Monday, January 22, 2018

Rescuing lives from the holocaust of abortion

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Can you imagine living in Germany during the Nazi regime? It is almost unthinkable. Did ordinary German citizens know what was happening? Could they have believed that Jews were being exterminated by the scores, by the thousands and tens of thousands, and even millions? Or would they have relied on the bogus propaganda produced by Hitler’s government to alleviate their conscience?  

Anti-Semitism had become so ingrained in the collective mindset that maybe it was easier to simply brush off what they thought might be happening. Perhaps the Jews were, after all, an inferior race and such a threat to German racial purity that a sort of “Final Solution” to the Jewish question was not out of the question.

It was a time of war, and war is, well, let’s just say that the doctrine of hell unveils horrors too graphic to comprehend. And so does war.

But while many stood by in silence, there were some courageous souls who sought to rescue those who were being taken away to death. Accounts detail the heroic efforts of many, including one Dutch student named Marion Pritchard. Riding her bike to class one day she witnessed Nazi soldiers at the children’s home “picking up the kids by an arm or a leg or by the hair” and throwing them into a truck.

“Well, I stopped my bike and looked. Two other women coming down on the street got so furious, they attacked the German soldiers, and they just picked up the women and threw them in the truck after the kids,” she recalls. “I just stood there. I’m one of those people who sat there and watched it happen.”

However, Mrs. Pritchard was outraged by such injustice, and she went on to help save and shelter some 150 Jews from the hands of the Nazis in the next three years.

There is another holocaust happening, and this time it’s on our watch. The deaths of innocent children in the womb has now claimed over 60 million lives since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. It is not possible for us to say we didn’t know about it. It is foolishness to say these lives are inferior and unworthy of saving. It is callousness and cowardice for us to simply stand in silence and watch it happen.

The Bible clearly describes the handiwork of God in the creation of every single life, starting from Day 1 in the womb. The Psalmist marveled at God’s artistry: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

Did you know that at the moment of fertilization all human chromosomes are present, and a unique life begins? Did you know that by day 22 the heart begins to beat with the child’s own blood? Did you know that eyes, legs, and hands begin to develop by the fifth week, and that in the sixth week brain waves are detectable and the mouth and lips are present, and fingers are forming? Did you know that at week 8 every organ is in place, and bones and fingerprints are forming?

Friend, you and I are created in the very image of God, by His intentional and purposeful design, as male and female, carefully and uniquely crafted by the Author of Life. So let us value all life from the moment of conception until the day our Maker calls us home in the sleep of death. And let us courageously rise up to rescue and protect those being led away to the slaughter.

Let me also take a moment to say quickly - in a spirit of compassion and love and grace - that our God readily forgives sin. No matter what you've done or supported or said, it was a demonstration of divine love that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Friend, why not come to Jesus in humility, with whatever burdens you may be bearing, in whatever guilt and shame may be haunting you, and unload them at the foot of the cross. 

Jesus "bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24). His forgiveness - in all of its fullness and freedom - awaits those who cry out to Him in repentance from sin and faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Our flawed heroes and the flawless Hero

One of my childhood sports heroes was named Julius Erving, more famously known as “Dr. J.” I recall him playing for the Philadelphia 76ers back in the late 70’s and 80’s, wowing basketball fans with his artistic style and signature flying “slam” dunks.

But all heroes have flaws. While excelling and innovating on the hardwood floor, Dr. J’s personal life reveals a disappointing history of adulterous affairs, children born out of wedlock, divorce, deception, heartache, and turmoil. I still marvel at what he did with a basketball in his hands, but his status as a hero has been tainted.

I think about civil rights champion Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps no one has furthered the cause of racial equality in America more than King. His status as a hero is well-etched in the American tale, but King is not without personal flaws as well, including widespread accounts of adultery, along with a bad cigarette smoking habit.

And dare I say in this neck of the woods that even our national beloved hero Abraham Lincoln was a man with flaws? By all accounts, his marriage was a mess, he battled with what we would today call clinical depression, and at least one writer records that Lincoln had a penchant for dirty jokes. And that’s not even including some of the decisions he made as President with which many found fault. Yet we hail him today as the “Great Emancipator,” and without his leadership in a critically turbulent time this nation would not be what it is today.

Even when you look in the Bible, narratives about the personal failures of the greatest heroes on the biggest stages abound. “Father” Abraham twice lied about his wife and fathered a child with her Egyptian servant. The legendary Israelite deliverer Moses killed a man and tried to hide the body. The revered king David infamously committed adultery and then had her husband killed, among other sins. And the list could go run long and ugly.

What’s the point? It’s this: there’s not a man nor woman who’s ever walked the face of this planet whose life is truly worthy of our highest praise or emulation, despite their great achievements or inspiring passions – save one. His name is Jesus.

Only Jesus lived a flawless life in faultless obedience to the righteous will of His holy Father in heaven. Only Jesus shows us perfectly how to love one another, how to live in peace and harmony with one another, how to have joy inexpressible and hope unshakeable, and how to find abundant life.

Only Jesus stepped down from heaven into our world to carry out the ultimate rescue mission that would save our souls from eternal death and give us everlasting life. Only Jesus cleanses our sin-stained hearts and makes them white as snow, by the shedding of His blood on the cross. Only Jesus triumphed in victory over death and hell, by His own resurrection from the grave on the third day. And only Jesus provides new life to all who repent from sins and turn to Him in faith.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus declared in John 14:6.

Dear friend, it’s not too late for you to come to Jesus. Each of these earthly “heroes” I’ve mentioned, flaws and all, were still men whom God loved compassionately, whom God has forgiven freely in Christ, and whom God has used mightily in this world. Why not make Jesus the true Hero in your life by trusting Him today?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Setting the Course for 2018

So how’s your New Year shaping up so far? Anything you want to improve upon in your life? Setting any goals? Keeping resolutions? Or just going status quo this year?

I’m pretty good at wanting to make big changes while lacking the burning desire needed to make it happen. For example, last year I set a goal of running 365 miles; averaging a mile per day. That’s actually a pretty attainable mark, if only I’d stay more consistent. I came in at 150. There’s a marathon goal floating around in the back of my head somewhere, too. Maybe it just needs to stay there.

It seems every year I want to read through the whole Bible but end up drowning in Leviticus. I always want to be more intentional about leading family worship time in our home, but it’s more sporadic than daily. I want to be better organized, handle money more wisely, give more, write more, waste time less, and come charging out of the New Year’s gate ready to conquer the world. Again – every single year.

I’m the king of good intentions, but fail at follow-through. Anybody with me?

Here’s what I want this year, in typical preacherly three-point outline, alliterated, mind you: I want to live well, love well, and lead well. These may not be specifically measurable goals, but perhaps setting a course beats seeking checkmarks.

I want to live well. By the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I want my life to reflect His goodness, compassion, and righteousness. I want to live in the wisdom that comes through “the fear of the Lord.” I want to live with integrity and humility, passion and perseverance, joy and gratitude. I want to learn more what it means to say with the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). I want to live well to honor the Lord.

I want to love well. I yearn to learn to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). His love revealed in Jesus compels my whole-hearted love and devotion, and I want to be zealous in love. And because God so loved us, I want to better “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Starting at home with my wife and sons and reaching to my extended family, my church family, my community, and my world – all those whom God has created in His own image – I want to love well with the love of Christ.

And I want to lead well. The Lord has called me into ministry as Pastor-Teacher, Shepherd, and Overseer. He’s blessed me to be a husband and a father. With such roles comes great responsibility. I want to spend more time in prayer for those whom God has placed under my care. I want to serve more selflessly, teach more diligently, equip more thoroughly, listen more intently, encourage more cheerfully, and exemplify more faithfully what it means to follow Jesus. I want to lead well, as I follow the lead of my King.

Maintaining the status quo is not an option for those who know the call of Christ to “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” and “make disciples of all nations.” May the Lord give us the grace to follow-through with His good intentions for us this year.