Sunday, July 15, 2012

Are There Amorites in Your Attic?

Are there Amorites in your Attic? 


Missing the Opportunities by Focusing on the Problems

In the 13th chapter of the book of Numbers Moses has led the people of God right up to the doorstep of the Promised Land.  In preparation for their invasion he sends in 12 spies to inspect the land and bring back a report:  Be of good courage, and bring back some of the fruit of the land (Num. 13:20).”  One man representing each of the 12 tribes joined together and traveled into and through the land for 40 days. 

Upon their return they had good news and bad news.  The good news was this:  “It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit (Num. 13:27)” as they displayed a large vine filled with grapes before their eyes.  But there was, as they perceived it, bad news also:  the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea…” (Num. 13:29).  Mountains and oceans were fantastic pieces of real estate.  Hills provided protected positions on which to build strong cities and easily-defended walls.   The sea offered almost unlimited fishing and commerce opportunities.  The Promised Land was not a barren desert.  But for at least 10 of the 12 spies they were almost blinded to the opportunities because they chose to focus on the problem, namely “the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea.” 

Application 1:  When we focus upon the problems we miss the opportunities.  Where are the Amorites and the Canaanites in your life today?  That is, what are the problems and challenges that are drawing your focus away from the promises of God?  Are you afraid to take on some new spiritual challenge because you are afraid you might fail?  When is the last time you dared to attempt anything great for the Lord?  Many Christians, like those 10 spies, find themselves living stagnant lives for Christ because of unbelief.  In John Bunyan’s classic on spiritual warfare entitled The Holy War, he describes the difficulty encountered when trying to purge the town of “Mansoul” (an allegory of the Christian man or woman) of doubts.  He says “Mr. Unbelief as a nimble Jack; him they could never lay hold of, though they attempted to do it often.”  So it is that many believers find themselves entirely weakened and helpless before their doubts.  The Amorites and the Canaanites have control.  Are there Amorites in your attic, ruling your thoughts and controlling your actions?

A life that is dominated by negative thoughts like “it can’t be done” or “it will never work” or “this will never change” is neither honoring to Christ nor helpful to us.  The weeds of depression grow rapidly in the soil of doubt.  The Christian missionary, William Carey, had a different outlook.  He preached a sermon on Isaiah 54:2-3 which prophesied the increase of God’s people: “your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”  Carey rallied a missionary spirit on the basis of these promises, saying to his hearers: “expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.

Carey saw the “mountains” and the “seas” and refused to focus on the “Amorites” and “Canaanites” that presently stood in the way.  Caleb, one of the spies who refused to surrender to unbelief, said to the nation “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”   What about you and me?  Will we continue to be satisfied with a low meager living of the Christian life and never dare to trust in the power of God to do great things?  The Apostle Paul put it this way “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Application 2:  We cannot enjoy God’s blessings without first dealing with our sin.  Just as the Amorites and Canaanites must be eliminated before Israel could enjoy the land, so our sins must be fully dealt with before you or I can begin to enjoy fellowship with God.  And we must deal with our sin in the only effective way possible:  repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  The Amorites and Canaanites would not leave on their own.  They knew Israel was coming.  Word had spread throughout the land about what God had formerly done for His people in delivering them from Egypt.  But they were prepared to fight rather than flee.  So it is with our sins.  They will not go away on their own.  They cannot be coddled or corrected to become virtues.  They are black stains on our record, debts too large to pay, offenses too great to overlook.   Our sin, unforgiven, will condemn us.  Just as the unbelieving spies said of the land of Canaan “the land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants (Num. 13:32).”  Sin, not repented of, will likewise devour and destroy us all. 

Reader, the cross of Jesus Christ is the place where God once and for all dealt with sin.  It is the cross you must go to.  It is the cross you must flee to.  You cannot inherit God’s blessings while the guilt of sin still hangs over us.  God is too holy to overlook sin, but He is so good He has promised to forgive it for all who come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Doorstep, a Democrat and a Debate for Life

I tend to avoid writing political posts like the plague.  I consider myself far too simple and cynical to say anything meaningful on issues of government and the economy.  Better to close my mouth and have you think me a fool than to open my mouth and prove it.  But alas, every once in a while even I feel compelled to say a few words in defense of my own convictions - however ludicrous they may sound.

True Story:

This afternoon our doorbell rang.  Thinking it to be the neighbor I asked Joshua to answer it.  He peeked through the window and said there were two men standing on our steps.  Hmmmm.  I suppose you know what I thought:  Jehovah's Witnesses.  I got up from the couch rehearsing in my mind the things I (a Christian) tend to say to them. 

It wasn't the Witnesses.  Rather, before me stood Democratic Senator Mike Moore and a supporter, handing out flyers and hoping to win votes for the upcoming election.  I stepped out onto the doorstep, greeting the two smiling men with handshakes and hellos.  I must admit I was impressed that one of my representatives was out actually going door to door and talking with the people he hoped to help.  In a day dominated by emails and text messages and..umm..blogs, it is becoming increasingly rare to find individuals actually willing to engage in that most ancient form of communication:  talking.

Unwilling to lose this rare opportunity, I asked him a few questions about some of the issues of the day.  We talked briefly about the economy and jobs. We talked about the size and roll of government.  But these issues were just appetizers.  The issue heaviest on my own heart is the issue of abortion and what has come to be called "pro-choice." 

WARNING- If you are easily offended by those who are persuaded pro-lifers - stop reading now. 

I asked my Democratic friend (yes, I'm quite fine calling him a friend) if he could present to me what he believed to be the STRONGEST argument in FAVOR of the pro-choice position.  "What" I asked him "is that argument that most convincingly persuades you that an abortion should be a legal option in our society?" 

He did not shrink back from the challenge.  With a polite smile and calm tone in his voice he gave me not 1, but 2 reasons why he believed that abortion should be a legal option.

Here they are:

1)  A baby before a certain age in the womb is not "viable" and therefore cannot be considered in possession of those basic human rights and privileges that we enjoy.  Viability determines humanity and rights.

2)  A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body.  To forbid abortion is to rob a woman of this basic right.

These are fairly common arguments.  I'm sure you have heard them before.  And I am grateful that Senator Moore allowed me a few moments to present a brief response to these opinions.   We didn't agree.  But he listened and was willing to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a very important issue to me. 

Here is the substance of my position which I shared with Senator Moore:

VIABILITY:  The argument that basic human rights of "life" and "protection" belong only to those who can demonstrate "viability" on their own is, in my opinion, entirely gratuitous.  First, based upon the word itself, "viability" simply means capable of growth or development.  Normal healthy children at every stage following conception are capable of growth and development.  But what proponents of the "viability" argument usually mean is the age at which the baby "could survive" if separated from the mother.  But here the argument fails too.  No baby, either before or after birth, is truly viable in this sense.  Can a 6 month old child survive completely on its own?  How about a 1 year old...or two year old?  Um...I know some 18 year olds for which this might be a struggle!   Actually, this argument is quite scary when you think about it.  What about those children (or adults) with medical conditions that prevent them from caring for themselves?  Are they viable?  Without constant help they would not survive, yet no one argues their lives should not be protected.  Ultimately, we don't really believe "viability" is the thing which determines a person's rights to life and protection under the law.  The viability argument falls apart on every level.  As Senator Moore stood and listened, his friend was brave enough to agree, saying "the viability argument is quite a slippery slope." 

A WOMAN'S BODY:  The second argument seems stronger.  Shouldn't a woman have the right to do with her own body what she wants?  Is it the job of government (or the church for that matter) to tell her what she may or may not do with her own body?  For many, this line of reasoning is the final word on the issue.  Does this line of thinking persuade you?  Allow me to ask a few questions:

1)  Is it her body?  Really?  The child within her has his/her own head, hands, feet, heart, lungs, etc.  In what sense is it her body?  Does a pregnant woman have two heads?  Four arms?  Four eyes?  That sounds like a monster.  But you would never say she has two heads.  She has a head, and the baby has a head.  They are 2 people.  It is not her body.

2) If it IS her body, then this line of reasoning argues AGAINST the previous "viability" argument.  If the woman has a right to an abortion because the baby is HER body, then that right should continue right through the "viability" stage of development.  If anything, the baby is MORE her body (since it is bigger) during the 3rd trimester than the first.  In other words, both of these arguments cannot be true at the same time. 

3)  Finally, we all agree that my "rights" to do with my body only extend as far as your nose.  I don't have the right to punch you with my fist, even though my fist is my body.  I don't have a right to walk into your home uninvited, even though it is "my body."  I may not parade myself up and down the street unclothed (thank goodness!) claiming I have the right to do with my body what I please.  The "my body" argument only extends so far.  I may not use it to harm another or encroach upon their rights.  Abortion is the ultimate attack upon the rights of another "body." 

BUT someone might argue...that baby is connected to the mother's blood supply!  Correct.  The baby needs the mother to survive.  But, as we have already discussed in the "Viability" argument, that will be true AFTER the birth of the child as well.  Anyone who has had a baby knows this full well.

SUMMARY:  The life growing within the womb of a woman is a human life at every stage of its development.  It must grow, but it is human growth.  It will change, but it is human change.  It will become more and more independent, but this is part of the process of maturing that every human experiences.  As human life, humans should protect it.  Every person, whatever size or color or gender or age is made in the image of God.  The baby has as much a right to life as the mother who carries it. 

FORGIVENESS:  I wish to end this brief post with a word about forgiveness.  I believe abortion is wrong and should be illegal in a just society that seeks to love God and love our neighbor.  But I also believe in forgiveness.  No sin....NO SIN....repented of is unable to be forgiven by God.  That is why Jesus Christ came and died on the cross.  He died for sinners like you and me.  The Apostle Paul wrote that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."  Jesus saved the chief of sinners.  And He offers salvation to you.

P.S.  And to Senator Moore, who gave me the privilege of this discussion, I wish to thank you.  I cannot, for conscience sake, vote for you.  But I do respect you.  It would be great if more of our elected officials actually took the time to talk to those they represent.  I do not suppose my arguments will change the view of my friend.  Were he to move into the pro-life position it would probably cost him his political career.  But I think we must, as a society, continue to bring our arguments to the table and discuss them fairly, openly and honestly.  People can change.  Opinions can change.  Whole societies can change.  And with respect to the current perspective on abortion in our society, I pray that one day we will change.