Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

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They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian

In Awareness on May 16, 2014 by The Spillover

Denny Burk:

NBC News has the story of a Nigerian Christian man who was shot by Boko Haram terrorists for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. This man’s name is Habila Adamu, and he was attacked by the same group of terrorists who recently abducted 200 Nigerian school girls. They broke into his home, shot him, and left him for dead all in full view of his wife and son. It’s a miracle that he is alive. It’s even more a miracle that he stood.

You must read his story in his own words. Below is an extended excerpt from the NBC News report:

A father who was shot point-blank in the face by Boko Haram recounted how the militants asked whether he was “prepared to die as a Christian” and then left for dead.

Habila Adamu, 40, was so badly wounded in the attack that he said goodbye to his wife as blood poured from a gaping wound.

The father-of-one said the April 15 capture by Boko Haram of more than 200 girls from a boarding school brought back painful memories of the night he was shot and beaten in his home.

“When I heard about those girls I started to pray,” Adamu told NBC News on Tuesday. “Boko Haram have no mercy. All they want to do is drive the Christian community out of northern Nigeria and they won’t stop until they do it.”

Many of the minority Christians in Yobe province were fearful of Boko Haram because the militants had attacked homes and businesses in the region, according to Adamu.

“They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian … My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ”

The businessman initially thought they were soldiers on patrol near his home one night in November 2012.

“But when I saw their robes and AK-47 rifles I knew they were not from the army,” he said. “They told me they were there to do the work of Allah.”

With his wife Vivian and son David, now aged seven, looking on, four men forced their way indoors and asked whether he was a member of the police force or army. He told them he was not.

“Then they asked me whether I would convert to Islam and when I refused they asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian. My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ. I felt powerful, unafraid, I don’t know why.”

Before he could refuse a second time, a bullet pierced his neck.

“I fell on the ground,” Adamu said. “They thought I was dead because they stomped on me twice and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great.’”

Adamu mustered the strength to talk to his wife before slipping out of consciousness.

“She was crying so many tears,” he said. “Neither of us thought I would survive so I told her that to live in this world was to live for Christ. I told her to look after our son and herself.”

“A doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me”

Recovering her composure, Vivian ran to find help from fellow members of the Christian community – only to find that militants had killed 12 others.

Too scared to leave the house, she tended to her husband for eight hours. At first light, she was able to arrange transport to a nearby medical center.

“When they saw the wound, a doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me,” Adamu said. “I had lost so much blood.”

However, they gave him painkillers and transferred him to the Jos University Hospital, hundreds of miles further south, where doctors funded by the non-profit organization Voice of Martyrs were able to treat him.

Adamu’s condition gradually stabilized and he was discharged about two weeks later.

I thank God that He spared Adamu’s life. I thank Him even more that He gave Adamu the courage to stand. Read the rest here.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

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The Most Important Interview I’ve Ever Done

In Awareness on September 18, 2013 by The Spillover

Rick Warren:

After teaching How to Get Through What You’re Going Through” for the past eight weeks, Kay and I felt it was time to grant the first media interview since Matthew’s death. We chose CNN’s Piers Morgan Live because it offered a full-hour for us to share our thoughts, rather than just short sound bites.

What happened in the taping surprised us all. Several members of the tech/camera crew were in tears, hugged us, and told us that their lives had been profoundly impacted by the experience. Piers Morgan was unusually sensitive to the moment, allowing us all the time we needed without interruption. At lunch, Piers shared that it was the most moving interview he’s ever done.

In kindness, the CNN team came to us, taping the interview at our Acts of Mercy family foundation office. In our conversation, we discussed:

  • What it was like to parent a child who battled mental illness all his life.
  • What it has been like to grieve our son’s suicide as public figures.
  • Mental illness, depression, guns, grief, and God.
  • What needs to change in our culture, including removing the stigma from mental illness.
  • How to support the mentally ill and the families who care for them.
  • How our faith has been tested and has grown stronger.
  • How we get our sins forgiven, purpose for living, and home in heaven through Jesus.
  • The overwhelming love we’ve received from our church family and others.
  • How God gives us HOPE in our darkest days.

The interview was raw and real. The CNN crew and our staff watched almost breathlessly. For an entire hour, you could’ve heard a pin drop, everyone was so riveted by what God was doing through the conversation.

I wanted to take an opportunity to pass along some of the most significant things we were privileged to say, and I would welcome your feedback on the interview.

The Six Stages of Grief

Rick:

Well, you know, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross did this thing, this thing called the four stages of death and dying and I actually think there are six. And we’ve been watching ourselves go through this back and forth now for several months.

I think the first stage is shock. And for us, shock still happens. For at least the first month, I kept waiting for Matthew to come in the door… I just couldn’t believe that it happened. It was so sudden. And then you move from shock to sorrow, sadness, and this profound sadness that comes into your life. Then you move to what I call struggle and that’s all the “why” questions. Why now? Why this? Why me? Why Matthew?

Then you move to a stage I call surrender. I wrote in my journal one day, I later tweeted it, and said, “I’d rather have all my questions unanswered and walk with God than not walk with God and have all my questions answered.” But there is a struggle. And finally, I just have to surrender, so I’m not going to know. I’m not going to know all these answers.

And then you move to what I call sanctification which is the change that takes place in you. And then service. And service means I think God wants us to use our hurt. And one of the reasons we decided to do this interview with you is maybe we could help some other people.

On Losing Matthew

Kay:

I’ve said almost from the first moment that we learned that, “We’re devastated but we’re not destroyed.” And when people ask that question of,how are you, there’s no good answer.

And so, I finally just settled on, “I’m terrible but I’m OK.” In other words, we’re going to survive and someday, we’ll thrive again. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen.

Grief is Good

Rick:

I have cried every single day since Matthew died, but that’s actually a good thing. Grief is a good thing. It’s the way we get to the transitions of life. And I find, if I don’t cry, then I stuff it.

When I swallow my emotions, my stomach keeps score. If I don’t talk it out to my wife, to God, to friends, then I’m going to take it out on my body. And so, as guys, men, we don’t do grief very well. It’s not an easy thing for us because we don’t like the negative emotion.

But actually, grief is a good thing. Grief is the way we get to the transitions of life and that’s been helpful to me.

Choosing Joy

Rick:

We were sobbing. We were just sobbing. The day that I had feared might happen one day, since he’d been born, and the day that I prayed would never happen, happened. And I remember, as we stood in the driveway, just embracing each other, and sobbing. And Kay was wearing a necklace — you’re wearing it today — that had the words of a book she wrote a year ago called Choose Joy.

And she held it up and it said, “Choose Joy.” And in my mind I thought, “Are you kidding? How can I choose joy in this worst circumstance of my life?” But we — even in that moment, we were trying to say, “We’re not in control but we do have a greater hope and we do have a source of joy that isn’t based on our circumstances.” And it was a holy moment.

Mental Illness

Rick:

Piers, any other organ in my body can get broken and there’s no shame, no stigma to it. My liver stops working, my heart stops working, my lungs stop working. Well, I’ll just say, “Hey, I got diabetes. My pancreas or my adrenaline glands, or whatever,” but if my brain is broken, I’m supposed to feel bad about it. I’m supposed to feel shame. And so, a lot of people who should get help don’t.

Piers:

It’s hard to imagine. All that I’ve researched on this, with you and your family and Matthew, it’s hard to imagine anyone who suffers from this kind of illness, who’s had more love and support from their family, from a wide circle of friends, who’s had more treatment from the so called experts, more institutionalized moments, everything you could imagine, and yet still it wasn’t enough to save him.

Kay:

Well, if you look at the risk factors of what puts people at risk for suicide, Matthew had almost none of the risk factors. He had a great, as you say, a loving family, he had the access to care, he had friends. He had everything… The main risk factor for him was mental illness and he had that.

The Support of Saddleback Church

Rick:

I was overwhelmed by the love of our people. Kay and I had given 33 years to this church. And I felt like they all gave it back at the moment. It was just a very tender moment for me as a pastor. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death with thousands of people. I have walked, I’ve stood at bed sides and seeing lots of people take their last breath. I have been there for those people for 33 years. And they were there for us when we needed them most.

Questioning God’s Plan, but Never Questioning God

Rick:

I never questioned my faith in God. I question God’s plan. There’s a big difference. I know God is a good God. Nothing can shake that from my life. I know God is a loving God. The question is — it’s like my children, my children have never doubted that they — that I love them but they sometimes doubt my wisdom and they don’t think I’ve made the right decision.

Not everything that happens in the world is God’s will. Everything that happens in the world God allows, he permits but because it couldn’t happen without his permission but we live in a world where there are free choices and if I chose to do wrong, I can’t blame God for that. So God isn’t to blame for my son’s death. My son took his life. It was his choice and if I chose to go out and get drunk and get in a car and I was in an accident, killed somebody, I can’t blame God for that.

Kay:

You know as Rick said it’s not — our faith is currently what’s got us — that foundation what’s gotten us through and it’s solid and strong but I have to tell you that, you know, before — I have something I want to show you. There’s this box that it was given to me a few years and I — It’s got the word — it’s a marble box and it’s got the word Hope on it and …

It’s my Hope box and I filled it with verses that gave me comfort, that gave me encouragement, verses that just kept my faith really strong before Matthew passed away and everyday I would sit and I would read these verses and that morning after we had been to his house the night before and I was pretty certain that he had taken his life. I got up that morning and I opened my Hope box and I went to these verses one more time and then after that I didn’t open it for a month. I couldn’t and then I started to think, so where do I go from here? What you’d do when your hope has been crashed and the only way I now how to rebuild it is to go back to my faith and to God’s word and this time, I started putting verses in that give me Hope for the future like there’s this amazing verse that it’s 1 Corinthians 15:43 it says, “Our bodies are buried in brokenness but they will be raised in glory, they are buried in weakness but they will be raised in strength.”

And so every time when I go to the cemetery, I quote that verse because, you know, what Matthew’s body was broken, that gun broke his body and he was buried in brokenness but he’s going to be raised in glory. He was buried in weakness. I think Matthew you were buried in weakness you will be raised in strength. So the struggle has been not in the living that God exists, not that God is evil because God is good.

But I have this other little tiny pot when there’s questions I can’t answer like did Matthew think of us before he pulled the trigger? Did he — was there any moment in which he suffered? Why after all those years of prayer and effort did he die? All these things that I have no answers for and I put them in this little pot, it’s my mystery pot so here’s my Hope box and my little mystery pot and so everyday I almost, I fill it with another question that I can’t answer. But what I know to be true is that God will answer those questions. They will be answered and my hope is very certain.

A Closing Word of Hope

Kay:

It’s so important that people know no matter how desperate, they’re despaired, there is hope. There is — and not to give up, not to give up.

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SCOTUS Strikes DOMA: What’s The Church to Do?

In Awareness on June 26, 2013 by The Spillover

Jared Wilson:

This, from a bulletin insert resource (pdf) provided by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, I find helpful:

Teach your congregation to avoid anger, outrage, or despair.
Jesus tells us marriage has existed as a male/female one-flesh union “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:8). This means marriage is resilient, regardless of what any culture does to minimize or redefine it.

Love your gay and lesbian neighbors.
They aren’t part of an evil conspiracy. They are, like, like all of us apart from Christ, seeking a way that seems best to them. Be kind, and respect all persons as image-bearers of God.

Preach and teach on the integrity of conjugal marriage.

Don’t assume your people understand the gospel foundations of marriage. Take this opportunity to point to the formation of healthy, gospel-shaped marriage cultures within your congregation.

Repent of the ways our congregational cultures have downgraded marriage.
If your church hasn’t addressed divorce, cohabitation, or fornication through proclamation and discipline, now is the time to repent and rework.

Make your marriage convictions clear in your confession of faith.
If your church assumes a definition of marriage, your confession of faith is now irrelevant. Defend your religious liberty by making your congregational convictions clear in your statement of faith.

Stop laissez-faire wedding policies.
Your church building is not a public space and your church ministers aren’t justices of the peace. Make clear that you will marry, and host weddings, only for those who have accountability to the people of Christ and to the Word of God.

And here are some good words from Ray Ortlund’s Twitter feed this morning: “The Supreme Court did not rule today that you and I cannot have Christ-honoring marriages. So let’s get after it! A prophetic statement we can make today: flaming hot lifelong heterosexual marriages to make the world stand in awe.”

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Oklahoma Tornadoes and Beyond: 5 Ways to Get Involved in Disaster Relief

In Awareness on May 21, 2013 by The Spillover

Ed Stetzer:

The nation is focused on Moore, OK and communities surrounding it.

While I was speaking at a conference in Moore a few years ago, people told me of the tornado that hit in 1999. Moore is not rural Oklahoma, but it is a developed area, and the damage from that 1999 tornado was still fresh in their memory. Now, as the news unfolds, we see that this new tornado has brought devastating damage– perhaps much more than in 1999.

Right now, Christians and churches are praying, but they are also asking, what can we do to help? Well, having worked at the North American Mission Board (the third largest volunteer disaster relief agency, right behind the Red Cross and Salvation Army), and having assisted in disaster relief work personally, there are a few realities to keep in mind.

Here are five key things (edited from an earlier blog post) to remember when thinking about disaster relief.

1. The time to prepare to help in a disaster is BEFORE a disaster strikes. Rushing off to a disaster zone without training or support may make you feel better, but it won’t make the situation better. The Lutheran Disaster Response ministry says this:

It is nearly impossible to predict when or where a disaster is going to take place. It is possible, however, for communities to prepare for what may happen. Disaster preparedness readies us for the unexpected, and it allows for a more organized, timely, and efficient response when disaster strikes.

If you want to help, get your church involved by training in disaster relief now. For example, Samaritan’s Purse has a volunteer network with a list of projects where they are currently involved. Many state conventions affiliated with the SBC provide disaster relief training in a variety of service areas. The Georgia Baptist Convention, for instance, provides training for feeding, childcare, chaplaincy, communications, and cleanup and recovery. Some conventions even have chainsaw school!

2. In most cases monetary donations are more helpful than volunteers. Yes, we live in a world where some want to DO more than they want to HELP, but at the end of the day that is more selfish than helpful. Ministering to disaster victims should be about meeting their needs, not fulfilling our need to feel helpful. The Salvation Army is blogging regularly about their disaster relief efforts. In a recent post, they explain how you can give:

    • $10: Will feed a disaster survivor for one day.
    • $30: Provides one food box, containing staple foods for a family of four, or one household cleanup kit, containing brooms, mops, buckets and other cleaning supplies
    • $100: Provides snacks and drinks for 125 survivors and emergency personnel at the scene of a disaster
    • $250: Provides one hot meal to 100 people or keep a hydration station operational for 24 hours
    • $500: Keeps a Salvation Army canteen (mobile feeding unit) fully operational for one day

It’s perhaps not as personally fulfilling as delivering a warm meal in a storm shelter, but it is an effective way to help.

3. The best way to support is through established, reputable relief agencies. Relief agencies, or denominations with disaster relief agencies, are already at work before storms like Hurricane Irene even make landfall.

4. By giving to agencies already in place, you minimize inefficiency and get resources to the areas of need. For example, Southern Baptists have assigned disaster relief coordination to the North American Mission Board. The NAMB disaster relief site explains, “When you give to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, 100% of what you give goes directly to disaster relief efforts so your donation goes further. We do not pay salaries or overhead out of those funds.”

Giving directly can be helpful if you have friends and relationships in an impacted area, but it is almost always better stewardship to give through a disaster relief organization. During times of extreme devastation like the Japanese and Christmas Eve tsunamis, the Haitian earthquake or Katrina, relief opportunities pop up all over the place. It sometimes reminds me of “Whack-A-Mole.” The problem is that some of them are bogus, set up on the fly by hucksters using a coffee shop wifi and their black-ops PayPal account. Others are rife with overhead expenses creating what amounts to an organization of jobs where much stays home and little relief is accomplished.

5. Avoid the temptation to load up a tractor-trailer with supplies unless you are connected with someone on the ground meeting a specific request. In the days and weeks following Katrina, so much bottled water was needed we could have exhausted aquifers all over the country. But often a supply trailer becomes a receptacle for “guilt giving” with the resultant broken furniture, dirty clothes and perishable food. It does no good to barrage disaster areas with more stuff that winds up being added to the debris piles. Disaster zones do not need junk brought into them. Again, contact with people on the ground is very helpful to inform what items need to be brought into the area.

I can assure you (as I’ve seen it myself), unsolicited donations end up in piles and needed materials are nowhere to be found. When it comes to disaster relief, don’t follow your heart, follow the direction of those already engaged.

So, help by praying and giving, then get better prepared for next time when you might also get personally involved as needed.

More disasters are coming. They always do. Be prepared, not just for the disaster, but to serve the hurting in these critical times.

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“If you don’t know, don’t shoot”

In Awareness,Videos on September 4, 2012 by The Spillover

Follow the logic:

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Mormonism Refresher

In Awareness on June 19, 2012 by The Spillover

Mormonism is a relevant topic these days, mostly due to the Republican presidential candidate. Here is a good, short refresher course on Mormonism vs. Christianity, courtesy of Justin Taylor:


What do Mormons believe about apostasy and restoration?

Mormons claim that “total” apostasy overcame the church following apostolic times, and that the Mormon Church (founded in 1830) is the “restored church.”

What’s the problem with this understanding?

If the Mormon Church were truly a “restored church,” one would expect to find first-century historical evidence for Mormon doctrines like the plurality of gods and God the Father having once been a man. Such evidence is completely lacking. Besides, the Bible disallows a total apostasy of the church (e.g., Matt. 16:18; 28:20Eph. 3:21; 4:11-16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).


What do Mormons believe about God?

Mormons claim that God the Father was once a man and that he then progressed to godhood (that is, he is a now-exalted, immortal man with a flesh-and-bone body).

What does the Bible teach about the nature of God?

Based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19Hos. 11:9). He is a spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Furthermore, God is eternal (Ps. 90:2; 102:27Isa. 57:151 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25-27Mal. 3:6). He did not “progress” toward godhood, but has always been God.


What do Mormons believe about the Trinity and polytheism?

Mormons believe that the Trinity consists not of three persons in one God but rather of three distinct gods. According to Mormonism, there are potentially many thousands of gods besides these.

What does the Bible teach about the Triune God?

Trusting in or worshiping more than one god is explicitly condemned throughout the Bible (e.g., Ex. 20:3). There is only one true God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:91 Cor. 8:4James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:192 Cor. 13:14).


What do Mormons believe about human exaltation?

Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood.

What does the Bible teach about humanity?

The Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21-23; contrastActs 14:11-15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2Ps. 95:6-7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14-301 Cor. 15:42-57Rev. 21:3-7). Believers will never become gods.


What do Mormons believe about Jesus?

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. He was later physically conceived in Mary’s womb, as the literal “only begotten” Son of God the Father in the flesh (though many present-day Mormons remain somewhat vague as to how this occurred).

What does the Bible teach about Jesus?

Biblically, the description of Jesus as the “only begotten” refers to his being the Father’suniqueone-of-a-kind Son for all eternity, with the same divine nature as the Father (see note on John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; see also John 5:18; 10:30). Moreover, he is eternal deity (John 1:1; 8:58) and is immutable (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8), meaning he did notprogress to deity but has always been God. And Mary’s conception of Jesus in his humanity was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).


What do Mormons believe about our eternal destiny?

Mormons believe that most people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory, depending on one’s level of faithfulness. Belief in Christ, or even in God, is not necessary to obtain immortality in one of these three kingdoms, and therefore only the most spiritually perverse will go to hell.

What does the Bible teach about our eternal destiny ?

The Bible teaches that people have just two possibilities for their eternal futures: the saved will enjoy eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth (Phil. 3:20Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46Rev. 20:13-15).


What do Mormons believe about sin and atonement?

Mormons believe that Adam’s transgression was a noble act that made it possible for humans to become mortal, a necessary step on the path to exaltation to godhood. They think that Christ’s atonement secures immortality for virtually all people, whether they repent and believe or not.

What does the Bible teach about sin and atonement?

Biblically, there was nothing noble about Adam’s sin, which was not a stepping-stone to godhood but rather brought nothing but sin, misery, and death to mankind (Gen. 3:16-19;Rom. 5:12-14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6;John 1:292 Cor. 5:211 Pet. 2:24; 3:181 John 2:2; 4:10).


What do Mormons believe about salvation?

Mormons believe that God gives to (virtually) everyone a general salvation to immortal life in one of the heavenly kingdoms, which is how they understand salvation by grace. Belief in Christ is necessary only to obtain passage to the highest, celestial kingdom—for which not only faith but participation in Mormon temple rituals and obedience to its “laws of the gospel” are also prerequisites.

What does the Bible teach about salvation?

Biblically, salvation by grace must be received through faith in Christ (John 3:15-16; 11:25; 12:46Acts 16:31Rom. 3:22-24Eph. 2:8-9), and all true believers are promised eternal life in God’s presence (Matt. 5:3-8John 14:1-3Rev. 21:3-7).

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What’s a Christian to Do About Gay Marriage?

In Awareness,Reagan Rose on May 15, 2012 by The Spillover

Great post from our own Reagan Rose:

So the President has come out and said he supports gay marriage, and in an election year! At the same time North Carolina has voted to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus excluding same-sex couples from the equation. What do we do with this news?

Now, I realize I speak to two audiences here, and I hope that this can be helpful to both. First, to the Christian who doesn’t know how to respond to the issue of homosexual marriage, I hope that this will give you some clarity on that. Second, to those that don’t accept the Bible’s authority to say what is right and what is wrong. To you I hope this will help you to at least understand where (most) Christians are coming from and why we just can’t seem to agree on some things!

There are two issues at work here.

  1. The Christian’s view of homosexuality
  2. The Christian’s responsibility in politics.

1. What Do We Do With All These Gay People?

Let’s make a few things clear. Sin is sin because God says it is, not because it doesn’t hurt anyone else. That is the difference between Christian morality and secular morality. Christian morality makes the arbiter of right and wrong the transcendent God as revealed in the Bible. Secular morality (and this too may come in Christian packaging at times) makes man the authority of right and wrong. The secularist will nod in approval to the golden rule. Of course, how can a society function unless laws enforce the doing unto others as they would do unto you? (I don’t want to have my stuff stolen, so the law should punish me if I steal other people’s stuff. Makes sense!) However, secular society has no category for when a Christian comes in and says, “actually what you do at home in your bedroom is wrong.” From the secular standpoint they conclude, “Mind your own business, you weirdo!” Thus we come to an impasse and all conversation ceases to be fruitful until we acknowledge these presuppositions.

Now most Christians (I would hope) would agree that homosexual acts are a sin (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:24-32). You have to do some serious self-deception to make the Bible “unclear on these things”. Homosexuality is an abomination against God because it defies His natural order and His clear commands in Scripture.

Great, Another Hater

Does this mean I hate gay people? Nope. And by the way, calling everyone that disagrees with you a hater, is pretty rude. Stop it. I don’t hate liars or adulterers either. If I hated people that sin I’d hate all of mankind and myself. I’d keep my lips zipped about God’s righteous judgement on sin and the glorious provision of Jesus Christ as the only answer! If I didn’t care I wouldn’t say a word, and everyone would like me!

Now let’s make a quick distinction:

There is a difference between feelings of homosexual attraction, which is a symptom of a sin-sick world (akin to how some people have a predisposition to drink to excess), and the indulging in those feelings to the point of homosexual lust or homosexual relations. Let’s think in terms of Jesus’ teaching on adultery here (Matt. 5). Let me be clear, I don’t think anyone chooses to have weird feelings (temptations), but they do (like the whole world!) choose to indulge in sin.

Certainly, there is an extra element at work in the issue of homosexuality that I would be remiss to ignore. Paul seems to indicate that it’s homosexuality and societal approval of it and other sins is a symptom of God removing His restraining hand in judgement (Rom. 1:27,32). But on a basic, how-do-I-respond-as-a-Christian level, homosexuality is a sin that damns, like lying damns, like stealing damns, like how ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD damns us all (Rom. 3:23). So we must be careful not to get all high and mighty and say, “look at those unbelievers sinning!” Playas gonna play and sinners gonna sin. Our job is to show them that IT IS sin and that they, like us, and the whole world, need to repent and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord to save them from God’s righteous judgement (that’s why it’s called the Good News). Sinners saved by grace show grace to sinners.

2. What about Gay-Marriage?

Obviously the issue is compounded when you throw in a political element. If you agree that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes then the redefinition of marriage to include gay couples is rightly disturbing to you. Furthermore, as messed up as it is in America, the family really is the backbone of civilization. And YES marriage that God recognizes is between a feller and a lady (Gen. 2:20-25), so when a group of a people or a president of a nation, say “HEY, let’s change this thing”, that’s a big deal!

So how do we respond? What is the Christian’s responsibility politically? Let me make it simple (Look up these verses):

Pay your taxes (Luke 20:25), obey the government (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-15), and pray for your leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Now of course, if the law forces us to act in opposition to God’s commands we must be like Peter and obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20). So if at some point the government tries to force our churches to marry people of the same sex, we will politely say, “no, we have to obey God on this one, jail us if you want.” That’s it. Really, I would be happy to see a cogent Biblical argument for a Christian’s responsibility politically, because I just can’t find it. We are ambassadors for Christ and citizens of His Kingdom, all societal transformation that results from us is a byproduct of exemplary righteous living and the conversion of other lost people, not political activism, else our archeologists would have uncovered “Peter for Proconsul!” buttons by now.

Conclusion

Christian, you are rightly saddened by this symptom of sin further decaying our society, so respond in this way: pray, vote if you want, call people to repentance for sin, but outlawing sin doesn’t actually solve the problem, the gospel does. Yep, this extends to other political issues too.

And the gospel is this: Everyone who has lived has sinned and is therefore condemned before God. At the end of time all people will stand before Him and be judged by the righteous standard of His law, and everyone who has not forsaken their attempts at making themselves righteous and clung completely to Jesus Christ as the sacrifice and savior for sin, and the Lord of their lives, will face an eternity in hell.

You can say, “well I don’t believe in God or sin or any of that,” but it is true, and we’re all going to face him, and I think deep down you already know it. So quit lying to yourself. Forsake your sin, turn from your rebellion against God and believe on the King, Jesus who died and received God’s wrath, so that you don’t have to. Grab a Bible and start reading the book of John, see if this man Jesus does not compel you.

And Christian, just remember; Nations come and nations go. God is sovereign over all. He’s got this (Psalm 103:19, Daniel 2:21).

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Help for the Poor that Really Helps

In Awareness on February 27, 2012 by The Spillover

Interesting post from Kevin DeYoung:

The latest issue of Christianity Today is on effective ways to fight poverty. It’s an important topic and I’m glad CT is talking about it. I was especially intrigued by the article “Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor” by Bruce Wydick.

Christians can too easily settle for good intentions. We usually support programs that make us feelgood without considering whether they actually dogood. We need to be smarter about actually thinking through which poverty strategies are most effective. “To answer this question” Wydick writes, “I polled top development economists who specialize in analyzing development programs. I asked them to rate, from 0 to 10, some of the most common poverty interventions to which ordinary people donate their money, in terms of impact and cost-effectiveness per donated dollar.”

These were the results:

1. Get clean water to rural villages (Rating: 8.3)
2. Fund de-worming treatments for children (Rating: 7.8)
3. Provide mosquito nets (Rating: 7.3)
4. Sponsor a child (Rating: 6.9)
5. Give wood-burning stoves (Rating: 6.0)
6. Give a micro-finance loan (Rating 4.2)
7. Fund reparative surgeries (Rating: 3.9)
8. Donate a farm animal (Rating 3.8)
9. Drink fair-trade coffee (Rating. 1.9)
10. Give a kid a laptop (1.8)

No doubt, some experts and donors will disagree with these rankings, but at least this gives a starting place for discussion and should encourage careful evaluation. Read the whole article and think through these issues for yourself. Sometimes helpinng the poor is not as simple as drinking a different coffee.

For more information onn effective mercy minstry check out When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert and Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. Remember, more important than feeling good–as an individual, a church, or a government–is that we give in such a way as to do good.

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From Ireland

In Awareness,Calvary Baptist Church,Soul Food on February 9, 2012 by The Spillover

This is a short story from Jonathan and Becky Schuster, Calvary missionaries in Ireland (let’s keep them in prayer, eh?):

Last night our neighbor Breda rushed over and told our son, Evan, to get my husband, Jonathan – there was an emergency with her husband Joe. When Jonathan heard Evan yelling, “Joe’s in trouble! EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!” he thought for sure he’d be administering CPR and ran out the door in his slippers and house coat. As it turns out our neighbors had a radiator that wasn’t working, which often happens when air gets in the system, and Joe had been trying to loosen a screw that lets the water drip out until the air escapes.

Unfortunately the screw came completely out and black, rusty water was squirting everywhere while he tried to get the screw back in. After Jonathan fixed the problem and numerous towels had mopped up the water mess, Evan was given the three cans of 7UP he’d been eyeing for a while. Joe and Breda have treated our children like grandchildren since we met five years ago, and find joy in giving them 7UP cans on a regular basis. (While it’s rather odd, the kids certainly love getting them!)

Shortly later I rolled in to find Joe and Breda in their driveway. Joe was leaving to help his son Joseph set up his new pet shop, and I moved indoors with Breda to continue our conversation as it was freezing outside. Over the course of an hour I had the opportunity to share the gospel with Breda and pray for her health. She shared how when her youngest of six children turned four she spent every morning in the Catholic church and even did all night vigils. One of her sons became a priest. A rosary hangs on their wall. The Pope’s picture is in their kitchen. She prays to Mary and several saints regularly.

There wasn’t a medical emergency, it was a spiritual one.

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What Does Job 31:13-15 Tell Us About Abortion?

In Awareness,Perspective on January 25, 2012 by The Spillover

From Jared Wilson:

“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,

when they brought a complaint against me,

what then shall I do when God rises up?

When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?

Did not he who made me in the womb make him?

And did not one fashion us in the womb?”

– Job 31:13-15

This passage tells us at least three things about abortion:

1. The foundation of civil equality is traced to the womb.

Really, it is traced to God’s having made mankind in his image, but the well-to-do Job is asserting an equality of personhood with his servants based on their equal status as unborn children. Therefore, the unborn are persons with civil rights. This makes abortion a dehumanizing injustice.

2. The development of the unborn is a work of God.

Job says he and his servants were made in the womb, fashioned in the womb. Coupled with Psalm 139′s words on God’s creative work in the womb, we learn that abortion is therefore a tearing apart what God has joined together.

3. The treatment of persons as non-persons is something for which we will give an account.

“What shall I do when God rises up?” Job asks about unjust treatment of his servants. And what will we say? Injustice of this kind will be reckoned with. We will have to give an account to our holy God for the murder of millions of unborn persons he is forming in his image.

No law can be just if its justice for one is predicated on injustice to another.

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Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up

In Awareness,Home and Family on December 29, 2011 by The Spillover

From Jon Nielson at The Gospel Coalition:

“What do we do about our kids?” The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. Each had a story to tell about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church’s youth program, gone on short-term mission trips, and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And, somehow, these mothers’ ideas for our church to send college students “care packages” during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about chucchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches? In our youth ministries?

It’s hard to sort through the various reports and find the real story. And there is no one easy solution for bringing all of those “lost” kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives. However, we can all look at the 20-somethings in our churches who are engaged and involved in ministry. What is it that sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry.

1. They are converted.

The apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn’t use phrases like “nominal Christian” or “pretty good kid.” The Bible doesn’t seem to mess around with platitudes like: “Yeah, it’s a shame he did that, but he’s got a good heart.” When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find that there is very little wiggle room. Listen to these words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop talking about “good kids.” We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion. How many of us are preaching to “unconverted evangelicals”? Youth pastors, we need to preach, teach, and talk—all the while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration to occur in the hearts and souls of our students by the power of the Holy Spirit! When that happens—when the “old goes” and the “new comes”—it will not be iffy. We will not be dealing with a group of “nominal Christians.” We will be ready to teach, disciple, and equip a generation of future church leaders—“new creations”!—who are hungry to know and speak God’s Word. It is converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church.

2. They have been equipped, not entertained.

Recently we had “man day” with some of the guys in our youth group. We began with an hour of basketball at the local park, moved to an intense game of 16” (“Chicago Style”) softball, and finished the afternoon by gorging ourselves on meaty pizzas and 2-liters of soda. I am not against fun (or gross, depending on your opinion of the afternoon I just described) things in youth ministry. But youth pastors especially need to keep repeating the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 to themselves: “[Christ] gave . . . the teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples, or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to “equip” the saints to do gospel ministry, in order that the church of Christ may be built up.

If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer, and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been. We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them. We have entertained, not equipped them . . . and it may indeed be time to panic!

Forget your youth programs for a second. Are we sending out from our ministries the kind of students who will show up to college in a different state, join a church, and begin doing the work of gospel ministry there without ever being asked? Are we equipping them to that end, or are we merely giving them a good time while they’re with us? We don’t need youth group junkies; we need to be growing churchmen and churchwomen who are equipped to teach, lead, and serve. Put your youth ministry strategies aside as you look at that 16-year-old young man and ask: “How can I spend four years with this kid, helping him become the best church deacon and sixth-grade Sunday school class teacher he can be, ten years down the road?”

3. Their parents preached the gospel to them.

As a youth pastor, I can’t do all this. All this equipping that I’m talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students’ homes. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church. The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.

Links

The Catholic Ad Blitz is Here

In Awareness,Links on December 16, 2011 by The Spillover

If you didn’t know, today marks the beginning of a three-week-long, multi-million-dollar advertisement campaign run by the Catholic church, called “Catholics Come Home“.  People will no doubt be talking about it. I found this article quite helpful in guiding us toward a proper response.

Lest you wonder if the Catholic faith is “really that different” than the true faith revealed by Scripture, in Christ alone, by faith alone, consider this, this, this, this, and this (from the Catholics Come Home website).

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Persecuted Christians

In Awareness on November 8, 2011 by The Spillover

Here are some resources to use in order to learn more about Christian persecution worldwide. These are our brothers and sisters facing persecution and death for doing the things we do freely every day. As Hebrews 13:3 tells us, it’s our responsibility to pray for them and support them:

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

As we pray for these Christians, let’s to try to imagine what we would do if we were in their shoes. Is God that real to us?

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The Unreached

In Awareness,Links on October 7, 2011 by The Spillover

Spend at few minutes at http://joshuaproject.net/ – then spend a few minutes pondering the implications of this information.

What shall we do about this?

What must we do about this?

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URGENT: Help stop the execution of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

In Awareness,Links on September 28, 2011 by The Spillover

IRAN: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani faces execution anytime after TODAY, Wednesday, September 28, for refusing to renounce his Christian faith after previously being a Muslim. He has been given numerous opportunities to renounce his faith in Christ, and each time has refused to do so. Today will be his last opportunity.

This isn’t just tragic – it’s a violation of Iranian and international law.

CLICK HERE TO EMAIL THE IRANIAN EMBASSY. Please follow the suggested guidelines and plead for this man’s life. Also, there is more information here,  here, and here.

Please take the time to send this email. We can make a difference. And pray, pray, pray as if he was your dearest friend.

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York Moore Announces the New York City Price of Life Invitational

In Awareness,Calvary Baptist Church,York Moore on September 28, 2011 by The Spillover

CBC’s very own York Moore is a part of something God is doing to free people from bondage, both physical and spiritual. Here’s an update from the man himself. Whether or not you attend Calvary Baptist Church, we ask you sincerely to pray for York and his ministry, and also for the cause of setting captives free, worldwide.

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Giving Up Porn

In Awareness on September 7, 2011 by The Spillover

In Tim Chester’s book, Closing the Window; Steps to Living Porn Free he offers ammunition for those struggling with porn addiction. Look at the stats. Don’t kid yourself. A very large chunk of the Christian population (read: Calvary Baptist Church) has a problem with porn. It’s an addiction as strong as any other.

Here Chester offers 12 reasons why one should give up porn. Don’t let the brevity of the statements mute the profundity of their meanings:

  1. Porn wrecks your view of sex.
  2. Porn wrecks your view of women.
  3. Porn wrecks women’s view of themselves.
  4. The porn industry abuses women.
  5. Porn is a sin against your wife. . . . If you’re not yet married, porn is a sin against your future wife.
  6. Porn wrecks families.
  7. Porn is enslaving.
  8. Porn erodes your character.
  9. Porn wastes your time, energy, and money.
  10. Porn weakens your relationship with God.
  11. Porn weakens your service.
  12. God’s wrath is against people who use porn.
Along with this list is offered five “key ingredients” in one’s battle against porn addiction. If this is something you struggle with, I would strongly encourage that you meditate and pray about the list offered below. By God’s grace and in transparent fellowship with fellow Christians, you can overcome this addiction.

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Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

In Awareness,Videos on August 23, 2011 by The Spillover

This video describes one of the most threatening trends in the US religious landscape today.

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Save a child’s life with what you pay for a car wash.

In Awareness on August 16, 2011 by The Spillover

The US estimates that 29,000 Somali children under the age of 5 have died so far in the famine in Africa, and 640,000 are acutely malnourished. TAKE 10 SECONDS AND DO THIS: text FOOD to 864233 to donate $10 to UNICEF. It gets added to your phone bill. This $10 will feed a child for 10 days or provide 321 sachets of nutrient powder to help infants survive.These are babies and small kids just like mine and yours, and they’re starving to death. We can help. We just have to ACT.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

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Somalia

In Awareness on August 11, 2011 by The Spillover