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The Grave Injustice of Legalized Abortion On Demand

The Grave Injustice of Legalized Abortion On Demand

This January marks the 49th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. On January 22, 1973, the highest court of our land circumvented legislative process and declared by judicial fiat that abortion on demand is legal. Discovering a constitutional right to privacy relating to abortion as well as drawing an arbitrary line around fetal viability, the court deemed the unborn less than human, depriving them of the right to life. 

I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade was morally, legally, and scientifically bankrupt. In many ways Roe v. Wade tragically echoes the Dred Scott v. Sandford case decided in 1857, which declared that Americans of African descent were not American citizens and instead categorized as property. This immoral court ruling perpetuated racism and provided the ongoing legal cover for the cultural legitimacy of slavery. 

As a nation we look back at Dred Scott and shudder with visceral incredulity and moral outrage. How could this be? We wonder how the highest court of the land could legally sanction and codify such glaring injustice. We are aghast how a culture could be so easily deceived, callused, and morally blinded. Yet, as a nation for 49 years we continue to legally sanction abortion on demand, justifying it by sound bite pro-choice rhetoric and sleight of hand obfuscations. 

Make no mistake: dehumanization is the same deceptive force that fuels the taking of unborn life. The abortion industry is rooted in a history of eugenics that targets minority children for eradication. We cannot turn a blind eye to the compounding evils of Dred Scott and Roe and their lasting impact on minority and under-resourced communities in our country. 

We must not be deceived by the seductive arguments of “my body my choice,” sex without consequences, and placing career and comfort above the lives of the unborn. Our culture, on the one hand, praises autonomy and self-indulgence above all else, while on the other, dismisses the real needs of women facing unplanned pregnancies. We must be counter-cultural. We must recognize the humanity and value of each unborn life and do everything we can to support each woman walking the difficult road of unplanned pregnancy and motherhood. We must show unwavering compassion both to the unborn and the brave mothers who carry them. 

We also must not be deceived by the supposedly noble goal of making elective abortion, “rare and safe.” Like the immoral slavery industry of old, we have an immoral abortion industry that has no vested interest in making abortion increasingly rare. This abortion industry is driven not only by an ideology deifying personal choice at the great expense of denying the right to life of the unborn, but also motivated by great economic gain. How should we respond to this grave injustice that leaves the innocent in the jaws of death? 

From the inception of Christ Community, we have had an unwavering commitment to uphold the sanctity of life for all human beings, unborn and born. Along with an unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life, we are whole-heartedly committed to extend compassion to those who have been and continue to be so deeply wounded by abortion.

The Gospel of the Kingdom we embrace as broken sinners like you and me brings the heart-arresting hope of healing and wholeness. If you have been wounded by abortion and would like to talk with someone, please contact one of the pastors at your campus. You are welcome at our church. Our staff desires to be there for you in any way they can. 

How should we respond to the grave and glaring injustice of abortion? Let me suggest a few reflections for us to consider. 

First, we need moral clarity around legalized abortion on demand. We dare not confuse the legality of something with its morality. Legal legitimacy does not necessarily mean moral legitimacy. As followers of Jesus guided by the clear teachings of Holy Scripture, the unborn are image bearers of God, have unimaginable intrinsic worth and are to be cared for and protected (Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5). We are called to protect the vulnerable and give a voice to the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-9). 

Second, in a highly rancorous partisan culture, we must not confuse legalized abortion on demand as a partisan issue. Legalized abortion on demand is first and foremost a moral issue. Regardless of our partisan views and commitments, addressing societal injustice is the responsibility of all of us, both as citizens of this nation and citizens of the Kingdom of God. 

Third, we must continue to advocate with tenacity in the public square, in the halls of government, and in the courtroom for moral laws in regard to abortion. 

Fourth, as the prophet Micah reminds us, we are called not only to do justice, but also to love kindness and walk humbly with God. Moral clarity and properly motivated justice zeal must always be forged and formed in intercessory prayer guided by kindness, compassion, and humility. The moral clarity of our minds must be shaped by the Christ-like love in our hearts, expressed in the truth-laden, yet gentle tone of our voices. 

Fifth, as a church family we have and will continue to work with and support crisis pregnancy centers like Advice and Aid that helps those with unplanned pregnancies and offers support for those healing from the wounds of abortion. We will also continue to advocate for adoption and support birth mothers and adoptive families. 

Sixth, let us pray for a spiritual awakening for our nation and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).  An awakening where the church and people of all goodwill might gain moral clarity and address the most compelling injustices of our time, including the grave injustice of the destruction of unborn human life. Pray also for the U. S. Supreme Court as it decides perhaps the most important abortion case of a generation, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In this case, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to walk back, or even end, the constitutional right to abortion it pronounced in Roe v. Wade. 

For those of us in our church family who reside in Kansas, we have an important  opportunity this upcoming summer to support the Value Them Both Amendment. If you have not yet heard about the Value Them Both Amendment, I would encourage you to become informed and involved as the Lord may lead you. Even the smallest of steps of involvement will make a difference. 

Passing the Value Them Both Amendment is crucial to protecting pro-life laws in Kansas and preventing Kansas from becoming a safe haven for the abortion industry. In 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas Constitution provides an “inalienable” right to abortion–even more radical than Roe v. Wade. One consequence of this ruling is that Kansas’ pro-life laws are in danger of being stricken down by the courts. Another consequence is that if Roe v. Wade is overturned at the federal level, then Kansas will continue to recognize a nearly unlimited right to abortion. The only way to reverse this tragic course is to amend the Kansas Constitution, and we have the opportunity to do so with the Value Them Both Amendment in August 2022.  

As a church we have been, and will continue to be, non-partisan. However, in regard to legalized abortion on demand, this is not a partisan issue, but a moral one that transcends partisanship. I am grateful for a church family that embraces both uncomfortable truths and compassionate grace. How my heart longs for a day when the unborn will be valued, cherished, and protected. I hope yours does too. 

Seven Ways Sharing Your Faith Grows Your Faith

Seven Ways Sharing Your Faith Grows Your Faith

A few years ago, I was attending a church plant that failed. After several years of stagnant growth and little evangelistic fruit, the leaders decided to close the doors. I felt like a failure. I thought, “If only I was a better evangelist, then more people would have come to faith, joined our church, and it would still be open today. Here I am, in school learning to be a pastor, and the first church I am a part of goes up in flames!” I wondered if this evangelism thing was just something I was not cut out for. But that would be okay, right? Not every Christian needs to be a ‘super-soul winner’, right?

For many Christians, evangelism can be guilt and shame inducing. We know that we should share our faith, but so few of us do. Even as some of us try, a lack of fruit feels like failure. Seeking to alleviate the guilt from these experiences can lead to questioning the need for all Christians to share the gospel. You may have had this exact reaction when our church announced our plan to grow in evangelism through e90 (the practice of praying for 9 people for 90 seconds a day, for 90 days).

From “Do I have to?” to “Wow! I get to!”

Perhaps our perspective needs to shift. Instead of only sharing out of a sense of duty, what if we viewed the practice of evangelism as something that was good for us? While sharing our faith is certainly a command Jesus gives, it is something He commands for our own benefit! I want to encourage you to sign up for theFormed.life as we go through e90 so that your faith can grow as you seek to share it with others.

We should keep in mind that one does not need to convert others to Jesus to be a mature Christian. We are to tell others about Jesus, but we are not responsible for their  response. Even Jesus had many reject Him and His message. We should focus on being faithful in the process, not on the end product. 

How is this faithfulness in evangelism something that is for our own good?

How Sharing Our Faith Matures Us

Not only is evangelism a mark of Christian maturity, but it is also a pathway to Christian maturity in other areas.

  1. Evangelism grows our trust in God. As we step out of our comfort zone, our faith is strengthened by our need to rely on God. If you feel inadequate and unprepared to share the gospel, what a great opportunity to trust in God, who is the only one who can draw people to Himself. As you pray each day for your nine, you are developing the habit of inviting God into this area of need.
  1. It builds our love for others. Our broader postmodern culture implicitly defines love as merely tolerating another’s preferences. In this mindset, evangelism is a hateful enterprise. However, if you think of love as seeking the best for another person, what better way to love someone than to introduce them to the One who can lead them to fullness of life! Atheist magician and comedian Penn Jillette once remarked how loved he felt when a fan gave him a Bible and shared the gospel with him even though he still completely disbelieves in God. He said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Seeking to have those around us come to know Jesus, if done with their best in mind, is a loving act that develops a greater love for them within us. We hope praying for your nine will be used by God to give you His heart for them that “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
  1. Sharing our faith transforms our lifestyle to be more missional. If we seek to make evangelism an integral part of our lives, we will develop habits that allow us to consistently partner with God in His mission of redeeming creation. This is why every Friday, theFormed.Life invites you to take a small step in developing missional habits. Telling others about Jesus invites us to critically examine our own lives. Do we live as though the gospel is true? The fear of hypocrisy that paralyzes us from sharing our faith can be an invitation to go deeper in our own discipleship. 
  1. Practicing evangelism enables growth in our theological knowledge. The year I gained the most theological knowledge was not while in seminary, but rather when I went to community college and was actively sharing my faith with classmates. Getting hard questions from others motivated me to read theology more rigorously than any systematic theology test could. This is why in theFormed.life we reflect deeply and biblically on the gospel twice a week. On Thursdays we look at a single passage that articulates the good news. On Saturdays we focus on one chapter of the Four Chapter Story, reading one passage explaining that and reflecting how we are living that story today. As we share the gospel, we will have greater motivation to understand the good news more fully.
  1. Not only does evangelism develop our theoretical knowledge but it also grows our practical knowledge of God. As a pastor, I am better able to understand a congregant after visiting their workplace. By seeing where they work, how they invest their energy, and knowing more about what their labor produces, our relationship deepens. Similarly, seeing God at work in His mission of wooing people to Himself allows us to experience the truth that God loves everyone in a deeper way.
  1. The practice of evangelism enables us to praise God and thank Him for how He is at work. This is why every Tuesday theFormed.life shares a short story about how God is working in someone’s life through their witness to Jesus. We want to hear more of these moments from you so that we can join you in praise and thanksgiving! Let us know how God is at work in this practice for you. You can sign up for that by texting “e90” to 913-379-4440.
  2. Not only does this practice increase our intimacy with God, but evangelism also can lead us to greater intimacy with one another. So many Christians can feel isolated as they share the good news in contexts where they might be the only believer. However, focusing on evangelism should lead us to treasure the hope we share in common as believers. We desire that doing this together as a church reminds us we are not alone in our witness. We encourage you to press into community even as you reach out to others individually. Make gathering on Sunday mornings a priority. Discuss the joys and challenges of this practice with others in your community group. Let’s grow together in this.

….

When my church closed its doors, God reminded me that it’s not the end product He cares about but rather being with me in the process. He does not need me to evangelize to save people. Salvation is His job, not mine. He wants me to develop deeper intimacy with Him and others by sharing my faith. Evangelism is not something He wants from me, but for me and for my good.

I pray that this would be true for you, that “the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” (Philemon 1:6). I encourage you to join us in theFormed.life as we engage the discipline of evangelism together.

More Resources:

Root, Jerry., and Stan Guthrie. The Sacrament of Evangelism. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011.

“Atheist Penn Jillette Doesn’t Respect Christians Who Don’t Evangelize” 

Learning to Trust (and Love) the Bible

Learning to Trust (and Love) the Bible

My relationship with the Bible has always been one of intense love…and at times almost crippling doubt. And it all began for me with a fairly lukewarm prayer.

Jesus, I’m going to try to take you seriously for a while. As best I can remember, these are the words I prayed down in the basement of my childhood home when I was 18 years old. It wasn’t a very poetic prayer, and it even seems a bit half-hearted, but it was enough. That night Jesus grabbed onto this reluctant convert and nothing for me has been the same since.

That moment set me on a path–a lifelong quest–to learn how to trust and love the Bible.

I’d grown up in church. My dad was a pastor during my formative years. I knew the Bible pretty well, and if we were doing a Bible trivia night, I could dominate. But it wasn’t until that lukewarm prayer that I began to hear God’s voice through its ancient pages. I could see God’s love for me. I could see myself in His words. A life and a love and a joy calling out to me from its pages.

Weird, right? As a senior in high school, unsure of my future, lonely and depressed, God found me and He used His Book to do it.

I couldn’t get enough.
Almost instantly, I couldn’t get enough of this Book. It was like food and I hadn’t eaten for years. I’d read it in the morning before school and at night before bed. Sermons (at Christ Community no less, vintage Pastor Tom) came alive. I began discussing it with friends and a few months later even began leading a Bible study with my peers. 

I wanted to know it and understand it and trust it and obey it and build my life on it. I wanted to know the One who’d made me and there He was on these dusty pages.

But then doubt settled in.
I don’t know if you know this about the Bible, but it is a hard book. Once you start reading (more than just the inspiring soundbite), questions surface. Brutal, sometimes seemingly unanswerable questions. And then, of course, doubt.

The next fall I headed off to Bible college (I told you, I fell hard for this book!), yet the more I studied and read, the more questions I had. In fact, the greatest season of doubt in my life (so far) happened while in Bible college and then seminary. Could I really build my life on a Book so old, so often confusing, so very difficult at times, with so little certainty?

Can we really trust (and love) the Bible?
Well, no surprise, I’m going to say yes. Let me go ahead and name my bias. Big shocker that a pastor says we should trust the Bible. But it has never been easy for me. Doubts still surface. Regularly. As I said, my relationship with the Bible has been one of intense love…and at times almost crippling doubt. To some extent, that remains true today (though thankfully less debilitating).

I know that there is nothing I could say to instantly make you trust and love the Bible. Faith is still required. But I want to share with you why I believe. Or perhaps more importantly, why I keep believing. Why do I keep returning to this beautiful, difficult, mysterious, ancient Book? Here are the three most important reasons for me personally: the person of Jesus, the character of God, and the testimony of its pages.

But first, a few warnings.
This is not meant to be exhaustive and it should be noted that everything here has been the subject of countless blogs and books. There are people smarter than me if you want to dig deeper. I also want to acknowledge that my reasons can easily be questioned. I don’t have any unassailable arguments and some of what I’m going to say is clearly circular in its reasoning. (Trust the Bible because the Bible tells you to trust the Bible–it’s great logic, I know.) 

Here’s the deal. If you don’t want to trust the Bible, there is nothing I can say to convince you. Faith is still required.

That is exactly right. My goal is not to convince those who don’t want to believe but to encourage those who do.

The Bible is a difficult book. It’s ok to admit that. Yet being difficult to understand isn’t the same as being untrustworthy. There is a lot I still don’t understand about the Scriptures, and a few things I just don’t like. But I keep coming back for these three reasons.

  1. The Person of Jesus

Everything in my faith comes down to the person of Jesus. Everything! I answer each of my doubts with this: did Jesus rise from the dead or not? If He didn’t, I’m out. But if He did, everything changes! If Jesus actually rose from the dead that is the most important truth the world has ever known, making Jesus the most important person. You see, one day I’d like to rise from the dead as well. So if He did, I want to hang on every word He said and all He did. 

There is good historical evidence (not just the Bible tells me so) supporting the validity of the resurrection. While much could be said, until someone more compellingly answers the following questions, I will continue to believe Jesus did come out of the grave alive. 

Questions like:

  • Why was the tomb empty and why couldn’t anyone find the body?
  • What about all the eyewitnesses who saw Him alive?
  • If it was a legend, why would the inventors make women (who couldn’t even testify in court in that time period) the first eyewitnesses? And why would you make all the men doubting cowards?
  • How do you explain the transformation of the eyewitness, from doubting cowards in hiding to literal martyrs for their faith that Jesus was alive?
  • Where did the church (and this crazy movement of His followers) come from, in the midst of so much oppression?

If Jesus rose from the dead, then it doesn’t matter if you like what He said or not or whether or not you find Him personally compelling. If He rose from the dead, He wins, and I’m listening.

Jesus believed the Old Testament.
And Jesus believed the Old Testament. I struggle with the Old Testament. I love the stories and poetry, but I find it much harder than the New Testament. Not only did Jesus believe it, He loves it! He quotes it and makes references to it constantly. You can’t even really understand Jesus without understanding the Old Testament.

He said things likeScripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), referring to the Old Testament. In His most famous sermon, considered to be a kind of summary of His main passions, He says: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).

He even referred to Himself as the center of the Old Testament Scriptures and the key to their understanding. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… (John 5:39).

...beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself… Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead… (Luke 24:27, 45-46)

The one who defeated death believed, taught, loved, obeyed, and even revealed Himself as the focus and fulfillment of the Old Testament. I’m siding with the One who defeated death—every time.

Jesus commissioned the New Testament (sort of).
It also seems like He commissioned the writing of the New Testament through the work of the Apostles. The people who knew Jesus best were the ones who wrote these things down for us.

Jesus told them: I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:12–15).

It is reasonable to believe that Jesus wanted His Apostles to write these things down, and promised that His Spirit would guide them in it.

Jesus reveals the character of God.
Jesus also shows us who God is. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). And what does Jesus reveal to us about God the Father? 

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us that God wants to rescue. God wants to love and be loved. God wants a really big, beautiful, diverse family. God wants a relationship with His creation. Our God wants to be known. That doesn’t prove He gave us the Bible, but it does give us a motive. Jesus shows us that it is God’s heart to communicate with His people. 

Hebrews begins with these words, making a similar connection: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (1:1-2) The Apostle John does the same when He refers to Jesus as the Word of God (John 1).

If God so wants to be known that He would send His own Son, it’s at least plausible that He would find other ways to reveal Himself as well. I trust the Bible because I trust the person of Jesus.

  1. The Character of God

I also trust the Bible because I trust the character of God. Jesus shows us the character of God, but so do the Scriptures. You cannot read the Bible without the overwhelming sense that God wants us to know Him. The reason we exist is to know God and be known by Him. Here are just a few such scriptures:

Exodus 6:6-8: I am the Lord… I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians… I am the Lord. 

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God. 

Proverbs 8:17: I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Jeremiah says it perhaps most beautifully. What is the most important thing any human can do? Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (9:23-24)

And what is God’s goal for humanity? I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

God wants to be known. This doesn’t mean the Bible is His Book but it does show us a deep motivation for self-revelation.


God cannot lie.
It’s also important to note here that God cannot lie. He wants to be known and, as God, He has the power and creativity to reveal Himself. But how can we trust Him? We can trust Him because He can only be truthful. He can only be faithful and honest. 

1 Samuel 15:29: The Glory of Israel [meaning God] will not lie.

Numbers 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

If God is real and if He wants to be known, He will reveal Himself accurately and honestly. I trust the Bible because I trust the character of God. 

  1. The Testimony of Its Pages

I also trust the Bible because I trust the testimony of its pages. If the Bible is not God’s Word, it is perhaps the most arrogant, self-confident, full-of-itself book ever written.

If it is not God’s Word, it is not just a nice book with nice stories and nice morals. If it is not God’s Word, it is evil, because it claims to hold the very words of God, and to be the greatest, most important, most sacred book ever written. Trust it or trash it.

The claims it makes.
Listen to just a few of its claims:

2 Samuel 7:28: Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth…

2 Samuel 22:31: This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true.

Psalms 12:6: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

Psalm 18:30: As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried…

Psalm 19:7: The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God proves true.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 

2 Peter 1:19-21: And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 

Revelation 22:6: And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

The Story it tells.
The Story it tells also nudges me toward belief. I can’t tell you if its words are true, and perhaps I’m only speaking from my own experience, but the Story of Scripture has a ring of truth about it. Yes, it is easy to get lost in the details or all the individual stories, but when you see its grand narrative, many of our questions and longings find compelling answers. The grand Story can be summed up in four chapters: Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation.

Creation. The world had a beginning. It was made with purpose and significance, with humans made in the image of God. Regardless of what you believe about how or when God made the world, the fact that He made it answers so many questions. It compellingly explains why we live as if our lives matter, why beauty touches us so deeply, why love and relationships are so essential, and why, even now in the 21st Century, we just can’t seem to shake our longing for a Maker. The Bible shows us how we were created with these things in mind.

Fall. But everything is broken. We hurt the people we love. We run from God. We choose self-destructive paths. We break the things we touch. And despite all our effort, we can’t fix it. Then add to that cancer, viruses, tornados, infertility, pain in childbirth, loneliness, depression, anxiety, terrorism, war, racism, trafficking, and eventually death. We know in our bones the world shouldn’t be this way. The Bible tells us why.

Redemption. Yet we long for things to be better, and we work to that end. We strive toward self-improvement and we long for it in the people we love. We celebrate stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, rescue and redemption. These things are hard-wired into us by a God who offers them to us, and we see them on display through the climax of this Story in His Son. The Bible explains these longings.

New Creation. One day things will finally and completely be made whole. We want utopia. We want to live forever. We want to be reunited with the people we’ve lost. We want to see God. All these longings find fulfillment in the Story of Scripture.

No, none of this proves the Bible is true or that this grand narrative is the narrative we’re living. Yet, it gives me just one more piece of confidence in believing. It tells a compelling Story.

The way it speaks.
And if you thought that last point was too subjective, you’ll hate this one.

The way this Book speaks to my heart reinforces its veracity. When I read it I can almost hear God’s voice. I feel comforted in my heartache, convicted of my sin, and exposed at my deepest level. I don’t just read this Book. It reads me! It knows me and speaks directly to me. I trust the Bible because I trust the testimony of its pages. 

So what now?
So what are we supposed to do with all this? I want to end with three action steps.

  1. Bring Him your doubts

First, bring God your doubts. I know I didn’t answer your questions and I realize there are fair reasons to doubt the Scriptures. Don’t sweep your doubts under the rug. Take your doubts seriously enough to look into them.

Sometimes people say things like “the Bible is full of contradictions” without actually looking at any supposed contradictions. Or sometimes we reject the Scriptures not because of any logical argument, but simply because we don’t like what it says. I don’t want to obey this so it must not be true. There are also times when we assume the Bible must be false simply because we haven’t taken the time to properly understand it in its cultural context.

Instead, take your doubts seriously enough to do some of the work to really understand. I discovered early on that many of my doubts had more to do with a lack of understanding or an unquestioning loyalty to my own cultural assumptions than with anything inherent in the text. Do the work. Bring Him your doubts.

  1. Trust that God knows better

Second, in all matters, trust that God knows better. Easier said than done I know, but if God has spoken, trust that He has spoken for our good. His Word is for your good. I love how the statement of faith for our denomination the Evangelical Free Church of America summarizes what we believe about the Scriptures. Pay close attention to how it ends.

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

Believed, obeyed, and trusted. Not just read or studied or proclaimed, as important as those things are.

Jesus said: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Trust these words. Obey them. Build your life upon them. They are for you from God. Trust that He knows better.

  1. Make this Book your food

And finally, eat this Book! Make it your food. It is strange to me how regularly the Bible refers to itself as a kind of food, sweeter than the best dessert and more satisfying than the richest feast. For Jesus while fasting even chose God’s Word over bread. He said, quoting the Old Testament: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

 So eat up, Church! Read it regularly and systematically. Memorize it and meditate upon it. Learn to study it and dig deeply into it. Know it so that you can trust it, love it, obey it, and build your life upon it.

Where else can we go?
I love this Book and I want you to love it too. It has been twenty-three years since that half-hearted prayer in my parent’s basement. Twenty-three years and I still feel like I’m just barely at the beginning, still struggling, still doubting, but still growing.

Whenever I’m wrestling with my faith (which is more often than I care to admit) I often think of one of my favorite stories from the Gospels. Jesus was at the height of his popularity but then preached a really hard sermon. After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:66-69).

I often feel like Peter. For I am often burdened by doubt and unanswered questions, tempted, like the crowds, to walk away. But where would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life! So here I am, learning to trust (and love) the Bible.

Training in Love

Training in Love

I am restless. There is a question I cannot get out of my head despite my best efforts. 

How did we end up with two billion Christians in the world?

Or, to ask more provocatively – how did the early church go from a small, persecuted, hated minority to the only diverse (in wealth, gender, and ethnicity) religious movement the world has ever seen? 

I ask that question because as I write, the church in America is seeing the opposite. We are witnessing a massive decline in American Christianity. The statistics are everywhere so I won’t bore you with them (just Google “decline in American Christianity”). 

I ask that question because I believe in the promises of God. His plan for the world is not a spattering of churches scattered throughout the world. God’s plan for this world in His Scriptures are bold, outrageous even. Habakkuk says, The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (2:14). Jesus Himself said, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18). These promises are just the tip of the iceberg, and God has plans for every square inch of His creation.

Why, then, the decline on our square inch of creation, the United States?

Like a good pragmatic American, my first response is to ask, What did the early church do that we are not doing? That question is instructive. One of the key texts of the early church’s “New Members Class,” a text the early Christian scholar Origen tells us Christians knew by heart, was Isaiah 2, with words of peace promised to a world of war:

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

Alan Kreider, in his book The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, says early Christians memorized this text because they were committed to loving their enemies. In that day, when a Roman citizen became a Christian, they almost certainly lost money (maybe even their job), lost relationships, lost reputation, faced insult, and at times even risked threats to their physical safety. So, the early church intentionally trained itself in love for enemies.

That is interesting, and memorizing Isaiah 2 might be a good idea for my own discipleship and growth in loving my enemies, but it doesn’t answer my question. What enabled the people of the early church to love their enemies?

Kreider points out that the early church had an almost irrational level of confidence, much like my nine pound miniature dachshund (think hot dog, like Oscar Mayer; also, if it’s not clear, this is my illustration, not Kreider’s). My dog has the confidence level of a military tank. If you walk onto our property, he will prepare himself for attack, not realizing he is actually an old dachshund that basically has no teeth. 

Yes, in this analogy I am comparing my dog to the early church. While this level of confidence is just odd and misplaced for my dog, it was not for the early church.

The early church did not look at the surrounding world of Rome and fear their persecutors, or their enemies. Instead, Kreider writes:

During the early centuries the Christians gave the impression of being confidently powerful. Why? In part because they believed the struggles they were involved in were above all, spiritual. They saw themselves as fighting not primarily against humans or institutions but against spiritual forces that were hostile to them and that impeded human flourishing….The demons did have power – their role in engineering the crucifixion of Jesus was evidence of this. But the believers confessed that on the cross Jesus had exposed the true nature of the demonic powers and vanquished them. And not only that – he also, through the Holy Spirit, had unleashed unimagined spiritual power for good in the world. The Christians claimed they had access to that power.

I have my answer. 

In the last year, we have processed a pandemic together, rioting, racial injustice, political upheaval, and violence. Christians have asked me to read, listen to, and watch a LOT of things. Social media posts. Articles. Podcasts. YouTube videos of someone “destroying” another argument. 

But I can count on just one hand the number of times someone has told me what they have heard from God through prayer. Through Scripture. Through the Spirit of God.

Despite the decline in the American church, I am not worried. Unimagined spiritual power for good has been unleashed in the world through the resurrection of Jesus. We have access to that power.

Let’s access it.

Do You Love Enough to Hate?

Do You Love Enough to Hate?

I have clear and vivid memories of standing over the same baby crib as each of my four children slept. Many times I would enter the room to check on them, admire their peaceful resting state, or wait to see if they would crack an involuntary smile while sleeping. But the clearest memories I have are of simply praying over them. One of my most common prayers is that they would grow to love God and love the things that He loves. 

But there came a time when I realized that I was only praying one side of the prayer coin, so to speak. We fall short if we only love the things that God loves. To be a follower of Jesus who is devoted to His ways and to His kingdom, we must also hate the things that God hates.

In fact, in Paul’s famous words in Romans where he essentially lays out the profile of a Christian, he makes the strong connection between love and hate.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. – Romans 12:9 (ESV)

Isn’t it fascinating that the first thing Paul says regarding the genuine nature of love is about hating something? True love demands hating evil. In a way this is an echo of the timeless words of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time for everything, including hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

We are in such a time when our genuine love demands this kind of hate.

In recent weeks we have witnessed multiple incidents of evil made manifest through racial injustice. Space won’t permit me to share the details of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper, and George Floyd. Not to mention the increased hostility and racism towards the Asian American community in the spread of COVID-19. I encourage you to read about these image bearers who were the victims of racial injustice. But even more than that, I encourage you to love enough to hate.

Love enough to hate that Ahmaud Arbery was killed for being a black man on a run in his own neighborhood. Love enough to hate that Breona Taylor’s life was taken as a result of a no-knock search warrant that had nothing to do with her. Love enough to hate that a white woman called the police on Christian Cooper and leveraged his ethnicity on the call to criminalize him. Love enough to hate that George Floyd lost his life because of the unnecessary and unwarranted pressure placed upon his neck by a police officer.

We must see these situations for what they are. 

They are injustices that should be called out.

A people committed to Jesus and His kingdom, built upon righteousness and justice (Matthew 9:13, Psalm 89:14) must understand justice completely. And that means understanding injustice whenever, wherever, and  whomever it strikes. Our failure to see and hate injustice is evil. 

That is why we must love enough to hate.

As Proverbs 28:5 says, Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely. These events, and many like them, should cause us to grieve, lament, cry out, and plead with God to bring justice and peace. 

Our love for the God whose image is imprinted upon every human being should lead us to hate the racist beliefs and behaviors of individuals, including ourselves (James 3:9). Our belief in the presence of powers and principalities in our world should empower us to identify and work against the structures and institutions that perpetuate subtle and not so subtle acts of oppression and inequality (Ephesians 6:12). Our faith in the reconciling power of the gospel should compel us to work toward all matters of justice, be they racial, economic, social, or political (Ephesians 2:11-22). Our identity in Christ should lead us to combat the pervasive white superiority that still lingers in the air of our nation, and perpetuates a divide among ethnicities (Galatians 3:27-29). And our hope in the new heavens and new earth where Christ will be praised by all tribes, tongues, and nations should motivate us to pursue a gospel-infused diversity within our local churches (Revelation 7:9-10).

May the church of Jesus Christ be known, seen, and heard as those who love enough to hate. 

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24 (ESV)

 

Is COVID-19 Actually Like the Atomic Bomb? 

Is COVID-19 Actually Like the Atomic Bomb? 

Since the coronavirus pandemic began unfolding, many have—rightly!—pointed to and drawn parallels between our moment and the moment C. S. Lewis addresses in his fantastic essay “On Living in an Atomic Age.” In that piece Lewis offers this wisdom:

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds. (“On Living in an Atomic Age” in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays)

But is the coronavirus actually like the atomic bomb? Yes and no.

First, the yes. Lewis’ point in the essay is that we will all face death at some point by bomb or microbe. And in this way our current moment with the coronavirus is no different than Lewis’ with the atomic bomb. Whether by bomb, virus, car accident, cancer, or a quiet death in our sleep at “a ripe old age”, we are dust and to dust we shall return.

However, there is one key way in which the coronavirus threat and the threat of nuclear annihilation are VERY different. 

In 1948 when Lewis wrote his essay—and for us still today—there is precious little that you and I can do directly with our daily actions to keep a nuclear weapon from unleashing mass destruction. So in light of the nuclear threat we simply must live life as usual—keep calm and carry on. There is no use huddling in a bunker refusing to go to the movies or the office or a concert or church.

But this is where the coronavirus threat is dramatically and radically different from the nuclear threat. What you and I do with our daily actions makes ALL the difference in the world to the severity of the threat. 

Handwashing will not stop an atomic bomb, but it has stopped and will help stop the coronavirus. Social distancing won’t prevent a rogue terrorist from detonating a dirty bomb. But social distancing can slow the spread of the virus resulting directly in lives being saved—in particular the lives of the most vulnerable. 

So, yes, we must keep doing “sensible and human things” but in a way that loves our neighbors well. We keep social distance not out of fear but out of love. Your actions. My actions. Make a difference. Love one another well. 

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NIV) Now I never imagined that loving my friends and neighbors would someday look like social distancing. 

I never imagined a moment where loving my neighbors would look like not visiting them in the hospital. I never imagined that laying down my life would mean not hugging friends when I see them in the grocery store. Or that neighborly love would look like keeping six feet of distance between me and my neighbors when we meet on the sidewalk. 

But Jesus did. This moment is not a surprise to Him. He is our ruling, reigning and present King—God with us. And His presence bridges the social distance. He fills gaps between us with His love and presence.