Tag Archives: Christian

The Jig is Up, Ms. Williams: If It’s Human, It’s Murder

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you’ll know that there’s been quite a stir regarding abortion in the last few weeks. Having just passed the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has been the hot topic lately–even more so than usual. One particular TV commercial celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade seems to unashamedly declare what many pro-life advocates have said all along–“women’s rights” is nothing more than a clever catch phrase to afford the right of abortion to those who are sexually promiscuous. (To their credit, however, many abortion advocates are equally disgusted with the commercial’s blatant chauvinism and callousness towards the subject of abortion. Kudos to those of you who find it repulsive.) But one article seems to have broken out of the traditional arguments for abortion and, at least in my opinion, finally revealed what some abortion advocates have secretly believed this whole time and have, for good reason, kept secret.

The article I’m referring to is the one by Mary Elizabeth Williams entitled, “So What if Abortion Ends a Life?” In case you don’t have time to read her article in full, I’ve highlighted some of the important parts for you.

Let’s address a few quotes from Williams’ article:

…Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice…

Well, I suppose at least Williams has finally conceded that an unborn child is, in fact, a human life. On the other hand, how in the world does Williams concede that a fetus is a human life and still justify abortion?

…All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always…

Here’s the thrust of her argument: Women’s rights trump baby’s rights. Williams’ is willing to concede that a fetus is a human life but yet also willing to deny said life its “inalienable rights…to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’m not sure the constitution affords you the privilege to deny the basic right of life to another human being solely on the undemonstrated basis that they have less rights than you. That’s circular reasoning: “I can deny my baby its right to life because my rights are more important than his.” Really? On what basis does another human being have less rights than you? Sounds eerily similar to the kind of logic that fueled slavery in the 1800’s and genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Stalin. (And we thought that kind of racist, genocidal thinking was confined to slave traders and Nazis…hmmm) Yet somehow abortion is championed as the path to the future and those of us who believe that “all life is created equal” are labeled as “backward” and “stuck-in-the-past,” or to use Williams’ words, “bullies, archconservatives, and wingnuts.” As a matter of fact, that’s the purpose of laws–to ensure that my rights don’t infringe upon yours. How ironic that pro-life advocates are labeled as “anti-women’s rights.” Perhaps I’m forgetting, but I don’t recall the right to an abortion in the list of inalienable rights.* I do, however, recall the right to life. And if Williams’ concedes that a fetus has life, I don’t see how she can logically deny the most basic right–the right to continue living–from her baby. Defending her belief that a fetus is a human life, Williams says:

When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born…When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?

Agreed. Bravo, Ms. Williams. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ironically, in this much Williams’ opinion seems to be perfectly in line with God’s. (See this former post of mine regarding what the Bible has to say about the life of an unborn child.) In an attempt to justify her decision to deny the right of life to her unborn child, Williams states:

…[We] make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise. It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better.

I will assume that by “men and women in other nations” Williams’ is referring to victims of war. I will start by pointing out that only under certain circumstances are any of the people on this list denied their right to life and only then under careful deliberation. Not all murderers are executed, not all enemy combatants are killed, and we don’t pull the plug on every terminally ill patient. We don’t have time to discuss the intricacies of all these situations. So, conceding that there are some situations in which people of other nations (i.e.–enemy combatants, terrorists, etc.), criminals, and patients with terminal illnesses might be justifiably killed (or allowed to die), let’s think about this: enemy combatants, death row inmates, patients with terminal illnesses, babies…Which one of these is not like the others?!?! Seriously? Are we really at the point where we can compare the execution of an unborn child with that of a death row inmate? An unborn child has not “attacked” your nation, murdered anyone, and–in most cases–is not terminally ill. Mind you, Williams’ is not merely arguing for the right of a mother to abort in situations in which the life of the mother or baby is at risk–she wants unrestricted access to abortions under any circumstances–including mere inconvenience to the mother. We don’t even do that to murderers! Even murderers are given a trial first, and relatively few of them are executed. Usually, only those committing certain types of murder that are considered especially heinous are executed, and even then, many states have outlawed executions outright or rarely ever practice them. Why should it be ok to kill an innocent baby–which Williams has admitted is a human life–with less restrictions than convicted murderers? And why are we even comparing the two?!?!
But, Ms. Williams, let’s apply your reasoning further. If 1) an unborn child is, indeed, a human life every bit as much as two-year old toddler (and Williams concedes this point), and 2) I have demonstrated that the law does not afford the privilege to one human to infringe upon the inalienable rights of another human (except under the circumstances of war, executions of murders, etc.), and 3) we can reasonably say that an unborn child is not in the same category as murderers and enemy combatants, then what is the difference between the abortion of an unborn child and the killing of a toddler who is inconveniencing his mother with a temper tantrum, except, to use Ms. Williams’ words, “a short ride out of some lady’s vagina?” (Please pardon the crudeness–I would not have used that terminology except to demonstrate a fatal flaw in her argumentation.) Williams has already conceded that the unborn child is a human life, so as far as I can tell, if Williams wants to include fetuses in the exception to the right of life along with criminals and enemy combatants, why not include a toddler as well? Or your rebellious teenager? If you’re willing to grant the status of “living human being” to an unborn child, you MUST also give that human being its inalienable right to life. Rather, you don’t grant that right–it’s already there. You may not infringe upon it.

I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your *** I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion….And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

I imagine that a great many abortion advocates will cringe at Ms. Williams’ article almost as much as I. I don’t think that Williams represents the vast majority of pro-choicers when it comes to her conviction that an unborn child is a living human being. And that’s somewhat of a relief. Williams’ brazen disrespect for life sends chills up my spine. That a mother could so callously disregard what she knows to be life inside of her on the mere basis of inconvenience is just disgusting. It make me want to puke. I can understand the argument against granting an unborn child the status of “life.” I disagree with it, but I can at least understand it on a rational level. But to acknowledge that life and blatantly argue for its extermination? Unthinkable.

Humans were created in the image of God. And if that unborn baby is human and has not committed a sin worthy of death, YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Period. You may argue against the “humanity” of an unborn fetus, but if you agree that an unborn child is a living human being created in the image of God, then yes, Ms. Williams, “the jig is up.”

*Some may argue that the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness gives the basis for the right to an abortion. I’m not convinced for two reasons: 1) the law never affords you the privilege of exercising your pursuit of happiness at the expense of another’s rights and, 2) the inconvenience to your “happiness” that is caused by pregnancy is the direct result of your pursuit of another kind of happiness. You can get yourself locked into prison for joyriding and then whine about the police taking away your rights. Similarly, you can go around having sex whenever and with whomever and then whine about getting pregnant. (I am NOT talking about rape or incest–I’m merely talking about the vast majority of pregnancies, which are caused through consensual sex.)

11 Apps every Christian should have

While these apps won’t instantly transform you into Christ-like perfection (there’s not an “app for that”), having these apps on your smartphone or tablet is a great way to transform what could otherwise be a stumblingblock to your relationship with Christ into a powerful weapon against the enemy.  I like to think of these apps as my phone’s “sword” and “shield.”  Some of these will protect you from attack by the trash in our culture, while others will help you hone your spiritual “sword” and add weapons to your armory against the devil.  Hope you like them!

1.  YouVersion Bible

Price: Free

Pros:  Installed on more than 60 million devices worldwide and with a 4.5+ out of 5.0 star rating, YouVersion is hands-down the most popular Bible app of them all.  It’s easy to use and comes with hundreds of different translations–all of them free!  Want to read the Bible in Korean?  No problem.  Prefer the original Greek or Hebrew?  Got that, too.  Or, you could be a normal human being and read any of the more popular modern translations, including the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NLT, and so on.  Almost all the modern English translations are available for downloading for offline use, also.  By far the coolest feature on YouVersion, however, is the audio Bibles.  That’s right–as long as you have an internet (WiFi or 3g) connection, you can stream most of your favorite versions of the Bible for FREE.  So, now you have no excuse for not reading your Bible–you can listen on your way to work!  (Just watch out for those data charges from your wireless provider!)  Also, YouVersion comes with a plethora of Bible Reading plans to choose from.  YouVersion also can sync with your Blue Letter Bible (BLB) reading plans.  Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows 8, HP/Palm, Java, Symbian, Mobile Web, Kindle Fire, and online through any web browser.

Cons:  Not many.  But, compared to some other Bible apps, like Glo Bible and BLB, YouVersion is lacking in supplemental study materials.  It’s great for use on the go or for the audio features, but it won’t replace your study Bible or commentaries.

2.  Glo Bible

Price: Free (or $35 for the Premium version)

Pros: This is an awesome app for serious Bible study and lesson preparation.  Available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, the free version comes with the KJV and NIV available for offline use.  Plus, Glo Bible comes with all kinds of study aids, like interactive maps, historical contextual information, photos, videos, and even some animated tours of famous Bible locations, like the first century Temple or Mosaic Tabernacle!  It’s like study Bible meets IMAX theater.  Also, your YouVersion notes will sync with Glo Bible.

Cons: Unless you purchase the in app upgrades, you’re pretty limited on what you can do with this app.  All of the “good stuff” is locked for premium users only.  For instance, you can take a tour of the tabernacle with the free version, but only the premium version grants you the high priestly privilege of peeking into the Holy of Holies.  (Yeah, I know, you’re not supposed to go in there anyways, but if you’re like me, the curiosity is just too much!)  $35 is a hefty chunk of cash for an app, and I imagine that there are few who will pay it, but–in my opinion–it’s totally worth it if you’re a teacher or really enjoy in-depth Bible study.  That $35 opens up a couple more translations (ESV, NIV 84, and The Message) as well as the NIV study notes (like a study Bible would have) and over 3500 additional media options, including more maps, more videos, and expanded virtual tours.  Your premium upgrade gives you access to the premium material on your Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone.  Currently, the number of available translations is limited, even for premium users, but I imagine they will be posting more translations with time.  Lastly, because Glo Bible has much more content to it than does YouVersion, it’s not quite as user friendly or intuitive to navigate.

3.  Blue Letter Bible

Price: Free

Pros: BLB is another great Bible study app designed for iPhone, iPad, and online web browser use.  It comes with quite a few translations to choose from, including the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and many others, including the Greek and Hebrew.  BLB also allows you to perform a range of functions on any verse in the Bible, such as viewing it in other translations, referencing each word in the verse with its Strong’s Concordance reference number, and viewing the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Commentaries associated with that verse or passage.  BLB’s search function is also much better than either YouVersion or Glo Bible’s search functions, making BLB best suited for those who prefer an in-depth word-study approach to  Bible study or frequently reference commentaries.  BLB also has several daily Bible reading plans to choose from.

Cons: There isn’t much negative about the features that this app has, though some might complain for lack of features.  BLB doesn’t have the fancy media of the Glo Bible, and it doesn’t have the plethora of translations or audio versions of YouVersion, but what BLB does have–in depth word study resources–it does quite well.  This won’t be an app you use every day, but it’s great to have handy when you need it.

4.  Desiring God

Price: Free

Pros: This is, simply put, my favorite Christian app–aside from the Bible, of course–for iPhone and iPad.  Desiring God is the ministry of John Piper, one of my favorite preachers.  This app gives you access to literally thousands of sermons, articles, books, conference messages, poems, biographies, etc.  Piper has almost all, if not all, of his sermons of his available for downloading or streaming dating all the way back to 1980, and even one sermon from 1971!  In addition, Piper has posted free PDF versions of 79 of the books he has authored or co-authored.  That’s right…79 books…completely FREE.  I don’t know of any other author–Christian or not–who has done that.  When I’m driving to work or school, I’ll pull up a sermon or message from Desiring God and listen to on the way.  Piper has tons of knowledge and wisdom to impart from his many years of ministry, all there for the taking.

Cons: Frequent app crashes are the only problem with this app.

5.  Fighter Verses

Price: $2.99

Pros: This is a great app to help you memorize scripture.  It comes preloaded with several sets of verses, each set being enough to last you for a year.  Or, you can simply add in your own desired memory verses.  There’s even a set of memory verses specifically suited for children, with symbols to aid in memorization.  To help you memorize your memory verses, Fighter Verses gives you quizzes: fill in the blank, recite aloud, multiple choice, etc.

Cons: The only obvious con is the cost.  But, $3 is a small price to pay for the help in memorizing scripture to grow closer to Christ.

6.  K9 Browser

Price: Free

Pros:  Let’s face it–in today’s society, it’s difficult to avoid all the images and junk that the internet throws at you.  But, with K9 Browser you can filter out most of the junk.  It’s a great way to keep yourself or your children safe on the internet.  There are other filtered browsers that you can download, but man of the others are so limited in their functionality that they hardly even serve as web browsers.  While K9 Browser has its own search engine and will not play videos, its filtering is much more efficient than most other filters/browsers and it looks and operates almost just like Safari.

Cons:  Of course, with any internet filter or filtered browser there are sacrifices.  K9 Browser will not play videos of any kind–even those which aren’t inappropriate.  So, YouTube will not work on K9.  Also, many of the features native to Safari browser are not on K9, most notably the “open in” feature which allows files to be opened in other apps.  Lastly, since K9 is a separate browser (there is no filter “add-on” for the native Safari browser), Safari must be disabled in the Restrictions section of the Settings in order for it to serve its purpose.

7. Crossway

Price: Free

Pros: Very similar to the Desiring God app, this app is a great resource on a wide variety of topics that concern Christians.  It has blogs from various pastors or Christian writers, book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews, articles on contemporary events, and articles on various topics of interest.  The authors are mostly well published and esteemed Christian authors, such as John Piper, Russell Moore, R.C. Sproul, and others.

Cons: There are better apps (see below) for media reviews.  There is no audio component to this app (unlike Desiring God).  But, otherwise, this is a great app.

8.  PURE

Price: Free

Pros: PURE is an app to facilitate your accountability with your accountability partner.  Having an accountability partner (someone who will regularly ask you the tough questions about your walk with Christ and “keep you honest”) is invaluable in your growth in holiness.  Even the great Billy Graham has an accountability partner, because he realizes the wisdom of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  PURE helps you do that by allowing you to input your accountability questions (“Have I read my Bible daily?”  “Have I shared the gospel this week?” etc.) and then, through an on screen notification, reminding you to answer your questions every day/week/month (depending on your desired frequency).  It then generates an email to send to any email address you want.  It’s a simple and effective way to facilitate accountability.

Cons:  The biggest downside is simply that your answers must be either “Yes” or “No,” so you must phrase your questions accordingly.  However, PURE overcomes this limitation partially by allowing you the option to edit the email report before its sent, so you can add in an explanation if necessary.  Also, there’s no in-app security feature, so your personal questions are not secure if someone has access to your phone.  Of course, you can always work around that by simply using your iPhone’s built in security–just set a lock screen password in your settings.  Lastly, downloading this app won’t get you an accountability partner, of course!  🙂  You’ll still have to find one on your own.  Overall, though, it’s a great app which I plan to keep on my phone until I can find a suitable accountability partner.  lol

9.  Audible

Price: Free

Pros:  “Wait a minute, Audible isn’t a ‘Christian’ app!”  No, it’s not, but it is an app that every Christian ought to have.  Why?  Because with audiobooks there’s no longer an excuse for not reading good Christian books!  Audible makes it possible for even the busiest soccer mom to get in some reading.  Listen while you’re driving, doing dishes, mowing the yard, etc.  Just make sure you pick good books!  Audilbe allows you to change the playback speed, place “bookmarks,” and even track your book reading stats and earn badges.

Cons:  Aside from the obvious–books aren’t free–there is currently no way to search for or purchase new books in the Audible app.  The app is simply a player–you’ll have to browse for and purchase your books online, then download them into the app.  It’s a little clumsy, and I’m not sure why Audible hasn’t figured out a way of doing all of that in the app, but so far, no luck.  Still, it’s a great audiobook player.

10. FamilyLife Audio

Price: Free

Pros:  Family Life is a ministry based out of Little Rock, AR which seeks to minister to–you guessed it!–families.  (Not to be confused with “Focus on the Family” or “American Family Radio (AFR).”)  With a plethora of biblically sound teaching and advice on marriage and parenting, FamilyLife Audio is a great resource for any spouse or parent.

Cons: None that I have discovered yet.

11. Plugged-In

Price: Free

Pros: This is a must have for the movie goer.  There are other good apps for movie reviews (such as Movie Guide Lite), but the special features on the Plugged-In app make it the winner in my book.  Plugged-in not only gives you a Christian perspective on the movies you might want to watch, but also reviews music, DVDs, and video games based on their spiritual, violent, sexual, language, and other content.  It also gives you an “average user rating.”  It provides detailed explanations of the ratings in every category, including specific information on what types of language, violent, or sexual content viewers may find offensive.  You can view the video review for many of the movies or the theatrical trailer as well.  Also, if you’d like to purchase tickets, Plugged-In provides a link to the websites of nearby theaters for purchasing tickets.

Cons: Unlike Movie Guide Lite, Plugged-In does not give content ratings for each individual category (i.e., violence, sexual content, etc.) and does not provide a rating for the quality of the film.  The only ratings given are simply for “Family Friendliness” and “Average User Rating.”  Also, many users–myself included–may find Plugged-In’s reviews to be overly critical of content.  Typically, very few movies which have a high “Family Friendliness” rating also have a high “Average User Rating.”  In other words, most of the movies which get a high rating from Plugged-In are, well, a little cheesy.  But, on the other hand, Plugged-In does an excellent job of providing a full description of the movies’ content, so the user ought to be able to make an informed decision with or without reliable ratings.  Lastly, the links to view showtimes and purchase tickets are unreliable, and work through Safari.  So, that particular feature won’t work if you’ve disabled Safari to use K9 Browser.  But, you can always use another app like Fandango to purchase tickets.  Personally, I recommend downloading both Movie Guide Lite and Plugged-In so you get the best of both.

Bonus: iSingWorship

Price: Free (But each song costs $1.99)

Pros: Since this is not an app that “every Christian should have,” I’ve made it a Bonus app.  Not everyone will have use for this little app, but if you do–it’s the best at what it does.  This app allows you to lead a small group worship or worship at a small church from your iPhone or iPad.  It’s also great if you like to pretend you are your favorite Christian artist rocking out in your living room…but I wouldn’t know anything about that…  All of the songs ($2 each) on iSingWorship are formatted in such a way that allows you to customize the arrangement of each song.  Want to repeat the chorus?  Want to skip the chorus between the first and second verse?  Want to mute the drums, guitar, or vocals?  Would you prefer a scenic mountain vista, or abstract art for the background to the lyrics?  Would you like to have a soft music interlude during the invitation so the preacher can speak?  Do you want your iPad or iPhone to display the guitar chords for you to play along?  The options are (almost) unlimited.  iSingWorship allows you to customize the arrangement of an individual song, and then arrange several songs together into a playlist–perfect for Sunday morning worship or family worship at home.

Cons: The app itself is free, but each song costs $2.  Compared to the price of buying the same song on iTunes (usually $1-$1.29), $2 is a steal considering what you get in iSingWorship.  But yes, it can add up after a while.  Also, currently there are only 45 songs available, so you’re limited on your worship selection.  However, when I got the app, there were only 22 songs, so they are making progress and adding new songs all the time.  The biggest drawback, however, is that in order to display the songs on an external monitor, you’ll need a CCLI license number.  Most churches will have one of those, but if you are just wanting it for in-home use, that could be an issue.

So you’re a Christian? Prove it.

One of the first questions I used to ask people when I was hoping to transition the conversation into spiritual matters (and possibly share the gospel) was “So, are you a Christian?” Now, if you’re in India or another country which doesn’t consider itself predominately Christian, that might be an alright question to ask. It’s still probably not the best question, but you’ll probably have better success there than here in America. I’ve come to learn that “Are you a Christian?” is not a very good question to ask if you intend to share the gospel with someone. Why?
Allow me to demonstrate, statistically, why “Are you a Christian” is such a bad question. In a 2011 Gallup Poll, 78% of those asked “What is your religious identity?” identified themselves as Christian. That’s right, 78%. So, what’s the big deal? This poll later reveals that while 78% of Americans consider themselves Christian, only 55% of Americans feel that their religion is “very important” to their identity. That means that 45% of Americans feel that religion is either only “fairly important” or “not important” to their identity. Notice the overlap. There is a significant population of “Christians” who might say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, but it’s really not a big deal to me.” REALLY?!?!
But it gets worse. In a 2010 Gallup Pole, only 43% of Americans say they “weekly” or “almost weekly” attend religious services. Remember, not all of these 43% are Christian, either. So, 78% of Americans are “Christian” but less than 43% of Americans weekly attend church. In the the largest Protestant denomination in America, the SBC, a 2010 Lifeway poll showed that only 6,195,449 of the 16,136,044 members attend their church’s primary worship service. That’s less than 40%. Even when you consider that many churches have people on their membership roll that are dead or have moved away, that’s still astounding. 78% of Americans are Christian, but to many “It’s not that important.”
Now, before we pass this statistic, let’s think for a moment. How does one make it onto the membership roll of a Southern Baptist Church? Southern Baptists have fairly exclusive membership requirements. Usually, it happens one of three ways: 1) During the invitation, a non-member walks the aisle, prays a prayer, and shortly thereafter is baptized into membership, 2) A member transfers their membership from another Southern Baptist Church (where they have done #1 already), or 3) A member of a non-SBC church transfers their membership, usually after an interview with the pastor who is satisfied that this potential member is, indeed, saved and properly baptized. So, to put that in perspective, over 60% of SBC members, who walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, signed a card, and got baptized, feel that their faith is not important enough to attend church regularly. Hmmm…
So, if I were to ask you, “Are you a Christian?” Assuming that you’d say “yes,” what if I asked you to prove it? Then what would you say? “Well, fifteen years ago I walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, signed a card, and got baptized.” That’s what I used to say. If pressed further, I might have comforted myself with the fact that I was in that 43% who regularly attend church. But did you know that the Bible nowhere says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we once walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, got dunked, and now go to church?” That may surprise you, given that this is often the exact salvation assurance given to Christians. “Well, I remember walking that aisle…so I know I’m going to heaven!”

So then, how do you know that you’re a Christian, that you’re heaven-bound? Take a look at Jesus’ example:

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.” (Matthew 11:2-5 NASB)

When John sent this question to Jesus, “Are you really the Messiah?” Jesus could have given a number of different answers, some of them even true and valid. He might have said, “John, I’ve been baptized, don’t you remember? You were there, after all!” or “John, don’t you remember the dove? Don’t you remember the voice from heaven saying I was God’s Son?” or “John, for goodness sake, look at my lineage! I was born in the right lineage–a direct descendent of David–in the right city, by a virgin…what more evidence do you need?” or “John, I’m a Jewish Rabbi! Would I really lie about something like that?”

But Jesus didn’t point to these things. In fact, it’s somewhat puzzling that Jesus doesn’t pick up the Old Testament and point to all the specific prophecies that only he fulfilled–being born in Bethlehem, being a Nazarene, being born of a virgin, being of the tribe of Judah, etc. Instead of pointing to the evidences of who the Messiah was, his evidence was in what the Messiah would accomplish. His evidence wasn’t internal–a list of qualifications that he lived up to, his evidence was external–a string of changed lives: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

You see, the Bible nowhere says that your prayer, baptism, or Church attendance are good evidences of your salvation–though all are good and necessary aspects of your Christianity. Being a true “Christian” is more than a prayer, signed card, baptism ceremony, church membership, or church attendance (though many of those claiming to be Christian don’t even have that much!). It’s about a changed life.

The book of I John is particularly helpful in this. Note what John says is good evidence of true Christianity:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth…” (1 John 1:6 NASB)
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked…The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now…Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-6, 9, 15 NASB)

Now, our temptation is to make this into a list. “Keep the commandments, Check! Love your brother, Check!” But this is not John’s intention. Notice verse 6: “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” A true Christian lives (or strives to live) like Jesus. How did Jesus live? In a way that wherever he went, he changed lives. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, strength to the lame, life to the dead, and good news to the hopeless. How do you know you’re a Christian? Because your life is lived in effort to open blind eyes to the truth of Jesus Christ. You live to open deaf ears to hear the Gospel. You live to give strength to those who feel like they can’t carry on any longer. You live to breathe life into the spiritually dead. And your life is so permeated by the Good News of Christ that it spills over onto anyone who gets too close. No one who lives this kind of life could ever say their faith is anything less than “very important.” The faith of a true Christian is everything. It is more important than life itself.

So, my friend, are you a Christian? If this post has left you unsure of your standing before God, pray that God would open your eyes to truth. A heart that has been changed by God will always result in a life lived for God. Good works can’t save you, but neither can the type of faith that doesn’t produce good works. Are you a Christian? If so, prove it.

*For more information about how to become a true Christian, click the “Gospel” link above.

10 Things Christians Might Consider in this Political Season

I get daily emails from Crosswalk, and they are usually pretty good. This one, however, was especially well written. Since I couldn’t say it better myself, I will just repost it:

10 Things Christians Might Consider in this Political Season
Daniel Darling

So now the primaries are officially over and we have a contest between President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States. Inevitably, American Christians will fall on one side or the other in what will likely be a long, divisive, tough campaign to the end. So, how should we as followers of Christ act during election season? This isn’t the last word and it isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few things we might consider:

1) Remember to be grateful for the election. As Americans, we live in a representative republic, so we have the rare opportunity to shape our government. Partisanship and politics can be wearying and noisy and half-crazy at times, but at least we have the freedom to express ourselves and to vote. This isn’t happening in most countries around the world. So just at the point when you’re tired of looking at political signs and a bit weary of the sloganeering, remember those dissidents who sit in jail cells around the world, merely for having an opposing thought. We have a stewardship to vote, granted by God, and we should use it responsibly.

2) Don’t put your trust in chariots. Be grateful for the opportunity to elect the president you feel will best lead our country. But don’t fall into the trap that everything in history and in your life depends on one rainy Tuesday in November. Don’t be a practical atheist, white-knuckling election night, sweating every ebb and flow of the season, and acting as if you need to build a fortified bunker if “the wrong guy wins.” Advocate and work for your guy, but put your trust in the Lord. God holds history in the palm of his hand and is not at all worried sick about which party controls the levers of power in America.

3) Ignore most of the political appeals you hear from both sides. To win in modern American politics, you have to paint the other guy as something a combination of an axe murder, a village idiot, and a helpless puppet. You have to dig for an scent of scandal, blow it up in an ominous, black-and white ad, and convince people that if this guy wins you might as well move to Canada. Both sides will do this. But the truth is somewhere in between. It is a good idea to periodically tune out the election news during election season, toss those pesky mailers, and hang up your phone when you hear the gravel-voiced narrator begin his robo-calls of doom.

4) Advocate issues, avoid the petty stuff. It’s amazing how easily campaigns delve into petty stuff like how many vacations the President takes, the color of the First Lady’s dress, and the habits of the candidates while in high school. Vote for a guy because he holds positions closest to yours. Advocate issues of importance and weight. Resist being drug into the gutter and arguing for or against issues that have little or no consequence.

5) Avoid the “ends-justifies-the-means” of politics. When President Bush was in office the left smeared him unfairly, comparing him to Hitler and tarring him as a war criminal. This was unfair. So now that President Obama is in office, many on the Right feel what was good for one side is good for the other. “All is fair in love and war,” we say. This is true … unless you happen to be a follower of Christ and you’re commanded, repeatedly, to measure your words, to be kind, to love, to speak truth. Remember that even in politics, you are to act and talk like a Christian.

6) Don’t let your political differences ruin friendships. It is easy to allow political differences to drive a wedge in important friendships. But we must prize our love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord and our friendships with those outside the faith, above the strong opinions we hold. That doesn’t mean we back down, it means we find a way to get along with people with whom we disagree. Friendships within and without the church are vital for gospel ministry. Don’t let the temporal of politics get in the way of the eternal.

7) Don’t fall for conspiracy theories. Don’t forward emails that are less than true or haven’t been verified by reputable sources. Its easy to want to believe the worst about our political enemies, but God calls us to believe the truth (1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 4:8). Don’t post on Facebook or Twitter questionable stories or theories. As Christians we should be about truth.

8) Don’t allow politics to convince you to hate those whom Jesus has called you to love. Politics likes to divide things up nicely into good guys and bad guys, to see the “other side” as the enemy. If you read enough political blogs and listen to talk radio and watch enough cable news, you will soon develop a mentality that sees only those who agree with you as good people and the rest as enemies. Furthermore, it clouds the real battle. We’re told in Scripture that people are not the enemy, Satan is. And our fight is never against mere mortals, but part of a larger, worldwide spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6:2). Plus, if you convince yourself to hate certain segments, how then can you lovingly reach them with the good news of the gospel?

9) Avoid the “out there” mentality. The weakness of political engagement is that it lends itself away from self-reflection. The partisan mind constantly thinks all the worst problems in the world are “out there.” The gospel, however, forces us into sober self-reflection. It reminds us that the real problem is inside, in our own depraved hearts. The Apostle Paul, who lived under the oppression of a wicked and tyrannical government, said “I am the chief of sinners.” He didn’t point to Nero. He said, “No, I’m the biggest problem.” It’s easy to blame Hollywood, Wall Street, and the media for all of our woes, but if we were honest and allowed the gospel to penetrate our hearts, we’d realize that we are our own worst enemies.

10) Look for a better city. Politics is driven by a God-given longing for utopia, a desire for perfection, by the dawning reality that life on this earth is not how it should be. Politicians come along and promise to fix things, to build that utopian dream we all desire. The problem is that politicians are flawed. They are not saviors. And this world is cursed by sin. So like Abraham, we must look for another city, whose “builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:1). One day Christ will return as reigning King and will set up the ultimate, perfect Kingdom.

Well said. Let’s not forget who we are this voting season, and let’s remember who the true enemy is.

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“They hated me first…”

The title of a USA Today article caught my attention today: “Gays, lesbians call for Salvation Army boycott.”   I hope that reading that title shocks you as much as it did me.  Who could possibly justify boycotting the Salvation Army?!?!  That’s worse that slamming the door on a girl scout!  So what’s all the fuss about?  Here’s a snippet of the relevant portions of SA’s stance on homosexuality:

sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage…Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.

Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

What is the response of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) community?  As stated on the Boycott the Salvation Army Facebook Page:

‎”There are many organizations that also do good things, but it doesn’t make them justified in holding prejudiced beliefs or fighting to keep gay people from being treated equally.  And there are plenty of charities that are willing to do good for people without supporting needless intolerance. The Salvation Army is not alone in providing help to those in need. But it is set apart by its choice to endorse bigotry.”

Note several important key phrases/concepts that this LGBT group uses of the SA: “prejudiced,” supporting unequal treatment of LGBT’s, intolerant, and bigoted.  But are these really accurate descriptions of the SA?  Perhaps a lesson from Dictionary.com will help.  A bigot is “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.  [To be a bigot] is to be so emotionally or subjectively attached to one’s own belief as to be hostile to all others.” Intolerant: “not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages,manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted.”

So, do we find in the SA an organization that is “utterly intolerant,” “hostile,” or disrespectful of LGBT’s?  Is the SA guilty of treating LGBT’s as inferior or sub-human?  Continue reading the SA statement on homosexuality:

Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.  In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.  The fellowship of Salvation Army worship is open to all sincere seekers of faith in Christ, and membership in The Salvation Army church body is open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.

That doesn’t sound like an organization I would label “bigoted” or “intolerant.”  In fact, one might well accuse those who–because of their difference in beliefs–would withhold donations to such a charitable organization!  Many churches, unfortunately, we might aptly describe as “bigoted” and “intolerant.”  Such bigoted churches refuse to allow LGBT’s (or those living in any type of sinful lifestyle) to attend worship service or, at least, make them feel unwelcome or inferior.  However, what we find in this case is not that the church is being intolerant toward the LGBT’s, but that the LGBT’s are intolerant of any organization that disagrees with their chosen lifestyle.  It is truly ironic when people point fingers and say “You’re a bigot because you disagree with my beliefs.”

The fact is, we are all intolerant bigots to some degree.  Only those who hold absolutely no moral convictions, whatsoever, can claim to be unbiased.  But even these are likely biased against those who do have moral convictions!  The underlying issue here is truth.  If, as pop-culture asserts, truth is relative and there is no absolute moral standard, then it is wrong to assert that the beliefs of others are wrong.  But one can see the obvious fault in this argumentation–“Because there is no absolute right or wrong, it is wrong to condemn others’ beliefs.”  Hmm…

This should simply remind us that there is an ultimate standard of right and wrong.  Even those who argue otherwise are condemned by the fallacy of their own argument.  As Christians, we should not shy away from this sense of right and wrong just because our culture asserts that truth is relative and labels us bigots.  Remember the words of Christ in John 15:18-25:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates Me hates My Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.  But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’ (NASB)

The fact is that there is an ultimate standard of truth: God.  As sinful, rebellious human beings, we despise higher authority.  We, in our sinful human natures, are God-haters.  We despise the God that tells us what is right and what is wrong, even though his laws are for our own good.  We should not be surprised, therefore, when unbelievers scorn this law and condemn it as narrow-minded.  After all, Jesus said that there was only one way to God, and it was through him (John 14:6).  After all, they hated Jesus first.

I do not agree with all of the SA’s beliefs (namely, that you can lose your salvation), but I do agree with most of their beliefs, and I think they’ve nailed this one.  We, as Christians, should openly condemn homosexuality for what it is–sin. But, we should never endorse the mistreatment of those living in sin (nor should we endorse “homophobic” behavior), but should openly demonstrate the love that God demonstrated to us, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  The SA does this.  They “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  They discriminate between the right and wrong ways to live but don’t discriminate against who they show Christ’s love to.  This is the attitude every Christian should have.  So, this Christmas, let’s boycott the boycott and show the world that Christ loves the poor and needy.