Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Striking Similarities

A clear analogy can be made between slavery in the United States in the 1800s and abortion in the 20th and 21st centuries. There are some striking similarities. Both slavery and abortion boast of personal property rights as paramount to liberty and freedom. The slave owner said that it was his right to do what he desired with his property. The abortion advocates cry that the woman has a right to do what she wishes with the unborn baby. Both positions ignore the freedom of the enslaved. Both positions focus only on the right of the owner. The slave owner’s rights trump those of the slave. The woman’s rights trump those of the baby.

In the nineteenth century, proponents of slavery were always fighting to expand slavery. They knew if it remained restricted while free states continued to grow, it would die. Therefore, they sought expansion. The Kansas Nebraska act of 1854 was an attempt to break the stranglehold of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that relegated slavery to the South. There were failed attempts to take territory away in Mexico, Cuba, and Central America—all for expansion. The Dred Scott case of 1857 was a notorious attempt to give slavery the right to go anywhere it wanted. Not until the Civil War of 1861 did the insatiable desire for more slavery stop.

Abortion is similar in that enough is never enough. The Clinton and Obama administrations did all they could to see that abortion spread all over the globe. When President Trump refused to give aid to countries if any of the money went for abortion, abortion advocates went crazy.

Under slavery, the South refused to recognize the hardship of the slave. They boasted he was better off than the free worker in the North was. They ignored his privation and suffering and focused on their honor and culture and state rights. Such is the way of a proponent of abortion who refuses to recognize the unborn baby can feel pain at 18 weeks without any doubt.

Despotism is one man ruling another man in a cruel and barbarous way. That is the definition of slavery, and it also the definition of abortion. While proponents are fixated on the woman’s right to her own body, they ignore the right of life to the unborn baby.

Harriet Beecher Stowe made the greatest indictment of slavery with her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1842. Uncle Tom’s Cabin focused on the breakup of slave families and the pain it caused the slaves. The cover of the book depicts Eliza fleeing across the ice packed Ohio River to save her small son from a slave trader. It also portrays Uncle Tom weeping for his children as he was sold to a Southern slave owner.

It first ran serially for nine months in an antislavery newspaper. After the book came out, it sold 300,000 the first year, the equivalent of 3 million today. It sold more than 2 million in the first decade. It made the whole nation feel what a horrible cursed thing slavery was. Writing after putting her six children to bed, she wrote her book at night. Her book was a vision of the bondage of millions of people (4 million to be exact). I pray that God will give us another Harriet Beecher who can provide us with a vision of the bondage of abortion to this nation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Remember What Is Important

We have all forgotten things and were embarrassed by our lapse in memory. I once forgot a speaking engagement in Southern California. When I remembered, it was too late and too far away to do anything about it. I apologized, and they were gracious enough to let me come at a later date.  There are, however, things far more important that we must not forget.

When Timothy was facing tough times in the ministry, the Apostle Paul told Timothy to remember some essential things that would always help him stay focused. First, he told him to remember that Jesus has been resurrected (2 Tim 2:8). Every time we face death, we recognize there is one who conquered death. Paul reminded him to remember that Jesus is the Messiah—the one who fulfilled all the biblical prophesies—the one who can save us. Paul encouraged Timothy by reminding him of how powerful the Gospel is. Paul referred to himself as a prisoner of Christ, not of Caesar (2 Tim 2:9). That’s because Paul knew he was in prison by God’s will, and he made the best of it, writing several of his letters from that dungeon. Paul concluded by giving Timothy a poem that would help him remember four essential things: First, if we died with Christ, we will also live with him (eternal life). Second, if we endure suffering for Christ, we will one day reign with him (reward). Third, he gave Timothy a warning that if we disown Christ, he will disown us (apostasy). Fourth, if we are faithless, Christ remains faithful (Christ’s faithfulness, 2 Tim 2:11-13). How encouraging all of this had to be for Timothy! Paul's letter had to be pivotal in Timothy’s ministry at Ephesus.

Pivotal experiences are so compelling; they impact our lives and prepare us for the future.  One particular experience in Tucuman, Argentina stands out to me from the first church we planted in that city. In preparation for an upcoming campaign, a pastor and I were building a platform. However, while doing this, something significant occurred. He brought out a huge can of old rusty nails that he had saved over the years and dumped them on the ground.

We both began straightening out the crooked nails, which took considerable time and patience. After some time of hammering out these old nails, I said in a voice of frustration, “I’m going to buy some new ones.” I immediately left for the hardware store to purchase the nails.  I thought to myself, “I have better things to do than straighten out old rusty, crooked nails.” However, on my way to the store, God spoke to me and said, “I want to use the rusty nails because I want you to learn something from the process. In the campaign, as people come to hear the gospel, and when they respond, it won’t be because you are a good preacher or because they are impressed with you or anyone else. It won’t be because of any human talent or ability but because I’m going to take the rusty and broken lives and straighten them out with the hammer of my Word.” I never forgot that experience, and sometimes even today, the Spirit reminds me of that same truth. God used this experience to remind me that it is the Gospel that changes people’s lives!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

One True King

What a contrast between Herod the Great and Jesus the One True King. Herod was a madman who slaughtered the remnants of the previous dynasty and arbitrarily executed many of his officials. He murdered his wife, mother-in-law, and three of his sons. However, the most terrible act came the day he ordered all the babies two years and younger killed in Bethlehem. When Herod heard from the wise men that the King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem and that this fulfilled the prophecy of Micah, he was troubled (Matt 2:3). He felt threatened by a baby, and his egotistical and warped mind demanded that he remove that threat. No matter how many Herods try to remove God’s appointed King, Jesus, they will never be successful. David describes God’s reaction like this, The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." (Ps 2:4-6).

The Apostle Peter described Jesus in these words, "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:22-23). What a description of Jesus! Who could do that? Only the One True King!

There were mixed reactions to the newborn king. Herod was hostile, the religious leaders were indifferent, but the wise men who came following a star worshiped him. We can respond to Jesus with indifference or with hostility or with worship. Matthew writes this about the wise men’s response, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matt 2:11).

What a renowned scene. The One True King is born in a stable, a manager for a bed. His first guests are poor shepherds, and then a few months later these strange astrologers arrive from the east. They followed a star from a faraway place and came bearing gifts, and with those gifts, they worshiped the king.

We all have a choice to make. It may not be that first Christmas, but Christ is still born in every heart that accepts and worships him. Will you be indifferent, will you be hostile, or will you worship him like the wise men did so long ago and receive him as the One True King?