Ascension, Visitation, Pentecost: A Pro-Life Perspective

“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord’” (Luke 1:39–45; all Scripture quotations are from the ESV unless otherwise indicated).

This article is based on a homily I shared yesterday at my church’s monthly Liturgy for the Preborn outside Planned Parenthood in Hempstead, NY. On the first Saturday of every month, a group of us gather to pray for an end to abortion. The liturgy includes prayers from a funeral service, recognizing that the facility’s “medical services” include the murder of helpless preborn children.

An artist’s depiction of the visitation, ca. 1410. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This weekend’s liturgy came during a busy time on the church calendar. Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension, when Christians commemorate Christ’s return to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Although many Christians overlook this date, my church believes it is important enough for all Christians to acknowledge, so we celebrate it on the following Sunday. Friday was the Feast of the Visitation, when the newly-pregnant Mary visited her relative Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist). A little over one week later we will celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the first followers of Jesus and empowered them to fulfill His Great Commission. Thus, we have three feasts within ten days to honor significant events in the life of Christ and His Church.

It is easy to see the connections between Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, ascended to heaven. He brought something with Him that He did not have before coming to earth: a human body. A part of humanity now dwells in heaven. Ten days later, He sent the third person of the Trinity to dwell in and empower His disciples. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, divinity dwells within you! You are now a partaker of the divine nature! The very life of God dwells within you.

This thought brings us to the Feast of the Visitation. Whereas this feast celebrates an event while Jesus was in the womb (before He was born), Pentecost celebrates an event after He returned to heaven. Although they occurred at opposite ends of His earthly ministry, they are intertwined. In each event, we can see the life and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people.

The first person to have a member of the Trinity dwelling within her was Mary, when she was carrying Jesus in her womb. The first person the New Testament speaks of as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is Elizabeth. This infilling is closely intertwined with the fact that her preborn son, John the Baptist—somewhere between the third and sixth months of pregnancy—is the first person to testify that Jesus is the Son of God. Somehow, when he heard Mary’s voice, he recognized the Son of God within her and leaped with such excitement that Elizabeth knew something miraculous was happening.

The Bible declares the personhood of the fetus in the mother’s womb. John the Baptist began his ministry before he was even born. The Holy Spirit was at work in him. As miraculous as that sounds, he was not the first prophet whom God called before birth. The prophet Jeremiah said,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

This is why Christians speak out against abortion. If it were merely a medical procedure, we could be silent. Some of us may dislike tattoos, but that really affects only the person receiving the tattoo; no innocent lives are lost because of them. Some medical procedures, like cosmetic surgery, may feed on the sins of pride and vanity. Yet, we remain silent, since it does not affect other lives. However, true Christians cannot be silent about murder.

Many of our “political” issues are really spiritual issues which have been hijacked by politicians and the media. Abortion is just one of many social ills that have arisen as America has rejected God and ignored the deity of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, our mission remains the same as that of John the Baptist and the apostles. We must proclaim the kingdom of God as revealed in Jesus Christ; we must live by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who empowers us to proclaim His kingdom and continue His work; and we must reveal His presence and power until He comes again. Christ has filled us with His Holy Spirit. He lives in us as He did in Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist. May we always serve Him and share His love with those around us. May it always be our goal for our lives and words to testify to the presence of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judging Judges and Judgmentalism—The Brett Kavanaugh Case as an Illustration of Matthew 7:1


Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Public domain photo, from Wikimedia Commons

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed yesterday as the next associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, following contentious hearings involving accusations that he committed sexual assault while in high school. While Matthew 7:1 was not quoted during the divisive debates I heard, the public response to this controversy gave a clear picture of what Jesus meant.


Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the primary accuser (two more women have since accused Kavanaugh of improprieties, but they did not address the Senate) claimed that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party while in high school. These accusations were made public by Sen. Dianne Feinstein near the end of confirmation hearings. From the moment her accusations were publicized, most Americans split into two visible factions. Conservatives blasted Ford, accusing her of making up false charges and refusing to believe any of the evidence. Liberals immediately assumed Kavanaugh must be guilty of the charges. I suspect that there may have been a faction of Americans who wanted to hear all of the evidence before making a decision, but they seemed silent.


Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

However, the vast majority of politically concerned Americans seemed to have their minds made up before the Senate heard both parties. Each faction seemed to hear and see what they wanted to believe. When Ford described the assault, liberals saw a sincere, persuasive woman who gave a convincing account of a tragic experience; conservatives saw a bad acting job to exaggerate a pack of unfounded false accusations. When Kavanaugh responded to the charges, liberals saw an angry, stubborn man trying to cover up his guilt; conservatives saw a man of principle boldly defending his honor. Liberals saw a rapist and his wounded victim. Conservatives saw a liar and a persecuted man of integrity.


In all of this, the words of Jesus seem to be lost:

“Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, ESV).

5194572He goes on to reasons why we should not judge in vv. 2-5. He does not give exceptions. He does not say, “Well, I guess it’s OK to judge somebody if they hold public office, or thrust themselves into the public eye, or are a celebrity. It’s also good to judge somebody if it will advance your political agenda.”

Jesus says none of this, and I believe the Kavanaugh controversy was a good illustration of what Jesus really meant.

First, He is not saying we should not make clear statements about good and evil. The actions Dr. Ford accused Judge Kavanaugh of committing were evil, plain and simple. You do not force a woman into a sexual act against her wishes. You do not use physical force to make a woman engage in sexual activity. Those are sins.

The question was never, “Is rape or sexual assault illegal or immoral?” The question was, “Did Brett Kavanaugh actually do this?” This was where the public debate was marred. We should not make assumptions about a person’s innocence, guilt, or character to advance our own biases and desires. We the people—and Senators from both parties—should have waited to hear all of the evidence before pronouncing who was innocent and who was guilty. Several Senators declared their decision even before Ford’s claims were presented in a hearing. We would not tolerate such behavior out of a judge hearing a trial before a court; why do we defend similar behavior from our Congressional representatives?

Although Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court, this controversy is not behind us. These arguments will reappear for years to come, every time a ruling passes by a 5-4 vote with Kavanaugh siding with the majority.

Likewise, the moral and ethical failure common to so many people will remain, until each of us as an individual truly commits to following the hard sayings of Jesus. It is tempting to make the jump from “That activity is wrong” to “That person must be doing something wrong, because he looks like one of those bad people I do not like.”

In many 12-step programs, there is a slogan: “Principles before personalities.” When dealing with political and social issues, I will expand that to “Principles before personalities and parties.” We must maintain godly principles. We must be eager to take a stand for truth, righteousness, and justice. As Christians, we must be diligent to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We will not succeed if we are driven by prejudices, preconceived notions, and a desire to gain victory for our side that eclipses a desire to see Christ Jesus glorified.

This post copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I March for Life

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5-6, ESV).


The view from within the March for Life as we paraded up Constitution Avenue. Photo by Michael E. Lynch

I joined a contingent from my church and several hundred thousand others in the March for Life in Washington, DC, on Friday, January 27.

Why would I march in this event? Although my company provides adequate vacation time, it is still finite and some people may think I could use my days having more “fun.” Spending nearly 12 hours on a bus (round trip), praying outside the Supreme Court while a small handful of protestors taunt us, and then walking down a street in cold winter weather (the real feel temperature was around 32° that day, which was better than some other years) may be rewarding, but it is not always fun.

First, let us dispense with the standard liberal accusation about why we march: We do not want to oppress women. Probably about one-half (maybe even more) of the participants are female. Some admit that they had babies aborted when they were younger and they now regret that decision. The “women’s rights” argument for abortion would make sense only if another human begin is not involved. Saying abortion is only about women’s rights is like saying that the American Civil War was only about the properly rights of white southerners.

However, another life is involved. When a woman becomes pregnant, her body becomes a sanctuary for another life: A life God has entrusted to her, to nourish, protect, love, and nurture. I can think of no more noble calling than that. The Bible tells us that God speaks of the preborn as if they are alive, calling some to fulfill His purposes while still in the womb [Jeremiah 1:5-6; see also the stories of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Judah (the father of the nation of Israel)].

My son was born two months premature in 1990. After a few rough days when his fate seemed questionable, his condition started to improve. While his mother and I rejoiced about his healing, a very different scene unfolded at the incubator across the aisle from my son. A pair of twins had also been born prematurely, and one’s condition was deteriorating. The parents were saying their good-byes to the smaller boy as he was dying. Tears streamed down the father’s face (he was a tall, rugged-looking guy who I cannot imagine being normally prone to tears). We could not bear to watch. I know we had one thing in common with that couple: We loved our newborn babies, had awaited their births eagerly, and I am sure we would willingly give anything to have healthy children. I am sure none of us could put a price tag on our babies’ lives.

While we prayed for our son and watched that family mourn theirs, I could not help but realize how precious our children were to us. Yet, in much of the country, debate raged (and continues to rage) over whether it would be legal to kill these babies in the womb at that stage of development. Society says that these babies’ value is determined by their mothers. If Mommy wants to keep the baby, he or she is a precious gift from God; if Mommy does not want to keep the baby, he or she is an inconvenience, “growth,” or parasite.

The world becomes dangerous when we determine a person’s value based purely on personal opinions. In the early days of our nation, people of African descent were considered somewhat less-than-human and could be bought or sold with no regard to their best interests. In Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, “ethnically inferior” persons and people with handicaps were considered a cancer upon society, so any means deemed necessary was used to cleanse the nation. The list goes on.

So, I stand and march for life in defense of the most vulnerable in our society. I march to preserve the dignity and value of all human life, from conception until natural death. Last of all, I march in memory of those children whose parents, against their wishes and for reasons known only by God, did not have the pleasure of watching their children grow up in this world.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Presidential Election: America’s Mirror

Meme from the Rowdy Conservatives Facebook page

I have said little online about the 2016 Presidential campaign so far. Although I consider myself fairly politically active (I vote in every major election and at one time served in several state and national positions in a minor political party), I have refused to openly endorse either candidate.

This week, the media flared up with reports that Donald Trump made some vulgar boastful comments about things he claimed he could do to women. As usual, controversy erupted. Part of Trump’s appeal has been his tendency to speak his mind, but some people seemed surprised about what was in his mind.

I will not try to defend Trump. Others have, and you can find their rationales all over the Internet. My point in this post is to explain what I believe should have been the Christian response throughout this campaign.

There is a simple reason why I have refused to endorse a candidate. While many of my friends share openly their support of a particular political candidate on Facebook and other online forums, I prefer to focus on principles, not personalities. I am a Christian, pro-life, pro-traditional-family, constitutional conservative. I prefer to focus on such issues and principles. Those may remain stable, and I do not frequently waver on them.

However, people have this terrible tendency of disappointing us. As we saw with Trump’s comments, people will say and do things that I do not agree with, even when I do agree with them on some of their political positions. I prefer to defend my ideology than to try to defend a person. I will always try to ground anything I say about politics on the Constitution and biblical truth. Those are not prone to change, but people are prone to fail.

This particular campaign has been especially troubling. There has never been a perfect Presidential candidate, as far as I can tell. Even those Presidents that I have liked had some flaws that I refuse to excuse. However, in 2016, it seems like we have scraped the bottom of the barrel. I believe we should consider a person’s character when voting; however, the two characters the major parties selected are both devoid of character. (It may have been a scandal about Donald Trump that inspired this post, but I could probably write a book about Hillary Clinton’s ethical shortcomings. Let’s just say that, after years of defending her husband’s harassment of women, she has no business criticizing Trump’s words.)

But, as I have said for years, America gets the candidates and elected officials it deserves. We will elect politicians who reflect our values. Our nation’s value system cherishes celebrities, wealth, greed, pride, and sexual immorality and vulgarity. Well, we can see all of our nation’s idols on display in the current campaign. The fact that many of us are criticizing the candidates for committing the same sins we cherish in our hearts merely multiplies the hypocrisy. Narcissism? Our culture created “the selfie” and thinks it’s an art form. Bigoted hate-filled speech? Both candidates have said some hostile offensive things about each other and their supporters, and the supporters have likewise been guilty. Vulgar comments and sexual misconduct? I call your attention to the above meme; and our TV, movies, and music; and virtually our entire society.

When people ask if God is judging America, I say we have made it too easy for Him. He does not need to send a giant meteor (even if that is the closest I have come to endorsing a candidate this time around). He can just sit back, let us elect our candidates, and then watch us suffer the consequences. I can almost picture God watching us, much as a parent watches a child having a temper tantrum, arms folded, waiting for us to hit our breaking point so He can say, “Have you had enough already?”

Perhaps the fact that our Presidential election has been narrowed down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump serves as a mirror in which America should see its flaws. This is something that the church seriously needs to consider. Many of us continue to hope that God will somehow bring revival to America. However, many Christians expect Him to do it only through a Republican President who can appoint the right Supreme Court justices.

I propose that it is time for American Christians to repent of our political idolatry and begin to talk, think, and act as if God is bigger than our entire political establishment. I am not saying who we should vote for in November to be our next President. However, I will continue to trust that God will remain on the throne, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pro-Life Movement after Antonin Scalia’s Death

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1936-2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week is a major blow to conservatism in the United States government. Scalia was considered one of the court’s two most conservative justices (along with Clarence Thomas). Scalia and Thomas were unapologetically conservative on social and moral issues like abortion and marriage. With Scalia’s death, I believe Thomas is the only truly committed pro-life justice on the court.

His demise will have a significant impact on several high-profile cases this year. It is significant enough that some commentators consider it almost a deadly blow for political conservatism. I have even read a few comments online and in social media suggesting that the Constitution died with him.

I believe our problems as a nation are deeper than that. If the fate of our nation rested so heavily on the shoulders of one unelected official, we truly are in trouble.

The real problem is the idolatry of politics that many Americans, and particularly many Christians, have adopted. Many worship at the altar of the state and pray to “deities” named Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. (I am not suggesting that any or all of these men consider themselves divine; just that many of their supporters place a level of faith in them that should be reserved for God. Also, since I write from a rather conservative perspective, I doubt many worshippers of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders are reading this.) While I pray that voters will elect men and women with integrity, who will honor our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage and biblical values, I do not believe this will heal our land.

Now as always, if not more than ever, Christians need to get our priorities in order: “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NASB).

While we should seek political leaders who will establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, we cannot expect them to do the work that only God can do. We cannot give them the loyalty and trust that only God deserves.

Our nation is not drifting from God because Antonin Scalia died, and his death by itself does not create a moral and ideological crisis for our nation. Our nation suffers because God’s people do not recognize Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I will end this post with Psalm 2 (NASB), which reminds us that God is still the King, even if earthly rulers refuse to acknowledge Him:

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

“I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

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So, How Do We Prevent Mass Murders?

Map of violent crime per 100,000 people in the...

Map of violent crime per 100,000 people in the USA by state in 2004. “Violent crime” includes Homicide, rape, robbery and serious assault. >100-200 >200-300 >300-400 >400-500 >500-600 >600-700 >700-800 >800 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet another horrendous mass murder occurred yesterday. Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old male (I hate to refer to him as a “man,” although state and federal laws have to draw the line somewhere) killed his mother, then went to the elementary school where she worked and opened fire on students and staff. By the time the massacre ended, twenty small children (first grade and younger, I believe) were dead, along with six adults at the school, the young man’s mother, and finally himself (he committed suicide, which is how most mass murders end).

Already, politicians are calling for stricter gun control laws. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wanna-be-dictator of New York City, has already jumped into the fray demanding stricter gun laws. Ordinary citizens have flooded the White House with petitions for stronger gun control laws. I have to admit, it is hard to avoid getting passionate when you see news like this. After all, the deaths of 20 children in the first-grade age range hits all of us personally. Mothers and fathers think of their own children at times like this. As a grandfather, I could not help but think that, in three years, my son and his wife will be entrusting my oldest grandson to a school. Teachers and school employees see their own students in the eyes of these victims. We have all loved a child in this age gap.

Yet I have to ask, is gun control the answer? I know some of my less-religious friends may find this to be a contradiction in terms, but this man of faith demands evidence. Facts matter to me: Ideas and concepts must be backed up by data.

I compared data from two websites this morning. The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence posts a state-by-state gun-control scorecard at http://www.bradycampaign.org/stategunlaws/ (you can download the PDF summary by going to the headline, “Brady State Scorecard Reviews Gun Laws Across the U.S.” and going to the link to “Click here to download state rankings”). I also found a comparison of violent-crime rates by state at the US Census Bureau’s website. Although these sites provide data from different years, this is a starting point for discussion. The most violent states will usually stay pretty violent, and the states with the most lenient gun-control laws will usually not be too quick to clamp down on gun rights.

I kept my study pretty simple. I compared the ten states with the strictest gun laws with the ten whose laws were most lenient, taking a look at the violent crime numbers. Here are a few of my observations:

  1. Connecticut, where the most recent mass shooting occurred, was ranked fifth in terms of gun-control legislation.
  2. The ten states with the strictest gun-control laws had an average of 422.3 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The ten states with the most lenient laws had an average of 378.4.
  3. The three states with highest crime rates (South Carolina, Tennessee, and Nevada) fell near the middle of the pack in terms of gun-control legislation. South Carolina and Tennessee were tied for 20th (ignore the fact that the Brady Campaign’s PDF says they were tied for 22nd; one should calculate these rankings from the top down, not the bottom up), while Nevada was tied for 28th.
  4. Although not ranked with the states, the District of Columbia had almost twice as much violent crime as any state. I believe it also has very strict gun-control laws. It also has a lot of politicians. This leads me to believe that we should pass a law banning politicians.
  5. Two of the three states with the lowest crime rates (Vermont and Maine) also fell near the middle of the pack. North Dakota (49th in violent crime) had some of the most lenient gun control laws (in a six-way tie for 42nd).
  6. California had the strictest gun laws and the 14th-highest crime rate. Utah had the most lenient laws and was 45th in crime rate.

To draw a thorough conclusion, a more thorough study of the numbers would be needed; this is only a beginning. But, it leads me to believe that both the gun-control advocates (who say that stricter gun laws will solve our crime problems) and the gun-rights supporters (who think an armed population will immediately reduce crime) are not completely accurate. The data slightly favors gun-rights supporters, but even that does not solve the problem.

I would be interested in seeing studies comparing other cultural and demographic trends with violent crime. What about religious involvement? Divorce rates (Adam Lanza was from a broken home, and countless statistics show that children of divorce face greater social challenges than those who grow up in two-family households) are worth looking at. So are economic factors (if I had more time, I would be interested in finding violent crime rates since the recession began). I believe that some or all of these factors, as well as a host of others I did not mention, are more closely intertwined with violent crime than gun-control legislation is.

I am reminded once again of the Scripture that says, “[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV). As I have written before, our nation’s greatest problems lack a political solution, since they are, at their root, spiritual maladies. The gun itself is a tool: It can be used to protect our families, to hunt for dinner, for recreation, or to kill innocent children. The degree of wickedness in a person’s soul determines whether he or she will use that tool for evil. As long as that wickedness prevails, the sinner will find a way to achieve his or her goals. Only a transformation of the heart, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, will eradicate sin. Therein lies the solution, and our politicians are unable to offer that.

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Freedom in Christ

(Note: I published this article last year, around July 4, on michaelelynch.wordpress.com. I believe it is always worthwhile to reflect on the true meaning of freedom on this day of the year. May God pour out His grace and mercy upon our nation.)

July begins with one of America’s favorite holidays. On July 4, most Americans will enjoy a day off from work, feasting at barbecues, watching fireworks displays, or hanging out at the beach (to name just a few fun activities). We do these things in the name of celebrating our freedom as a nation. Freedom is a foundation of our national heritage: it is central to our identity as a country, and few principles are mentioned more often in our political and social discourse. Freedom is important to us not only as Americans, but more so as Christians. God speaks about freedom throughout His Word, but it is not the sort of freedom the world promotes. To understand the biblical concept of freedom or liberty, we can study the letters of St. Paul; Galatians 5 is a great place to begin. In Galatians 5:1, 13, he mentions freedom four times:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

It is important to consider the meaning of the word “freedom.” Most people think of it as the right to do whatever you want. Among the definitions in Webster’s Dictionary are the following:

  • “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.”
  • “the power to determine action without restraint.”

Both of these definitions are incomplete and therefore inaccurate. They assume that we can be completely free of external control, interference, or restraint. However, this is not possible for several reasons. For one, there are many times when freedom for one person’s course of action places restrictions on another person. For example, before the Civil War millions of Americans were free to buy, sell, and own slaves. Needless to say, their liberty in this regard placed others in bondage. When the slaves were set free, after the war, they obtained a level of freedom they had not known previously, but the people who owned them lost what they considered to be a valid legal right. In each case, one group’s liberty placed a restriction on another group. The same remains true today: A woman’s right to end her pregnancy interferes with the preborn child’s right to live. As New York State recently gave homosexuals the right to marry, it has essentially robbed Christians who serve in public office (like justices of the peace) of their right to live by their moral convictions.

As a result, total freedom (as defined by secular society) is a myth. It is ridiculous to place freedom and liberty on the throne as the ultimate reality, the greatest value in the universe. We need something greater to help us decide which rights to preserve. The Bible gives us the answer. Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–40). This standard, of love to God and neighbor (in that order, and defined by His Word) is an essential first guideline for determining which “rights” should be preserved.

Secondly, even when we are free to choose a course of action, we are not free to decide its consequences. For example, there is no law saying how many donuts I may eat. Legally, I can choose to eat a dozen donuts for each meal every day. However, that diet will enslave me with obesity and a host of other health concerns. That is perhaps a rather extreme and silly example, yet millions of people claim their freedom to drink as much alcohol as they wish, only to be bound by the disease of alcoholism. People may think they are exercising their freedom, only to find themselves bound by chains of addiction.

Unfortunately, because of such false notions about freedom, many Christians do not realize their liberty in Christ. Countless followers of Jesus are bound by rules when they should instead by liberated by the Spirit of God. Jesus did not come into the world merely to reinforce the rules, but to offer direct access to His Heavenly Father to all who believe in Him. We are invited to enter into an intimate relationship with God. This relationship brings us the freedom to be everything that God created us to be. Although that freedom has guidelines and limits, it also brings great privileges. We should learn to look at God’s commandments not with resentment (“God said I cannot commit adultery; He just wants to spoil my fun!”), but with gratitude (“Thank you, God! You have shown me how to find true fulfillment in my relationships, and You have protected me from disease and other harmful effects!”).

In Galatians 5, we can discern four principles about such freedom. First, true freedom comes as we yield to the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:24 tells us that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If you belong to Jesus Christ, He is free to lead you. He wants to lead you into liberty. He wants to set you free from sinful habits that cause slavery. Because I am free in Christ, I can choose to avoid sins that would enslave me. He also offers the liberty to serve others, which provides a sense of purpose in life. I choose to obey Christ and His Word in order to be free to serve Him.

Second, freedom produces liberty in personal relationships. When we yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit and obey Christ, we commit ourselves to a life of love. Galatians 5:14 reminds us that every commandment in Scripture is summed up by “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This love does not come naturally for people. It is not natural for a person to put the needs of others on an equal level with their own, except perhaps for very close friends or immediate family members. The Holy Spirit must orchestrate that love in our hearts. When we love one another in this way, it delivers freedom. People are sucked into bondage when they backbite and devour one another (Galatians 5:15). Numerous marriages have been destroyed, friendships shattered, and churches torn apart, because people place their own desires over the needs of those around them. God wants us to build each other up, not destroy one another.

Third, this freedom liberates us from the bondage of sin. There is no crueller taskmaster than sin. In Galatians 5:19–21, Paul lists some of the “deeds of the flesh.” While Scripture refers to them as manifestations of sin, many of them are almost deified in our culture. American society promotes sexual freedom, but millions of lives have been destroyed because people ignore the biblical warnings against sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality. Millions of marriages have ended because of adultery. Countless young people have been emotionally scarred because they jumped into physical relationships they were not emotionally ready for. In addition, millions have enslaved themselves through hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and a host of other sins. Sin produces personal shame. It creates consequences which we must live with. Sometimes, it damages our physical health. Too often, we think some sins are “victimless,” but ironically, the person committing the sin is the greatest victim!

Fourth, freedom in the Spirit liberates us as we develop a Christlike nature. Christianity is not a matter of living by the rules. Some churches teach us that a good Christian does not smoke, drink, dance, or go to the movies; that he prays at least one hour every day, goes to church three times per week, and listens only to Christian music. Such rules are not totally bad: Most of these guidelines will do us more good than harm. However, they do not make somebody a “good Christian.” In fact, some of the grouchiest religious fanatics follow all of these rules, yet they do not show any of the love of God. One becomes a good Christian not by following rules, but by having Christ living within them. As we allow the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit within us (see Galatians 5:22–23), we will become more like Christ. We will become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We will obtain victory over sin. We will do this without rules that create bondage to guilt and shame, mingled with feelings of inadequacy because we always realize that there is more we could do.

Christlike character traits are called the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22. Fruit grows; it does not just appear overnight. As we yield to Christ and the Holy Spirit, the fruit will grow. Even though you may be weak in some areas now, you should encourage yourself as you realize that the Holy Spirit is producing growth. No matter how weak you are now, you will grow stronger as you yield to the Holy Spirit.

Let us be encouraged by these thoughts. We are free from the legalism of dead religion. We are free from the guilt and anxiety that religious rules create. As we yield to Christ, we are free from sin and enjoy newness of life as we look forward to eternity in heaven.

Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Politics | Tags: , | 2 Comments

National Transformation

English: I took photo with Canon camera.

Image via Wikipedia

“[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV).

Over the next eight-and-a-half months, presidential candidates will bombard us with propaganda, trying to persuade voters that a particular candidate is the solution to America’s problems. Barack Obama, who promised “hope” and “change” during the 2008 campaign, will try to convince us that his policies are working. (The Bible and my bank balance both beg to differ.) Over the next few months, a field of Republican challengers will insist that they offer the hope and change we need now to undo recent damage to our nation.

While I hope we get the best man for the job, I must be realistic: Our nation’s problems are so severe that a four-year presidential term will not solve them, and the American people are too impatient to wait for the repairs. Our federal debt is over $15 trillion, which means the average American’s share of that debt is $50,000. That debt will not be paid off in the foreseeable future. Add in economic hardship for millions of families and a steady moral decay, and it is obvious that even the best President will not solve our problems.

Many Christians have looked at the passage at the top of this post as the solution to our problems. It is, but we have to understand the passage and act on it. Posting it on a car’s bumper sticker, so your unfriendly neighborhood tailgater gets the message, is not the solution. We must use it as a pattern for revival. That will begin with personal renewal, then renewal within the church, before we can hope for revival in our nation.

Before revival can come, and before we can see our culture take a turn towards God’s ways, God’s people have to repent. As many studies by the Barna Group have revealed over the years, there is not a substantial difference between the lifestyles of Christians and unbelievers. Divorce, pornography, and a host of other sins are almost as prevalent in the church as in the rest of American culture. We have to confess our sins and turn from our wicked ways.

The prophet Daniel gave a good pattern for revival prayer in Daniel 9:3-10. Daniel prayed for himself and his people. In his days, his people were both the people of God and his nation. Today, this would involve praying for two different groups: the Body of Christ (our local congregations, denomination, and the church universal), and for our nation. First Peter 4:17 reminds us that judgment begins with the household of God.

I believe that God is calling for intercessors who will pray for renewal in a sort of four-stage process:
  1. Confession and repentance from our sins. The Barna Group has noticed four common barriers to spiritual transformation: lack of commitment, unwillingness to fully repent, confusing activity for growth, and failure to engage in genuine, accountable community. Before we can point our fingers at the folks in Washington, DC or our state capitals and blame them for our nation’s woes, we need to search our hearts and ask God to show us how we contribute to the problem.
  2. Confession on behalf of the church, for the sins that are prevalent there. We should pray for our own local congregations, then our own denomination and/or church tradition, and for the Body of Christ at large.
  3. Confession on behalf of our society, for its sins.
  4. Prayer for revival and renewal within the church, which will result in a transformation of society.

Prayer for our nation has to begin with repentance within the Body of Christ. God will not eradicate abortion, restore the dignity of biblical marriage and family, or otherwise heal our land, just because a good conservative Republican gets elected President in 2012. While we would love such an easy solution, it is not God’s approach. He works through His church, when His children seek to be salt and light to a darkened world.

Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Prayer, Fasting, and Spiritual Warfare

And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting'” (Matthew 17:20-21, NASB).

“Our Lord here taught us that a life of faith requires both prayer and fasting. That is, prayer grasps the power of heaven, and fasting loosens the hold on earthly pleasure” [Andrew Murray, January 21 reading in Andrew Murray Devotional (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2006), p. 52].

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down one of its most historic and controversial ruling 39 years ago today in Roe v. Wade. This ruling forced legalized abortion on all 50 states in our country, without regard for the will of voters, a plain reading of the Constitution (see the Tenth Amendment, for example), or the revealed will of God.

While many people think we should just accept “a woman’s right to choose” as a fundamental human right according to the laws of the land, a true Christian cannot do that. Fifty million Americans have been killed in the womb since 1973; when one recognizes that life begins at conception, it becomes obvious that this is a Holocaust that far exceeds anything Adolf Hitler dreamed of. As we have done every year since 1973, hundreds of thousands of people will be in Washington, DC tomorrow for the March for Life, speaking out for those who are killed before they have a voice. I, along with a large contingent from my church, will be there.

Pro-Life, March For Life 2008 US Capitol, US S...

March for Life 2006. Image via Wikipedia

Many Christians from diverse denominations will agree that this is the great social cause of our generation. However, many of them will seek the “easy” way of battling abortion. They will vote for a candidate who claims to be “pro-life” (without actually checking his track record to see if his actions line up with his campaign promises), in hopes that he will become the savior of the preborn. Sadly, this has been a failed effort for nearly 40 years, as supposedly “pro-life” politicians have sold out after their elections, compromised their values, and left us hoping for better luck at the next election cycle.

Scripture tells us that many of our conflicts are actually manifestations of a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are wrestling not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness. As a result, we do not rely on natural weapons of warfare, but spiritual ones, while defended by the whole armor of God (2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:13).

This is especially true when we see our society turning further from its Judeo-Christian heritage to a value system that disregards God, religious faith, and traditional morality. Paul wrote his admonitions in 2 Corinthians and Ephesians to Christians living in a hostile culture. While we have not been fed to lions lately, hostility against Christianity has been skyrocketing in recent years in our society.

The simple fact about abortion is this: We cannot trust the government to overturn Roe v. Wade. While some people may think we are only one or two Supreme Court justices away from overturning that ruling, I believe we need three more pro-life justices. Elected officials have failed us before, and they will continue to do so. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, that would simply move the abortion battle back to the states.

Until people’s hearts and minds are changed about abortion, it will remain the law of the land. This is where spiritual warfare comes in. We need to begin with the simple weapons of spiritual warfare: prayer, Scripture, proclamation of biblical truth, etc. (For any pro-choice advocates who are reading this, abortion clinic bombings and other forms of violence are NOT forms of spiritual warfare. One cannot be pro-life if he actively seeks to kill or maim his ideological opponents.)

So, I encourage my friends and fellow laborers in the pro-life movement to saturate their efforts with prayer. I believe God is calling us back to a spiritual emphasis in the battle to defend life, and away from a politically-oriented approach. We have spent nearly 40 years wandering in a wilderness of choice and the culture of death. That time period is significant throughout Scripture, and it may apply to America as well. If we are willing to seek spiritual revival in our nation, we can see the hearts of Americans turned back toward a culture of life. Then, political change will follow spiritual and social transformation.

This is, after all, a spiritual battle. Legalized abortion reigns in this land because we have cast aside God’s values for self-centered goals. We cherish comfort, material goods, and freedom of choice. We value individualism (“be your own man”; “follow your heart”) and have rejected the call to follow Jesus. Sadly, this is true within the Church as well as among those who acknowledge that they do not believe in Christ.

So, we need to pray that people’s hearts will be turned to Christ. We need to ask God to change people’s hearts and minds about human life and dignity. We need to take a stand spiritually against the lying demons who have deceived millions into believing that life begins at birth and not at conception.

As we pray, we should be prepared to fast for spiritual renewal. As Andrew Murray noted, “fasting loosens the hold on earthly pleasure.” Perhaps we have been too committed to the gods of our society that we are unable to have any impact on the resulting abortion holocaust. We are not fully devoted to Christ and His call to advance His Kingdom, because we are too tied to the things of this life.

As we draw to God in prayer and fasting, He will give us strength to do spiritual warfare. He will give us a spirit of perseverance, so that we will not lose heart and give up. He will give us direction, so that we will know how to stand steadfast. Finally, He will turn people’s hearts and minds to Him, that they may acknowledge His will, repent of their self-centered values, and follow His Son.

Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stop Online Censorship

You may notice the “STOP CENSORSHIP” ribbon in the upper-right corner of this blog’s page. I urge all readers to click on that ribbon and take a stand for freedom of expression in America.

Normally, I would reserve more politically-oriented commentary for my other blog, but freedom of expression is important to me. (Actually, take a look at my other blog; I took more drastic action there!) I believe it is important for Christians to speak our minds, and I am grateful to live in a country where we have freedom of speech.

I have half-jokingly referred to the First Amendment as every American’s “right to be wrong” or “right to sound stupid.” In all honesty, though, it is really every American’s right to openly and publicly express ideas which may be radical, controversial, or unpopular. It allows us to oppose the status quo, to speak out when our government and society has gone awry. Whether it be evangelism or social activism, we need freedom of expression to make a better future for those who will come after us.

I urge anyone who reads this to do the following:

  • Go to http://wordpress.org/news/2012/01/help-stop-sopa-pipa/ to learn more about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, both of which are racing through Congress.
  • Click on the “STOP CENSORSHIP” ribbon on this page and sign the online petition. If you care about your right to speak your mind in this country, let your congressional representatives know.

That ribbon will be on this blog until January 24 and “Mike’s Blog” will be blacked out until then as well. I pray that Congress does not pass drastic legislation which can be abused to shut down websites and rob ordinary people of their voice in society.

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