Tag Archives: Christian Living

Devotional practices.

This is less theology, I suppose; or rather it’s a practical application of theology. I wanted to spend a few words on devotional practices, and invite you to comment on your own practices as well. I will shamelessly incorporate any good ideas into my own spiritual life. I hope the tone of this doesn’t come across as braggadocios. My devotional life is certainly not worth bragging about. I often lose myself to work and school and social events, and don’t set aside proper time for God. Remember that someone’s “instagram” life and their real life are very different. This is me on my better days.

Scripture study.

The study of Scripture is very important to me. I try to read daily, but I’m not a very organized study kind of guy. I usually approach topics and themes, or books individually. While I’ve read the entirety of Scripture, I don’t think I’ve ever read cover-to-cover straight through.

Right now I’m taking a little time each day to work on a translation of the Vulgate. My Latin training isn’t quite finished, so there are plenty of parts with which I struggle, but I have found that the translation process is quite illuminating. I’ve been working through John and I’m considering putting my translation up if all goes well.

The important thing for me when reading Scripture is context. I don’t read verses individually, I read stretches and passages and chapters and books. I try to parse the arguments of Paul, or the narrative flow of the Gospels. I read seeking understanding, always trying to use the text to challenge my beliefs.

Prayer.

As with most things in my life, my prayer life is also less organized than it ought to be. I try to spend a little time each day with a personal liturgy-inspired prayer: The Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer from the Small Catechism, a time of silent meditation. I find that liturgy focuses my mind and follows a evermore familiar rhythm. I have to submit my ego to the Word of God. It’s very freeing. My wife and I have a little family liturgy before bed. When baby gets here, we’ll have a liturgy for three.

Fasting.

I’ve written about fasting before, so I won’t rehash all of that here. I bring this up more to say that I have found fasting to be an incredibly useful discipline. I like the extra time it gives me and the mental sharpness I develop.

Church Fathers and other saints.

I think a sad fact is that many Christians neglect the Church Fathers. Now, I’m not saying that we should approve of everything that they said. I disagree with them about veneration of the Saints, for instance. But these are men who have walked the entirety of this path, and from whom we may learn much. They knew Scripture in ways which we could only hope to know it. Many of them faced persecution, exile, and martyrdom, and were rewarded with the crown of righteousness. To read the Fathers is to drink from deep springs.

I love Chrysostom, personally. Every Easter I hear his famed Paschal Homily as many times as possible. Right now I’m also trying to translate St. Anselm’s Proslogion, which is very slow going because his Latin is, in many ways, far beyond my grasp. I may have to come back to that after the semester is out, but it is a fun challenge, at any rate.

One devotional tool I really enjoy is the Treasury of Daily Prayer. It combines liturgical readings of the Old Testament, a Psalm, the New Testament, some hymnody, some quote of a Lutheran reformer or Church Father, and prayers. It also reminds you of feast days for saints (which is another helpful devotional tool in my opinion) and other important events in the Christian Church. It comes with helpful layouts for various liturgical settings as well. There’s an iPhone app called PrayNow for $8.99 which is, to my knowledge, the same content, but interactive. I enjoy the physical book, personally.

That’s it for now, I suppose. If you have any particular practices you find helpful, feel free to share them below. Of course, please note that the comments below do not necessarily have my endorsement. Anyone can put anything they want on the internet.

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Filed under Devotional, Theology Thursdays

Why would Mormons want to be Christians too?

In every conversation I’ve had with a Mormon, whether it be a lay member or a Missionary, they have always told me “Yeah, we’re Christians too.” That statement has always confused me. Here’s why.

The LDS church stands or falls on one idea: There was a Great Apostasy and the Church needed to be restored on the earth. This is first lesson which the Missionaries will teach you if you ever have them over. It’s called “The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” and it teaches the Latter-Day Saint view of church history.

According to the official account of the First Vision, Joseph went into what is now known as the Sacred Grove to pray. There, God the Father and Jesus appeared to him, and he asked them which of the sects of Christianity he ought to join. In Joseph Smith-History 1:19 (which is part of the Pearl of Great Price, and therefore official doctrine) he says:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

So according to God, all of the creeds (as in the Apostles, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds otherwise known as Christian orthodoxy) are an abomination, and all those who profess those creeds (Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, and even most Baptists) are corrupt. And yet, when I, as a corrupt professor of an abomination, say “I’m a Christian,” Mormons say to me “We are Christians too.”

I think you can see now why I’ve been stressing the “too.” It wouldn’t bother me if Mormons said to me “Well, we think we’re Christians, and you’re not.” It wouldn’t bother me if Mormons said just “Well, we’re Christians.” If they believe that they are the true church that Jesus founded then it would make sense that they think they are the true Christians. But when they say that they are Christians too, as if we somehow share faith, despite the words of their prophet, it is confusing to me and strikes me as, perhaps, dishonest.

If you’re a Latter-Day Saint, perhaps you can help me understand. Why would any Mormon tell me that they’re a Christian too, when 1 Nephi 14:10 teaches:

Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

Given what Joseph Smith said about traditional Christianity, it cannot be the case that when a Mormon says “we’re Christians too” they mean that both traditional Christians and the LDS belong to the church of the Lamb of God. That would fly in the face of what God told Joseph Smith. But I can’t believe that they would believe the only alternative: That the Latter-Day Saints belong to the church of the devil! They must not mean that we are both Christians, because there’s no way, given Joseph’s revelation from God, that this can be true.

One response I anticipate is what Missionaries have told me from time to time: I, as a traditional Christian, have part of the truth. I just need the Full Gospel restored. The problem with this, as I see it, is that just because someone knows some true things, that doesn’t make them a Christian.  A Sikh believes many true things about the world, but they are not Christians because they don’t believe in the Christian God. So it seems that a traditional Christian, who does not believe in Heavenly Father (at least not in the Mormon sense) cannot, from a Mormon point of view, be called a true Christian despite the fact that they believe many true things.

Would any Latter-Day Saint like to clarify things for me?

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Filed under Apologetics, Ecclesiology, Mormonism Mondays

Does being pro-life mean supporting forced motherhood?

On August 22, 2015, the satanic temple of Detroit showed up at a peaceful pro-life protest of Planned Parenthood in order to engage in self-described political theater, shown in the video linked above. Overall their counter protest is relatively lackluster. Sure, the wasting of milk has some shock value. The wearing of clericals and carrying of a crucifix just shows the lack of creativity involved. I am underwhelmed.

Beyond the basic lack of creativity in their costuming department, they employed an argument that I find basically preposterous. Well, “employed” is probably strong language for what actually happened. They just held up a sign that said “America is not a theocracy. End forced motherhood!”

Yawn. Boring.  Continue reading

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Filed under Apologetics, Ethics, Evangelism, Politics

Four ways evangelizing helps you grow.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the many benefits of evangelizing, and especially to members of groups like the Latter Day Saints and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the past few weeks God has given me many opportunities to converse with various members of both groups mentioned above, plus with many others who do not know Jesus. I’ve noticed a few things that seasons of intense evangelism has done in my personal life.

1. Evangelism helps you to know what you do, and do not, believe. 

The Church has historically been refined by fire. When the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ was under attack by Arius, the Church’s understanding was hammered out, guided by Scripture, so that we would be able to confess Christ as “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” There is no longer ecclesiastical confusion about this doctrine because it was challenged.

Think of your life as a microcosm of this history of the Church for a moment. We come to know what we ought to believe when we are made to examine the Scriptures “to see if these things might be so” (Acts 17:11). In my experience, almost every time I share the good news with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, I come away with a question I haven’t heard before. Thus, by evangelizing others, God causes me to grow in faith toward Him by teaching me more about who He is through the questions of those who do not yet know Him. The Church continues to be refined by fire.

2. Evangelism ignites a serious prayer life.

When you are intentionally spending time face to face with people who reject Jesus and His saving work, you will often feel helpless. This is a good feeling for you to experience for, while unpleasant, it is a true feeling — that is, it is a feeling that accurately reflects reality. After all, God has told us that His children are borne of His will (John 1); it is not our will that saves others, nor is it their will that saves them, but it is the gracious will of God the Father who draws them to His Son (John 6).

As a result of this, spend time evangelizing and it will draw you closer to God in prayer. You will keep adding names to your list of people for whom you petition the Father, asking him to graciously grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2). You will begin to ask the Father for more opportunities to tell people about His Son. Even if you only pray for other people (despite our Heavenly Father’s desire that you share everything with Him) your prayer life will be kindled as you engage others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Evangelism will help make you grateful.

After walking away from conversations with Mormon’s or Jehovah’s Witnesses, I immediately pray “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” I listen eagerly to the Scripture readings on Sunday mornings, and to the sermon. I am drawn to the Lord’s Supper with great adoration for the gift of forgiveness given there by the God who rose bodily from the dead. Truly, God’s Word cannot return to Him void, for even if the ears you intend to share it with are deaf, it will always fall on your ears as well.

A lot of people think doctrine is boring and irrelevant, but every thing that I learn about God drives me to greater devotion to God and greater thankfulness for His Son. When I see how the promise of forgiveness that Christ gives us in Baptism is so much better than the fear that Jehovah’s Witnesses carry that they haven’t done enough to save themselves from God’s wrath, I’m necessarily captivated by the True God’s love. When I compare the promise that God will uphold His Word with the confusion of a “god” who changes his mind; when I see the God who is eternal, unchanging, and sinless triumph over the “god” who is created, volatile, and possibly a sinner; when I meet the God who came to save me, versus the god who demands I save myself, I cannot help but be transfixed by this God Almighty. I cannot fathom the greatness of God, but when I see the smallness of god in the eyes of unbelievers, I get a glimpse of how much better our God is. How could the knowledge of the God who saved you be irrelevant?

4. Evangelism works!

I have saved the most important point for last. The reason we evangelize is not because it serves us, but because God Himself has given the proclaimed Word as a means of Grace — God uses this Word to make new Christians by granting them repentance and faith. Sharing God’s Word means you may get to be a part of that! You can be a firsthand witness to the continuing work of God through His Word; what else could be said about that?

I hope this post has encouraged you. God’s blessings on all your efforts to share His word!

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Christ is Risen! Why I believe in something as crazy as Jesus’ physical resurrection.

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen indeed! Happy Easter!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the definitive apologetic for the Christian faith. If Jesus is not alive, St. Paul tells us, our faith is in vain. Alternatively, if Christ is raised from the dead, then all else must certainly be counted as vanity. After all, if the Christian faith is true, God offers us Christ’s victory over death as our own.

Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, put it this way: If, at the end of my life, I find out that, say, atheism was true instead of Christianity, it won’t matter. I’ll be dead, the universe will go on, and I’ll be none the wiser. But if someone who doesn’t believe in Christianity finds out it is true, then they lose everything. As Jesus said, even if they’ve gained the whole world that will not profit them if they lose their soul eternally. This isn’t an argument for Christianity, per se, but I hope you see why it’s important to think about things that have potentially eternal ramifications. And in an effort to help you think about these things, whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever or somewhere in between, I want to present you with several reasons you ought to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

The empty tomb.

It seems a pretty basic argument: If the tomb isn’t empty, Jesus isn’t raised from the dead, right? I mean, if you have a body, you don’t have a resurrection. So why didn’t the earliest opponents of Christianity just produce the body and be done with it?

Well, the Christian response has always been that they can’t! The tomb is empty and they can’t find Jesus’ body because He’s ascended into heaven! Let’s look at a few lines of evidence for the empty tomb. A lot of people summarize them with the acronym JET: Jerusalem, Enemies, Testimony of Women. Let’s start with Jerusalem.

The Gospels and Acts tell us that the Apostles began preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem, where Jesus had just been crucified. Can you imagine how hard it would be to preach Peter’s Pentecost sermon about how the Lord of Glory had been crucified, and raised from the dead, if the Jews could produce a body and shut you down immediately? And yet that’s exactly what happens: Peter preaches a powerful message within walking distance of the tomb, saying “David’s tomb is still here, but God raised Jesus up!” If the tomb wasn’t empty, Christianity would never have gotten off the ground.

Now the point comes up again: Why didn’t the earliest enemies of Christianity just grab His body? If the tomb was still full then the Jewish leaders could have just strung up the body and paraded it through the streets. Instead they pay off the guards to say they fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15). This is precisely because the tomb was discovered empty that first Easter Sunday, and they couldn’t produce the body! It speaks volumes when your strongest opponents confirm your point; John Stott said the silence of Christ’s enemies is just as eloquent a proof of the resurrection as the apostles’ witness.

Finally, the fact that women discovered the tomb would have been an embarrassment to any self-respecting first century male. If the disciples were trying to start a religion, they wouldn’t have had women be the first people to discover Jesus had risen. The Talmud, a collection of Jewish teachings from the time, says “Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women” (Talmud, Sotah 19a). Many more quotes could be piled on to demonstrate the low view of women that first-century Judaism took, especially in regards to legal matters: “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex…since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15). So for the Gospels to record such a stark reality — that the male disciples are still cowering in fear and unbelief, while the female disciples go to see Jesus at the tomb — smacks of truth! If you’re going to start a religion in the first century, you don’t do it by painting yourself as a coward compared to a lowly woman.

So based on the nearness to Jerusalem, the silence of the Enemies, and Testimony of Women (JET), it certainly seems like the tomb was empty that Easter morning. And this is only a superficial exploration of the very rich collection of evidence. If this was the end of the case, there would still be compelling reason to consider the claims of Christ further. But there’s still much more.

The appearances of Christ

The Apostle Paul records that after He was raised Jesus “appeared first to Cephas, then to the twelve, then to more than five-hundred people at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep; then to James, then to all the apostles…” (1 Corinthians 15:5-7). We see Jesus appearing to individuals and groups, both friendly and hostile. This variety shows us that Christ did indeed appear to His church.

Often people object that the apostles probably had some grief hallucinations. Despite the fact that hallucinations would probably have fit preconceived notions of Jesus resting in Abraham’s Bosom (where faithful Jews awaited the general resurrection at the end of the world), and hallucinations generally don’t give rise to life-altering beliefs, people persist in this particular objection. But Jesus did not just appear to individuals alone; He appeared to groups of people, and groups of people do not have shared hallucinations. That’s why we pay attention when two or three eyewitnesses say they saw the same thing. Not only that, but it wasn’t just friendly sources who saw Jesus: Hostile sources like James (Jesus’ brother who had previously disbelieved his Brother’s claims to Godhood) and Paul (then called Saul, and a murderer of the Christian heretics) both saw Jesus raised from the dead!

The change in the apostles.

Read Luke 22:54-62, then read Acts 2:14-36. Both passages deal with Peter, both are by the same author, and yet the Peter who denies Jesus is very different to the Peter who stands up on the day of Pentecost and preaches a powerful sermon about Jesus’ authority and victory over death. What changed this coward into a bold preacher? He told you, if you read the Acts account: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Meeting the risen Jesus completely changed Peter — there’s just no other way to put it. And what could possibly change a man from being so fearful of death to preaching to those who could kill him? Again, he told us: Death has no power over Jesus (See verse 24). So Peter no longer feared death because he had met death’s match; he had met someone who walked straight into the belly of Death and punched a hole in it’s side. That’s why when Peter was faced with death, rather than recanting what he had said, he boldly confessed Christ and received martyrdom for it.

But it wasn’t just Peter or John or the close friends of Jesus who were changed. As I mentioned above, Jesus’s appearance changed people who had been hostile to the faith. James, Jesus’ brother, went from unbeliever to apostle when he met Jesus, even writing the letter bearing his name. And Saul of Tarsus, who was basically a hit man the Jewish leaders hired to kill Christians, said he met Jesus on the way to a murder-for-hire in Damascus. From then on Saul went by Paul, and went from one of the top persecutors of the church to one of it’s chief advocates, writing roughly half of the New Testament, being shipwrecked, stoned, and persecuted in various means as he tried to spread the Gospel. Paul, too, received death as a martyr, choosing to bear witness to what a great hope Christ’s resurrection had given him rather than to live. Becoming a Christian early on in the history of the church generally ended with your own blood being shed. Ask yourself, what would compel a man to leave a successful, stable, and relatively cushy life as a traveling persecutor of heretics, only to be persecuted himself, and ultimately die as a result? Doesn’t the conversion of Paul invite us to take a second look at this whole Easter thing?

So what?

I’m sure that as you’ve reached the end of this post you have questions, and perhaps objections. I’d love to hear them. But I think perhaps the most pressing question is “so what?” What does the fact of the resurrection mean for you? That depends on how you respond to it. If you respond in faith then the resurrection is fantastic news — and faith is not a blind and reasonless ignorance but a trust that is willing to step beyond the evidence, as one might trust that there is something casting a shadow though you cannot see anything but the shadow cast. If you trust that Jesus’ work on the cross, His death, and His resurrection were for you, then this whole Easter thing means so much: Peace with God, forgiveness of your deepest sins and guilt, the strength to fight against sin in your self, and so much more.

Responding in unbelief, however, and rejecting Jesus’ work means that you will have none of that. You will continue to be at odds with God and the universe, you will continue to deal with your guilt on your own, you will continue to be a slave to all of your sinful desires. C. S. Lewis put it nicely: “Some people say to God, ‘thy will be done,’ and there are some people to whom God says ‘thy will be done.'” In other words, if you continue to reject Jesus’ work, and God’s invitation back into right relationship with Him, He will, one day, say “depart from me, I never knew you.”

So this is what the resurrection means: Eternal life, joy everlasting, and freedom from sin, death, and the Devil. I hope you have found a few compelling reasons to believe that the resurrection did indeed happen: If the tomb wasn’t empty, how’d Christianity even get off the ground? If Jesus didn’t convert the Apostle Paul, why did he go from killing Christians to being killed as one? And if these things are true, then why do you delay? It was for your sins that Christ died: Repent of your sins, trust in Him, and His victory this day is also your victory. May God grant it.

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American Post-Modernity and Nepalese Paganism.

Not long ago I got to sit and chat with a missionary to Nepal. He and his wife have been over there for some time sharing the Gospel with the Nepalese people. When we were talking, he told me that the greatest challenge in Nepal is the pagan religion already in place. Because the Nepalese people are polytheistic, they hear the Gospel and think it sounds great, so they add Jesus to the pantheon they worship. Jesus becomes another god on their shelf. And it seems as if even those who reject Jesus don’t condemn Him. It seems as if they tolerate Christians just fine, so long as they don’t cause a disturbance.

As I was working this morning, I started to mull this conversation over. Now I am very aware that our worlds are both literally and figuratively miles apart. However there is a strange familiarity to the story he shared with me. You see, America is not so different from Nepal in at least one key way: Everyone has their gods already, and they just want to add Jesus to their pantheon; and those who don’t want Jesus tolerate Him so long as He keeps to Himself. In other ways our mission fields are massively divergent, but here we are not so far apart.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “post-modern” is used to describe the present reigning philosophical period that pervades the culture. It is aptly described as a deep-seated skepticism of everything. All truth claims are to be questioned; none are to be believed. The truth of the matter is dependent on the subject experiencing it. Imagine two baseball umpires, one believing in absolute truth and one a practicing post-modern. The first says “I call them as they are;” the second, “They are as I call them.”

This assumption — “all truths are equally valid and none are binding” — underlies much of modern American culture. Christ has become a good teacher among many equals, rather than the unique Son of God. People are glad to add His voice to the myriad of other spiritual guides they already listen to, or they are content to allow you to believe as you wish. In both cases, however, they refuse to confess that Jesus is God and Lord.

This attitude is present in the visible church as well. Pastor’s refuse to rebuke unsound doctrine. People get upset when you name names like T. D. Jakes or Steven Furtick; calling out a heretic is, for the first time in Christian history, unthinkable. Why? Because those teachers are seen as equally valid strains of Christian thought. The visible church has succumbed to the culture’s ideas that everyone teaches truth. “They must be doing something good! Look how big their church is!” We no longer test men by their doctrine but by how many “lives they’ve changed.” I have been told that it’s wrong to rebuke false teachers because they may have helped others in their spiritual walk. In other words, so long as something a heretic said has helped someone somewhere feel closer to God, then it must be of value. If that is the prevailing attitude of the American church, it doesn’t seem as if Jesus would be welcome in our pulpits.

Pastors, return to your posts. Man up and preach the Word, not this castrated, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in- your-mouth, Osteen-esque skuvbalon which leaves this people with a million excuses. Answer me this: On judgement day, will those who attend your church look at you and ask why you never warned them to flee the wrath to come? Why they never heard the Law expose their Sin and their need for a Savior? In that day, pastor, will your snappy series on better marriages shield them from the wrath of God? Will they grasp for those fig leaves you kept sewing together for them, or will they be clothed in the righteousness of Christ? It will be a great and terrible day for many who now call themselves “pastor.”

All is not lost, of course. God’s Word is still living and active today. Much like Paul was provoked by the idol worship in Athens, the church should be — and I would hope is — sorely provoked by the idol worship in America. You see, ultimately post-modernity is worship of self. “I decide what is right for me.” We are freed from that dreadful tyranny of truth to serve whatever the god of our bellies tells us is right, and no one else can tell us otherwise.

This is why the Gospel cannot be reduced to Jesus as the best way; because “best” no longer means “superior to all others at all places and all times.” We must preach that Jesus is the Way. And as Paul in Athens made known the unknown God, so we stand and declare that Christ truly died for our sins; that there is indeed a God made flesh in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, exclusive. That this God-man will not be placed lightly among other spiritual voices clamoring for our attention, but will in fact shatter our shrine to self-righteousness, self-esteem, and self-worth, and replace it with His righteousness, with esteem of His glory, and with a yearning for the One who alone is Worthy.

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14,611 days later: How does the Gospel speak to Roe v. Wade?

Pro-abortion march

Pro-abortion march (Photo credit: American Life League)

According to the US Abortion Clock, as of the time of this writing, 55,886,682.5 abortions have been performed in the United States since Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. If the abortion rate remains about the same, we will pass 56,000,000 in just 29 days.

I  doubt very much that I could say anything that hasn’t already been said about January 22nd. Today is January 23rd and it seems that, for many, life simply goes on. But for me, today, life stopped.

I began to reflect today on the bloodbath that has ravaged this nation — my nation. We’ve advanced so far since Roe that now Salon staff writer Mary Elizabeth Williams rightly argues that life begins at conception, then wrongly states that this shouldn’t stop an abortion.

I have spent no small amount of time today grieving over this modern-day slaughter of the innocents. My heart breaks that so many precious human persons have lost their lives. And in this, I have been reflecting: What does the Gospel say to Roe v. Wade? How does the Gospel impact the knowledge that 22% of pregnancies in America will end in abortion?

God’s Law speaks to the Church to teach us what a good work looks like. The Law commands us “Love thy neighbor.” And for the Christian we do this in the context of abortion by loving our tiny neighbors in a faithful, ferocious defense of their life. We stand firm on this issue with our vote and our voice; if we can make an impact, while still keeping the Law of God, then we are compelled to do so. We cannot stay silent and say that we are honoring God.

But every abortion has two victims; the mother must never be neglected in our defense of the unborn. Because the Law weighs heavy on her heart, and her conscience. The Law condemns her as a murderer, and her heart, which knows this is true, condemns her as well. To love our neighbor here, we must be faithful in our proclamation that Christ, on the Cross, won forgiveness for even this great sin that grips her soul. We must always be sure our message is “there is no sin so vile that the Cross of Christ cannot answer it.” We must never miss an opportunity to joyfully invite all sorts of sinners to join us, sinners just as great, in receiving forgiveness in Jesus name.

I must humbly apologize for my personal failure to always preach the Gospel. I have been so eager in my zeal for the unborn that I have not also invited the burden-bound to the forgiveness won by Christ and His vicarious death on the Cross for my sins, your sins, and the sins of the world. Please forgive me. And if you, like I, have neglected your duties, I pray that this convicts you.

Finally, I must appeal to you, dear reader: If you carry this burden, lay it down. Come and see that Christ has borne the punishment that you and I deserve, so that you may gain His righteousness. Come find forgiveness, full and free.

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Christians say the darnedest things.

Church vocabulary weirds me out. I was in the middle of the following sentence when I realized just how unintelligible church language can be.

“When did you get saved?”

Think about that question for a minute or two. When did you get saved? You’re probably thinking “well let’s see… I prayed the sinners prayer when I was what… 6? Let me find my Bible, I wrote it down on the ‘My Spiritual Birthday’ page at the front.” How many of you have one of those, show of hands?

Here’s the problem with that question: The day you started professing Jesus Christ as your savior isn’t the day you got saved. If it was, you would have been saved through some work of your own. Your profession didn’t add anything to your salvation, it simply marked the beginning of your sanctification. Your salvation was won for you on the Cross — when Jesus said it was finished, He meant it.

And here’s another problem with that question: If everyone who professed Christ was saved, then we wouldn’t have Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” We give people a false sense of security — probably because that’s what people are looking for — when we tell them “say a prayer to get saved.” It’s a magic spell that can be used as a fire-escape; we get to call a favor in from Jesus when we really need one, never mind all that nonsense He said about loving God and other people I just need Him to do something for me really quick (hey thanks cosmic boy-toy!).

Here’s another awkward phrase: “Man the presence was really in the house this morning.” Really? Did the foundation of your church shake? Were people hurling themselves face to the ground in repentance, and crying out for mercy? No, the mix was just really good and the guitarist’s new delay pedal was nice sounding and the smoke machine made everyone a little light-headed. Read the Bible and tell me where the presence and Spirit of God truly fall without conviction of sin and repentance. We cannot afford to trade cheap emotionalism for true religious experience. If your congregation is alive and unbroken, then they have probably not been in the presence of God.

That last point is going to be very unpopular with a lot of people, so if your initial reaction was one of hostility, go read what I said again. Compare it to scripture. Pray. Wrestle. Do more than just react against an attack on cherished assumptions.

I could go on for a very long time, but I’m going to turn it over to you guys: Got a Churchism that’s been bothering you? Share it in the comments! I’d love to hear what you think.

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Filed under Ecclesiology, Personal