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Weekly Word

Entries in God (8)

Tuesday
Dec192017

The Results of Spiritual Victory

1 Kings 18:40-46.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 17, 2017.

Last week we saw how God had honored Elijah’s public display of faith by a miraculous fire from heaven coming down upon his sacrifice.  This was all in contrast to the pitiful failure of the prophets of Baal.  Today we will look at the fallout of that momentous event and talk about spiritual victory in our own lives. 

But before we get into that it might help if you familiarize yourself with the geography of this passage.  Click here for an online map from a great website called BibleAtlas.org.  Pay attention that we are in the northern part of Israel west of the Sea of Galilee.  The sacrifice has taken place on Mt. Carmel which is on the left of the map part way down (part of the name has been cut off).  Jezreel is basically in the middle of the map with the Kishon River (thin blue line) flowing from that area past Mt. Carmel and into the Mediterranean Sea (where modern day Haifa sits).

The enemies of God’s work are executed

When we read verse 40 the passage can be shocking to our modern, western sensibilities.  However, I would remind you right up front that we in the West are shocked by things that people in the East are not, and vice versa.  Just because it offends us does not mean it is wrong.  So try and get over the shock that the prophet of God Elijah orders the people to execute all the prophets of Baal and, instead of tossing God’s Word aside, take time to understand what God wants us to understand here.

A big question that often arises from passages such as vs. 40, is that of whether or not Christians are hypocrites when they proclaim peace and yet have such a thing in their “holy book.”    If fact, one of our recent presidents, who also claims to be a Christian, chided Christians about eating shellfish when it is forbidden in the Old Testament.  Others claim that Christians are hypocrites when they promote love for our fellow man because of passages that speak of the death penalty for sexual perversion.  Each of these statements or accusations has a problem in their logic.  They assume that the Bible itself, and more importantly God who is its author, teaches that Christians should obey the Old Testament Laws.  In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite.  You cannot point out one verse and ignore the context of the rest of the Bible and also hold the intellectual high-ground.  If we want to deal with the Bible honestly then we must recognize or determine what God’s purpose was in creating Israel as a nation.  He created then and made a covenant with them in which they promised to obey The Law that God had given them through Moses.  Clearly they did not do such a good job at that, but then we would be casting stones from a glass house.  God’s purpose with Israel and The Law of Moses was not to provide a positive template for all the nations of the world.  The salvation of the world is not found in converting the whole world over to follow the Law of Moses.  The whole purpose of The Law was to shut the mouths of those who claim to be righteous.  Israel had divine laws (i.e. better than the wisest minds of mankind could come up with at the same time period).  Yet, the people of Israel were not divine and there lies the problem.  The Law of Moses failed to save Israel for the same reasons that the Constitution of the United States cannot save us.  Nations are run by people who are weak and condemned by the very laws they claim to follow.

So let’s look back at this situation.  Ahab is completely stunned.  Only moments ago, he held all the power.  He would execute Elijah when this was over with and he would continue to lead Israel into worshipping Baal rather than the God who had created Israel, Yahweh/Jehovah.  Much like a jury nullification of the law, the powerful demonstration of Yahweh’s power nullifies Ahab’s command.  The people and even his soldiers have just seen for themselves the power of God.  Notice that Ahab does not speak until the next chapter.  Even if Ahab would have tried to command for Elijah to be executed, who would have dared to carry it out?  Ahab rolled the dice and they came up “snake eyes,” or “dogs” as the ancient Romans used to say.  The stakes were Ahab’s life against the lives of the prophets of Baal and they lost.

But, Elijah’s command could not come from a truly righteous person could it?  We need to understand that Elijah is not some murderous psychopath who loves killing people.  The Law that God had given Israel (i.e. their constitution) stated that any prophet who led Israel to worship foreign God’s was guilty of a capital crime.  Thus these prophets new they were breaking The Law and committing a capital crime.  However, they could care less because they were under the protection of Israel’s Law-breaking king.  Ahab had been leading Israel in a direction that was illegal and treasonous.  These men have been helping him to commit this treason.  If you want to verify this then read Deuteronomy 13, especially verse 5.  Several times in Deuteronomy 13, 17, and 18 God declares these things a capital crime.  So now that we have exonerated Elijah from the guilt of homicide, we must deal with God.  It was His Law.  Is it barbaric?

Whether or not we agree with such a punishment today, we must agree that this was Israel’s law.  Part of understanding why God commands the death of false prophets is to understand the difference between God’s purpose with Israel and God’s purpose with the Church of Jesus Christ.  Israel was given the task to bring forth the Messiah or Savior for the world.  But, they also modeled to the world the problem with trying to create a perfect society through legislation.  All societies have to have laws to function.  But, even with divine laws it becomes a bloody business filled with hypocrisy.  This is true whether you are looking at the government of Israel or Sidon in the 9th century B.C., or you are looking at the modern governments of The United States of America, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, et. Al.  In the West we keep telling ourselves that if we just make better laws it will fix everything.  Yet, things keep getting worse and worse (yes, not everything is getting worse, but hear what I am saying).  We have to quit fooling ourselves.  Even divine laws, or laws created by an Artificial Intelligence, will fail to fix mankind because our problem is a spiritual one and is deep in each heart.  The best we can expect from laws is that they will slow down the evil nature of our hearts and give hope for people to see it and seek God’s help.  The only way to change a heart is repentance from our own dead works and turning towards belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  God’s laws of capital punishment on one hand teach us that some sins are worthy of death.  However, the cross teaches us that God does not want to execute us.  He is giving us a choice.  It is appointed unto a person once to live and then the judgment.   Through the Church God is warning the world of a coming judgment or execution.  Yet, He is also giving opportunity for people to make peace with Him by putting their faith in Jesus.  The Church is not about building a perfect kingdom, but rather, it is about calling people to become citizens who are being perfected by God.  Israel focused on a geographical place on earth that required capital punishment to keep it pure, and even that failed.  The Church focuses on the spiritual geography of our own heart.  Definitely Christians should obey the laws of the nation, as long as it doesn’t break God’s commands.  And, we should also work for better laws.  But laws are not our hope.  The return of Jesus our King is the hope that we hold out to the world.  This makes a big difference and makes the Gospel far more potent in light of Israel and The Law.  We await the Kingdom of Heaven to be brought down at the Second Coming of Jesus.  Until then, we do our best to live at peace with even those who disobey God.  Instead of executing those who break God’s command (as God told Israel), Christians speak the truth in love to them, while executing those things within our own heart and mind that would lead us astray from God’s Word.  That is why Christians should be restrained in the amount of laws that they promulgate.

A contrast of character

I spent a lot of time on verse 40 because the contents are important in our day and age.  In the rest of this chapter, we see a sharp contrast between the character of Elijah and that of Ahab.  Elijah is a wise leader and Ahab is a foolish one.  After the execution of the prophets of Baal, Elijah tells Ahab to go eat because of the sound of a great rain.  Now it is clear from the passage that there is no sound of rain at the moment.  What is Elijah talking about?  Elijah is speaking by faith.  Even though there is no outward sign, Elijah is confident that God will keep His word.  God had told him what would happen and we see him acting and speaking upon that.  As I said earlier, Ahab doesn’t speak here.  But his administration has been one, big lack of faith in God’s Word.  Now it is important to guard our heart, mind and our mouth.  We should be careful of our decisions and the way that we speak about things.  Am I trusting in God’s Word or doubting it?  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  However, speaking by faith is not a matter of wish fulfillment, or only speaking “positive things.”  Christians should not fall into the error that tries to draw good things to us by acting and speaking positively.  Regardless of what you say and do, God is going to do certain things.  God is going to judge all the governments of the world in the future through the Second Coming of Christ.  It will be a great negative thing to those who are not on His side, but a great positive thing to those on the side of Jesus.  Speaking by faith is remembering what God has said and agreeing with it in our speech.  In other words we actually believe that God means what He says, and is not a liar.  May God help us to speak by faith in His word.

Although it is Elijah’s idea, Ahab is a king and can do what he wants.  Notice that King Ahab is feeding his belly while Elijah is praying for the rain to come.  Ahab is a man of the flesh, not because he eats food.  We all eat food and even Elijah ate food.  But something powerful and spiritual has just happened in Israel.  But one man is praying for God’s will and the other is satisfying the will of his stomach.  God’s people can enjoy the physical joys of life within godly boundaries.  However, we must not let our lives be only about them.  Though God has promised rain, Elijah will not rest until it comes.  He goes back up to Mt. Carmel and begins praying for God to fulfill His word.  Then we see a cycle of Elijah praying, and asking his servant to check and see if any rain is coming.  This goes on seven times until the servant notices a small cloud on the horizon of the Mediterranean Sea.  This seven times is intended to highlight that Elijah was not a man who would quit in prayer.  He persevered in prayer until God kept His word.  He waited upon the Lord completely and kept himself watchful through prayer.  We should be the same way concerning the Second Coming of Christ.  We should not be apathetic towards what God has said He will do with a kind of que sera, sera attitude (whatever will be, will be).  Jesus is not coming back for a people who have an intellectual assent that He will do so, but for those who have desired it and have spent their lives praying and watching for it (like Elijah).  When a cloud the size of a man’s hand is seen, then Elijah knows the fulfillment has come.  May God help us also to remain faithful even in the day of small things.  It may not seem like anything big, but God is in it and rejoices to make it happen.

In the end, it is God’s will working with Elijah’s faithfulness that brings rain to the land.  Elijah’s speech and life have been lived by faith in what God had said in the past and what He was personally telling Elijah.  In contrast, it was the unfaithfulness of Ahab and the people of Israel who followed him that led to the drought and famine, both naturally and spiritually.  We must be careful that we do not give up living lives faithful to God and His Word simply because the society around us does not pat us on the back for doing so.  Even in the face of active persecution, the hope of our land depends upon Christians living out lives faithful to Jesus.  We concern ourselves not with just physical rain and dry land, although that is important to people’s livelihood.  We concern ourselves more importantly on spreading the rain of God’s Word into the lives of those who are dry as deserts from years of rejecting or being ignorant of God’s Word.

Lastly we see that God’s power is upon those who are humble.  The power of God comes upon Elijah as the rain comes and he runs ahead of Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel.  Now in our competitive modern minds we would read this as God empowering Elijah to outrun the chariot of Ahab and to be the first to Jezreel.  Now this is no small feat.  Jezreel was about 10-15 miles away.  However, an ancient person reading this would see a servant running ahead of his master.  Elijah is running ahead of Ahab’s chariot, like a servant who is letting people know that the king is coming.  It is as if God is showing Ahab what could be.  God, and His servant Elijah, do not have to be enemies of Ahab.  Elijah was not seeking a crown, though he could have tried to take it after such a powerful display.  Who wouldn’t want a king who could call down fire from heaven?  Instead, Elijah’s run says to Ahab, I will take my place as your servant if you will take your place as God’s servant.  May the Lord help Christians today to have such a humility and empowerment from the Lord.   Instead of seeking to have the highest place, may we be the influence that those who have it need, to become what God wants them to be.

Spiritual Victory audio

Monday
Jul032017

The Potter's Wheel

Jeremiah 18:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 02, 2017.

As we approach Independence Day, we want to be careful to gratefully thank God for its blessings.  However, we want to also recognize the responsibility it brings us.  You see, in times past our forefathers could appeal to God and point to the sins of King George III of Great Britain.  But, once we have been granted independence by God, we are now responsible for what happens in our country.  There is a lesson to be learned here.  We can always look to the proverbial “authority over there” and complain that our life would be better without them, whether it is London, Washington D.C., Olympia, the county seat, or city hall.  Of course we don’t stop there.  On down to bosses and parents, we typically end at ourselves.  Yet, shouldn’t we go one step further?  Part of the problem of governance is that it is difficult to even govern ourselves.  My own life and heart has its own set of predilections, those sins that we are partial towards and have the disfavor of God as much as anyone else.  In fact, we often feel oppressed by the tyranny of those urges and desires of our flesh that lead to trouble.

In some ways I have painted a very dire picture.  However, this is precisely why the grace and mercy of our God is so powerful.  The Gospel is not some kind of mental exercise where we learn that we have always been free and just need to change our mindset.  Rather, it comes to each of us in the midst of our bondage to all the things listed above and says, “Come follow Jesus and receive His freedom.”  He loves us and is working for our good.  But He also works in response to our heart.  As an individual I am responsible for my response to God’s Word.  But as a citizen, I am responsible to be an advocate of God’s Word within this nation.

This passage that we will look at in Jeremiah 18, speaks to this area of God dealing with nations and their people.  May our nation hear God’s Word and change its rejection of Him and His King, Jesus.

The Illustration of the Potter

If pictures are worth a 1,000 words, then movies are worth an innumerable sum.  God tells Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house and watch him for a while.  The scene, that Jeremiah witnesses, becomes the parable for God’s message to Israel and also to us.   In this parable it is clear that we are to see God in the potter.  The question is asked in verse 6, “Can I not do with you as this potter?”  At the heart of this question is our belief about God (His ability), but also our faith in God (His intentions).  What are God’s intentions and purposes?  A potter has a particular piece in mind when they sit down to the wheel.  They work the clay, regardless of its imperfections, and do everything in order to create that vision.  Even the punching down of the clay and starting over, which could be seen as something bad, is part of the process of working the clay and obtaining the purpose.  This picture is intended to provide hope that even now, when it seems like everything is falling apart, God can reshape us.  We are not alone to the forces of the world.  God is working in our life.  So regarding intention or purpose, God is working to do something good.  But also regarding His being, God is the molder and we are the ones who are molded.

If God is the potter, then we are the clay.  Like Adam who is physically formed from the earth, so there is a higher level on which God shapes and forms us.  Because we are created in God’s image, there are some ways in which we can be seen as “molders.”  Much of our life is spent trying to arrange things the way we want it and then trying to get it to stay that way.  However, we cannot escape the greater reality that we will always have things in which we are not in control, things that shape us and not we them.  Of course in the analogy, clay is inanimate and has no mind.  As humans we can cooperate or not cooperate with God’s purposes in our life.  In fact we should recognize that it is not just believers that are shaped by God.  Even sinners are on God’s potter wheel.  No matter how much we disbelieve in God and flee anything that smacks of Him, we cannot avoid the reality that we are creatures within His creation.  All of creation operating and moving around us, is part of the process by which God shapes us.  The events that happen in our generation, both great and small, and the decisions we make and those others make, all work together to shape what we are becoming.  So ask yourself today, “What am I becoming?”

Now in verses 7-11, God begins to speak to things that need to be learned by His people.    He is the Lord of the nations.  The fate of the nations is in His hands.  So in verses 7-8, He points to a situation in which He has spoken a prophetic Word to a nation that it is going to be torn down.  Yet, the fate can be avoided by the nation’s response to that prophecy.  If they turn from their evil ways, then God will turn from the destruction He had purposed to do.  Similarly in verses 9-10, He points to the reverse situation.  If He has spoken a prophetic Word to a nation that it is to be built up (like Israel had) and that nation responds by turning away from Him and towards evil ways, then God will respond by changing the good purpose that He had towards them.  Now we need to keep in mind that we are talking about nations as a political entity here.  God doesn’t just pick certain nations whimsically and obtusely bless them and curse all the others.  God works in relationship with the nations of the world.  Thus the destinies of nations are never set in stone.  They are always changeable, to the good or to the bad.  Thus we should not be arrogant when we think that God is favorable to our nation, and neither should we despair when we think it is bad.  Putting aside the fact that we can be wrong about which is true, we should always grasp hold of the hope that we are not at the mercy of an uncaring and unjust God. 

Even when God is against a nation, He still cares about the individuals within it.  Individuals should never be confused with the political entities that govern them.  Jesus Christ died to save individual people, not political entities.  In this sense nations cannot “get saved.”  As we recognized last week, people can receive the eternal life of God.  But nations can only be saved in a temporary sense.  The response of each generation affects the next chapter of their future.  Now regarding individuals, Jesus and His apostles made it clear that it all comes down to our faith and trust in God, especially in His Savior, Jesus.  If we put our trust in Jesus and follow Him (regardless of what nation we are in and God’s disposition towards it) then He will perfect our faith and make us to look like Jesus.  He is the master teacher and we are the disciple students.  He shows the way, we follow Him.  I say this to remind us that we cannot do enough good things to get God to work for our good.  We can only trust Him.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  So it is not about my flaws and failures.  Rather, it is about my faith. 

This is precisely where Satan loves to attack us.  If my life seems to be imploding and falling apart, I am tempted to believe that God hates me and push Him away.  This is not trust in God.  But if I trust God and keep my eyes on Jesus, then I can trust that even these things that are broken down and taken away are just God punching me down into a ball so that He can start shaping again.  It is out of love that He allows these things or even causes some of them to happen.  Negative things do not always equate to God’s wrath or rejection.  So faith is the victory over the temptation and scheme of the evil one.  Put your faith in Jesus today if you are not a believer.  By doing so, you will go from being a vessel that is being shaped for dishonor and into a vessel that is being shaped for honor.

So what about our nation, The United States of America?  It is clear from history that God has both intended and accomplished some good things through our country.  But each generation has to face this issue for themselves.  In some ways we see that one of the greatest missions movements of all time has happened through the efforts of this nation.  The English language has become the second language of most of the world, enabling the Scriptures to be accessible to many.  On top of this is the amazing explosion of translating the Scriptures into the “heart language” of most of the world.  How many individuals have moved to other countries to learn their language and culture so that they could share the Gospel of Jesus?  Clearly God has been working in the past to shape us into a helpful vessel.  Yet, over time we also see evil things that seem to be increasing every day.  How much perversion do we pour out into the word in videos and magazines?  If God is to purpose good for America’s future then we need to change our ways as a nation.  We need to stop walking in pride and arrogance as if we cannot be touched.  We need to quit rejecting God’s Word and forging our own ways.  We must stop embracing false religions and mixing their teachings with those of Christ in order to make God’s Word more palatable.  We need to stop sacrificing our children on the altar of convenience and self-love.  We need to cease seeking ever new ways to try and erase His mark of design upon our body and life.  We will have to reject hatred, murder, all sexual perversions, and especially an overall lack of love towards one another while overflowing in love towards ourselves.  Ultimately we must repent.

So Christian, do not look at the world with the despair of one who says, “Good riddance.”  This is not the image of Christ.  Rather, pick up the mantle of hope for your nation and become an ambassador of God’s Word to the people around you.  We have lost this nation one person at a time, and thus we can only win it back one person at a time.  So, what about America?  Well that is up to us.

Potter's Wheel audio

Monday
Jun192017

Our Heavenly Father

Matthew 5:43-48.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Father’s Day, June 18, 2017.

This weekend I entered a new stage of life when my first child was married.  He begins that new stage of life for him in which he creates a new home of his own with the young woman whom he loves.  Whether you have seen either of these stages yet or not, our passage today speaks to us today about looking to our Heavenly Father and asking Him to teach us to be good, earthly fathers.

Father’s have a purpose

Verse 48 of this passage hits all of us like a ton of bricks and we will deal with it more as we go along.  However, I want us to notice that this whole section is about how those who want to follow the wisdom of Jesus will follow him in being like the Heavenly Father.  So, instead of starting with the impossible command to “be perfect,” let’s start with the sense of belonging and purpose that is the foundation of what Jesus has to say.  We have a Heavenly Father and we are meant to choose to be like Him in our actions.  This really is a wonderful thing.

In fact, Jesus points out in verse 43 that they had heard it said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.”  Now the first part of this sentence comes from the Law of Moses.  Though Jesus doesn’t specifically point this out, it is worth recognizing that they heard this because the Heavenly Father had spoken to them through Moses and later through others.  God has not been silent, but has spoken some very clear things to mankind.  The Bible is the collection of those words throughout time.  With that said, you will not find a place in the Old Testament where they were commanded to hate their enemies.  God had not actually said this. They heard this part from those who thought they were safely speaking what God intends.  Perhaps the logic could go like this.  God is going to judge his enemies who hate him, so we should hate them.  So within this one statement Jesus reminds us of that mix of instructions that come to people, some from God and some from religious leaders that goes beyond God’s Word and even contrary to it.  There is only one Son of God that perfectly represents the Heavenly Father and speaks only what the Father told him to say, and that is Jesus.  Thus we can read the Word, but even more, we can hear what the One and Only Son of God, Jesus, who can help us perfectly understand what our Father is saying.  Now I would point out here that earthly fathers who want to be like the Heavenly Father should be faithful to speak to their kids in appropriate ways at appropriate times.  Be a good representative of our Heavenly Father to your children and properly point them to Him.  Be careful of inserting your own ideas without prefacing them with the fact that they are just that.  Kids need to know that as you speak to them, so has God.

In verse 45, Jesus goes beyond speaking.  He reminds us that God has given us examples.  We can look at all the goodness and provision of creation and recognize that it is given to the righteous and the unrighteous alike, without distinction.  Even those who make themselves enemies of God receive massive amounts of kindness from Him.  Thus Jesus points us to learn from the example of God.  Fathers, let’s not forget that our life and the way it is lived must be a good example for our kids.  Yes, they need to hear our words, but our actions often speak louder than words.  So pay attention to the example you are setting.

So with the Word of God and the example of God, it is our purpose to become “sons of our father in heaven.”  I believe that this is key to understanding what Jesus is driving at in verse 48.  It is in the context of being a son of the Heavenly Father that we are called to “be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.”  Now the word “perfect” in the original language has the sense of that which is complete, finished, or has come to maturity.  Since we are speaking of humans and their heavenly father, maturity is the concept which fits best.  And, we should note that spiritual maturity is clearly intended.  The emphasis is not a lack of error or sin, as the English may imply.  Rather it is on becoming what you are intended to be.  You were created to be like God, to bear His image in this life.  Of course that is a tall order and yet we are in good company.  The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14,

“12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”

The words that I have emboldened and underlined are translated differently but they come from the same Greek word.  Now my point is not to point out that they are translated wrong.  But that they are the same word used in Matthew 5:48 for “perfect.”  In Paul’s passage he uses the word in two different ways.  In verse 12 he is stating that even he, the Apostle Paul, had not been completely finished.  He was still in the flesh, and was not without sin.  Thus this first use is that which sees that he falls short of all that God has for him.  But in verse 15, he uses it to emphasize those who have spiritually grown up and are mature Christians.  He clearly sees himself as a part of this group.  Maturity is a funny thing.  When a child is 1 year old and they are starting to walk and talk, we might speak of them as being perfect.  They are exactly where they should be in their development for their age.  So an 18 year old has a far higher bar to reach in order to be considered mature.  Though Paul had room for improvement, he was a mature Christian, one who understood the Father’s purpose and walked in conformity with it.

Now back to Matthew 5:48.  If we see the word “perfect” in the first sense of which Paul speaks, then the verse is stating that we (in the future) will be perfect, which will mainly be God’s work in our life.  This is true, but doesn’t seem to fit the context well.  But the second sense that Paul uses fits perfectly.    When we look to our Heavenly Father’s example and listen to His words, our lives will grow to be like Him and we will become mature believers in this life (and sinless beings after the resurrection).  May we all press forward each day to be like our Father in Heaven.  Of course this is the joy of any father, to see their child grow up and become a mature adult (and to be like us in our best ways).

Fathers have a Heavenly Father

I have already made this clear.  But I want to push this part a bit further.  Earthly fathers don’t always live out this purpose that God has for them.  Our culture continually pumps a philosophy that promotes living life for yourself, and this contradicts God’s Word.  When we think about God it is important for us to understand that He is not just more mature than us.  He truly is without error and sin.  If there is something that we think He has done wrong, then we are the one in error.  More than likely we are missing information that God has.  However, it is quite possible that our judgment is not as wise and righteous as we think.  Even if you had the worst of earthly fathers, nothing can change the fact that you have a Heavenly Father who is good and perfect.  He has been working, and is even now working in your life just as a good father would do.  In fact, in many ways the best thing a father can do is to help their child to recognize that he and they are both children of the same Heavenly Father.  In that sense we are helping our kids to grow up and take their place side by side with us before God.

As Jesus mentioned in verse 46 and 47, it is not the presence of love that makes us like Him.  It is the prevalence of our love that makes us like Him.  Yes, we are going to mess up and fall down in trying to be like our Heavenly Father.  But He loves us no matter what.  Here is the logic.  If God even loves His enemies enough to provide for them even in their rebellion, how much will He love and provide for us who are His children?  Clearly, He will move Heaven and Earth to love and help us.  Thus, parents, do your best to demonstrate that kind of love and mercy to your children.  And, when you fail be quick to admit it and ask forgiveness.  This will help them to see God in a clearly light.  Yet, children don’t always agree with what a parent thinks is the loving thing to do.  When we talk about tough love, we recognize that sometimes love is difficult.  Even though a kid may think their parents hate them, generally as they mature they recognize that it wasn’t hate.  It was love and concern.  Perhaps we should think of this in regard to our Heavenly Father.  Yes, He may discipline us from time to time and we are often tempted to think that God hates us or has rejected us.  But the truth is that He loves us very much and only has a good goal in mind for us.

So we must learn to rest in His ability to help us.  As a Father, verse 48 is not being put in front of us as some impossible task.  Yes, it is tough, but we have a Heavenly Father that will help us to accomplish it.  We can rest in the fact that HE is not trying to disqualify us.  Rather, He will finish that good work which He has begun in us.  In fact, through our own death and resurrection, He will help us to even be without sin and error.  What a day that will be!

Father’s, don’t let yourself get discouraged to the point that you quit being a father.  Take it one day at a time and engage with your children at whatever stage they are in.  Daily take the time to look to your Heavenly Father for strength, wisdom, and direction.  And, learn to follow the Holy Spirit as He enables you to both overcome your own sin, and become more and more like Jesus.  God hasn’t left you alone to accomplish it all.  He has put His Spirit within you to help you fight the good fight.  So let’s cooperate with Him and, as Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forward…I press toward the goal.”  Let go of the mistakes and failures and reach forward to what He has for you.

Our Heavenly Father audio

Tuesday
Sep202016

Society under Siege: The Littlest among Us

Genesis 9:6-7; Luke 1:36; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 18, 2016.

Today we are going to talk about the topic of abortion.  I am convinced that, given enough time, future generations will judge our generation for abortion as harshly as we judge previous generations for slavery.  Some of the judgments are true.  However, sometimes we overlook the context of how people can be blind to that which is socially acceptable.  We also often overlook that many people worked within the system in order to overturn it.  The reason I bring this up is to point out that in some ways our society has gotten better and yet in other ways we have gone backwards.  Abortion is one of those areas in which we have fallen backwards.

The taking of the life of a child, whether in the womb or shortly after birth, is a practice that was not invented in the modern era.  It has happened on into the recesses of history at the altars of the fallen gods of antiquity.  Instead of looking down upon our ancestors with moral certitude, as if they were brutish, unthinking beasts, we should recognize the ways that we do the very same things ourselves.  They may not be the exact same things or in exactly the same ways, but we share a likeness to them.  When one objectively looks at a society that aborts a million babies a year, it becomes clear that something has declared war upon the littlest among us.

Human Life Is Sacred

The Word of God to Noah after the flood is an important passage.  Along with other passages in Genesis are critical because they are foundational to how we live our life.  In this country we have been building a society that no longer sees human life as absolutely sacred.  We have intellectually reached a point where we can only say, “Some human life is sacred.”

In Genesis 9:6-7 God reminds Noah that mankind has been created in His image.  This alludes back to Genesis 1:26-27.  This passage helps us to see that the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden did not cancel out this issue.  Even in his fallen state, man is designed to be an “image-bearer” of God.  So what does that mean?  Neither passage completely explains it other than to make it the clear distinction between mankind and the animals.  Throughout history theologians have come up with an answer that divides the attributes of God into those attributes we cannot share (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) and those that we can.  These are often called communicable attributes because they can be shared with us.  They are things like love, goodness, rationality, knowledge, mercy, justice, language, truthfulness, and wisdom.  This list can easily be expanded upon further thought.  Though the fall of mankind definitely impacted our ability to be “like” God, it did not change our design and status as image-bearers of God. 

In this passage God makes this point to deal with the subject of murder.  Before the flood we recognize that God gave Cain (who murdered his brother Abel) a punishment and yet also mercy.  There was no capital punishment.  Yet, the whole earth became full of violence.  So after the flood, God institutes the command that murders must be put to death by mankind.  A society (whether family or larger) would be responsible to uphold the sacredness of the image of God within mankind.  Here we see that an attack upon a human is an attack upon God by extension.  There are many today who believe that abortion is not wrong, but who are staunchly against capital punishment.  They will often point out the “hypocrisy” of a God who would say in Exodus 20:13, “Thou shalt not kill,” and then sanction the death of the murderer.  Of course this is a simplistic treatment of what God is saying.  First, it is better to translate the Exodus verse as, “You shall not murder.”  Anyone who murders other forfeits their right to life because they have sinned against the image-bearer of God.

Now notice how many of these same people will promote the sacredness of life to the degree that not even a murderer should be killed.  Yet, they only believe life is sacred when it is outside of the womb.  Even this idea is challenged by many who believe that the value of a person (rather than sacredness)is dependent upon one’s ability to help society.  Ultimately, under this kind of thinking, only certain lives are sacred, and that will always be defined by the powerful in the end.  God’s point is that the taking of a murderer’s life is righteous.  You may disagree with that, but it is far more intuitive than the idea that it is okay or good to take the life of a fetus.  Is the taking of the life of a fetus ever righteous?  What have they done that is worthy of death?  Even in the case of incest or rape, why would you punish the child for the actions of a wicked person?  Is having a baby something that will destroy a person’s life?

Though these arguments may not be persuasive enough to change a person’s mind, at least they ought to help you see that it is easier to make the case for capital punishment than abortion.  According to God the taking of a human life must only be done in response to murder and abortion fails this test.

Human Life Is Recognized In The Womb

All throughout the Bible the baby in the womb is recognized as human.  In Luke 1:36-37 the angel Gabriel has finished telling Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God.  Gabriel then reveals that Mary’s relative Elizabeth has “conceived a son.”  The language of the angel is important.  He not only refers to the product of conception in human term, but even further, in gender terms.  It is interesting that science has demonstrated that gender is determined at conception based upon which chromosome comes from the male parent.

Later in verse 44 we see Elizabeth use the term “baby” used of the baby in her womb.  I bring this up to point out that the Greek term translated baby is the same term “baby” used in Acts 7:19 in reference of a baby that had already been born.  The language of the early believers clearly demonstrates the belief that they saw the baby in the womb the same as a newborn baby.  Although there is a distinction between them (i.e. whether birth has occurred), there is far more commonality.  Both are human and extremely vulnerable.  They require total care.  But this is only the beginning.  When we look deeper into how God and the Bible speak about life in the womb, we are amazed at what is said.

God Has A Plan For Each Life

Psalm 139:13-16 is a powerful song of David.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he describes the depths of God’s knowledge of our lives.  Any time you are tempted to think God has forgotten about you, sit down and slowly, meditatively read Psalm 139.  In this portion we are told that it is God who “formed” David’s “inward parts” and “covered” him in his mother’s womb.  Though the development of the unborn baby is hidden to the eyes of man, it is not to God.  In fact God is actively involved in the formation of the child. 

A further point is made.  Even when a child is still being formed, the days that have been “fashioned” for it are written down in God’s book.  This idea that God had a purpose for the child even before it could demonstrate ability is a marvelous thing.  David does not elaborate on this point, but let’s look at another passage in Jeremiah 1:4-5.

“Now the Word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”  Here we see that God not only knows a child and how long it will live, but God also has a purpose for that child.  It would be easy to say that God only has a purpose for great people like Jeremiah, Abraham, Moses, or Jesus.  However, this flies in the face of all the Scriptures which speak of God’s purpose for all mankind.  In destroying the lives of unborn babies we squelch a part of what God wants to do in our lives. 

So where does this horrible idea come from that we should abort about a million babies a year in the USA and 59 million since 1973?  Countless societies throughout history have purposefully killed, sacrificed their children to the God’s of their time.  Perhaps we have created our own new God called comfort and ease.  Clearly a war has been declared and is being waged against our babies.  This war is waged by the same spiritual being that convinced Eve that the fruit would make her life better.  Women today need to see through the deception of the serpent and the destructive lies that he has promoted in our society.  Abortion is an evil that will only bring death and destruction into your life.

Of course there are difficult situations that can make this issue complex and challenging.  I've mentions the cases of rape and incest earlier.  No matter how traumatized a young girl may be, we only traumatize her further when we encourage her to terminate her pregnancy, which is a euphemism for killing the human that has been conceived within her.  Abortion may make her life “easier” in that she doesn’t have to go through 9 months of pregnancy and give birth to a child she hadn’t planned for.  But, it does not make her life easier in getting over what happened emotionally and even physically.  Let me be clear.  Having a baby will not “fix” a woman in this case.  But trusting God and going forward can.  Giving love and life in the face of evil is the greatest act of defiance against our spiritual enemy.  Likewise, to turn to death as a solution to evil is to be overcome by it.

What if a woman’s life is in danger?  We must admit that this can happen.  The point here is not against a child ever dying.  There are some choices that only God should make.  If a woman’s life is in danger, the doctor should do their best to save the baby without endangering the mother.  If the baby is lost, at least it is lost over all our efforts to give it a chance at life.  This is the exact opposite of an abortion.  Even when we approach childbirth with a great respect for life, and looking to God for help, some die during birth and some even before (both babies and mothers).  Such tragic times may seem like God is not involved, and that they had no purpose.  But this is not completely true.  Yes, tragedy causes some to become hard and angry towards God.  But tragedy has also caused some to become a source of comfort and care for others that would not have come about without it.  God does not always step in and miraculously protect because He wants us to grow in ways in which we become more like Him.

Let me close by recognizing that our battle is not against people.  To save babies we do not have to fight women.  The deception of Satan is great in our land.  Although a punishment was given to Eve, God also gave her grace.  One of her offspring would one day crush the serpents head.  God would redeem Adam and Eve back from their unwise choice.  God is still the same today.  Christians must be a heart of compassion towards women who have had abortions.  Yes, it is wrong and even evil.  But they have been deceived by a world that could care less about her.  The truth can set her free.  God loves her and will even still give her true healing if she will turn to Him.

The Littlest among Us audio