Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Lighter Side

I love getting books as gifts. This year for Christmas I got a book by one of my favorite authors--Johnny Hart. The book, Growing Gold with B. C.: A 50 Year Celebration. Now, if you're like me and you've been a fan of B.C. for years, this book is something you need to get. It's not a comprehensive collection of all the B. C. strips. It is a good representative sampling of some of Hart's best work.

I got hooked on B. C. way back in high school. My piano/voice instructor's wife was a distant cousin of Johnny Hart, and they always had copies of B. C. and Wizard of Id on the coffee table. I would go early just to read the comic books while a school classmate had her lesson.

I've finished reading the book already. In it I found B .C. strips going back to the beginning of B. C. in the late 1950s. I saw B.C.'s character development and presentation from a short, fat cave man to the taller, somewhat leaner version we all know today. What I found most interesting was Hart's own testimony of overcoming hurdles to breaking into syndicated comic strip work, the inspiration he got from Peanuts, and the way he chose his main characters for the strip (turns out most are friends or relatives).

So what's missing? Well, Hart's classic Christmas and Easter strips are missing, and I wish they weren't. Hart has a way of sharing the gospel with his readers that is engaging, thought-provoking, and winsome. He doesn't preach at you with his Christian vignettes, but he makes you think about the message of Christ. I remember many years ago he had a Good Friday strip that my wife found quite disturbing. I told her to be patient, and wait for the Easter strip--that it would be okay. It was better than okay. Hart knocked it out of the park.

May we all be so gifted as to find winsome ways to take a positive stand for Christ.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Meditation

Christmas day is almost done as I sit down to write. Christmas Eve was a late night as we filled the stockings and finally got to sleep after midnight. Christmas morning started at 5:30 when I found my oldest up with her watercolor set making last minute stocking stuffers for me and her mother.

By seven we were working on breakfast and getting everyone out of bed. At breakfast we read the Christmas story from Luke's Gospel, then we went to the living room to sing Christmas carols before getting into the gifts. The hardest thing about Christmas is keeping the incarnation of God in the person of Christ at the center of it. Many churches no longer have Christmas or Christmas Eve services. The focus is on gifts and food for so many people. For me Christmas is another opportunity to press the claims of the Gospel on my children and urge them to come to Christ. Today I spoke of the inn which had no room for a late-term pregnant mother and her traveling husband, and I raised the question, "Is there room in your heart for Christ?"

Think about it. The very one who created all things came to his creation only to be told, "No Vacancy!" when he arrived. John put it this way: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1: 11). Did Christ find a place in your heart,  your home, your family at Christmas this year? Or was he crowded out by all the gifts, food, parades, and frivolity that have become part and parcel of the season? Did you take a stand for Christ this Christmas?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ethics, Ecology, and Evangelicalism

In today's world ethics has been redefined from traditional morals about how you and I treat one another as human beings to how we treat the planet we live on. Everything is about going "green". My Boy Scout Council has set a goal to become a "green" council. We have a supplier that produces cups, plates, utensils, and trash bags out of biodegradable corn starch. They're really amazing, too, unless you have a corn intolerance. I'm not sure if enough of the corn would leach into food to become an issue, but I'm not willing to try it on my daughter who is very corn intolerant. But I love using the stuff myself. I also play guitar. And guitars are made of, well, wood, for the most part. And they're not just made of any old wood. Special woods are used, some from exotic places like Africa, India, or South America and Indonesia. My acoustic guitars are made by Walden (, and I love them. They are well made and affordable. Well, Walden has just announced a new "green" guitar in the name of ecological ethics--the Madera line. It's a beautiful instrument made of excellent woods from a variety of places. What's unique is not the wood itself but the suppliers. Apparently the suppliers for these woods are certified as participating in efforts to sustain the forests, presumably by replanting trees for the ones they harvest for guitar production. It's a great idea, and I applaud Walden for being involved in this. It will ensure that guitar players for generations to come will be able to buy and enjoy fine instruments crafted from the best woods.

Having said all of that, the question comes to mind, is ecology an ethical issue? If it is, how should believers respond to ecological issues?

First, I do believe that ecological issues are ethical issues. How we treat  the planet says something about how seriously we take our God-given stewardship of it (see Gen 1: 26--28). Secondly, believers should not respond to ecological issues in the same way as many others are responding. Much of the talk of ecological ethics today is rooted in the worship of "mother earth". Everything from questions about global warming (and there are a lot more questions now than answers in the wake of "Climategate") to whether I should burn charcoal in my grill to cook my deer steaks seems to be eco-ethical question these days (including whether I should have shot bambi to begin with).

How we treat the planet impacts how we treat each other. We do want to keep our planet in a healthy condition, because this is the only home we have until Christ returns. As believers you and I should demonstrate good and responsible uses of the natural resources we have. Every renewable resource should be maintained. If we drop a tree to make a guitar, another should be planted to replace it (foresters have a formula for how many trees should be planted--glad I don't have to keep up with that). We shouldn't pour paint thinner and other contaminants down storm drains or onto soil to contaminate ground water supplies. In short, we shouldn't just trash our planet. On the other hand, we shouldn't make everything here so "sacred" that we can't hunt or fish or harvest trees. We shouldn't worship the ground we walk on. God created all of this, and he will sustain it to the fulfillment of his purpose for human history, which will culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. God is the one we should fear and worship. We should care for the earth because he has commanded it. Our exercise of ecological ethics should be an extension of our worship of God and appreciation of all the good things he has made. So take a stand for a Christian perspective on ecological issues and don't get caught up in the frenzy of an unbelieving world that makes ecology into a kind of religion in its own right.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saint Nicholas vs. Santa Claus

With Christmas always comes the wonder of "Santa Claus", that jolly old bearded man in the red suit with the reindeer and sleigh and the bag of goodies. Oh, and let's not forget the elves who work in his shop building toys all year long. Personally, I'm not a fan of telling kids about "Santa Claus", and here's why. We tell them about both Santa Claus and the baby Jesus side by side. They grow up to find out Santa isn't real, and will that lead them to question whether Jesus is real, too? It's just a question.

But, I love Saint Nicholas. Not the fictionalized St. Nick but the real Saint Nicholas. Yes, he really lived. This morning I watched with my kids a Veggie Tales video that sort of tells the story of the real Saint Nicholas. I say "sort of" because the wonderful people at Veggie Tales always take some creative license to make the stories more readily understandable for kids, but they keep the essential facts in place. It's not a criticism, just an observation. I love Veggie Tales as much as any kid.

So who was Saint Nicholas? He was a bishop who lived in the Roman Empire during the last great persecution and into the early years of Constantine's reign and the legalization of Christianity. He lived in the Eastern part of the Empire, never saw the north pole, and was probably never fat. You can see an icon of Saint Nicholas at that represents how he is often viewed in the Orthodox Church. Saint Nicholas was a man of character and generosity. He endured persecution for the faith and was beaten so badly that his body appeared bruised for the rest of his life. He came from a wealthy family, and as a bishop he used his wealth to help the poor. One story relates how he dropped gold coins into the stockings of three poor sisters to provide a dowry for them so that they could marry. This the beginnings of the "stockings" legend related to Saint Nicholas. Another story relates that he was one of the 318 bishops at Nicaea in 325, and that he rose up in anger at the Arian heresy and struck an Arian bishop to the floor with his fist. Saint Nicholas was a man who was not afraid to take a stand for Christ and the gospel. He was not afraid to spend his wealth to help the poor. He was a respected bishop of unquestioned character and generosity.

May we all be more like Saint Nicholas--standing firm for the gospel with generous hearts toward the poor. The world needs to see what we stand for.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Caroling

One of the great delights of the Christmas season for me is the music. I love Christmas carols. I'm not talking about "Santa" songs. I'm talking about the songs that celebrate the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. These songs, for the most part, were written to be sung, not played on an instrument. They are vocal arrangements. I love Handel's Messiah, and not just the "Hallelujah Chorus" but the whole thing. My favorites, though, are those minor key songs like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "What Child is This?" Recently I've fallen in love with the minor key harmonies of "One Small Child". Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, has an excellent performance of this great song by David Meece at

Other songs that I love from Christmas include "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "Stille Nacht" (I prefer the German to the English), and of course, "O Come, All Ye Faithful". "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is the first Christmas song I ever played by sight-reading at the piano, so it has special place in my heart, too. There are so many wonderful songs about the birth of our Lord that I love to sing.

But why should this be so central to my Christmas? It is because I grew up in a home of music, and Christmas was doubly so. Three of my dad's four sisters played piano. And most of us lived within 100 miles of each other. Christmas was a time for family to get together. Yes, we'd eat, but mostly we'd gather around the piano. One of my dad's sisters would play, and we'd sing Christmas carols. Most of us read music (some read only shape notes, but that was okay since most of our books were shape note books), so we had plenty of harmony. Music was a central part of my childhood Christmas experience. But today I see the music as a key way of transmitting the gospel. Many people who do not regularly attend church will listen to Christmas carols. Keep the caroling tradition alive. Maybe get some friends together and go caroling through your neighborhood this Christmas. Think of it as another way to take a stand for Christ and remind everyone that HE is the reason for the season.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Interrupted

Well, my Christmas spirit has been interrupted by something a friend pointed out to me via Facebook. Then I saw a news story about it at It's appeared on MSNBC, too, I think. I feel I need to address this issue.

Led by Andy Schlafly, son of the anti-feminist leader, Phyllis Schlafly, a group of amateur Bible scholars (and I emphasize "amateur" while using "scholar" loosely) have set out to create a modern Bible translation free of the "liberal" biases they see in translations today. They read liberalism into such famous passages as Jesus' prayer for his executioners in Luke 23: 34 (which appears in the KJV--I bet there were some liberals on that translation team) and Jesus' forgiving the woman taken in adultery (another text in the KJV). Acts 2: 44 is right out as it clearly endorses socialism, so it must be retranslated in a way that makes no sense of the rest of the Acts narrative that culminates in chapter 5 with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. You start to get the idea of why I emphasize "amateur" and use "scholar" loosely.

This project is free and anyone can contribute. It's a wiki project, similar to wikipedia. No advanced competency in the languages or textual criticism is required. There seems to be an emphasis on the ability to spot deceptive liberal wordings in the text and correct them with "powerful conservative terms" ( This is so obviously an agenda driven translation project as should require no rebuttal, but the press had latched on to this thing and given it legs with its reporting.

I am not going to address the particulars of the project. Rather, I want to say a word about the textual transmission of the Bible, textual criticism, and translation theory. But I must qualify all that I say with the caveat that, on this, I am an amateur, too. My specialty is Church History, not biblical studies, and while I've studied Greek, Hebrew, and Latin for my degrees, I'm by no means a scholar in those fields.

When you pick up a Bible, you hold in your hands the culmination of thousands of years of work, from the writing of the "autographs", the originals penned by the biblical authors, to the centuries of hand-written copies, the translation work of scholars through the ages, and much careful study. No book is as closely proof-read by publishers as is the Bible. Why? Because so many of us consider it to be the very word of God written. Therefore it is treated with special reverence and care.

When biblical scholars work on what is called a "critical" edition of the Greek New Testament or the Hebrew Bible they have certain guidelines they follow to sort through a variety of "textual variants", minor discrepancies that appear here and there in the text as a result of centuries of hand-copying by scribes in various circumstances. They do this, not to include or eliminate specific readings because of an agenda, but to determine what was most likely the original wording of the text as it appeared in the autographs. With regard to the New Testament, scholars have over 5,000 manuscripts to work with, and the level of certainty is above 99% recovery of the original text. Our level of confidence in the Hebrew text is similarly high, though I don't have an exact figure for that.

Next comes the matter of translation. This is where there is more potential for bias. There is a saying among translators: Traduttore traditore--"the translator is a traitor." What this means is that no translation from one language to another is ever entirely complete. Something is lost or added in every translation attempt. The question is, are there intentional changes taking place due to translator bias? Has translator bias impacted some translations? Yes. Still, most of the popular translations today (I'm not speaking of paraphrases, which are a separate issue) seek to remain faithful to the original thought or wording of the Greek and Hebrew texts. Given that, you can have confidence that the Bible you own, whether it is a King James Version, New American Standard, New International Version, or English Standard Version (or some other--there are so many today) is substantially the Word of God written and is reliable to communicate to you God's message of redemption.

Here a quote from the 18th century English Baptist leader John Gill is in order: "The Scriptures in our English translation, have been blessed of God, either by reading them in [the original], or by explaining them according to it, for the conversion, comfort, and edification of thousands and thousands. And the same may be said of all others, so far as they agree with the original, that they are the rule of faith and practice, and alike useful" (Body of Divinity, Baptist Standard Bearer ed., 13b).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Anticipating Christmas

An oft recurring theme in the New Testament is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the life of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus said that the Old Testament spoke of him. Think for a minute what life would be like in a land without Christmas, without the coming of the Christ. Try to imagine yourself living before Christ came. Now, if you were an Israelite with some familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures, you would know that God had promised to send a Messiah. You might not be entirely sure what kind of Messiah he would be, but you would have the hope that God would send someone from the lineage of King David to be a Deliverer. But if you were a Gentile you would likely know nothing of this hope. What would that be like?

One of the great Old Testament promises referred to in the New Testament is Psalm 2, a royal psalm. Scholars believe this psalm may have been used during the installation service of a new king in Israel. But the New Testament sees in this psalm a prophecy of the One King promised to come from David fulfilled in Jesus.

"As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, 'You are my
today I have begotten you" (Ps 2:6--7, ESV).

In the coming of each of the Davidic kings the promise of the One King was carried forward. And even when the kingdom fell due to sin, the line of kings, the line of descendants from David remained unbroken until the coming of Jesus. In Jesus the promise of an everlasting kingdom and an everlasting King has been fulfilled. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Here is the good news of Christmas. The King has come. Take a stand. Spread the good word.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More about Christmas

The thread of redemption for a fallen humanity runs throughout the Old Testament. We saw it yesterday in Genesis 3: 15. Walter Kaiser, in his book, Toward an Old Testament Theology, zeroed in on the concept of the promised "seed" as the seam that ties the Old Testament together. This promise, as we have seen, begins in Genesis 3: 15, but it certainly doesn't stop there. Early in Genesis several "threats" appear to this promise. The first threat comes with the murder of Abel, but the line of Seth is the line through whom seed will come. Then the flood threatens all of humanity, but from the line of Seth, Noah finds favor with God, and he and his family are spared. From the family of Noah the focus narrows to the line of Shem, and from Shem to the sons of Eber (father of the Hebrews). In the line of Eber, Abraham "the Hebrew" is chosen, and the promised seed again becomes a dominant theme.

Abraham is given the promise that "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12: 3, ESV), and in Galatians 3: 15--19 Paul says that God's promise to Abraham should be interpreted as Christ being the promised "seed" who would bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles alike.

Christmas reminds of in a very concentrated way of the fulfillment of the promise of salvation. In that way it shows us the unfailing faithfulness of God. If God was faithful to Eve and to Abraham to keep his promise for the giving of his Son as our Redeemer, will he not also be faithful to sustain and keep us in his Son, and to send his Son to claim us for himself at the last day? Christmas should remind us that he who came the first time will come again because God is faithful. This is good news. Spread the word.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Standing Up For Christmas

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. That may not resonate with a lot of my fellow Baptists, for whom the liturgical calendar means little beyond actually celebrating Christmas and Easter. Still, in this day of politically correct jargon, believers need to stand up for the uniqueness of Christmas amid all the other festivities of the winter season. Some of the festivities are pure fabrications intended to be substitutes for Christmas. Others are legitimate religious holidays rooted in other religious belief systems. Christians can respect all of these while at the same time making a case for Christmas.

Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of promises strung throughout the Hebrew Bible regarding the coming of a God-sent deliverer for a lost humanity. The first such promise occurs in Genesis 3: 15, where God promises Eve that her seed will "crush the serpent's head." No sooner had the fall occurred than God promised a remedy who would come from the seed of a woman (not a man, a woman). Clearly, there is an implication here of a virgin born Chosen One sent from God to deliver fallen humanity.

Christmas is a joyous celebration precisely because it embodies this good news, this gospel, of the coming of the Deliverer. Wish everyone you see a merry Christmas, and do so from your heart. In the process look for opportunities to explain to people the real significance of Christmas--the good news that God has sent his Deliverer, and that they may find deliverance from sin through him.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Touching Lives Through Wrong Numbers

I've had an interesting journey with my cell phone of late. Some months ago a person got a new cell phone number almost identical to mine. This person mis-memorized her number and has given my number out to everyone from her doctor to her friends. I know way too much about her personal life. At first it was irritating, but I've learned to take it in stride. I've even begun to build a kind of friendship with one of her friends. When she calls, expecting to get her friend and realizes that again she has dialed the wrong number, I take a minute to ask how she's doing. We chat briefly. Today we talked about our Thanksgiving meals and eating too much, and I wished her a merry Christmas. It's not much, but if it brings a little joy to her life I can spare a few cell minutes. It gives me a chance to pass on a little of the grace I've found in Christ. My family is rather entertained by the whole thing now.

What do you do with wrong numbers? Do you see every encounter as something intended by God as an opportunity to touch a life? Are there really any wrong numbers? Use those "happenstances" to spread God's love to others and be a channel of grace. Take a stand and be a blessing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still Giving Thanks

Well, it's the day before Thanksgiving Day. This will probably be my last blog of the week. I have more things to be thankful for, and I hope you do, too.

I've had some absolutely wonderful experiences and opportunities in 2009. Early in the year God showed us that our work at one church was done and it was time to go elsewhere. God has provided another wonderful church home for our family where I get to teach a class and pretend I can actually play a guitar (mostly I beat on one, sort of in rhythm and in the right key). God has given me the opportunity through my work as an adult Scout leader to build a lot of wonderful relationships, but the ones I'm most mindful of at this moment are the guys in my Wood Badge Patrol (SR 982 Antelope Patrol). What a great group of men. They are godly and dedicated to making a difference in the world through touching the lives of youth in Scouting. I'm thankful also for the Wood Badge experience. Our entire troop seems to have been brought together providentially, and our Scoutmaster made the entire event one which he had bathed in prayer.

I'm also thankful for a week spent this summer at Philmont Scout Ranch for "Bringing Youth to Christ through Baptist Scouting Ministry". During that week I spent time with the leadership of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, and somehow I got elected to office myself. I guess I don't have enough to do.

I'm thankful for having been raised in a Christian home. Although the Lord took my father when I was in 8th grade, my mother is still with us, now 84 years young and doing well. I have two wonderful brothers and a sister still living. God bless them all.

Take some time today and tomorrow to make a list of things you are thankful for and give God the thanks for all his wonderful benefits to you. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1: 17 ESV).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for? How often do you sit down and really ponder the blessings you enjoy--small and great--in this land of ours? Personally, I don't do it enough. And I think that all the clamor on the part of many for the government to do more for us is a tacit admission that we have grown ungrateful for what we do have. Some recently have begun to speak of the U. S. Constitution as comprising "negative rights", by which they mean that it says what the government does not have the right to do. And they find a problem with that. Personally, I like it that way. The less the government can do for me, the less it can do to me. So for the individual and the states, limitations on the federal power constitutes positive rights--more freedoms for you and me to pursue what the writers of the Declaration of Independence sought: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

But, back to what I'm thankful for today. I'm thankful for a nice house to live in, located in a nice, quiet subdivision. I'm thankful for hot and cold running water, heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I'm thankful for good transportation (all paid for). I'm thankful for my job, which God has provided for me that allows me to afford all these things and time with my family. I'm thankful for the Boy Scouts of America and the American Heritage Girls--youth organizations that help me instill in my children the values I believe are important to their becoming good citizens and followers of Christ.

Most importantly, I'm thankful for the relationships in my life. I'm thankful for my wife. God has given me the most wonderful wife in the world. I can't imagine life without her. I'm thankful for my children. They are a blessing to me everyday. I'm thankful that one has heard and answered the call of salvation, and I'm hopeful that the others will, too, in the course of time. I'm thankful for oh, so many good friends and a wonderful church in which to serve the Lord. But more than any other relationship, I'm thankful for my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It was God who looked down through the stream of time, saw me in my sin and rebellion, and loved me anyway. He chose, freely, to send his Son to die on the cross for my sins. He chose, freely, to send his Holy Spirit to convict me and convert me, drawing me to himself by his grace. He chose to set those influences in my life that he used to awaken me to my lost condition. He has claimed me for his own and conquered me for himself. It is solely by his grace that I am what I am. I can claim no credit for myself, for left to myself I would be a loathsome, sinful wretch of a man given to every unclean appetite. But praise be to God he did not leave me like that. He saved me and has called and equipped me to take a stand. So my deepest gratitude is to God for all the blessings I enjoy, but most especially for my salvation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks this Week

Well, I'm glad to be home from my trip the Evangelical Theological Society's sixty-first annual conference. The shortage of blogs last week was due to poor internet access at the premier hotel hosting the event. I tried twice to post blogs only to have them get lost in cyber-space and gave up.

So I'm thankful that I was kept safe and brought home from the trip. There are so many things to be thankful for during this week when we will celebrate national Thanksgiving Day. Among the things to be thankful for is that we live in a nation that was established on what could broadly be termed Christian principles, though those have fallen by the wayside in the last fifty plus years. Take notice, for instance, of this quote from President Washington's Inaugural Address of 1789: "we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained" (A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789--1897, vol. 1, 53). In his first Inaugural Address, Washington noted throughout the hand of Divine Providence in establishing the United States. Let us not forget during this week of food, football, and hunting, that the original intent of this celebration was to show gratitude to God for his blessings on this nation and our lives. Let us also be mindful of the need to support and maintain biblical morality in the public square and our private lives.

Bearing in mind Washington's comments on the "eternal rules of order and right" I would refer the reader at this critical point in our nation's history to the Manhattan Declaration ( as an affirmation of commitment to maintain Christian standards of conduct in the face of a government now gone astray from its roots. Be thankful you still have the right to protest and stand for what is right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Well, it's happened. The "holiday season" is rolling around again. When I was a kid the stores put out the Halloween stuff around Labor Day, and the Thanksgiving stuff the day after Halloween. Then the Christmas stuff came out the day after Thanksgiving. Now Christmas stuff shows up in September along side Halloween and Thanksgiving decor barely gets shelf space. Furthermore, there's the whole "Happy Holidays" greeting push so as not to offend anyone. Please! We still live in a free country, and the U. S. Constitution gives me the right to wish anyone a Merry Christmas and to celebrate the heritage of the English Settlers who first came and laid the foundation for what was to become the United States through this wonderful holiday we call Thanksgiving.

But what about that word, "holiday". It originates from "holy day" and has as its primary reference a day off for religious observances. By extension it could also be applied to going on pilgrimage, but in England today is used of anything we, in America, call a "vacation". But, back to the idea of "holy day". Why should we treat one day more holy than another. Why should we have only one day a year when we express deep gratitude to God for his blessings? Shouldn't we do that every day? Why should there be only one day a year when we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world? Shouldn't that be a constant theme in our lives?

Of course the answer to both of those questions is "yes". Still, I find it helpful to have these special days. They give us time in the midst of life's chaos to stop and reflect more deeply on God's blessings and the gift of the incarnation. They also afford us special opportunities to show good to our neighbors and share our faith with them. During this holiday season when you are celebrating Thanksgiving and wishing others merry Christmas, be sure to include in that a word of witness to the life-changing power of God's grace. Render good service to others in the process. By so doing you'll show the positive side of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you'll take a stand for Christ.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Being Odd for God

Do you ever feel like you're an odd-ball? I do. I always have. I was a "nerd" back in the 70s in high school. Even had the pocket protector to prove it. Still, somehow I found a way to be comfortable in my own skin and build some good friendships, even with the non-nerds in my school. Throughout college I seemed to attract other odd-balls as friends. How I ended up with my wife is still a mystery to me. Must be a God-thing (we just celebrated 20 years). Anyway, it's okay, even good to be odd sometimes.

I'm leaving this week to go to New Orleans for the annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society: Two and a half days of professional theologians reading papers to each other, a banquet dinner, and a vendor's hall with every Christian publisher you can imagine selling books that I will want to buy. I will enjoy myself and be spiritually renewed at the same time. To most people that sounds odd. I find spiritual renewal at a conference where theologians are presenting papers and debating weighty doctrinal issues. But it's part of how God has made me and prepared me to take a stand for him.

Here's the question. In what way are you odd? How does that make it possible for you to take your stand for God? Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Embrace your uniqueness as one of God's children and let your uniqueness become a way of pointing people to God. Take a stand and be odd for God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stand for Compassion, Part 5

In this last blog on compassion I want to address the need for compassion for our Christian wounded. Now, in many ways that could be each of us. We're all damaged goods in some sense, and we need to keep that in mind to help us maintain perspective. But what I'm mainly concerned with here is that category of wounded we often tend to treat like a horse with a broken leg. It's not pretty, and it's not a good reflection on the One who has called us to be instruments of mercy, healing, reconciliation, and grace.

So what am I talking about? I'm talking about persons who fall into grievous and public disgrace, whatever the circumstances. It could be related to finances, marital failure, or sexual immorality. It could be problems with "Bud" or "Wild Turkey". It could be a false accusation of misconduct that never gets put to rest properly. We often sweep these people aside. Oh, we let them come and occupy a pew, but we can't let them have an office in the church, no matter what kind of track record they have of demonstrated repentance. They have committed what amounts to an "unpardonable" sin in the eyes of the church.

I had a friend, now gone to be with the Lord, who, before he was saved, had a terrible drinking problem (smoked, too). God delivered him from both, and called him to preach. He spent most of his life in small churches or planting Hispanic missions. One church interviewed him, and the interview went great until they found out he was a recovering alcoholic. Never mind that he had been clean and sober for twenty years. They couldn't have a pastor who was an alcoholic, even though he was in recovery.

How does your church treat those who are the Lord's wounded? Are they second-class members or does your church look for ways to bring healing and restoration to their lives. Christ died to make them whole, too. If the ground is level at the cross, then it is level for all God's people. Work to bring recovery to God's fallen soldiers and take a stand for real compassion.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stand for Compassion, Part 4

A couple of years ago I heard about Christians in a predominantly Muslim country who refused to pray for or share Christ with their Muslim countrymen. Why? Because these Muslims has persecuted the Christians in this country for over thirteen hundred years. If these Muslims died as infidels and went to hell, then that was just fine with these professing Christians. You might be thinking, "That's horrible. Christ commanded us to love our enemies." True enough, but let me ask, are we not equally conflicted in our posture toward Muslims now that we are engaged in a war against what the press so delicately terms "Muslim extremists"?

In reality the War on Terror will not be won with bullets, warships, and fighting aircraft. It will not be won with drones and missiles. If it is to be won, it must be won one heart at a time. First, our own hearts must be won to the idea of compassion for men, women, and children bound in the darkness of Islam's fatalistic and works based idolatry. Our hearts need to melt in prayer for these people--a people to whom the Gospel came in ancient times and among whom it once flourished. God is bringing Muslims into contact with Christians in ever increasing and creative ways through mass communication and transportation. In the small town to my south my own pastor spends time at the gym every day with a Muslim, and looks for ways to share Christ with him. I had the privilege once, sitting in the airport in Charlotte, N. C., of sharing with a Pakistani who is now a U. S. citizen and a wonderful gentleman with a Catholic wife. Our hearts must be won first. Maybe as you prepare your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox, you could take just a few minutes with your family to pray for the child who will receive each box, that he or she will also receive Christ, God's gift, through your gift.

In fighting the War on Terror, not only must our own hearts be won, but also the hearts of Muslims around the world must be won. They must be won through ongoing acts of compassion. CNN reports that a Christian in Pakistan saved the lives of many Muslim women by blocking a suicide bomber from entering a crowded school cafeteria (read the story at In ancient Rome the Christians softened the hearts of their persecutors by their willingness to love their enemies in the face of overwhelming violence. On the one hand, as citizens, we must fight to protect our nation. But on the other we must send more missionaries, pray harder, and give more sacrificially to show love for Muslims here in the U. S. and around the world. Pray that God will open their hearts to the Gospel. If you can afford it, take your vacation to a Muslim country and help out struggling Christians there. There are any number of missions agencies that have a long list of temporary needs and assignments. It will change your life. And by the grace of God, it may change the lives of people living in darkness and bondage. Do something the world views as radical as you take a stand for compassion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Stand for Compassion, Part 3

I had the great privilege for three years of working with Seven Springs Baptist Church (, and one thing that is central to the ministry of Seven Springs Church is working with people who many may see as hard luck cases, for lack of a better word. I saw something extraordinary, too. I saw a businessman who was not connected with our church come forward and say, "I'd like to put the government out of the social ministry business." And he put his money where his mouth was. He came to several churches and offered to help them help the needy. He would supply the financial resources and the churches would administer them. Here was a man whom God had blessed with wealth and a heart of compassion. It was a delight to work with him.

What is needed is more men and women like him and his team. We would not need a "welfare state" in the U. S. if the churches would do what they're supposed to do and care for the sick, the poor, the orphans and widows. Most of the time we don't even provide for our own widows in our own congregations. Never mind helping those on the outside. And why is it that we're that way? I think part of it is that when theological liberals like Walter Rauschenbusch promoted social action as the gospel many conservatives ran from social activism for fear of being associated with the Social Gospel. In effect they threw out the baby with the bath. In a few places today Evangelical churches are waking up to the real need to minister to the needy.

We need to be more effective in working with drug addicts, helping people recover from failed marriages, sexual addictions, and training people to enter the workforce. Churches should be a place where people who need a basic education can come for free and learn how to read and write and do basic math. Why aren't our church buildings, which often sit empty for hours and hours each week, used to provide basic life skills classes, GED courses, and parenting classes? Remember, compassion is something you show by doing something about the situation people are living in. Let's rise up and take a stand for compassion by doing more with our time and our facilities to help people who are genuinely in need, and at the same time let's show them Christ, the One who gave everything that they might live.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stand for Compassion, Part 2

In writing today's blog I'm writing to myself as much as to anyone else. I recently took a friend's word for granted and posted something on Facebook related to John Stossell leaving ABC that contained both truth and error because I got caught up in the heat of the moment, trusted a friend, and didn't do due diligence. Something in our nature causes us to see opponents as enemies--bad guys (and of course, we're always the good guys, at least in our eyes). In reality we should not see every opponent as an enemy. Sometimes an opponent is simply someone who differs from us in some point of belief or practice. But they enemy or opponent, we, as Christians, should treat them with the same compassion. Somehow we forget that in the heat of political debates. Right now there is a major political debate in the United States over whether we will remain a free republic that values and honors the rights of the people and the states or become a socialist state where everything is made subservient to a centralized government. To be sure, such a transformation would not be done all at once. How could it? But the general direction of our federal government has been in this direction since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.

My purpose here is not to debate the political developments themselves but to look at how Christians should demonstrate compassion toward their political opponents in this kind of cultural environment. The political left stands against virtually everything that most Evangelicals believe is both biblical and right. They stand against traditional marriage. They stand against the rights of parents to discipline their children and raise them as they see fit. They stand against life, preferring the culture of death with their support of euthanasia and abortion. They stand against smaller, limited government and individual freedom. They stand against the full and free public exercise of religion, at least traditional Christianity. How ought Christians respond to this?

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, as was noted in yesterday's blog. Paul, in 1 Timothy 2: 2 enjoined the believers of his day to pray for the king. Who was the king? He was a Roman emperor and a pagan. He was an enemy of the faith. Christians need to engage their human enemies first by praying for them, realizing that those who oppose the faith are under the control of the true Enemy from whom they need to be set free. Pray first that God will open their eyes to the truth. Pray that God's will for the nation will prevail over the evil intentions of sinful men. Then, with genuine and unselfish love engage them in informed and meaningful debate on the issues of the day, but always do so with respect. Never engage them in a vindictive spirit. Above all remember that they are fallen human beings in need of God's mercy and grace every bit as much as you are. Only God's grace separates you from them. Pray that God's grace will bring them to where you are. Pray for their conversion and for God to open their eyes. In so doing you will take a stand for genuine Christian compassion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stand for Christian Compassion

How do you respond to someone who maliciously attacks you? How do you respond to someone you believe is a danger or threat to society? How do you respond to a drug addict or someone addicted to pornography or gambling? Most of us, sadly, do not respond to these situations and persons in a way that is biblical. Often we strike back at those who hurt us. Those whom we see as a threat to society we want to see removed from power or locked up, and we leave it at that. In short, we fall victim ourselves to a judgmental attitude. But how ought we to respond?

Jesus said, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5: 44, ESV). Where does Christian compassion begin? How can you and I find it in ourselves to model before the world the heart of God toward the lost and enslaved in sin a winsome compassion that draws them to Christ?

Many years ago, while preparing a sermon on John 11: 35, "Jesus wept," I came across a definition of compassion somewhere that went like this: "Pity moved to action." It's one thing to pity someone in a terrible plight. It's another to do something about it. Down here in the South we often say "Bless his heart," which is just another way of saying "poor thing". It's an expression of pity. But it's not compassionate. This week I'm going to look at ways you and I can show compassion to those who would seek to do us harm and those who are trapped in bondage and need the liberty that only Christ can give. I'm going to look at ways to see others as Christ sees them and as he saw us in our need of salvation. I'm going to look at ways to treat others as Christ treated us and continues to treat us--with undeserved love. This week I want to explore what it means to stand for compassion--pity moved to action.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 5

So what makes liberty work is the disciplined, responsible exercise of freedom. Why is that so hard for us? It requires a Christian worldview for that kind of liberty to flourish. Without the proper worldview liberty will degenerate into the selfish, me centered licentiousness we are seeing in American society today.

We're having trouble maintaining liberty today and tottering on the brink of totalitarianism precisely because we, as a nation, have lost our moral compass. We've given up the biblical concept of human sinfulness that must be curbed with God-ordained laws because they seem to us to be restrictive to our desires, and we've exchanged it for a concept that says we're all moving toward becoming better and better people by virtue of some kind of biological and social evolution. The problem is that evolution has no basis for an objective ethic beyond what benefits the self. This reinforces a certain selfish tendency in our fallen human nature and feeds the further deterioration of the fabric of society. When that happens people begin to feel insecure, and history is replete with stories of whole nations selling themselves into servitude in exchange for security.

What has been called the "American Experiment" is on the verge of failure because our nation's political and intellectual leaders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries cut us loose from the worldview that made that experiment viable. For the most part our churches are so compromised and infected with the worldview of our surrounding society that we're not even in a position to try to call the nation back. What is needed is a repentance in the churches on a massive scale. God's people must forsake every vestige of the prevailing worldview and live their lives before God and the world as a counter-cultural revolution of devotion to him and his will before we can even begin to think of calling the nation back. "Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12: 2, ESV). Forsake the selfish way of "me" first and embrace God's way as revealed in the Bible and take a stand for true liberty.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 4

If the difference between liberty and freedom is the difference between disciplined responsibility and licentiousness, then how can Christians tap in and reinforce disciplined responsibility in their own lives and in the lives of their children?

Several great organizations are available for Christians to become involved with that will help. Of course, you will always want to start with a solid, Bible believing and Christ following church. I'm not talking about a group of people who get together and "play" church on Sunday with a little singing, a little prayer, and a vacuous sermon devoid of any real meat. I'm talking about a church that takes discipleship seriously and lives the Great Commission as well as the Great Commandment. If your church isn't focused on the glory of God through worship, evangelism, and spiritual growth, then become an agent of change in the place where God has planted you or look for another church. The kind of church that makes a difference is a church that has a heart for God and humanity. It is a church where church discipline matters. At the same time, it is a church that is not legalistic but compassionate, helping fallen human beings become more Christlike.

Another great place to plug in is with the Boy Scouts of America. Here is an organization that focuses on duty to God and country, others, and one's self. The BSA recognizes, along with its founder, Lord Baden-Powell, that it is impossible to instill moral virtue in young people without a belief in God. What is needed is more committed Christians involved in Boy Scouts, bringing a Christian perspective to the Scouting experiences of young people. Yes, there is a place for young ladies in Scouting. The BSA has two organizations that are coed, Venturing Crews and Explorer Scouts. For more information on how you can be involved contact your local Scout council (to find your local council visit You may also want to visit the Association of Baptists for Scouting website at

Yet another great organization just for young ladies is the American Heritage Girls. This organization, which now has a formal relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, is a Christian organization intent on raising up young women of virtue, trained in traditional family values and a Christian worldview. AHG provides programming for girls from kindergarten through senior high school. For more information about AHG visit

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 3

Yesterday I wrote about the importance, the necessity of legislating morality. Today I want to address the issue of taking responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is not liberty. It is license. What seems to be lacking most in our culture today in regard to personal conduct is a sense of moral responsibility for our choices and our actions. Everyone is looking for someone else to blame for why he or she did this or that. If you can't find someone to blame, then simply say, "It's none of your business what I do." At any rate the sense of personal responsibility, of accepting the consequences for our actions, seems lost on people today.

Responsibility requires discipline, and discipline is something we don't like. Discipline means curbing our natural desires and wants for the good of others around us. Our society has been told for a generation or more that you can "have it your way." It is the mantra of advertising. It was the choice method of child-rearing for a generation. Negotiate with that child. Work out a deal. The harsh reality is that actions have consequences. If you raise a generation of undisciplined children you will reap an adult generation of undisciplined whiners and cheats. And that is what seems to have happened in our nation. Our whole society has become dysfunctional as a result of abandoning time proven methods of rearing children in a way that built an orderly, cohesive society.

It is time for Christians to get back to fundamentals for living. The first thing that needs to be stressed is moral responsibility for one's actions. Churches need to hold members accountable when they sin or imbibe heresy. Parents need to discipline children and teach them the benefits of hard work, solid study, and careful thinking. Christians need to do more than believe the right things. We need to do the right things, modeling for society what liberty looks like. By living responsible, disciplined lives you will take a stand for liberty.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 2

In our area we had a very prominent political figure and recently elected mayor convicted of sixty counts of receiving bribes and corruption. This was a Bible quoting mayor, too. I commented on it hearing the announcement on the radio in our car and my son said, "Is bribery wrong Dad?" I said, "Yes, son, it is." That set me to thinking about where our concept that bribery is wrong came from. It didn't come from Roman Law, as did much of our legal inheritance, for the ancient Romans were notorious as rulers for accepting bribes. One case in point comes from the New Testament itself, in Acts 24: 26, where Felix was noted as hoping to receive a "gift" from Paul in exchange for his freedom.

So where does the Western legal system's criminalization of bribery come from? Exodus 23: 8 says, "You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just" (NASB). The notion that bribery is wrong comes to our legal system by way of the Hebrew Scriptures. The logic of it is clear: Bribery undermines trust in the legal system and makes it possible for those with means to get their way against those who have less.

Does this somehow establish a joining of "church and state" because the origins of our proscription of bribery derives from the Bible? No, because there is no implicit endorsement of any one religion in it. Is the forbidding of bribery an attempt to legislate morality? Yes. Laws, when at their best, are legislating morality, whether in the form of forbidding murder, theft, bribery, prostitution, etc. Without such laws society would descend rapidly into sheer anarchy. Christians should never shrink from engaging the foolishness of the catch-phrase of our day--"you can't legislate morality". Engage that kind of thinking with keen logic and show the logical conclusion of a society without objective moral foundations. In so doing you will take a stand for true liberty.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 1

Liberty and freedom are key terms in the American experience and the American consciousness. Everyone thinks they know what these words mean. Many people seem to think the words are interchangeable, too. It seems to me, however, that there is a nuanced difference between the two words. In my mind, when I think of "freedom", I think of the raw power of choice to do this or that. But when I think of "liberty" I think of the responsible use of freedom--choices bounded by a moral compass or a legal code that is supported by an objective morality. Of course, this runs counter to most current thought today. The Enlightenment helped create the American ethos of liberty and freedom, but it contained within it the germ of its own demise. Freedom without an object morality is acidic, and over time it will destroy the worldview fabric that holds a people together. The Founding Fathers of the United States understood this and understood the need for a biblical morality as a basis for social conduct. Morality, to them, was not merely a social contract to behave a certain way.

This week I want to explore the importance of a biblically informed ethic as foundational to a healthy society. This does not mean a joining of church and state, as some think. It does mean legislating morality, but that is what laws are actually intended to do anyway. Those who cry against such a thing are simply asking for social and moral anarchy and a schizophrenic legal code that makes no sense.

I will also explore ways that Christians, everyday believers, can impact society in a positive way with a biblically informed ethic. The question if not "How should we do it?" or "Can we do it?" but "Will we do it?" Will you take a stand for true liberty?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stand for Prayer, Part 4

Home from my trip, I'm still thinking about that book title, Armchair Mystic. What is it about our prayer lives as evangelicals that is missing? Could it be that we've turned into a bunch of "me" centered whining babies? Our prayers at best often amount a string of perfunctory "thank you" clauses and a very vague and general confession of sin (how often do we get into specifics like greed, pride, gossip, lust, or hate?). At worst our prayers are little more than a wish list (or for some, an attempt to invoke god-like powers to "claim" their blessing) of things we thing we need to be happy. Our prayers are a mile wide and an inch deep. Why is that?

Maybe we've missed the point of prayer. Prayer is about communion with God. We listen to God in his word, but we need to learn to "listen" to God in prayer, too. How do we do that? First we need to know God. Here I'm not talking about merely intellectual awareness or having in our minds a string of facts about God. I'm talking about contemplating who God is in prayer. This involves praying theologically informed prayers. Prayer should be the joining of heart and head in a mystical union that seeks to know God as you would know any person.

With that in mind I offer the following suggestions: (1) learn what God's attributes are; (2) learn what Scriptures support our belief in the divine attributes; and (3) pray through those attributes in contemplative prayer using Scripture to reinforce your awareness of God's greatness and his presence in your life. Let prayer become a practice of the presence of God. Now, to do this you're going to need to read a bit of theology. I would recommend something like Millard Erickson's Introducing Christian Doctrine, 2nd ed. It's concise, readable for the layman, and scripturally grounded. Learn to live life corem deo, in the face of God, and you will learn how to "pray without ceasing," for all of life will become some form of prayer--of the practice of the presence of God.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Take a Stand for Prayer, Part 3

I've mentioned that prayer is a discipline. It is work. And this kind of prayer is something I believe we are unaccustomed to in our world today. Yesterday I sat on a plane and visited with a lady from New England who was reading a book by a Jesuit author entitled Armchair Mystic: Easing into Contemplative Prayer. I asked her about the book, assuming she might be a Catholic. She said the book was good. She's a divinity student, a Protestant, and the book was assigned to her in a spiritual formations class.

In reality this is an area where the Orthodox and the Roman believer may have one up on us evangelicals. The Catholic tradition understands well the power of mystery in the contemplation of God. It's not that this is not a part of our Protestant heritage. The Puritans entered into this very well. It is that it has become a lost art among evangelicals since the Enlightenment and the advance of a analytically "methodological" approach to everything. To borrow from St. Augustine, we seek to understand in order that we may believe, getting the cart before the horse.

How can you and I counter this in our own lives? First, I think it would be useful to approach the Psalms from the perspective of seeing them as meditative prayers. That, after all, is what they are. Learn to pray the psalms, and then learn to model your prayers after them. Secondly, look at other prayers in the Bible. Do the same with them as they fit your circumstances. Above all, do that with the Model Prayer in Matthew 6: 9--13. Thirdly, set aside time for prayer in a place where you will not be disturbed and focus on God, his grandeur and majesty, holiness and infinity, and learn to contemplate his perfections. Let yourself get lost in the wonder of Who God is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Take a Stand for Prayer, Part 2

Confession time. Several years ago I was the pastor of a church while I was in seminary. The church was a country church with its share of problems. I had a rough two years at that church that ended bitterly. I did a lot of things right, but I did one thing wrong. I didn't pray as I should have. I had all kinds of good excuses, too.

I was commuting daily to seminary (three hours a day). I had to study. I had one baby and one on the way. I had to visit people, both church members and prospects. I had to prepare for three services a week. There just didn't seem to be enough hours in the day.

My preaching was theologically orthodox. My pastoral care of my people was adequate. But I was spiritually dry. Why? Because my prayer life was barren, and as a result my ministry was fairly barren, too. I think I baptized three people in two years.

This morning I'm rushing to get to the airport and struggling with finding time to pray. Oh, I'll pray on the plane--just before take-off and as we land. I love to fly. I hate take-offs and landings.

Your single biggest preparation for the day is what Luther discovered--prayer. "Pray without ceasing."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Take a Stand for Prayer

This week I want to think about prayer. Praying is something all Christians talk about but most do far too little. I'm talking about myself here, too. The thing is, the prayer life is a private life. There is little accountability regarding time spent in prayer. Do you know how much time your pastor spends in prayer? Does he know how much time you spend in prayer? Would you each be embarrassed if the other knew?

Martin Luther is attributed with saying, "I have so much to do that I can't get it all done if I don't spend the first four hours of each day in prayer." In our society we look at that and say, "What?" Most of us have a hard time sustaining four minutes in prayer, and then in the back of our minds are the nagging thoughts of all we have to do that's not getting done because we're just "sitting" there. And we're just sitting there because we haven't really entered into the work of prayer. Our prayers are not earnest. They are not Spirit led. They are perfunctory. Shakespeare aptly wrote in Hamlet,

"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go" (Hamlet, Act III, Scene III).

Prayer is a discipline, partly of the mind, and partly of the heart. If the heart is not transformed to love God no amount of discipline of the mind can effect genuine prayer. Jonathan Edwards considered prayerlessness the tell-tale sign of a false Christian--one who is Christian in name only and not genuinely saved (see his sermon, "Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer" in vol II of The Works of Jonathan Edwards). Is it any wonder that our pulpits lack power, our witness is weak, and our world is the state it's in? We wring our hands and work our minds looking for the "method" that will bring the desired result but fail all the while to tap the power, the only power, than can effect real change in us and in our world--the power of God through Spirit driven prayer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love the LORD Your God, Part 5

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you are and have" (Deut. 6: 5, my translation). Jesus interpreted the final words of this verse as "with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12: 30 NASB). The Hebrew of Deuteronomy 6: 5 could literally be rendered "muchness" or "all you have". The word is usually taken for "strength". Strength need not be limited, as we're prone to think, merely to physical prowess. What God calls for here is putting everything you've got into loving him--your worldly possessions, your physical body, your intellect. Quite literally, God wants everything from you. He wants it all at his disposal. The emotions and will were discussed under the heading of "heart", and the total person was discussed under the heading of "soul". What's left?

Jesus said we're to love God with our "minds" or our intellect. Your ability to think and reason should be at God's disposal. You are called to "think God's thoughts after him" as one theologian put it. You are called to the task of learning to do theology well. Everyone does theology. Some do it better than others, but even the atheist has a theology, although his is the most minimal. Whatever your field in life, whether you're a plumber or a physicist, you should put your mind at God's disposal to look for his glory in all the things you see, experience, and think about. Believers are not called to follow blindly. Christian faith is not a "leap in the dark." You are called to use your mind and think. Sanctified reason is both a blessing and a command for the believer. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4: 8 ESV).

You are also called to love God with all you have. Everything you have, from your health to your wealth (be it little or much) is a gift from God, and you are his steward over it. He did not give it to you to squander on the trinkets of the world in what Bunyan called "Vanity Fair" (Pilgrim's Progress). Churches spend a lot of dollars building new, lavish facilities when they could be spending that same money launching a new church across town or sponsoring missionaries in a third world country. Christians buy the best and latest things even though what they have is just fine. The extra money they spend could be used to feed hungry children somewhere or support mission work. Think before you spend. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this, or is it a luxury?" "Is there some better use I could put this money to?" "Will God be glorified in this purchase?" Take a stand and love God with your thoughts and with your possessions. "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10: 31).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Love the LORD Your God, Part 4

In Deuteronomy 6: 5 God commands that his people love him with all their "soul". Here the Hebrew word is nephesh and indicates the totality of one's being. The heart speaks to the inner, immaterial part of the individual, but the nephesh speaks to the whole person--what we would call body and soul. Where the heart leads the body will follow.

In practical terms this means that if you love the Lord people will know because they'll see it in how you behave. Your body will be consecrated to his purposes, not your own gratification. Jesus said it this way: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14: 15 NASB). The person who says he loves the Lord but lives in willful sin lies and is deceiving himself. Obedience isn't the source of salvation. It is a distinguishing mark of salvation. The one who loves the Lord will open his heart and his hand to the poor. The one who loves the Lord will speak the truth. The one who loves the Lord will be faithful to his/her marriage vows. The one who loves the Lord will keep himself/herself sexually pure outside of marriage in thought and deed. The one who loves the Lord will not envy the blessings of his neighbor. In short, the one who loves the Lord will live a life of integrity, of righteousness, fulfilling the second table of the Law just as much as the first table.

Take a stand. Demonstrate your love for God by living the life that honors him. Take up the challenge issued by Paul to strive for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3: 14). Make a difference where you live by demonstrating that the Christian life is a life that is different, and different in a good and positive way. "Love the LORD your God with all your soul."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love the LORD Your God, Part 3

In Deut 6: 5 Moses commands that you "love the LORD your God with all your heart." What does it mean to love God with all your heart, and what hinders people from doing that? In the Hebrew Bible the "heart" refers to "the totality of man's. . . immaterial nature" (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 1: 466). It is more than mere emotion, as we so often think of the heart today. It is the will and one's thoughts as well. With this in mind, loving God with the whole heart means loving God as an act of the will, being devoted to God in your thoughts, and being affectionately attached to God. That sounds pretty comprehensive.

What keeps people from loving God with their whole hearts? First and foremost, I think, is self-love. Today people are encouraged more than ever to love themselves, even in popular preaching (note Robert Schuller). Whitney Houston sings about the "greatest love of all" being the ability to love yourself. But what does the Bible say about self-love? Jesus calls his followers, not to self-love but to self-denial: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt 16: 24 NASB). Rather than thinking that I have some good in me whereby to please God and earn his favor, I need to recognize with Paul that "nothing good dwells in me" (Rom 7: 18 NASB), and so the first step in loving God is renouncing myself, abhoring and loathing my sinful self as something worthy only of God's wrath.

Another barrier to loving God as we ought is loving the world. "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2: 15 NASB). One of the biggest challenges facing Christians in the affluent West today is love of the world, or worldliness. We've become obsessed with games, television, sports, and a host of other insignificant trivialities. We entertain ourselves to the edge of moral bankruptcy. Church services in many places are either nostalgic adventures into beloved tradition or mere entertainment. Instead of putting money into missions and church planting we build bigger and more lavish buildings. The thing is, we do a lot of this in the name of God and under the pretext of honoring him. In reality we do it for human pride and show that we really don't love him.

True love for God shows itself, not in the accumulation of wealth and possessions but in an open heart to the needs of others. How can you love God and not love others? How can you say you love God and not share the greatest news of all time--the good news of salvation in Christ--with other people? Why does the State feel a compelling need to get involved in relief for the poor and help for the sick? These are things that Christians should be taking care of voluntarily. The State shouldn't even have a pretext for getting involved. If only believers would do what they're supposed to do in caring for others there would be no basis for a welfare state. What will you do today to stand and show your heart's love for God?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Love the Lord Your God, Part 2

"Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you are and have" (Deut 6: 4--5, my translation). The God of the Bible is one God, yet he is one God in three persons (cf. Matt 28: 19, where the Name of God is "the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit"). It is not enough to love just any god with all your heart, soul, and strength. It must be the God who is revealed in the Bible. Foundational to loving the LORD is knowing who he is. He is the one eternal and triune God revealed in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. He is not the fictitious man become god of the Mormons. He is not the distant and inattentive god of deism. He is not the vindictive and unmerciful god of Islam. Nor is he sometimes Father, sometimes Son, and sometimes Holy Spirit as the modalists believe.

You and I are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. Once you know who he is you must embrace him as your God. To embrace him in this way means to own his name and his calling on your life. It doesn't mean he belongs to you. On the contrary, you belong to him. As a believer in Christ you have been bought with a price, "with [the] precious blood. . . of Christ" (1 Peter 1: 19 ESV). You have been ransomed and redeemed from bondage to sin and self, and Christ has laid claim to you by his death and resurrection. How could you not respond to such sacrificial love by owning him as your Lord and King?

Because he is your God you are called to "love" him. While the Hebrew word has a broad range of meanings, the New Testament writers render it with the Greek word agapeo, which always signifies a willful and unconditional commitment to another. This love for God is not merely an emotion. It is a choice on the part of the individual, rooted in the gracious actions of God who loved us first in this way, to commit one's life unconditionally to God. God will have first place in your heart because he alone is worthy of it. The real man knows this, and the real man, drawn by grace, lovingly gives himself to the Lord his God in sacrificial commitment. Stand up. Be a man, and love God as you ought.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love the Lord Your God, Part 1

Yesterday evening and last night I watched a series called "Liberty" about the War for Independence. This was produced by PBS in the 1990s, and my wife checked out the DVD set from our local library. In it were detailed, from the diaries and letters of the actual men and women involved, the sacrifices made for U. S. independence from the tyranny of the British Crown. The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty.

For two thousand years Christians have been sealing their testimony of love to God in blood. But today in Western Europe and North America, how many have love enough for God and faith enough in Christ to seal their love with their blood? Are you so sold out to Christ and the gospel that you will die to spread the good news of salvation in Christ to others? Think about it before you answer. If you cannot be inconvenienced to attend a Wednesday evening prayer service or go next door to tell your neighbor about Christ, do you really think you would stand in front of an executioner and bear witness for Christ to the point of death?

The Evangelical Church today is in desperate need of men, real men, godly men of courage and commitment and sold out sacrificial love for God. These men are needed in pulpits, in military chaplaincy, in Scouting packs and troops, in board rooms, in classrooms (public and private, from kindergarten through grad school), in Congress, state legislatures, and municipal governments, and in every walk of life. You don't have to be a seminary educated pastor to be this man. You just have to love God more than anything else and follow him. Where are the men who will stand in the gap and demonstrate what it means to "love the LORD your God"?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stand for True Righteousness, Part 5

So, if taking a stand for true righteousness involves sacrificial love for others, how should that influence our overall demeanor?

First, in all things be courteous. There is no reason for a Christian ever to be rude to another person, regardless of what the other person says or does. Show acts of kindness in every possible situation. This is doubly true when dealing with persons who are avowed enemies of the Gospel.

Secondly, never leave room for an accusation. Guard your reputation. In a recent conversation in a store I was discussing Boy Scouts Youth Protection training and guidelines and how they are there to protect youth on the one hand and adult leaders from false accusations on the other. False accusations can ruin a person's reputation, and the gentlemen observed, "Where do you go to get your reputation back?" Right now the Evangelical community is reeling from a loss of credibility. At the height of its influence several of its most notable faces (televangelists) in the 1980s and 1990s were discovered to be involved in a variety of moral compromises. The actions of a few prominent people brought shame, disgrace, and loss of respect on all Evangelicals. Where do we go to get that back? We've got to live it down by rising above the accusations and demonstrating truly transformed lives.

Thirdly, be fair, honest, and factual in any debate. I've seen far too many "Christian" books on science that play loose with facts, especially their treatment of their opponents' views, in the interest of winning the debate. It is as if all is fair so long as we win. If you have to misrepresent to win, have your really won? Be sure of your facts. Represent the other side fairly and dispassionately, and be ready at any moment to show where you got your facts. If you find that you've erred, get out in front of it, admit the error, and issue a correction. Eating crow never tastes good, but it sure goes a long way to maintaining credibility.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stand for True Righteousness, Part 4

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12: 29--31 ESV). These two commandments sum up the two tables of the law. If the Church would live by these her impact on the world would be much more significant than it is.

A stand for true righteousness comes down to this--living a life of sacrificial love for others. That means doing what is best for others, even when they don't appreciate it, don't want it, and oppose you for it. That's the kind of love God demonstrated to us when he sent his Son to save us from our sins. We like our sin. We don't want to be delivered from it until God makes us aware of how terrible it really is. So when God sent his Son we didn't appreciate it. "He was despised and rejected by men; . . . he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isa. 53: 3 ESV). Did that stop him? No. He came anyway. He kept doing what he came to do, even in the face of mounting opposition. "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him" (John 1: 11 ESV). Finally, to get rid of him they killed him by hanging him on a cross. But that was his plan from the beginning to obtain our salvation (Acts 2: 22--24). He gave everything out of love to a people who did not love him in order to bring us back to God. In that act he provides for us the only way to be righteous before God (Rom 5: 1; 2 Cor 5: 21).

At the heart of the Christian ethic lies the sacrificial love of God in Christ. You and I are called to imitate that sacrificial love to others by our actions, thoughts, and attitudes. "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph 5: 1 ESV). A stand for true righteousness means imitating God by loving the unlovable, giving others what they need rather than what they deserve, and treating others with the same compassion you have received from God in Christ. Standing on a sidewalk and yelling at people in an angry tone is not what we're called to do. Rather, with tear-filled eyes and hearts melted with compassion we need to show people the end result of their sin and point them in the direction of the only hope for life. We need to model a life before them that makes them hunger and thirst for what we have. The world sees us as a negative people, angry, hostile, and ignorant. We need to demonstrate to the world that we are hopeful for our own future, grieved over the future of our world, compassionate toward our enemies, and informed--informed to the point of being able to show a better way to live. Make a difference where you live. By exemplifying sacrificial love to others take a stand for true righteousness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stand for True Righteousness, Part 3

If the kind of righteousness talked about here, what is often called "horizontal" righteousness, begins with the core commitment that each person is unique and created in the image of God, then how does that play out in actual interchanges between individuals, groups, and in society at large? At the heart of the word "relationship" is the matter of how we "relate" to one another. God, in the Bible, calls us to an ethic of love--of unconditional caring for others. This kind of love is not an emotional attachment but a commitment to seek what is in the best interest of others, putting self in second place.

When you take a stand for true righteousness in a marriage, then your spouse will know it. You will not treat your spouse merely as the means to your financial security, sexual fulfillment, source of happiness, or whatever else you can come up with. Rather, you will look for ways to fulfill your spouse in every area of marital life by giving yourself sacrificially to him or her in every area of life.

In your friendships you will seek the best for your friends. You will build them up, encourage them, and look for opportunities to do them good. In dealing with those who oppose you, you will likewise look for peace--genuine peace. If need be, you will endure persecution without retaliation. Still, it is important to speak the truth, even when doing so seems to hurt. There are times when showing a loving concern for others means opposing their self-destructive and sinful conduct. The Christian engages in the battle for true righteousness when he or she stands for biblical morality in opposition to the degradation of the world. This means saying things others may find offensive or unpleasant. It does not mean saying those things in an offensive and unpleasant way. Even when standing against the prevailing immorality of our day, believers should make every effort to be winsome in their conduct.

Don't be afraid to say that homosexuality, adultery, fornication, theft, murder, abortion, cheating on taxes, lying, political corruption, etc., are wrong. Don't be afraid to say that Jesus is the only way to have real peace with God and escape his wrath. These things are all true, and ultimately to say them is to show genuine love for others, because saying these things points others to the best possible way to live and the only way to eternal life. It is no crime to speak against the evils of our age. However, find ways to do it that are constructive, not destructive, loving, not insensitive. Learn to build bridges, not burn them. Demonstrate a stand for true righteousness by how your relate to others.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stand for True Righteousness, Part 2

Applied Social Darwinism has given us a society where gang crime is rampant, abortion is legal, and in some places, assisted suicide is also legal. Add to that the current debate about health care, the possibility of socialized medicine and the health-care rationing that is necessarily a part of such a system, and you can see quickly that human life today is not measured by intrinsic worth but on economic terms. At the most fundamental level individuals view one another through a cost-benefits lens when building relationships and exploiting the weaknesses of others. Is this any way to maintain an orderly and cohesive society? No! Such treatment of one another builds distrust in relationships because every relationship becomes "disposable" based on the constant changes in the cost-benefits equation.

In this setting marriages become mere "economic" arrangements that are valued for everything from sexual gratification to obtaining insurance for one's "soul mate". So long as the benefits outweigh the costs, the marriage is not in danger of dissolution. Thus there is a move on today to redefine marriage, in defiance of 5,000 years of written history, not as a formal union between a man and woman for the purpose of establishing a family and propagating the human race, but as any consentual relationship so that homosexual couples may enjoy the economic benefits and social acceptability that married couples enjoy. The push has nothing to do with what's objectively right or wrong but with the cost-benefits equation of a utilitarian ethic. The end result of this redefinition of marriage will also be the eventual legalization of polygamy if marriage is so broadly defined by the courts.

In short, one's worldview defines how one approaches the issue of ethics--of how you treat your fellow human being. If you find yourself uneasy with "defining" what is or is not a "marriage" or "family", or what is or is not morally acceptable conduct, then you need to do a worldview self-check. Yours is not a Christian worldview, whether you profess to be a Christian or not. Christians need to apply a Christian worldview to their ethics and treat every individual as someone created in the image of God. Certainly, the effects of the fall must be taken into account, but still, each person is created in the image of God. Rather than viewing someone from a merely utilitarian perspective, we need to treat all persons with dignity and respect regardless of how they live their lives or what the mental ability or economic status is. We also need to show them the compassion of the Savior by (1) lovingly drawing attention to the problem of sin and (2) mercifully pointing them to the only hope for forgiveness and deliverance from sin. This is one way, and the most fundamental way, to take a stand for true righteousness.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Take a Stand for True Righteousness, Part 1

In ancient Israel during the time of the judges it was said that "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17: 6 ESV). What happens to a society where determining what is "right" is left to the individual? In this passage it is a sad story of idolatry, corruption of the priesthood, and theft, all for personal gain. Morality left to individual determination inevitably leads to self-interest and self-preservation. A society cannot long endure where there is no external, objective sense of what is right and what is wrong in how individuals treat their fellow humans. This week I want to explore what it means to take a stand for true righteousness in interpersonal relationships. This will not be about saving righteousness in the sight of God but about fair dealings with one another--horizontal righteousness, if you will.

As God's people we are called to treat others right. The kids in my old neighborhood had a saying that was a variation on the Golden Rule: "Do unto others--then split!" That is the way many people live today. It is evident all around us. Corporate heads take shareholders' money and "split". Then they ask for a government bailout, take the money and "split". It's the "me" generation. Darwinian evolution advocates a selfish, survival of the fittest mentality that focuses on getting what you can when you can. Better to be at the top than the bottom of the food chain. The problem is, this is no way to maintain an orderly society.

God's word has a different plan for society:

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6: 8 ESV)

There is a lot of talk today about "social justice". From a biblical perspective, what does social justice look like? How should I treat my fellow human being? That will be the topic for this week as we examine what it means to take a stand for righteousness.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stand for Life, Part 5

When God created human beings he gave them a blessing in the form of a command: "Be fruitful and multiply," God said. There is a reason why we are created as male and female. Nature itself should teach us that man and woman were made for each other, not man and man, nor woman and woman. We were designed in a wonderful way to enjoy the intimacy of the sexual union in marriage and to produce children as a result of it. To take a stand for life is to take a stand for children, for something more than zero population growth. Today's Western Civilization views children as a burden, not a blessing. In the recent past the campaign for zero population growth focused on world food supplies. Today it's the "carbon footprint" we leave behind that they say might threaten to destroy our planet.

But what has God commanded? God has commanded you to "be fruitful and multiply." Solomon said,

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127: 3--5).

Why did Christianity win out over paganism in ancient Rome? One reason was sheer attrition. Christians, following biblical principles, had large families. Abortion was against Roman law, but it was routine for unwanted children to be "exposed", or left in the open at night for wild animals to find and feast upon. Christian women went through the towns in their areas every evening looking for these unwanted children, collecting them and placing them in Christian homes. In short, because of a different worldview, the Christians eventually came to outnumber their pagan counterparts. They took a stand for life in very practical terms, and it paid off.

Today most Christians are so compromised by the prevailing worldview that they have bought into the birth control mentality. Many have only two children, if that many. We are called to obey God and accept his blessing. Why refuse the blessing of a child that God sends? Christian couples should have families and accept the hard responsibility of rearing godly children who will be able to stand up and lead in the next generation. Don't be afraid of the large family. Older siblings help with younger ones. Yes, it gets messy. It's a lot harder to keep a clean house when you have five kids running around (I know). But the joy I receive from being with my five is worth all the toil and stress. Don't be afraid to adopt or be a foster parent either. Look around and see where you can make a difference in a child's life. Be a Scout leader. Be a mentor. Be a children's Sunday School teacher. Find a way to make a difference and take a stand for life.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take a Stand for Life, Part 4

What is the measure of a human life? In Western Civilization today the tendency is to measure the value of a life in terms of its economic or utilitarian value. A life that can contribute more is more valuable than one that cannot. Is this the way to measure the value of a life? An unborn child's life is left subject to the whim of a mother who may either view the fetus growing inside her as a blessing (net positive) or an unwanted burden (net negative). If the fetus' mother sees the child as a net gain, then that child has a shot at life, but if she sees it a net loss, then that child is more likely to be reduced to "biological waste" and discarded as trash. What's the difference between the two fetuses? Physiologically they both have human DNA. They both came to be through the joining of man and a woman in the act of sexual relations. The difference is nothing other than the whim of the mother.

At the other end of the life spectrum people speak of "death with dignity," by which they seem to mean, "you take charge of your own destiny and end your life on your terms." There is a tendency in our society today to avoid pain and suffering at all costs, even if it means suicide to avoid the physical pain of a terminal disease. Little regard in this setting is given to the possibility of endless suffering in the afterlife. The prevailing notion in our world seems to be either (1) there is no afterlife (nihilism) or (2) everyone gets to go to heaven except maybe the really bad people (functional universalism). The notion that God may have a good purpose in someone's suffering doesn't even enter the equation. Individual self-determination, a concept from the Enlightenment, is the guiding principle.

In the middle of it all now in the United States we have the debate over government allocated health care. When you have the controlled allocation of limited resources based on government criteria, each life, and the care it will receive, have to be weighed on utilitarian grounds. How much will this life contribute to society versus what will it cost to maintain it? In that kind of equation, the elderly, rather than being honored as the Scripture says (Lev 19: 32), are viewed as a drain on the system and should be given less care so that they may cease to burden the system sooner rather than later.

In short, what is missing is a moral center from which to make beginning and ending of life decisions. Throughout the history of Western Civilization no nation's laws until now have allowed for abortion. The Code of Hammurabi banned it. The Assyrians outlawed it. The Babylonians and Egyptians forbade it. The Greeks and Romans proscribed it. The Church opposed it. But today life is not seen as a blessing in and of itself. Humans are no longer treated as persons created in the image of God. We've had a century (more or less) of evolutionary indoctrination, and it has brought us to this sad point. Life is cheap. So we kill in the clinic or through "assisted suicide" with legal sanction, and we gun down our fellow man in the street without it. Survival of the fittest has become the rule of the day.

It is time for the Evangelical community to stand in the gap for life, not just in opposition to abortion or euthanasia, but for the dignity of every life as created in the image of God. That means taking a stand against violent crime in the inner city and getting our hands dirty making a difference there. It means teaching young people about the reality of humans as created in the image of God in ways that may have to work around the government educational system. Think outside the box and take a stand for life.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Take a Stand for Life, Part 3

On the surface it is curious that many who are "pro-life" also favor capital punishment and many who support abortion and doctor assisted suicide are against it. Actually, the pro-life group is logically consistent in supporting capital punishment. Here's why.

Humans are created in the image of God, and therefore each person is worthy of dignity and respect. Furthermore, each life is sacred. When one human being, with malicious intent, however, takes the life of another human being, he or she forfeits the right to his/her life. This is because of the extreme nature of the offense, not just against the person murdered, but against God in whose image that person was created. In Gen 9: 6 God said,

"Whoever sheds man's blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man" (NASB).

This text should never be interpreted to support vigilante killings, however. God has placed in the hands of the state the authority to apply this divine law so that society will be well ordered (Rom 13: 1--5).

It should be noted that there are more ways to kill a person than actual murder. Jesus considered unjustified rage or anger a type of murder--a desire to murder even if the actual act is never carried out (Matt 5: 21). In that same passage Jesus considers any thought or action that shows a disregard for others as created in the image of God an insult to God comparable to murder. How often do we put down others, demeaning them to make ourselves look better? How often do we harbor secret grudges in our hearts against others? To take a stand for life is to take a stand also for treating each person with dignity and respect regardless of his her mental ability, economic worth, race, religion, or any other factor. Rather than mistreating others let us show them the love and grace of God. When and where we're able, let us point them to the One who has saved us from sin and judgment. Take a stand that will open for them the possibility of life eternal.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stand For Life, Part 2

As long as people subscribe to the prevailing philosophy of the day that life simply evolved by natural processes, then life and death remain part of the natural cycle and no form of life can be considered superior, only different. Abortion and euthanasia are easily justified in such a worldview. Christians, on the other hand, must stand for life, and especially for the sanctity of human life as created in the image of God. That makes humans unique among all living creatures, with special rights and responsibilities that are given "by their Maker" as the founding fathers of the United States said.

Genesis 1 displays an orderly progression from non-living to living things as the story of creation moves forward. The culmination of God's creative work was the making of man and woman in his image: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Gen 1: 26--28, NASB).

By virtue of being created in the image of God, man enjoys a unique position in relation to the rest of creation. It is a position of stewardship. And by virtue of being created in the image of God, man has a unique relationship with God and with his fellow man. A stand for life takes that into account, realizing that to the extent we treat another human poorly we throw yet another insult, as it were, into the face of God. Taking a stand for life involves more than protesting abortion and euthanasia. It also involves taking a stand for respect for others, courteous behavior, and looking for ways to encourage rather than beat down or put down others. Could it be that we don't get a better hearing in the arena of ideas because our very methods sometimes go against what we're trying to affirm and support?