Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

What do you believe?

Martin Luther by Ferdinand Pauwels

Martin Luther by Ferdinand Pauwels

Tomorrow much of the world will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, when a brave Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed a revolutionary document to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany (see http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html).   The document, consisting of 95 parts, denounced his church’s practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin, which ran contrary to Luther’s Bible-based belief that that salvation could be attained through faith and by God’s grace alone.  I call him brave, because Luther’s act put him at risk of excommunication and possibly even death.

When called before the Catholic Council (Reichstag) in the city of Worms and ordered to renounce the document, Luther refused, saying  the famous words, “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann kein anders.” (Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise).   Rather than renouncing his 95 Theses,  Luther eventually renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun. His act of faith rocked the Catholic church and ultimately spawned what today is known as the Protestant Reformation.

What would you do if your Christian faith were challenged?  What if someone asked you about your Christian beliefs?  How would you reply? I’d like to think I’d be as brave as Luther, but in reality I probably wouldn’t. How many people are willing to risk everything for Christ? Recently, we’ve heard stories of Christians in Iraq and Syria identifying themselves to ISIS terrorists and being executed, rather than hide their Christian faith. How would you respond?

Have you ever really thought about what your Christian faith means to you?  Sure, you might recite the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed at church every week, but did you ever really stop to think what those words mean?   I’m an Anglican.  My denomination, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), subscribes to three creeds:  the Nicene, Apostle’s, and Athanasian.  Unless you’re a relatively new Christian, you’re probably familiar with the first two, which are worded very similarly.  The Athanasian Creed is a bit harder to digest, as it  clearly discuss the three persons comprising the Holy Trinity, one of the most controversial tenets of the Christian faith.  It is accepted by many Western churches and often read at Trinity Sunday worship services in lieu of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.

I challenge you to set aside some quiet time and seriously consider the question, “What do I believe?” I can assure you that of the three great world religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the average Christians is the least well-equipped to answer this question.  Islam and Judaism emphasize reading and memorizing scriptures much more than does Christianity.

Here are a few things to consider if you accept the challenge.

  • The Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19) – Do the words of the Bible or the Athanasian Creed’s take on the Trinity cause you to question your own beliefs?
  • Your Body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – Do you treat your body as if it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit? (Think about what you put into it).
  • Divorce (Matthew 19) – Do you accept Jesus teaching on divorce? He opposes it.
  • Abortion (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5) – What are your beliefs about the early stages of life?
  • Gay Marriage (Romans 1) – What are your beliefs on gay marriage?
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Mark 12:28-34) – Do you love God above everything else, or is something (addiction, idolatry) getting in the way?
  • Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-34) – Are you at peace with your neighbor?
  • Sin (Romans 7:14-25) – What is sin? Are you a sinner?                   

This is a tough challenge—not something you can think through in a few minutes. Matthew 9 tells the story of a man who is imploring Jesus to heal his young son, who has an unclean spirit (demon) plaguing him.  Jesus says to the man (ESV), “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I submit that most Christians who take the challenge will find themselves crying, “Help my unbelief!”

 “Today, many churches are taking God’s laws and saying, ‘These no longer are in effect.’ In Luther’s time the Church said, ‘You need to buy indulgences to be forgiven of your sin.’ Today, more than one church says, ‘Sin? What is sin?’” 

                                                                  Ken Klaus, Pastor Emeritus, The Lutheran Hour 

Back to Scripture: The Protestant Reformation and the Five Solas   https://www.christianheadlines.com/slideshows/back-to-scripture-the-protestant-reformation-and-the-five-solas.html

 

What awaits Christians in a Post-Christian America?

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Bernardo Daddi [1324]

The Stoning of St. Stephen
by Bernardo Daddi (1324)

Over the past several days I’ve heard and read a number of Christians expressing their dismay over the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage the law of the land. The decision should not have come as a shock to anyone. The vote was only the affirmation of a social movement that has been quickly gathering speed for at least a decade.

What the vote did succeed in doing was to remove any remaining doubt that America has entered a post-Christian era of its history. Christians are now a minority with diminishing cultural and political influence. Whether or not we become a hated minority will be determined by our actions.

Gallup conducts a poll on American morals and beliefs each May. Polling data from the last decade indicate a significant shift to the left on a number of controversial social issues, including divorce, abortion, doctor-assisted suicide, gay marriage and human embryonic stem cell research. This shift is, at least in part, a product of the growing wave of moral relativism that has permeated the America media and many American Christian denominations at least since the free love movement of the 1960’s and perhaps earlier.

The term describes a paradigm shift from the completeness of Christian Scripture to so-called progressive revelation. Relativism insists that the Scriptures did not fully provide theological, legal, moral, scientific, medical and other knowledge from the beginning. Rather, God gradually reveals new truths over time whenever humanity is capable of receiving it.

This philosophy is splitting many mainstream Christian denominations today through a continual reinterpretation of the scriptures that increasingly waters down God’s word to the point it becomes socially irrelevant. Moral relativism enables the social justification of anything and everything, from immodest clothing and casual sex to the extremes of abortion, euthanasia and even pagan religions.

I would caution advocates of social change in America, on the left and right, to remember that freedom is not the ability to do whatever you please. That is the definition of anarchy. Freedom is the ability for people to coexist by following a set of rules based upon an accepted moral code. If morals in America are not to be based upon Christian beliefs, then on whose beliefs will they be based? This discussion has barely begun.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.
Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
                                          Isaiah 59:14-15

The Rev. Franklin Graham has expressed concern that the Supreme Court ruling will lead to Christian persecution. Perhaps he is correct and perhaps not. Christians wishing to know why the table has turned against them so quickly need look no farther than their own houses. It happened, as God says in the first chapter of the book of Haggai, “Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.” Christians should get their own act together before worrying about what the Supreme Court is doing.

We Christians are free to blame anyone we choose for American society’s woes, but we should start by taking a good look in the mirror. We bear a good deal of the blame. Many of today’s social and cultural problems could be reduced and in some cases eliminated if Christians would just start living like Christ taught us.

Once a person accepts God’s gift of salvation by placing faith in Christ as his personal Savior, something important happens. Like it or not, that individual becomes a walking billboard for Christ to all of the unbelievers he knows. What unbelievers see in this Christian’s behavior serves to either honor or dishonor Christ. Does the Christian strive to be more Christ-like, as the Bible teaches, or does he simply fall in and conform to the secular world’s pursuit of wealth, position, power and other forms of self-gratification? A Christian’s behavior should reflect the Gospel to unbelievers—actions speak louder than words.”

The persecution of Christians in America might come someday. To some degree I suppose it has already begun. I’ve spoken with numerous Christians who say they dare not mention their faith at work for fear of losing their jobs. Christians, if we don’t change, could someday become a hated minority, just as the Jews were hated in Nazi Germany. Some will inevitably shrink away in public; hiding their faith and becoming sort of “closet Christians.” Others might ignore Christ’s example and turn militant.

As I wrote last October, Christianity has historically endured its greatest tests and proven strongest and most effective when operating from a position of weakness within society as a whole.  Jesus was the perfect example of this. The son of God allowed Himself to be crucified, and in so doing took all of the sins of mankind upon himself. In all of history there is no greater example of love than this.

What Christians in America have today is an opportunity—not an opportunity to debate or reverse the court’s decision. It is an opportunity to show love. We can follow the recent example of many of the family members of victims of Charleston Emanuel AME Church shootings; they publicly forgave the shooter. It is not a time for erecting barriers. We should be reaching out in love to those who disagree with us. We can do this without sacrificing our beliefs or principles.

Around 312 A.D, during the reign of Emperor Constantine, Rome recognized Christianity as a legal religion.   This remarkable feat, going from persecuted underground church to a legal religion recognized by the Empire, was accomplished not through violent revolution, but by years of adhering to the tenets of the faith while suffering terrible persecution.

“Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
                         ―James Russell Lowell

Winning Isn’t the Goal

Wrestling

“Defenders of the faith are inclined to be bitter until they learn to walk in the light of the Lord. When you have learned to walk in the light of the Lord, bitterness and contention are impossible.” —Oswald Chambers

If maintenance on a house is neglected for years, the house eventually becomes derelict.  Once a house has been neglected for too long, the owner is faced with two choices: save it by performing a costly renovation or simply demolish it and haul away the rubble.

Saving a house through renovation requires a sizeable investment of time, patience, and tender loving care—not to mention the monetary investment. Demolition, on the other hand, is the easiest path.  It simply requires that the house be vacated and demolished.  It is faster than renovation and usually much cheaper, but in the end there is no shelter remaining.

According to my unscientific observations, in many ways modern Christianity is like a house that has become derelict. The greatest threats to this house (the Church) come not from the outside, but from the inside where in many places the foundation is crumbling and the framework is rotting.  Just like a real house, repairing the damage the Church has suffered in recent years, much of it self-inflicted, will take a large amount of time, patience and tender loving care.  The Church today needs a major renovation.

Many Christians are disturbed, even outraged by social changes they perceive as threats to their religion.  Some of the most controversial perceived threats are the gay marriage movement, the “pro choice” abortion rights movement, prohibitions on prayer in public schools and prohibitions on the display of the Ten Commandments and other religious symbols on public property. There are many, many other examples, but these four seem to frequently make the news.

Some Christians have become activists against these perceived threats. While activism aimed at keeping the government from encroaching on the freedom of religion is certainly appropriate, Christians must be careful to follow in Christ’s footsteps and show love to those who disagree with them and even to those who might hate them!

Some Christian activists exude anger and hate, contrary to Christ’s teachings. In isolated instances, there has even been violence and threats of violence. Extreme examples of activism, like that displayed by the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, have made national headlines and are harmful to Christianity as a whole.  Members of this church have adopted a radical anti-gay stance that includes picketing funerals carrying signs declaring “God hates fags.”  The church’s website claims its members have participated in over 50 thousand pickets.

While the Westboro example is extreme, there are many other examples where Christian churches have become embroiled in nasty political battles. Rather than worrying about perceived threats from the outside, Christians would benefit more from focusing on the real threats from within the church.  Indeed, we see that much of the hate and anger exuded by some Christians today is directed towards fellow believers, as denominational infighting is ripping many mainstream denominations apart. How can we expect the lost to listen to us when they see the shameful behavior Christians display towards one another?  How can we hope to convince them we offer a better way?

In Revelation 2:3-4 (NIV), Jesus admonished the church in Ephesus for “having left your first love,” indicating the church needed to get back to the basics.  This ties in directly with Colossians 3:8 (NIV), where St. Paul tells us to put away anger, wrath, and malice; instead, he says in verse 12, we must, “…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”  This is the model Christ gave his followers through many examples in his own life; it is the model Christians should adhere to in our actions towards believers and nonbelievers alike.

Far from trying to overturn Roman rule, as many Jews had hoped he would, Jesus did not resist Rome’s temporal authority. When asked whether the Jews should pay taxes to Rome, Jesus replied, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 NIV)

When interrogated by Pontius Pilate, the cruel Roman Governor of Judea, Jesus did not question Pilate’s authority.  Instead Jesus told the man who could release Him or order His crucifixion, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36 NIV) Afterwards, when addressing the Jewish leaders who had delivered Jesus to him to be crucified, Pilate said of Jesus, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:38 NIV)

Around 312 A.D, during the reign of Emperor Constantine, Rome recognized Christianity as a legal religion.   This remarkable feat, going from persecuted underground church to a legal religion recognized by the Empire, was accomplished not through violent revolution, but by years of adhering to the tenets of the faith while suffering terrible persecution.

It was not political activism that ultimately convinced Rome to accept Christianity, but perseverance and faithfulness to Christ’s teachings by the early Christians. The tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering displayed by Christians prevailed over Roman cruelty and oppression.

John 3:17 (NIV) tells us, “…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Will the modern Christian Church continue to demolish itself from within or will it choose the more difficult path and renovate?  In the meantime, will the Church show hatred and cruelty towards those it disagrees with, or will it win them over in the manner that Christ commanded?

When you come across someone you disagree with, or someone whose behavior you condemn lying injured by the side of the road, what will you do?  Will you stop to give help or simply cross the road and pass by on the opposite side? Jesus answered this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)

If we are commanded to so show so much concern for a stranger’s physical wellbeing, shouldn’t we care even more about his or her spiritual welfare?  Think about this the next time you become angered by something in our changing society or something in Christ’s Church.

Our time would be better spent repairing our own house than trying to demolish the house of our neighbor.  Remember that the kingdom we serve is not of this world (John 18:36).  Winning arguments with those we disagree with isn’t the goal of Christianity—the goal is winning souls for Christ.

Ephesians 5:2 (NIV) tells us,Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.”  If more Christians would focus on doing this, everything else would simply fall into place.   

Christians are partly to blame!

St Francis

“Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.”
                     —Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

As the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, there is truly nothing new under the sun. Listen to the words of Psalm 12 (NKJV):

Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
4 Who have said,
“With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own;
Who is lord over us?”
5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the LORD;
“I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.”
6 The words of the LORD are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
7 You shall keep them, O LORD,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
8 The wicked prowl on every side,
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.

Things in King David’s time sound remarkably similar to today. I hear many fellow believers complain that our country is slowly slipping into the cultural/social abyss—pick one. They use countless examples to justify their positions: the staggering divorce rate; rampant abortion; sexual promiscuity; widespread drug abuse; trashy movies and TV shows; endless wars; political corruption; greed; and extensive fraud, waste and abuse in government spending.

We Christians are free to blame anyone we choose for America’s current woes, but we should start by taking a good look in the mirror. We are partly to blame. Many of today’s social and cultural problems could be reduced and in some cases even eliminated if Christians would just start living like Christ taught us.

Once a person accepts God’s gift of salvation by placing faith in Christ as his personal Savior, something important happens. Like it or not, that person becomes a walking billboard for Christ to all of the unbelievers he knows. What unbelievers see in this Christian’s behavior serves to either honor or dishonor Christ. Does the Christian strive to be more Christlike, as the Bible teaches, or does he simply fall in and conform to the secular world’s pursuit of wealth, position, power and other forms of self-gratification?

A Christian’s behavior should reflect the Gospel to unbelievers. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Christ teaches us we should love one another and we should love our neighbors as ourselves. This requires work—getting one’s hands dirty from time to time. It’s usually messy dealing with human problems.  It’s not the sort of work that earns one a place in eternity. Christ did that for us and presented it as a free gift to those who accept him as Savior. Rather, it’s the kind of work that exemplifies the wisdom attributed to St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.”

According to an article I recently read , there are approximately 350,000 Christian church congregations in the United States. That figure amounts to a staggering 27 times more Christian congregations than McDonald’s restaurants. Just imagine how much different our country could be if each of these congregations dedicated itself to performing relational ministry in its surrounding community. We could change the direction of America’s social and cultural decline. The biggest mission field in the world is waiting just outside the door of your church.

There are millions of people in this country who need a helping hand and more importantly, need to hear the Gospel. Helping others can be a risky business. Are you willing to take a risk for Christ?  Know that He will provide you all the help you need.  Recall St. Paul’s words to the Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Take the gifts God has given you and put them to work outside the walls of your church. We can change the world!