What Would Jesus Say To People Buying and Selling Baby Body Parts?

Share

In recent days, numerous videos have been released that show conversations between undercover investigators and representatives at Planned Parenthood. These taped discussions center around how body parts from aborted babies are being harvested and preserved for sale to biotech companies.

While there certainly should be political and legal discussions about these events, the most important question we must always ask is, “what would Jesus say about it?” What follows are just a few things He would certainly say.

 

  1. Jesus would say, I made those babies, just like I made you.

For some, it is difficult to imagine that what is in the womb is more than the developing cells of a fetus. But God wants us to know, that at the moment of conception, a baby is given life. Deep down, we all know this to be true.

If what is found in the womb was found on another planet, scientists would certainly claim they had discovered life. What is in the womb is a living human being. It is a baby, growing under the direction of God.

You were once in this state of being “under divine construction.” You were given unique DNA and a beating heart. You were fed in the womb by your mother, just as God designed. One Biblical author said it this way, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13–14).

The same is true of the babies who were killed through the abortion in which you participated. God made those hands that grasped at the forceps. He created those hearts that raced as you carefully crushed around them. Those legs that you kept intact were made by God to run and play, maybe with your own son or daughter.

When a pregnancy is terminated, it is not merely a medical procedure. What you took from the womb of that mother is not just a collection of neural tissue or cell specimens. A life that God was creating was ended—violently and unjustly, by you. All lives matter to God, even the smallest, weakest, and most vulnerable ones.

 

  1. Jesus would say, if you thought you were doing good by helping others, be terrified.

Some will claim that harvesting tissue from aborted fetuses is the means to a greater good. They will suggest that with this research more lives can be saved and steps toward ending horrible diseases can be made. This line of reasoning must be seen for what it is.

In Matthew 6:23 Jesus says, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” What that means in this case is that if you think that darkness (the killing of an unborn baby to sell its body parts) is actually light (the good of helping humanity), then you are deeply deceived.

Why do you really take part in this business? Is it really the pursuit of the greater human good?

How much does the desire for money and what it can get you motivate the way you justify your actions? We are all warned, “the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It is difficult to watch those videos and read the reports and believe that the love of money is not leading to all sorts of evils—even killing and selling off baby body parts. Take a quiet moment and ask God to show you why you are doing what you are doing.

 

  1. Jesus would say, these videos don’t even begin to show the horror of what has really happened.

There is a reason those videos were shot undercover. You know why, and so does everyone else. You never would have spoken openly to the world about what you were doing, would you? And why not? Because deep down you know it isn’t just illegal, but it is wrong.

Your conscience testifies to you that something is wrong with what you are doing. You may have tried to suppress this truth, but did you not feel queasy the first time you saw a tiny person’s body parts laying before you? The videos were not able to catch the way you pushed down that feeling and pressed on with your procedure. But God saw it.

“No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). God sees all the conversations an undercover video does not catch. And He sees all your reasons and justifications for taking the life of a child that could not defend itself against your strength.

God hates all evil, especially the evil of oppressing helpless people. Hear this warning from the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who…withhold justice from the oppressed…What will you do on the day of reckoning…to whom will you run for help?” (Isaiah 10:1-3). No one can hide from a good God who will not allow any evil to go unaddressed.

Thankfully, He has provided a place to run—for people like you, and people like me.

 

  1. Jesus would say, that no matter how many babies you’ve killed, there is grace for you.

I’m sure you have heard hate-filled messages from people who oppose what you do. I do not bring you a message of hate, but one of warning and love. It is the message of a Savior who came to rescue murderers like you, and like me (Luke 19:10).

You see, I am a murderer too. Many years ago, I was part of an abortion that killed my first child. My friend and I were overwhelmed and confused, just like many of the people you deal with on a daily basis. Because I loved my life the way it was and I didn’t want the responsibility of a baby, I chose to murder my own child.

You and I are murderers. This is a horrible evil, but it is certainly not our only evil. We have turned away from God in many ways. But the good news that comes from God is this: “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20). Jesus came and died willingly to take the judgment you and I deserve for the ways we have sinned against God, and against those we have killed.

You may have horrible memories from some of the things you’ve done. The smell of rubber gloves. The forceps. The blood…so much blood.

While Jesus gives healing to people in different ways, I can assure you of this—if you come to Christ, He will help you. He gives this precious promise to sinners like us, “come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus shed His blood so that He can wash the blood from our hands. He rose to be the Savior of sinners like us.

Hear and believe these promises—

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” Acts 3:19

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

If you will come to Jesus and confess what you have done and ask Him to forgive you—He will do it. You will have the hope of being with God, and with the children we murdered, in heaven forever.

 

  1. Jesus would say, stop taking babies lives and begin saving them.

There is a holocaust happening in our land. Up to this point you have been a part of it. Now it is time to work against it. You know what is happening to those children, and the Lord calls you to do something about it.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “but we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?…Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11–12).

God has given you wisdom and experiences and skills that He intends you to use to save babies rather than hurt them. This is what Jesus calls repentance. He calls you to turn from using your hands to hurt children, and now do all in your power to help them.

I have a dear friend who performed countless abortions before God changed his life. I will never forget the day he took me aside and confessed what he had done and committed to follow Christ and never do it again. He once used his practice to help mothers end lives, but now he uses it to help mothers save the lives of their children.

Leaving the life you are in right now may seem daunting, but God will help you. There will be lost friendships. Many people will not understand why you would make such a change. What others will say does not matter.

What matters is what Jesus would say to you.

 

 

 

 

Share

What Does God Think About The LBGT Rainbow?

Share

If you’ve had your eyes open in recent weeks you’ve likely seen a lot of rainbows.

Dublin RainbowWhen Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage, rainbows broke out all over the country, even in the sky. A few weeks later, when the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States, rainbows took over the internet, streets, and national landmarks, including the White House.

Whitehouse RainbowRainbows, rainbows everywhere.

Since we are all seeing the colorful symbol, I think it is fair to ask—what do you think about when you see the rainbow?

Many “conservatives” would say it is a badge of bold defiance from traditional values.

Many “progressives” would wave the rainbow as a symbol of social advancement.

Others see it as an emblem of equality.

One person even assumed divine affirmation when they tweeted “There’s a big gay rainbow over Dublin, if that’s not Jesus giving the Yes vote I don’t know what is!”

That comment stirred me to consider, what does God think about all this rainbow flag flying? I mean, God loves rainbows, doesn’t He?

Why Does God Fly a Rainbow in the Sky?

Long before the colorful stripes were trendy, God created the rainbow to be reminder of a very important message to humanity. Let me give you the quick backstory.

In the book of Genesis, we learn about a time in history past where “man’s wickedness on the earth had become so great…that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). God had created the world to be a place of peace where love abounded between people and their Maker.

But instead of loving God and loving others, people hated each other and hated God’s rule over them. Because of this, “the Lord was grieved…and His heart was filled with pain…” so He decided to bring judgment and “wipe mankind…from the face of the earth…” (Genesis 6:6-7).

Double-rainbow-over-the-Merse-ScotlandGod judged the entire world with a flood of water, but in the midst of it, He extended mercy to one man and his family. After the water subsided, the Lord made a promise to Noah that He would never flood the world with water again.

And then, God hung a rainbow in the sky. But, why a rainbow?

He told Noah, “I have set my bow in the cloud” (Genesis 9:13). The word “bow” is the same word for the instrument of war that an archer used to shoot down their enemy. When God set the rainbow in the sky He was saying to the world, “I am putting down my weapon of war against you.”

This wasn’t because humanity all of a sudden would not offend God and deserve judgment. Instead, God promised to extend mercy to people, despite the fact that we all deserve judgment for the many ways we have turned away from Him. This means that God flies the rainbow in the sky as a message to each of us: today is another day of mercy from Me, to you.

What Should the Rainbow Lead Us To Do?

While it is true that God has given today as another day of mercy, it is also true that God’s mercy is aimed at producing something very specific in us. The book of Romans 2:4 explains it like this, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

God gives today as a day of mercy so that we will turn away from our sin and turn to Him. 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God does this because He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

You see, as God once judged the entire world through a flood of water, we are promised that God will one day judge the world through a flood of fire (2 Peter 3:3-10). While the idea of judgment is offensive to the natural ear, it is actually one of the most hopeful promises God gives to us.

Why?

Can you imagine a world where God did not bring judgment on child molesters and rapists and religious con artists who steal from elderly widows? What a hopeless world this would be if God were not good enough to punish evil! But God doesn’t just deal with evil that offends us, He deals with all sin, because all sin is ultimately against Him.

But in spite of our sin against Him, God came into our world to rescue us. Jesus became human, lived a life of perfect love and then showed that love by dying on the cross in the place of people like you an me (Romans 5:8). He received the judgment that prostitutes and pastors and straights and gays all deserved. Then, three days later Jesus rose from the dead to extend forgiveness to all who will believe in Him.

The rainbow God flies in the sky is a reminder of mercy that He extends to all who will turn to Him through faith in His Son Jesus. If you are reading this, today is a day of mercy from God intended to move you to look to Him for forgiveness.

What Does God Want Us To Think When We See the LBGT Rainbow?

LGBT FlagIf you are among those who believe that God sees the LBGT lifestyle as sinful, I agree with you. But we need to be careful when we see the rainbow because we can forget that the bow in the sky is just as much about our sin as any one else’s.

Jesus died to pay the debt of self-righteous religious hypocrites who look down on others just as much as any other sort of sinner. Anger and disgust over sin is an appropriate response, but make sure you are most angry and disgusted with your own sin. When you see the rainbow, ensure that you are humbly repenting of your sin. This will give you the grace and humility you will need to speak truth to others in love (Matthew 7:1-5).

For those who believe homosexuality is a normal and good lifestyle, I encourage you to see the rainbow as a reminder of God’s mercy that is meant to lead you to repentance. As one former lesbian rightly said, “I was not converted out of homosexuality. I was converted out of unbelief.” The biggest sin all people, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is their unbelief in the true God of the Bible.

Jesus calls us, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, to come to Him and be born again. Not to become a religious conservative, but to become a child of God whose identity is rooted in Christ (John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

I would also like you to consider whether the Bible could be right when it says that homosexuality is a sin against God. I know for some, this seems utterly unthinkable. But there have been sins in my life that I did not realize until I was corrected by God’s Word.

The reason this is so important is because if homosexuality is a sin, then proudly flying the rainbow flag is actually a mockery of the mercy He is showing us all in these days before the final judgment. So those rainbows over Dublin were not actually Jesus affirming with an “Amen” but rather He was reminding us of His scandalous mercy in the face of our sin.

 

So when you see a rainbow in the sky, or a rainbow flag flying in the air, remember that it is a call to repent of your sin and receive the forgiveness God offers you in His Son. Jesus is who the rainbow points to, the One who is the fulfillment of God’s promise for mercy for sinners like us.

Share

Consider Where Sin Is Leading You

Share

Shadow RoadIn the past few weeks I have witnessed several dear friends flirting with sin in a way that has been terrifying. These friends love Jesus very much, but circumstances in their lives have exposed areas of easy entrance for the tempter.

As I’ve pondered their struggles, and my own wandering heart, I have been reminded of an exhortation I received many years ago.

When I was in seminary, the chancellor was Dr. Chuck Swindoll. “Chuck” was beloved by the seminary students and the chapel was packed for the morning service.

As he stepped to the pulpit, he carried a weight on his brow, a bible in his hand, and a written statement. He proceeded to share with us the news that another pastor from our seminary had fallen into grave sexual sin, disqualified himself from the ministry, and destroyed his family.

After sharing the news with us, Dr. Swindoll shared a message that I don’t remember verbatim, but the heart of which I hope to never forget.

He challenged us to consider the end of our sin, to consider where sin would lead us. Over the years I have followed his advice and I’d like to take a moment to help you do the same.

Consider the End of Your Sin

I want you walk with me through a scene in your future. You need to see what lies ahead on the path where sin is leading you. This is aimed at fellow pastors, but the idea is applicable to all of us.

Envision yourself calling together your elders and sitting in their midst, telling them about how you have betrayed their trust. See their sunken faces and feel their broken hearts.

Listen to them consider how they will tell the church. Imagine the confusion of the congregation and how it will affect those who have heard you speak so often of Jesus being better than anything else.

Imagine how the name of Christ will be mocked among your community and beyond.

Then I want you to picture walking out to your car and getting in it.

Drive down the road near your house, and around your neighborhood a few times. Picture that place where you walked the dog with your children in the evenings.

Now, pull into your driveway and walk up to the door of your home.

Hear the scampering feet of your children running up to you and putting their arms around your legs saying “daddy’s home!” See the way they love you and trust you.

Drink that in deeply.

Now, tell them to go on outside and play because you have to talk to their mommy about something. As you walk toward the kitchen where she is faithfully going about her day, look at those smiling pictures on the wall. Remember the happy days you shared together.

Lead her by the hand to your bedroom where you used to make love.

Ask her to have a seat.

Feel your heart scamper and the lump form in your throat.

See her eyes ask what is wrong. Then watch her weep as you tell her you have been unfaithful.

Hear her wail.

See her sob.

Feel her hit your chest and fall to her knees in despair.

Imagine the phone call to her parents, and to yours. Hear the silence on the other end of the phone as they take in what you’ve told them.

Get in your mind the day you gather your children and sit them down to explain why mommy and daddy are going to be spending some time apart and why you are going to be selling the house they love so much.

See yourself taking down those smiling pictures from the wall and taping up the moving boxes, unsure if you’ll ever open them again.

Do you see it?

Sin doesn’t tell you about those days, does it?

Sin Hides the Cost

Satan does not tell you what sin will cost you, because the price tag is too high.

He is a liar (John 8:44) and deception is his forte (2 Corinthians 11:3). He wants you to think that sin will not cost you as much as it will. He wants you to think that you can keep things hidden or that you can get out at any time. He wants you to think that your small compromises today will not lead to a great fall in the days ahead.

But that is a lie. He only speaks lies.

Sin is stronger than you or I will ever be.

Some of you are standing at a cross road in your life right now. You have been sipping on sin’s potion and are becoming intoxicated by its lies. Satan wants you to keep sipping so that you will become drunk with delusion and not consider God’s warning of the of destruction that lies ahead.

Hear and heed these words with me, please.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

If you are entangled in sin, call a trusted friend right now and tell them you need help. Do not wait another minute. Sin wants you to think that you can stop by yourself—do not believe it. Darkness is the ground in which sin grows strong.

If you think this could never happen to you, be careful, we are warned “let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Satan will be content with you hearing this warning, as long as you don’t part with your sin. But John Owen’s counsel is always true, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Satan’s aim is to destroy your life now and to harden your heart so that you will inherit eternal destruction.

Consider the Savior

Friends, Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior who shed His blood to save you from sin, on Judgment Day, and every day before for it. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Hebrews 4:16.

Whether you are a pastor or not, married or not, have children or not, we need grace to resist the power of sin’s deception. Thankfully, Jesus promises to supply it.

Plead with God to help you see the end of your sin, and then flee to the Savior. There is much that can be said about this, but for now, let the sobriety of sin’s end lift your eyes to where our help comes from (Psalm 121:1).

May our words not echo those of the man in Proverbs 5 who ignored the warning of wisdom.

Proverbs 5:8-14 “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation”

Lord, we need help. Make us sober-minded and help us to see the end of our sin.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

 

You can hear more of how to resist sin’s destruction from a message I preached “Combatting the Seduction of Sexual Sin” from Proverbs 5.

Share

Atheists Made Alive By Grace – Two Stories of Salvation

Share

On Sunday I had the honor of baptizing Alvin Cao and Lucy Yin. Both these new believers grew up as atheists in China, but God has graciously made them His children through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

 

Alvin Testimony

By God’s grace, Alvin and Kelton have not only become good friends, but brothers in Christ.

Alvin Cao

“I grew up in China, where religion is a really sensitive thing. Before knowing the Gospel, my life was full of materialism, atheism and natural science.

Things began to change when I read a book non-religous book called Hyperspace. Through that book, I found our universe to be so incredibly perfect, with physical rules that cooperated together, it became hard for me to believe all of this is generated by chance. At that time, I thought there must be someone who designed all of these.

When I first came to America, I got a pick-up service for a Chinese bible class. When I went to the class and heard the Gospel, I found it to be very interesting. Then the class found me an English Partner whose name is Kelton. During this time I also attended an English conversation class at George Washington University, and I met a man named Michael Reeb there.

With their help, I realized the designer of the universe is the God of the Bible. I was also helped to understand the good news about Jesus by Garrett’s preaching and conversations with Stephen Yin. Two months later, I thought it was a time to start a new relationship with God. By God’s grace, I realized I deserve nothing because of my sin, but by faith in Christ, I could be forgiven of those sins.

Today, I stand here and I want to announce to the world that I am a Christian and I want to follow God and love him until the end of the age.”

Steven and Lucy

Steven and Lucy attended the same elementary school in China, but then moved away at different times to the United States. In God’s amazing providence, He saved them both, and then reunited them to become husband and wife.

Lucy Yin

“Hello everyone, my name is Lucy. I am Chinese and grew up in a small city near the capital. In China, the education told me there is definitely no God in the world.

However, my mother is a Buddhist and she always took me to temples when I was a kid. But I really didn’t like it because it was noisy and smoky.

Things began to change after I attended university in Tianjin, a big city near the capital. There was a catholic church near my university. It was so beautiful, that’s why I decided to walked-in and take a seat. At that time I knew nothing about God and the Bible, but I enjoyed the environment a lot. After several times visiting, an old lady there gave me my very first Bible. I began to study it myself until I met another Christian lady who brought me to their home church.

In the second term of my sophomore year, I suffered a hard time because I needed to go abroad to America and finish my studies there. I had to leave my homeland, my family, and my friends. People in the home church encouraged me a lot and taught me more about the Bible and Gospel. So I got baptized, but I didn’t really understand those things, and I just tried to find something that could calm me down and get me through the hard time. And I ignored them after arriving in America.

Then, during the winter break of my senior year in Miami I had done all my graduate school applications and everything went well, but I had difficulty with a class. Everything seemed ruined at that time. Then the dean of our school, who is also a Christian, not only helped me pass the class, but also helped me understand Gospel better.

At that time I suddenly realized I used to only treat God as someone who could help me with difficulty, but He is definitely more than that. From there I knew God was blessing me and was very patient trying to save me. At that time, I began to face my sin and understand the Gospel about our merciful and almighty God who sent His only son Jesus into the world to pay our sin and fix the relationship between us and the Lord.

After several times moving, I came to DC and met my husband Stephen (read his testimony), who is also a member of Del Ray. I’m so glad I can get a chance to know God and learn Gospel. He helps me get through so many hard times and give me a great life that I could never imagine. He prepared a great husband and marriage for me, and also brought me to this wonderful Christian church.

The marriage and many friends here have increased my faith a lot and showed me the importance to be involved in a church family. Now I stand before you as a broken, repentant sinner, saved only by the amazing grace of my perfect Father who will never leave me or forsake me. Today, I’d like to be baptized again as a truly believer and a public display of what God has done in my life!”

 

Praise God with me for the way He took Alvin and Lucy from the darkness of doubting His existence to the light of delighting in Him for eternity.  Pray for them to have grace to persevere in faith and for God to use them to proclaim the Gospel to many of their friends who are yet to believe. 

Share

When Grace and Evil Collide – A Reflection on Charleston

Share

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015 we witnessed something remarkable.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church welcomed a young white man to sit in their pews and pray with them.

Dylann Roof certainly wasn’t the first white person to visit this historically black church, but their well-documented history reminds us why an unwelcoming spirit might have been a reasonable response when he walked through their doors.

Every Reason Not To Love

Emanuel was born out of a group of freed slaves who began worshipping together in 1791 while many of their wives and children remained the “property” of free white owners.

One hundred and forty members from this church were arrested and whipped by white authorities in 1818.

After a planned revolt by some of the slaves in 1822, white people publicly hanged 37 black slaves, including Emanuel’s founder.

The congregation’s building, which was erected with their own hands, was burned by an angry white mob in that same year.

White people had outlawed its services and the church was forced to worship in secret beginning in 1834.

In 1868, one of their former pastors, Benjamin Randolph, was shot in broad daylight by three white men.

Their church is in a state that flies a Confederate flag and has roads named after white generals who fought to keep them from freely driving to church on those roads.

Over the years they worshipped in a city where whites told them to use “colored” toilets and eat at other tables because “your kind isn’t welcomed here.”

Those memories could have clouded the air when Dylann Roof walked through their storied doors.

But instead of cold shoulders, he was offered a warm seat on a pew to pray.

History would have screamed not to let him in that night. Don’t let him close. He doesn’t deserve your love. He’s only going to hurt you.

Evil In The Face Of Grace

During the hour they sat with their would be killer, the church members shared songs and prayers and words of welcome.

But then evil showed its fangs.

Murderous, racist, grace-hating evil made fresh blood flow from old wounds.

Grace had smiled and evil struck it down.

When their killer walked out their doors, Emanuel AME was left with nine new reasons to hate the people who have hurt them.

Nine more funerals.

Nine more empty seats at the dinner table.

Nine more names forever etched into this church’s grueling history.

Suzy Jackson.

Daniel Simmons.

Myra Thompson.

Cynthia Hurd.

De’Payne Doctor.

Sharonda Singleton.

Clementa Pinckney.

TyWanda Sanders.

Left behind are widows and orphans and weeping family members with new reasons to withhold grace.

But that is not what they have done.

Instead, they have once again extended grace in the face of evil.

Grace In The Face Of Evil

At Roof’s bond hearing family members showed Dylann the same grace he saw when he sat down to kill their loved ones.

From broken hearts they spoke words that have stunned many:

“I forgive you…you took something very precious away from me…I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you…you hurt me and you hurt a lot of people, but God forgive you and I forgive you.” – the daughter of Ethel Lee Nance

“I forgive you and our family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity and repent. Confess. And give your life to the One who matters most, Christ, so he can change it…He can change it.” – Anthony Thompson

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate…everyone’s plea for your soul…is proof that they lived in love and that their legacy will live in love…and so hate will not win…” – Alana Simmons (granddaughter of Daniel Simmons)

Those were not empty words from thoughtless lips.

The hymns they sang outside the courtroom afterwards were not the delirious songs of reeling family members.

What we witnessed is grace. The supernatural grace that flows from a spring that abides in the heart of God’s people.

The slain members of Emanuel AME welcomed Dylann Roof into their midst because Christ had first invited them (1 John 4:19-20).

They pressed past the temptation to say “your kind isn’t welcome here” and offered him a seat because Jesus had first given them a seat at His table.

And now, their family members have done the same. They have offered forgiveness because Christ has forgiven them (Ephesians 4:32). 

Grace Wins

On Sunday, June 21, 2015 the wounded but resilient Emanuel AME church assembled once again. The pews were filled with members and visitors from every color. As they walked through those doors they carried the strange mix of being heavy yet hopeful; afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

The building that was filled with gun smoke on Wednesday was filled with joyful songs on Sunday.

The room that was stained with blood on Wednesday was saturated with praise on Sunday.

The place that was divided by hate on Wednesday was hand in hand in love on Sunday.

As they held each other up and sang hymns and proclaimed promises from God’s Word, the world witnessed the arresting reality that when evil and grace collide—grace wins. When hate strikes down love—it rises again. When Christians are separated from life through death—they are not separated from the love of God (Romans 8:28-39).

Why is this so? Because Emanuel’s strength finds its source in Jesus who was struck down by sinful hate, yet rose again to be the Savior and sustainer of God’s people (Psalm 54:4; Acts 2:22-24; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18).

What the world witnessed on Sunday was the resilience of a church who has not, will not, cannot, be killed.

Do they weep? Yes. Do they grieve? Yes. Will they ever be the same? No. But have they given up? No.

Why?

Because Emanuel AME has a Savior who lives forever to give them grace in the face of evil (Hebrews 4:14-16, 7:24-25). Jesus has promised He would do this, and Jesus always keeps His promises.

The scene from that Sunday took my mind to a scene in the book of Revelation where we see people from every tribe tongue and nation, standing together to praise the Lamb who was slain.

Revelation 7:9–17 “…I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!…they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Among those in that future heavenly scene are the members of Emanuel who have been beaten and mocked and lynched and gunned down, including the nine who fell on Wednesday. It is this heavenly picture that has sustained so many of God’s people over the years, and it is what sustains them even now.

Until Grace is All We Know

One day, grace is all we will know. There will be no more racism or evil or hate or murder or division. All those things will be cast in to the lake of fire with Satan and those who followed him. But that day is not yet.

Between now and then, we live here, in a world stained with sin. We walk through doors with stained histories of both evil and grace. Living in this tension is not easy for any of us, nor is it equal for all of us. Many in this life, including our black brothers and sisters from Emanuel and other communities like it, have unique challenges to face as they journey toward that heavenly day.

As a white man, I have so many questions for the people in Charleston. I want to know how the grace of God has sustained them for so long and through so much? I want to hear how are they helping each other avoid despair and revenge? I want to hear how they have leaned upon Jesus and how they have seen Him sustain them.

But I know I cannot just make it about what “I want” to hear. So I hope I can learn whatever it is my black brothers and sisters would want to share. I can’t do that in South Carolina, but I can strive to do that at home.

For people like me, it is easy to see events on the news, and become a spectator who says, “that man’s racist hate is so evil” and “their response is so gracious.”

But we can’t do that. Change in our church or our country or our hearts won’t happen by distant observing.

My prayer and cautious encouragement is for us to be intentional to lovingly and humbly learn from those God has placed around us. We grow when we follow the example of Christ and enter into each other’s worlds. We need to listen to each other and learn from each other.

Not all people will experience life in the same way, but Gospel-inspired conversations are the pathway to true change. Be slow to make assumptions about how others experience life, and even slower to assume no racism abides in your heart. I am still learning how to do this, and you can read about my journey here.

We can learn much about this by following the example we’ve seen from Emanuel AMC. The more we do what happened on Sunday, the more we’ll grow and avoid things like what happened on Wednesday. I don’t say that to be overly simplistic, but I do believe that racism dies when people come together at the feet of Jesus who died to “break down the dividing wall of hostility” that separates us (Ephesians 2:14).

I pray that we will follow the Christ-like path of grace. It is the way forward, because when grace and evil collide—grace wins.

 

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

 

Share

How Christians Can Pray for Muslim Friends During Ramadan

Share
MALAYSIA-ISLAM-RAMADAN

As Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, Christians should cry out to the true God of heaven on their behalf.

Many of us have Muslim friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers we hope to see trust in Jesus. We know they consider Jesus a prophet, but we long to see them believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. As Ramadan approaches, we are provided with a fresh opportunity to pray for them and hopefully engage with them in spiritual conversation.

What is Ramadan?

On the evening of Thursday, June 18, 2015, billions of Muslims around the world will begin observing Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered the holiest month of the year for Muslims.

The observance of Ramadan is one of the 5 Pillars of the Islamic faith, which requires all Muslims who are physically able to fast each day of the month, from sunrise to sunset.

This time of fasting from food, drink, and other physical needs is intended to purify the soul, practice self-restraint, and refocus one’s devotion to their god, Allah. This is also a time when many Muslims increase their alms giving to the poor, which is another of the 5 Pillars of their faith.

The evenings are spent enjoying time with family and community meals, engaging in prayer and spiritual reflection, and reading from the Quran. The observance of Ramadan concludes, according to the western calendar, on the evening of Friday, July 17th.

How Can We Pray During Ramadan?

Father, we pray that as they set their hearts to worship their god Allah, that You might make them to “know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Help them see that Jesus is Your eternal Son through whom they can have eternal life.

Father, we pray that as their bodies hunger and their tongues thirst, that You would show them Jesus who promised “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Help them see the insufficiency of their works and lead them to hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only Jesus can give.

Father, we pray that as they practice self-restraint that You would show them Jesus who, before He was crucified for sinners, denied Himself and “prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:39). Help them believe that He truly died on the cross and drank fully from the cup of Your wrath.

Father, we pray that as they give alms to the poor that You would show them Jesus who “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Help them see and treasure the eternal glory of Your Son Jesus.

Father, we pray that as they gather together to feast in the evening, that You would show them Jesus who invites sinners of all sorts to abandon their false gods and by faith join “those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 16:9). Show them the resurrected and ascended King of Glory who desires them to draw near to Him in faith.

Father, we pray that you would give Your church love for Muslims across the world. Make us like Jesus who “felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Guard us from self-righteousness that would lead us to having hard hearts toward those who do not know You.

Father, we pray that you would give Your church opportunity and courage to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims throughout the world. Lift our eyes to Jesus who promised to empower us when He said “I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let us not fear any consequence of faithfully taking the Gospel to those who desperately need Your grace.

 

May this season of Ramadan be marked by the faithful intercession of God’s people who long to see many Muslims come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, the Son of God.

Share

How ISIS Helped Salmaa Become a Christian

Share

Egyptian Martyr

Due to the risk of her safety, Salmaa’s name has been changed and other identifying details have been left out. Her story, however, is true and wonderfully encouraging. Pray for many more like it.

 

Salmaa’s journey to knowing Jesus was spurred on by emptiness. She lacked peace and longed to know who God was and what purpose He might have for her life. She was raised in a Middle Eastern country where she and everyone around her believed that Allah was the one true god.

But as Salmaa read the Quran, she only found deeper emptiness as she was confronted with a god who was mean, unkind, and unpredictable. After much study, she closed the Quran. She was dissatisfied and left without answers, but the longing to be near to God remained.

By God’s grace and wonderful sovereignty, Salmaa was given a Bible and heard the good news about Jesus. She heard that He was not just a prophet, but was God in the flesh who mercifully died and rose to forgive anyone who would believe in Him.

As she read the Bible, she was drawn to the One who seemed to speak through its pages. As she read, she became convinced that the Bible was indeed the “word of Life” that pointed to the “Word of life.”

Seeking to know Him came with many obstacles and danger, but Salmaa continued to pursue Him. The longing to have peace, righteousness, and nearness to God could not be quenched. And in recent days, her longing to know Jesus has intensified by the most unlikely of circumstances.

As Salmaa watched the news and saw the murder of 21 Ethiopian Christians by the hands of ISIS, she was strangely drawn to the peace she found on the faces of the men who knelt in honor of Jesus.

How could they be at such peace with God?

How could they look so comforted in their final moments?

Salmaa knew there was a power in them that she did not understand, but knew it must have come from the God she had read of in the Bible—and she wanted to possess that same peace.

Days later, as the testimonies of the families of those martyred brothers emerged, she was once again left baffled. The families offered forgiveness for those whom murdered their sons, brothers, and fathers. One mother said she praised God that her son was in heaven now and that she would like to invite the ISIS soldiers into her home so she could tell them more about the Savior her son loved so much.

How could those family members forgive these murders of their sons and husbands and fathers?

This too, she knew, was not a response that could come from natural man, but from God.

She shared that ISIS thinks they are destroying and ending Christianity by killing Christians, but what they do not understand is that their evil acts are causing people to look not at them, but at these who are dying with the peace of Jesus. They are seeing faces of peace, comfort, and power and this is causing them to seek answers, and to come to know the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Salmaa’s eyes are being opened by the graciousness and mercy of our Lord. And she is not the only one, this is the testimony of many Muslims whom God is drawing to see that Jesus is indeed more than a prophet.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a God who is able to take the most horrendous of evils and use them for His glory and the good of those He calls to Himself (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28; Colossians 2:13-15). 

Father, strengthen your church to suffer well and know Your peace as their blood is shed for the One who shed His blood for them (John 16:33). And we pray that you would open the eyes of many more Muslims like Salmaa. Show them that Jesus, Your Son, is the true God who can give them peace which Allah cannot (John 14:27), in the Name of Jesus—Amen. 

 

Share

His Way Was Through The Sea

Share

Red Sea Crossing

Psalm 77:19 “Your way was through the sea”

Very often the Lord’s way is not our way. His perfect path is not the same path we foresaw for ourselves. His way is higher and wiser and better.

After Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the Lord led His people toward the Promised Land. His pillar of cloud led them by day and His pillar of fire led them by night (Exodus 13:21). He was their guide and they made their steps with easy and comfort, because He was with them.

But then the Lord lovingly took His children on a detour to both test and teach them. He called them to camp on the beach in front of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-2). He ordained their curious campout because He knew that a hardened Pharaoh would see it as an opportunity to pounce on the people once again (Exodus 14:3). God called His people to camp there so that they would be pressed hard by uncertain circumstances.

What strange love this is, that God would put His people in a position of danger and distress—on purpose.

And as God predicted, Pharaoh rallied his army and pursued Israel as they camped in their most precarious position. As the chariot wheels bore down upon their resting place, their backs were pressed against the shore of the Red Sea.  What would God do? All they could imagine was that God had brought them out of Egypt to die on a barren beach like abandoned children (Exodus 14:10-12).

They had no way of escape; but the Lord had a way, He always does.

As Pharaoh and his blood-thristy army gained ground on Israel, “Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). Their campground of certain death was about to be transformed into a stage on which God would display His faithful love.

God had a plan to deliver His people.

What was His way? Psalm 77:19 “Your way was through the sea, Your path through the great waters.”

God’s way was the unforeseen way. It was the unimaginable path. They would not, in ten thousand years devised the plan God had known for all eternity. Moses could never have included the shortcut through the sea on the itinerary of the Canaan-bound children of God.

God’s way was through the sea.

God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher than ours. They are wiser than ours. They are better than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Remember this child of God, our Father often acts unconventionally. He regularly chooses the unseen path for His people to walk on. He always has a way to save His people, but very often it is through the sea. He will always provide, but it is often from sources they would not have suspected (1 Kings 17-7; Matthew 6:25-34).

God is faithful, but He is rarely predictable.

God is trustworthy, but He is marvelously creative in the way He cares for us. He seems to delight in bringing us home by the way of the sea so that once we have set our feet on the dry land of our destination we can say nothing except “God did this.” In the end, God ordains His way through the sea that “I will get glory” and so that all “shall know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 14:4).

What more clear example of this truth can we have than God’s provision of salvation through Christ. Who could have ever imagined that God would save rebels by becoming like them and dying for them and rising from the dead to provide salvation for them?

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11:33

I am not sure what provision or protection or direction you are seeking from God today, but rest in this truth: God’s way is very often through the sea.

He puts His children in precarious positions on purpose. He does not do this to destroy our faith, but to strengthen it. For once He has helped us to step across the threshold of our straining circumstances, we will see that God is the wise and trustworthy Savior of His people.

He ordains His way through the sea so that His children can forever look back on their lives and see that time and again His ways are good and His love is faithful.

Trust Him today child of God, wait upon His way—even if it is through the sea.

Share

Loving Christians Who Are Tough To Love

Share

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:21

After love for God, the most basic mark of the Christian is love for other Christians (Matthew 22:36-40). But love for our fellow blood-bought brothers and sisters isn’t always easy.

As a pastor friend of mine used to say:

To live above with saints we love; Ah that will be glory,

To live below with saints we know; Well, that’s another story.

Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t mean they are easy to love. Sanctification is a slow process (sometimes really slow) that doesn’t transform our personality quirks, theological peculiarities, and sinful tendencies over night.

Love requires patience—and perspective.

Help from Heaven

Having an eye toward eternity helps our hearts to love even the most difficult of believers.

John Newton captures what I mean in a letter he wrote to another pastor who was about to write a letter to a fellow Christian he strongly disagreed with. Here’s a portion of his advice,

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him…you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.”

The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

Remembering Empowers Love

Let’s consider three reflections from this letter to help us love our “tough to love” brothers and sisters in Christ.

1. Remember how God has loved you.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

God serves fresh grace to our hearts when we recall the ways He has loved us. It would do you (and others) well if you take a moment to consider how Jesus has loved you.

Think of His persistence in pursuing you, even in spite of your resistance to His pursuit.

Reflect on how many transgressions He has blotted from your account with His own blood.

Consider specific ways He has shown you compassion despite of your defiance.

God has been kind to you. His heart has been tender toward you. If you are in Christ, He has forgiven your debt in full. Shouldn’t your love for others be affected by His love for you?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

2. Remember that we will soon be with them in eternity. 

There will be a day when all God’s children will stand together before His throne of grace. On that day, all disputes will be forgotten and all irritations will be abolished. Why allow those quarrels to steal love from your brother on this day?

I’m not in any way suggesting that all disputes are small or all disagreements are insignificant. There are weighty things in this life, some which are very difficult to endure. But what I am suggesting is that all of our relationships must be guided and guarded by the fact that one day we will stand alongside our fellow Christians before the Savior who died for them.

That kind of perspective helps us to extend love to those who are not so easy to love. Perspective grants us patience and compassion. Let the sourness of a relationship today be overcome by the sweetness of that everlasting day to which you are traveling together. Ask the Lord to help you see others in light of the love you will share together in the eternal dwelling Christ is preparing for you (John 14:1-2).

3. Remember that you aren’t so easy to love either. 

Spurgeon rightly reminds us “if you cannot bear with your imperfect brother, take it for certain that you are very imperfect yourself.” Our inability to love others perfectly is a faithful reminder that we don’t have it all together either.

Humility about our own lovability serves as a gracious help in extending love to others. What sinful patterns do you have a tough time fighting against? When have you said hurtful words? Where do you still have room to grow in spiritual maturity? How do you think those shortcomings affect those around you?

I’ve found that when I’m concerned with confessing my own sins before the Lord, I’m less irritated with the sins of others. Regularly confessing your sins to God keeps you downwind of yourself and helps you to remember that you’re probably just as as tough to love as the next person.

 

Though no relationship will be perfect on this side of eternity, I am convinced that the more our hearts are set on heaven, and the more that we are sobered by our own need for a Savior, the more our love for others will reflect the love of Christ—including those who are tough to love.

 

 

Share

Jesus is the Greater Aaron – John Newton on Leviticus 8:7-9

Share

This week I’m teaching through the book of Leviticus in a early morning “boot camp” format. As I came to Leviticus 8 and began considering how Jesus fulfills the role as our High Priest, my heart was warmed by this poem by John Newton in a collection called the Olney Hymns.

I encourage you to read it out loud and then give God praise for how Jesus is the greater Aaron.

The True Aaron

See Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Within the veil appear,
In robes of mystic meaning dressed,
Presenting Israel’s prayer.
 
The plate of gold which crowns his brows,
His holiness describes;
His breast displays, in shining rows,
The names of all the tribes.
 
With the atoning blood he stands,
Before the mercy-seat;
And clouds of incense from his hands,
Arise with odour sweet.
 
Urim and Thummim near his heart,
In rich engravings worn,
The sacred light of truth impart,
To teach and to adorn.
 
Through him the eye of faith descries
A greater Priest than he;
Thus JESUS pleads above the skies,
For you, my friends, and me.
 
He bears the names of all his saints,
Deep on his heart engraved;
Attentive to the state and wants
Of all his love has saved.
 
In him a holiness complete,
Light and perfections shine;
And wisdom, grace, and glory meet;
A Saviour all divine.
 
The blood, which as a priest he bears
For sinners, is his own;
The incense of his prayers and tears
Perfume the holy throne.
 
In him my weary soul has rest,
Though I am weak and vile;
I read my name upon his breast,
And see the Father smile.

Newton

 

 

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14–16

Share