Christians are Too Comfortable

Wednesday is for Thinking

ArchesOne of the problems that Christians face in every age is how to be in the world but not of the world (cf. John 17:11 and 1 John 2:15).  How are we to exist in the world without becoming like the world? How are we to love the world in the way that God loves the world without becoming corrupted by the world (John 3:16)? How are we to bless the citizens of this world while living as citizens of a different, bigger, holier, eternal kingdom that is not of this world? How do we work for the will of God to be done on earth, just as it is done in heaven while living for a kingdom and King who are not of this world (Mt. 6:7-13; John 18:36; 2 Cor. 5:1-2)?

One thing we must do, is not allow ourselves to get too comfortable in this world. That’s what I address in my new book and what Harry Blamiers* is addressing in his book Where Do We Stand in the World? 

“… Blamiers makes the essential point that ‘the Christian vocation is always to be a citizen of another kingdom, and therefore to live uneasily in the kingdom of this world.'”

Malcom Muggeridge,
from the Forward to Harry Blamires book, (p. x)
Where Do We Stand? An Examination of the Christian’s
Position in the World

* Blamiers was a student and later, a friend of C.S. Lewis.

Distortions of Scripture and the Wisdom of Malcolm Muggeridge

Tuesday is for Thinking

Kingdom_of_God“Of all the distortions of scripture—and heaven knows there have been plenty in our time—the most disastrous is surely to suggest that when our Lord insisted that his Kingdom was not of this world, he meant that it was. An equivalent distortion would be to devise a version of the third temptation in the wilderness whereby our Lord, instead of rejecting the devil’s offer of the kingdoms of the world, accepted it with a view to setting up an earthly paradise in accordance with contemporary specifications—some super-People’s Democracy, or welfare state, or co-operative common-wealth.”

Malcom Muggeridge,
from the Forward to Harry Blamires book, (p. vii)
Where Do We Stand? An Examination of the Christian’s
Position in the World

Getting Serious About Discipleship

Saturday Musings

Discipleship, Dare to beThe modern American church is “ill focused and sadly out of sync with its Lord’s mission.”

According to a 2010 LifeWay Research study, only three percent of American churches participated as the primary support for a church plant and only 14 percent participated “in any way” toward the establishment of a new church (LifeWay Research 2010). This statistic follows from the equally startling report that “80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months” (LifeWay Research 2014). 

The connection between a lack of church planting passion and the failure to make disciples are two peas from the same pod. These two issues travel together and reflect a Church that is ill focused and sadly out of sync with its Lord’s mission and the purpose given to the Church in the aptly named Great Commission (cf. Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-16; Lk 24:45-49; Jn 20:21, 29-31; Acts 1:8). If we don’t share our faith individually, why would we expect churches to have a passion to share the faith corporately? 

Solutions?

Why Was the Early Church Relatively Silent on Abortion?

Was the early Church silent on the issue of abortion because of some missional strategy to not offend mainstream Roman culture? Or was there something else going on? Here is a brief article from Kairos Journal examining the Old Testament and Jewish understanding of the issues involved and that informed the worldview of the earliest Christians. 

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Roman Colosseum at Twilight

Abortion and the Early Jewish World1 (50 B.C. – c. 100 A.D)

Steeped in the Noahic covenant and the Sinaitic law, early Jewish communities viewed abortion as evil. The former text warned, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6 ESV). The latter insisted, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13 ESV). And though contemporary abortion enthusiasts try to appropriate Exodus 21:22-25 to excuse their killing, Moses’ hearers and early interpreters would have found such reading absurd. Indeed, abortion on demand was “very likely not even contemplated in the Mishnaic law,”2 much less approved.

Accordingly, Jewish scholars in ancient and classic times were adamantly opposed to abortion. Though influenced by Greek philosophy, Philo of Alexandria (25 B.C. – 41 A.D.) held the following:

If a man comes to blows with a pregnant woman and strikes her on the belly and she miscarries, then, if the result of the miscarriage is unshaped and undeveloped, he must be fined both for the outrage and for obstructing the artist Nature in her creative work of bringing into life the fairest of living creatures, man. But, if the offspring is already shaped and all the limbs have their proper qualities and places in the system, he must die, for that which answers to this description is a human being, which he has destroyed in the laboratory of Nature who judges that the hour has not yet come for bringing it out into the light, like a statue lying in a studio requiring nothing more than to be conveyed outside and released from confinement (Special Laws 3).3

Also influential among Jews in Alexandria was the Sentences of Psuedo-Phocylides, a collection of ethical injunctions for daily life written sometime between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D.:

A woman should not destroy the unborn babe in her belly, nor after birth throw it before the dogs and vultures as a prey.4

Similarly, the apocalyptic Sibylline Oracles (first century B.C.), included among those who would suffer God’s wrath (with sorcerers, adulterers, and thieves) women of this description: 

Having burdens in the womb [they] produce abortions; and their offspring [are] cast unlawfully away.5

Palestinian Jews had even stricter guides. In his apology for Judaism, Against Apion, historian Josephus (c. 37 – c. 100 A.D.)

The Law orders all the offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause abortion or to make away with the foetus; a woman convicted of this is regarded as an infanticide, because she destroys a soul and diminishes the race (Apion 2.202).6

With this cultural backdrop, it is easy to see why the New Testament made no mention of abortion; its sinfulness was obvious to followers of Jesus.

Footnotes:

1 The following quotes are gleaned from Michael J. Gorman, Abortion & the Early Church: Christian, Jewish, and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982).
2 David Feldman, Birth Control in Jewish Law (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1998), 284.
3 Gorman, 36
4 Ibid., 37.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid., 43.

A Major Problem for American Christians

Great Quotes from Weekend Reading

The Roots of Endurance“The twenty-first century has begun with the shattering realization that there is no safe place on earth. Slowly, perhaps, many are wakening to the biblical view that ‘here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come’ (Hebrews 13:14); that this world does not offer a ‘kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (Hebrews 12:28); that we are ‘sojourners and exiles’ (1 Peter 2:11); that we should ‘not be surprised at the fiery trial . . . as though something strange were happening to’ us (1 Peter 4:12); . . .”

The Biblical Roots of Endurance,
p. 17, John Piper.

“I have found myself in conversation with Christians for whom it is simply a given that you do not put yourself or your family at risk. The commitment to safety and comfort is an unquestioned absolute. The demands of being a Christian in the twenty-first century will probably prove to be a rude awakening for such folks. Since we have not embraced the Calvary road voluntarily, God may simply catapult us onto it as he did the home-loving saints in Acts 11:19: ‘Those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word.”

The Biblical Roots of Endurance,
p. 18, John Piper

“One way or the other, Christ will bring his church to realize that ‘in the world you will have tribulation’ (John 16:33); that ‘all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12); that we are called ‘to share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God’ (2 Timothy 1:8); that ‘we . . . groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8:23); that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Christ’s] sake and the gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:35); and that ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).”

The Biblical Roots of Endurance,
p. 19, John Piper

If I had read this book before I published my last book, I think I would have included every one of these quotes from John Piper. Oh how my heart longs for every Christian in America, from me to the oldest and youngest Christ followers in the nation, to recognize and live out these truths. May God raise up a new generation of cross-bearing followers of the Savior.

It’s why I wrote the booklet, Settlers or  Sojourners?  It’s available now from Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Plan Now for a Spring Harvest of Souls

It’s freezing in Chicago-land but Spring is coming. It really is. Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday, days are getting longer, the geese are back picking through corn fields. It’s coming. And it really won’t be long.

So now really is a good time to start planning what you will do to demonstrate the love of Christ to your neighbors when the Spring comes. For some ideas, see:

Plan Now for a Spring Harvest of Souls.

What is Your Job?

Saturday Musing

“The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the Word.”

— John Owen, English Puritan

Pastors:

  • Remind your heart every day that this is your job.
  • Remind your heart as you study, as pray, and as you prepare your messages.
  • Remind your heart as you move toward the pulpit.
  • Remind your heart as you walk away from the pulpit.
  • Remind your heart in the midst of criticism and praise,
  • “I am a cook, preparing meals for my Master’s flock.”
  • “My job is point the flock to the King not to myself.”

Congregations:

  • Remember that this is your pastor’s job and pray for him.
  • Do not tempt him with excessive praise.
  • Do not burden him with tedious criticism on trivialities.
  • Be doers of the word and not just hearers.
  • Remind your heart that to do his job at times he must cut so that he can heal.
  • Pray that God would give you “ears to hear” and a heart to do the word of God.

You Wouldn’t Fit There Now

Part of  The Poetry Project

Read Psalm 103

Man prayingYou Wouldn’t Fit There Now

You wouldn’t fit there now
But when you were small
So small you fit in a dark and secret place
So small you hid from us and never made a sound
I would wrap my hands around you
I would cradle you tenderly
We were two separate people
Related by blood
Related by love
Separated by the thin membrane of your mother’s belly.

You wouldn’t fit there now
But inside your mother’s womb
Inside the dark mystery of your shaping
I held your form before I beheld your face
I prayed for you
I used David’s words
I cried out with joy and tears
I lifted your present forming
I lifted your future breathing
I carried the wonder of your life
To a womb-opening God
And pleaded to a good and powerful God
.     “Bless the Lord, O my soul
.      and all that is within mom
.      bless His holy name!”
I never stopped.
The prayer has never ended.
It never will.

Go to Psalm 104

The Profoundly Wicked Roots of Planned Parenthood

Expect regular posts and reposts on the issue of abortion. I am convinced there is a profound lack of factual knowledge surround the whole issue of abortion, abortion centers, the history of the issue, the real violence of abortion and powerful social consequences not just for mother and child, but father and also the culture that is created when we view babies as disposable.

Here’s one of those reposts from 2013.

For more see:  The Profoundly Wicked Roots of Planned Parenthood.