Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Giving to Save Lives

At http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/12/29/why-i-made-a-small-year-end-gift-to-a-crisis-pregnancy-center-and-you-should-consider-doing-something-similar/, Kevin DeYoung explains why he made a year-end donation to a pro-life pregnancy center and why we should consider doing something similar.

If anyone is interested in making a donation to a pro-life ministry, I would like to recommend two possibilities:

1. Christian Services of Oklahoma (our adoption agency)

501 E. 15th St. Suite 500A

Edmond, OK 73013

Read about Christian Services' pro-life alternative to abortion at www.christian-adoption.org/Abortion-Alternative.

2. Contact Life Ministry of the Contact Church (our church)

1529 W. 49th St.

Tulsa, OK 74107

Read about this aspect of the Tulsa urban ministry at www.contactchurch.net/Contact_Life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A New Year's Resolution

I have been thinking about making a new year's resolution. I don't do it every year, but once in a while, I like to challenge myself.

This coming year, I resolve to memorize the book of Titus.

I love the pastoral epistles. They are short in length, rich in theology, and filled with practical principles for living out my Christian faith.

Since Titus is the shortest of the three pastoral epistles--and since I have never memorized a book of the Bible before--I plan to memorize Titus.

I wonder how it will change me. Will I think and act any differently next year? Will I be closer to the Lord? Hopefully it will be a life-changing experience.

Do you have a new year's resolution?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Measure of a Godly Man

"Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness" (Titus 2:2, English Standard Version).

For many years, I ignored this verse. After all, I was not an older man. It simply did not apply to me. Then, a rather obvious thought occurred to me: I'm getting older every day. I need to get ready. God wants to see these qualities developing within me.

God wants me to be sober-minded. He wants me to see my life, my circumstances, and my opportunities clearly. He wants me to have the humility to know my weaknesses and the honesty to know my strengths.

God wants me to be dignified. While he does not want me to be uptight and unapproachable, he wants me to be respectable. He wants me to take my responsibilities to my family, employer, church, and community seriously. He wants me to think, act, and speak with a sense of responsibility and class. A dignified man is a responsible man.

God wants me to be self-controlled. He does not want me to be controlled by mood swings, the expectations of others, drugs or alcohol. He wants me to exhibit gentleness, discipline, and strength of character.

God wants me to be sound in faith. He wants me to trust him and his word. He does not want me to doubt his honesty or his ability to live up to his word. He wants me to trust in Jesus Christ rather than in myself.

God wants me to be sound in love. He wants me to care deeply about the people around me. He wants me to be more concerned about him than about myself. He wants me to open my eyes to the lonely, the disappointed, the abused, the neglected, the depressed, and the suffering people in my sphere of influence; then he wants me to do something about it.

God wants me to be sound in steadfastness. He wants me to keep going when things are not going my way. He wants me to persevere in trying to make a positive difference in this world because he has given me reason to hope for a positive outcome in the end.

God has high expectations for Christian men, but he has provided us with the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and the church to help us in meeting those expectations. With his help, we can become who he has called us to be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Pro-Life Implications of Christmas

A few years ago, Planned Parenthood sent out Christmas cards celebrating "Choice on Earth." In doing so, the largest abortion provider in America revealed a profound misunderstanding of biblical teaching and the significance of Christ's birth.

Under the Law of Moses, pre-born children received legal protection (Exodus 21:22-25). They were protected because it was recognized that children were formed by the Lord within the wombs of their mothers (Psalm 139:13-16). As children made in the image of God, they were given the respect and legal protections due to all human beings.

The humanity of pre-born children was further demonstrated in this portion of the Christmas account:

"In those days (after Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of God's Son) 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, English Standard Version).

At least two pro-life points are apparent within this passage:

1. During the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy (Luke 1:36), Elizabeth's pre-born son was moving and expressing emotions. Obviously, he was a human being who was different from his mother even though he depended on her nurturing for survival.

2. In addition, Mary was called "the mother of my Lord" very early in her pregnancy, a time when Jesus would have been a developing embryo within his mother. Mary did not need to wait until her Son was born; everyone knew that she was a mother long before Jesus was born.

Although Planned Parenthood celebrates "choice" as the ultimate value, the saints of the Bible upheld right choices as far more important than the mere ability to choose. Joseph and Mary chose to protect and to nurture their Son. They chose to risk their lives for him. They chose to look as if they were guilty of sexual impurity in order to care for Jesus, risking ostracism within their religious community for the sake of their Son.

On the other hand, King Herod chose to kill the little boys of Bethlehem in order to protect his standard of living. He wanted to eliminate any threat that a child would pose to his position in society.

Herod made the wrong choice. Joseph and Mary made the right choice. One was condemned. The other two were blessed.

"Choice on Earth" is not worthy of praise. However, selfless, compassionate, and noble choices on behalf of children are worthy of a celebration. Those are the pro-life implications of Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Christmas Store

For many families, Christmas is a challenge. They want to provide a few toys for their children, but their finances are too limited to buy many gifts, even at relatively inexpensive prices. Some children will receive a toy or two; others will receive nothing.

Each year, the Contact Church helps such families with our Christmas Store. Several churches and individual Christians in our area donate new unwrapped toys to the Contact Church. The Contact Church discounts each toy by 75% off the retail price. (Some people donate money and gift cards. Last weekend, my wife Janet took over $200 in donated cash and gift cards to Walmart in order to purchase toys for the Christmas Store. She loved her new shopping ministry.) Then, on a Saturday in December, the church building is transformed into a Christmas Store for people in need in our community.

By purchasing the toys at deeply discounted prices, the poor families of our city are able to retain a certain sense of dignity. They purchase the merchandise rather than receive it for free. But the discounts make a huge difference. An $8 action figure is much more affordable at $2. They are far more likely to be able to provide very nice gifts to all of their children because of the generosity of wealthier believers in our area.

As an added benefit, the money raised at the Christmas Store pays for the Contact kids to attend summer camp each year. Otherwise, the vast majority of our children would not have an opportunity to go to camp. Most of our kids come from low-income housing projects; and it would be unthinkable for their families to come up with enough money to send them.

Yesterday, the Contact Church sponsored the Christmas Store; and because of it, over 100 families in Tulsa will be able to provide their children with nice gifts this Christmas while several of our Contact kids will be able to attend summer camp.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Real Santa Claus

We broke the news to Christopher tonight. Santa Claus is dead.
Actually, we told him that several hundred years ago, a Christian pastor named Saint Nicholas lived in a small city in Turkey. He was a man who cared deeply for the poor. He was known for his compassion for people and for giving gifts to those in need. It was rumored that he would sneak into houses during the night to leave gifts for the people in their stockings. He would try to give his gifts in secret because he wanted to obey Jesus' instructions to help people without drawing attention to himself; but apparently he got caught a few times and people knew that he was helping those in need. When he died, the people respected him so much that every December near the anniversary of his death, they continued his tradition of giving gifts to the poor.

Today, when you receive a gift from Santa Claus, you are receiving something from someone who loves you, but who wants to honor the spirit of the generous man who gave to others in secret.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets...to be honored by men...But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:2-4).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Losing a Son for the Benefit of Others

This is my communion meditation for tomorrow at the Contact Church.
A few years ago, Tony Dungy was coaching the Indianapolis Colts through another successful football season. Without warning, he received a call informing him that his oldest son Jamie had taken his life while attending college in Florida. Jamie Dungy's death shocked the family. Jamie had been a very good and compassionate young man, the type of son who would make any father proud.
After Jamie's death, Coach Dungy and his wife Lauren were uncertain about what to do. He wrote in Quiet Strength, "In an effort to bring some good out of this, I have tried to assist others...We began by donating Jamie's organs. Today two people can see, thanks to his corneas. A businessman wrote me after the funeral to tell me he's working less in order to spend more time with his son. A young girl wrote a letter to us, saying that although she's always attended church, she dedicated her life to Christ after watching our family at Jamie's homegoing service" (page 262).
In a radio interview a couple of years later, Coach Dungy told his interviewers about how the death of Jamie led to two people receiving their eye sight back, to families becoming closer, and to people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. But, he added, if the Lord had revealed to him that Jamie's death would have helped so many people in so many ways, he still would have asked the Lord to spare his son.
I thought about Tony Dungy's words while reading about the time when Joseph and Mary presented their baby Jesus at the temple for his circumcision. While at the temple, the small family came across a prophet named Simeon who immediately recognized their baby as the long-expected Messiah. After informing Mary that her Son would be a great man in Israel and would face strong opposition, he warned her, "(A)nd a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35, English Standard Version).
The prophet Simeon foresaw the anguish in Mary's soul as she would watch her Son being executed on a Roman cross three decades into the future. Mary was cryptically warned that her Son would die for the benefit of others.
I'm not sure how much Mary understood the message, but I know that she suffered terribly as she watched her Son die for not only herself, but for people like us too.
Today, as we take part in the communion, we pause to appreciate the pain. Through the pain of the cross, we benefited. Mary lost a Son (for a few days) so that we could be saved forever.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Jesus Has AIDS

I hope it doesn't show on my face or in my body language, but I continue to be a little nervous when I shake the hand of someone who is HIV-positive. However, Russell Moore challenges me to overcome my fears at www.russellmoore.com/2009/12/01/jesus-has-aids/. Please check it out.