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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Being relevant

My continual desire is that our church remain relevant to the world that we live in. Sometimes we confuse recent with relevance. The two can be the same but not necessarily.

Don't you desire with me that we continue to minister to our community in an effective way?

In "Change Your Church for the Good", author and pastor Brad Powell tells a story that serves as his constant reminder that the church is the hope of the world.

He writes, "It was five days before Christmas. A couple of hardened criminals had staked out several jewelry stores in our area. They were looking for the big score. When they finally selected their target, they went to work. Pretending to have a delivery, they showed up at the doorstep of the jeweler's home. His visiting mother kindly invited them in. The end was already determined.

While holding her at gunpoint, they waited for his three pre-teen children to come home from school. Upon their arrival, they made the oldest call their daddy. He was home in minutes. Threatening his life and the life of his family, they made him open the safe he had at home. Although this heist was not as profitable as robbing the store itself, it seemed safer, easier, and lucrative enough.

Oh, that the story ended with only the loss of some jewelry and money. It was not to be. These lunatics wouldn't have it. One by one, they murdered everyone in the home. It was, and remains, an incomprehensible tragedy. We got the call from the man's relative who attended our church. They were asking for prayer, counsel, help, and guidance in working through all of the issues facing them. Of course, our church family was all over it. If the church can't be a support during times like this, there is no point. We would do whatever we could to help the family and community deal with this tragedy.

What I didn't know, until meeting with the family, was that this man and his three precious children had just recently started attending our church. Though they had been religious, they had never developed a personal relationship with God. Because this man was experiencing some marital difficulties, he began looking for and opening up to the idea of God in his life. As a result, when the family members that attended our church invited him, he gladly came along with his three children. They fell in love with it and began attending regularly.

When meeting with the extended family, I was told that this man and his three children had accepted Christ as their personal Savior as a result of attending our church. The children had been reached through our kids' ministry. Their father had made the decision to follow Christ during one of our services. Because he had communicated this decision to his family members, they knew the worship service and the seat he was in when his life was eternally changed. Though it didn't change the devastation of this human tragedy, it did change everything as it related to this family's eternal destiny.

At the time he began attending, we were doing a survey in our church. When I found the one he had filled out, along with all of the general information, he thanked us for making God and his truth so relevant to his life, and he encouraged us to keep up the good work.

Imagine this: according to his own words, the reason this man and his children had come to faith was because our church had finally introduced them to God in a relevant way. Though religious, they had never experienced God's truth in a way that related to their everyday lives. When they did, they trusted him and found eternal hope. They are in heaven today because they found a church that communicated about God in a language they could understand."

Good stuff...May we be blessed with stories like this.....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

True worship

True worship is an event and a process.

In a worship event, we gather to honor and revere Christ through certain patterns and traditions.

Robert Webber writes, "The focus of worship is not human experience, not a lecture, nor entertainment, but Jesus Christ - his life, death and resurrection."

The goal for our worship should not be that we come to the point when we do not see anyone or anything around us, but we become totally taken up with God. To only see the Lord.

That is the worship event.

Then there is the worship process. Simply stated, this refers to our discipleship - the maturation sequence in which we move from self-centeredness to Christ - Centeredness.

We must develop a life of worship, living in His presence, not just visiting on weekends. The Lord is looking for worshipers, not just worship."

Psalms 113:3, "From the rising of the sun to its going down, the Lord's name is to be praised."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When a relationship cannot be reconciled

How do you handle rejection when your best attempts at reconciling a broken relationship are rebuffed?

I don't think I have ever met someone who hasn't experienced a broken relationship in some form or fashion.

And, I trust that you have experienced the joy of reconciliation when that relationship is brought back together.

The negative thing is that sheer love for someone, many times, will not guarantee that the relationship will be restored.

Many times the person we are trying to reconcile with will refuse any attempt at restoration. That's frustrating and painful. We can begin to doubt ourselves.

Two things can happen: We can bail on the relationship entirely, or we can seek out other ways to bring the relationship back together.

When I teach, as I will in a couple of Sundays on resolving conflict (Blessed are the peacemakers) I try to give various ways that we can bring broken relationships back together. Yet even at that, there are no guarantees.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts and prayer, the relationship remains torn. Unmendable.

All we can do at that point is grieve. Grieve the loss of relationship.

This is what Jesus modeled for us.

He is the great example, actually the perfect example of someone who pours his love to the very people he created and offers them the opportunity to be reconciled to God.

However, most people want nothing to do with Him.

In one of the saddest verses in the Bible, John records in a single sentence the fact that Jesus "came to His own, and His own did not receive him" (John 1:11).

Jesus' response to the rejection of His offer of reconciliation was a deep grief and sadness that moved Him to tears and prayer for His people.

We see the Son of God's broken heart when He sits outside the walls of Jerusalem and laments: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37).

One of the most frightening truths that we all must face is the fact that we cannot force someone to love us, no matter what we do. Even if we take appropriate responsibility for harm we've done to them, confess our sin against them, and ask for forgiveness, there is no assurance they will respond in kind. They can choose to remain distant.

While an unresolved relationship is deeply disturbing, one of the most freeing truths is that no one has the power to stop us from loving them. And that's all that God calls us to do, to love others the way He has loved us (John 13:34;15:12).

We all wish there was a "next step" that would make reconciliation work out every time. Sadly, there is no such step. However, at those times when our best efforts at loving are rebuffed, we do have the opportunity to share in our Lord's sufferings, to experience His pain and His relentless longing for reconciliation (Philippians 1:29).

We need to guard against a false guilt that assumes we should be able to do something to "fix" every relationship -- as if it all depends on us alone. While we must take responsibility for our part in a relationship, we must not assume that we are solely responsible for the breach in the relationship.

Instead of holding another person responsible for their choices, we can tend to let people off the hook and blame ourselves for "not doing enough" or "missing something" that would be the key to unlocking the relationship.

That kind of thinking is not only demoralizing but controlling and unbiblical. God never asks us to assume responsibility for others, only ourselves. That needs to be our focus. We are responsible to people but not for people.

Monday, January 28, 2008

People watching us

In the Old Testament, Joshua 2, the children of Israel are at Jericho's doorstep. They are ready to overthrow the city.

The city itself is in great fear. For as the Bible tells us in Joshua 2:9-11,"...and said to them, I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have HEARD how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below."

As Christians, let's remind ourselves that people are watching us. They take notice when God does something in our lives, especially something supernatural.

And when they see us doing things that can only be explained by the power of God, it awakens their hunger for faith as it did in the heart of Rahab.

The world pays attention when we let God use us to accomplish God-sized tasks, whether it be building a multi-million dollar facility on 183rd or responding to illness or hardship or the death of a loved one with an incomprehensible faith-fueled hope, or whatever.

A genuine faith relationship with our living God is one in which people look at the way you live your life and say, “God is in that. God is doing something in that person’s life.”

Now think about it. What kind of faith relationship do we have with God? Is it a safe but shallow one in which we only do what we can do? I hope not because the sad fact is so often our world is not attracted to the Christ we serve because they cannot see Him at work.

They only see us at work. But, if we have enough faith to let the world see God at work in us, He will attract people to Himself. Remember Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Me.” (John 12:32)

Rahab’s faith story shows that if we lift God up by allowing Him to do impossible things through us, our peers will notice, and they will be drawn to Jesus!

Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing...” Well, what are people hearing about you and your faith? What God-sized thing is God doing in your life?

Just a thought.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting and receiving wise counsel

One of the steps in finding God's will for our lives is seeking out wise counsel. Having "coaches" or "mentors" in our lives who give us godly direction and guidance.

Solomon writes, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." (Proverbs 15:22)

The question is: Who do you go to for advice?

Let me give you some suggestions.

Seek advice from those who have been there before, in the specific area that you are seeking counsel.

I have friends whose financial advice I will gladly receive, but whose parenting advice I avoid. It depends on what they know, on what they have demonstrated in their personal lives.

Do you want to learn how to endure adversity? Don't ask someone who has had an easy life. Ask the one who has weathered the storms.

Seek advice from those who care and has your best interests in mind.

John Ray said, "It is a foolish sheep that makes the wolf his counselor."

This is why advice from a salesman always involves purchasing his product. Make sure you listen to those who have your best interests in heart, not theirs.

Be willing to hear what you don't want to hear.

And be willing to do what you don't want to do.

The temptation is to see advice from those who will say what you want them to say.

We all need people in our lives who will speak truth (in love, truth that which initially might be difficult to hear, but for the long term is what we need.

Good advice will challenge us to rethink our approach and fine tune our strategy. Solomon said, "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15)

Getting advice is not about allowing others to make decisions for you. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. You're the one who must live the consequences -- all the more reason to make sure going in that you've heard from the best and are committed to following their example.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath ledger died yesterday. Probably drug related. I remember him from "The Patriot" and "A Knight's tale."

Once again, a Hollywood star dies in the midst of success and glamour. Money. Fame. The adoration of fans. 28 years old.

Once again, it reinforces in my mind that the possessions and pleasures of this world don't cut it. All they do is cry out for more and never satisfy.

Here's what I know: To be ultimately happy, we must seek God. Only God and a relationship with Him will make us temporarily and eternally satisfied.

The Rolling Stones used to sing, "I can't get no satisfaction." Kind of sums up my generation. We can't get "no satisfaction," because we are looking in all the wrong places.

My thoughts? True happiness comes from the inside out and not the outside in.

Are you unhappy? Are you lonely? Are you looking for satisfaction? Why not try Jesus? And I can tell you - you won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We do this for Jesus

I've often wondered how I would react during a life and death situation where my faith came into question. Is my relationship with God on a strong enough level(commitment wise) to where I would unquestionably proclaim my faith in Christ during a difficult circumstance?

On December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray shot and killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. He later killed two more people at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

Despite the deaths, YWAM is on track with its missions training program. Training for missions will begin once again in January, and not one of the 120 who signed up has dropped out of the program.

Director of the Arvada YWAM Peter Warren said this about the shooting:

"Matthew was in the building for half an hour talking with students, and then he asked to spend the night. Tiffany was called to the front because she handles hospitality. Normally, we would not have someone spend the night without knowing them or arranging ahead of time. After that, Matthew said, "Then this is what I've got for you," pulled out a gun and began shooting.

After firing a few shots, he had his foot in the door, and at some point his foot slipped and he fell back. The door slammed shut on him and automatically locked, so he could not get back in again. Right then, other staff and students were driving up and saw Matthew banging on the door, trying to get back in. When Matthew saw them, he ran away.

After [a] student performed CPR on Tiffany, she regained consciousness and asked [another trainee named] Holly, "Is it bad?" Holly said, "Yes, it's bad." Tiffany looked at Holly and her boyfriend, Dan, who was also shot, and said, "We do this for Jesus, right guys? We do this for Jesus."

Wow. We do this for Jesus. That touches me.

While I question how I would react in that situation, somehow I believe that the same God who saved me by grace and sustains me by His grace, will give all of us the grace and strength that we need to "do this for Jesus."

At least that is my prayer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Love your enemies

Martin Luther King once said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."

Jesus said basically the same thing in Matthew 5:43-45, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy' but I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

Every night on the news, we hear horrifying reports from Iraq. In a recent Breakpoint Commentary, Charles Colson shared this moving story about a U.S. triage facility doing its best to save the lives of two Iraqi insurgents:

He said, "The U.S. medical team moved heaven and earth to save their lives. One insurgent, however, was not going to survive unless he got 30 pints of blood…

The call went out for volunteer donors; minutes later, dozens of GIs had lined up.

At the head of the line was a battle-hardened soldier named Brian Suam. Asked if it mattered that his blood was going to an insurgent, he smiled and said no—"A human life is a human life."

Jesus said that we are to love our enemies, that we may be sons of our Father in heaven."

The phrase "sons of your father" is an idiom; it means "that you may be like your father in heaven.

We are never more like our father than when we love those who don't love us. When we refuse to retaliate, even if the other person is wrong. When we seek to make restitution for our own wrongs. When we respond to mistreatment with kindness. When we extend our generosity to all who need it. That's how we show his love. That's how we become perfect, like our heavenly father is perfect.

May the ability to love those who are our enemies become part and parcel of our lifestyle as people who follow Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I trust and pray that two major additions will be made to the life of our church family at Stone Church in the next three years.

We will become a church that also meets in homes across the southland. Small groups are a wonderful forum for spiritual growth, as well as reaching the unchurched.

Secondly, we will become a church that does the majority of its ministry outside the church as well as ministry within our four walls.

My heart is burdened for those who aren't connected to Christ in Palos Heights, Orland Park, Lockport, New Lennox, etc......

I talked with a man this week whose basic belief is pantheism. He sees and experiences God in everything. God is in the trash can. God is in the wall. And of course, God is in you and I. Interesting stuff from a 20 something guy in the 21st century.

Here's some interesting thoughts about the unchurched from an article in the U.S.A. Today.

Lifeway Research, the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, conducted a survey recently of unchurched adults. Here are their findings.

About God

72% believe that God, or some kind of supreme being exists.

61% say the God of the Bible is "no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism."

52% agree that Jesus died and came back to life.

About Christians and church

72% say the church is full of hypocrites.

44% say that Christians get on their nerves.

86% believe they can have a "good relationship with God without belonging to a church."

79% say "Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people."

About evangelism

78% would "be willing to listen" to someone tell "what he or she believed about Christianity."

89% of the unchurched have at least one close friend who is Christian

71% agreed that "believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in a person's life."

Obviously, there are some inconsistencies here. How can 61% believe that the God of the Bible is the same as the gods of other religions, and yet 52% say that they believe that in the resurrection of Christ? We can't expect the unchurched to have thought through their theology. That typically takes place after conversion.

There are some things we can learn from the numbers. Almost half of all unchurched people say Christians get on their nerves. Since you can't irritate someone and persuade them at the same time, maybe we need to soften our strategy a little bit. Not the message, but the way it's presented.

And since almost 4 out of 5 people would be willing to listen to what someone else believes about Christianity, maybe we should tell our story more often. Especially since 7 out of 10 believe that Jesus makes a positive difference in people's lives. And since almost 9 out of 10 unchurched people have at least one friend who is a Christian, maybe we should start with those closest to us.

Scott McConnell, associate director of Lifeway Research, said, "These outsiders are making a clear comment that churches are not getting through on the two greatest commandments. [love God, love your neighbor] When they look at churches … they don't see people living out the faith.

"What surprised me is the openness of the hard-core unchurched to the message of God and Christianity — just not as expressed in church. It's a personal thing, not an institutional thing. It's a matter of starting conversations."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Being available

Sometimes I come across followers of Christ who diminish their role in the kingdom of God. They feel that they aren't important. They articulate when asked to participate in ministry, "I can't do that." "God could never use me." "I can't do anything." "I worthless."

First of all, let me share a word of encouragement. You are worth something. You are valuable in God's kingdom. God has gifted you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you have been given one if not several spiritual giftings from the Holy Spirit. Nobody is left, "giftless."

Everyone is needed at the Stone Church. No one is to be left out. The person working in the sound booth and cleaning the rest rooms are just as important as the person leading worship or presenting the teaching on a Sunday morning.

You are needed! You are important!

Here's the key: Be available.

Corrie Ten Boom writes: “God has no hands but ours. God does not ask about our ability or our inability, but our availability. It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts."

God calls us all simply to be available. Here's what I know: Availability is more important than ability. Attitude is more important than aptitude.

We must stop focusing in on what we can't do and let God decide what we can't do and focus in on what we can do.

I believe that we are going to be amazed in heaven at the people God has used. God is not looking for the super talented or the super gifted or the superstar (although he can use them as well).

He's looking for ordinary people with faults and hangups and fear and failures. He's not looking necessarily for the brilliant but for those of average intelligence.

He calls us all to be available.

Take his disciples. In the natural sense they were a bunch of loser. Almost every time they are mentioned in the Bible, they are mending their nets. They couldn't even keep their nets mended.

And yet - they turned the world upside down for Jesus.

I encourage you - make yourself available for ministry!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Core Values

We talked about the "core values" of our church today in staff meeting. In September, I will be presenting a teaching on the subject of what we believe are the core values of Stone Church.

What are Core Values?

The core values of a church are those values we hold which form the foundation on which we do ministry and conduct ourselves. We have an entire sphere of biblical values, but some of them are so primary, so important to us that through out the changes in society, government, politics, and technology they are STILL the core values we will abide by.

In an ever-changing world, core values are constant. Core values are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ to accomplish our mission. The values underlie our work, how interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our ministry. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.


Govern personal relationships
Guide ministry processes
Clarify who we are
Articulate what we stand for
Help explain why we do ministry the way we do
Guide us on how to teach
Inform us on how to reward
Guide us in making decisions
Underpin the whole organization
Require no external justification

Essential tenets


Operating practices
Ministry strategies
Cultural norms
Changed in response to demographic changes
Used individually

Question: what would you consider to be the "core values" of Stone Church?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Abortion and the Christian Response

This Sunday is "Sanctity of life" Sunday in our country.

I thought I might give you a biblical and sane response to those who are pro-choice from a godly Christian guy, our General Superintendent.

I trust you will take the time to read it and search the scriptures that are given.

Abortion and the Christian Response
Published in ADVANCE, October 1984

Each year since 1973 an estimated 1.5 million babies have been aborted in the United States, an average of three every minute. In many major metropolitan areas the number of abortions exceeds the number of live births.
This devastating carnage of human life has been called “The Silent Holocaust” and “The Slaughter of the Innocents.”
How did this situation come about? Should we be concerned, even alarmed? What counsel do the Scriptures give us? What actions must be taken?

A Brief History
On January 23, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision which allowed abortion on demand. This ruling immediately struck down all laws prohibiting abortion in the 50 states and U.S. territories. It opened the floodgates for legal abortions to increase from a few thousand annually to a million and a half.
The ruling essentially apportioned a pregnancy into trimesters. In the first trimester, the issue of abortion was left solely in the hands of the mother and her doctor (albeit most abortions are presently done in clinics where the mother does not even know the doctor or later remember his name). There could be no state or governmental prohibition of abortion. The Court did not take note of the fact that at 13 weeks, when most abortions begin, the developing baby is a completely organized entity-an actual miniature Child in, the mother’s womb, a Child with fingerprints that have been established for al1 time.
During the second trimester of pregnancy, the state could enact only laws which regulated abortion in ways “reasonably related to the mother’s health.” This meant simply that the state may determine who is qualified to perform the abortion and where the abortion may be performed. Given a qualified doctor and a qualified medical setting, the mother was free to have an abortion during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Only during the third trimester (the 6th and 7th month) of pregnancy, when the fetus was viable (i.e., capable of sustaining life on its own outside the womb) could the state pass a law forbidding an abortion if that abortion was not necessary to preserve the mother’s “life or health.” Since health may mean mental and attitudinal well-being, the Court’s decision effectively grants the right to an abortion even in the last day of pregnancy if a mother does not want to bear the Child.
The same Court which permitted abortion on demand stopped the construction of the $116,000,000 Tellico Dam in Tennessee because its completion carried the possibility of making extinct the snail darter, a 3-inch fish.
A dramatic development now taking place will most likely bring a steep increase in the rate of abortion. Thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars have been expended on the development of a do-it-yourself abortion product which does not have nauseous or other negative side effects. The drugs (prostaglandins), if marketed, will allow self-administered abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy to take place at home rather than requiring the mother’s presence in a doctor’s office or clinic.
The United States Congress has thus far shown an unwillingness to approve a human life amendment for submission to states’ ratification which defines an unborn Child as a person protected by the 5th and 14th articles of amendment to the Constitution.
Failing Congressional and state action, the only present political hope for change is in the appointment of new Supreme Court justices. Five of the present nine are past the age of 75; therefore, the President who assumes Office January 20, 1985, may well have the opportunity to appoint justices who can reverse Roe v. Wade.

Concern and Alarm
Three major views are expressed today regarding abortion. 1. The unborn is not a human life, and therefore no moral issues are at stake. Zygote and fetus displace the word baby because the latter is too personal and human. Some have called pregnancy the most common “tumor” women acquire-the developing baby is simply “tissue.” One has no more moral compunction in excising the “tissue” than in removing an appendix. 2. The unborn is a potential human life and certain safeguards may be in order. The difficulty in this view is its ambiguity as to when “personhood” or “humanness” takes place: conception, quickening, viability, birth? 3. The unborn is a human life, a person in the full legal sense and entitled to the protection afforded all other human life. Michael Gorman, in his well-researched Abortion and the Early Church (InterVarsity Press, 1982), conclusively shows that the Christian church of the first 3 centuries held unwaveringly to this position against the abortion-on-demand attitudes and practices of pagan culture.
The abortion ethic of pre-Christian, non-Judaic Greek and Roman cultures is being reborn in America. The pro-abortion mindset of those cultures went hand in hand with infanticide (the killing of born babies) and euthanasia (the killing of the weak, handicapped, and old). Abortion is the wedge issue through which other horrors seek to enter.
We need to relearn the lesson of the Holocaust. It did not begin with the killing of Jews. The Holocaust began with an idea: an idea flowing out of Hegel (1770- 1831) and Nietzsche (1844-1900)-both of whom started out as young men to train for the ministry.
Hegel insisted there are no absolute moral values. In any given society there are competing views of right/wrong (thesis and antithesis) which, by a rational process reach the compromise of synthesis. Synthesis is that which the majority of people regard as useful. As life goes on, people’s values change-today’s synthesis becomes tomorrow’s thesis: ultimately a new synthesis is produced. Morality is never fixed, it is always moving. Yesterday’s wrong becomes tomorrow’s right. New thinking replaces old thinking: the good is simply that which is useful.
Nietzsche went beyond Hegel to say the center of moral value is power. The rule of the strong which develops a better race is the highest good; the chief evil becomes any protection of the weak.
Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop in their book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (Regal, 1979), detail the effects of the Hegelian/Nietzschian mind-set in pre-World War II Germany.
“The first to be killed were the aged, the infirm, the senile and mentally retarded, and defective children. Eventually, as World War II approached, the doomed undesirables included epileptics, World War 1 amputees, children with badly modeled ears, and even bed wetters. Physicians took part in this planning on matters of life and death to save society’s money” (p. 106).
Long before the killing started and the subsequent genocide against the Jews, Germans were psychologically conditioned to accept it through propaganda which trumpeted that the state does a far better thing to spend money to build housing for the newly married than to keep sick and weak people alive (just as today the aborted child is “inconvenient” and costly in an economic and social sense-therefore, such a child-in-the-womb is disposable).
No wonder Malcolm Muggeridge calls abortion “the slippery slope.” Abortion is the beginning of our slide to Auschwitz.
In his book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (Nelson, 1984), President Reagan quotes an unnamed Nobel Laureate (actually, Dr. Francis Crick, as cited in John Powell’s powerful book, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust: Argus, 1981) as saying: “No newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment and that if it fails these tests it forfeits the right to live.”
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who presided over a New York clinic that did 60,000 abortions in a year and now is an antiabortionist, cites in his book Aborting America (Doubleday, 1979) a bioethicist professor at San Francisco State University, Mary Ann Warren, as advocating calling the prenatal Child “alpha.” “Alpha” would have no more right to life than a newborn guppy. “Alpha” could be raised for the intentional purpose of slaughter in order to acquire its organs for transplant. Others have advocated that a born baby not be declared a human until 3 days to a week after birth to ascertain which babies are healthy and which are desirable for extinction.
Why cite these examples? Why bother with Hegel and Nietzsche? With Nazi Germany and the Holocaust? Because our society is saying it is morally permissible to slay babies in the womb when they are: (1) not wanted; (2) not convenient; and (3) not useful. The same arguments apply to infanticide and euthanasia. We cannot afford to be, as former Interior Secretary James Watt said at the 1983 General Council, like the people who lived in the villages next to the smokestacks of the Nazi crematoriums and did nothing!

Biblical Considerations
The first five books of Scripture were written by a man saved from infanticide. His parents resisted the awesome pressure of their day to dispose of their baby (Exodus 2:1-3).
The prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1,5) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5) were keenly conscious that the Lord formed them in the womb; knew, called, and consecrated them in their prenatal state. Job traced his continuity as a person back to God’s curdling, clothing, and knitting him in the womb (Job 10%12). David indicated the inheritance of fallen Adamic nature begins at conception (Psalm 51:5). .He celebrated God’s intimate knowledge of his personhood in the womb in lyrical exultation:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me fogether in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and
wonderfully made …
My frame was not hidden from you
when 1 was made in the secret place.
When 1 was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Exodus 21:22-25 reflects the protection of the Mosaic law for a pregnant mother who is inadvertently struck during a fight. If she gives birth prematurely and no injury occurs, then the offender is fined; if injury occurs, the law of retaliation applies (“eye for eye,” etc.).
The critica1 exegetical question is whether the law of retaliation applies if the mother and/or the child is injured, or just the mother. If the mother only (i.e., injury to the child goes unpunished), the lack of retaliation for injury to the baby stems not from a Biblical devaluing of the baby’s inherent worth. Rather, the attacker’s intent to harm was directed against the mother and not the Child; therefore, lesser responsibility is involved because of nonintentionality.
The New Testament bears witness that human life commences at conception, and the unborn baby is human. The birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus trace their personhood back to within the womb. Jesus is conceived by the Spirit: to abort the zygote in Mary would have been to destroy the Incarnate One. It was through conception that the Word began His life as flesh. John the Baptist, 6 months after conception and 3 months before birth, leaps for joy in bis mother’s womb at the arrival of Mary who had just become pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:39-45). The 6-month child-in-the-womb, John, already is possessed with spiritual consciousness.
The scriptural examples cited above establish the existence of human life from conception; and increasing evidence from the scientific community is corroborating that view (see Rites of Life by Dr. Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik: Zondervan, 1983).
Dr. and Mrs. J, C. Wilkie Handbook on Abortion; Hayes, 1971) eloquently speak of the beginning of human life from the moment of conception:
“When . . . at fertilization the 23 chromosomes from the sperm join 23 chromosomes from the ovum, a new being is created. Never before in the history of the world nor ever again will a being, identical to this one, exist. This is a unique being, genetically totally different from the body of the father or the mother, independent, programmed from within, moving forward in an ongoing, self-controlled process of maturation, growth, development, and replacement of his or her own dying cells. . . The ultimate scientific fact that all must face and deal with is that. . . . Nothing, no bits or pieces, will be added to this living human from the time of fertilization until the old man dies, nothing except nutrition. Each of us existed in toto at that moment; all that we have done since then is mature” (p. 10).
Perhaps John Powell has best summarized the Biblical understanding of our humanness from conception on: “The greatest gift of God, 1 would think, is the gift of life. The greatest sin of humans, it would seem, would be to return that gift ungratefully and unopened’ (p, 1).
What Should We Be Doing?
Following are suggestions as to what, in my opinion, we as Christians can and should be doing about the abortion issue.
First, we need to use correct vocabulary. The pro-abortionists, like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, are using disinformation in their choice of language, The unborn baby is a fetus; while this term is medically correct, it is psychologically dehumanizing. Let’s use baby, child, unborn child instead. Pro-choice sounds nice; pro-killing is the accurate term. The aborted baby certainly did not have a choice.
Termination of pregnancy makes human the barbarism of (1) suction abortion where the baby is torn apart limb from limb and deposited in a jar as just so much fetal waste material; (2) dilatation and curettage abortion where the curette instrument cuts and scrapes the baby in bits and pieces from the womb; (3) saline solution, where 16-week and older unborn babies are poisoned and burned through injection and delivered dead 24 to 36 hours later looking like a candied apple whose skin has been burned off; or (4) hysterotomy abortion where the child is removed surgically in a procedure similar to Caesarean section delivery-the aborted baby is simply discarded in a stainless steel bowl.
Termination of pregnancy is inappropriate: it’s the baby who is being terminated. As Christians, we need to cal1 things by their real names! Dr. Nathanson once speculated how many abortions there would be if the abdominal wall of the pregnant woman were transparent.
Second, we must be involved in the political process. Through adoption of a human life amendment, we can end legal abortions. We have a precedent in the adoption of the 14th amendment which reversed the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857. In the Dred Scott case, the Court ruled that a black was not a legal person even though he had biological life. That decision was not reversed in a day, or even a year or a decade; but it was reversed!
What the Court once decreed about blacks, it has now said about the unborn. We reject the view that the Court-made legal right is morally right, It will take the same forte of Christian conscience to reverse Roe v. Wade as it took to reverse the Dred Scott decision.
Christians are compelled to work for the defeat of al1 in political life who are opposed to a human life amendment. The adoption of this amendment will not only prevent the killing of the unborn, but also give needed protection against the killing of the weak, the handicapped, and the elderly, Mother Teresa has rightly said, “Abortion is a crime that kills not only the child but the consciences of all involved.”
Third, we must recognize that righting a legal wrong will not solve the problem of sin. Pro-abortion attitudes are part of a secular humanistic culture and life-style where emphasis is placed on “me-first” and “I’ll do what 1 want.” Human life apart from Christ is in rebellion against God’s authority in all areas. Christians must engage in the political battle to change the law; but a change in law will not change the human heart, Therefore, we must give priority to spiritual solutions. What the world needs is Jesus!
Fourth, we must not allow our antiabortion stand to be interpreted as antichoice or antiwoman. We insist a mother has no more moral or legal authority to kill the Child inside the womb tltan she does outside the womb. Abortion is not a matter of women’s right, but human rights-the right of a child to live. President Reagan cites this factor of human rigltts in quoting a letter written by a young pregnant woman, Victoria: “In this society we save whales, we save timber wolves, and bald eagles, and Coke bottles. Yet everyone wanted me to throw away my baby” (p.35).
Fifth, we need to be informed so we can give a reasoned response for our position on abortion and not just an emotional outcry. When persons ask us why we are opposed to abortion, we need to make a compelling itelligent response, Read key books such as Clifford Bajema’s Abortion and the Meaning of Personhood (Baker, 1974), John Powell’s Abortion: The Silent Holocaust (Argus, 1981), Shettles’ and Rosvik’s Rites of Life (Zondervan, 1983), and others (some of which are referred to above).
Sixth, we need to proclaim Christ’s and the Scripture’s teaching that sexual intercourse outside marriage is sin. Sexual promiscuity is directly related to the abortion epidemic. The fastest way to end the murder is to return to personal purity.
Seventh, we must not only proclaim God’s judgment upon sin, but also His mercy upon those who have sinned.
Abortion is the quiet sin, and some Christian women in our churches are struggling with the guilt no onc but God knows. We have good news for those women: that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, that repented-of sin is forgiven sin (1 John 1:7,9), that al1 sin may be forgiven except the one which rejects the Spirit’s witness to Jesus (Mark 3:28,29), that as far as the east is from the west so He has separated our sins from us (Psalm 103:12).
Eighth, we need to give wholehearted encouragement and support to pregnant mothers, married and unmarried. We must be active in the financial, @ritual, and psychological undergirding needed by unwed mothers. We must encourage them to compensate a wrongful sexual act with the redemptive act of personal self-sacrifice in bringing their Child to birth. That unwed mother’s baby wants life, and many adoptive parents want the baby she will bear. We need special days in our churches for the recognition of babies, of mothers and fathers, of festive moments when the life of a child is celebrated.
Finally (first, second, and always), we need to pray. Second Chronicles 7:14 brings the assurance that the humility, repentance, and prayers of God’s people can save a nation. It is time to pray that the horrible cloud of ungodliness and inhumanness settling upon our nation will be lifted! It is time to pray that a great spiritual awakening will come to America, and that human life will be kept sacred and redeemed!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Praying for the sick

Last night we prayed for the sick. The lines were long. My heart breaks at all of the needs that were presented. It's one of the reason I still, to this day, feel called to do what I am doing. So many needs, so many hurts, so many sicknesses.

Debbie and I feel such a compassion for those who are hurting.

As I mentioned last night, my prayer is that all of us will catch the vision of praying for those in need. All of us as believers, can reach out and pray for the hurting at work, in our neighborhoods, in our families.

Praying for the sick is not just an assignment for "clergy" or for "superstar" evangelist.

We all, as believers in Jesus Christ can pray for the sick.

As a believer:

Jesus is in me.
Jesus has all authority.

Therefore, I have all authority to pray for the sick.

The same is true for you.

You have that same authority as a believer.

When someone is sick, may your first response be: "Let me pray with you."

Praying for the sick is to be a natural part of our Christian walk!

I look forward to hearing great reports!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Worship and change

We had a wonderful time of worship last night as we gathered together here at Stone Church for a time of prayer and fasting.

What was really cool was that the Holy Spirit led our service. From spending time on our knees and faces, to praying for our community to the east, west, north and south, to giving God a shout of praise and a clap offering, we, together, went through a litany of worship and praise to God.

There is a second component to our worship as well. We worship God together as we did last night and then we experience God in our every day lives the next day, and the following day and the days to come.

Worship, to truly be worship, must bring about some change in our lives.

We must continually ask ourselves after a great time of worship: "Am I kinder? Am I gentler? Am I controlling my tongue? Am I less apt to fly off the handle in anger."

Worship, to truly be worship, changes me in some way. It leads me to minister in the giftings God has given me, this is true, but it also bears forth the fruit of the Spirit in my life: self-control, patience, joy, etc.

May we all continue to worship God with all of our heart, soul, mind and spirit!

My we all continue to worship God in spirit and in truth!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Leaving a great legacy

One of my heroes growing up was former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who turned 97 last year.

He was once asked his opinion of Texas Tech (and former Indiana) coach Bobby Knight. Wooden would only respond, “I think Bob Knight is an outstanding teacher of the game of basketball, but I don't approve of his methods. But I'm not a judge, and I'm not judging Bob Knight. There is so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us, it hardly behooves me to talk about the rest of us.”

Henry Kaiser once said, “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”

John Wooden has left a wonderful legacy.

He not only was a gentlemen on the court, he holds records that may never be broken. His 10 national championships, his 88 game winning streak, his phenomenal winning percentage, the players he groomed for stardom in the NBA -- this is his legacy; he has no reason to add the title of “outspoken critic” to the list.

In your life and mine, in your work and mine, there are a number of potential (even “worthy”) targets of our own outspoken criticism. If we're not careful, they can take up all of our time. If we're not careful, we can be sidetracked into thinking our opinions are more important than our actions.

It’s what you do that ultimately makes a difference. Talk isn’t enough. Opinions aren’t enough. Criticism, no matter how on-target or well-articulated it might be, isn’t enough. You prove who you are by the way that you live.

Paul asked, "So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God." (Romans 14:10)

Let’s strive toward leaving a legacy built, not upon our estimation of others, but upon our own measurable accomplishments. Criticize less, do more. That’s what a legend looks like.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fasting and prayer

We are in a week of fasting and prayer here at Stone Church.

Fasting is the spiritual discipline of deliberately and voluntarily abstaining from eating, which combined with prayer, brings supernatural power to our connection with God.

Fasting means to do without, to practice self-denial.

At the basis of fasting is the renouncing of the natural to reconnect with the supernatural. Its meaning can be expanded to include temporary abstinence form anything else in order to give more concentrated attention to spiritual things.

Mark Buchanan writes;

“Fasting churns the stuff up from the depths. Is there anger in me? I can usually control that with a burger and fries Am I resentful, irritated, overly ambition, fearful? I can smoother that with pizza. Am I depressed or embittered, suffering from a sense of life’s unfairness? I can artificially perk myself up with a Mars bar.”

We do that at times – use food to deal with life.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus gives us some incredible lessons concerning fasting and prayer.

Jesus taught in Matthew 6:16-18:

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Jesus says, "when" you fast, not "if" you fast, in other words, fasting should be a part of our spiritual walk with God. We should include fasting into our spiritual disciplines as we do reading the Bible and praying.

We are not punishing our bodies, but disciplining our bodies to make them obey us.

Self-control (a fruit of the spirit) is meaningless unless it includes the control of our bodies.

Fasting doesn't need to be in secret, but it does need to be in private, meaning that we don't make a big deal out of it. We don't hang our heads and moan and groan, "I'm fasting." Nor do we have a spiritual air of superiority with our spiritual noses up in the air, saying, "Please ask me how spiritual I am."

True fasting is done with a spirit of humility.

I like what John Piper wrote, "Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God." Do you hunger for God's presence? I know I do.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Pettiness and God's kingdom

One of my favorite authors is Michael Yaconelli (who passed away a couple of years ago).

He once wrote:

"Petty people are ugly people. They are people who have lost their vision. They are people who have turned their eyes away from what matters and focused, instead, on what doesn't matter. The result is that the rest of us are immobilized by their obsession with the insignificant.

It is time to rid the church of pettiness. It is time the church refused to be victimized by petty people. It is time the church stopped ignoring pettiness. It is time the church quit pretending that pettiness doesn't matter. ...

Pettiness has become a serious disease in the Church of Jesus Christ--a disease which continues to result in terminal cases of discord, disruption, and destruction. Petty people are dangerous people because they appear to be only a nuisance instead of what they really are--a health hazard."

Strong, strong words. I trust we all focus on the "major" things of life, and not on "minor stuff".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Reading in 2008

Happy New Year! We had a great time with family and friends the past couple of weeks!

I've been asked several times recently about some of the books I am reading. As you read them below, I would ask that anyone reading this blog give their suggestions as well as to what you are reading and what you would recommend. I trust that one of your New Year's resolutions is to read more, to learn more, to expand your mind and your world view. May we all continue and mature to grow not only spiritually, but mentally and emotionally as well!

One disclaimer: I do not agree with everything written in every book that I am reading or recommend. It is not an endorsement of every line and every paragraph of the book. Some books I read, I read to learn other viewpoints, other ways of looking at things.

Over Christmas I read: "The Innocent man" by John Grisham. A true story of what can happen in our legal system. I found it interesting that the main character in the story was ministered to by an Assemblies of God pastor.

I am reading the following books:

"UnChristian" by David Kinnaman. (What a new generation really thinks about Christianity...and why it matters). Have you ever wondered what people outside of the church think about our faith? Interesting stuff.

"Controlling the tongue" by R.T. Kendall. Anything by R.T. Kendall is great. The subtitle of the book is "mastering the what, when and why of the words you speak."

"The Looming Tower," by Lawrence Wright. The "Looming Tower," is an historical account of the rise of Al Qaeda up until 911. As I read it, I am gaining insights into the "why" of why radical Muslims don't appreciate our culture, and in fact, desire to conquer the world. The book won the Pulitzer prize for non fiction literature.

Another book was recommended to me by Neil Anderson called "Restored," - which I have not read.

Again, any books you would like to recommend. I am interested in what our church family is reading.

Chris Chapan emailed me this (Thanks Chris!):

"I am sure you already know about this but I have been listening since August to the Bible through ITUNES and this website. Brian Hardin reads through the Bible and I have really been blessed by it. You might want to mention it to anyone who might want to be reading through the Bible as their New Year's Resolution. I have read through and plan on it again several times and I have really enjoyed listening as well as reading.

They also have a daily proverb which they just stared."