Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In my weakness...

I always seem to have, you know, one of those passages of scripture that just gets stuck in your head for a while. Sometimes it's a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Once in a while I'll even have one linger for a couple of months.

As far as the present verse, it's been with me about a week, and I have been using it to do a bit of self-examination.

So what's the verse? 2nd Corinthians 12: 10
"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I have to say that I find myself more than a little challenged by the word "content" in that passage. I wonder how many of us can honestly say that if we were to go through, or are presently going through, the trials listed in that verse that "content" would be the word that we would use to describe our emotional state. After all, these are all bad things, aren't they? Are not all these thing to be considered enemies of contentment? Do not all these things cause nothing but pain and problems?

I can think of a lot of other words other than "content" that describe the emotions that so many of us feel in in the eye of the storm:

Self Pity....

How about you? If you were faced with these trials, how would you fill in the blank?

In weaknesses I am __________

When the insults come I am __________

When hardship comes knocking I am __________

When I feel persecuted I am __________

When calamity strikes I am __________

I don't know how you did, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I need to make a few changes.
And to help me get to and stay where I desire to be -- "content" despite my circumstances -- I have three truths from God's word to cling to:
1. God Knows. God is not ignorant of our troubles, nor has he lost control. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. " (Mathew 10:29)

2. God's is glorified. Every single trial we face is an opportunity to bring glory to God. If we suffer, let us suffer well, not as those who have no hope. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

3. God has a purpose. God doesn't want you to waste your suffering. There is a lesson to be learned with every trial; be a diligent student. Paul, speaking of the hardships he and others had suffered in Asia, said, "....but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God." (2nd Corinthians 1:9)

.... for when I am weak I am strong

Sunday, January 11, 2009

John Piper on Abortion

I ran across this list from John Piper's sermon on the horrors of abortion given on April 7th, 1989 and I thought I would share it.

Ten Reasons Why it is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children:

1. God commanded, "Thou shalt not murder" (Exodus 20:13).

2. The destruction of conceived human life – whether embryonic, fetal, or viable – is an assault on the unique person-forming work of God.

3. Aborting unborn humans falls under the repeated biblical ban against "shedding innocent blood."

4. The Bible frequently expresses the high priority God puts on the protection and provision and vindication of the weakest and most helpless and most victimized members of the community.

5. By judging difficult and even tragic human life as a worse evil than taking life, abortionists contradict the widespread biblical teaching that God loves to show His gracious power through suffering and not just by helping people avoid suffering.

6. It is a sin of presumption to justify abortion by taking comfort in the fact that all these little children will go to heaven or even be given full adult life in the resurrection.

7. The Bible commands us to rescue our neighbor who is being unjustly led away to death.

8. Aborting unborn children falls under Jesus' rebuke of those who spurned children as inconvenient and unworthy of the Savior's attention.

9. It is the right of God the Maker to give and to take human life. It is not our individual right to make this choice.

10. Finally, saving faith in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness of sins and cleansing of conscience and help through life and hope for eternity. Surrounded by such omnipotent love, every follower of Jesus is free from the greed and fear that might lure a person to forsake these truths in order to gain money or avoid reproach.

John Piper

Ten Reasons Why it is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children, Sermon: April 7, 1989 desiringGod.com

Saturday, January 10, 2009

12 tips for witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses

Anyone who has spent any amount of time discussing the Bible with a Jehovah's Witness knows just how difficult and taxing it can be. Dealing with the constant barrage of out-of-context passages, mistranslations and contradictions often leads to a level of frustration that either makes you want to snap or just quit.

In order to ease the level of frustration that I often feel, I have, over time, given myself a set of basic "rules of engagement" that I do my best (that's code for I often fail) to follow. This list is by no means exhaustive. As a matter of fact, it started at five, grew to ten, bloated to twelve, and I can still think of another dozen or so more. But I will resist the urge to go on and on. (not to mention twelve is a very relevant number..... at least I think it is)
  1. Clearly defining your role and your goal is the key to success. Unless you are the Holy Spirit, neither your role nor your goal should be to convert the person you're speaking to. True conviction and true conversion can only come through the Spirit of God. Remember that if they are "your" converts, they are not any better off than when they started. Your role is simply to faithfully proclaim the truth, and your goal is simply to bring Glory to God in the manner in which you do so.
  2. Remember that although Jehovah's Witnesses use much of the same terminology that we as Christians use, oftentimes the meanings of these words take on a very different flavor as they are run through their Watchtower doctrinal filters . Unless terms are clearly defined, there is a good chance that there will be many times that you may be talking past each other. During your conversations, make sure that you take the time to carefully define terms.
  3. Remain civil, ( not to be confused with passionless and wimpy) at all times. It is very easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and let things spin out of control. Remember who it is that you represent and bring honor to His name. They are watching your words and your actions with a critical eye. It would be wise for you to do the same.
  4. If you don't know something or you don't have an answer to a specific question, don't just "wing it." More often a bad answer will do more harm than good as it puts your knowledge and credibility into question. It is much better to say, "Let me think about that for a while and get back to you." Most Jehovah's Witnesses will respect you for that.
  5. Stay away from the "rabbit trails." Oftentimes when talking with Jehovah's Witnesses they will quickly bounce from one subject to another. For instance, you may be talking about salvation, and they will respond with, "Well, real Christians don't go to war." If you want to hold on to your sanity, resist the temptation you feel to respond to everything that they say. Be polite, but firm and do your best to remain on a specific topic.
  6. Remember there is no "silver bullet." While there are many good arguments and many good presentation styles, there is no single method or point that will bring all Jehovah's Witnesses to the truth. So don't be disappointed if your sure-fire argument bounces off the listener like a super ball; just move on to the next.
  7. Because it is true that most Jehovah's Witnesses "appear" to know the Bible very well, it is only natural that we tend to want to throw meat their way. But I have found the reality is this: most Jehovah's Witnesses either reject the meat or choke on it. Even though they may in some way "know" the Bible, they still require the milk of the gospel just like every other unsaved person.
  8. Don't underestimate the illusion. The Watchtower spends a great deal of time and money creating the boogie man that they call "Christendom," and the one thing that they know for sure is that you are a part of this fictional, unloving, war mongering, doctrinally insane and hypocritical Christendom. Take every chance you can get to destroy this illusion.
  9. Never let them see you sweat! Just kidding... Fill their shoes with pebbles. In almost every conversion story from Jehovah's Witness to Christian you will at some point hear them say something like, "And that verse just got stuck in my head" or "When I heard that, I couldn't stop thinking about it." It is not likely you will ever be told by an active Jehovah's Witness that something you have said has shaken them, but never lose heart, while they may be able to hide the limp, that does not mean that it isn't there.
  10. If you do find them lost for words, stumbled, or contradicting themselves, point it out but don't rub it in. Rubbing it in will likely cause them to become defensive and your "teaching moment" will quickly fade away.
  11. Pray up. Pray before the encounter, pray during the encounter, and pray after the encounter. Pray for listening ears and tender hearts. Pray for words to speak and the wisdom to know when it is better to remain silent and listen. Pray that they will be saved and that you will not be stumbled.
  12. Above all, and I cannot stress this enough, don't forget to share the gospel. This is especially important if this is the first time you meet because it may be your only chance. Faith comes by hearing. Don't let the opportunity pass.