Full disclosure: I really don’t like writing about controversial topics.
I’m sure part of it is my own sinful cowardice. Part of it is knowing I’m never the most articulate or knowledgeable on any given “hot topic”. Finally, I’m convinced that most “hot” topics, aren’t that “hot” and usually fizzle out after a few days.
Don’t get me wrong, I still felt a sense of cowardice creep up because I saw how hostile our culture has become to things I believe. I still don’t think I’m even close to the most articulate or knowledgeable on the topic (this article is the best I’ve seen explaining the heart behind the statement). What was different, however, was that I don’t believe this topic will fizzle out in a few days. In my short time working in ministry, issues related to sexuality are the most consistent, most confusing, and most urgently needing clarity.
So, as a rookie pastor reading this document, I was grateful. And I don’t say that lightly. I have friends who experience same-sex attraction. I’m not under the impression that reading this document was easy for them – even if they agreed with it. The Nashville Statement addresses topics that are tender, intimate, and for many, packed with pain.
When I read The Nashville Statement, my heart swirled with both gratitude and gravity. I see it as a gift to hold and a burden to bear.
The Gift: A Shaping Force, Not a Counseling Script
When I read The Nashville Statement I didn’t see myself reading a script for counseling situations. I plan to reference it in the future for its precise language and helpful summaries of what I believe Scripture teaches, but I didn’t see it as something to be memorized and quoted to friends who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. Yes, the truth is objective, static; but the people I minister to are dynamic and complicated. They need wise application of objective truth to their situation. I don’t envision myself sitting down with friends experiencing same sex attraction and reading them The Nashville Statement verbatim. It’s not a script to read for every pastoral situation, and I don’t think the writers of the document intended it to be one. Instead, I envision it as a foundation I can stand on that provides the nuances that match the complexities of some of the most difficult problems people face. I’m grateful for the clarity it provides on issues surrounded by confusion for many Christians.
The Burden: Compelled by Constraints
The deeper effect the statement had on me was how it drove me toward my friends who experience the sins it describes. Most critiques I have read say The Nashville Statement is a constraining document. It will lead to even more isolation from Christians toward those in their communities who experience these sexual sins. I would argue the opposite. If the truths of The Nashville Statement do not compel me toward loving relationships with my LGBTQ neighbor, I obviously don’t believe what the statement says. My signature on The Nashville Statement is worthless if it results in me merely signing off on a document. If I believe that people flourish most when they embrace God’s good design for marriage and sexuality, wouldn’t that compel me into relationships with my LGBTQ neighbor? I feel the burden of this because I’m often better at articulating the truths of God’s good design and transforming grace, but often struggle to embody them by pursuing relationships with those different from me.
I believe that Jesus gives the most abundant life (John 10:10). I believe that when people delight in and obey God’s Word they flourish like fruitful trees (Psalm 1). I believe that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and that it is perfect truth, and when that truth is grasped even by the weakest faith it gives joy, peace, hope, and freedom (Romans 15:13; John 8:32).
I’m grateful and burdened by The Nashville Statement – that’s why I signed it.I would encourage Christians to read it. My prayer is that as the cultural conversation moves on to the next “hot topic”, my heart will not. My prayer is that I’ll stay close to the truth of God’s life-giving word, and close to those who need it most – starting with myself.
I finally got around to reading Animal Farmby George Orwell. The book is a political parable using pigs, humans, and other farm creatures. Perhaps you hated the book because a high school teacher forced you to read it (hopefully they didn’t look like a pig). Or perhaps you have never heard of the book until now. Either way, the book is worth reading (or re-reading) and I have been challenged by it.
5 Takeaways from Animal Farm:
Knowledge, intellect, and critical reasoning skills are essential for a healthy society.
It is imperative to hold politicians to the original guiding documents of a society and to beware any reinterpretation.
People who stay silent when evil unfolds are responsible in the end.
Anyone who believes that human nature (or animal nature) is naturally good is deceived.
Tyranny and abuse of power does not happen overnight and is often slowly unveiled in public overtime.
I won’t go into all of these themes in this post, but I want to briefly address #1 and #3.
The “common person” often has untapped potential. Knowledge, intellect, and critical reasoning skills are essential for a society to have a healthy democracy. Many of the animals start allowing the pigs to overreach their authority because they either cannot read or cannot articulate their concerns properly. When they do articulate their concerns, they are unable to counter any reasonable explanation given to them. They are also unable to discern when the pigs make illogical conclusions.
On several occasions, convincing the common farm animals was all too easy. The pigs would remind them of a legitimate threat they all felt. No one wanted Mr. Jones (the human) to come back to the farm. Therefore, the pigs were able to use this real threat as a means to justify a lot of questionable activity that was, in reality, unrelated to the return of Mr. Jones. For instance, the pigs worked hard planning the farm schedule and “therefore” needed milk and apples. No one else got those treats even though “All animals were equal.” When asked why the pigs got special food, the Mr. Jones card was played. “You wouldn’t want Mr. Jones to return now then would you? Mr. Jones is going to return if X-Y-or-Z doesn’t occur.” The pigs took a genuine threat – Mr. Jones returning – and used it to persuade the animals of their slowly unfolding unjustifiable actions.
The pigs were always able to persuade the animals on the farm to their side. The person with the most persuasive argument in the moment won the day. Whenever something smelled foul, all it took was a reasonable explanation to satisfy. The pigs could easily flip-flop on their ideas for the farm as long as a reasonable explanation – asserted in a sincere and authentic way – was presented after the fact. A “reasonable explanation” was always able to convince those who raised questions and cover up the inconsistencies of the pigs.
It seems the only one who could reason critically against the pigs was Ben the donkey.
The Dumb Donkey
Ben the donkey could read and was intelligent. Yet he was silent. He wasn’t dumb but he was dumb. Always kept to himself and didn’t want to interfere. This all came crashing down when his friend was taken to be slaughtered.
Those who are quiet will not escape and they will reap the consequences of their non-actions. The silent only pave the way for the wicked to rule and spread. The silent knowledgeable ones are not innocent. In the book, the one who kept his mouth closed, actually played into the hands of those who want all mouths to be closed. A closed mouth is an open hand to oppression.
These are just a few of the thought provoking elements of the book. I found Animal Farm to be an invigorating read with a challenge to sharpen my reasoning skills and to speak up for the oppressed (Proverbs 31:8). You have my permission to pig out on it.
I may or may not be obsessed with science fiction. I blame my dad. My dad and I have logged away many hours with science fiction movies (Props to my mom for enduring some of those hours as well). At some point, I want to blog about the pros and cons of this genre, but I wanted to write down some thoughts about the latest installment in the Star Wars saga.
Perhaps you have seen Rogue One already, or perhaps you are considering going. I highly recommend it. It is captivating, clean, and classy. I don’t recall any foul language in the movie or any scandalous characters (unlike The Return of the Jedi). If you are going to watch it with your kids, or for your own pleasure, here are some spiritual lessons to ponder during or after the movie. These ten lessons are in no particular order.
[Warning: There are some spoilers in this post. Also, the quotations may not be 100% accurate because I have only seen it in theaters.]
1) The wicked die by their own weapons.
The book of Proverbs repeatedly states that the wicked get caught in their own trap (Proverbs 5:22, 11:6). This truth can be seen over and over again in the Bible. Take Haman in the book of Ester for example. Hamman builds a noose for Mordecai and then dies by his own rope. Satan himself enters into Judas to betray Jesus, and then it is actually Jesus’ crucifixion that is the death blow to Satan. In some sense, a great enemy of the wicked is themselves.
Rogue One highlights this in a climatic ending. General Krennic has spent his whole life and evil career on the Death Star. He has been overseeing it’s construction, and it is his precious project. He is using the Death Start to kill others, and at the end of the movie, the Death Star kills him. The movie ends with the Death Star (manned by General Tarkin) shooting its laser beam to Scarif. If you look closely, you notice that the laser beam hits the tower upon which Krennic is located first. Krennic looks up, sees his creation, and then it takes off the top of the satellite tower before hitting the ground a few miles away. This is a good example that the wicked often die by their own weapons.
2) Power and pride blind us to reality
There is an obvious tension between Tarkin and Krennic. Krennic is concerned about his status in the Empire. He wants the credit for the Death Star and Tarkin stands in his way. Krennic wants to do everything he can to clear his name and present himself as a capable general to the Emperor. This is especially highlighted in the exchange between Krennic and Darth Vader.
At the end of their conversation, Krennic asks the unfortunate question “Does this mean I am still in charge?” and Vader begins to choke him. Vader points out what is taking place in Krennic’s heart. Vader says, “Be careful that you do not choke on your aspirations general.”
The great irony is that Krennic’s lust for power blinds him to the reality that Vader and the Emperor will never care about him. Ever. The Sith will destroy him in a second’s notice. They are merely using him and will discard him (like they always do) once they are finished. Krennic’s entire obsession with his status is an utterly vain effort.
His character is a lesson that a lust for power and pride is “vanity, vanity, vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
3) You don’t have to fear death
Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior who is Force-sensitive, is a great character. He is calm, fierce, and funny. We should all want to be like him in some sense. One of the most powerful moments in the movie is when Imwe goes to flip the master switch. The odds are against him, and one of his fellow Rebel soldiers was killed immediately upon attempting to run to the switch. Imwe is bold and uses the Force to dodge the blaster fire and get to the control panel. The viewers can expect this because of his courageous moves earlier in the movie when he defended Cassian and Jyn against a group of Storm Troopers on Jedha.
In each of these moments, it is clear that he doesn’t fear death. He trusts the Force and believes that the Force will do what is best. He says something like, “I’m not afraid, the Force is in control of what happens.” He was trusting in the sovereignty of the Force, and this enabled him to act valiantly. He didn’t fear death and accepted it when it came. How much more should we as Christians act this way when we trust in a true Sovereign God who created and controls everything?
4) You don’t have to be a main character to be a hero
A ton of people die in Rogue One. But think about the final scene for a minute. Darth Vader is going on an epic rampage and slaughtering the Rebel fighters trying to get the plans. Vader kills an unknown fighter, and another, and another, and another. Yet the Rebel fighters keep passing the secret plans on down the line. Their first priority is to make sure the plans are not captured.
If any one of these unknown Rebel fighters tried to save their skin by giving the plans to Vader, the entire cause would have been lost. If any one of these unknown characters tried to rescue themselves first and neglected to pass along the secret plans, the whole mission would have failed. They all die for the cause and sacrifice themselves so that the secret Death Star plans are passed into Princess Leia’s hands. They were selfless to the point of death. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
5) A story doesn’t have to explain everything
I love thinking about how the various plot lines in the Star Wars Saga fit together. If you are a nerd like me, you might be concerned about any plot holes in the overall story that Rogue One could produce. Here are six different plot holes that you might be thinking about. I will spare you, but I actually think these can be answered sufficiently. Take the example of C3PO and R2-D2 being on the Rebel base when the fighters are being sent out. We only see them saying something like, “Oh my, I didn’t know we were going to battle. No one tells me anything.” Then the scene ends. You could argue that the directors made an error because in Episode IV, we seen them on the ship that was in battle in Rogue One.
However, I think it would be a better option to believe that the creators of Rogue One spent a lot more time thinking about this than we have. They certainly watched Episode IV a few times before making Rogue One. It is also a good assumption that they spent a lot of money to make sure this movie would be a success. We can be assured they thought about this before we did.
It is not necessary to conclude there was an error because they didn’t explain everything in the movie. It is possible that five minutes later a Rebel leader could have told the droids they would be on the next ship out of the hanger. That could have been the Rebel flagship. Just because a story doesn’t explain something, doesn’t mean it is unexplainable.
If we read widely enough, watch enough, or begin to notice these kinds of things in life, we can see that stories often have apparent contradictions or moments that require more information than a plot line contains. Especially if a story spans across a series of episodes. I think it is best to start out trusting the author of the stories and assume the story is complete even if we don’t always see every single angle.
How you approach a story is incredibly important when you begin reading the four Gospel accounts or compare and contrast 1 & 2 Chronicles and 1 & 2 Samuel. I think our Bible reading will be enhanced if we learn how good stories are told and how different accounts mesh together.
6) Ethics are sometimes complicated
Galen Erso is a good guy… But he lies and works for the Empire.
Galen convinced an imperial pilot to defect… Yet he made a machine that destroys millions of people.
But he knew they were going to make it anyway… Yet his Death Star wiped out an entire city. But he sabotaged the inner core and risked everything to leak the secret Star Dust information to his daughter…
These complicated ethical situations are highlighted in the struggle that Cassian faced when he was under orders to snipe Galen. After much turmoil, Cassian decided against it when he saw Galen stand in front of the engineers before they were executed.
If nothing else, Rogue One underscores that ethics can be complicated in a fallen world. This is a great opportunity to think through what you would have done and how you are going to explain his actions to your kids.
7) The Force feels good because it points to a supernatural reality
Perhaps you don’t feel anything when you watch Star Wars except boredom, but I suspect that many of you feel something powerful and compelling by the storyline. Disney certainly wants us all to feel something powerful when we watch their new episodes.
I think that the concept of the Force is compelling because we are designed to believe in and embrace the invisible. Deep down we all believe (or have a instinct to believe in) the “Tao” as C.S. Lewis calls it in the Abolition of Man. We are not just materialists. We want to believe in something beyond nature. We want to believe there is a Being or Entity that unites us all. We want to believe that everything was created by something. We want to believe in the supernatural. The fictional Force feels good because it points to what is nonfiction in the Christian faith.
There is a Being that unites everything and upholds the entire cosmos by the word of His power. There is a supernatural element to every person – the soul. There is life after death. There is something greater than what our eyes can see. Christianity gets it right, and the Force- a feeble and flawed concept- points towards it.
8) Everyone knows we need to do something about our bad deeds
While in the separatist prison, Cassian tries to talk with the defected Imperial pilot. He asks him if he knew Galen and the pilot says yes. Later, Jyn is asking the pilot about her dad. He says something like, “Your dad told me that I could make up for everything I had done by defecting.”
The pilot realized that he had been working for evil. He knew that the Galactic Empire was doing wicked acts against innocent people. He knew it, and he wanted to change.
This points to the reality that every human experiences when they realize they have sinned. They feel guilt and want to make things right. Defecting was the right thing for this Imperial pilot to do, but we know that good works don’t make up for bad ones. We need forgiveness for our sinful actions. No amount of good deeds can cancel out our bad ones (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thankfully, Christianity has a beautiful answer to this problem through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
9) You can’t be indifferent to injustice
The separatist leader, Gerrera, asks Jyn, “You are fine to see the imperial flag fly across the galaxy?” She responds by saying, “It doesn’t bother me if I don’t look up.”
This answer is how many people live their lives. They know injustice and wickedness abounds in the world, but they ignore it. They know that people are hurting and are in need, but they ignore it.
This answer is a weak one that doesn’t work. Jyn quickly realizes this and Cassian chides her later on. He says something like, “You aren’t the only one who has lost everything. I have been fighting in the Rebellion since I was six. It has been going on for a long time. There are some of us who decided to do something about it for a change.”
What about you? Do you ignore injustice? Do you turn a blind eye for your own interests and comfort? Or do you do something about it? There is no middle ground in real life.
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 ESV)
10) Don’t follow human orders blindly
Cassian did the right thing by not shooting Galen, and yet he disobeyed direct orders from the Rebel Alliance. The Imperial pilot did the right thing by defecting, and yet he disobeyed his Galactic Empire orders. The only one who gets orders right all the time is God.
As Christians, our instinct must be to obey our earthly authorities. This is commanded in the Bible (Romans 13:1-7). Yet the call for Christians isn’t to obey blindly like Storm Troopers. It is better to do the right thing (obey God) than simply follow the orders of man (Acts 5:29). Do you follow the morals of humans blindly or do you match everything against the Word of God?
Even fictional stories can’t escape themes of reality. I love some Star Wars, but I’m infinitely more grateful for the true and better story that God has woven through redemptive history. Any good thing that is present in Star Wars is a result of God’s common grace. If you liked Star Wars Rogue One, you will like the true story of Christianity even more.
This movieis a great opportunity to reflect on these ten spiritual topics and then search the Scriptures to shape our thinking. I’m looking forward to watching it again.
At this point, you have likely seen the nightmare that looms behind the placid language of the abortion industry. While Planned Parenthood says that during your procedure “medical instruments and a suction machine gently empty your uterus,” viewers of this week’s undercover video saw arms and lungs. There is now no escaping the violence of abortion; but then again, there never was. Interestingly, many are running to the aid of Planned Parenthood’s tarnished image. “Misunderstood,” they say. “Deceptive editing,” they cry, as though smoke and mirrors were responsible for the limbs on the tray. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human beings have human hearts. And we must not forget that that is exactly what is at stake.
Yet the insanity of abortion is not just in the desperate attempts of Planned Parenthood to save face. We should expect those who love the darkness to fight to keep the light at bay. Indeed, the insanity of abortion is that followers of Jesus Christ are so deafeningly silent. What is almost unthinkable is that those who have experienced new life in Christ would not speak when God’s glorious work of creation is undone. Sure, evangelicals have taken to social media in protest. I will be the first to proclaim my deep gratitude for those who will not let this occasion be just another flash in the pan. But a merely digital pro-life position is really no gospel pro-life position at all. The silence I have in mind is not in the public eye, but that which is heard in front of the EMW Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
If you drive down West Market street on a Saturday morning, you may be caught off guard by the large crowd lining a particular stretch of sidewalk. With a momentary glance you would probably see signs that say, “Choose Life” and “Women Regret Abortion.” You would most likely hear people talking about free maternity homes and scholarships. You would definitely hear voices of pro-choicers protesting the pro-life protesters. But if you listen very closely, amidst all the noise, you may hear a faint voice pleading, “be reconciled to God.”
The evangelical presence outside this abortion clinic is meager at best. It is certainly not for a lack of effort. I have emailed every evangelical pastor in this city to request the help of local churches. Some have responded; most have not. Those who do respond typically express a great deal of hesitancy. After all, actually going down to an abortion clinic is a little extreme, isn’t it? I am forced to ask why someone so bold on their blog would hesitate to join brothers and sisters on the sidewalk where the rubber meets the road?
“I don’t know what I would say,” they respond. Brother, the Spirit gives timely words. “Does it ever get hostile?” they ask. Sure, especially for the image-bearer whose life will be snuffed out in secret. “Our church just has too many programs,” one man said. Brother, you need to repent. The clear command of the text is to open your mouth for the mute (Proverbs 31:8) and expose shameful things done in darkness (Ephesians 5:11-12). And yet, our silence is deafening. As a means of bringing the gospel to bear on this issue, our own testimonies remind us that our God is deeply committed to life. This truth necessitates our voice in these dark and shameful places.
For a believer, speaking for life need not be a difficult task. Many have expressed interest in doing more, but simply do not know where to start. The good news is that you do not have to reinvent the wheel. I direct a ministry called Speak for the Unborn (S4U) that seeks to do this very thing.We have resources available to equip local churches to start gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, compassionate sidewalk counseling ministries in their own cities. While situations differ from place to place, the framework we provide is applicable to a spectrum of contexts.
Christians can no longer hide from the horrific reality of abortion. Francis Shaeffer once said that “every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, ‘Open by the permission of the church.’” This is true, but need not be our story. The Church of Jesus Christ has been given a commission to be his ambassadors. We must go where the hurting are, and where the hurting are harming their children. While you are sleeping in, women up the road are assaulted by the lies of a Devil who is hell-bent on destruction. Whether abortion drives these women to despair or makes them feel empowered, a forked-tongue never means well. Yet by our silence, we are entrusting these women to his care.
So how will you respond to the insanity? Silence? Apathy? Excuses? Fear? You would do well, believer, to remember that you have not been given a spirit of fear, but the third person of a trinity that drives out darkness. Do not leave the work for someone else; for someone who is “cut out” for this kind of ministry. Trust me, no one is cut out for it. Fortunately, you have a Christ who is. He is able to strengthen your weak knees to compassionately walk next to a women whose child is being led away to death. He is able to sustain a Speak for the Unborn ministry in your church. He is able to give you creative ways to serve abortion-minded women in your city. But never again can you say, “behold, we did not know this” (Proverbs 24:11). Passivity is not an option when children are stumbling to the slaughter next door.
Previously, we highlighted how abortion was the scarlet letter of our day. We fully believe that Jesus extends love and forgiveness to those who have had an abortion. We are also convinced that Jesus can forgive the abortionists who were in the recent viral videos about Planned Parenthood. These beliefs, however, should not keep us from praying that Planned Parenthood shuts down. In light of the recent videos, I have an unspoken topic that needs to be addressed. I believe Christians should speak up for the unborn and leave the Democratic Party. I know that there will be some who read that last statement and frown because I’m getting involved with politics. I request that those who feel uncomfortable hear me out.
I am not saying: it has always been a sin to vote democrat. I’m also not saying that Republican equals Christian or the GOP is saintly, blameless, or even… worthy of praise. I am not saying that Republicans get everything right and the Democrats get everything wrong. No.
I am saying: the current Democratic Party should not get a Christian’s vote. Only the politicians who believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of existence for all people should get the Christian vote. This transcends politics. Life and death are hanging in the balance at the voting booth. The official stance of the Democratic Party is pro-abortion. Their website states: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” (Emphasis Mine)
You can verify this for yourself, but sadly I doubt that is necessary. We need only ask the following questions about the 2016 election:
1) Has a single democratic candidate spoken out against the butchering at the hands of Planned Parenthood? I can’t name one.
2) Have the democratic candidates supported Planned Parenthood favorably in the past? A resounding yes. In fact, several have come out in defense of Planned Parenthood since the viral videos. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are being true to their party which firmly asserts “We oppose any and all efforts” against abortion. Remaining silent in the midst of this evil and injustice is a sin (Ezekiel 33, Proverbs 24:11-12). What’s more, it is a high handed sin to endorse such evil practices. Romans 1:28-32 states:
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
It is not only a sin to murder, it is a sin to give approval of those who murder. And endorsement is exactly what takes place when you vote democrat. To say that you are against abortion and then actively vote democrat is a contradiction. Follow the “logic”:
I am not a racist, but give money to the KKK.
I am against domestic abuse, but don’t report it when I see my neighbor beating up his wife.
I live in Germany in 1944 and every day I walk by Auschwitz, look in the windows, and then go home to have dessert with my family.
Do these scenarios sound outrageous? They should. The abortions that are facilitated by Planned Parenthood poses a similar conundrum for the Christian Democrat. I would be a hypocrite if I said the following:
I am against abortion, but I vote for a political party that supports an organization that has killed millions of infants.
If this bullet point seems different than the previous three, you have been blinded and calloused by the ideals and ethics of our culture. You may be assuming that I am advocating “single-issue voting” at this point. In part, I am. But let me be clear, We shouldn’t cast our lot with any politician just because he is pro-life. Yet we must agree that pro-life is a requirement for our vote. If we could have voted in the womb, this would have been our fundamental requirement. We live in a fallen world and will not always be able to agree with every candidate’s beliefs. It is not wrong to vote for an imperfect politician, however, it is immoral to vote for someone who supports the slaughter of the innocent. Perhaps you have voted democrat your entire life. I would ask you to consider that a blessing because of the solitary fact that you have a life in which you can vote. I cannot say the same for millions of others whose lives have been snuffed out because of what the Democratic Party supports.
I am not trying to be a party pooper, but some things always ruin a party. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” does not work when babies are being drowned. The Democratic Party may have some merits, but those merits are drowned out because they “strongly and unequivocally support” baby genocide. For the sake of our lives and for the sake of countless others, let’s leave behind the party that seduces us to think it’s okay to remain silent and chomp on our salads while heads are being severed. We don’t want to drink the kind of wine that the “doctors” at Planned Parenthood have to offer. Christians cannot support abortion in any way, shape, or form. In fact, we must do the opposite. We must do everything we can to stand up for the genocide that is taking place. Here are some starters:
We should not endorse politicians who remain silent when it comes to slaughtering children. Many politicians, including our current president, are deathly silent in response to the recent videos – and I mean deathly silent. Nine hundred babies are dismembered each day our politicians do nothing about Planned Parenthood. And those numbers are just from the Planned Parenthood facilities.
Speak against these issues and point out logical inconsistencies. Speak loud with lungs full of truth in love. What do we have to lose? Certainly not our lives. But babies’ lives are being lost every day as we dodge this topic because of political issues. Our president is right; we do need to “put our politics aside.” But not in the way he hypocritically suggests. We need to put politics aside and actually talk about the evils of abortion. Our country needs moral clarity. Call, write, email, and tweet to your congressmen and women.
I want to encourage you to share these videos. Speak up on social media using #defundplannedparenthood, #defundPP, and #PPsellsbabyparts.More videos will be released each week. If you have not done so already, please watch and share them. Fill up your feed. Let your favorite social media outlet become the voice of the unborn.
Most importantly, we need not only talk about these things, but we need to take action. This includes voting. It includes going down to your local abortion clinic to offer sidewalk counseling or peaceful protesting. I want to specifically encourage you to take a look at Speak for the Unborn ministries and see how you can get involved.
If you are a pastor, I want to encourage you to consider bringing these matters before your congregation and even partnering with likeminded churches in the area. Perhaps you can select a day when your church will participate in sidewalk counseling together with other churches in your city.
Fast and Pray. These are weighty matters and the God of heaven deserves to be praised by every human voice. Each child is precious to God because he created them in the womb (Psalm 139). Our God is in the heavens and he does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Let us seek his face and ask for him to turn hearts away from destruction and towards life (Proverbs 21:1).
Conclusion: We can’t merely agree in our hearts that abortion is wrong. Jesus can forgive every person who has aborted a child and every abortion “doctor” who has murdered one. But there has never been a better time to ask Jesus for forgiveness about our silence, our votes, and to begin encouraging others to speak up for those who cannot.
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? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)
I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. (Galatians 2:2)
The Christian culture we live in has superstars. You know who I am talking about. There are almost too many to count. These are the famous pastors, circuit conference speakers, the prolific authors, the big names with the big followings. If you and I are really honest, we have our personal crushes. We have a couple of these supernovas picked out and we like to gaze at them from time to time.
There is nothing new under the sun and that includes Christian superstars. The Apostle Paul mentions the original religious rockstars in the book of Galatians. In Galatians 2:2, he says the Apostles “seemed to be influential.” In 2:6, he repeats this phrase a second and third time. In fact, Paul calls them “Pillars” of the faith in 2:9. Back in the day, the Apostles were the real Christian celebrities. They were not only famous, they had authority endowed from God to speak to the church. Paul in Ephesians 2:2 says that the church was built of the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. These guys were famous, influential, titanic pillars for the kingdom of Christ. They walked with Jesus and learned directly from the Son of God. John Piper, Billy Graham and Matt Chandler have nothing on these guys.
How should we think about contemporary public power-house Christians? Is there an appropriate way to admire these Christian superstars without making them idols? We should think about Christians Celebrities in the same way Paul thought about Christian giants in the book of Galatians. We should not esteem them too highly or too lowly.
Don’t Esteem Them too Highly
Paul recognized that the original twelve Apostles were significant and important. Yet Paul did not let this cloud his clarity or his convictions. Paul held all the Apostles under the microscope of the gospel. In Galatians 1:8, Paul says “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Paul was so committed to the words of Christ, that nothing could deter him – not even angelic beings. If Peter, James or John had changed their minds ever so slightly about a biblical truth, their teaching would have been out of line. The words and work of Christ kept the Apostles in check. The Bible should dictate our convictions, not Christian celebrities. Paul grounds all his authority in the words of God. The words and work of Christ are immovable.
If a Christian celebrity deters from the Scripture, then he should not be followed. We are only to follow Christian celebrities as they follow Christ. We should imitate Christian supernovas only as they reflect the glory of God. We should gaze in wonder only as they submit their lives humbly the the authoritative word of God.
The sufficiency of Scripture should be our lens through which we view Christian figures. The Scriptures are the only certain rule of faith and obedience. Paul was not afraid to confront the “pillars” of the faith. In fact, he says in Galatians 2:11 that he opposed Peter to his face because he stood condemned. Out of a love for Peter and the truth, Paul held Peter accountable to the Scripture.
This is immensely important to us today because it shows that even the most iconic Christians are still sinners. We must be careful not to esteem the “pillars” so highly that we are blind to their cracks. If the foundational men of the New Testament had chips and cracks, we should never expect today’s celebrities to be infallible. Megachurch pastors sometimes need to be rebuked in love. Presidents of major evangelical institutions are capable of horrific sin. We do a disservice to the spiritual superstars of our day we when place them on a high pedestal. If we place unrealistic expectations upon Christian leaders, then we will get burned when our supernovas become falling stars.
We cannot follow any Christian leader blindly. We must examine all teachings in light of the Scripture and we must remember that all have fallen short of the glory of God. We should not believe something just because “so-and-so” believes it. Instead, we must tether everything to the Scripture and follow leaders as they follow Christ.
Don’t Esteem Them too Lowly
Galatians 2:1-12 is a fascinating passage to examine because Paul is very particular in how he views the Apostles. He is writing to defend his Apostolic authority against a group of Jews who taught that circumcision was essential for the Christian life. In one breath, Paul comments on the Apostles and says “what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality.” In another breath, Paul says the Apostles “who seemed to be pillars… gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me.” Paul used the confirmation from the Peter, James and others to defend both his ministry and his gospel. Paul did not dismiss the teachings of the Apostles because they “seemed to be influential.” He was more than happy to receive their commendation in the gospel and use their affirmation it to endorse his ministry. What the Apostles said was not final, but it did matter. He did not esteem their significance too lowly.
When an influential Christian speaks, we should listen. If someone had a fruitful ministry for 30 years, we would be wise to give them our ears. If someone has been married for 40+ years, we ought to pay attention to what they say. We prove ourselves to be fools if we reject the counsel and teaching of someone just because they are famous. Fame does not equal sin. We should not be ashamed to sit at the feet of key leaders who have spent years in the Scriptures and follow them as they follow Christ. If someone is reflecting Christ in a stellar way, it is a good thing to imitate them. Supernovas are usually bright for a reason.
Fruit of the Spirit Never Fails
One final word of caution from the book of Galatians on the topic of Christian Celebrities. We should desire to produce fruit of the Spirit more than we desire to become influential. It can be very tempting to want to be like our Christian heroes in every way. We may deceive ourselves into thinking that a successful ministry means being simulcast into five buildings and flying across the country five times a month. Instead, we ought to make it our goal in life to be faithful fruit bearers.
I know of Christian supernovas who have soared high in the sky but exploded upon everyone along the way. There are leaders in evangelicalism who are one thing on camera and another thing at home. There are megachurch pastors who are unqualified for ministry according to 1 Timothy 3. There are countless Christian leaders who have failed millions, but bearing fruit of the Spirit has never failed anyone. Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23)
Every star eventually burns out – even the Christian ones. Fame is fleeting, but the word of God endures forever. We need to be men and women who are bearing fruit of the Spirit that lasts into eternity. Spend your days drawing near to the God of the Bible and becoming a bountiful tree that bears fruit in secret and in every season.
This article was originally published in the September 2014 Issues of The Seminarian. You can view the article here.
There has been a lot of talk recently about what love is and who has been hindering it. Politicians are coming out about it and the courts are getting ready to come down on it. A recent tweet from the President reads, “Every American should be able to marry the person they love. #LoveIsLove”
This sounds like a good hashtag. It seems legitimate on one level. Who would dare hinder true love from being complete? Why would anyone stand in opposition to love? Wouldn’t it be hatred to oppose love?
The problem is that love is not up for a vote. Love is not play-doh to be smushed into any shape we want. Love cannot be determined by popular consensus, humanity, or any political party.
The problem with the “Love is love” motto is that it actually distorts love.
The good news is that we can define love. We can answer the question. There is hope in the world because love actually exists and is not up for debate. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
God is love and he is the one who defines the term. We should also note that it is of paramount importance that we get love right. The one who does not love does not know God.
If God calls something evil, then it is unloving to support it. If God calls something good, then it is hatred to oppose it.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
God has called homosexuality a sin and his definition is not outdated. It is not the unpardonable sin, but it is nonetheless a sin. (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Tim 1:10) God has called marriage good and requires the marriage bed to remain undefiled. (Heb 13:4) To place sin into the marriage bed is opposing the very author and definer of love Himself – God.
The stunning reality of this whole ordeal is that Love took on human flesh and died a brutal death for sinners. Jesus is the embodiment of love and he bore the wrath of God for anyone who would turn from their sin and believe in His name. Jesus is not afraid of any sin – including homosexuality. He took the terrible wrath of God full on when he died upon the tree. He rose victoriously from the grave to offer forgiveness to anyone who would turn from their sin and believe.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed,you were sanctified,you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
What is love? It is God extending mercy to anyone who will call upon his name. It is telling others about what God has done and what he says about the world. It is upholding truth, mercy, and justice in accordance with God’s Word.
What is hatred? It is distorting love and defining it however we feel. It is opposing truth, beauty, goodness, and God’s created order. It is rejecting the good news of Jesus for sinners.
If we become the arbiters of marital love, then we can make it into whatever we desire. We can “love” a man, woman, child, cat, or all of the above. The possibilities are only bound by our options.
But there is more at risk than crumbling our society. If we appoint ourselves as the captain of our own love boat, we will either shipwreck or remain drifting at sea. In the effort to obtain “love”, we will actually miss it. We will seek our own desires but never be satisfied.
The call of the hour is to lay down every sinful desire and run to the loving arms of God.
You will find it in the fearful and distant eyes of a young girl waiting outside an abortion clinic in the early hours of the morning, smoking a cigarette with no interest in embracing the little life growing within her womb. You’ll see it in the stony eyes and actions of escorts doing what they believe to be their civic duty- protecting a woman’s choice. You will find the sad realities of living in a sin-cursed world everywhere you turn for as long as your lungs continue breathing. Abortion is a controversial topic today and is something that is spoken about in a boisterous manner, or swept under the rug, but still whispered about in the back row of the church as if it were the unforgivable sin.
When thinking about abortion, there has been a disconnect between abortion and the gospel of grace and compassion. Because of our sinful state, we are tempted to place an imaginary scarlet letter upon the issue of abortion, as if it were an unforgivable sin. A woman who has chosen to end life within her womb instead of embrace it will still answer to God just like the gossiper, adulterer, thief, swindler, & self-righteous Southern Baptist preacher. All will stand before a just God and receive their due for unrepented sin, or a clear record because of placing faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross.
The truth of Scripture says that every human has fallen below the standard of holiness that God demands in order to commune with him (Romans 3:23). God’s word tells Christians to be holy because he is holy (1 Peter 1:15), but in our humanness we still are prone to sin. All have fallen below the holiness God created us to exude, so we need to give grace to one another like we have been given grace from God through Christ. The gospel has the power to save not only the good, virginal church girl, but the girl with downcast eyes walking into an abortion clinic to end an innocent life.
If we are in Christ, we have been made anew through the blood of Jesus that flows freely to all who repent, believe and call to him for forgiveness. The blood of Christ covers the blood that is on the hands of a woman who has ended a precious life just like it covers the sin of the Women’s Missionary Union president. We need to remember that Jesus’ blood is sufficient for every sin, not just the ones we deem as “acceptable.”
So, when you’re on a sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic on a cold November morning and you watch a mother walk a young girl into an abortion clinic, and as your heart goes from broken to angry, remember Jesus. Remember Jesus and let your heart be filled with compassion for those around you who have not yet experienced the grace of God through the gospel. Let your heart break and remember you are no better than the girl who just walked into the abortion clinic, but you also need a Savior who is willing to take your place for all the wrong you have done. Remember the blood that dripped from the cross covers the angry words said at the breakfast table this morning, as well as the blood that drips from the abortion table. Remember the sin you committed yesterday, this morning and the sin yet to be, and remember that the darkness of sin that dwells within every human soul is what Jesus was nailed upon a tree for.
Remember and let it lead to action. Christ’s followers should be eager to love, care for and counsel those who have had abortions.
The gospel of Jesus is the power to transform hearts and we should desire this transformation for the women who have ended life within their wombs. Remember and then rejoice that you are covered through repentance and remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is gloriously sufficient for anyone who places their faith in the gospel. Remember and rejoice that we are covered.
RuthAnne Irvin is a student at Boyce College, blogger, and writes as an intern for the Towers Magazine a publication of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can read more of her writings at her blog Out of the Ordinary Dreamer.
There is absolute truth and it absolutely matters. Christians must love truth because they follow the Truth. Everything is staked on what we believe.
I want to be the kind of man who lives and dies for the Scriptures. Yet, the great irony is that in my defense of the Bible, I can often sin against others and therefore violate the Bible. If I am not careful, I can treat people of opposing views as completely evil. My view of them becomes one-sided and I only think of them as someone who doesn’t believe [blank].
People are more complex than this and I find myself shocked at times when,
I receive a kind note from a pro-abortion friend who asks about my life says they are praying for me.
I see a theistic evolutionist who gives sacrificially to the poor.
I hear of a universalist who welcomes the broken into their home to minister to them.
Perhaps even reading these lines grates against you. Indeed they should. God wants our doctrine and our lives to match and everyone of the above examples is an oxymoron. These friends claim love Jesus but are believing false teaching.
How should we engage those we strongly disagree with? I do not have all the answers, but here are some thoughts from the book of James.
1) Be slow to anger (James 1:20)
Be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Check your heart. Jesus remained sinless the entire time he flipped tables and drove out the hypocrites. Do not have as high of expectations for yourself. Often times our righteous anger is self-driven. We are so sinful that we can claim a good cause and spew our venom at the same time. Love is not easily angered. There are times when our blood should boil, but we must have our hand on the stove dial, and there always needs to be love in our burner.
2) Give mercy as you have been given mercy (James 2:13)
For judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. If the person you are critiquing believes the true gospel, treat him as you would a brother. We have the right to strongly disagree, but we do not have the right to sin against one another. Give the benefit of the doubt and do not treat a brother or sister like a dirt bag to drag through the mud.
3) Tame the Tongue (James 3:2-10)
With our tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the image of God. This ought not be! In our critique, do we show honor to the individual? Or do we curse the ground they walk on? Do we treat them as people created by God for his glory? Do we give them respect? Or do we treat them like vermin to be exterminated?
4) Love your neighbor as yourself (James 2:8)
Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Be fair in your representation of their arguments. Do not use Ad Hominem arguments that attack them rather than their beliefs. Cultivate a genuine love for them in your heart. Pray for them and long for them to believe truth. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?”
5) Be confident and calm in Christ (James 3:13-18)
Even though we have the right to bear arms, let us load our arsenal with bullets of truth, love, meekness, and humility. In our conversations, let us be winsome and confident in the truth. The wisdom that is from above is gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial and sincere. Let us display this confidence by maintaining control in the conversation and not yelling at those who disagree. Christ does not need our help in convincing others of the truth. He simply calls us to be faithful to share the truth in love with all meekness.
6) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers (James 4:11) God does not want us to slander his creation. Let us be careful that we do not sin against God while we represent him to the watching world. Let us be especially careful when we talk about brothers and sisters when they are not around. God hears every word about his craftsmanship and takes it seriously. Even liberals are made in the image of God and we should treat them as such.
7) Bring people back from wandering (James 5:20) God does not call us to be pacifists when his glory is at stake and souls are on the line. God rejoices when one wandering soul returns to the truth and repents. Let us be people who speak the truth boldly in sincere love.
Blessed are those who proclaim truth to all people and treat them as people made in the image of God.
Screwtape constantly reminds his young nephew to keep his patient away from self-forgetfulness and encourages him to, “…teach a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that he may be unselfish in forgoing them” (141). If my main goal in giving my money to the poor is so that I can be known as a “generous person” I have a sinful motivation. Instead, I ought to find my joy in the joy of others. My preferences, interests, and “image” should be like morning fog being burnt away by the heat of the needs of my neighbor.
2.) Worldliness is worldliness no matter how many times you call it “experience”
Screwtape informs Wormwood that, “Real worldliness is a work of time – assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience” (156). My American Christianity needs a good dose of this reality. For it is easy to cloak my love for the things of the world by saying certain sinful things are bearable for “mature believers” while I lose my childlike desire to please my heavenly Father. If the movie is sinful I should not watch it; if the music is sensuous I should not listen to it; if the party is a house full of temptation I should not attend it. These are not legalisms that keep me from understanding my world better; these are prescriptions that help me see my Savior clearer.
3.) Faith and repentance is better than your most spiritual promises
Screwtape scolds Wormwood for his patient’s response to a recent “fall from grace” because he is not making, “…lavish promises of perpetual virtue,” but instead, “only a hope for the daily and hourly pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation!” (69). Faithfulness does not always look flashy, and neither does daily dying. So often a fiery sermon, a fresh new book, or a stirring conversation incites a desire to promise God feats that he is not asking of me. Rather, God calls his sons and daughters to repentance and faith, and seeking his kingdom first. This is the radical Christianity we have been wanting: grace fueled obedience.