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Archive for October, 2010

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW!

A very graphic advertisement has been running in a U.S. house race in Washington D.C.  For obvious reasons there’s plenty of controversy surrounding these commercials. What makes it all the more interesting is that Missy Smith (the candidate running the ads) has had two abortions herself. She is speaking out on the pain, guilt, and personal suffering she has gone through because she was told “it’s not a baby”.

People get very upset when you show them a picture of an aborted baby or when someone like Missy Smith talks about the effects on the mother. It takes the argument from out of the realm of the philosophical and makes us look full on at the concrete effects of our decisions. I guess I don’t see what the big deal is if this is really just a pile of waste tissue, no different than the tumors we see nightly on medical reality shows. Why be so upset? It’s not a human being…right?

It’s much like when I talk to people about my friend who was raped and got pregnant but chose to keep her child. People get angry when you talk about the baby that was born and the happy and healthy life the family is leading. They chose life, forgiveness, and the miraculous healing power of God instead of adding murder to an already horrible situation. It particularly drives people nuts who like to use the popular trump card “rape and incest” in the abortion debate. It’s even worse when you try telling them that nearly all women surveyed who were victims of rape and incest regret having an abortion (“Victims and Victors”, Acorn Books). Rarely do people actually ask these women their opinion before using them as artillery in debates.

While these ads are controversial for some, I’m very much in favor of people being forced to look at the consequences of their decisions and laws. Before anyone starts arguing the virtues of “choice”, supporting laws that allow the killing of children, deciding who gets to live and who dies, they should at least have enough decency to take the time to watch the horror of a partial birth abortion or look at these types of photos in this ad. If you’re going to vote in favor of someones execution at least have the guts to look them in the face.

If we can look on some of these 50,000,000+ mutilated bodies and say “that’s not a human being, there’s nothing wrong with that”, and continue to sit by and allow state sponsored murder in the name of our own convenience and comfort, then we’ve gone over the brink as a culture and I fear the consequences our actions will bring us.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Gal 6:7-8

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I remember once, when my daughter Delaney was little, she came around while I was watching some sermon online and asked “whatcha doing?”. From out of the kitchen my wife’s voice came to inform her “Daddy loves his preachers!”

It’s true. Daddy does like his preachers very much. One of my many favorites is Corey Russell. In part, I love Corey because he always seems on the verge of coming completely unhinged. You know, like you’re never sure if at any moment he might fall down convulsing, or have an eyeball pop out.

But seriously, Corey hears the Spirit of God and presents what he hears with unapologetic charismatic passion. He’s always stirring, and I when I hear him I know I do not have the option to be complacent or simply be a “hearer, not a doer” of the word (James 1:23-25). Corey preached a barn-burner at IHOPs Prayer & Prophetic conference last week (video below).

One of our greatest needs at this hour is the ability to “hear”. The prophets, Jesus & the Apostles all say it over and over: “Hear”, “hear oh heavens”, “hear O Israel”, “hear you elders”, “let him who has ears hear”, “let him who has ears hear what the spirit is saying”, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word”, and on and on. In a generation over-saturated with media, distraction, conflicting messages in the church, and dysfunctional families, we need more than ever to know the Word, and through fasting and prayer hear what the Spirit is saying to us in this hour. Without it we will continue in confusion, having no prophetic message or voice in the church.

The prophet Malachi prophesies at the close of the Old Testament:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6

In the book of Malachi there are several significant areas highlighted where the nation is in sin and chaos – the priesthood, marriages, and finances. Sound familiar? God’s prescription for this is to send the spirit of Elijah. This He does at the opening of the New Testament when John the baptist comes in that Spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:16-17).

In our generation we find ourselves in similar straights to Israel in days of Elijah, Malachi, and John the Baptist. The prophecy of Malachi 4 tells us that in the last days, he will again send “the spirit of Elijah”. I believe it is this spirit of Elijah that is being manifested in our day through the movements of adoption and prayer.

There are some distinguishing characteristics of Elijah’s ministry that are key to this “spirit”.

Elijah came when Israel was at rock bottom. He appears somewhat suddenly from what seems like obscurity. He comes to bring a clear demarcation by confronting the idolatry of king Ahab and the prophets of Baal. He is confrontational.

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” 1Kings 18:21

He is a man with power in prayer, who through his prayers, shuts the heavens so it does not rain. Then again through prayer opens up the heavens with rain. His ability to hear the Lord in his spirit is so sharp that he speaks of things yet to come as thought they already are (the coming rains while the drought still continues):

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 1Kings 18:41

Through his ministry Elijah brings life to the dead child. He gives us a typological picture of the restoration of children to their parents through laying down our lives and contending in prayer. As Elijah stays in the house of the widow of Zeraphath her son dies. Elijah stretches himself out over the son and pleads with the Lord, and then returns him to her alive:

Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 1 Kings 17:21-23

We find ourselves, as Malachi did, in a time when there is confusion among believers and chaos in our marriages and finances.  It is the Spirit of Elijah that will come to restore.

On the mount of transfiguration Jesus tells the disciples:

And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things.

It is likely no coincidence that after Elijah appears to him on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus is confronted by a disheartening scene as he comes down the mountain. A crowd is gathered and a man is pleading for help in delivering his son from a demon that has rendered him deaf and mute. The people, the religious leaders, and the disciples are unable to bring deliverance. Jesus  chastises them for their unbelief (the root of the problem) and instructs them that it’s only by fasting and prayer that these spirits can be cast out (and thus the mute boy receive his voice). We must heed these instructions in our day and cry out for help from the Lord as this boy’s father did if we are to experience victory over the work of these spirits in our children as well.

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:23-29

We need to once again contend through fasting and prayer for the spirit of Elijah among us that can confront evil spirits and minister life to a fatherless and mute generation. We need to “hear what the spirit is saying to the churches” in this hour. If we do not “hear” and “stretch ourselves out” as Elijah did, there will be no clarity or prophetic voice in the coming generation, and no returning of the hearts of children and parents to one another.

Thanks for the message, Corey. The real thing is better than my summary (sermon starts at 1hr 16):

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These videos made by an adoptive family had me laughing out loud at a couple of spots. They are based on actual conversations they have regularly with people at work and out in public. The videos were made on xtranormal.com where you can make your own little animated videos. Too Funny.

While I can’t really relate as yet to some of these conversations, I’ve had a few awkward homeschooling conversations. Homeschooling hasn’t totally made it’s way into the mainstream culture yet, but is increasingly so.

I often forget that kids are in school during the day and that it is a little odd to some when I have the kids out with me. We took Delaney out for lunch on her birthday and I was totally surprised when the waitress saw we were having a birthday meal and she said “Cool! Did you take them out of school for the day?” I thought to myself, “oh yeah, this isn’t normal”. So we responded, “no, she does home school”. The waitress just said “Ohhhhh”. I kind of expected the “ohhhh” to followed by “cool”, or “oh, sure”. Nope, just a trailing “ohhhhhhh”. You could tell she didn’t really know what to say (as though she’d just found out we were taking our daughter out for lunch because daddy just got out of prison or something). It was a little awkward. Can’t blame her though, people just don’t know what to think, especially when so many of the stereotypes are still true.

Why I Can’t Make Mommy Friends – The Big Family Edition
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Why I can’t Make Mommy Friends – The Home School Edition
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The Vasectomy

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The following video is a message by Francis Chan called “Think Hard, Stay Humble – The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride” from the 2010 Desiring God conference here in Minneapolis.

During this recent season of life, I’ve been thinking a lot about the brevity of this life, “living for the age to come”, storing up treasure in heaven, and producing fruit that will last when all our works are exposed for what they are on the Day of the Lord. I often find myself asking the question, “will this matter”? What are the things that Jesus will hold me accountable for? What are the things that are on His heart that I can bring my life into alignment with? Those are the things I want to focus my time and resources on. Everything else is fleeting and unprofitable; issues not worth the undue anxiety and attention we give them.

It’s hard not to think about some of the familiar passages Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:

…we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 1 Cor 8:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1Cor 13:1-3

It’s not enough to amass knowledge and wisdom. It’s not even enough to spend your life doing goods works to the point of sacrificing your life for God. If it’s not done in love, “you gain nothing”. The real kicker is that we are completely incapable of producing the type of love in our hearts that make our good works profitable.  That love requires ongoing transformation of the heart and renewal of the mind through time in the Word and Prayer (I know, I’m turning in a broken record on “the word and prayer”. Can’t help it, I’m increasingly discovering it’s the only essential for life ).

If my life is to count for anything it will only be because I took the time to ask God what He would have me do, all the while asking Him to change my heart and infuse it with His loving kindness so my works are not in vain.

To my own peril, all too often I’ve found myself skipping right to the punch. Getting on with the “doing”, but neglecting the “being”. Often it’s a lot easier to “do”, and we proactive types want to get right at it. We say “I already know what the Lord wants me to do. It’s in the Bible and I just need to get at it”. That’s only half the truth. To miss the other half is to live a life that may count for little or nothing. Paul says that those who “love God are known by God”. Those in living relationship with God are the ones possessed of His love. We’re all aware that there is also another class of people Jesus speaks of:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matt 7:21-23

Lord, on that Day may I not be found as one armed with many good works but no knowledge of you or your love!

You may not have time, but if you do, this message by Francis is a great encouragement to continue in pursuing love.

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This afternoon I was driving around doing some of the many little errands I need to run every week. As I was making my way around my mind turned to last Saturday evening when we had the pleasure of hearing Randy Bohlender, a leader in what is being called “the adoption movement”, speak at a forum event we hosted at Bethany Church. There’s many things that stand out in my mind from the evening, but one thought in particular lingers with me.

Children have become an inconvenience to modern society. Back in the days of agrarian living, children were necessary for survival, sharing the work, and passing on the family name. But now, we don’t really need them. Or, at least we think we don’t. Nowadays children get in the way of our upwardly mobile lifestyles. They’re costly, time consuming, and horribly inconvenient. Large seasons of our lives and many of our dreams have to be put on hold while we’re forced to spend our time rearing the little ones. They eat up our resources and require sacrifice of all shapes and sizes.

I was reading my community paper today and glanced through an article on new programs and funding coming online to help curb teen pregnancy in our city. Most certainly we need to teach teens how to be responsible and wait to have children, but now that has turned into sending the message (literally): “if you have kids, your life is over”. We enculturate our kids into a life of self-centeredness. Got pregnant? You need to abort your baby because otherwise “your life is over”. “It’s your life or theirs. You choose…”

There are many women (some who I heard testify at a crisis pregnancy center fundraiser last night) who would never have imagined they were capable of murdering their children until they became pregnant and were faced with what they thought was their only option in a society that seemed to have no sympathy for their struggle with the idea of abortion. “It’s your life or theirs” they are told. Certainly no one told them about the years of guilt, shame, and pain they would carry as a result of their decision to kill.

Of course, this all makes perfect sense if you’re an atheist and you don’t believe there is any afterlife, or a God who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Then it makes perfect sense to live your life for your own short term gain and satisfaction, even at the cost of the life of another. However, it’s sad that even believers have bought into the convenience and self-service of modern life. If it wasn’t for the higher birth rate of Hispanics, Christian families would become an endangered species in two generations. Our birth rate, like many other western groups and nations, is below a culturally sustainable level. Having three children is pushing the acceptable level, and beyond that, (as Randy said on Saturday) it’s “welcome to the freak show”. Having that many children is anathema to the modern mind. It mostly wins you sideways glances and pity.

For many believers, we limit the number of our children for what seems like good reasoning. We want to be financially responsible, etc. However, I think if we were really honest and took time to dig beneath the surface we would find the true motivations more often based in the desire to maintain our comfortable lifestyles and pursue our careers, ministries, and securing our own significance in the eyes of the world. I’m not saying everyone needs to have a huge family, I’m just saying we need to reexamine the culture we are creating and make sure we’re looking to God for His opinion first before just going with whatever we’ve “comfortable” with.

Russell Crowe famously said to his men in the opening scenes of “Gladiator”,  “Men, the decisions we make in this life echo into eternity”. Not only is this true, but they echo into the generations that follow us in this life.

Not only are we abandoning God’s original command to mankind (“be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth”) but we’re cutting off our inheritance in future generations and in the age to come at the knees. We live for our own satisfaction, to spend our lives making ourselves significant and renowned, and to fulfill our own dreams. But within two generations, our legacy will be gone. There will be no one to remember our names, or who will pass on the spiritual DNA we imparted. Our legacy will be short and confined to our own self-centered lifetimes. But those who make the short term sacrifices needed to raise many children will reap a rich return in multiplied descendants who accomplish great exploits and who will “welcome them into eternal dwellings” in the age to come. The influence of your decisions will stretch far and wide beyond your imagination.

This is the beauty and divine mandate of the adoption movement. When the world is saying “it’s your life or theirs, you have no other choice”. There will be a church who says “there is another way”. We won’t just say “don’t abort”, we’ll say “give them to us, we’ll help you”. At the same time that we give an alternative to difficulty, murder, and pain, we add to the family of God, His inheritance in the nations, and our own legacy now and in the age to come.

I am proud to be a part of a church known for it’s prolific breeding habits. We are absolutely inundated with children for the size of our congregation. We may not be much to look at now, but if we invest it these young ones wisely, there will be a legacy from this place beyond what we could “ask or imagine”.

For myself, we’ve decided to adopt as a reflection of God’s command to care for orphans. It’s only now I’m beginning to understand the full measure of the glory of God revealed through adoption and child rearing alike.

As I was making my way home from my errand run, I was mulling over the next steps. Looking out on the world and the massive waves of abortion, teen pregnancy, poverty, and orphan crisis, one can begin to feel pretty small. The numbers are so large they make you numb. At Bethany as we think about ideas concerning starting adoption agencies, ministering to young pregnant women, and caring for orphans, you begin to wonder what difference you can really make. What is my contribution of one or two in the face of such staggering need? Will the sacrifice and putting aside of pursuing my own personal gain be worth the investment?

As if by “fate” a little six minute sound clip (link below) came on the radio. Dr. Crawford Loritts was talking about the sacrifices made by his enslaved, illiterate, uneducated, and simple forebears. The unnoticed and seemingly insignificant sacrifices of those simple men made his life and influence for the gospel possible. As Dr. Lorrits wrapped up his talk in tears of gratefulness, I had no choice but to cry right along with the good Doctor. I had my answer.

Dr. Crawford Loritts

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I’ve been fortunate enough in my life that I’ve been surrounded predominantly by people who are smarter, wiser, and more sanctified than I. I’ve had a great many friends and leaders who have either mentored me directly, or from a slight distance, through their teaching and examples. Some of this has been by my own design in choosing who to spend my time with, but I also would have to admit I’ve been incredibly blessed by no doing of my own.

Every once in a while you run into an issue where those you respect either seem to give conflicting advice, or where there is not clear agreement on how to approach an issue. The other day as I was painting my wife’s bathroom I was thinking about one of those issues.

Side note: If you’re ever painting a room and wondering if the color might be a little too audacious, I’ve discovered that two year old children are great barometers. If, when painting, a toddler makes their way in and the immediate reaction is wide eyes accompanied by “Oooooooh!”, you might want to think about toning down the paint palate a little…

As I was saying, I was thinking about one of those issues of disagreement. I had a teacher who had a significant impact on my life that always used to preach “right belief produces right action”. Basically, if you get your worldview and theology correct, it is guaranteed to produce Godliness in the individual.  Later in life I had another mentor that taught me differently. He always used to say “right information + wrong attitude = wrong conclusion”. He believed that even if your theology and worldview was correct, if your heart had not matured in love and the fruit of the Spirit you would likely not live a life of significant spiritual impact; you would likely be a legalistic person lacking proper motivations for the works to accompany your faith.

We see this played out in the encounter of Moses with Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12. Miriam and Aaron challenge and speak against Moses because he had married a foreign woman, which was forbidden by God. They were correct in their assessment and understanding. However, because of the pride and disrespect for God’s chosen prophet (and friend), God’s anger is against Miriam and Aaron. Right information, wrong conclusion. It was an issue of the heart.

As I’ve gone on in life, it has been my experience that the teaching of my latter mentor has been more true. In fact, if you pushed me, I might go so far as to say “right action produces right belief”. Many would jump up and slap you for saying such a thing because that line of thinking often produces social justice movements or the like that are detached from the saving proclamation of the eternal gospel. However, it has been my experience that without the actions of prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit, we do not perceive truth rightly nor do those beliefs take root in hearts and begin to work themselves out in expressions of love.

I think this is what we have produced through the culture of spectator Christianity we have developed in the west. We have churches full of people who are fiercely loyal to dogmatic theological systems, leaders, and scriptural interpretations, but many are still angry, hypocritical, and bitter people bound to all manner of sin. It does not surprise me that Christians by the drove ingest the  self-righteous preaching of profiteers like Glenn Beck. The format of heavy on “truth”,  pitched with healthy doses of pride, arrogance, sarcasm, anger, and disrespect is perfect for those who are used to letting others tell them what is “the truth” and whose hearts are not formed through prayer so that they would even recognize or be bothered with the steady diet of spiritual toxicity emanating from their TVs and radios.

The result? Believers gain copious amounts of knowledge and truth, and then take” a stand” for that “truth” with picket signs, political power plays, and the occasional bullet in the head of an abortionist. Actions completely foreign to Jesus & the Apostles, and in contradiction to the scriptures.

This is why I am so thankful for The Prayer Sanctuary recently launched at Bethany Church. It is a physical statement that we as a church recognize there is no substitute for time spent in the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit to conform our hearts and spirits into the likeness of Jesus. There is no escaping what your dietitian says: “you are what you eat”. Or perhaps in more spiritual terms, “what you behold, you will become”. If the daily news, celebrity obsession, violent games, the American dream, and Glenn Beck are the diet of your spirit, then what limited truth you manage to perceive from the meager 30 minute weekly sermon you ingest will be worked out in your life through an unrenewed (if not degenerate) mind and heart. Much of your life will likely be marked with the axiom “right information + wrong attitude = wrong conclusion.”

God’s method for the renewal of our minds, strengthening of our faith, and the revelation of truth in our hearts is so simple it appears foolish to our modern, sophisticated minds. Sitting and meditating on scripture, communicating with the Holy Spirit, and letting our thoughts be filled with the glory of God is just too simple. Not to mention unfathomably time consuming in lives that are so cluttered and overwhelmed with “important” things to do, watch, or own. It’s so simple that very few do it, or do it long enough to reap the rewards.

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