January 2014

Is my church comfortable?

January 28 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Wait a minute! Is that the question we should be asking? Where in scripture are believers promised to be a fellowship of comfort and ease? When did the Christian movement experience the shift away from a life of sacrifice? When did we begin to spend so much time arguing over the temperature of the auditorium or the amount of padding in the seats?
 
Recently Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), was speaking during a missions conference at Corinth Baptist Church in Elizabeth City. He said, “We have created in our nation something that is foreign to God. ... It is a suffering-less brand of Christian faith.
 
“We have done everything we could to keep from suffering as believers in this nation, so much so that we are liable to hand to the next generation the most suffering Christians have ever had in this nation’s history.”
Shanti01-28-14.jpg

IMB photo
Shanti,* center, prays in a crowded room. She asked God for years that this room would be filled with other believers praying and worshipping alongside her. It took years of persevering persecution and isolation, but God is answering her prayers. *Name changed.

 
Looking around the world you will find that Christians in other nations are serious about Jesus’ words: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” – Luke 9:23 (NKJ).
 
Elliff believes when it comes to giving to missions, we do not sacrifice and we do not experience suffering in the least. We have lost the concept of what it means to sacrifice.
 
“In sacrifice something always changes,” he said. “If we can give what we give and still drive what we were driving, and still wear what we were wearing, and live where we were living, and eat what we were eating, and go where we want to go, where’s the sacrifice?”
 
We cannot imagine what people in other nations go through to serve Jesus. It happens in North Korea, India, Egypt, Nigeria, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia, and the long list goes on. In fact, last year North Korea was ranked as the number one persecutor of Christians in the world for the 12th year in a row.
 
The Gospel Coalition website (thegospelcoalition.org) reported, “Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today.”
 
Only a few weeks ago, many news organizations reported that the number of Christians murdered for their faith almost doubled in 2013 over the previous year. The source for the information is an annual survey by Open Doors (opendoorsusa.org), a ministry that monitors the persecution of believers worldwide.
 
Hardline Islamist regimes and Islamic terrorists – many funded by the United States and other Western governments – were behind most of the suffering and slaughter. Ruthless dictators and demanding governments produced other cases of death and suffering.
 
Some of those practices may soon be aimed at believers in our own country – or are we already seeing it? Are you ready? Is your church focused on creating a comfortable, suffering-less brand of faith?
 
From the beginning of Christian history, persecution and martyrdom have been common. Starting with Jesus and His followers – Stephen, the apostle Paul and countless others – have suffered and died for the faith.

Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index, recently shared on his Facebook page a quote from Leonard Ravenhill, “The church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship, recruiting the promising.” Are we too much like a cruise ship?
 
We have forgotten the price paid by suffering believers like John Huss, Martin Luther, John Wycliff and many others. They stood for truth and paid a high price. Truth is not always popular.
 
Martyrdom will silence a man or woman, but it will not silence truth. God’s truth stands forever. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” – Isaiah 40:8 (NKJ).
 
Has American Christianity become a “form of godliness” with an emphasis on the life of comfort and pleasure? Are we molded more by social pressures than by the eternal truth of scripture?
 
I confess that it is hard to sacrifice my dreams and my goals for God’s purposes. But if I am to be serious about living the Christian life, I cannot permit my wishes to rise above His will. It is impossible to live for His glory and avoid suffering at the same time.
 
Our goal must be to be conformed to His image. That is the target in our journey through this temporary world.
 
Take a moment to examine the truth of three scripture texts. The first one says we are to be conformed to the image of Christ: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” – Romans 8:29 (NKJ).
 
What does it mean to be conformed? Dictionaries tell us that it means, “To act in harmony with or in accordance with standards, attitudes or prevailing practices; to comply; to become similar in form or character.”
 
The second text teaches that we are not to be conformed to the world or pressed into the world’s mold, as one translator expressed it: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” – Romans 12:2 (NKJ).
 
To resist the conforming pressures of the world’s system and to submit to the mind of Christ becomes a demonstration of God’s perfect will in us.
 
The third scripture verse concludes that knowing Christ results in the experience of resurrection power, the identifying marks of his suffering and the personal impact of His death: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” – Philippians 3:10 (NKJ).
 
Suffering and sacrifice are essential to the discipleship process. Without these ingredients, there will be no purity, no maturity, no lessons learned, no growth, no example, no glory to God.
1/28/2014 12:55:02 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



41 years and counting

January 13 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The biblical view of the sanctity of human life is not vague. God’s crowning achievement in creation is human life. It is unique and valuable. Life has such immeasurable value that God issued many commands to protect it.
 
In this edition and the previous edition of the Biblical Recorder, we have included articles that are calling attention to the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS).
 
While much of the focus of SOHLS is on abortion, we cannot overlook that other issues are drawn into the discussion. Just as the force of a magnet pulls in other ferromagnetic materials, life issues such as adoption, human trafficking, slavery and end-of-life decisions are drawn into discussions about life’s high value. The sanctity of life extends into many arenas that cannot be explored in this short space.

However broad its scope, we need to keep the discussion going. Silence is morally and ethically unacceptable.
 
After the 41-year reign of what is often called “the culture of death,” we may wonder if the pro-life message is making a difference. Are we bringing light to a dark period of history? Are we creating a culture of life?
 
Since last year’s SOHLS some troubling events have made the news involving the issue of life. They raise many questions – when does life begin, and when and how does it end? There was the case of 10-year-old Sara Murnaghan whose family needed the ruling of a federal judge in order for her to receive an adult lung transplant.
 
The family of Jahi McMath also needed judicial intervention to have their daughter moved to a long-term care facility after she was deemed brain-dead by the hospital that had performed a tonsillectomy on her.

On the other hand, a family in Texas wants their pregnant loved one removed from a ventilator. But Texas laws state that for the sake of the unborn child, care cannot be withheld from a pregnant woman.
 
But one of the most disturbing cases was the arrest and conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist found guilty of murdering three infants, born alive after late-term abortions. The killings were too graphic to describe here. Gosnell was also convicted of manslaughter in the over-sedation death of a woman in his clinic.
 
In what has been called a “house of horrors,” late-term babies – past the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania – were routinely killed in his clinic. If they survived the abortion process, Gosnell called it “insuring fetal demise.”
 
We consider ourselves to be an educated, advanced society. But the Gosnell case peels back the veneer and exposes the corruption beneath the surface. We try to sugarcoat our moral decay with euphemisms such as “choice,” “rights,” or “mercy.” Some media outlets called the born-alive infants in the Gosnell case “viable fetuses.” Most of us would call them babies.
 
Amazingly, pro-abortion groups used this horrific crime as evidence that too many restrictions on abortion clinics create too few outlets, and women are forced to go to such butchers.
 
The North Carolina Family Policy Council reported on its website that according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, North Carolina is one of four states credited with helping to “balloon” the number of new abortion restrictions enacted by state legislatures in the last three years. Guttmacher’s report was released Jan. 2 by the pro-abortion research group.

The reports says that “more abortion restrictions were enacted by states between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire previous decade – with 22 states, including North Carolina, enacting 70 abortion-related measures in 2013 alone. According to the report, this makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year.”
 
It must grieve the heart of God to see His children – especially those who give leadership to His children – going about their schedules in silence, refusing to speak out on the horrors of abortion. Like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan, it is convenient, but wrong, to look the other way and find a religious excuse to do so.
 
World Magazine is known to speak boldly on this and other biblical subjects. They recently published a story in which Matt Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, shared a “pastor’s plea to not sit on the sidelines and hope this horrific genocide of the unborn works itself out.”
 
Chandler likens the present abortion crisis to the horrors of slavery, specifically the enslavement of Africans, and the silence of many Christians when the battle for human equality was fought in the 1960s.

With the growing scientific studies on life, there are no excuses to be silent on abortion. He said, “In 1973, when Roe v. Wade occurred, there was no sonogram. We can see our babies in the womb now. There are studies now showing the baby is dreaming in the womb. Science will eventually, I believe, turn over Roe v. Wade. It will only be a matter of time.”
 
Owen Strachan, a professor at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., shares his story. His is a challenging testimony of involvement we should take to heart.

I have more to say on this subject in my column in this week’s BRweekly. We pray that the information and challenges you read in the Biblical Recorder will make a difference for the unborn.
 

Pro-life resources

These websites will be helpful as you consider your personal commitment to the Sanctity of Human Life: Visit BRnow.org/Life for more resources.
1/13/2014 3:47:30 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments