Wednesday, February 29, 2012

'After-birth abortion:' Another slip on the slippery slope

'Baby Leo' photo (c) 2010, Bridget Coila - license: is creeping more toward the mainstream -- sadly and horrifyingly. In the last week, two Australisn philosophers published in the Journal of Medical Ethics -- which is supposedly a respected publication -- an article titled "After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?" The article's abstract says:
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of acutal people, the authors argue that what we call "after-birth abortion" (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
Such thinking should be abhorred by all civilized people, but it is only the logical outworking of the argument for abortion rights.

Robert George, professor at Princeton University and a leading pro-life advocate, wrote about the authors' argument at the "Mirror of Justice" blog:
It doesn't matter to the authors whether the baby is physically and psychologically healthy. As a mere "potential person" (sound familiar?), the infant has no right not to be killed at his or her parents will. Of course,most parents of healthy newborns won't be interested in killing them (though they should have the right to). But parents who find themselves with a newborn afflicted with say, Down Syndrome, might find the child to "be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a while."

What if others are willing to adopt the baby so that he or she won't be killed? Well, the parents might decide to give the child up, and that is certainly their right; but they may prefer to kill him or her, since they may find it psychologically difficult to have a child of theirs out there in the world somewhere.
It appears society will go further down this road of inhumanity and destruction. The church stands in the gap. May we stand strong -- with Jesus and His gospel -- as bold proclaimers of the truth, compassionate servants to all and faithful ambassadors for our King. May we extend grace to the many who may yet be swept under in this carnage. May the light of Jesus shine brighter than ever before through His church in an ever-darkening domain.

Gospel math: Jesus + nothing = everything

Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., explains why Jesus plus nothing equals everything -- which is the title of one of his books -- in this excerpt from his address at the 2010 Desiring God National Conference.. This video clip fits well with the passage I will be preaching on this Sunday -- Luke 12:49-53.

Tchividjian spoke at the recent conference in Nashville on suffering and the gospel. I still plan to blog on that conference. I am just slow to do so.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship this Sunday

Moses returned to Egypt with a message from God. Ex. 4:31 describes what happened when Moses and Aaron shared with the suffering Israelites that God was going to deliver them and performed signs to authenticate the message: "So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped." We will gather this Sunday to hear once again from the Word of God of His great, loving concern for us and of how He acted to deliver us from our enslavement to sin. We were slaves in much greater bondage than the children of Israel. In His loving mercy, God chose to claim us and to purchase us at the price of His Son's horrible and undeserved death. May we dwell on this central and blessed truth as we prepare for worship, as we praise and thank Him in singing and prayer, and as we present ourselves to Him for His purpose and glory. From our innermost being, may we bow low and worship.

Our brothers and sisters are being persecuted

Individual and entire groups of Christ's followers are suffering around the world at the hands of repressive governments and militants from other religions. Here are some links to recent reports on those who need our prayers -- prayers for God's deliverance, prayers for joy amidst the pain, prayers for perseverance, prayers for a sense of God's abundant presence, prayers for the spread of the gospel and more.

Yousef Nadarkhani, Iran -- You may read an update on this young, faithful pastor who is facing execution for his conversion from Islam to Christ here.

Christian prisoners, Iran -- Here is the most recent list of believers imprisoned in Iran as compiled by Mohabat News.

Umar Mulinde, Uganda -- You may read here a story about another pastor who converted from Islam to Jesus and is recovering in Israel from burns to half his face suffered when a Muslim threw acid on him.

Christians, Syria -- Here is a look at the situation for Christians amid the violent turmoil in Syria.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The evidence mounts: Marriage is a gospel issue

'Built to last' photo (c) 2008, Andreas Levers - license: is a gospel issue.

The reality of that truth is becoming more evident in our culture. Take two examples from the last week's newspapers:

-- For the first time, more than half of all births to American women under 30 years of age are to those who are unmarried. That figure is at 53 percent. In a report last Friday, The New York Times described it as "the new normal." Whether or not that is true, it is tragic and the implications for our society are frightening.

-- A caption under a photo running with a Monday story in The Washington Post about two men who have opened an antiques store/tanning salon in D.C. included: "Interior designer Paul Corrie, right, and his husband Steve Ewens . . . " That phrase -- "his husband" -- is jarring. Yet, it is one we will see duplicated many times over in the days ahead.

These anecdotes demonstrate the twin truths that marriage is increasingly being rejected and redefined in our day.

In ways, marriage has become a luxury in our culture -- something embraced largely by people of certain ethnicities, as well as by those with a certain level of education and of a certain socioeconomic status. National Vital Statistics Reports, according to The Times, says: "73 percent of black children are born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites." The Times cites statistics from Child Trends that show "about 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less." Couples, especially those in the lower-middle and lower classes economically, increasingly are living together and having children without getting married. Bradford Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, has said, "Marriage is not losing ground in America's best neighborhoods. But it's a very different story in blue-collar America."

Marriage increasingly is being redefined. Seven states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand marriage's definition to include couples of the same sex. Our neighboring state, Maryland, may do so soon. Yesterday, a federal judge in San Francisco struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Voices on the cultural fringe are calling for marriage to encompass other arrangements. As some wise observers have pointed out, once marriage is redefined to include same-sex couples, there is no logical basis for prohibiting other types of unions.

As marriage is increasingly redefined, it will be increasingly ignored. Perceptive commentators have pointed out that when marriage is redefined to mean things other than the union of a man and a woman, people recognize it has lost its meaning. As a result, fewer people will enter into a relationship that has been gutted by society of its significance and sanctity. Society -- especially a large swath of society -- no longer esteems marriage. For it, there no longer exists a norm that would expect a couple to marry before living together or having children.

At this moment in the American story and in the midst of this societal upheaval stands the church. We -- as the grace-showered and blood-bought church -- value marriage -- not because it is ultimate but because of who established it and because of the great meaning He bestowed upon it.

God designed and defined marriage. As its creator, He holds every right to say what constitutes marriage. In Gen. 2 and beyond, He has made it clear marriage is only for a man and a woman. Marriage is a great benefit to men and women, to children and to society. Marriage's greatest significance is in what it portrays. God made marriage a picture of the union of Christ and His bride, the church. The apostle Paul makes that reality clear in Eph. 5. While Paul writes in the last part of that chapter about the relationship between a husband and wife, he asserts near the close he is talking about Christ and the church.

Jesus and His sacrificial love for His bride are at the heart of the gospel. Yes, marriage is a gospel issue, and we should frequently remind ourselves of this truth.

Marriage is a gospel issue because we, the church, exist as the adulteress God the Son came to purchase off the slave block of sin to transform into a beautiful bride.

Marriage is a gospel issue because we, the church, should defend, promote and teach the truth that this covenantal relationship between a man and a woman is -- at its most meaningful -- an earthly portrait of that most valuable message -- Christ came to redeem a bride for Himself.

Marriage is a gospel issue because we, the church, have been commissioned to take the good news of Jesus and His all-sufficient work to children, young people and adults who have been devastated by broken marriages and betrayed by society's wicked siren song about sexuality.

Marriage is a gospel issue because we, the married couples within the church, are to model the gospel before children, young people and adults in order to help them think biblically about marriage and trust God and His good design for it.

As the church, may we believe Jesus and His gospel -- and attest to the power and beauty of the gospel by our lives -- in order that God would be glorified, Christ would be exalted, and the good news would be made known to and believed by others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A thought for gospel believers to ponder

"The way you lose the gospel is not by denying it, but by assuming it." -- D.A. Carson (HT: Tim Challies).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship February 19

Worship is not for spectators. This includes corporate worship. It is for worshipers, and worshipers worship. It is something that involves our spirit, mind, will, emotions and body. David makes this clear in Ps. 103:1: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name." Worship is not without cost. It calls for preparation. It calls for focus. It calls for setting aside other pursuits. It calls for pouring ourselves out in the holy effort to glorify God and exalt Christ. We see this in such examples as the poor widow who gave two mites (Mark 12:41-44), the woman who poured out costly perfume on Jesus (Mark 14:3-9)and the Macedonian churches who gave liberally out of their poverty (II Cor. 8:1-5). Of course, our worship cost God the Son the most (II Cor. 8:9). Because He poured out His life for us, we can come prepared this Sunday to worship the one true God and to give attention to making His praise glorious (Ps. 66:2). May it be so for all who gather to participate in the corporate worship by Covenant Community Church.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What we should learn from Komen and Planned Parenthood

'vaikelis' photo (c) 2006, kambodza - license: culture war over the life of the unborn has been on full display the last three weeks. On Jan. 31, it was reported Susan G. Komen for the Cure had decided to end grants to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's No. 1 abortion provider. Three days later, the world's leading breast cancer charity cried, "Uncle," after a public relations and media onslaught orchestrated by Planned Parenthood. In the last 10 days, the battle over the Obama administration's "contraceptive mandate" -- which requires employers to pay for birth control methods, including ones that can cause abortions -- has intensified.

Before we go too far down the road regarding the Komen controversy, I think it is important for every American believer to read what Russell Moore wrote for Christianity Today on what we should learn from Planned Parenthood's successful, strong-arm tactics. Here are some comments I think are especially pertinent:
We don't need a Christian foundation to compete with the merchants of death. We don't need one more coalition with enough signatures to counter the threatened boycotts of the abortion rights peddlers. And we sure don't need to sell bumper stickers with a line drawn through a pink ribbon.

What we need, first of all, are churches who recognize that this isn't all that surprising. Mammon is a jealous god, and he's armed to the teeth. We need to create the kind of counter-culture that constantly shines the light of Christ wherever these false gods exist in our own affections. And then we need to demonstrate what it means to believe that a person's life consists in more than the abundance of his possessions.

Let's stop highlighting how God "blesses" the millionaire who tithes. Let's stop trumpeting the celebrity football players and beauty queens as evidence of God's blessing. Let's show that God has blessed us in a Christ who never had a successful career or a balanced bank account, but who was blessed by God with life, and with children that no one can number, from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language.
You may read Moore's entire commentary here.

Latest sports sensation quotes John Piper

I am back to blogging after a week-long break, including a trip to Nashville for the Renew Conference. I plan to post on that conference, which was on suffering and the gospel. In the meantime, I have a couple of items.

You may have missed this, but the last week or so has seen the sudden rise of the latest sports sensation, Jeremy Lin. He is the first Taiwanese American to play in the National Basketball Association, and his first five games as a starter have been startling. He has scored 136 points in his initial five starts, a record for any player since the NBA and ABA merged in the 1970s. The New York Knicks have won all five games he has started as point guard.

More importantly, Lin is a Christian, and he appears to be committed to following Jesus and seeking God's glory. I first heard about him when he was playing at Harvard. After a year of basically riding the bench in the NBA after signing as a free agent, he was dropped earlier this year by two teams before the Knicks picked him up. May God use him to glorify Himself and spread the gospel, and may his fellow believers pray to that end.

This Feb. 14 post at the Desiring God blog gives some insight into Jeremy Lin:
They're calling it "LinSanity" in New York, and it hit fever pitch tonight after Lin's game winning 3-pointer with less than a second to play in the Knicks win. He finished with 27 points and a career-high 11 assists.

But despite the "LinSanity" he seems to have his head on straight.

The Knicks overnight phenom Jeremy Lin quotes from a section of John Piper's book Don't Waste Your Life in an online testimony recorded last June:

"God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life."

Lin then adds the following commentary about his coming to treasure Jesus more than basketball success:
When Paul wrote in Philippians to press on for an upward prize, he was living for that, and it made his life meaningful (Philippians 3:15). And I realized I had to learn to do the same. I had to learn to stop chasing the perishable prizes of this earth, I had to stop chasing personal glory, I had to learn how to give my best effort to God and trust him with the results. I have to learn to have enough faith to trust in his grace and to trust in his sovereign and perfect plan. I had to submit my will, my desires, my dreams — give it all up to God and say, "Look, I am going to give my best effort, go on the court and play every day for you, and I'm going to let you take care of the rest." This is something I struggle with every day. . . . Playing for great stats is nice, but that satisfaction — that happiness — is only from game to game. It's temporary.
Indeed, only in God's presence is there "fullness of joy," and only at his right hand are there "pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why preach the gospel to yourself (No. 6)

'martino vs martinus' photo (c) 2007, spike - license: is another reason to preach the gospel to yourself as provided by Milton Vincent in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians. It is "A Cure for Distrust:"
Every time I deliberately disobey a command of God, it is because I am in that moment doubtful as to God’s true intentions in giving me that command. Does He really have my best interests at heart? Or is He withholding something from me that I would be better off having? Such questions, whether consciously asked or not, lie underneath every act of disobedience.

However, the gospel changes my view of God’s commandments, in that it helps me to see the heart of the Person from whom those commandments come. When I begin my train of thought with the gospel, I realize that if God loved me enough to sacrifice His Son’s life for me, then He must be guided by that same love when He speaks His commandments to me. Viewing God’s commands and prohibitions in this light, I can see them for what they really are: friendly signposts from a heavenly Father who is seeking to love me through each directive, so that I might experience His very fullness forever.

When controlling my thoughts as described above, the gospel cures me of my suspicion of God, thereby disposing me to walk more trustingly on the path of obedience to His commands.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Build up the church -- and the kingdom

One of my deep concerns is the lack of New Testament perspective so many Christians seem to display regarding the church. Much of that can probably be attributed to a lack of biblical teaching, and that should remind me to make certain I am doing my part to make clear what the New Testament says about the church.

We live in a day when we can easily drift toward non-involvement with or non-commitment to a local church. As 21st Century Christians, we can often seem to treat a church as if it is a low priority that calls for no more than an hour or two in a 168-hour week. Or our level of commitment can appear to indicate we want to avoid the sacrifice, vulnerability and hard work -- and it can be both spiritual and physical -- required for disciples to grow together as the family of God.

This affliction of non-involvement or non-commitment is demonstrated in a variety of ways. In our day, it is easy to do -- what with all the books, radio and TV teaching, and online sermons, blogs, videos and other resources. I understand some people think the Bible's expectation of a believer's participation in a church body can be satisfied on the Internet. Those online disciples don't realize the magnitude of the fellowship with Jesus and His body they are missing.

How things have changed since the First Century. This kind of non-accountability, failure to serve other believers and avoidance of spending time in worship and ministry with fellow Christians would have been foreign to the disciples we read about in the New Testament. I long for all of us to experience the grace and glory of God manifested in walking together with other believers as we follow Jesus. It won't truly happen outside a church in which we have covenanted to do just that and more.

I could write more about this, but I won't -- at least for now. Instead, I include below an item posted by Ray Ortlund of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tenn., that I think will help us in thinking clearly about the church:
“My passion isn’t to build up my church. My passion is for God’s Kingdom.”

Ever heard someone say that? I have. It sounds noble, but it’s unbiblical and wrong. It can even be destructive.

Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I’ll work for that. I’ll pray for that. I’ll sacrifice for that. But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I’m aiming at something grander.”

If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?

If you care about the Kingdom, good. Now be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, throw yourself into the life of your church with wholehearted passion.

We build great churches the same way we build great marriages — real commitment that makes a positive difference in practical ways. And thus we build the Kingdom.

Monday, February 6, 2012

'Let the gospel tell the gospel'

"Christianity Explored" is an excellent DVD-based series explaining Christ and His gospel by means of the gospel of Mark. It can be helpful for all unbelievers, particularly those seeking to understand Christianity. It also can help Christians grow in their understanding of the gospel and receive encouragement and strengthening in their evangelism. It also might provide a tool for Christians to use in a small group evangelistic study with neighbors or friends.

Our church plans to begin this series for adults and youth this coming Sunday. Below is a trailer for "Christianity Explored." I was certainly ready to watch the series after seeing the trailer. I viewed the series several months ago and highly recommend it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship February 5

We are a people produced by God's grace. Paul wrote about it in Titus 3:4-7: "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Oh the blessing of God showering grace, mercy and love upon us. Those showers drench our guilty, broken, works-oriented souls. His grace -- demonstrated especially in the person and work of the Lord Jesus -- is our hope. We will come together Sunday on that basis to sing His praises, thank Him for His mercy toward us and ask for His loving work in us. Oh, may we all come prepared to worship in the light of His grace.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For your attention

I inaugurate today a feature I may post periodically. I acknowledge the idea came after viewing Tim Chailles' "A la carte" posts at his blog, which I commend to you and you can link to here. I have a different name, but this kind of post serves a similar purpose -- seeking to direct your attention to news, issues and insights I believe are important and helpful.

1. Read your Bible more each year -- John Piper provides encouragement to read the Bible more and more. He also explains why it is not legalism to read the Bible when we don't feel like it.

2. A challenge to Christians from the White House -- Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, analyzes the Obama administration's recent requirement that even religious employers with pro-life convictions -- except for some churches -- provide coverage under the 2010 health-care reform law for contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.

3. Tebow cancels event with prosperity preacher -- Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition points to the cancellation of a speaking engagement by Tim Tebow at a conference organized by prosperity gospel preacher Rod Parsley. He also explains why it matters. There are indications -- including comments in the aftermath of T.D. Jakes' appearance at a recent event held by Chicago pastor James McDonald -- the problems with the prosperity gospel are gaining growing and needed attention from Reformed Christians and other evangelicals.

4. The humanity of Jesus and why it matters -- Russell Moore, theology dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls attention to the doctrine of Christ's humanity and its importance. He also highly recommends a new book on the subject.

5.The Super Bowl and sex trafficking -- The Christian Post reports on the annual attraction the Super Bowl is for sex traffickers and their slaves -- and how some groups and the state of Indiana are seeking to combat it this week.