Planned Parenthood

Outrage.  Vile.  Evil.  The terrible racist roots of Planned Parenthood aside (the extermination of African American babies within America – don’t take my word for it – go look up Margaret Sanger), the videos being released just keep showing the absolute depravity of this organization.

The subjects of the video are cold, heartless, callous individuals.  They joke about the deaths of babies.  They negotiate prices for parts of these corpses – nevermind that selling those parts (for profit or not) is wildly illegal.  The depths of these videos puts the top-to-bottom depravity of PP on full display.

As a Christian, a Christ follower, I am astonished at the absolute callousness of these videos.  I am shocked that such behavior is not only tolerated within PP, but also finds defenders on the outside.  I am shocked, but then I am also reminded that all sin and fall short of the glory and righteousness of God.  Evil resides in every human heart.  While the cry for justice is on our tongues, the prayer of redemption and grace for the men and women in these videos must be also.

I don’t know why, but the Book of Micah seems applicable in light of these terrible revelations.

The godly has perished from the earth,
    and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
    and each hunts the other with a net.
Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;
    the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,
and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;
    thus they weave it together.
The best of them is like a brier,
    the most upright of them a thorn hedge.
The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;
    now their confusion is at hand.
Put no trust in a neighbor;
    have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
    from her who lies in your arms;
for the son treats the father with contempt,
    the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
    a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
    I will wait for the God of my salvation;
    my God will hear me.

Micah 7:2-7

Deepest Darkness

By now everyone in America is aware of the tragic events in Charleston the other day.  Since and in the coming days we as a nation have choices to make.  We will choose to judge, hate, fear, legislate, and either draw closer to or push away others.  We will either fall victim to the fear of similar events in our own communities.  Churchgoers will look over their shoulders more often and watch outsiders critically out of fear.

fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41;10

We have already seen politicians trying to leverage the blood of these men and women for their own particular myopic view of what’s wrong with this country – namely what they think is the over-proliferation of guns despite the statistics that demonstrably have proven that more guns has not led to more crime, but rather the marked decrease in violent crime.

Others will grab on to the killer’s racial motives and say that this is an example of the extreme racism prevalent within society.  They will say that this is a more common problem and that this particular tragedy is just the latest example of it.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

These knee-jerk reactions don’t capture the problem though, and it is the problem we all have.  We live in a world of darkness, of hate, of violence, of evil, and sin.  But, the good news is for all of us, and that is that the brightest light is possible from the deepest darkness.  It is in fact not only possible, for God uses evil for ultimate good.

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:68-79

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Psalm 139:11-12

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

The righteous man perishes,
    and no one lays it to heart;
devout men are taken away,
    while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
    he enters into peace

Isaiah 57:1-2

While it is tragic that people had to lose their lives, we should rest assured that they died at peace righteous and redeemed.  What an evil men wrought God will turn into something beautiful – and I suspect that it will begin today, with love, not hate, politics, or legislation, in Charleston.  From deepest darkness the light of Christ shines brightest.

Pray for those left behind, thank God for the grace that covers us all, and praise Jesus for reaching though time and gathering all sin to himself so that all men, women, and children of all ages and all nations are redeemed in the Father’s sight – even the man holding the gun the other night.

Symptoms and Birthpains

I have struggled with speaking up on this issue.  My struggle was not one where I thought my positions were contrary to the Word of God.  It wasn’t because it was a difficult topic to address because if you have read this for any length of time, you’ll know that I am willing to say the harsh truth if necessary.  My struggle wasn’t with any person or group.  My struggle was with my own guilt – I am a sinner, and as I have written before, if you have broken God’s law once, you have broken all of it.

I hesitated to wade into this issue because I was clouded with anger over it, but I have recently realized that my angry was misplaced.  My anger was not wrong or sinful and I believe it was and is still a righteous anger.

What issue could have me so hesitant and angry all at once?

What issue would the world tell me I’m not allowed to have a valid opinion about because I lack the necessary anatomy to fully understand it from the right perspective?

Abortion.

Don’t stop reading now though. I am not going to wax for pages on this as others have already well-worn the Biblical arguments against it. I just want to ask a few simple questions.

Has abortion-on-demand had a cultural impact since it’s nationwide legalization and inception in the 1970s?

Has that impact been a cheapening of the value of life within our society?

Could that lessened value have a negative impact as the generation that is in the thirties or below have not known a country without such “convenience” at terminating life that does not fit into one’s “plans?”

Could that very loss of value that life has historically had within Western Civilization be the causal reason why men like Kermit Gosnell and Douglas Karpen feel that they can get away with the wholesale slaughter of viable infants, including those born alive, not in an act of surgical birth control, but of mass murder of the worst degree – infanticide?

How can the world say that I cannot take a stand against evil – against murder?

How can I not burn with righteous anger as the horrors of the Gosnell abortion case came to light?

Now what should we do about it?

There are some that believe we should picket outside of abortion providers’ offices.

Some believe that we should fight this battle in the legislature and judiciary.

Some believe that we should fight this battle in the court of public opinion.

I believe that while those tactics have their valid places, they will not succeed in the face of one simple fact.  The houses of horror that they are designed to counter will not be swayed by such temporal, human weakness.

Are you ready for the answer?

I wasn’t.

Love.

Not human love though as our love is tainted with selfishness, pride, and jealousy.

We must ask God to pour into us His love.  We must shine the light of Christ, the infinite, forgiving, all-consuming love of our Creator and our Savior on these clinics, on these men and women corrupted by the pervasive evils that they perform day in and out at the behest of women that are afraid.  They fear the consequences of past actions. They fear future encumbrances because they believe that they are entitled to something, whatever it may be.

You cannot fight evil with evil. You can only fight it with love, specifically the pure love of God.  You cannot fight evil with man’s laws, man’s protests, man alone cannot stand against evil.  If man tries to fight evil by himself, he will be undone because you cannot fight evil without exposing it to good.  The only source of good is God.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:7-12

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?”They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:3-11

Oil and Water

Why does sin require death?

Why does sacrifice require blood?

How does Christ’s death satisfy the debt of sin?

All three are deep theological questions and the answers to each can open up new questions.  Before I dive in, question why something is a certain way is not wrong in any way.  Questioning and even arguing with God is not wrong, but ultimately obedience is what is demanded by the Creator whether we understand fully or not.

Some people are not satisfied with blind obedience though.  As a liberty-minded patriot, I have expressed my disdain for blind obedience before.  That obedience that I have a problem with is directed toward fallible men however, not an infallible God.  So if you have faith in God and obey God absent full and complete theological understanding, that is great for you and it will be credited to you I am certain.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:29

So how do you answer the questions I posed above.  Do you feel the need to answer them?  Do you trust God and love the Lord enough to not need them answered?

There is no wrong answer… just food for thought.

 

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a simple concept in and of itself.  Forgiveness implies the erasure of debt basically.  When someone wrongs you, they become indebted to you in order to make you whole again and correct the wrong.

Forgiveness implies that you count the debt fulfilled even without recompense (payment).

The last few weeks have been filled with heartache and bloodshed.  The terrible consequences of living in a fallen world echo throughout our civilization.  Despite all of our intrepidity poured into minimizing such horrors, they still occur.  Since shortly after the creation of mankind, man has shed man’s blood.  Disease takes the young and the elderly.  Accidents happen.  Atrocities occur.  Death, destruction, and evil overtake our personal worlds without warning.

Today, there are families walking about missing husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins, and close friends all because of our humanity.  That which sets us apart from a dog in the street, or a bird in the sky, that spark of the Divine that makes us unique with a power to create, conceive, invent, and to improve our own human condition can be harnessed for the worst of evils – to shoot, stab, bomb, abort, and destroy each other.

I have written before about the importance of Godly men and women being willing to stand up and fight such evil over, and over, and over again.

My sons are not yet ready to stand and fight at four and just over one and a half.  In our household, I stand with my gaze fixed outward at the horizon – trying to discern and classify threats.  My wife does the same, but she also must look inward and remind me from time to time that there is little we can do against some threats, but come to our knees and pray.

There is one more thing we must do though.  Those that are hurting from loss and death are usually incapable of taking this step at first as the searing pain is too great, the anguish too fresh, but those of us detached from the situation personally must take up the mantle.

Despite all of the evils done, despite all of the losses taken and the pain caused… we must forgive.  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his elder brother could never be sufficiently punished in this life to fill the void and pain caused in so many lives (or in our collective soul as Americans).  Even if Dzhokhar faces the death penalty and is ultimately killed for his role in the Boston attacks, his life does not equal the three innocents lost and the almost two hundred permanently changed by the evil action.

Must we accept evil in this world? Absolutely not.

Must we forgive the lost souls abducted into committing gross evils among us?  Absolutely.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2

Dzhokhar is a lost soul, just as many others.  He is as much deserving of forgiveness and grace as me.  Will he face judgment for his actions?  Yes, but they will fall short of making those hurt or killed whole again, and that is why we must forgive and turn to God in prayer so that He may make us whole again as it is He who is uniquely able.

Victory! The Day of Redemption

I am overtaken.

I have nowhere to turn.

I am surrounded.

I cannot escape.

Here is where I will make my stand.

My armor feels heavy.

My sword is chipped and damaged.

My brow is covered with sweat.

I feel the warm seep of blood from somewhere on my chest where an arrow struck me.

I try to ignore the hot pain, but I grow weak as the life drains from the wound.

I try to avoid the attackers as they press.

There are too many.  They are too strong.

I am lost…. defeated.

I feel someone coming.

I feel hands beneath my arms, lifting my broken armor off.

My burden is lessening.

I can feel strength renewed in my arms.

My sword has been remade.

I look to my helper…

The Lion.

The Lamb.

He is Risen.

My enemy is falling back before His thunderous voice.

The tide has turned and they are fleeing before Him.

I look around and see that I am not surrounded by enemies, but warriors of light.

They answer to Him.

The enemy falls before them and Him.

The battle is won!

 

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

1 Peter 3:18

I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

Revelation 6:2

Die

I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Do you know what you are willing to die for today?

Is it your family? It it your home? Your rights?  Your faith?

Powerful motivators abound in this world.  A man driven to be willing to die in order to preserve something else is love in it’s most pure form.

The example Christ gave was of the God of all creation, eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, who laid aside His authority and power to crush the reign of sin and death completely by dying for the love of His creations.  Through this death, he drew all sin from the beginning to the end of time to Himself in that moment on the cross outside Jerusalem.

So what is it that would make you willing to die in order to preserve?

Balance

Great stuff today at Arctic Pilgrim.

He asks and answers an often heard question after a tragedy or atrocity.

Where is God? 

Was God there when Cain killed Abel?

Was God there in the gas chambers with the Jews at Auschwitz-Berkinau and Treblinka?

Was God there when the World Trade Center collapsed and the Pentagon burned?

Was God there in the middle of the hurricane over New Orleans? Over Staten Island?

Was God there in Newtown?

Is God there when your own personal hell is raging around you?

Isn’t that a terrible question to ever consider asking?  How hopeless you must feel to ask such a question and doubt the power and presence of the Creator Himself.

Where is God?  He’s right there in front of you.  His arms are wide open and He wants you to see Him, to love Him.  Sometimes terrible things happen in this world, but through it all, the hand that holds yours through it, if you let Him, will be His.  Just ask Genelle Guzman-McMillan, the last survivor pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center.

 

 

What Can We Do?

Yesterday, I wrote about persecution.  I’ll admit, this is not your typical Thanksgiving Week topic, but I think it is prescient to cover because how can we be truly thankful unless we have a crystal clear picture of the world we live in and the blessings we have received.

If you accept the premise that we all face some form of persecution, whether it is violent in nature (like those subject to Sharia law in Islamic countries or violent crackdowns in countries like North Korea or China), cultural, or personal, then the question that begs to be asked is how should we respond?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

It is hard to love your enemies.  They hate you. They want to destroy you in some capacity.  This is a pretty steep command.  What context should we apply to this?  How should we love them?  Should we hug our own executors?

They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.

Luke 21:12

Christ is hinting at something in the passage from Matthew and he elaborates more in the passage for Luke.  Christ is saying that persecution, decidedly not a good thing for those afflicted by it, is something that God uses for good.  If we were to respond wrongly in these circumstances out of prideful arrogance and self-worth rather than humility and Christ-likeness, we would short-circuit God’s subtlety in these circumstances.

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

John 15:20

Persecution is explicitly allowed by God to further His influence throughout the world.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:4

So we are to not only called to endure persecution in order that we might exemplify the Truth through our actions, but also to actively bless those that persecute us.

In theory this is great, but how does this work in practice you might ask?

Let’s lay out one crucial basic then.  I have written of how we have nothing to fear, that the victory itself has already been delivered for those of us that believe.  So in those beliefs lies the answer – that nothing human hands or words do ultimately can hurt me.  Yes, they will cause temporary suffering.  Their words will cut.  Their threats will haunt.  Their violence will cause pain.  It is all for the glory of God.  If you remain steadfast in your faith and continue to stand up in the face of persecution, you will begin to wear them down.

This won’t be a boxing match. You won’t go punch for punch with them, but you will upper cut them and knock them to their knees eventually (metaphorically that is).  See, you are invincible.  They will eventually come to realize that everything that they throw at you is futile.  Then the door will be opened because they will ask “How can this be?  How are they able to just take this?  I would have given in long ago.”

That is when you get to be the blessing.  Your willingness to suffer, to die, for Christ is a more potent tool and weapon than any that they can use against you.  You will show not only obedience to Christ, but love for your fellow man.  Whether he slanders you, curses you, spits on you, strikes you, or kills you…. HOW you receive it and respond matters more than anything else.  Respond with love.  Respond with mercy.  As Christ said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

When the local atheist activist chapter attacks your Christmas Nativity scene, respond with love.  When someone scoffs at you reading your Bible in the library, say a quick prayer for them.  When you are struck either physically or verbally because of your faith, do not respond in anger and confront them harshly, but with an open heart.  Do not argue with them, but show them your inner confidence and your faithfulness by refusing to stoop to their level.  If you are arrested for Christ, go willingly and be like Paul – openly praising God in your prison cell – His design may be that you are to witness to a fellow prisoner,  a guard, or even the warden.  If you are to be tortured or executed, look with mercy on the men who live in darkness and ignorance.

You see that you are truly free.  Free of anything that the world can hurl at you.  Christ’s blood shields you completely.  Be confident.  Be strong.  Be courageous.  You have nothing to fear.

If you respond out of love, you never know who might be listening or watching.  Your persecution may be their first brush with the Truth.  If you let Christ work through you in that moment, amazing things will happen.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
    I have not been rebellious,
    I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
    Who then will bring charges against me?
    Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
    Let him confront me!
It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
    Who will condemn me?

Isaiah 50:4-9

 

 

 

Persecution

What is persecution?

Simply, persecution is oppression and war waged against believers either openly or privately with the sole purpose of punishing the believers’ faith in Christ.

There are many in America that are blind to persecution because of our open and tolerant society where all religions and faiths are accepted and practiced.  It also helps that we are a majority self-identified Christian nation and founded based on Biblical principles as I have written about before.  Does this mean that we are immune from persecution here?  Not at all.  Persecution will always exist.  If you are willing to profess belief in something radical, and Christ’s promises and challenges for us are definitely radical in the eyes of the world, then you will be attacked for this belief.

When lots of Christians think of persecution today, they think of Christians being herded into coliseums in the Roman Empire for slaughter.  They think of missionaries attacked in the field by the very people they came to teach the Gospel.  They think of things that have happened in the past where the lens of time provides a clear picture of how and why something happened so we can easily label it persecution.

You can look about a list a host of countries where Christianity is not just scorned, but openly attacked.  Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, China, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, Russia, India, Cuba, Tanzania, and Indonesia are just a few of the examples where being a Christian can open you up to public ridicule, public arrest and punishment, or even death.

With Christmas coming soon, I think you’ll see a form of persecution in this country, and possibly in your own town.  Put up a manger scene.  Will it be defaced?  Will it be burned to the ground?  Will it be stolen?  Will it be protested?  If it is on public land, will it be the target of a lawsuit?

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

I even heard a ministry team member state yesterday that he was thankful that we are safe in this country from attack while we worship.  I don’t often disagree with the pastoral staff at my church, but on this point I disagree. Christians are not safe anywhere while they worship and to think otherwise is foolish and short-sighted.  The statistics say that it doesn’t matter how you worship in the US – the illusion of safety within a church is just that, an illusion.

I plan on diving into this topic all week because how thankful can we really be unless we have the right perspective?  Tomorrow – in the face of persecution, what can and what should we do?

 

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