Supporting Life

Life

Our society is critical of hypocrites in general, and especially judgmental of perceived hypocrisy within the Christian community. Yet, consider the double standards espoused by our culture. And no where are they more obvious than in the area of protecting life.

Think of the convoluted logic that passes laws to protect unborn eagles but not unborn human babies. Or social mores that advocate protecting women from physical and sexual abuse, but have no problem ending the lives of females inside the womb—the ultimate physical abuse.

How is a Christian to respond to this double standard when it comes to valuing life?

Throw a pity party at the injustice of it all?

I’ve talked to many believers who figuratively and (literally) throw up their hands at the unfair way our culture treats Christians. Citing the adage, “you can’t fight city hall,” they give up. They stop voting, they stop serving, they stop interacting with society. After all, if the culture is against you, what’s the point in trying?

Gloat over those who disagree with us?

Other Christians appear to rejoice in the coming judgment of those who stand against God. They gloat about the hell and damnation unbelievers will face. Their message seems to be, “You’re making life miserable for Christians and killing babies now, but you’ll get yours!”

Shred our opponents with intellectual arguments?

I recently saw a post on social media titled, “Intellectually Shredded!” It celebrated the debate victory won by a believer over his unbelieving opponent.

Christians mock the illogical presumptions of those who live as if God doesn’t exist and claim pre-born babies aren’t really alive. They cite facts with the goal of chalking up a decisive victory against unbelieving opponents. The problem is, our motivation may deteriorate into winning the argument instead of the person.

While these options are practiced all too often, there’s a better way. The way of living with integrity, loving well, and serving humbly. The way modeled by hundreds of thousands of employees and volunteers in crisis pregnancy centers across the United States.

Living with integrity

The world is watching how Christians live. Yes, they may be watching us to catch hypocrisy, but many are watching because they want to know if Christianity is real. Do we put our money where our mouth is? We say we believe certain things, but do we live consistent with those beliefs? For example, we say we’re pro-life, but how do we support the ministries that work to protect life? Do we give of our finances? Our talents? Our time? We need to walk our talk if we’re to have any credibility with those who don’t share our beliefs.

Loving well

When Jesus told His followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:44), He wasn’t speaking theoretically. Jesus prayed for His executioners when He said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV).

Today, when we speak of unbelievers and abortionists going to hell, we ought to remember what D.L. Moody has been quoted as saying: “When we preach on hell, we must do it with tears in our eyes.”

Serving Humbly

One of the best examples of humble service I have ever witnessed is the work done day in and day out in crisis pregnancy centers around the country.

The work of employees and volunteers on the front lines of the pro-life effort is often unnoticed. Men and women who support those responding to an unplanned pregnancy provide counsel, support, and material resources. Clients may receive services such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD/HIV testing, and parenting classes. They offer these services without pressure in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

Equally important are the abortion recovery services offered to those who have chosen to terminate life, but then live with the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of their choice. Clients never hear, “I told you so.” What they do experience is love, and lots of it.

The Sanctity of Human Life is marked annually, the third Sunday in January. This year, we’ll observe it this Sunday, January 21, 2018. As you learn of the work being done in the crisis pregnancy center near you, will you do more than just listen? Will you live with integrity, love well, and then find a way to serve humbly with your time, talents, and resources?

The difference you make will last for eternity.


 
Whose Job Is It?

Four People - Whose Job Is It?These days, passing the buck has become a national pastime in our country.

Somebody should do something about those homeless people.

Somebody should help the poor.

Somebody should share the gospel.

And because we keep shifting the responsibility to somebody else, nothing gets done.

Some say government should not be in the business of healthcare. Others cite the biblical admonition to assist the poor.

Some say churches need to be involved in ministering to the needy in our communities. Others expect such safety nets to come from government.

Sadly, we have entered a period in our nation in which individuals have abdicated their responsibilities to larger institutions, whether churches, denominations, or government.

Think about it. Many Christians think sharing the gospel is the job of pastors and missionaries. That caring for the poor and the sick is the job of government and corporations.

Whose Job Is It?

What about you and me? What does the Lord require of us—each one of us? Whose job is it to care for “the least of these”?

  • Did Jesus speak of governments or individuals when He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35 ESV)?
  • Did Jesus speak of pastors or all Christians when He said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24:14 ESV)?
  • Did the apostle John speak of institutions or individuals when he wrote, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:17-18 ESV)?

What would happen if every Christian lived out the gospel message in practical ways, instead of shifting all responsibility to institutions? Of course, our society is structured in a way that requires many professional services at an institutional level. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still obey the call to live out our Christianity on an individual level.

Serve at a soup kitchen. Teach a class. Mentor children at an after-school program. Volunteer at a local hospital. Ask your restaurant server how you can pray for him/her, then do it as you say grace over your meal. Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center. Serve those who need the gospel to earn the right to share the gospel.

In short, as my pastor is fond of saying: “Don’t just go to church. Be the church!”

A Story of Four People

I’ll leave you with a story of four people. I wish I knew who originated this classic, because it’s even more relevant now than when it first appeared.

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, And Nobody

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Yes, the government has a God-given role to fulfill.

Yes, pastors and church leaders have a God-given role to fulfill.

And yes, every individual Christian has a God-given role to fulfill: every Christian somebody needs to do what anybody can do, even though nobody wants to do it, so that everybody can see the reality of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Whose job is it? It’s ours!

 


 
I Fell Into the Teacher Trap

The Teacher Trap

I ignored the warnings for months. The first was a quiet, almost imperceptible nudge. Then came stronger recognition. Finally, last fall, when asked for a prayer request, my answer reflected a growing awareness. But still, I pushed those warnings aside.

For those who teach or preach week in and week out, you’re probably familiar with this trap. Even if you don’t bear the title teacher, you are one. You teach by example. You teach by conversation. You teach your children. You teach your employees or coworkers.

The trap is real for all of us.

The teacher trap is the belief that the lessons and illustrations you identify as you study the Bible are for the benefit of others in your life.

And, boy, did I ever fall for it.

Preparation to teach a large women’s Bible study every week requires certain routines. One of my regular practices involves identifying principles and illustrations related to the Bible passage I’m teaching that week. I’m always on the lookout for something in my own life or in the lives of others to reinforce the lesson.

Problem is, that became my sole focus.

  • Clear principle on the need to live dependent on the Holy Spirit? Filed.
  • Good illustration on the need to forgive? Noted.
  • Concise principle describing the effect of serving others? Included.
  • Effective illustration of the importance of a vibrant prayer life? Got it.

I began to sense the problem last fall when a friend asked how she could pray for me. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it,” I told her. I hadn’t planned on saying that. The words slipped out before I had time to think. I realize now it was the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention.

The culmination came this past December, when I sought my new “one word” for 2017. If you’re not familiar with the practice of one word for the new year, the concept is intended to replace new year’s resolutions. In place of resolutions that often fail to survive through February, we prayerfully select one word to influence the way we live for the year.

My word in 2015 was release. In 2016, it was joy. In December of 2016, the Lord gave me the word hope for this new year. Despite multiple confirmations, I questioned the selection. I didn’t see immediate application.

That’s when I fell into the trap. After puzzling about it for a week or so, I concluded this was to be my word in 2017 to encourage others. To extend hope for those discouraged by their circumstances. To convey hope to those vulnerable to despair.

The teacher trap.

Just a few days into January, I learned the reason for my word. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. During the past month we clung to hope as we navigated hospitalization, surgeries, tests, and more tests. We cling to hope today as we evaluate treatment protocols and weigh options. And we will cling to hope in the coming months as we do our part and trust the Lord for whatever results He chooses to allow.

God graciously prepared me for the new year with just the right word.

As I write this, I’m again reminded of my prayer request last fall. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it.” Today, even more than then, it is my heart cry…first as a child of God and then as a teacher.

May it be the heart cry of every one of us who study and teach God’s Word.

What is your experience with the teacher trap?


 
Theology is Messy, But God is Good

Our family recently survived a brush with Matthew, a category 4 hurricane.

No, that’s not quite right. Compared to some other locations, we did more than survive. We thrived. Yes, we cleared away debris, and several neighbors lost large trees. But all in all we were fortunate the damage wasn’t devastating.

Many are saying it was the hand of God that saved us. That the Lord heard and answered our prayer because He is faithful and compassionate to His children. If so, this may raise more questions than answers.

What about Haiti? The Bahamas? What about St. Augustine and other locations on the eastern seaboard? Christians lived in those locations, too, and are now surrounded by destruction. They also prayed, asking God for His mercy. Was God as faithful to them as He was to us?

Why were we spared, while others were not? I don’t know. This is where theology gets messy.

The Bible tells us God is good…all the time.

He is faithful…all the time.

He is compassionate…all the time.

God is good
Theology is messy, but God is good. God does not change, regardless of our circumstances or the circumstances of anyone else. But God is also infinite—something our finite minds struggle to grasp and explain. There are some aspects of His nature we will never fathom (Isaiah 40:28).

For that, I am glad. If we could understand everything about God, He would not be God; He would merely be an exalted human being.

Can we understand some things about God? Absolutely. He reveals His nature and His ways in the Bible. We know, from His Word, that God is always at work for His ultimate glory and our ultimate good. And the day will come when all our questions will be answered.

But faith in God is more than just believing God is who He says He is. When we have faith, we act on that belief. God is love—how can we, as His children, show His love? God is compassionate—how can we be vessels of His compassion?

Needs always abound, and today those needs are especially severe in locations hit hardest by the hurricane. Essential supplies—items we take for granted—can be provided as an expression of God’s compassion. Supporting the local churches in these areas is a tangible way to demonstrate the Father’s love to His children.

Someday it will be our turn to receive God’s compassion through others of His children. When that time comes, will we still say God is always good? Always compassionate? Always faithful?

I’m reminded of what the prophet Habakkuk wrote:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab. 3:17-18).

In light of recent events, would we be willing to say:

Though the hurricane did not stay away
and my roof has collapsed,
though there is no electricity
and our food has spoiled,
though trees are down
and the roads are flooded,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Note the prophet did not say he will rejoice that the circumstances occurred. He said he will rejoice in the Lord. Circumstances are temporary and changeable. God is eternal and unchanging…and always the source of our joy.

Because of Jesus, Christians know they belong to the sovereign God of creation and salvation. With that assurance, we can be His hands and feet, our compassion and love reflecting our joy in the Lord.

We do this regardless of our circumstances…
…and sometimes, because of them.

 

(A portion of this post is adapted from Daily Reflections on the Names of God by Ava Pennington, Revell Books, page 134).


 
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