How Christians Can Pray for Muslims During Ramadan

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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 Friday, May 26, 2017, 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 Sunday, June 25th.

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.

If you’d like ideas for daily prayer during Ramadan, you may want to consider this resource.

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Reflections on the 2017 Just Gospel Conference

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Over the past few days 10 members from our church attended the Just Gospel conference in Atlanta hosted by The Front Porch.

The three-day conference was a compilation of two biblical expositions, several monologues, and 17 panel discussions. The focus of these discussions was on the way biblical justice in the local church intersects issues of race, secular movements, abortion, education, orphans, widows, young men, murder in Chicago, hip-hop, women’s issues, incarceration, and sex trafficking.

Our church has been discussing issues of race, grace, and reconciliation for a number of years, so I was looking forward to attending and processing these important issues together.

Here are a few of my thoughts that have been shaped by the help of others who attended.

  1. Social meetings are better than social media.

Discussions about important issues are always better face-to-face. Social media often cultivates an atmosphere where being heard devours the desire to hear from others. At this conference, people came to be fed, led, and given room to process. In an age where many find safety behind a screen, this conference confirmed afresh how essential it is to move conversations about race and justice from blogs and Tweets to dinner tables and live dialogues.

The conference atmosphere was warm and the format of discussions modeled for the listeners how to dialogue about difficult issues. Our group met for meals several times to talk about what we heard and how it affected us personally and our church corporately. The give and take modeled at the conference helped us lovingly learn from one another.

 

  1. Diverse friendships aid our ability to see injustices we would normally overlook.

Most of my life has been lived in contexts where people look like me, think like I naturally think, and experience life as I do. As a middle-class white man I have never worried where I would sleep, never sold my body for a meal, never been fearful of a police officer, or feared for my life in my neighborhood.

God has graciously brought people into my life that have welcomed me into their weeping and their rejoicing. The topics of the conference were educational, challenging, and at times confusing. But having friends to help me process has been invaluable. One reason is that as I have grown in my love for them I have seen realities I would have otherwise overlooked. Tripp Lee rightly said, “We can’t bear each others burdens if we don’t know what each other’s burdens are.”

What this conference did is further help me understand that many people don’t have the option to not think about issues of injustice. I think about issues of justice most normally if they show up at my doorstep. Many don’t have that privilege. They live in areas where injustice is less like a package dropped on their doorstep and more like a shadow; a constant companion in life.

Privilege is mishandled if it used to perpetuate indifference and insensitivity to the suffering of my neighbor. Everyone in our group was able to point to things they learned about history that gave a fuller picture of how injustice is perpetuated today. The continual realization of this is not a comfortable reality, but is a necessary one if I am to be a Christian who will labor for justice, even or especially if the injustice is not directly aimed at me.

In the end, my black friends and I likely won’t agree on everything and will never experience things exactly the same way. But loving friendships are marked by patient, empathetic, offense-overlooking love. Christian love endures because it is empowered by the Spirit of Christ. He makes us one, and gives us the power to walk as one, until that day when we will struggle no more.

 

  1. White conferences must begin to diversify their speakers. 

This statement is not about affirmative action or being politically correct. This is a conviction that has crystalized for me over the past few days. I was introduced to numerous African American brothers at this conference who are exceptionally gifted in handling the word. This wasn’t a surprise, but sadly not a privilege I have had often enough. Victor Sholar’s message on the Good Samaritan out of Luke 10:25-37 was one of the most powerful sermons I’ve heard in a long time.

When I initially looked at the lineup of contributors for the Just Gospel conference, I was put off because only 2 of the 37 contributors were white. But then I began to wonder how my brothers and sisters of color feel when they attend evangelical conferences where there is very often an all-white or all white + a token minority in the line up.

I come from a tradition where most of my influencers are middle to upper class white men. These men are faithful and love God, but their experiences affect the way they interpret and apply the Scriptures. As Dr. Jarvis Williams explained, we gain different insights from people who are “looking up” at commands about justice than we will from people who are “looking down” on them. The insights and applications brothers were drawing from the Bible were fresh for me and challenged me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be challenged.

The voices of marginalized brothers and sisters are often unheard by people like me. I suspect this may be why I have rarely, if ever, heard a sermon on practical justice that was not a cry for religious freedom or condemning abortion. Both of those injustices matter, but they are not the only justice issues. The body of Christ is made up of people from various ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. Diverse perspectives bring Gospel implications to light that would otherwise be overlooked. Diverse voices in my life help me be more faithful to God. I want and need that, and especially hope that my brothers in the Southern Baptist Convention will make strides to grow in this in the days ahead.

 

  1. We must have a patient urgency.

People are complex. Issues of justice are complex. Applications of the Gospel in diverse churches are complex. This complexity requires patience with one another as we navigate how we can grow together in Christian unity.

At the same time, there is great urgency. The church does not have the option to walk by on the other side of the road while our fellow man lies bloodied in the road of injustice. The plight of minorities, babies in the womb, orphans, widows, sex slaves, abused women, and refugees must matter to us.

Figuring out how to navigate these two realities is very difficult. Anyone who gives effort to engaging grows weary at some point. I saw this weariness and heard people testify of it. I have felt it often as I try to figure out how I’m not “getting it,” or why others don’t see my perspective. These conversations are hard, but they must happen.

Leonce Crump summed the struggle up well by urging us to have “present urgency with an eternal perspective.” Patience and urgency are not enemies. Christians know this because James 5:9 exhorts us, “be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” We must keep these truths before us as we labor for justice.

 

  1. Self-justification short-circuits conviction. 

 Conversations about the intersection of race, grace, and justice are both edifying and offensive. They are edifying because my heart is stretched to see implications of the Gospel that are unnatural to me. God uses them to show fresh ways I need His help. Through them I have developed deeper relationships with diverse friends.

At the same time they are offensive. Sometimes I am offended because I am wrongly accused, but more often, I am offended because I don’t like being exposed. There are racially-charged sins that abide in me. My heart is home to perspectives that are ignorant at best and murderously sinful at worst. I don’t want to be racist or even tempted to have prejudiced assumptions about people.

When an accusation comes against me, I want to justify myself. I make excuses. I shift blame. I do what Adam and Eve did in the Garden. But this is not the right response of a Christian. Rather than justify ourselves, we must rest in the justification given through faith in Christ. Tony Carter’s closing comments reminded us that we are all sinners, justified alone by faith in Christ which frees us to see one another as equals—equally justified, and equally sinful—and begin the difficult work of meeting one another where we are.

This frees us to allow God’s Word and the insights of others to do work in us. Not every accusation that comes against us will be grounded in truth, but some of them will. Are you open to correction? Do you receive the challenges of others? This conference and the conversations I had because of it brought these questions home afresh for me.

 

  1. The Scriptures must remain central.

One of the best parts of the conference was pastor Bobby Scott who always had his Bible open and reading verses to give guidance to the conversation. I believe more than ever that the best way forward is on our knees with humble hearts before open Bibles.

Allowing the Scriptures to guide our conversations guards God’s glory. As Dr. Kevin Smith said, “We want people to understand we are springing forth from the Scripture.” This gives help to God’s people and hope to the world, a world lacking the power of the Spirit of God to address the challenges we face.

One theme that came up on the first day was the need to render aid to the afflicted in the context of Christ’s call to discipleship. Liberation without Gospel transformation is just another form of worldly incarceration. The Bible tells us that all people’s greatest need is to become and grow as followers of Jesus. The Gospel reconciles us with God and with those made in His image. If you are able to listen to the conversation between Thabiti Anyabwile and Roland Warren about abortion, you will hear an excellent example of this.

The wisdom of the world will call us to compromise convictions about God’s designs in sexuality, roles of men and women, the mission of the church, and racism. Many have wandered from the faith in the name of compassion. But many others have wandered from the faith in the name of safety. Jesus calls us to follow Him on the way that is hard, on a road that is narrow. There are temptations to stray on every side. As we journey together we must walk closely with Jesus, according to His Word, because He knows the way.

 

As with any conference or sensitive discussion I’ve been a part of, I had several concerns, critiques, and areas of needed clarification. These centered around a desire for more clarity on complementarianism, added pastoral wisdom about ways to engage in arenas of difficult ministry, and a desire for even clearer Biblical instruction about issues of justice. I am processing these privately with some of the brothers involved, but I do not want them to overshadow the encouragements and challenges our group received from our time at the conference.

I am thankful to see God moving in our day, and I am hopeful that discussions like this can be used by God to bring unity and maturity to Jesus’ church as we move forward together.

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It’s a Wonderful Time to Be A Christian

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This article was originally published at DesiringGod.

America is facing turbulent times. Political unrest is unceasing. The racial divide is deepening. Fear and frustration swirl frantically.

This leads to only one logical conclusion: It’s a wonderful time to be a Christian.

Christians are uniquely equipped to thrive in tumultuous times, not because we are great, but because our God is. As we consider the darkness of our days, I’d like to share five reasons I think it is a wonderful time to be a Christian in America.

 

  1. People are intrigued by real Christians.

Whether it be through media stories, political reports, or comedy sets, “evangelical Christians” are characterized as whiny, entitled children. We are perceived as bigoted hate-mongers looking down on others while blinded to our own shortcomings. We are seen as outdated, overrated, and irrelevant.

Yet, when someone meets an actual Christian these days, they often are intrigued.

Our convictions are peculiar, but the gentleness and respect with which we hold them is refreshing (1 Peter 3:15). We don’t demonize those we disagree with, but treat them with charity, as we want them to treat us (Matthew 7:12). We engage with humility because we know that we too are imperfect and need God to change us as well.

“The peace Jesus provides is strong enough to hold back the gates of hell, and weather the storm we face today.”

Our community is also peculiar. When they observe the church, they find a people who are not naturally united. We come from different cultures, vote for different candidates, march for different causes, and often have little in common — except Jesus. When people spend time with us, they perceive a love marked by patience, charity, and heavenly-mindedness.

Now, not everyone will like real Christians when they meet them. But God’s word promises that he will use our love to change people’s opinion of us and (more importantly) of our God:

Keep your conduct among [non-believers], so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)

If Christians will engage their neighbors with courageous, humble, honest, servant-hearted love, people will be pleasantly surprised.

 

  1. Christians have the answer for racial reconciliation.

The rock of racial unrest has been rolled over in our country. Out from the darkness have crawled sorrowful reminders that our progress is incomplete. The anger and apathy that swirls around our brokenness tempts many to despair.

Yet Christians know Jesus provides a better way. On the one hand, we cannot simply say Jesus is enough and expect peace. The issues are far too complex and wounds too deep for a superficial balm. The hard work of praying, fasting, listening, learning, confessing, repenting, forgiving, and changing is required.

White brothers and sisters ought to show love by learning about the deep roots of social, institutional, and communal injustices that affect many today. Read the Scriptures alongside historical books that recount the black experience in America. Talk about what you are reading with African-American friends and include other minority friends in the discussion. Don’t be defensive or quick to make excuses. Listen. Learn. Repent of sin that is exposed. Empathy is developed when education occurs in the context of relationships.

Black brothers and sisters, I encourage you toward a resilient faith. Many of your forefathers endured oppression, were denied membership in white churches, and grew despite a lack of access to theological education. We need to see that resilience now. Systems of injustice will not be corrected overnight, which means that testing will continue. But as tests come, please ensure that your hearts are being purified and not petrified. White Christians are not your enemy. Jesus says they are family. The Lord calls us to “hope” all things, including the best in fellow believers, even when we hurt, confuse, or disappoint each other.

On the other hand, we must say Jesus is enough, for he himself is our peace.

[Jesus] is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:14)

We have already been reconciled in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16–20). While laboring to apply this reconciliation takes hard work, we must remember that he has made us one — even if we don’t feel like it (Ephesians 4:1–3). The peace Jesus provides is strong enough to hold back the gates of hell and weather the storm we face today.

The world does not have an answer like Jesus. They have no power and no lasting solutions. But we have an opportunity to show them the unity that Jesus prayed for and purchased with his blood (John 17:20–21).

At the cross alone, fear mongering, finger pointing, and apathetic indifference are put to death, and real reconciliation comes to life.

 

  1. God has brought unreached peoples to us.

For centuries, the American church has been praying, raising money, and sending workers to take the good news of Jesus to people who have not heard. This work is important and must continue, but we can’t overlook what God is doing in our own backyard.

God has brought unreached peoples to us.

“What would happen if Christians opened their homes and their lives to the strangers who live next to them?”

Though policies surrounding immigration are debated, the reality of immigration is not. Tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants have settled in the United States. Many have fled war-torn countries and are seeking a fresh start. Many are seeking hope which cannot be found in Allah or any other supposed god.

Regardless of your political views, if you are a Christian, your theological convictions should spur you to action. What would happen if Christians opened their homes and their lives to the strangers who live next to them? Showing Christlike hospitality to Muslim neighbors is essential for them to understand the true message of Christianity.

I do not say this lightly — we are positioned to fulfill the Great Commission.

Dispersed peoples and advances in technology have opened unparalleled opportunities to advance the gospel. While we are able, we must steward this opportunity and make disciples among the nations, and by his grace, many are in our backyard.

 

  1. Persecution is purifying us.

Jesus promised that following him would be costly. He warned, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Ostracism and affliction have marked the church since its beginnings. Yet, the United States has been largely spared this common experience of believers.

Many minority groups have tragically endured oppression, but as a whole, the church in America has known freedom to worship Jesus. In fact, public worship has not only been allowable, but advantageous. Churchgoing opened doors for business, made one appear trustworthy, and was required for social acceptability.

But the tide is changing. And as it does, Christians are experiencing increasing pressure from the world to conform or be conformed. This pressure will expose some so-called “Christians” as imposters, but for true believers, it will produce maturity.

Pressure from the world pushes Christians deeper into Christ. As this happens, we will be pruned and purified. We are forced to search his word to explain our convictions (1 Peter 3:15). The importance of prayer becomes undeniable. Political power is exposed as a mirage. Sin’s offerings are less desirable. Our affections are reoriented toward heaven.

In his mercy, God uses persecution to purify our profession of faith to the point that we can honestly say, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Persecution should never be sought, but when it comes, we can trust that God will use it for our good.

 

  1. We are closer to seeing Jesus than ever before.

The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)

Every generation since Christ’s ascension has clung to this promise. As time has passed, it has only become truer. Whether Christ will return in our day is yet to be seen, but the horizon is brightening as the day is darkening. The believer sees this hope with unveiled eyes and senses the sweetness of approaching glory.

Until now, many of us have gone days or weeks without even giving thought to the Lord’s return. Our love for the world has drowned out the need to hope in the world to come.

“Whether Christ will return in our day is yet to be seen, but the horizon is brightening as the day is darkening.”

Yet, in God’s kindness, today is a new day. As we grow in our love for Christ, our hearts will be oriented toward heaven. We will find the chatter of the world emptier and the promises of heaven fuller.

The Lord’s return cannot leave us unaffected. Let it move you to prayer for perseverance (Mark 14:38). May it press you to risk all to reach the unreached (Matthew 24:14). Ready yourself for your heavenly bridegroom, and let his coming keep you sober, knowing it could interrupt your next breath (Luke 12:40).

It is a wonderful time to be a Christian. God is working among all nations, including ours. Let us not despair or be deceived, but lift our eyes in hope to him who is coming soon.

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Photobombing Jesus – Confessions of a Glory Thief

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pho·to·bomb (verb) To spoil a photograph by appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken. Oxford English Dictionary

I met Jesus in a dramatic way, which made for what some called an “amazing testimony.” I was once on a hell bound path paved with drugs, parties, gambling, and girls, but Jesus turned my heart to run after Him. Because of this, I was quickly ushered onto the stage of local churches and campus ministries to tell what God had done for me.

After preaching a few dozen times (Lord, remember not the sermons of my youth!), I became convinced that I needed to learn more about the Bible. God led me to Denton, Texas to take part in a discipleship program led by a pastor named Tommy Nelson.

As part of the program, we were charged to find an area of service in the church. I assumed that since I’d done ministry with college students, I could jump into College Life and help lead the way. It was a thriving ministry that attracted some 600 students to its weekly meeting. I was certain this was the place God brought me to be a blessing.

Instead, it was the place God intended to begin breaking me.

The Stage

John Bryson was the leader of the college ministry during those years. By my estimation, he was a gifted man who knew how much the ministry could use someone like me. By his estimation, I was an eager, prideful young man who needed to learn some humility.

As we neared the first gathering of the year, he pulled me aside to let me know he had an important opportunity for me. I assumed he wanted me to share my testimony or maybe even preach, so I showed up ready to go.

But instead of leading me on stage, he led me backstage. He pointed to a white tethered chord and told me I had the important job of serving the people on stage that evening by opening and closing the curtain for them.

With each tug of the rope, my frustration increased. My hands burned and my heart criticized the people on stage. I assured myself that if I was out there, God would have used me in a more powerful way.

I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but near the end of the evening, everything seemed to slow down and I had a distinct impression from the Lord that went something like this,

“If you can’t be just as joyful back here serving Me where no one can see you, as you would be out there where everyone can see you— then your heart is seeking your glory and not mine. And I will not share My glory with another .”

The Photobomb

In that moment, the Lord convicted me that I came to serve with mixed motives.

I hoped for lost people to be converted, but I wanted to be the evangelist God used to save them.

I desired Christians to be encouraged, but I wanted to be the one through whom He gave the edification.

I wanted people to think God was awesome, but I hoped they would think I was awesome, too.

This is where it gets tricky. The desire for God to be glorified through me is the height of my created purpose— “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

But there is a fine line between wanting God to use you for His glory and you wanting everyone to know God is using you for His glory. That fine line is the line between pure worship and photobombing idolatry.

Most of us don’t consciously desire to steal glory from God. Because we love Him, we want Him to be magnified. But if we are honest, we hope that when people see Jesus as amazing, they see us as amazing.

I need to be crystal clear at this point…

It is not wrong to desire to be a part of what God is doing—you were created for this purpose.

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

It is not wrong for you to want people to see God being glorified in your life—you are commanded to do this.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8

It is not wrong to serve with the hope that people will be convicted of their sin and trust in Christ—you have been called to this.

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12

In fact, I would say it is sinful if you do not desire these things. Rather, what I am saying is that we must give careful attention to our heart to make sure we are not sinfully seeking to steal glory from Jesus.

Confessions of a Glory Thief

What follows are six glory-stealing confessions along with accompanying Gospel corrections. I encourage you to prayerfully process these with the help of a few honest, godly friends.

1. I want Jesus to be glorified, but I want glory too.
I have left wonderful Sunday services discouraged. Not because my caffeine crashed or my adrenaline tapped out. But because I wanted someone to say to me, “pastor, that was the most amazing sermon I’ve ever heard.”

I can desire Jesus to be exalted, while lusting for affirmation from others. Wanting affirmation is different than wanting to be useful. Useful servants are satisfied when no one applauds them as long as everyone is applauding Jesus.

But a servant who seeks affirmation steals something that doesn’t belong to them. As a friend once said, “a pastor who preaches to gain glory for himself is flirting with Christ’s bride whom He died to have for His own.”

When do you feel the need for affirmation? How do you respond to it? When you see yourself responding with self-pity, confess it to God and read Matthew 6:1-21. Plead with your Heavenly Father to satisfy you with His care and affirmation of you in Christ.

2. Because I want affirmation, I hide my sins.
Shame is powerful. It assures us that we cannot be honest about our true condition. So it tempts us to pretend.

When we hide sin, we show that we treasure people opinions more than we treasure pleasing Christ. This twisted trap is inescapable apart from the power of God. This is why God tells us that true strength comes from boasting in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

We do this is by confessing our sins to God and trusted Christians.

There is something powerful that happens when you look in the eyes of another person and confess how you’ve sinned against God and people made in His image. Humility birthed in those moments is unique and life giving. The idol of affirmation is choked out and God is seen as glorious in spite of you, not because of you. We do not need to pretend to be anything other than blood-bought debtors to mercy.

Do you confess your sins to others? Who knows everything about you? I mean everything.

3. I become bitter when God uses others instead of me.
During my first year in seminary, I learned about senior preaching week. The “best” preachers from the graduating class were given the honor of preaching in chapel. I so badly wanted to be among that group that I prayed and fasted for it. But during my final year, I was not selected to preach.

As I sat and listened to those brothers preach faithfully, I found myself grumbling that God had not used me in the way he was using them—and I knew it was wrong.

Do you find yourself frustrated or discouraged when you are “overlooked” by God? Those are good times to reevaluate the reasons you follow Jesus. Do you remember what Jesus said when Peter questioned how He planned to use the apostle John? He said to Peter, “what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22).

An envious heart produces a critical eye toward others. This kind of competition has no place in God’s Kingdom. We have all been called to make much of Jesus, not ourselves. When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, read the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) and ask God to grow gratefulness for how He is using you.

4. I become more concerned about my public performance than my private devotion.

We don’t pray more than we do because other things feel more pressing. Opportunities for public ministry rival devotion to the God who entrusted us with the opportunities. Glory thieves feel hurried out of the prayer closet. This isn’t because there isn’t much to pray about, but because we value being before men more than being with God.

I am not implying that public ministry isn’t worshipful. Some of the moments I sense God’s presence most acutely is during preaching or evangelizing. Yet, I can be tempted to neglect disciplines of prayer and fasting and undistracted bible reading because other things press on me.

One of the greatest aids for a recovering glory thief is to prioritize prayer and Bible reading. By pursing these disciplines in faith, love for God grows in your heart in such a way that it will eclipse your desire for people to think about anything other than Him.

5. I fear moral failure, mostly because it would defame Jesus, but also because it would defame me.

When a Christian falls publicly, it distorts people’s view of God (Proverbs 25:26; Romans 2:24). Anyone who cares about Jesus is grieved by this prospect. But glory thieves are doubly grieved because something else is at stake.

Caring what people think about us is not inherently wrong. But when we care too much about what people think of us, the fear of man snowballs with concealed sin in such a way that a fall becomes inevitable.

If you have fallen in sin, step into the light. Allow God to decide how He will use the story of your sin and His redemption. You will be tempted to be the commentator of your own life and control what will happen to you. Remain honest and trust Him with the consequences.

When you think about resisting sin in ministry, is it because you want to preserve the Name of Jesus or your own name? Only one of those pursuits will produce a heart that is honoring to God.

6. My desire to be something rivals my desire for Jesus to be everything.

When I stood backstage years ago, I felt the competing desires in my heart. I wanted to be the one people looked to and said, “that guy knows God and can help me know God.” What made that dangerous was that I was not content for Jesus alone to be remembered. I would have said I was, but my heart testified otherwise.

This is why I have grown to love John the Baptist. JTB did everything he could to not photobomb Jesus. Crowds were flocking to him, but he had one mission in mind—make Jesus known. He said to his followers, “I am not the Christ…He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28–30).

John pointed people away from himself. He was content being behind the stage doing whatever was necessary for Jesus to be seen more clearly. This is the kind of heart that pleases God.

Can you be content with Jesus being glorified in your life, even if it means no one will ever know your name? Are you happy to be known in heaven, but not here? Are you happy to be among the “others” in Hebrews 11 and not among the “heroes” of the faith?

Jesus came to save glory thieves from themselves. He did this by giving up His own glory and then dying on the cross for all the times we stole God’s glory. Today He is raised and seated above every other Name so that we can look to Him for help, and help others to do the same.

All Glory to God.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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Mom and Dad, Thank You

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In a recent post, Tim Challies shared a few practical ways adult children can honor their parents. One of his suggestions was to esteem your parents privately and publicly. So, I’ve shared the following with them in private, and now, with their permission, I share it with you in public. Thank you for taking a moment to read, I pray the lessons bless you as they’ve blessed me.

 

Mom and Dad-

The Bible says to “honor your mother and father” (Exodus 20:12). I know I haven’t always done this well, but I trust you both know how much I love you. As my years increase, I have given more thought to ways God has used you to shape me into the man I am today. I could list many things, but I’d like to share one for each of you and then one for the both of you.

 

Mom, you taught me how to make a house a home. 

From what I can remember, I lived in seven different houses growing up. But no matter where the house was, it was always home. You made sure of that. I don’t remember fancy decorations or eccentric decor. But I do remember a warmth that withstood the winters of life.

Home was a refuge for me. In my early years I was picked on and ostracized quite a bit, but home was always a safe place. I never felt the need to run away. I never feared coming home. I don’t remember there being stress, though I’m sure it was present.

Holidays were fun. I don’t know if we received many gifts, but I know what was given, was done so in love. Meals were faithfully prepared for us. Encouraging words occupied the air. You wanted us to have wonderful memories, and my mind is filled with them.

But our house wasn’t just a home for our family, it was a home for others. Our door revolved so much I’m surprised we didn’t have to replace the hinges. People called you “mom,” because you were one to so many. People loved you because you made them feel like part of the family, even if it was their first visit. You made enough food for visitors and always let people stay over if they were in trouble.

This hospitality marks our family today. Carrie and I have had people live with us nearly every month since we’ve been married. Our dinner table is often graced by friendly faces. The Lord uses your example from my childhood to help our family do this well. I love you mom.

 

Dad, you taught me to work hard and to work with hope. 

Laziness was not permitted in our family. You knew that we only have one life and that if we wanted to get anything out of it, we needed to work hard. Whether you were starting a new business, turning someone else’s around, or dreaming of what might be next—you showed me what it means to work with diligence.

When set backs came, your resilience shined. When others would have quit, you smiled and said, “there must be another way.” You worked hard because you wanted to do well, but also because you wanted to do well for us. You wanted our family to have what we needed. And thanks be to God, we always did.

You challenged me to begin working young and save money. When I was twelve, you loaned me cash to buy a lawnmower. You helped me get jobs and helped me improve when I got fired. You never let me say, “I can’t” without exhausting every conceivable way forward. You never let me quit a team. You weren’t a drill sergeant, but you were a firm and fatherly leader. You encouraged me, and pushed me to be excellent, and never to do things “half-hearted.”

This marks me today. God has taken your example and set it apart for Himself. He often brings your words to mind and I believe He will use your lessons to help me be a more faithful servant with what He has entrusted me.

And though you worked hard, you also worked hard to be present. For as many hours as you labored, I never remember you being absent. I remember fishing trips and walks with the dogs. I remember you being home at night and wrestling with me when I was younger. I remember you and mom being at every single one of my games, no matter what.

This too has marked me, though I often feel I fall far short. Thank you for pushing me to be man who works hard, yet doesn’t forget why he is doing it. You have forever shaped me dad, and I love you for it.

 

Mom and dad, you’ve stayed married through the good days and bad.

In God’s wisdom, He brought you together many moons ago. You were young, in love, and according to your stories, probably still a little stoned. You scrapped together what you needed, but it didn’t matter what you had, because you had each other.

As the days passed, God blessed you with a couple of awesome kids. Your tribe increased, and so did your joy. As I remember, you were wonderful parents. Our house was filled with laughter. We ate most meals together. We always had food, even when times were tough.

I remember dad stealing a kiss from mom any time he could. He always told her how beautiful she was. The affection you guys showed each other taught me how a husband and wife should love one another. Our kids see this today in the way Carrie and I love each other. Thank you for that.

I remember our family going to church together nearly every week (even though I only went for the girls). I remember mom singing the Old Rugged Cross and reciting Psalm 23 and the Lord’s prayer while I snuggled in her lap. I remember our beach trips to the Outer Banks, and road trips to grandma’s house.

You partnered together to encourage me in playing sports and doing my homework. I remember dad doing all he could to provide for our family, and mom steadily working at the hospital. You were a good team together, and I praise God I got to see it.

But not everything was easy. Broken bones, burned homes, car accidents, and nearly empty bank accounts put pressure on your bond that would have caused many others to break. Though you were cracked at times, you did not give way. Only you know the depth of your private pains and disappointments. There are some scars that only heaven will heal.

But as I have watched you persevere, I have learned what love is. You didn’t have a perfect marriage, no one does. But you have had a lasting one. And that’s saying a lot. God has brought to my mind, more times than I can count, the fact that love doesn’t quit.

Mom didn’t quit on dad.

Dad didn’t quit on mom.

You didn’t quit on each other.

Kells don’t quit.

We fight and pray and persevere by the grace of God. And that has marked me. And I have great hope it will mark generations of Kells to come.

You have blessed me more than you know. And I trust someday you will see when Jesus shows you.

I am forever thankful to call you my parents.

I love you both.

With eternal gratitude,

Your Son—Garrett

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What Happens To Our Pet When It Dies?

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This morning, we were awakened by the tears of one of our children. They had found our dog, Nellie, dead on the floor.

Nellie was a cross-eye Chihuahua who was relatively new to our family, but she had already brought us much joy. She was about as good a dog as a Chihuahua can be.

As the tears flowed, the questions began to flow as well.

 

“Why did Nellie have to die?” 

“Why did God take Nellie so soon?”

“Will we see Nellie in heaven?”

 

While some may think these questions are silly, I do not.

The longer we live on this fallen planet, the more sorrow we face. Some suffering is small, and other is great; but it all hurts. Some families experience tragedy early and often. Ours has been spared significant tragedy, but times like these leave their mark.

After a little while, we were able to talk about what we were feeling and what questions we were processing. Here are a few highlights.

 

  1. We know why our pets die.

Death is one of the saddest and most certain realities of this life. There are few things like death to sober us—whether it be a pet or a fellow image bearer. A cold, stiff body that lacks the life it once supported is a heavy reminder that something is wrong with our world.

So why does death happen? The Bible tells us plainly that when Adam and Eve sinned against God, a curse was put not just on humanity, but on all creation (Genesis 3:14, 19). Because of this, death comes for all of us; people and animals alike.

Some may want to shield their children from discussions of death, but we do not.

In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs Israel with His commands and then gives parents this charge, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Discipleship in the home happens as we live life together, and as we bury pets together. We tell our children that death is in the world because of the curse of sin. All of us will die, and days like these remind us that even our beloved pets are not exempt.

 

  1. We don’t know why our pets die when they die. 

Death comes for all of us in a time and in a way that is most normally unexpected. Nellie was, as far as we could tell, a healthy little dog. She seemed to go peacefully in her sleep. I have also lost other pets in much more traumatic ways. When my daughter looked at me and said, “Why did she have to die now?” I simply held her and said, “I don’t know.”

God never tells any of us when our time is up. When we love someone, it always seems like our time with them was too short. I encouraged her that our family loved Nellie well, and she loved us in like measure. I also reminded her that we need not be afraid of losing those we love, but we must love them as well as we are able while they are with us.

 

  1. God is not cruel, He is caring. 

The God of the Bible is not a cruel, distant, absentee father who simply calls His suffering children to “suck it up.” Rather, He gives us precious promises.

One we talked about is from Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

When pets die, it is a fine time to grab a promise from the Lord and allow it to bring you comfort. Again, for some this may seem like a petty thing to bother God with. But I want to assure you it is not. In fact, if your god doesn’t care about the tears of a child who has lost their beloved pet, then your god is too distant. The God of the Bible does not scold us for the kinds of sorrows we have. He meets us in them, whatever they may be, and points us to Himself as our only sure comfort.

 

  1. God doesn’t tell us what happens to our pets when they die, but we can trust Him.

Anyone who has ever had a pet die has asked, “will I see them again?” Some give hearty assurances based merely on what they hope will come to pass. But hope is far too precious to cast it on what we desire to be true. It is safer to base our beliefs on what God says is true. And on this issue, He just doesn’t say.

Animals do not have the same hope humans do, because humans are distinctly differently. We are created in God’s image; animals (and angels) are not (Genesis 1:26-27). People have a unique ability to reason among living beings (Psalm 32:9). Jesus came as a man to save mankind, not animals.

Yet the Bible does speak about the presence of animals in the life to come. Isaiah 11:6-8 and Isaiah 65:25 list numerous animals as they describe the eternal kingdom of God. God’s promises of the world to come portray a world in which animals will know the peace they too have longed for (Romans 8:18-25).

I think this gives us good reason to assume that God will fill the New Heavens and New Earth with redeemed image bearers, elect angels, and all sorts of animals. Beyond this, we do not know much.

Will our animals be in heaven? It is best to be honest and say we do not know. I would not be surprised if God, in His generous wisdom, chose to allow us to enjoy the company of familiar animals in glory. But we can be certain of two things.

First, we can be certain that if it will bring God more glory and it will help us to enjoy Him forever, then God will reunite us with our pets. God knows what good gifts to give us, now and for eternity (Luke 11:13). As Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God knows what is good for us to have, so we can trust Him.

Second, we must guard our hearts and not allow love for pets or animals to diminish or love and trust in God. No matter how good any gift God gives us, we must remember that He is the One worthy of our devotion, not the gift itself. Pets included.

So how did I answer my children?

I told them that we don’t know exactly what happens to our pets when they die. But we do know God is good, we can trust Him, He will do what is best, and that I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we saw our pets again in glory. If I’m wrong, that’s fine, there is no serious doctrine in danger, nor are my children’s hopes tied to anything other than God’s wisdom in dealing with His children.

 

To read more perspectives on this topic, consider these articles by John Piper, Randy Alcorn, Jim Daly, and Christianity Today.

 

 

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You Can’t Wear Out God’s Promises

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Many beloved things in this life wear out.

Favorite shirts wear thin and tear. 

Comfortable shoes fall apart. 

Financial accounts become depleted. 

Warm friendships can drift over time. 

Even our bodies wear down, break down, at last lie down in death. 

 

But there is one thing that never wears out—the promises of God.

 

Dear friend, you can use one of God’s promises, but you cannot use it up.

You can grab a promise and cling to it wherever you go. You can hold it close through the storm, but when you arrive safely at your destination, you will find it has not dulled one bit. In fact, it likely shines brighter than when you first clung to it.

Neither do God’s promises rust or fade. They are like the fine wine of heaven; stored up for those moments we most need their refreshment. Yet, when we pop their cork and drink them down, we find a miracle. Like the widow whose flour remained full, the bottle never runs dry (1 Kings 17:7-16). Promises harvested from the Lord’s vineyard cannot be depleted.

Nor can His promises be destroyed. An oppressor may steal your Scriptures and burn them before your eyes. But as the smoke rises, the promises remain. They cannot be destroyed because they are stored in the vault of heaven.

God’s promises do not evaporate or dissipate. They grow stronger and more certain with every use. The reason for this is three fold.

 

First, a promise from God remains because God remains. He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He is not a liar who says one thing and does another (Numbers 23:19). He is not the empty cloud that boasts of rain yet only leaves a shadow of disappointment (Proverbs 25:14). A promise is an extension of His very nature and because He does not change, we are not consumed, and neither are His promises (Lamentations 3:22-23).

 

Secondly, a promise from God can be everlastingly claimed because it was purchased by the blood of Christ. When Jesus died, His blood was the down payment for all of God’s Words to us (2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 9:15). When He rose, He unlocked the vault of assurances for all those who trust in Him. A promise of God cannot wear out because Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).

 

Finally, a promise solidifies with each use. Promises are not made only to be kept, they are made to be claimed. They are like food that is not meant for looks, but for consumption. And each time we put it to use, we taste and see that the Lord, who gave His promise, is good (Psalm 34:8). We trust Him more. We love Him more. We find strength we did not know. And therefore, the promise grows surer to us. This builds faith in the promises and in the promise Giver.

 

Do you have promises that have proven strong for you?

Have you mined the quarry of God’s gold and brought forth treasures no money can buy?

 

This is the privilege of the child of God. As you walk with Him and you find a bit of treasure, keep it and claim it as your own. Yes, it is for others as well, but all the host of heaven can feast on these promises. They never run dry.

These are a few of my favorite promises. I encourage you to consider them, and to find some others for yourself. Use them. Share them. Hope in them. They will not wear out.

 

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

 Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 22:4 “They will see His face”

 

Here is a final encouragement from a beloved brother who now sees these promises by sight.

“Our God, in whom we trust, is not fickle; He is not thoughtful of us today and forgetful of us tomorrow. If you should live to be as old as Methuselah, the promises of God will never wear out; and if all the troubles that ever fell upon humanity should pounce upon you, God’s strength will be put forth to sustain you, and to bear you to a triumphant close.” – Spurgeon, Sunlight for Cloudy Days

  

Lord Jesus, keep Your promise, and come for us soon.

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The Great Tragedy of the 2016 Election

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A great tragedy occurred on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

The tragedy was not found in the celebrations or concessions of elected officials. It was not colored red or blue, and it wasn’t rooted in the dark cloud that hung over this scandalous political season.

The tragedy I’m speaking of is far more grievous.

You see, in this land of the free and home of the brave, there were many people whose ballots were not cast. Their convictions were silenced. Their opinions were not expressed. Their voices were not heard.

Why not?

Because they were dead.

The great tragedy of the 2016 election is that roughly 31,103,051 million would-be voters are not with us because they were murdered through abortion. That means from 1973-1998 roughly 31 million babies had their right to live taken from them by their own parents. Of those, over one third were African Americans, the very people abortion was designed to extinguish.

This is an unspeakable tragedy.

They didn’t get to cast a vote for the first woman president or the political outsider or write in another candidate. They didn’t get to make a stand against racial injustice or make a stand for integrity. They were robbed of watching results come in with their friends. They weren’t allowed to rest their heads on a pillow in the land of the free.

That is a great tragedy. But the tragedy isn’t over.

Why?

Because over 3,000 babies will be aborted today; and each day leading up to Tuesday November 8th, 2020. In the 3 minutes it takes you to read this post, approximately 7 babies will have been aborted in the United States of America. Their voices will be silenced. Their freedom not experienced. Their opportunity to be brave not known.

 

Close to Home

This is a tragedy that hits close to home for me. When I was 19, I chose to end the life of my first child through an abortion. My friend and I were in a scary place, we didn’t plan to get married, and we felt we had nowhere else to go. So we chose to end the life of our child.

My child would be 20 today. He or she would be off at college or working hard at their craft. They’d be praying for God’s grace on our land and working to make the world a better place.

But, they won’t be doing any of that. I won’t be sitting down with them and explaining how to think about policies and the candidates that represent them. I won’t be able to tell them about freedom and justice for all. I took that freedom away with my injustice.

I cannot undo what I’ve done in the past. None of us can. Only Jesus, who shed His blood for sinners like me can heal those wounds. Jesus gives us great hope in the midst of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies we face in this life.

 

Refuge in Jesus

If you have committed an abortion, I want you to know that there is a refuge in Jesus. He will heal your wounds. There is no sin so great that He cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess your sins and turn to Him in faith, He will wash away all your guilt and all your shame. Listen to and believe this promise from Him, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 10:28).

If you support abortion, I want you to know that I do not demonize you. I too have felt the fear of an unplanned pregnancy. I too have known the tidal wave of confusion that swirls around. My encouragement to you would be to pray and ask God to show you if abortion is something that pleases Him or not. I know this may seem odd, but the reality is that God cares about everything we think, do, and say in this life.

I realize you have your reasons for supporting abortion; I did too. But I encourage you to take the time to read what God says about life and who has the right to give and take it away. If you’d be open to reading what the Bible says about abortion, you can read this.

 

Difficult Choice

If you are a Christian, be patient with those who view things differently than you. But don’t just be patient; speak truth in love to those who are in need. Find ways to help those who are struggling through unplanned pregnancies. Investigate options for adoption and invest in the lives of those who are facing difficult choices.

Today I looked at a picture of a 6-year-old boy at a football game.  He’s a 6-year-old boy who nearly wasn’t with us today because of the difficult place his mother found herself in. She was unmarried, pregnant, and scared. But my wife met with her and prayed with her and took her to a Christian doctor who showed her the heartbeat of the baby in her womb. That young mother had the courage to keep her child.

That young boy’s smile reminds me that God can save children, one at a time. But God does this by using His people to come alongside those who are struggling and lovingly showing them the Christ who can walk them through any terrifying situation, even an unplanned pregnancy.

 

 

I believe that the only hope to turn the trend of this tragedy around is for people to turn their hearts toward the God who made them through the way paved by His Son Jesus. Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts change a nation. May God give grace to us as a country, and may God give us courage to stand up in the midst of this tragedy so that, if the Lord tarries, we might see this kind of tragedy come to an end.

 

Lord Jesus, we need your help.

 

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Would God Celebrate Planned Parenthood’s 100 Years?

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On Sunday, October 16, Planned Parenthood celebrated “100 years of healthcare services.” The group’s celebration trended on social media, and was even joined by both President Obama and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.obama

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For many, the work of Planned Parenthood is truly a reason to rejoice. The group provides assistance to women who exercise their “right” to end the existence of a developing baby in their womb. This service that helps women “determine their own lives” is seen as an ultimate good, and therefore a reason to celebrate.

Last year, an Advocacy Board that advises Planned Parenthood even went so as to say that nation’s largest abortion provider is “doing God’s work” and the group released a “pastoral letter” claiming that the Bible says nothing about abortion.

Here’s the direct quote from that letter, “many people wrongly assume that all religious leaders disapprove of abortion. The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures — Jewish or Christian — and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.

As many celebrate the existence of Planned Parenthood, it is important for us to consider whether or not heaven would join in the jubilee. The fact that something is popular, and even endorsed by powerful people, does not make it right. What matters most is whether or not God is pleased with it.

Since abortion is an issue that is near to my heart, I thought I’d take a moment to consider whether Planned Parenthood’s 100 years of existence should be celebrated or not. As you read these Scriptures and consider what you see, ask God to show you if it is true—because in the end what He thinks is what matters most.

Abortion in the Bible

Though the Bible doesn’t mention the word “abortion,” it clearly teaches that abortion is a terrible sin against another person. These are not all the verses we could consider, but they are a few that best capture what the Bible says about this all important issue.

Exodus 21:22–25 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Does the Bible seem to clearly teach here that what comes out of a woman is a not just a fetus, but is a child? How serious does God say it is to kill an unborn child? If this is true of an accidental injury to a pregnant woman and her child, how much more serious is an intentional act of killing a child in the womb?

Ecclesiastes 11:5 “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”

If God sends a “spirit” to come into a woman to produce a child, does that not show that what is inside her is living? If God says, I want a child in that womb, do we have the right to tell God “no, You may not do that, I will take that living thing out of me?”

Job 10:10–12 “Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? 11You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. 12You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.”

What happens when sperm and egg unite in what we call conception? Is that not life? If you can detect a heartbeat (5-8 weeks after conception) does that not mean there is something living there? Where do skin, flesh, bone and sinews form? Are they not made in the womb? If we found all of this on another planet, would we not celebrate that we have found life there?

Psalm 139:13–16 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (cf. Job 31:15; Isaiah 44:2)

What do you think the Bible is implying when David says God “formed” his “inward parts” in his “mother’s womb?” What does it imply when it says he was “wonderfully made” and “intricately woven”? Does this not imply that God is at work in the womb, creating a human being? If God knows “all the days” of that being, even while its substance is “unformed”, does that not imply that God has a plan for that being in the womb? Do we have the right to tell God to stop this marvelous work because we have other plans? 

Isaiah 49:1 “Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.”

If God calls and names someone when they are in the womb, does that not make them a living person?

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (cf. Galatians 1:15)

If God has knowledge of someone as a person before they are even formed in the womb, does that not show that what is in the womb has great value and worth? Does not God forming someone in the womb show His intent to bring a life along to His designed end?

Amos 1:13 “I will not revoke the punishment, because they have ripped open pregnant women.”

Why does God see the ripping open of a pregnant woman’s womb as such a big deal? How is this different than His anger toward someone who would kill a woman who isn’t pregnant? Could it be that they would be killing two people? 

Luke 1:39–44 “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

What does the Bible say was in the womb of Elizabeth? Does it not call John a “baby?” And what does that baby do when it hears the voice of the pregnant Mary? Does it not say the baby leaped for joy? And what does she say about the “fruit” of Mary’s womb (see also Psalm 127:3)? Does this not imply that what is in her is of value and has great worth? From this don’t we have to conclude that what is in her womb is a baby?

After looking a just a few verses, it is overwhelmingly clear that God views what is in the womb of a woman at conception to be a life, a baby, a human being like you and me.

The Bible also teaches that taking the life of another person (murder) is a grievous sin. In Exodus 20:3 God says “you shall not murder” (cf. Genesis 9:5; Matthew 5:21; 19:18; Romans 13:9; 1 John 3:15).

To end a life is to kill it. We may want to phrase it differently, but an “abortion,” a “choice to not keep the baby,” to “terminate a pregnancy,” are all clearly ending a life. This is murder.  The Bible forbids this because it teaches that God alone has the right to give life and take it away (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 1:21).

God also says that when his people have murdered their children, that it is a great sin in His eyes (Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 12:31; 2 Kings 16:3, 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31, 32:35).

Whether or not one believes the Bible is another matter, but to suggest that the Bible allows abortion is deceptive. One of the earliest Christian documents The Didache (circa A.D. 100) says “You shall not murder a child by abortion.” Christians have always believed that God does not give us permission to take the life of our children. He gives, we may not take away.

So does God celebrate with Planned Parenthood? He does not. Rather, He weeps over it. God loves people and He loves the children in mother’s wombs. He is the One who creates life, and He is the One to whom all of us must look when we find ourselves in situations we never planned for.

If you are considering an abortion and feel like you have no other options, please know there are people who can help you. They can connect you with loving families who would be willing to discuss adoption. I know a family who is waiting by the phone right now to adopt a child, even the one in your womb.

If you feel that you have no where to turn, please know that Planned Parenthood isn’t your only option. God has other options that are worth celebrating. I plead with you to reach out to a faithful local church near you, we can help you find one (info@delraybaptist.org) or email outreach@assistcpc.org who can connect you to someone in your area.

Please know that God meets us where we are in our journey, and He does this through His Son Jesus. If you find yourself weary, hear this word of promise from the Lord Himself, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Please turn to the Lord in this season of great decision and allow Him to give you the grace we all desperately need.

 

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Intentionally Intrusive Questions – Lessons from John Wesley

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holy-club

Nearly 300 years ago, John and Charles Wesley formed a discipling group on the campus of Oxford University. Fellow students scoffed at the group and called them “The Holy Club” because of their methodical approach to the Christian life.

The Wesley brothers aimed to use every waking moment of their lives to worship God, and this group was the center of their life together. They regularly met to read the Bible, discuss classic writings, serve the poor, fast, pray, and challenge each other with questions.

While all these elements are noteworthy, let’s take a moment to consider their practice of asking questions to each other.

 

What follows are 22 questions they used with one another on almost a daily basis.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  7. Did the Bible live in me today?
  8. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  9. Am I enjoying prayer?
  10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  17. How do I spend my spare time?
  18. Am I proud?
  19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  22. Is Christ real to me?

 

Three Considerations from the Holy Club

Accountability. The Wesley Brothers’ model of discipleship is worth emulating on many levels. Their example of committed love for one another is a critical part of the Christian life. In our individualistic age, we would do well to remember that God designed the Christian life to be lived out in the context of committed community.

At our church, we regularly encourage members to develop “intentionally intrusive relationships” with one another. This kind of accountability can make us uncomfortable at times, but we rarely grow in holiness when we are comfortable.

Who are you developing intentionally intrusive relationships with?

Who knows everything about you?

Do you run from soul-exposing relationships?

If so, why? What are you hiding?

What damage will be done to your soul if you keep running?

Who are you helping to follow Jesus in a similar manner?

God uses the intentional love of other brothers and sisters to push us into the light and further along the Highway of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8). You can learn more about what this kind of accountability could look like by reading this.

 

Questions. Well-aimed questions are often used by God to penetrate past the surface and pierce the deepest recesses of our hearts. God asked revealing questions in the Old Testament (Gen. 3:9-11; 1 Kings 19:9; Job 38-41), just as Jesus did during His earthly ministry (Matt. 16:15; John 6:67, 21:15-19). Asking and answering thoughtful questions is a good way to stir up the sinful mud that settles in our hearts.

But simply having and asking questions isn’t the goal.

Did you actually read the 22 questions above?

Did you pause and allow them to do work on your soul?

What are you in such a hurry to go do?

I encourage you to consider going through this list with another brother or sister in Christ. Feel free to sharpen the questions or make additions to the list. I don’t think the Wesley Brothers would mind. All they would ask is that their aim be the same as theirs—holiness.

 

Holiness. This “Holy Club” had one chief goal. They desired to be set apart from the world, and set apart to God. They longed to be free from their worldly ways. They didn’t want their sins coddled in the darkness. No, these men wanted to be holy. And they knew that holiness doesn’t just happen by itself (1 Tim. 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Peter 1:5-7).

That is why they pursued each other and questioned each other and encouraged each other and prayed for each other. And this is of course, the very purpose of our lives. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

One of the most striking things for me in this study was that the Wesley Brothers very well may have not been believers until almost a decade after their Holy Club was formed. This doesn’t mean we should discount the importance of accountability or questions in the life of believers. It should however remind us that merely doing these things does not ensure anyone of a right standing with God. That comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

 

As you pursue devotion to God, seek Him with diligence. But do not do it alone. God’s people are to be intentional in their love for each other, doing all they can to cultivate holiness in one another. My prayer is that God will use these types of intentionally intrusive questions in the context of committed relationships to produce faith and devotion to Christ until we see His face.

 

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

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