Weekly Round-Up

Tragedy of Abortion: Tragic story about a man and wife who lost their way. Rather than praise God for the gift and wonder of life (3 lives), they decided to take life instead. Instead of rejoicing over the blessing of triplets, they sacrificed the wonder and sanctity of life on the altar of convenience. What makes this even more tragic is that in our culture of death many would actually laud the decision, yet as you can see this man does not; it is something he will live with for the rest of his life.

Dever on Christianity and Politics: A sermon by Mark Dever on Christianity and politics called “Jesus Paid Taxes.” It has been described as “the best sermon I know on Christianity and government” and a “biblical theology of Christians and the state.” In light of the upcoming elections, I’d say it’s worth a listen!

Planet of the Apes? Interesting article on the recent successful experiment which involves increasing the brain function of apes. The idea is to eventually use such technology on humans. Interestingly, from a Darwinian perspective, this has already happened naturally millions of years ago, although the evidence for this is nill. Anyway, pretty sure this reminds me of a movie I saw recently.

The Pastor and Politics: “Jesus cares little for our political opinions and affiliation.” I think I understand what is being said here, but I wonder if this is actually true. In light of the issues at stake, I would say Jesus is very interested in our “political” opinions. Also, I wonder if the statement “Jesus takes us as we are” is not often misconstrued. Indeed Jesus has come to seek and save the lost. But note, he came to save the lost, and to call lost sinners to repent. Indeed, he grants a new heart and transforms our lives.

Politics – According to the Bible: Wayne Grudem‘s “Politics According to the Bible” for $4.99 on Kindle. Once a week I’ll be posing weekly blog posts, news items, and kindle deals I have found interesting or helpful, each accompanied by a short description.

Rachel Held Evans on the Today Show: Rachel Held Evans‘ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood has caused quite a stir in the evangelical community and beyond. While I intend to read the book at some point, a few observations can be made just from this interview. First, the project is perhaps a bit misleading. In following the “rules” of the Bible every time it references women in a wooden literal fashion, she is actually not doing what it says. For example, when she praises her husband at the gate, that’s actually not what the passage in question is talking about. The same is true with her spending time on the roof of a house. The context is actually ignored thus misrepresenting what the text actually says. I’ll have to read the book to see if this is true elsewhere. Second, she seems to indicate that there is a popular movement that follows what she attempts to do in the book. I am aware of no such movement. The idea probably stems from the use of the phrase “biblical womanhood,” but of course no one means by that what she seems to indicate. Rachel will appear on The View tomorrow, so if your interested in what develops tune in. I’m sure I’ll have more to say in coming months. See here for a recent response by Denny Burk.

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10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate Is Never Asked by the Media – Trevin Wax

A recent blog on The Gospel Coalition website entitled 10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate Is Never Asked by the Media  by Trevin Wax posed 10 pertinent questions that pro-abortionists are never required to answer.

These questions are extremely important, as they bring out many of the inconsistencies involved with such a position. The bottom line is that these people must define personhood at some arbitrary point. Also, they really have no basis for opposing gender based abortions either, or for saying it is a “tragic choice.”

As the inconsistencies continue to mount up, we’ll see if they are ever forced to give an answer.

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Reflections of a New Dad

Meet John Paul McMains

Three weeks ago today on Thursday, October 11, 2012 (10/11/12) my whole world changed. One minute I’m sleeping in on a lazy day, getting ready to work on my paper and translate some Josephus, the next minute I’m running around like a mad man throwing random stuff into a bag and speeding off to the hospital. Before I know it I am watching the most miraculous thing I have ever experienced. I am watching the birth of my beautiful son. They say that the realization that you’re a dad doesn’t hit you until they actually put the baby into your arms. It hit me the moment I saw the little guy, and nearly knocked me off my feet. I felt nearer to God in that moment than I had in a very long time, for the miracle of life was unfolding right before my eyes.

Just me and little guy till 4 a.m. while mommy...

Just me and little guy at 4 a.m.

The weeks to follow have been a blur, but as I reflect on what has taken place, a few things are forefront in my mind above all else.

1. I don’t deserve this. It’s true. I don’t. The grace and kindness of God hit me like a freight train when I met my wife, Ashleigh, who I have failed again and again. Now it hits me every time I look into my son’s eyes or watch him sleep. No one deserves God’s gracious kindness…especially this. I can only be thankful and seek to honor God and trust fully in him as I seek to raise my son.

Mommy and JP :)

2.  I have no idea what I’m doing! How can I raise this boy to be a godly young man, when I know my own heart? I am more aware now of my inadequacies as a man, a husband and now a father than I’ve ever been. This is a camel through the needle’s eye kind of task, and on my own, I would surely fail miserably. All I can do is start changing diapers like a madman, and pray that God will give me the grace and strength to be a godly father one more day, and then another, and another. Gratefully, I have the best wife/mother in the world at my side reminding me of God’s love and kindness and providing assurance that JP’s in good hands with her. I also had a wonderful example of fatherhood in my own dad, and my mom taught me what it truly was to sacrificially lay down your life daily for your own children. When all else fails, what would my parents do?!

3.  God, save my son. I am a strong believer in God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation. This gives me great comfort for two reasons. First, God is perfectly just and wise. He surely will do right, and JP is in his hands. There is no greater comfort than this. Second, my son’s salvation is not up to me. Again, very comforting, because if it were then he’d be in trouble! No, our God is mighty to save and he is drawing his people to himself. My role as a father is to pray every day for God to be merciful to my son, and to save him at a young age. And to preach the gospel to him constantly, knowing that God has ordained the means by which he will hear and believe.

Today JP was laying on the couch and I cuddled up next to him to watch him sleep. I will forever be in awe at the wonder of life, and the kindness God has shown to us through this little gift we named John Paul.

I don't deserve this

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Of Babies and Beans: Paul Ryan on Abortion : The New Yorker

The New Yorker

This could be one of the more frightening articles I have ever read. The radical skepticism concerning faith and human life is astonishing. Regarding faith he says, “Our system, unlike the Iranians’, is not meant to be so total: it depends on making many distinctions between private life, where we follow our conscience into our chapel, and our public life, where we seek to merge many different kinds of conscience in a common space. Our faith should not inform us in everything we do, or there would be no end to the religious warfare that our tolerant founders feared.”

He also compares Ryan’s stance to what an Iranian would say. He seems to be suggesting that faith is only for the church, and when you enter reality you leave faith behind. Of course, he wouldn’t be so quick to allow the same standard with regard to his worldview, which, made apparent by this article, he takes with him everywhere he goes. Another question is this: just what exactly does it look like to not allow your faith to impact your life? It’s called atheism, and once that happens, faith has disappeared entirely. If someone believes that life begins at conception, but does not oppose abortion, that’s called hypocrisy.

This leads to his next argument , regarding abortion, which is even worse: 1) Life may begin in some sense at conception. 2) We don’t know what sense. 3) For life to truly exist it needs to be conscience and thinking. 4) It’s too ambiguous so let’s just let the woman decide.

Guess logic gets thrown out the window along with faith. The thing is that we actually know a great deal about the life in the womb. Most importantly, it is just that, LIFE. Beans don’t have beating hearts, sir. What’s truly ambiguous is the absurd notion that life is defined by “conscience, thinking.” It is this type of argument set forth here that allows Peter Singer of Princeton to argue that a baby could rightly be aborted for a certain period of time AFTER birth. Here, anyone can read Mr. Singer’s position. If a baby is “defective” and the parents don’t want it, then kill it. It’s not yet a person. What if the baby is not defective, but the parents don’t want it? Well, it would be less wrong to kill that baby than an adult, but there are a lot of people who would want it so it would be wrong to kill it. Is that ambiguous Mr. Gopnik? Do you have a basis for opposing such an evil position? I don’t think you do.

He says it like this, “It is conscious, thinking life that counts, and where and exactly how it begins (and ends) is so complex a judgment that wise men and women, including some on the Supreme Court, have decided that it is best left, at least at its moments of maximum ambiguity, to the individual conscience (and the individual conscience’s doctor).”

So there ya go folks. It’s ambiguous so don’t worry about it. His next statement is truly amazing:

“The cost of simplifying this truth is immense cruelty—cruelty to the bean when, truly developed, it becomes a frightened teen-ager who is to be compelled by law to carry her unwished-for pregnancy through with all the trauma that involves.”

So, in essence, to not allow the murder of babies is cruel because one of those babies might grow up to carry an unwanted baby. I just had a beautiful baby boy, and statements like this I simply cannot fathom. This is a far cry from the Psalter’s wonderful declaration,

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” Psalm. 139:13-15

Of Babies and Beans: Paul Ryan on Abortion : The New Yorker.

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My Grandpa at Present

This is my third post about my grandpa since he went home. The first post included some reflections on his life and legacy. My second post focused on his life verse, Nahum 1:7. This post will deal with a question my mom has posed on more than one occasion since he died, namely, “what’s he doing now??” This is difficult because the Bible is for the most part vague with regard to the specifics of this question. However, it does provide enough to give us cause to rejoice and to long for the day when we too will be united with our Lord.

I have mentioned before that my initial reaction to the news of my grandpa’s death surprised me. Rather than initially feeling grief (which would soon come), a smile instinctively formed on my face. While this seems like a strange initial response, I think the reason is I immediately picture my granddad leaving his “body of death” in which he had suffered much, and meeting the savior for whom he endured faithfully to the very end. My grandpa LOVED Jesus with his whole being, and I think when those who know him think about that meeting it is nearly impossible not to smile. Not only is my grandpa’s pain gone, but he is experiencing the indescribable joy of meeting the Lord Jesus face to face. So, what I want to do is look at some of the passages that discuss my grandpa’s present experience.

2 Cor 5:6-9: “Therefore, being always courageous and knowing that at home in the body we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight; but we are courageous and we would rather be absent from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether at home or absent, we aspire to please him.”

Philippians 1:21-23: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live in the flesh, this for me is fruitful word, yet which would I choose I cannot say. I am hard pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and to be with Christ, for that is a whole lot better!”

Luke 23:43: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise!”

A couple of things are important:

1. There is a distinction between being present with the body (to live in the flesh) and to be absent from the body (to depart and be with Christ).  Some people suggest that perhaps the soul “goes to sleep” until Christ returns and is thus in a state of unconsciousness until the resurrection. These passage seem to indicate that this cannot be the case. When someone dies, the “depart” to be with Christ, they are “absent from the body and at home with the Lord”, they are that very day “in paradise!”

2. To be with Christ is better! Not only is it better, it is a “whole lot better!” Philippians 1:23 uses a very emphatic phrase to make this point. To read it literally would be to say, “having the desire to depart and to be with Christ, for it is much more better.” Now you see why translators choose “far better/greater” instead! The point is that there is something wonderful to look forward to, and it is what my grandpa is experiencing right now. When Christ returns, he will wipe away the tears from all eyes, yet now he has already wiped them away from my grandpa’s. To be with Christ is far better.

But what about our activities? We can understand that my grandpa is in a better state, but does the Bible say anything about what takes place there? The book of Revelation gives us some images to consider:

Revelation 6:9-11 “And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of those beheaded for the word of God and the witness they had borne. “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

For reasons beyond the scope of this blog post, I believe the reference to “souls” in this passage to refer to all who have died in Christ, enduring to the end (Rev. 7:9; 22:14). So here we see a picture of those who have died in Christ which emphasizes their waiting. Though they have been perfected (Heb. 12:23) and are with Christ, there is something still to look forward to, namely the second coming of Christ, when the wicked will be judged and all will be resurrected. When Christ will usher in the New Heavens and the New Earth to remain forever.

Revelation 20:4 “¶ Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

I should say that my grandpa had a different view of this verse then I do. (side note: I imagine he’s had a good chuckle regarding all the things we think we know while on this earth). Therefore, I don’t disagree with a man like my grandpa lightly, nevertheless, here I differ (although, I would say now we hold the same view!) Anyway, I believe this verse refers to those who have died and are with Christ. They are reigning with him in the heavenly places  until he returns (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10. cf. Eph. 2:6). [We should remember that this is a difficult passage of Scripture that faithful believers can disagree on.]

Thus, these two passages indicate both a present reality and a future hope regarding those who are in heaven. They are presently reigning with Christ in a place that is far better than anything they have ever experienced. Yet they await their final vindication. When Christ will return, perfectly judge all things and usher in the age to come in its fullness. Then will the judgment take place, the resurrection and the putting away of all enemies, including death and Satan. Christ will then remove all pain and mourning from the earth, and wipe away all tears (Rev. 21-22).

However one reads this last verse, three things are absolutely certain. 1) My grandpa right now is with Christ; 2) His present state is far better than anything he’s ever experienced before; 3) He yet looks forward to Christ’s return, just as we do, when all wrongs will be made right and God’s dwelling place will be with his people.

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Nahum 1:7

If you knew my grandpa, then you knew Nahum 1:7. No two ways about it. He had all his congregations learn it, it was on his answering machine and it was written on every card he sent. He would even say it at the end of a phone conversations, after he prayed with you. This wasn’t, however, only a favorite verse for him. I recall high school FCA, when we would go around and say our favorite verses and why, about 98.7 % of people said “Phil 4:13, cuz we can go out and win this thing!” The problem, of course, was that 98% of the other team had the same verse for the same reason. hmmm. Anyway, this was not like that for my grandpa. The truth of Nahum 1:7 permeated his life. It says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him” Nahum 1:7.

My granddad knew that the Lord was good. He preached it everywhere he went. He always said he was “better than I deserve,” and he meant that. He was grateful for family, friends, nature, fishing…everything he enjoyed and did he knew was a gift from a good God, and he was thankful. Yet, my granddad experienced physical sickness and pain. He never stopped trusting in God as his stronghold. The fact that he experienced trouble, did not in his mind in any way negate God’s goodness. He knew that God, “works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” My grandpa never stopped relying on Jesus Christ as the anchor for his soul through every difficulty he ever faced unto the very end. My grandpa trusted Christ with his whole heart, and God knew him. He didn’t simply know him in the sense of intellectual knowledge…that’s not what the word means…rather, he set his saving love upon him. He cared for him. He was good to him and was his refuge. By grandfather was faithful to the end, because God is faithful. He knoweth them that trust in Him.

I preached at a nursing home in Louisville this past Sunday. I preached Nahum 1:7. I wanted the residence there to have the same hope in Christ as my granddad did his entire life. I’m posting the message below. You’ll notice I recorded the two hymns we sang as well. I don’t think it was an accident that they were “It is Well” and “Jesus and Me.”

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Contraception and Religious Liberty – NYTimes.com

This is a frightening article. It appears that at this point, it is okay to violate the religious liberties of individuals as long as they are not running a religious organization. Of course, there are hints in the article that even that exception ought not last long. And all this is considered a “victory” for religious liberty?

The problem is that the type of governmental regulation espoused by Obama and exemplified in Obamacare is simply not compatible with religious freedom. Morality will always conflict with massive governmental control, and 4 more years under this administration will see further obstruction of religious freedom at an alarming rate.

Contraception and Religious Liberty – NYTimes.com.