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Weekly Word

Entries in Life (8)

Friday
Nov242017

The Lord of Life

1 Kings 17:17-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on November 19, 2017.

In today’s passage tragedy is going to strike.  As is always the case, when calamity comes, we go from cruising through life to crying out in desperation.  Some use the existence of tragedy as a reason to reject the Creator.  However, the Bible teaches us that the All-Wise God knows what He is doing.  Even in the midst of tragedy He is merciful to mankind and has a plan to bring us to a place where tragedy will never again be able to strike us.  We serve the God who has the power of life and reigns supreme over death.  And, though it is clearly His will that all men should die and then face judgment, it is also His will that the righteous be raised up to eternal life.

God is still in control when tragedy strikes

Last week we saw God’s great mercy to this widow who wasn’t a part of the nation of Israel.  He did not just send her a prophet to feed her physical bread, but also to give her the truth.  Thus as the woman eats the miraculous physical bread, she is also the recipient of a miraculous side seat of the prophet Elijah.  Thus the God that Israel served cared even about a gentile widow who was on the verge of dying.  She had proven herself by sharing her last meal with Elijah and now enjoys the happiness of not having to worry about where the next meal for her son will come from.  While she was in this amazing time of joy, things headed in the right direction, and learning about God, things go sideways.  What is God doing?  She was no different than we are today.  What in the world is God doing today?  Well, we know that He is sending out Christians to speak the truth of God’s love to all people and His forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus.  So, why does it look like everything is falling into Chaos?  It looks that way because men’s hearts are evil and create chaos by their actions and choices.  So why doesn’t God stop it?  He doesn’t stop it because if He did there would be no more chance for salvation for them.  This woman was on the good path and could feel that surely she was now immune from difficulties.  The tragedy catches her by surprise, but not God.

It is here and many other places that we see the fact that tragedy strikes both the wicked and the righteous.  The woman’s son comes down with a sickness that quickly takes his life.  The tragedy of famine was already hitting the evil and good alike.  It doesn’t seem fair that God’s punishment of King Ahab and the people of Israel who were going along with him would also affect righteous people.  But, God always takes care of those who put their trust in Him.  Yes, He could supernaturally cause it to rain on just the crops of the righteous, but in His wisdom He often chooses to let it strike both alike.  The wicked in this situation have no hope.  But the righteous can pray and call out for the help that God has promised He will give.  Jesus warned his disciples not to think that tragedy is sent only to destroy sinners.  In Luke 13 he points out two situations in which people tragically died (some at the hands of a wicked king, and others at the accident of a tower collapsing).  He asks the question, “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwell in Jerusalem?”  He then goes on to explain that, “I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  We should not look on trying to figure out why it happened, but rather let it be a warning to us that our time could come just as unexpectedly.  Am I ready to meet my Maker?  Many people get no advance warning of their deaths.  They have no time to get ready for it.  We need to always be ready to face the Lord.  Now, when tragedy strikes it feels like there is no hope.  But in Christ there is always hope.  With God all things are possible, even life from the dead.

But the widow is not aware of this yet.  She can only see the despairing unfairness of her situation.  She thinks that she is being punished for some past sin.  It is also clear that Elijah the prophet doesn’t know what God is doing either.  Obviously, God had not told him what would happen.  So Elijah, in verse 20, asks God if He had done this.  But, he seems to be asking more of a “Why” question than anything.  Now the truth is that God is ultimately responsible.  He has either primarily caused it to happen, or He has secondarily allowed it to happen.  Either way, because God is a being with complete jurisdiction and power, He bears responsibility for what happens.  Those who try to blame the evil in the world on God only have a partial case.  Yes, it seems that God is failing in His duty even to allow evil to exist.  However, that is a very different then thinking that God does evil or makes people do evil things.  God is never directly or primarily responsible for evil, people and other created beings are.  Yet, even in the argument that He shouldn’t allow evil to occur, the premise is illogical.  Would we call a world where we didn’t have a true choice, good?  If God forced us to do good things, as He defines it, all the time, would we think it was good?  In His wisdom God has determined the best course and made the best decrees for giving mankind freedom and yet holding them accountable for their choices and actions.  We may disagree, but we cannot say He is the source of evil in the sense that He bears primary responsibility.  So is God sleeping at the wheel and doing a bad job of managing the universe?

As hard as it is for us within this world to see beyond it, God sees all.  When a person is going through a problem, they often become stuck in it.  If God directly causes a tragedy, then it is a rebuke to the wicked in order to humble them.  This “shot across the bow” gives them the mercy of rethinking their path.  Repentance becomes an open door before them regardless of whether or not they walk through it.  Sometimes the tragedy is to simply remove the wicked from the scene.  Their time is finished, much like Belshazzar and the mysterious hand, writing on the wall.  It can also be a test to the righteous, to see if they will still follow Him.  Or, sometimes it is merely to remove them from wicked circumstances.  Isaiah 57:1,2 says, “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands.  For the righteous man is taken away from calamity, he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”  God also sometimes does so in order to display his glorious power through healing and deliverance.  Now all these things, and most likely more, can be the possible purpose when God directly causes tragedy.  In fact, it would seem that he often is doing many of them simultaneously in the lives the many different people affected.

Yet, many tragedies are not primarily caused by God, but rather simply allowed to take place by Him.  Whether it is a person simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or evil people preying on others, God has allowed mankind a certain space of freedom.  He is not instantaneous in His judgments and punishments.  He leaves room for people to repent and be saved from their sin.  Yet, if they do not repent, they will find that room to also be the rope by which they hang themselves.  They will be without excuse.  Though it is a grievous burden at times, we should not complain that God gives us such room.  The only other option would be a stifling dictatorship.  So God allows things to happen for much the same reasons as when He directly causes them to happen.  Ultimately He is giving mankind freedom to sin and yet freedom to choose righteousness.  If I only choose righteousness when God protects me in a safe cocoon, then I am not really choosing righteousness.  I am choosing safety, self-preservation.  But, if I choose righteousness even when suffering at the hands of evil, then I truly have chosen righteousness and such a choice truly is commendable.  God is not a dictator at heart.  He does not wish to control mankind, but to have a free relationship with mankind.  It is the devil, who accuses God at every turn, who is the dictator at heart.

The real question is how will I respond

Notice that God does not answer Elijah’s question about whether He did this or not, or why He might have allowed it to happen.  We should see this aspect also in the story of Job.  It is as if the Bible is telling us that even if we did have an answer it is not what is important in our life.  The problem isn’t that we don’t know what God is doing.  The problem is that we often fall to the temptation to doubt His love for us and go our own way.  This story is about how we respond to tragedy, and not why God allows it.  We don’t need to know, as much as we want it, but only what is next.  If the creator of the universe is good and working all things to our good, then we don’t need to understand His plan; only what we should do next. 

The reaction or next step for many people is bitterness, fear, and pushing God away.  This is the path that the widow starts to go down.  She regrets interacting with Elijah.  No matter how nice the miraculous bread was, it would be like gravel now that her son is dead.  You can almost hear her thinking in her mind, “I knew nothing good would come from letting a prophet stay in the house.”  She suspects that her son’s death is a punishment for a past sin.  If we imagine her life, we see a very difficult series of tragedies.  She lives in a pagan country with rampant immorality and abuse.  Her husband then died and left her poor and with a little child.  Then a famine comes and shuts off any hope she had of foraging and scraping out a living.  Yes, a prophet shows up, but now her child is dead.  Her heart begins to push away Elijah and the God that He represents.  They are to blame.  The isolation to which we retreat will wall us off from the goodness of God.  Of course, we should not blame this woman.  She is just a baby in the things of God.  Thus we should contrast her actions with those of Elijah’s.

Elijah is not a spiritual infant.  Yet, no amount of spiritual maturity can make life easy.  He does not respond in walking away from God and being fearful that God is rejecting him.  Rather, he responds in faith and begins fervently praying for God’s act of divine power to save the boy.  Is this how I respond?  Do we keep looking to God until we get an answer either way?  James uses Elijah as a model for believers in every generation.  He is a righteous man whose faith causes him to pray to God in the time of need.  Such prayers of faith accomplish much.  Let’s hear the verses.  James 5:13-18, “Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing psalms.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And, if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”  Though, James points to the prayers concerning the famine, he could have just as easily pointed to these prayers for God to bring the boy back to life.  We can also pray like Elijah did, with faith in God, and fervency.

Yet, this story is not about being able to get a miracle every time something bad happens.  Ultimately it is a reminder that our God has the power of life even in the face of death.  Even if He does not bring someone back from the dead, He still has the purpose of raising us all up from the dead at the Day of Resurrection.  This boy has not been dead for long and thus we could say he is technically resuscitated.  Now, later at the raising of Lazarus from the dead, it had been 4 days.  This is more than resuscitation.  This would involve a clear rejuvenation of tissue.  In either of these cases the boy and Lazarus would go on and live the rest of their lives and come to death’s door for the second time.  However, this time Elijah or Jesus would not show up.  They are only given mortal life.  Why?  God’s plan for all mankind is greater than keeping us from dying or suffering tragedy.  His plan is to overcome the suffering and tragedy that we may face in life, even death.  Phillips Brooks, an 18th century American, Episcopal clergyman once said, “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.  Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you will be a miracle.”  God can handle our many questions asking why.  But, recognize that more important than “why” is what will I do now.  Let’s choose to trust God and be a people who pray with the faith and knowledge of just how great our God is.

Lord of Life audio

Monday
Nov282016

Not by Bread Alone

Matthew 4:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 27, 2016.

The commercialization of all things good usually brings out the worst in humanity.  Thus, after a day that is focused on being thankful, many go out and shout, fight, and wrestle over the best deals of the year, Black Friday.  As Christians we must not lose sight of the reality behind Thanksgiving, or its reason for being.  In fact we dare not lose sight of the reason for our lives themselves.  Thanksgiving has nothing to do with getting the best deals on the latest electronic gadget.  But, rather, it is about stopping in the midst of our often busy lives and showing appreciation for what we already have, despite what we may not have.

Today we are going to look at Jesus during a time in his life where we are allowed to see Satan trying to tempt Him.  I believe these temptations are instructive and valuable to us so that we can know that we do not live by bread alone.

We are tested by material things

In Matthew 4 we are told that Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  It is clear that the Spirit had a purpose that involved this word “tempted.”  In the passage the devil is also called the “Tempter,” (same word but as a noun).  Now we know that the Spirit is not in league with the devil so what is going on here?

Part of the mystery lies in the word that is translated “tempted.”  When this word is used in a situation that is for something good, say refining metal, it means something more like “to prove or test.”  When the word is used in a bad situation, say blowing all your money on gambling and drinking, it means “to tempt.”  We would never say that a teacher is tempting a child when they give them a test because our focus is on the intent.  The Greek’s chose to use the same word because in both cases you are being tested.  Here we know that it is the Spirit’s purpose to test Jesus in order to prove who He is.  But it is Satan’s purpose to tempt Jesus, disqualify Him, and bring Him under control.

Perhaps you have struggled with understanding why God lets temptation or challenges exist in your life.  It is because He knows that they can strengthen and prove our faith in Him.  Even our past failures are used by God to make our faith stronger.  Times of temptation can help us grow by revealing areas of weakness that we need to surrender to God.  God can and will give you the victory over your spiritual enemy if you will trust Him.  On the other hand, Satan actively tempts us in order to pull us away from God and bring into bondage under his dominion.  He uses our past failures as chains to keep us from turning to God and believing Him.

One of the main things that Satan tempts us with is material things.   This is on display in the first temptation.  But let’s further explore the setting.  We are told that Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the wilderness.  You see, the Spirit was leading Jesus towards spiritual purposes.  Jesus was spiritually preparing to go to war against the evil spirits that had taken control of Israel, and then the whole world.  Satan may have showed up throughout the 40 days and Matthew may only be recording three of many temptations.  Regardless, the first we are told about involves breaking his fast by creating bread from the stones around him.  It is here that we should recognize that we often lose the spiritual by pursuing the material.  Even deeper, often letting go of the material is necessary to receive spiritual gain.  Another thing to recognize is that most of what we have spiritually has come through combat with the Tempter.

Most translations quote the devil as saying to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God.”  It sounds like Satan is questioning this fact.  However, this Greek conditional does not necessarily bring the first part in question.  It has the sense of this, “If you are the Son of God [and we both know you are, why don’t you] command that these stones become bread.”  The temptation is to prove what you know to be true for fleshly reasons, rather than trusting God to demonstrate the truth at the proper time.  If we boil it further down, the temptation is to follow your flesh rather than the Spirit of God.  The Spirit of God had led Jesus to a hungry, weakened condition, where there was no food around.  Why not use your power to get off such a loathsome path?

This doesn’t always have to be about something material like bread.  The Corinthian Church members even used the spiritual gifts that God had given them of speaking in unknown languages to please their fleshly desire for pride and high standing with the other Church members.  Thus the material is not so much the problem as the desires of our flesh.  When we let our fleshly desires lead it always takes us away from what God wants to do in our life.

So God is not against the material things in your life.  However, He knows that they cannot save you.  Jesus responds to the Devil by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  The passage Jesus quotes is not about forbidding bread to people.  In fact God had supernaturally provided bread (manna) for Israel while they were in the wilderness.  The passage is pointing out that God had revealed to Israel that their life was not about the things we see around us, but about what God says.  Thus a person can be surrounded by food and yet lack life, especially eternal life.  Yet, a person can be in a wilderness where there is nothing and they will live because of what God commands.  Up to 6 million Israelites survived in a barren wilderness because God commanded it.  Can he not take care of you?  God knows that you have physical needs, but He also knows that the desires of your flesh generally pull you away from Him and His ways.  This temptation that the Devil brings to Jesus, he also brings to us.  He wants to rob you of the greater treasure that God has for you, and trap you in a materialistic prison.  If you have failed this test then quit trying to “make bread out of stones,” (a.k.a. trying to make it happen by your power).  Yes, we don’t have the same power that Jesus had, but we are tempted in the same kind of way.  Let it go!

We are given life by the Word of God

Throughout history Christians have pointed to the tactic that Jesus employs here as the key for our own victory.  Jesus used God’s Word (or The Truth) to counteract the twisted, false logic of the Devil.  This doesn’t make it easy.  Often the “lie” that Satan is offering us is something that our flesh wants to believe.  Now Jesus had the power to attack Satan head on.  Through His divine power He could have commanded Satan to be locked up in the Abyss, or Bottomless Pit (a spiritual prison for evil Spirits, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; Revelation 9).  But Jesus did not stand against Satan in this way.  Instead, Jesus resisted Satan as a human can, or as you and I can.  If we take time to familiarize ourselves with the Truth of God’s Word, then we are equipped to neutralize the lies of the enemy of our soul.  Each of Satan’s lies and temptations are like a small chain that is used to tie us up into spiritual knots.  Though you may be tied up in a pretzel and powerless, the Word of God through Jesus Christ is not.  No matter how bound up a person is they can be set free through this same tactic: stop trusting the lies of Satan and start trusting Jesus, the Son of God.  Don’t settle for others in your life to know the Bible.  You need to know it for yourself.  Your spiritual life depends upon it.

The Word of God not only counteracts the deceptions of Satan, but it also keeps us in connection with the Source of Life.  Satan ultimately wants to sever any connection you have to the Spirit of God by getting to your trust.  In Romans 8:14 Paul says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”  One of God’s amazing truths is that He adopts into His family everyone who dares to believe Jesus and follow Him.  As a believer in Jesus and a disciple of Jesus, the Spirit of God leads us to put to death the deeds that are inspired by our fleshly desires.  However, Satan tempts us to give into satisfying those same fleshly desires.  In fact Scriptures tells us that our flesh is hostile to the things of God even as a Christian (Romans 8:7).  Rebellion against God’s revealed will, or ignoring His Spirit because we are so inebriated with our fleshly desires and materialism, both become a barrier between us and the Source of Eternal Life.  Even though the world around you may say that you cannot live without such and such, it does so because it has given into the temptations of Satan.  When we are trapped in materialistic lies, we become a part of a system that helps the Tempter by being a temptation ourselves.  Why would you want to be like the devil and take on his image, when the Spirit of God is offering to make you into the image of Jesus?  May we shine out as bright lights in this world of darkness.  May we be the children of God who are being led by the Spirit of God to inherit all things along with the One and Only Unique Son of God, Jesus.

Not by Bread Alone audio

Tuesday
Oct182016

Society under Siege: Drug Abuse

Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; Galatians 6:6-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 16, 2016.

Although drugs have been around in one form or another throughout the history of our nation and even all of mankind, it has really been since the 1950’s that our society has become inundated with them.  Of course through the years we have made a distinction between medicinal drugs and illicit drugs.  Our purpose is not to go into that today other than to recognize that there can be a legitimate use of drugs.  Churches today are challenged by the difficulty of helping people who are stuck in drug addiction and whose lives are spiraling out of control.

Those who desire help to get out of the grip of drugs have many problems.  Some of them are the physical addictions that can occur.  Others are the mental, coping mechanisms that are unhealthy and continually turn back to the false peace of a drug.  The shame and guilt that such a person feels can push them further and further away from the very people they need around them. I believe that this onslaught of drugs in our nation is orchestrated and promoted by the evil, spiritual powers that seek to destroy the Gospel of Christ.  War is not easy.  But, if we are to help people, we cannot surrender to the temptation to either push people away because they keep turning back to drugs, or redefine what is good.  Some segments within the Church are being swayed by reasoning that overlooks the dangers of drug abuse and how people end up stuck in it.

How We Live Matters

In Romans Paul has written to the Corinthians about many ways that they are living and the morality or theology behind them.  Their theology and lives were being affected by the culture around them.  This is true of the Church in the United States of America.  Increasingly modern Christians have been surrendering certain areas by saying that they are no longer moral issues.  We determine that abortion is no longer immoral and thus encourage women in a destructive path.  We are beginning to do the same with drugs.  Many ideas are coming together to promote a theology of drugs that basically says it is not a moral issue.  This is a tactical mistake.

In chapter 12 of the letter to the Romans Paul reminds believers that their lives should be lived as a sacrifice to God.  Paul calls it a “living sacrifice” because the imagery is going from the very literal sacrifices they were used to seeing to the spiritual sacrifice of putting to death our fleshly desires for the glory of the purposes of God.  In fact, both Christians and those who do not believe live a life of dying.  The important question is, “To what am I dying?”  The Lost live a life surrendering to the desires of their flesh and their spirit/soul dies in its ability to connect with God.  Whereas the Christian surrenders to the desires of the Holy Spirit and their fleshly desires are put to death.  Of course, this is a daily thing.  So Christians are called to live life in a way that is following the Spirit of God and not the desires of our flesh.  Paul calls it our holy and acceptable sacrifice.

The term “holy” means that we are not for the common use.  Our lives have been set apart for a divine purpose and not a common purpose (i.e. what everyone else is doing).  Also, the term acceptable is often used in a negative way.  In other words, “OK, I guess that is barely good enough.”  That is not what this word means in this translation.  Our lives are not to be lived so as to be barely good enough.  Rather, the word has the meaning of that which is pleasing.  So our sacrifice is to live for God’s purposes, not our own (holy), and to offer that which is pleasing to God.  It is my contention that the Holy Spirit is not leading people to take drugs, especially recreationally, and that they promote a lifestyle that is anything but pleasing to God.

Paul also brings up the issue of conforming to this world’s way of living.  Conformity focuses on the outward shape without a true change of the nature of a person.  Thus a person who has murderous intentions in their heart can conform to the pressure of society to not act on that impulse.  However, their nature has not changed.  Conformity is temporary by nature.  Thus many people live a life of continually taking on new shapes that conform to the templates that the world gives us (like Play Dough).  So whether you take on the template of a driven business person, who doesn’t do drugs, or you take on the template of the person without a job doing drugs in mom’s attic, both are templates that this world offers in opposition to what Jesus has called us to.  So you may think you have your life in order, but many times you have conformed to the world in a different way.  Also, many people who take drugs seem to think that they are somehow breaking out of the system and going their own way.  This too is self-delusion.  Yes, we do need a better template, and Jesus can be that.  However, He is more than a template.

Paul places the word “transformation” against this conformity.  In fact, many churches have lost sight of this difference.  Transformation is a change of nature, not just outward shape.  We must be careful that our discipleship does not become focused on merely changing the shape of people’s lives.  Without an inner transformation they will only be taking on a religious template that is conformity to the world in the end.   Paul says that our transformation comes by the renewal of our mind.  This is precisely the problem.  We are told by someone that our lives should look a certain way.  But in the end we are not learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and say no to our flesh.  The Pharisees had just such a religion: all conformity and no transformation.

The renewal of our mind definitely starts with a moment of believing in Jesus and God placing a new spirit within us.  However, it continues day by day as we work each day to have our thinking renewed back to the way God intended it.  How do we do this? 

First, we have to counter the continual barrage of antichrist ideas and lifestyles that wear down our mind by meditating on the Word of God.  In John 8:32, Jesus tells us that “…the truth shall set you free.”  The problem with lies is that no matter how good they make your life in the short term, they cannot lead to long term good.  Why?  They can’t because they refuse to deal with reality, to deal with Truth.  Daily prayer is the place where we converse with God about what His Word reveals and what His Spirit is leading us to do.  It is the daily maintenance of the transformation that God is doing in our life.  We also need the fellowship of other believers around us.  When we are surrounded by those with a worldly mentality, we will be like the frog in the kettle, slowly being boiled to death.  Fellow believers give us a sounding board that can help us when we are knocked down or coming under deception.

When our mind is renewed to think like Jesus rather than the world, our life will be transformed.  Paul says that then we will prove what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.  God’s will always leads to good in the long term.  The word “perfect” has more the idea of complete or lacking nothing.  When we follow God’s will we are lacking nothing that we need.  This is important when you think about how the Devil tempted Eve into eating the fruit.  He got her to believe that God’s will wasn’t perfect (enough).  Of course the word acceptable like we already mentioned means that which is pleasing to God.  Our life and the results of our decisions become living proof to ourselves and to the people around us that God’s will is good and lacks nothing. 

So take time to scrutinize God’s Word and determine what is good and then live it out.  This will confirm that God knows what He is talking about.  Take time to pray about how to do that and for the strength to do it.  You will be a living example to others that the “sacrificial life” is truly life indeed.

So What is Wrong with Drugs?

So we come back to this question whether you ask it in regards to our society or in regards to being a Christian.  Why not just legalize all drugs?  In some ways legalization is a red-herring.  It sounds like an answer, but not really.  When drugs are “legalized” there will most likely be more laws on the books regarding their sale, distribution, and use (think in terms of “legal” alcohol).  It is legal to drive a car across town.  But don’t think for a second that legality solves all the problems of an issue.  Thus there will always be laws and legalizing drugs will not solve the problems that come with drugs.  The real question is, “What is good for a person,” and, especially for Christians, “What reflects the image of God that we see in Christ?”  Contrary to popular conception, Jesus would not be hanging out in some mother’s attic with his disciples smoking weed.  Why?

The first reason is that drugs affect the mind away from Christ.  The Spirit of God has always used His Word and the experiences in our life to transform our minds.  The life-giving method of God is to speak truth to people in the midst of their difficulties.  Drugs, however, debilitate a person’s ability to reason, and not just when you are high.  The mind-altering effects are both physical and logical.  Our life becomes fixated on the desires of our flesh rather than on the Spirit of God.  Now we need to also recognize that drugs can open our mind to spiritual experiences.  Throughout history many cultures have used drugs in order to make it easier to contact the spirit realm.  Here is the problem.  God does not use this method.  No holy prophet in the Bible ever used drugs in order to get a message from God.  This was a method used by the pagan religions with their fallen angel “gods.”  So even if you use drugs for a “spiritual” purpose, you will only connect with deceiving, lying spirits that seek to use you against Christ and His people.

Another aspect of this mind-altering effect is a false sense of euphoria.  Though a person may be able to “feel good” for a short time, it becomes a feeling that is harder and harder to achieve.  So you head down a path that destroys your ability to have a real life and allows you to have a temporary “feel good” moment in the midst of crushing pain and sorrow.  This is even worse than the picture in the movie “The Matrix.”  At least there they weren’t aware of their condition.  But, the person on drugs is continually trying to escape the increasing hell of their life.  On the flip side, God offers a person the ability to have peace and joy even in the face of the worst situations imaginable.  When Jesus went to the cross, he did not “feel good.”  But he did have clarity about what His actions would achieve.  He would be paving the way for relationships that He would have with millions in the future.  He faces the “bad feelings” of living for God in this wicked world, in order to receive the eternity of joy with new brothers and sisters.

Lastly drugs impair our ability to function.  We become less and less able to deal with life around us.  Even when a person joins up with a gang or group of like-minded friends, we may be able to get along for awhile.  But, in the end the drugs are sucking out your life like a vampire, and putting the poison of death into everything that you have.  If drugs only did this it would be reason enough to reject them.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 we have a passage where Paul is responding to some statements that the Corinthians themselves had written in their letter to him.  The first statement from the Corinthians is “All things are lawful for me.”  I can only assume they are referring to the fact that they are no longer under the Law of Moses.  Thus in their mind they could do whatever they wanted as long as they called themselves Christians.  Instead of arguing about the lawfulness of what they were doing, Paul goes along with them.  Basically he says, “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but not all things are helpful (beneficial). “  He then states it again but differently.  “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but I will not be brought under the power of anything.”  So notice the two points Paul makes.  Basically he is pointing out that legality is itself a red herring.  Legality is moot for the Christian.  What is important is whether or not something is good for me (i.e. helps me be more like Jesus) and that it doesn’t enslave me.   You can argue about whether or not you are “addicted,” but being enslaved to something is not about just a physical need for something.  Drugs and the desire for their effects becomes a controlling thing in people’s lives.  You will find yourself rationalizing things that you would have never done before you started taking them.  Even if you start out trying to keep focused on God’s things, this will die off as you keep pushing away the Spirit of God.  When our police officers go into the homes of people who are trapped in a life of drugs, they witness that people are complete slaves to the drugs.  It becomes their god and they sacrifice everything (family, kids, jobs, etc…) in order to please it.

Galatians 6:6-7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”  If we do not follow Christ we are actively destroying our life.  I end with these verses because this is really what it is all about: not being deceived.  Can we use drugs medicinally?  Of course, we can.  However, medicine should never become a controlling and addicting thing in our life.  Medicine is not given to people because they enjoy how it makes them feel.  Rather, it is taken to help restore something that is wrong in the body.  Thus we have a system of prescriptions from doctors and controls on drugs that can be beneficial if used correctly.  I do not have time to deal with the fact that not all medicines are as good as they purport due to the desire of drug companies to make money.

Quit asking yourself what is biblically legal and start asking what will make you more like Jesus.  If we are not becoming more like Jesus then we are decaying into the destruction of our life, and perhaps even our soul.  In this way drugs are just another rabbit trail that the Devil uses to side-track us from Jesus and towards destruction.

The world has gotten good at the physical side of helping people through withdrawals and detoxification.  However, it is has little to offer for the spiritual side of a person.  Even 12 step programs can be so watered down that the spiritual truth gets pushed out.  Your child or spouse cannot be your higher power.  You need Jesus in your life.  You need to be touched by God and made alive to His Holy Spirit.  The only way to truly be free in this life is to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and then trust the way that He has told us to live.  This includes the apostles that He authorized to go out and teach the nations how to follow him.  Blessings.

Under seige: Drugs

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