Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Repentance

This Sunday I am beginning a 3-part series called "3 Steps to Revival." The 3 steps are:

1. Repentance
2. Prayer
3. Fasting

Since it makes sense to start with number 1 we will be studying "repentance" this Sunday morning. Part of the sermon is based on the Biblical words for "repent." There are essentially only 4 words translated as "repent" in the Bible. 2 are OT Hebrew words and 2 are NT Greek. Of course there are a few derivatives of these 4 words but basically, these are the 4 words for "repent."

The Hebrew word nacham means "to breathe heavily, to sigh, to change the mind."

The Hebrew word shuwb means "to turn away from."

The Greek word metamellomai means "to care afterward." In other words, after it's done, it bothers you.

The Greek word metanoia means "to change the mind."

Based on these 4 words I have written a working definition of Biblical repentance. I intend to try to use this in my own devotional life in 2010.

Repentance occurs when I am so grieved about my sin that after it is committed, I breath heavily and sigh. My mind having been sufficiently changed about my sin, I turn away from it.

I am really looking forward to this 3-part study. I am looking more forward to the Lord doing a fresh work of grace and repentance in my life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wedding Vows

Tonight I had the privilege of helping officiate the wedding ceremony of my nephew, Carl, and his beautiful new bride, Kristin. As part of the service, I read the following statement. It's something I use to begin every wedding service I officiate. It is shared here for your edification and consideration. And by the way, congratulations Carl and Kristin. Uncle Mike loves you!

Carl, Kristin, I want to remind you that the vows you are about to take are sacred. They are spoken to each other in the presence of these witnesses and they are spoken to the Lord God Almighty and witnessed by the angels of heaven. Therefore they are not to be taken lightly or flippantly.

The recitation of these vows will bring you into a life-long covenant partnership with one another and with your Creator. With very few Biblical exceptions, these vows will bring you into a covenant relationship with the God of the Universe…a covenant that can only be broken by death itself.

Unfortunately we live in a culture, even the church culture that devalues and minimizes the sacred nature of this commitment. By stark contrast, the Holy Spirit through the wise hand of King Solomon gives a sobering warning in Ecclesiastes 5. Listen carefully to the infallible word of the Living God.

“Do not be hasty with your mouth…to say just anything in the presence of God. Whenever you make a vow before God, do not delay in fulfilling it. God takes no pleasure in a fool so keep your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple minister saying, “My vow was a mistake!” Why should God be angry with what you have said and destroy the work of your hands? Because many people’s dreams and words are meaningless, stand, therefore, in awe of God.”


According to the Bible, it would be far better for the two of you to call off this ceremony, even at this late point, than to desecrate God’s altar, blaspheme God’s name, and anger God’s Spirit by making a vow you do not commit to keep.

If you understand the solemn, serious, and sacred nature of these vows and you wish to proceed, I’ll ask you to signify such by joining me and Pastor Brett on this platform.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Abortion: A God-Given Right?

Taken from today's Baptist Press...

WASHINGTON (BP)--While evangelical and Catholic leaders have been working tirelessly in recent weeks to make sure any health care bill does not include federal funding of abortions, leaders of the nation's mainline denominations have been doing just the opposite, even going so far as calling abortion a "God-given right." The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society all are members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a pro-abortion rights organization that took part in a Dec. 2 "Stop Stupak" rally in Washington D.C., urging the Senate not to include the pro-life Stupak amendment in its version of the health care bill.

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society -- the denomination's lobbying arm -- even sent out an alert after the health care bill passed the House, calling the bill itself a "major milestone" but lamenting passage of the Stupak amendment, which it saw as "a tremendous setback for access to comprehensive reproduction health coverage." The amendment passed the House 240-194 and prevents the government-run public option from covering elective abortion and also prohibits federal subsidies from being used to purchase private insurance plans that cover abortions.

The four previously mentioned denominations all have pro-choice positions of varying degrees, but their leaders' stances on abortion in the health care bill have surprised even some seasoned observers. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said most church members of mainline denominations would know little if anything about the lobbying effort. IRD is a conservative organization working to transform the "churches' social witness." "They would be very surprised," Tooley told Baptist Press. "At least 90 percent have no idea what happens with the money after it leaves the local church. Certainly, 90 percent or more do not know that their denominations have lobby offices on Capitol Hill....

Most mainline Protestants aren't familiar with what's going on in their name. So, it would be very surprising to the vast majority." The issue captured attention in the conservative Internet realm when Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, told a small gathering at the Stop Stupak rally, "Don't let anybody tell you that religious people don't support choice. You not only have a constitutional right for abortion, but you have a God-given right."

CNSNews.com reported the comment.Tooley said Veazey's quote was "in line" with other past comments. "It's tragic," he said of the coalition's position about federal funding of abortion. "These same church groups were out there supporting Roe v. Wade in 1973.... It's horrifying that groups that are at least in theory parts of the body of Christ are not only defending abortion but demanding that it be funded by tax dollars."

Membership in mainline churches has fallen by a fourth in the past 50 years, according to the research firm The Barna Group. Meanwhile, the leading evangelical denominations have been working to make sure the Stupak amendment remains in the Senate version. Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said "the Stupak-Pitts amendment is the minimum required for any genuinely pro-life person. People who claim to be pro-life and accept anything less have pro-life views as a preference, not as a conviction," he said.

Following are the four denominations' positions on abortion, according to their websites:-- The United Methodist Church in 2004 adopted a position opposing partial-birth abortion. But the statement also says the decision to abort "should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel."

The Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1993 adopted a position stating, "The considered decision of a woman to terminate a pregnancy can be a morally acceptable, though certainly not the only or required, decision."

The Episcopal Church in 1994 adopted a resolution stating that the "Episcopal Church express[es] its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision."

The United Church of Christ has been pro-abortion rights since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. It joined a friend-of-the-court brief this decade in trying to overturn the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The Supreme Court allowed the law to stand.