchel’s best worldview lectures), and so within one month, Feiyan is identifying himself as a follower of Jesus Christ instead of a skeptic with too many questions.  The grandfather gets the phone call from eight thousand miles away, hearing his prayers of 30 years have been answered in the affirmative.  Andy’s humblyeffective ministry keeps on truckin’, the Chinese evangelical church in Lawrence keeps preaching Bible sermons to young believers, and one year later Feiyan is at the University of Alabama, looking for Christian fellowship on his first day in a new town.

Oh, Feiyan’s wife exhibits the joy of the Lord too, having seen the free and generous love of Jesus through the Christian women at a pregnancy care center which loves to help international students who are at a point of need ~ also in the name of Christ.

And this story will go on and on!