Moving Toward No-Kill

The headline of a story on page four of today’s edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader read—“Pet adoption, fostering could move state toward no-kill”. This seems like a direction that would be agreeable to almost everyone. Who wouldn’t be in favor of allowing cute little animals to continue living?

Ironically, this liberal newspaper often proclaims the virtues of abortion—insisting that ending the life of a baby in its mother’s womb constitutes health care for women and insinuating that the only people who stand for the pro-life movement are narrow-minded, mean-spirited women haters.

Why can’t we offer the same kindness and mercy to tiny human beings that we do to our furry little friends?

Hopefully, the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade will help move our nation toward a no-kill policy for babies in the womb.

“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”—Psalm 82:4.

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Narrow-Minded

Sometimes people accuse Christians of being narrow-minded. They say that followers of Jesus should have a broader view of moral and social issues. They even maintain that Jesus would not be so narrow-minded—that he would share their wider acceptance of liberal thoughts and behaviors. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Jesus we see in Scripture has some sharply defined views on many issues. One might even call him narrow-minded. Let’s look at some examples.

Jesus has a narrow view of creation. In Mark 10:6 he says, “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” Jesus doesn’t seem to leave room for macro-evolution, the idea that mankind finally emerged as a finished product after billions of years and a series of remarkably fortunate occurrences that saw one-celled creatures finally evolve into the human beings that we are today. Jesus says that we were created by God in the very beginning.

That same verse also shows that Jesus has a very narrow view of gender, at least compared with some of the ideas that are being thrown around today. I recently filled out a medical form that gave me the option of listing myself as male, female or other. I heard of a university that lists 8 different genders that their students can choose from! But Jesus has a limited view of gender—male and female.

Jesus also has a narrow view of marriage. In Mark 10:7 he says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Here Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 and reaffirms God’s original definition of marriage—that it is a union between a man and a woman. Many in our society today would take a broader view of marriage, but Jesus does not offer that option.

When it comes to divorce, Jesus once again has a narrow view. When the Pharisees asked him if a man could divorce his wife “for any and every reason”, he answered, “…Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” He went on to say that sexual immorality was the only legitimate grounds for divorce. (Matthew 19:1-9). Our culture mirrors the one that Jesus lived in during the first century, with its wide acceptance of divorce, but Jesus takes a narrow view.

Jesus has a narrow view of discipleship. While some would say it’s an easy thing to be a Christian, Jesus says that if we want to be his disciple we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him (Mark 8:34).

Jesus has a narrow view of morality. He implored the woman who was caught in adultery to leave her life of sin (John 8:11).

Jesus has a narrow view of membership in his kingdom. In Revelation 22:15 he says, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

Jesus has a narrow view of salvation. While some insist that there are many ways to God, Jesus proclaims in John 14:6, “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These are just a few of the examples we see in Scripture of how Jesus has a narrow view of what is right and true. So, the next time someone tries to insult you by calling you “narrow-minded” because of your Christian beliefs, be aware that they are unknowingly paying you a great compliment. Let’s all strive to agree with Jesus in all areas of life.

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A Christian Response to “Pride Month”

For the past several years homosexuals and their supporters have designated June as “Pride Month”, a time when the homosexual lifestyle is celebrated with various promotions and festivities. They are certainly welcome to choose to live their lives as they please. However, it seems that many of them expect Christians to join in the celebration and are quite offended when we don’t do that. As 1 Peter 4:4 says, “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.”

Our culture is becoming more accepting of homosexual behavior. The examples of this are numerous. Movies and television shows depict homosexual characters as being part of the new normal. News journalists and sports broadcasters gush over the “bravery” of athletes who come out as gay. Homosexual marriage has been legalized in the United States. The rainbow (which is supposed to be a sign of God’s promise, certainly not what some are depicting it to represent) is proudly displayed in many places. Even some liberal churches have made statements declaring that they “accept and affirm” the homosexual lifestyle.

Some people claim that Jesus never said anything against homosexual behavior. They could not be more wrong. First of all, Jesus consistently spoke against sexual immorality, and everyone to whom Jesus spoke understood that homosexual actions are included in those prohibitions. Secondly, Jesus is God, so all the Bible’s teaching against homosexual behavior comes directly from Jesus.

So how does a Christian respond to a culture that seems determined to oppose Jesus on this issue? The answer is that we must speak the truth in love (Eph.4:15). In order to do this, we must know the truth. There are many Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, that clearly and consistently point out God’s will in this matter. Know what the Bible says and be ready to defend the truth.

However, we must speak with love. Our desire is not to condemn people, but to win them to Jesus. If people think we hate them, they will not even listen to our message of hope and salvation, much less respond to it.

Here are a couple of thoughts to leave you with. First, don’t give up on anybody. People can change (1 Cor.6:9-11). Second, don’t be an enabler to anyone who is living an immoral life. Romans 1 speaks of the wrath of God that will be poured out upon the wicked. The last verse of that chapter also issues a dire warning to those who approve of the deviant practices of others.

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Zeal!

Allen Ludden

Lately we have been watching old game shows on television. I mean shows from decades ago. (Yes, things are really that exciting at our house these days.) Today I couldn’t help but notice the enthusiasm shown by host Allen Ludden each time a contestant on “Password” did well. Ludden would shout “Yes!!” following each correct response. His excitement seemed genuine and heartfelt. You could tell that he really enjoyed his job.

If only we could show such enthusiasm as we do our various jobs in the kingdom of God!

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”—Romans 12:11.

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C.H.U.R.C.H

Before he died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity, Jesus promised that he would build his church (Matt.16:18). He is currently doing just that, and the building of his church is the most important project in the entire universe. So, let’s talk about the church. Using an acrostic, let’s try to describe the church.

CHRIST-CENTERED—The first “C” in church might stand for Christ-centered. Jesus bought the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28), so he is the rightful owner. He is the head of the church (Eph.4:15), so he has the authority to tell the parts of the body of Christ what to do. Sadly, congregations often become more like social clubs than true churches. They exist to satisfy the desires of the members rather than to obey the commands of Jesus. Any church that is serious about fulfilling its purpose will always strive to keep their focus on Jesus (Heb.12:1-3).

HOLY—The first “H” in church can remind us that we are called to be holy. “Holy” does not mean perfect; it means that we are set apart for God’s purposes. Christians do not look like the unholy people of the world in which we live. We are distinctive from them in the way that we think, speak and act. The congregation that does not take the holiness of its members seriously is headed down a dangerous path. A church cannot wink at sin and expect to enjoy the blessings of God. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

UNITED—For our purposes here, the “U” stands for united. Jesus prayed in John 17 that his followers would be united so that they could be a good witness to the world. The book of 1 Corinthians is filled with pleas for unity. Eph.4:1-16 is another text that calls for the church to be united in the same way that the parts of the human body work together as each part does its work. Causing division in the church is a terrible sin (1 Cor.3:17), therefore divisive people must be confronted (Titus 3:10-11).

REACHING OUT—The “R” in church can serve to remind us of our mission to reach out to people who need to come to Jesus for salvation. The gospels of Matthew and Mark both end with what we call the “Great Commission” to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus. Any congregation that neglects to reach out to the lost is doomed to die a slow and agonizing death.

COMPASSIONATE—Let’s say that the second “C” in church stands for compassion. Since we are the children of a loving heavenly Father, his love must be manifested in our lives. The greatest commandments according to Jesus are to love God and love people (Matt.22:34-40). As Christians, we are especially called to love one another with a Christ-like love that shows others that we truly are disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35). And let us be reminded that true love is far more than feelings of sentimentality. Love is an action verb that often requires sacrifice on our part. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).

HEAVEN-BOUND—The second “H” in church can remind us of our eternal destination. Our citizenship is not of this world. This painful, sinful world is not our final destiny. Jesus has prepared a place for us where we can live in the presence of God forever (John 14:1-6). Rev.21:3-4 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” What a wonderful promise of Scripture! But until that promise is fulfilled, let us constantly be about the business of doing our best to see that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, and that his church becomes more and more like the church he has designed us to be.

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Day by Day

Many people are familiar with the song “Day by Day” because it was part of the popular musical “Godspell” that opened in 1971. However, the song is actually an old hymn written by Richard of Chichester.

The song is about prayer—“Day by day, day by day, O, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”

The song gives us a pretty good biblical outline for our prayers. First, it says that we should pray to see the Lord more clearly. With all of the confusion in our culture today about moral issues, it certainly is a good thing to pray that we see God for who he really is. The devil continually tries to distort our view of God. When he succeeds, it leads people into wicked thoughts and actions.

Therefore, we need to pray for a clear picture of who God is. Paul the apostle offers such a prayer in Ephesians 1:17-18a—“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” May we also pray for eyes that can see God better.

The second prayer point in the song is that we love God more dearly. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Surely it would be quite appropriate to pray that we can love him better than we ever have before. And remember, true love is not just a feeling we have in our hearts. It is much more than that! Love is an action verb. We prove our love for God with our words and deeds.

The third and final prayer point in the song is that we may follow the Lord more nearly. What is it that proves our love for God? It’s our obedience. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15). We should pray to better understand the commands given in Scripture so that we may show our love for God by obeying him. Ephesians 5:10 urges us, “And find out what pleases the Lord.” Let’s constantly strive to find out what the Lord wants us to do, and diligently prove our love with our obedience.

This is a pretty good outline for our daily prayers. If you know the song, it makes it even easier to remember the outline. Let’s make it a regular practice to pray to see God more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly—day by day.

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Protective

There is a small group of geese—too few to call a flock, I think—that take up residence at our neighbor’s pond every spring. They stay long enough to raise some goslings. It’s fun to watch the little ones make their first appearance and follow the adults around.

The pond is close to the road, so we try to be careful when we drive by. When the geese decide it’s time to cross the road, they cross the road.

The adults are very protective of the young ones. A couple of times when I drove by, a momma goose lowered her head in a threatening manner and took a few menacing steps in the direction of my car. You have to admire her bravery and her willingness to protect her young from any threat, real or imagined.

This is the attitude we need to have toward young Christians in our care. We need to be very protective of them.

“Love…always protects…”—1 Cor.13:6-7.

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Delayed Arrival

On Thursday, April 28, a flight from the San Diego International Airport to Everett, Washington was delayed for an unusual reason. The pilot noticed a pelican sitting right in the middle of the runway. He thought that the bird was injured, and notified the ground crew. When someone arrived to check on the pelican they found that it was not injured. It simply didn’t want to leave its position! The stubborn bird was finally encouraged to leave, and the flight arrived at its destination 18 minutes late.

I guess the moral of this story might be this—don’t be the stubborn pelican in your church! Get on board with the leaders’ vision for where the congregation needs to go!

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”—Hebrews 13:17.

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When Jesus Came to a Funeral

I wonder if funeral directors in the first century got nervous at the sight of Jesus? After all, Jesus did have a habit of interrupting funerals. Let’s look at some examples.

A widow from Nain was about to bury her only son when Jesus came along and stopped the funeral procession. Luke 7:13 says, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” We must agree that she had something to cry about. Beyond the sorrow of losing her only son was the prospect of a life of hardship. There were not a lot of economic opportunities for women in those days, and a women without a husband or children to take care of her needs would find life extremely difficult. But Jesus changed the scenario in a drastic way. He spoke to the dead man, telling him to get up, and that’s exactly what he did! I love what v.15b says, “…and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” What a wonderful gift—to receive her only son back from the dead!

Then there is the time that Jesus raised Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter from the dead. The mourners who had gathered laughed when Jesus said that the girl was only asleep, for they knew she was dead. The laughter of the scoffers was quickly silenced when Jesus took her by the hand and told her to get up and she did just that! (Luke 8:51-56).

Of course there is the time when Jesus arrived at the tomb of his good friend Lazarus. Jesus shed tears of his own this time (John 11:35). But once again Jesus spoke and the dead came back to life. Yes, Jesus had a habit of interrupting funerals, changing extreme sadness to exuberant joy.

Here are some observations about what we see happening when Jesus came to a funeral. First is that life is precious. We mourn the loss of our loved ones because the life of every human being has great worth. From the moment of conception until the last breath a person takes on earth, each human life is of great value. Therefore, we must recognize the right to life, even as ignorant people still vigorously oppose the Word of God on this issue. Don’t ever waver on the basic truth that life is precious!

A second observation is that Jesus has complete control over death. He is, after all, the Author of life. It was through Jesus that everything has been created (John 1:3). He has been given all authority, even the authority over death (Matthew 28:18). What wonderful words Jesus speaks in John 11:25-26—“…I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Mary responded that she did indeed believe this. Every one of us is faced with the same question—Do you truly believe that Jesus has the power to give you eternal life? It is the most important question you will ever answer!

A final observation is this—Knowing what we know about the value of life and that Jesus holds the key to eternal life, we had better make sure that Jesus is welcome at our funeral!

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What’s Your Purpose?

An executive hirer, a “head-hunter” who goes out and hires corporation executives for other firms, once told Josh McDowell, “When I get an executive that I’m trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, “What’s your purpose in life?” It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question.

“Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on the desk, talking about football. Then I leaned up and said, “What’s your purpose in life, Bob?” And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’ For the first time in my career I was speechless.”

It’s refreshing to be reminded that some Christians are actually aware of their purpose in life.

Jesus says that he came to seek and save the lost. The salvation of lost souls is the top priority for Jesus, and it should also be the main concern of Christians. At the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives the great commission to his followers to go and make disciples for him, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us to do.

Some people who follow Jesus never do really grasp what their main mission is all about. Some churches lose sight of their purpose, becoming distracted by other things, which might not necessarily be bad things to do, but they are not the main mission of the church.

Let’s always be striving to focus on our purpose in life—to go to heaven and take as many people with us as we can.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”—Matthew 28:18-20.

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