Tag Archives: Love One Another

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.

FRANK THINKING ABOUT HARD WORDS

Faithful are the wounds of a friend … amen?! Do you like THAT wisdom? Among a few pet-peeves in my ministry, one that continues to gnaw at me (too often with respect to others, and too seldom concerning myself) is this one, concerning professing Christians ~ most of those I know being convinced about inerrancy. So of course, they will agree (quickly, wholeheartedly, without reservation) about this theological premise: “I sin daily in thought, word, and deed. I am a desperate sinner ~ saved only by the wonderful grace of God.” True enough … so ~ what is my peeve?! That if a fool (like myself) should ever point out one specific sin of the millions, to such a professor ~ well, the battle is on, it is all-out war, and the defensive walls rise!
My discovery, point, and peeve is that it is evidently much easier to confess to the general principle of sin than to any particular ones: “I am a sinner in general … but not in the specifics.” This reminds me of a groaner of a joke: “I do not like shopping at general stores, because I cannot get anything specific!” My brothers & sisters, we must deal with our own specific sins before God, and we must be faithful concerning hard words with and for our friends. I am calling for a mutual ministry of admonition … that we would be ready, willing, and able to both give and receive. Some counsel:
1. Aim to receive all criticism and admonition as coming from God’s love and grace. John Calvin admonishes: If we will be judged by people here and now (that is, repenting and turning away from sins which are exposed by the ministry of other people in our lives), then we will not be judged by God for these same sins later.
2. But what if my critic is 99% wrong ~ and only 1% right ~ in his harsh analysis of me?! Well, thank God and your critic for that 1% … and deal faithfully with that part. God can use even an ill-motivated enemy to move along my sanctification. Paul was buffeted by Satan with many wounds; through these, God worked growth in Paul. Critics can expose our blind-spots and tenderize our hardened consciences.
3. Keep short accounts with everyone so that when rebuke-for-sin is necessary (either way), nobody is distracted to think that the rebuke is really about settling old scores (or using imagined slights as excuses for another fight).
4. How does it feel, to be rebuked harshly?! Does anyone really enjoy that? “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (the GOLDEN RULE). The design of this RULE is that you should lead, in the right way. Notice, then, the pattern of Paul in so many of his epistles. Paul leads with encouragement, and ends the same way ~ even if the middle of his letter is heavy on rebuke. And even in that portion which must focus on the censure, Paul will mention his true affection (brothers & sisters; my little children). Paul treated even the Galatians & Corinthians with tenderness.
5. Recall your PEACEMAKER training?! Beware (especially within yourself) the equally poor responses of Fight & Flight … of murder or suicide … of running at the enemy to do vigorous battle or running away to hide (hiding sins and hiding feelings).
6. Is it possible ~ follower of Jesus Christ ~ that you are not close enough to anyone such that this co-ministry of hard, necessary words could even happen?! If true, this is an ultimate example of Flight: You so fear this kind of necessary and healthy admonition, rebuke, and criticism that you forego all human relating. You may imagine that you are avoiding pain, but it is merely a temporary respite, and much greater pain is soon to come.
7. Finally ~ in the midst of hard words, trials, tragedies, disappointments, conflicts, admonitions, and rebukes ~ even a few of these which are really not deserved (yet all of them are painful), a question always presses us from on high: Do I really want to become more like Jesus Christ (to be continually renewed after the image of the Son of God) or am I actually more interested in preserving my dignity, fighting for my rights, and staying true to myself (even if God is interested in transforming that self)? Our response to criticism and admonition may reveal our actual answer to this greatest of sanctification’s questions.
A final “hard word” (but I hope you do not think it is): It would be inappropriate for me to pass around a clip-board right now, asking who wants to sign up for this kind of HARD-WORDS CO-MINISTRY! Why would it be improper? Because you are already signed up for this, by virtue of Christ bringing you into His body (the church), and this is especially true for you official, communicant members who (know it or not) were thereby committing to this ministry of mutual blessing. So let us be faithful (and kind) ~ in the giving and in the receiving.

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!