Abortion

Ireland has officially overturned years of anti-abortion laws protecting the fetus. The final vote was 66% to 34% in favor of allowing women the right to choose to end a human life. Although this defeat is tragic and morally unacceptable, Americans are starting to shift in their opinions of abortion. According to Rasmussen poll taken earlier this year,  49% of likely U.S. voters now consider themselves pro-life, while 46% say they are pro-choice. While 5% are undecided, this same voting group believes that abortion should be restricted. We are starting to move the needle in the right direction. So, why are Americans starting to slowly move toward protecting the unborn? Well, there may be several reasons for the change.
First, Americans are becoming more conservative. Yes, I said more conservative. The last election points to a middle-America uprising which has not been witnessed in decades or possibly ever. If you take away the California vote, conservatism swept across the nation. This reaction is partly due to the eight years of liberal ideology and the results of that ideology on mainstream America. We saw a record increase on a dependency upon the State, a decline in our moral fiber, an increase in crime, loss of jobs and a general sense that the nation was moving in the wrong direction.
Second, and perhaps, more importantly, science and what we know about conception is having a huge impact on public opinion. Scientists are now leading the way in understanding the fetus. New technology is revealing some previously unknown facts. Science is now discovering that the fetus feels pain, can hear sound including recognizing the mother’s voice, laugh and cry. These findings are helping the pro-life cause. Armed with this new information, Americans are beginning to turn against the pro-choice movement. While we are not completely there yet, thank God for scientific breakthroughs.
Finally, we are slowly moving toward protecting life. God and the Bible have always been on the side of the unborn. Exodus 21:22-23,  “When men strive (fight) together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life.” Although there are many other passages that support life, God is still the author of human life and desires these precious babies to be protected from harm. Keep praying!
in Christ,
Pastor Mike

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North Korean Crisis

During my Army days in the 80s, I made four trips to South Korea. On three of those occasions, I was on the DMZ (The Demilitarized Zone). I remember looking into North Korea with armed guards looking back at me. At that time, my focus was on the enemy in the north. Our goal was to protect the South Korean people and provide a show of force along the border. However, today I have a much different view of North Korea. Maybe because I understand the real situation in the Korean peninsula and partly because of my growing faith in Christ. As a pastor, I have become sympathetic to the plight of the people. In short, I no longer view them as the “enemy” but a people in crisis.
Here are some undeniable facts about the situation in North Korea:
1. The average worker makes $2 or $3 a month. It is hard to imagine in the economically driving culture of today that people could possibly live on that amount of money.
2. 84% of Korean households have borderline or poor food consumption. In practical terms, it means the people are eating a poor quality of food. We have become spoiled as a nation. We drive 5 minutes down the road and shop for quality food. The people in North Korea do not have that luxury. They are forced to eat sub-standard food. And worse of all, the children are deprived of vital nutrients they need for growing healthy bodies.
3. 48% of North Koreans live below poverty. Think about that for a moment. This means that roughly half the country lives in a state of poverty. Images taken from space reveal the horrible, real-life conditions of the people.
4. 200,000 North Koreans live in concentration camps. We know the Jews suffered during WWII in Auschwitz and Dachau. The world promised never again would people have to suffer the horror of these camps. But, these camps are alive and well in the north. If a person manages to escape, often their entire families are killed. And 40% of the prisoners interned at these concentration camps die of malnutrition. It simply is horrific.
5. Kim Jong Un has instituted a three-generation punishment. So, if your grandfather committed a crime, the next three generations will pay the price. This is partly to keep generations oppressed and to establish an authoritative rule.
6. The government spends 5 Billion dollars on the military and weapons. So, the military consumes over 30% of the annual budget. Another large portion of the budget goes to the affluent few. This leaves the average person with very little.
When President Trump announced today that the summit has been canceled, my heart sunk because of the people. As Christians, we should be on our knees begging and asking God to intervene. So, I would like to encourage every Christian to pray daily for the people in North Korea.
In Christ, Pastor Mike

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Mother’s Day

This Sunday, May 12th is Mother’s Day. On this day we remember our mother’s sacrifice, devotion, and love. Also, I am mindful that some mothers are no longer with us. So, I realize that tomorrow may be difficult. Please know that I understand those emotions and your loss. My prayer is that those godly mothers who went before us will be honored and cherished in our hearts always!
Today, we are thankful for those godly mother’s who have made an impact on our spiritual lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).
Paul reminds Timothy that the Christian faith was instilled in him by his mother and grandmother. This wonderful verse reveals two important points about these godly women.
First, these two women lived the faith. Paul’s use of the word “dwelt” (ἐνοικέω) means that faith in Christ was active in their hearts and lives. The gospel had made a home in their hearts. In short, the gospel had set up house in their innermost being and was being lived out on a daily basis. So, the influence was much broader than sharing a Scripture and praying with Timothy before bed. The young boy Timothy was able to see the real Christian faith lived out on a practical level.
Second, the Christian faith was caught by Timothy. Paul’s words “I am sure” (πείθω) refers to something that is convincing beyond question or something that is certain. So, what was Paul convinced of in regards to Timothy? He was convinced that the same faith that was alive in his mother and grandmother is now fully active in Timothy’s life. Although we are not told how this came about, we can safely assume that both Timothy’s mother and grandmother spent hours teaching him the ways of God and leading him to personal faith in Christ. What a joy it must have been for these two godly women to see Timothy not only receive Christ but to watch it play out in his daily life!
As we celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow, I want to thank all mothers for your dedication, service, and love! Teaching your children to follow and be obedient to Christ is the greatest challenge and yet, the most rewarding. You are leading a legacy of the Christian faith and the Kingdom of God!
So, my prayer is that you truly have a wonderful day!!!

in Christ, Pastor Mike

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Faith that Moves Mountains: What Jesus didn’t mean…

The following article is from Thomas R. Schreiner, one of my favorite theologians.
It is worth the read. Enjoy
Peter tells us Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16).
Jesus said some difficult things, too.
Twice the Lord told his disciples that if they had faith like a mustard seed they could do jaw-dropping things. In Matthew, mustard seed faith is tied to expelling a demon, and Jesus says those who have such faith can move mountains (Matt. 17:20). In Luke, those with mustard seed faith will be able to forgive those who sin against them since such faith can pluck up mulberry trees and cast them into the sea (Luke 17:6). All kinds of questions enter our minds.
What is faith like a mustard seed?
Why doesn’t our faith move mountains?
Are we failing to see great things from God because of our lack of faith?

ENCOURAGING FAITH

In the stories recounted in both Matthew and Luke, the disciples long for more faith. Then they could do great things for God. Then they could cast out demons and forgive a brother or sister who’s especially annoying. Jesus tells them they don’t need great faith; they need just a little faith. He clearly speaks of a small amount of faith since the mustard seed was the smallest seed known in his day. Jesus also informs his disciples that the kingdom of heaven is as small as a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31).
We’re prone to think if we just had more faith, then God could do amazing things through us. But Jesus tells us something quite astonishing. The issue isn’t whether we are full of faith but whether we have any faith. If we have the smallest amount of faith, God works on our behalf. Jesus stops his disciples short and asks them: Do you believe in me at all? Do you trust God at all?
Why is Jesus’s answer encouraging? Because we don’t get caught in the morass of thinking about whether we have enough faith. When facing a given situation, we call out to God to give us faith—no matter how small. A small amount of faith is sufficient because the focus is not on our faith but its object.
Why is it true that mustard seed faith can move mountains and uproot mulberry trees? Jesus plainly tells us. It isn’t because of the quantity of our faith but the object of our faith. If our faith is in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then it has a great effect. Our faith makes a difference not because it is so great but because God is so great because he is the sovereign one who rules over all things. Our faith doesn’t thrive when we think about how much faith we have; it springs up when we behold our God—when we see Jesus as the One crucified and risen for us.

STANDING ON THE PROMISES

Still, we have questions about this verse. Does our mustard seed faith move mountains and uproot mulberry trees? Do we see this happen today? Are prosperity preachers right in saying that if we had more faith, we wouldn’t get sick and would enjoy the riches of this world?
First, it’s critical to note Jesus is using an illustration. He’s not literally talking about moving mountains and uprooting trees. There’s no example in Scripture of mountains disappearing because someone had faith. Jesus is teaching that stunning things happen if we have faith. The question is, what kind of stunning things should we expect?
Here we must take into account the entire Bible. The old saying is correct: a verse without a context is a pretext. And the context is the whole Bible, which includes reading it in its covenantal and redemptive-historical timeline. We can’t just pluck any verse in the Bible and apply to our lives without considering how it relates to the sweep of Scripture as a whole.
Faith isn’t abstract; we put our faith in the promises of God, in the truth he has revealed. Scripture never promises believers they will be healthy or wealthy. Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7–10) was probably a physical disease, and though he prayed three times for deliverance, God said “no.” Similarly, it wasn’t God’s will to heal Paul’s ministry partner Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20), and it wasn’t because Paul lacked mustard seed faith! Additionally, Timothy wasn’t healed miraculously and instantaneously of stomach ailments but was told to take wine to settle his indigestion (1 Tim. 5:23). Certainly, Paul believed God could heal Timothy, but God had determined he would not be healed. Moreover, Romans 8:35–39 clearly teaches some believers are persecuted, and some suffer from lack of food and clothing. God never promised us a comfortable life.
Mountain-moving faith, then, must be based on God’s promises—on what is revealed in his Word—not on what we wish will happen or even fervently believe will happen.
Misguided faith can lead to disaster. In the 1520s, Thomas Muntzer believed he was led by the Holy Spirit to bring in the golden age, and warred alongside the peasants to overturn political power. But Muntzer was inspired by fantasies and died in the revolt he led. He trusted in “spiritual revelations” rather than the written words of Scripture.
We must ask first, then, whether one’s faith is truly based on the Word of God. Otherwise, it rests on the vain imaginations of man.

THEN WHAT IS MOUNTAIN-MOVING FAITH?

The question remains: What is mountain-moving faith? Notice what Jesus says in Luke: Those who have faith like a mustard seed do great things. They have the faith to forgive brothers and sisters who sin against them repeatedly.
The illustration Jesus provides, then, is enormously helpful. We know it’s God’s will that we forgive those who sin against us. Yet when we’re faced with actually forgiving them, we often struggle because the pain is so severe.
Mustard seed faith, then, is faith that kills works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19–21) and produces the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). Love, joy, peace, and patience are mountains that can only be climbed by faith; faith, after all, expresses itself in love (Gal. 5:6). Mustard seed faith believes the gospel will go the ends of the earth and triumph over the gates of hell. And the clearest evidence of mustard seed faith is whether you love God and your neighbor.
Our greatest enemies are not outside of us but within. Our greatest foe is the hate and rebellion that overtakes us, and mustard seed faith—because it is placed in Jesus Christ—gives us the victory over our sin.
Yet we are freed from the sin that enslaves when we rely on Christ and not our own strength and works. Mustard seed faith is enormously powerful—not because of our faith, but because it unites us to the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at TGC.

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The Preachers Series: Alexander MacLaren

Alexander MacLaren was born in Glasgow Scotland on February 11, 1826. His father, David, was a lay Baptist preacher who no doubt had an influence on his young son. When his father left for Australia on a three year business trip, he returned home to find that Alexander had given his life to Christ and had received baptism. Although records are sketchy as to the actual date of his conversion and baptism, we do know that he baptized at Hope Street Baptist Church in Glasgow. Alexander would have been around the age of 12 years old when he trusted in Christ. At the age of 16, Alexander entered Stepney College, a Baptist College in London. He was influenced by Dr. David Davies and became a serious student of Greek and Hebrew. Alexander’s sermons reflect his in-depth understanding of the language. After receiving numerous awards in biblical languages and graduating with a B.A. degree from the college, he was called to his first church at 21 years old. During his first pastorate at Portland Chapel in Southampton, he quickly established himself as a polished and powerful preacher.  He stayed at Portland Chapel for 12 years, then was called to pastor Union Chapel in Fallowfield in Manchester England. Alexander remained at Union Chapel until he retired in 1903.
As to the sermons of Alexander MacLaren, he is known in preaching circles today as the “Prince of Expositors.” Alexander believed that preaching was the sole task of the minister. It has been said that when Alexander entered his study, he removed his shoes and put on work boots to remind him that studying the text and writing the sermon was real work. Because of his intense study, he delegated other ministry duties to lay people. Scholars acknowledge that Alexander was a much better preacher than a writer. He had pinned-up nervous energy when he preached but it served him well in the pulpit. His sermon titles were bland but biblical, always encompassing the text. His sermons had three points (I, II, III) and they were clearly organized for effectiveness. His written sermons averaged about 4,000 words and would have taken between 30 and 40 minutes to preach. Alexander shied away from discussing current events or local news, which he has been criticized for by some scholars. However, I believe the criticism is unwarranted and many preachers today stretch biblical truths to connect to contemporary issues. Furthermore, he was a master illustrator and employed metaphors to strengthen his main points. On a whole, MacLaren is one the greatest preachers in history. As a young pastor, I studied his sermon methodology in bible college and have come to appreciate his dedication to the task of preaching. Alexander died May 5, 1910 in Edinburgh. The “Prince of Expositors” remains the gold standard for preaching.

in Christ,
Pastor Mike

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