Abortion Safer than Giving Birth? You Must Be Joking!!

Recently, Reuters reported that “Getting a legal abortion is much safer than giving birth.” (article)  The author of the article, Genevra Pittman, cites the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology when she reports:

Between 1998 and 2005, one woman died during childbirth for every 11,000 or so babies born.

That compared to one woman of every 167,000 who died from a legal abortion.

This is a hideously stupid statement, study, and conclusion because it fails (miserably so) to account for the babies that die in the process of abortion compared with the babies that die while being born.

If the report were honest it would say “one woman out of 167,000 dies from a legal abortion.  And this means the death-toll is 167,001 deaths during legal abortions between 1998 and 2005.”

This is nothing more than gerrymandering the facts to support an a priori idea.

Abortion safer than giving birth?  For whom?  Certainly not the defenseless, ‘choice-less’ baby.  Do not be fooled–only half the patients who go to have an abortion come out alive.


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California, Proposition 8, and Democracy turned upside-down

Today is a red-letter date in American History.  It is not, however, a good thing.  Today, a federal judge, Vaughn R. Walker, declared California’s Proposition 8–defining marriage as between one man and one woman–to be unconstitutional.  This is huge.

Since I am not a lawyer, I will be discussing this issue in non-legalese common sense.  Having said that, there are a few things to explore:

1.  The text of Proposition 8 is as follows:

This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution.

This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.

SECTION 1.    Title
This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act.”

SECTION 2.    Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:
SEC. 7.5.    Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. (source)

Notice, this is not a “law,” per se.  This is a constitutional amendment.  As such, by definition, it cannot be declared “unconstitutional.”

2.  The judge, Vaughn R. Walker, is himself a homosexual. (see here)  Since he is a gay man living in the state where this amendment is being challenged and since he would be directly impacted–in some way–by his own decision and because he is prejudiced toward the side of those seeking to overturn this amendment, he should have simply recused himself.   There can be no clearer demonstration of a conflict of interest.

3.  That the Proposition 8 amendment made it on the ballot, presupposes that due process was given to the proponents of the amendment and it also presupposes that the proponents did everything required by the California constitution to get Proposition 8 onto the ballot.  Furthermore, 52% of those voting in the November 2008 election decided to make an amendment to the California constitution recognizing as valid only those marriages between a man and a woman.

So, Then, What Is Going On Here?

What we are witnessing here is the end of the democratic republic.  I know that sounds alarmist, but it is true.

Let’s remember that, in California, homosexual couples have every right that every heterosexual couple has.  California has established the same rights in its civil-union law.  So, it is not about “equality” because in the eyes of California law homosexual civil unions and heterosexual marriages are identical in rights afforded to the parties involved.  The only “thing” missing is the title “marriage.”  So, this is not about equal rights; that is a red-herring, strawman argument.

Secondly, the Constitution of a state is not amendable by a court…that would be tyranny.  The Constitution of the State of California is amendable by simple majority of voters, not by judicial fiat.

What we have here, then, is the tyranny of one man who, because he is himself homosexual and therefore has a vested interest in the outcome of the case, should have recused himself.

What is more, the precedent set here is outrageous.  The State of California has proved today that it is most certainly not a government “of, by, and for the people.”  The people spoke in November of 2008.  The government of California is anything but democratic.

Why Does This Matter?

This matters precisely because this will inevitably give homosexual couples special rights.  No pastor will be able to preach against homosexuality without fear of imprisonment, churches may very well be forced to hire homosexuals against their own consciences, and every person’s right to “freedom of speech” will be taken away…simply because a minority of people do not like what the majority has to say.

The day may come when “gay marriage” is legal in all 50 states.  Truly, we (collectively) legalize gay marriage to our own peril–I know the Bible and I know that God will not long put up with this clear repudiation of and rebellion against Himself.  But, if this does indeed happen it must be done through the legislative process–which includes the ability of the people to amend the constitution.  It cannot be done through the judiciary–which, constitutionally, has no authority to make laws.  Had the anti-Proposition 8 group undertaken to re-amend the constitution of California to strike section 7.5, I would be disappointed, but understanding and far less apoplectic.  They would have to petition to get the measure on the ballot and a majority of voters would have to approve it.  Obviously, that didn’t happen; that would have been proper.  Nothing about this decision is proper.

In the California decision, there is something much more subtle at stake–whether a government (state and/or federal) is a government “of, by, and for the people.”  We are now discovering that we are no longer a nation of laws–a representative republic.  We can clearly see that we–actually, our government–have left the democratic haven that our forefathers left us and have slipped down the slippery slope to the place where the government dictates how we will live and what we will think.  George Orwell was right.

For a further discussion of this topic, read The California Supreme Court and Our Diet of Worms

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Group Rights vs. Individual Rights and How Freedom of Religion Hangs in the Balance

Fox News recently published an article about a lady being removed from a Southwest Airlines flight.  Why was she removed?  Because another passenger needed two seats.  (article here)

I remember when Southwest removed an overweight passenger…because they were overweight and the airline didn’t have enough seats available to give this person two seats.  At that time, I began to warn my friends about the legal ramifications of this.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes morbid obesity as a disability and, therefore, prevents discrimination against persons who are morbidly obese (at least in the hiring of employees).  Since obese persons (like persons requiring two seats in an airplane) are in some manner covered by the ADA, it becomes a very sticky situation when a person is removed from an airline or required to purchase two seats.

The Options for the Airline

In either of these cases, the airline has, as I see it, two options:

1.) Require the obese person to purchase two tickets.  The problem is that it would cost a disabled person twice the amount of a non-obese person to fly anywhere on an airline.  The slippery slope here is that you cannot charge a disabled person twice the amount of a non-disabled person.  Even though an obese person is inhabiting two seats (which would justify the double payment), that would be discriminatory.

2.) Remove persons to make way for the obese person.  The problem here is that it discriminates against non-disabled persons.  Non-disabled persons would be, in effect, required to accept random discrimination against themselves because he or she is not obese.  Non-obese persons would have their travel plans turned upside-down for no other reason than being less-than-obese.

The Root Problem

The root problem with this is based in the idea of “Group rights” versus “Individual rights.”  When groups of persons have what can only be described as special rights, individuals no longer have any rights.

Think of it this way:  When parents want to take an infant or a toddler child on an airline, they have to do one of two things: 1) hold that child on his or her lap or 2) pay for an extra seat.  The principle at work here is that you pay for the space you take up.

As the Fox News article states, the woman removed from the flight was flying standby.  However, she had already been awarded the seat and she had already paid for the seat she would be flying in.  But, when it was determined the obese person required two seats, it no longer mattered that she had been awarded and paid for a seat on the plane.  It is clear, in this instance, that group rights had trumped individual rights.

Why This Matters

The perpetuation of group rights over and against individual rights is frighting.  Already homosexuality has been granted “protected” status.  So it is not far from reality that a Christian pastor preaching against homosexuality could be fined, sued, imprisoned, etc. because he is speaking against a protected group of persons.  In this case, the homosexual would, in effect, be granted special rights that trump the Christian pastor’s individual rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The Constitution of the United States, specifically the Bill of Rights, establishes, primarily, the rights of individuals.  Individuals have the right to the free exercise of religion; individuals have the right to not incriminate themselves; individuals have the right to keep and bear arms; individuals have the right to trial by jury.  When groups are awarded rights that may deny individuals of their constitutional rights these group rights can only be considered “special rights.”  These special rights, by definition, deny the rights of the individual.

As a person who is an American, I have the right to say whatever I please.  As a person who is a pastor and an American citizen, I have the right to preach whatever I please…at least for now.  Mark these words:  The day is coming when the individual rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be done away with because certain “groups” do not like to hear what people have to say.  This has already happened in other countries and it will not be long before the shadows of this come into daylight.

I firmly believe in the so-called Market Place of Ideas where anyone can discus anything with anyone.  Because, as Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Also, we must realize that liberty requires the freedom of speech.  George Orwell makes this point very clearly when he says, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

I have no problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons coming to my door and trying to convert me.  I have no problems with Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists proselytizing as long as my right to proselytize is not taken away from me.

Stand up for your individual rights and the individual rights of others.  Our freedom hangs in the balance.

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Finding “God” In Everything But The Bible

“Spirituality” is very popular today.  Pop culture icons like Oprah and a myriad of others praise the “spiritual” and “spiritual journeys.”  Unfortunately, what the pop culture icons and the people miss is this: The common brand of “spirituality” is no real spirituality at all.

Take, for example, this article from FoxNews.com.  In this article a Massachusetts woman discovered the image of Jesus on her iron.  Apparently this was a spiritual experience for her.  An apparent lapsed catholic, she took the ironic (every pun intended) image of Christ to mean that “life is going to be good” and that “[Jesus is] listening.”

This article illustrates:

1.  People are interested in the “idea” of God, but they are not interested in God Himself.

Why make such a statement?  Because, an iron is not the purveyor of spiritual truth.  If people were interested in God, they would look to Christ Himself who makes an unmistakable and demanding call on their lives–“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20)

Rather than look to Jesus Himself, people look to cheap imitations–like irons with images emblazoned on them.  Why?  Because this Jesus is “Safe.”  He won’t command you to do anything that you don’t want to do.  The icon can make you feel that Jesus is listening and that life is going to be good, but I’d remind you of this: You’re placing your faith in a household appliance, not the Lord of the universe.

True faith has Jesus Himself as the one and only object of that faith.  And when Jesus is the object of one’s faith, the demands are steep and the demands are designed to strengthen one’s faith through challenges.  The true Jesus is not “safe” by any human standard and He will not let you stay who you are–excusing your own perpetually sinful behavior.

2.  People are interested in “god,” but only on their own terms.

Many people want to seek God in their own way.  They want a god that is similar to themselves, not the dangerous God of the Bible that condemns sin and sinners, a God that declares that perfect holiness is what is required of us.

People seek a god that will bless their sinful behaviors while telling them “it’s OK…I’m OK, you’re OK…don’t worry about sin, certainly not your own.”

In this scenario, a “god” is assembled through a smorgasbord of religious traditions (Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age, Christianity, etc), but the view of god expressed is not a true view.  It is an imagined view, a subjective view.  In reality, this conglomerate “god” exists only in the mind of the individual.  This religion is more in line with the Greek pantheon of gods where every one was mostly powerful and mostly flawed.  Greek gods were nothing more than super human–more power than human but still entirely human in their faults, flaws, and desires.

The God of the Bible is totally “other.”  He is not human (although Christ did assume humanity).  God is not given to the foibles and faults of humanity.  He is totally perfect and totally holy and He is as far above us as we are above an ant.

God does not invite us to come to Him on our terms.  His call is clear: Come to me on my terms.  The one term is Jesus Christ–He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father, except through Him.

This is not a safe God.  This is a God who rightly demands our soul, our life, and our all.

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John Piper on the Prosperity Gospel

I just watched this on the Desiring God website.  Piper’s take on this topic is worth the 10:35 and it is an important corrective to out evangelical culture.


The Archangel

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ObamaCare and the Draconian Consequences

If you want a picture of what socialized medicine looks like, you need look no further than this article from the Daily Mail in England.  In this article a 23-year-old mother gives birth to an extremely premature baby–only 22 weeks and five days of gestational development–and the doctors refuse to treat the baby.  The national health care guidelines in England apparently do not allow doctors to treat premature babies born before 23 weeks.  So, this little baby missed the magic window by 2 days.

Rather than treat the baby, who was born alive and breathing and lived for two hours, the doctors told the mother that “it was in the baby’s best interests to die.”

This is shocking!

Someone once defined insanity as “Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  There are many documented cases of this type of thing.  If the American Government and the American People think “ObamaCare” will be any different they are simply insane.

I usually do not write about “political” things.  Make no mistake, this is not a political issue.  This issue is about our very existence as a Constitutional Republic, our freedom as a individuals, and our ability as Christians to “fight” for life.

Will we stand idly by and watch as children die because they were born too early?  Will we acquiesce and say it would be better for someone to die (even at 22 weeks) than to live a life with a disability?

This system and thinking is better suited for Soviet Russia or Fascist Germany under Hitler.  Nothing about this is “American.”

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Morris Chapman and a Fundamental Misunderstanding of Calvinism

During the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Morris Chapman–president of the Executive Committee of the Convention–gave an address in which he managed to tick-off every person with who holds to reformed theology or even those who lean towards reformed theology (see the report here).  Some of my best friends and most respected friends whom I know from attending Southern Seminary were spittin’ mad at the end of Dr. Chapman’s so-called report.  Recently, Dr. Chapman has issued an eratta sheet of sorts, seeking to clarify what he meant to say (see the “clarification” here).

Unfortunately, Dr. Chapman’s most recent statement does little to clarify and, in fact, does even more to infuriate those of us who hold to reformed theology.  I think Dr. Chapman does not understand Calvinism…or if he does, he is intentionally misrepresenting our position.  What is more, he has relegated so-called “Calvinists” to the status of second-class citizen in the Southern Baptist Convention.

First, Chapman describes how a person becomes a Christian:

The background of my comments comes from a lifetime of ministry among Southern Baptists.  Most Southern Baptists with whom I have had contact have embraced the following model of salvation – God initiates conversion through the convincing/convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  Through this conviction of sin, the human heart responds in repentance and faith.  A lost individual becomes a child of God by faith and is adopted into God’s family as a redeemed saint.

No Calvinist I know would disagree with this.  However, the devil is in the details.  We would say that God does, in fact, initiate His work of salvation through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.  We believe the Holy Spirit must give a new heart (a heart of flesh to replace the heart of stone) and that is what brings conviction of sin.  When, through the regeneration brought by the Holy Spirit, someone has a new heart, that person necessarily sees God for who He is in all of His majesty, glory, and perfection.  Consequently, that same person also sees himself or herself for what he or she really is–a dirty, depraved sinner with no hope of attaining to the perfection of God.  Then, and only then, does the person throw himself or herself on God’s mercy and plead for His grace.  And there we have salvation–regeneration preceding redemption.  Or, as someone else (I think Piper) has put it–redemption is a fruit of the Holy Spirit having first regenerated someone.

Second, Chapman goes through Ephesians 2:8:

More recently, I have heard and read with increasing frequency of the belief that passages such as Ephesians 2:8 teach that “faith” itself is a gift of God – hence, even the response of faith is given by God and is not the free response of the human heart to the saving initiative of God.

The whole part of the original bears reading.  To summarize: Chapman goes into a multi-paragraph exegesis of this passage trying to explain what is the “gift” of Ephesians 2:8–is the gift “grace” or “faith?”  Now there are some pretty strong arguments for grace bring the gift (although the grammar, rightly noted by Chapman won’t support this) and faith being the gift (again, unsupported by the grammar and rightly noted by Chapman).  Chapman prefers to see the entirety of salvation as the “gift.”

The problem with this is that it completely and (perhaps) intentionally ignores the entire context of Ephesians 2 (and that is what most of the current generations of Calvinists have a major problem with…but that is blog for another time).

Ephesians 2 begins: 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Now, that paints a bleak, bleak picture of our sad state.

Dead.  Dead in our trespasses and sins.  Following the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (ie. non-believers).  Living in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of our flesh (basically, being self-idolaters).  And, here’s the killer: We were by nature children of wrath…like the rest of mankind.

With all due respect to Dr. Chapman and the scholars and grammarians he quotes, it cannot be that faith is not also a gift.  If we are “dead” and “by nature children of wrath” who are, apparently of our own free will, following the “prince of the power of the air,” then there is nothing we have to contribute to the salvation process.  We are told in Romans 3:11 “no one seeks for God.”  Since we, in our natural state, do not seek God, something must change.  That is why Calvinists believe that regeneration must precede redemption.  Something, namely the Holy Spirit, has to change our natural state; we must be regenerated, which is giving life into a previously dead heart.

So while the two Ephesian elements of salvation are “grace” and “faith” it must logically follow that they are both involved in the whole process of salvation.  Ephesians 2:1-3 shows where our natural, inherent faith lead us: to follow the prince of the power of the air.  Therefore, it must be the case that both grace and faith are given as part of the salvation process.  In other words, faith cannot be that thing which we contribute.

Chapman further states:

Had I spoken with greater technical precision in my report, my words may be expanded this way, “The Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing a resurgence in the belief that divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation in which even the faith response on the part of man is not a response of free human agency, but is a sovereign act of God.  Some are given to explain away the ‘whosoever will’ of John 3:16. How can a Christian come to such a place when Ephesians says, ‘For by grace are you saved through faith’ (Eph. 2:8)?” (emphasis Chapman’s)

As I mentioned above, free human agency can do nothing–except follow the prince of the power of the air–apart from God’s regenerating work.  Now, after we are regenerated, we can and certainly do choose to follow God.  The problem here is that Chapman seems to think humans are, by nature, neutral and can go either way–good or bad.  This does not account for the pronouncement in Ephesians that we are “dead” and it doesn’t account for our need to have a new nature (because our default position is “Children of Wrath” and that being by nature).

Two examples:  First, R.C. Sproul in his book Chosen by God mentions a dead man and asks the important question: Can a dead man ever do anything for himself?  Of course the answer is no.  Every motion of a dead body has to be performed by an outside source.  Second, I have 3 cats.  All of them “meow.”  Their meowing does not make them cats.  They are, by nature, cats and therefore meow.  If they were “required” to be a dog they would need to be, by nature, a dog.  Even if I could teach them to bark like a dog it would not make them a dog by nature.  The meow of a cat and the bark of a dog are individual fruits of their nature.  After all, when my 22-month-old daughter says “woof-woof,” that doesn’t make her a dog.

So, we, the dead, must receive a new nature.  Even if it is said that saving faith is a result of that new nature, that faith is still a gift.

I’m afraid Dr. Chapman doesn’t understand the total and radical change that must take place for someone to be a Christian.  Maybe that’s why our churches are in decline and our baptisms are dwindling?

Chapman concludes his article with a few quotes from a 2007 interview.  I find these particularly infuriating or disengenous.

“The resurgence of Calvinism is largely a reaction against the shallowness of Baptist doctrinal instruction during the era of moderate-led seminaries coupled with a strong interconnection of the principle of sola scriptura (“scripture alone”) with Reformed doctrine during the Protestant Reformation. Since the principle of sola scriptura resurfaced during the inerrancy debates of the Conservative Resurgence, it is only logical that its relationship with Reformed doctrine would also emerge. An additional reason for the resurgence of Calvinism is that a wide-open Arminianism under the guise of Open Theism must be refuted. Generally, where a heresy surfaces its closest theological polar opposites will appear and gain a relatively wide following.

The rise of reformed theolgy is not a reaction against open theism.  Also, it is not a reaction against shallow Baptist doctrine of the moderate era.  Rather, the rise in reformed theology is based on the recovery of true, Biblical theolgy as we (as a denomination) seek to shake off the destructive ideals of non-lordship salvation, easy-believism, decision-making mentality (as opposed to disciple making), and the outright heresy of Finney-style theology and worship.

Chapman really shows his stripes here:

“One danger is that pastors are tempted to accept church pastorates in churches that are not Calvinistic, and then strive to drive them into the Calvinistic camp, thereby destroying an otherwise strong and healthy church. Another danger is that the truly warm-hearted, ‘evangelical’ Calvinists often are misunderstood by second-generation successors, potentially resulting in a decline in evangelism and missions. As long as the conversations can remain cordial and warm-hearted, we always have been able to work together for the missionary, educational, and benevolent needs of the Convention and the world.

Here we can see that the Calvinists will always be the “red-headed step-children,” at least in Chapman’s mind.  He clearly states a non-Calvinist church is strong and healthy.  Given, that may be so.  Arminian-leaning churches can, by the grace of God, be strong and healthy.  But, he assumes that a Calvinist pastor will destroy that peace and tranquility.  In many of the discussions I’ve heard, it is always the Arminian-types that refuse (most absolutely refuse) to work with Calvinists.  All of the Calvinists I know are more than happy to work with Arminians (and that without exception).  So, it is not the Calvinists that are damaging the convention.

Also, Chapman suggests that Evangelical Calvinists are leading to a decline in missions and evangelism.  WRONG! No Calvinist I know downplays missions or evangelism.  In fact, churches like Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, Bethelem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, and Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL go above and beyond in their pursuit of both missions and evangelism.

Lastly, Chapman says “As long as the conversations can remain cordial and warm-hearted, we always have been able to work together for the missionary, educational, and benevolent needs of the Convention and the world.”  I’ve got three words: Pot. Kettle. Black.

If Chapman really believed this we should have expected his address at the SBC 2009 to be a clarion call to link arms–Calvinists and Arminians both–for the purposes of spreading the Gospel.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  Rather than follow his own advice, Dr. Chapman said:

The belief that sovereignty alone is at work in salvation is not what has emboldened our witness and elevated our concern for evangelism and missions through the ages. This is not the doctrine that Southern Baptists have embraced in their desire to reach the world for Christ.

If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and debate more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade ALL MEN to be reconciled to God – then it is no doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. Chapman apparently doesn’t believe what he said about being warm-hearted and cordial.  Rather than using his Presidental Address as a cooperative moment, he used it as a bully pulpit against Calvinists.  After hearing his address to the SBC and his subsequent “explanation” it is clear to this Southern Baptist that Chapman thinks only the Calvinists need to be cordial in addressing the Armininas.  His bitter speech did nothing to foster cordial and warm-hearted feelings.  In fact, he managed to step on the feet of every Calvinist.

I am continually frustrated by chronic mis-characterizations (bordering on character assasination) from non-Calvinists.  It’s one thing when it is a pastor.  It is entirely a different matter when it is the head of an agency with many faithful and devoted pastors (and congregants) who are Calvinists (or at least Calvinistic).

Speaking for myself, my confidence in his leadership has waned.

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Humbled by God’s Provision

So, I’m the pastor of a pretty small church in Western Maryland.  We generally have 30-40 people on a Sunday morning.  We have people from every walk of life and the church takes great care of me and my family.  I wouldn’t trade this group of people for anything.

So, I’ve been looking to take a vacation this summer.  I’ve always wanted to take my wife and little girl on a vacation.  But my wife and I do not have much money so, we are looking to stretch the dollars as far as possible.  I found a potential bungalow on the beach in North Carolina–not very expensive and for an entire week!  So…upon further investigation, I find out that the only available week is the last week of June–the same week as The Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.  Bummer!

Today, my wife and I took a care package to a family in our church.  They are a simple family and they do not have much–in the way of money or possessions.  Also, there are some health issues in this family and some disability.  Our church provides a monthly care package of food and the church is happy to do so.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks:  This family will probably never take a vacation.  They will probably never know what it is like to escape their situation–even for a few days.

I feel like an idiot.

Like so much of the world, I am lamenting what I don’t have and feel I deserve rather than thanking God for what He has given me–nothing of which I deserve.

No, I am an idiot.

I’m reminded of the saying: I was once upset that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.

May God forgive my preoccupation with myself and may He forgive my cold, cold heart.

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Of Pronouns and Pastors

I once heard a story about a Minister of Music’s “run in” with a Pastor: The Minister of Music was trying to explain to the members of the music ministry that music wasn’t to be done with him, the church, or the pastor in mind. Rather, music was to be done with God in mind. God was our “audience” and the church was His, not our own.

For his exhortations, the Minister of Music was called into the Pastor’s office only to be told by the Pastor: Never forget, this is my church.

Needless to say this kind of sentiment sends cold chills down my back. Where did we get the notion that it is our church?

Pastors have an inherent problem with power.  Most people look at the pastor as “the boss” and they seem, at times, to put their faith in him.  So, even though the pastor is the recipient of many accolades, as unwarranted as many of them may be, he is not to be the object of anyone’s faith!  Sadly, many pastors forget that the people of any particular church are under our care, not our ownership.

Well-meaning pastors have taken to referring to the church they pastor as “my church.”  As with most things, the heart-intent of the pronoun my determines the true meaning and it determines the intent of the pastor’s heart.

IF you say “my church” and are truly referring to the church to which you belong, your heart may be in the right place (although it is not guaranteed).

IF you say “my church” and are truly referring to the church for which you will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment, your heart may be in the right place (but, again, no guarantees).

However, IF you say “my church” and are referring, even unintentionally, to the church which you own, you might be in deep trouble.

We must all try to protect ourselves and our pastors against this false and condemning mistake.  And if you see that I’ve forgotten to practice what I am preaching here, please remind me!  May God grant us His grace to keep this in its proper perspective.

The simple truth of the matter is this: Pastor’s do not “own” churches and, unfortunately, way too many pastors act like they do.  Pastor’s are simply shepherds of the Master’s flock.  We are stewards of the Master’s property.  And, unless you stretched out your arms on a Roman cross and spilled your blood (which you can’t even qualify to do), you simply cannot call it “my” church.

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Offering Our Children to Molech

In the disastrous wake of President Obama’s decision to put the full faith and finances of the Federal Government behind the destruction of human life, I have come to a shocking and bone-jarring conclusion:  As a society, we are engaged in child sacrifice and we are unashamed.

In large measure, this post is not directed at the irreligious, the anti-religious, the atheist.  Rather, this post is meant to be a punch in the gut to the people that call themselves “Christians.”  The irreligious, anti-religious, and atheist are, by nature, sinners.  We should expect them to sin and to call sin “OK.”  All too often, however, those who claim the name of Christ look no different than the irreligious, anti-religious, and atheistic people of the world.

The Problematic Situation

For years, society has been heading in the myopic “I-Me” direction.  This devolution has resulted in an insanely selfish society.  But, again, what else do we expect sinners to do?  The church, though, has followed along with society.

1. Worship Wars abound in churches over the style of the music.  Nowhere in the New Testament is a specific style of music commanded.  Since, in the Old Testament, God decrees the minutiae of worship–down to the very thread in the priestly robes–we might expect the New Testament to decree a style of worship.  It doesn’t.  That’s strange and very telling.

Rather than being a gracious and giving lot, our church folk have turned on each other to devour each other.  Why?  because they want the style of music they are most comfortable with.  Arguments are “invented” to keep the status-quo in place.  This is not New Testament piety; this is worldly selfishness.  This is seeking your satisfaction at the expense of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now, I’m not commenting on a particular style of music.  If I had my preference, the church I pastor would do Bach and Handel (after all, I am a classically-trained trumpet player).  What I am commenting against is the selfishness displayed in our churches.  Why not have a variety of musical styles?  Why not rejoice with someone who prefers “contemporary” styles when, on one Sunday, a contemporary ensemble leads the worship service?  Sure it’s not your preference.  But, church is not about you!  Church is about God and God commands us to be gracious to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to rejoice with and for them, and to be a people known for self-sacrifice.  Instead of a Godly “give/give” idea, we are left to see a worldly “take/take” idea.  How sad and how un-Christian.

2. Churches have become outwardly focused to the exclusion of the fellowship of believers.  Do we need to do mission work?  Absolutely!!  However, mission work is not to be done at the expense of building up the members in our churches.  All too often churches are acting like they exist only to do outreach.  Remember, outreach is only one aspect of church life.  The edification (or building up) of the current members (brothers and sisters in Christ) is also required of the church.

Where this becomes a problem is that the builders and the outreachers are usually fighting over which is more important.  How stupid!  That’s like doctors fighting over which organ a patient can live without–a heart or a brain.  Both organs are necessary and both aspects of church–edification and outreach–are necessary as well.

Yet again, we, in our myopic selfishness, do not work with the other “party.”  No, instead we call them names and brand them as “less spiritual.”  Maybe we do this to justify our own selfish desire to be right?  Maybe we do this because we are so spiritually deficient that we need to feel sufficient and rather than looking to Christ–who is Himself the only all-sufficient One–we demonize our brothers and sisters in Christ to exalt ourselves?

If it is true that our actions speak louder than our words, and it is, Christian have much to be ashamed of.  We look too much like the world.  Selfishness is rampant in the church–almost at the same level as the world.  Essentially, we look no different from the world.

Selfishness is Idolatry

All selfishness is, in one way or another, idolatry.  We seek to place our own thoughts and desires over God’s thoughts and desires.  When we seek to justify ourselves at the expense of our brothers and sisters in Christ we commit the sin of idolatry–self-idolatry.

Idolatry is a struggle.  I don’t mean to speak ill of those who are constantly engaged in the struggle.  I do, however, mean to correct those who refuse to even engage in the struggle!

The Worldly Parallel

One of my biggest frustrations is shopping carts left in parking spaces in the supermarket.  This really is the height of self-absorption.  This is the idea of “I’m too important to be bothered with taking my cart to the cart return.  Someone else, who is obviously beneath me, can do that for me.”

If I had a dime….never mind.

How in the world does this relate to Molech?

Leviticus 20:1-9 says:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.

6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. 7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

Molech was one god of the Canaanites.  Worshiping Molech was on the same level as worshiping Baal.  Baal, being the storm god who brought the rain and made the crops grow, was worshiped so that the people of the land could eat.

Parents would sacrifice their children to satisfy their own appetites.

The Canaanites practiced child sacrifice.  Child sacrifice is the height of wicked selfishness.  What parent would sacrifice their own children so that the parents could benefit?  How many examples of parents sacrificing themselves, selflessly, so that their children could live have we seen in the history of the world?  What about Moses’ parents?  They might have been charged with treason and subsequently put to death had the Pharaoh discovered they disobeyed his order to kill the male children.  What about parents who shield their children from tornadoes–using their own bodies to absorb the debris?

It is natural for parents to sacrifice themselves and their desires for the betterment, survival, and support of their children.

So, how can it be the case that women are having abortions because it is summer and they don’t want to look bad in a bikini?  How can parents give their embryonic children to the scientific butchers to grow new parts and pieces for some type of Owellian chop-shop and garage for human fraility?  Why are parents not yelling to the scientists “Take me and leave my children alone!”

One reason: Selfishness.  A selfishness that seeks your own good and your own comfort over the very life of your child.

Molech in the Church

How does this all come together?  Our churches have raised a generation of people (and I purposely didn’t use the word “believers”) who care only about themselves.

If we truly cared for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we would lovingly (notice: lovingly) correct them when they act outside of God’s will.  If we really cared we’d seek the good of our brothers and sisters before we sought our own comforts.  You do not need to look far to see the demise of proper church discipline.  Usually proper church discipline mutates into one of two un-biblical extremes–people seek to crucify, not restore, the brother or sister in the wrong or people refrain from any discipline whatsoever.  Both extremes are wrong.  Both extremes are born out of and serve perverse selfishness.

Is it any wonder the church is shrinking?  We care more about numbers of baptisms than we do about true Christian discipleship and growth.  We don’t discipline each other because the confrontation will take us out of our comfort zone and trying to discipline someone may make them leave and our numbers will fall.  We concentrate on baptisms and the number of people on our church rolls because it serves our own egos, not the ultimate well-being of our brothers and sisters.  See?  Selfishness, again.

The shrinking church is evidence that God has turned His face away from us (I’m not talking “America;”  I mean that God has turned His face away from the church).

May God forgive us for our rampant selfishness.  May we repent and experience His face shining on us once again as we seek to be properly Godly and properly Biblical in all we say and do, both in public and in private.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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