Saturday, October 27, 2018

7 ways we can end abortion in churches and society.

More and more, I feel led to be a better voice in advocating for the life of unborn children.  While we debate the place of guns, war, or capital punishment, another life is snuffed out, dismembered, and vacuumed down a tube in the name of women's health and reproductive rights.  We can't overturn Roe v. Wade until we change the culture.  But we must change the culture and I need people with better EQ than me to help me.  Here is how we can start.

1. Talk about sex regularly in church.  Do you know that 1 in 4 women in your church pews have had an abortion as regular church-going Christians?  This needs to stop.  We need to reduce this number.  If churches were more open about sex and its results and the positives of marital sex, maybe our culture would not be so confused.

2. Promote adoption, share positive stories, and even champion open adoptions where the birth mother can watch her child grow up and have a relationship with the adoptive parents of her child.  We need to erase the stigma that was attached to adoption before 1973.  Before then, if a child got pregnant, they would take her far away for her to have the baby and then take the child away and send it to be adopted before she could even decide what to do.  This should not be. It doesn't happen any more, and people need to continue to make this possible.

3.  Recommend abstinence over contraceptions.  Just because people in your church are going to have sex no matter what does not mean you need to say, "Kids will be kids" and give them birth control.  They need to learn self control and their rights to not be used by their friends to satisfy sexual curiosity.  Contraception actually increases teen pregnancy and is promoted by the abortionists so that they can get teens pregnant and to come into their clinics.  Let’s tell the kids both young and old that they don’t have to follow their strong desires and to deny themselves of things they don’t need, and they will be happier and less heart-broken.

4. Support Pregnancy Resource Centers.  PRCs debunk the argument that pro-lifers don’t care about children after they are born.  They provide clothes and diapers and food for the kids, classes for the mothers and even GED classes and job-hunting skills.  No we can’t end war or crime.  We can barely keep our lights on sometimes.  But churches need to promote these centers the way they promote other charities and without shame. 

5.  Let’s get political.  Don’t vote democrat.  You don’t have to vote Republican, but don’t vote for the party that takes my tax money and gives it to Planned Parenthood, wants to remove all restrictions on abortions we’ve made thus far, and also believe in socialism.  It’s not the government’s job to solve everything.  It’s the church’s.  If the church isn’t doing it, it should, but the government cannot solve the problems.  But don’t vote for the Democrats.

6.  If there are parents in the church who have a girl in their house who is pregnant, tell them to not go for abortion as the first thing in their minds.  Shame the dads who want to kick their girl out of the house if she continues in her pregnancy.  They parents did not get the girl pregnant.  The girl made her own decision.  They should be proud for loving their girl anyway and promoting life.  They should not be in an environment where they feel like they have to hide the situation.

7.  The intersection.  If you care about the intersection, you should care about ending abortion and voting pro-life.  The intersection is the meeting of any class of people who have been considered oppressed.  Secular society considers black people, women, and even gay people to be oppressed.  If there is a black woman who happens to be a lesbian, then society considers her to have the greatest voice in matters. Abortion attacks both black people and women the most.  I will talk about that in later blogs. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

SS lesson: Unknown God

Today we went around, said our names and somebody we like best in the world and why.

God is like that but much more.  For example, one of my favorite people is a woman named Debbie.  She would call me and have lunch with me and do things for me.  She gave me my green hoodie and her late husband let me be a children’s minister at his church for three years, and she even did the major job of helping me plan my wedding.  She knows about all my problems and loves me anyway.  Jesus is even better than that.  Debbie can’t always be there for me.  She has two kids and two grandkids, one of which should be born the next month.  She has a job and is always traveling.  Since I moved to Locust Grove I haven’t seen her in over year though I have talked to her.  

Jesus can always be there for me even though I’ve never seen him.  He will never die or change or not love me as much as before.

We don’t know how wonderful he is and won’t until we will finally see him.

Next we started a KWL chart.  It has three columns: Things you Know, things you Want to know, and things you Learned.  The subject is God.

I had two very insightful young ladies in my class today and one brilliant teen helper, and among the four of us, we Know that God is our Savior, that he died on the cross, that he made us, and that he knows everything.  We Want to know how he is God and what he looks like.  We held off on the "Learned" column for later (and I remembered it at the end.)

Next we talked about Paul.  He was on a mission trip to Athens, Greece.  He wanted to teach them about God and Jesus who he sent.  The people in Athens believed that God was real, but they also believed that all of the other gods of false religions were real as well.  When Paul arrived in Athens he called the people out and taught them that there is only one God. 

My teen helper mentioned that the Greeks believed there was a god for every town.  I think that is insightful for what Paul says next.  Next, I showed the kids a graphic of the altar to the "Unknown God."  The Greeks had an altar just in case they missed some God.  And Paul said, "I'm going to show you this God."

Starting in Acts 17:24 -

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

So from reading this, what are things that we can know about God

-Made the world and everything in it (creator)
-Lord (he rules) heaven and earth (ruler)
-Is not confined to temples or altars (this would go with my helper mentioning the local gods for each town.  The true God is God of all of them)
-He doesn’t need people to serve him
-He gives all people life and breath and everything (He sustains us)
-He made from one man and woman (Adam and Eve) every person on earth. 
-He decided how long everyone would live and where they would live.  (Judge)
-He decided that they would seek God and find him. 
-He is near everyone. (Father)

Next, I had the girls make a mobile out of hangers, string, and paper about who God is.  While they were working, I moved on to a lesson from John 4. 

Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria, a land they didn’t like.  His disciples went to get food and Jesus rested at a well.  He spoke to a woman who was there by herself in a time when good Jewish people didn’t talk to Samaritans, and good men did not talk to women.  While they talked, Jesus made known that he knew about her five husbands and now a man who is not her husband is in her life.  She was impressed and decided to ask about where it was alright to worship. 

John 4:19-24
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus saw a woman who didn’t know God and showed her God, himself.  People who don’t know our God imagine that he is this distant entity beyond the mountains who doesn’t really care what’s going on.  But he does, so he sent Jesus.  Jesus is the Messiah who would solve the problem of our separation from God.  Why are we separated?  Because of sin.  What did Jesus do?  He died on the cross to take that sin for himself.  Then he came back to life, giving us his righteousness.  Since he was God, he was the only good human being to ever live.  And you can only come to God by knowing and loving Jesus.  

Finally, we filled in the Learned column.  We learned that God is our Keeper, our Father, and that he decided where and when I would live.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Reckless Love and My Reformed Presbyterian Beliefs - how I reconcile them

The song, "Reckless Love", causes many passions in the Christian world these days.  There's people that love the passionate lyrics of God's relentless love and people who don't like that it describes God as reckless and relies too much on emotions.  I echo all sentiments but I mostly like the song as a Reformed Presbyterian Christian.

Why?  Mostly because it captures in lyrical form God's irresistible grace, the concept of Reformed soteriology that if God has called you to salvation, then he will send his Holy Spirit to change your heart until you come to believe in Jesus and surrender your life to him.

It also debunks the false notion that God will not tamper with your free will.  I tell you, I'm glad that he very much does that, and here's the lyric from "Reckless Love" that backs it up:

"There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me
There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie You won't tear down
Coming after me"

and you also have the verses that say, "Before I spoke a word, you were singing over me."  "Before I took a breath, you breathed your life in me."

My beliefs aren't really popular.  One, people love their free wills and protest, "So we don't have a choice in our salvation?"  I say that people have wills and will follow them, but our wills aren't free.  Without God's intervention, we can choose God, but we won't because we love ourselves and our ways so much more.  Our hearts need to be changed by none other than the Holy Spirit.  It's like and illustration I've used before of me going to a graveyard and inviting people there to a party.  They have the choice to go, but they can't make that choice - they're dead.  They must be made alive.

The other objection is the idea that not all people will be saved.  What about 2 Peter 3:9 which says, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance"?

I honestly believe Peter is directing that sentence to all people that God has called to salvation, the elect.  He will not will any of them to perish, and they won't perish.  But if God means that he wills all people everywhere to be saved, then everyone will be saved.  But not everyone will be saved, so he must just mean that God doesn't will his elect to perish.  This idea is backed by Jesus's prayer in John 17:9, "I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me."  

God wants us to share the Gospel of Jesus to all people, but only those he has called will respond and believe, and those are the people he will chase down recklessly until they turn to him.  And he will wait until the last one of them repents before he finally sends Jesus back and ends this current age.  

And if you are one of the believers, you have a lot to be thankful for.  You should not be proud or complacent.  You must be humble knowing that God's grace is not obligated, and you must not be complacent because you must still work your salvation with fear and trembling.  You must spread the Gospel to all people and you must work for justice and you must watch yourself so that you don't sin, but you go knowing you won't be alone and that you will see the fruit of your labors because God plans the means as well as the ends.  The idea of a universe where something is outside of God's control is not possible because God must be absolutely sovereign, even when we don't understand it or are comfortable with it.  But he's also good and loves his creation more than we ever could.  These things we will never quite understand because we are not him.  And for that I am glad.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

SS: Ananias and the need to obey

I write these down as the way I want them to go, now how they actually did go.  This lesson went will despite one child wanting to talk recess and nothing else and all of them learning the need to obey, not necessarily the need to follow Jesus.  Now, the lesson:

First, we played "Simon Says."  Obeying is easy when it's a game.  Why is it important to obey?  Why is it important to obey God?

Think of a carousel.  It's colorful, has music, and you get to ride animals.  You seem to be moving, but really, you are going nowhere.  You are going in circles and stuck in a rut.  Disobedience, like the ride, seems fun a first, but in the end, your life is meaningless and you are stuck.  When you start to obey God, however, life may seem more difficult, but you have more options in life and will thrive.

Next, we turned to a sheet that had a list of things to obey, and the kids had to rate whether it was easy to obey or not.

Finally, we got to the good part, the Bible story.  In Acts 9, the man who became Paul, was on his way to put Christians in jail.  Then, Jesus stopped him and his buddies with a blinding light and asked, "Why are you persecuting me?"  "Who are you?" asked Paul.  "I am Jesus, who you are hurting."  Jesus told him that he must now follow Jesus and tell non-Jewish people about him.

Then Jesus visited a Christian named Ananias to go to this house to Paul, yes that one, and pray for him to see again.  He will be a Christian now. 

Ananias had a choice to make.  He knew that Paul had been putting Christians in jail and attending their executions.  Why would he want to pray for him to see again and to become a Christian?  But Ananias went and prayed for Paul.

After that, Paul came to tell many people about Jesus, made most of Europe Christian, and wrote half of the New Testament.  If you are not Jewish, then chances are you are a Christian because of Paul. 

Luke wrote the book of Acts and told this story to show how the work of Jesus continues after he left the earth and until he comes back.  Does he need us to help?  No.  But he wants us to help, and we do that by obeying him.  Just like Ananias kept on obeying, YOU can keep obeying. 

Here is one more story of a man who obeyed God even when it was hard: John the Baptist.  He had many followers.  But God told him that when Jesus comes, he is to tell everybody to follow him because he was the one that people have to believe in to have their sins forgiven and to go to heaven.  And what happened?  More people followed Jesus than John.  In John 3:30, John tells people, "He must become greater, and I must become less."

Would it be hard to tell people to follow Jesus only to know that it will result in them loving him more than you?  It is hard for me because I like having people listen to me and follow me.  I like my fans.  But if they follow Jesus in a way that leads them away from me and to thrive more, then I will have to cheer them on even though I miss them greatly.  But I hope to talk and interact with them forever in God's completed kingdom, and maybe even for a time in the here and now.

Judges: Samson - God's dumb jock

It took me a month and a half to get around to blogging about Samson.  Why?   My schedule changed and I still don't have a rhythm.  Samson's story is 4 chapters long.  Samson is so conflicted.

First, the Philistines are attacking Israel.  Israel sinned by worshiping other gods again, and God sent an enemy to seriously scar them.  Israel is repenting again and they need a savior.

So God goes to a childless couple in the tribe of Dan to announce that Manoah and his Mrs. will have a son.  He was to be a lifelong Nazarite and avoid alcohol, grapes, and never cut his hair.  Just like Jesus, he was a longed for child, and he was supposed to be set apart and holy.  The only thing is, Jesus was the only perfect man who ever lived.  I don't see any indication that Samson ever tried to live holy.

He grew up and saw a sexy lady among the Philistines.  He wanted to marry her.  His parents warned him not to do so because she was not an Israelite.  But Samson followed his urges and married her.  Then he found a lion along a path and killed it.  He passed by the lion again, and some bees made honey in it.  Samson ate some knowing full well that it is unclean to touch a dead body.  He also gave some to his parents and defiled them.  Then he made a riddle and messed with the minds of his new in-laws.  He placed bets on if they could solve it.  They threatened Samson's new wife for the answer and she made his life miserable until he told her.  Then they found out.  In payment, he went to a Philistine town, killed some men, and took their clothes.  Then he went home and they gave his wife to the "best man."

Later on, Samson came back for his wife, found out that she had been given to another man, and then grabbed 300 foxes, tied their tails together, and set them on fire.  They ran and burned down towns.  Then, men came to attack him and he killed them all with the jawbone of a donkey.

Samson led Israel for 20 years, but in his old age, he had not learned to stay away from Philistine women.  He went into a prostitute in Gaza.  The paparazzi ambushed him, hoping to catch him in the morning, but at midnight, he took the gates of the city and marched them all the way to Hebron.

Then, he fell in love with Delilah who coaxed him into telling the secret of his strength.  He told many lies such as, "Bind me with new cords," or "Bind me with old cords" or "Tie my hair to a loom."  Each time she told her Philistine friends.  Each time they came.  He knew he couldn't trust her. Yet he still told her that he had never cut his hair.  So she told her friends and they cut his hair, captured him, gouged out his eyes, and made him do slave labor.  But then his hair grew back, he found the main poles of the place he was in, and caused the building to collapse and kill many Philistines and himself. 

Samson was a puzzle.  He slept around and never tried to honor the Lord with his choices, and yet God chose him to judge the Philistines.  He's like Donald Trump.  I can't stand him, but he still is doing what he said he would do when elected and he's still better than the alternatives.  It shows how far away from God both Israel and America had come to fall under such weak leadership.  We only have the choice between godless and more godless.

And yet, I know I have not always followed the Lord in my attitudes and practices either.  I certainly don't deserve to be leading the church in any capacity, but God can made straight lines with crooked sticks.  And I'm thankful that he uses anybody at all to carry out his will.  And I'm certainly thankful he finally sent Jesus to save us and will do so again.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Take care of what you got

For the first time in ten months, I taught Sunday School.  And it was good to be back.  And for my comeback, I taught on a parable I didn't understand for the longest time until I heard Brooks preach on it about a year ago.  It is in Luke 16:1-12.

Basically, there is a wealthy man who has a manager that is going to have to fire because he was being dishonest with his money.  The manager, let's call him Bob, was frightened and had to figure out a new source of income.

So he went to one of the men who owed the rich man money and said, "How much do you owe?"  "800 bushels of wheat."  Bob said, "Why don't you just pay me 400 bushels?' 

Bob went to another guy and said, "How much do you owe?"  "1000 jugs of oil."  Bob told him he only had to pay 800.

At the end, the wealthy man took back Bob and he had new friends.

At first, it seems like Jesus is praising Bob for cheating the rich man out of his dues. But then you remember what tax collectors did.  They would take more money than the people owed so that they could make a profit.

Suppose I worked for a library and some child had a late book and owed a dollar for a fine. If I took only a dollar, I would have to give it to the librarian, and I wouldn't have any left.  But if tell the kid he owes 4 dollars, then the library gets its dollar, and I get 3.

Basically, Bob was making the people pay more than what they owed to the rich man to make money himself.

But do you know what's more valuable than money or houses or cars or iPhones or even your friends?  Knowing Jesus.  What are we supposed to do with what we know about Jesus?  Share it with people.  Tell them how they can become right with our holy God even though we have sinned and sin can't be forgiven.

You see, we all have sin.  And if that sin goes on in itself, we can't see God or live in heaven with him.  But Jesus said that he would take the punishment for our sins by what he did when he came to earth.  He lived the only perfect life and then died on the cross.  And since he was perfect, he came back from the dead.  Knowing this and believing Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of our sins and to live in heaven.  Nothing is more valuable. 

So, what if I treated Jesus the way Bob treated the rich man's money?  I would probably go to my friend and say, "To get to heaven, you need to pay for your sins.  You need to know Jesus, but first you also have to life a perfect life starting now, oh, and give me $100."  Is that good?  No, because the only thing you need to do to get to heaven is to know Jesus.  He will make you good.  Knowing him will make you want to obey his commands.

Finally, I turned to John 1:35-37 to see how telling about Jesus was done correctly.  John the Baptist had two disciples.  Then Jesus walked by, and John said, "This is the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world."  The two men turned and followed him.  John didn't say to first get baptized or sell their money to the poor.  He said to follow Jesus and nothing more.  And his job was done.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

For my students: past and present

It's a new school year and for young people and CBC/CCS, I've missed a whole year of your lives.  And there's people before then in Loganville; I've missed 5 years of your lives.  Right now I'm watching you all from a distance and wanting to get back in to teach the Bible and to make disciples, but for now, I'll just give some advice.

1. If you were once a student of mine either in after school or at Sunday School and you see me and I say "hi" to you, seriously folks, say "hi" to me.  What is wrong with you?  I know many of you are in 4th grade and starting to mature, but if saying "hi" to adults is not cool or immature, choose to be uncool and immature.  Life is too short to care what other people think other than God and those he has placed over you.  Don't set age limits on your friendships and be friendly.

2. Be careful of your anger.  I have one main person in mind when I write this, but it can apply to all.  In fact, I can write this to myself.  Nothing makes me sadder than to see my young friends making the same mistakes over and over when it's relating to people who either anger or annoy them.  But remember, you have somebody who is already angry at injustice in the world, both in general and against you.  He is God.  He sent his Son Jesus to die for your sins and even the sins of those who have wronged you.  And he will correct all injustice.  So you don't have to do anything.  To do so is to say, "I'm better than God and know better what I'm doing."  That is idolatry and that is sin and not okay.  But Jesus died for you and you can come to him for forgiveness and correction.

Also remember, he has placed parents and teachers in your life if you need a visible reminder that God cares about injustice and is already angry so you don't have to be. 

Also, when I've been in situations where I was provoked to be angry or rude, I've found it helpful to look the people in the eyes.  Also, looking people in the eyes is the hardest thing for me to do and I can't stand it.  But practice looking people in the eyes and you may find that these people have souls and are hurting too, which is why they are hurting you.  It doesn't excuse it, but it will help you understand.  I don't know who I'm quoting, but remember, "You have more in common with people you disagree with than you do with God."  Let us all remember that, both you and me.

3.  My old students in college, I'm mostly thinking of Aubrie.  I miss you.  When you started middle school and decided to start having my dad teach the class at Trinity Grace instead of me, I regret not carrying on that class.  If I could start over, I would have split the class boy/girl and taught you.  You were always amazing and you still are, and I hope you are still growing in your faith now.  Say "hi" if you read this and maybe we can do some kind of spiritual formation. 

For both you and the ones I still see, you never outgrow your time with old Sunday School teachers/ children's ministers.  I consider myself a fellow student with you and in church situations, we are all one family.  Let's not break those ties.