Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cheap grace vs. costly grace

I am getting questions about the video that we showed last weekend at CVC. It was from ER and it portrayed a man fighting cancer and feeling guilt about a decision he made as a doctor that caused the death of an innocent person. A chaplain is seeking to provide some assurance of forgiveness to the man. You can check out the video here.



Here is one of the questions:

"During our community group gathering last night, we discussed your Sunday talk on Costly Grace/Cheap Grace. We all agreed that we were following along with your message and key points and even thought we understood the movie clip of "ER" until you spoke after the clip. You had shared that the woman had offered him "cheap grace" during the clip. But I was cheering her on thinking she was trying to share the gospel with him and he would not allow her to. I understand that we're not to "sugar coat" our sins and to call it what it is. Sin is sin to God and it separates us from God. But the man was truly angry and full of guilt. He even asked to speak with a chaplain. Why? He appeared remorseful. So, how do we handle this situation? Was he looking for "tough love" from the woman? I was convicted of offering "cheap grace" just as the woman in the clip. So, how do we offer "costly grace" to those living with sin/guilt?"

Here is my answer:

Regarding the clip, if you watch the clip carefully, you’ll notice that the woman (the hospital chaplain) really didn’t offer any answers. She’s actually doing what we don’t want to do. She just offered uncertainty and questions. She is not a model to follow, that’s for sure.

She was a chaplain in a hospital with a one-size-fits all faith. That’s not our faith. Our faith does have answers.

As I said in the message: She was offering him cheap grace. She never talked about costly grace. She never talked about the cross where justice and love meet. This man instinctively know that cheap grace is no grace at all. When we’re feeling guilt and facing eternity, we need answers. She didn’t really offer any answers.

Then I shared some of Ray Comfort’s words regarding the scene: This was a man who had seriously violated God’s law and his own conscience. He was guilty before God. His guilt produced a fear of punishment. And it should.

What would you think of a judge who turned a blind eye to murder? Someone is charged with a crime. The evidence is overwhelming. The person is found guilty. But the judge says, “It’s not that big of a deal. I forgive you.” We’d say, “He’s not a good judge. Good judges don’t let the guilty go free.” It made sense to the man in the video that if God is good, there must be a judgment for sin.

If God is good, sinners just can’t go free. Justice must be served. And that fact made this man justifiably fearful. If you die in your sin, you get eternal justice. That’s what made this man afraid.

See, God is holy. He knows our thoughts. He sees our hearts. He hears our words. And because we’re guilty, that leaves us in big trouble.

The man said, “I am running out of time.” We are all running out of time. And we need answers to our questions: “How can we get right with God? Is atonement possible?”

Atonement happens if the law is satisfied. If the judge says you’re guilty, but someone steps up and pays for your crime, you’re free. And that’s grace. Not cheap grace, but costly grace.

We have all violated God’s law. We’ve lied. We’ve taken what didn’t belong to us. We’ve had angry and lustful thoughts and Jesus said that’s the root of murder and adultery. So, we’re lying, thieving, murderous, adulterous sinners. And God takes sin seriously.

"But God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Jesus, God in the flesh, gave His life as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. That’s costly grace. Then Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. Now, God can dismiss our case because of the atonement of the cross.

Costly grace. No other religion has it.

The problems with many, many chaplains (not only in Hollywood, but, sadly, in real life) is that they present God as a forgiving God, but they never talk about how this forgiveness is possible. It’s only by the bloody cross that forgiveness comes. The woman in the video never presented the cross. She wasn’t presenting God as He is presented in the Bible.

The man needed to hear something like this: “Yes, you are guilty. And you should die a go to hell for your sins. It’s not OK. But Jesus took your place. Trust Him. He suffered so your would not have to suffer.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

One Verse Evangelism


Today, I had a very unusual request. A new attender at CVC wrote, "I would like to know if you can give me the address of the only place in the Bible that gives the full gospel message. It gives it in part many places, but only one place does it give the full message."

I had never been asked anything like this before. This person is obviously looking for a very specific answer. I replied, "If I had to pick one verse from which to share the gospel, I would pick either John 3:16 or Romans 6:23." I went on to say, "But usually when I share the gospel, I use many verses."

I'm pretty sure that's not what the questioner wants to hear. I'm pretty sure my answer will be unsatisfactory. Oh, well... Personally, I believe that the gospel is bigger than one verse. It encompasses creation, fall, redemption, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, restoration. The gospel is a message that runs throughout the Bible.

But the question made me think. With just a little searching on the web, I found a one verse gospel presentation from a ministry called the Navigators. They train people to share the gospel with Romans 6:23 by teaching them to draw the following diagram." It's called "One Verse Evangelism."

I wondered what others might think about the approach. If you are interested in the approach, here's the walk-through written by Randy D. Raysbrook.

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How to Share Christ's Love Conversationally & Visually

Many people feel that to be effective in evangelism they must memorize a complex illustration and a multitude of verses. But the Gospel is most powerful when shared with love, clarity, and simplicity.

One-Verse Evangelism is a simple, interactive way to share Christ's love conversationally and visually. It is based on asking questions and sharing. It's easy to learn because it uses just one verse. One-Verse Evangelism is also sensitive to peoples' busy schedules because it can be shared in just 10 or 15 minutes.

Here's a brief look at how it works. Let's say God's leading you to share the Gospel with your neighbor, Jeff. Write out Romans 6:23 on a piece of paper or a napkin: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (NIV). Then put your Bible away. Ask Jeff if he would like to see a simple picture based on this verse that will explain God's relationship with people.

Circle the word "wages" and ask, "How would you feel if your boss refused to pay you the wages that were due to you?" Deep down, we all know that it is only right that we get what we deserve. Similarly, we earn wages from God for how we have lived our lives.

Draw a circle around "sin," asking your friend what he thinks when he hears this word. You might explain that sin is more an attitude than an action. It can be either actively fighting God or merely excluding Him from our lives. You can ask, "Has God ever seemed far away?" If he says "Yes," add that that's one of the things sin does-it makes God seem far away. Now draw two opposing cliffs with a gap in between.

Circle the word "death" and ask what thoughts come to mind. Explain that death in the Bible always means some kind of separation.

While circling the word "but", mention that it is important because it means that a sharp contrast in thought is coming. What we have just looked at is bad news; what follows is good news.

Draw a circle around the word "gift". Ask, "If wages are what a person earns, then what is a gift?" Remind your friend that someone must purchase every gift.

Circle the phrase "of God" and explain that the gift you are talking about is free. It is from God Himself. It's so special that no one else can give it. Ask, "How do you feel when someone gives you a special gift?"

Circle the two words "eternal life" next, and then ask, "How would you define these words?" Contrast one side of the cliff, death, with the other side, eternal life. Ask, "What is the opposite of separation from God?"

Draw the words "Christ Jesus" so they create a bridge between the two cliffs. Help your friend to consider that every gift has a giver, and only Jesus Christ can give the gift of eternal life.

Write the word "trust" over the bridge you just drew. Explain that friends trust each other, and tell your friend that Jesus wants a trusting friendship with him. All he has to do is admit that he is responsible for the "sin" of either fighting or excluding God from his life. That is what trust means-trusting that Jesus wants to forgive us for rejecting Him from our lives. At this point, you can ask him if he wants to start a relationship with God that will last forever. If he says "Yes," invite him to pray a short prayer in his own words, asking Jesus to forgive him.

Close by reminding him that this simple illustration shows what God is like: Someone who really cares about people, especially him. Invite him to read all about it in the Bible, perhaps beginning in the gospel of John.

Adapted with permission from One-Verse Evangelism, copyright 2000 Randy D. Raysbrook. All rights reserved.

You may order this booklet from NavPress, or call (800) 366-7788.

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So, what do you think? Could this be a good tool for your toolbox as you sharing the faith? I'm pretty sure I did not answer the question correctly for our questioner. It feels like a "gotcha" test. But as long as we're thinking and talking about the gospel, it all good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Should I go for creativity or exegesis in preaching?

This blog post is really good on preaching from J.D. Greear.

J.D. Greear is the Lead Pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, a position he has held since January 2002. Before coming to work at the Summit he had worked among Muslims in Southeast Asia for two years. He entered the Ph.D. program at Southeastern Seminary in 1999, graduating with a doctorate in Systematic Theology in 2003. He is also a graduate of the Word of Life Bible Institute and Campbell University.

You can read more of his stuff here.
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Creativity and Preaching

I enjoy listening to the guy who is creative in how he packages and presents his messages. I also enjoy the guy who really knows how to do "exegesis," i.e., can get into a passage, walk me through it, unpack it carefully, and make me feel, when he's done, like I really understand that passage much better than I did before.

Unfortunately those two guys are rarely the same person.

Some preachers astound me with their creative ability to perceive spiritual questions people are really interested in, apply biblical principles to their lives, and package their teaching in ways that capture the attention. Often, however, I feel like they are not letting the Bible drive their content--their messages are more driven by their experiences and creative genius. I also feel like if I sat under their preaching for a while that I would not really be getting the full scope of what God has left for me to know in the Bible. And rarely do I feel like I understand passages of Scripture much better as a result of their preaching.

Other guys astound me with their ability to perceive what a text is saying and unpack it. However, quite often they bore me, and fail to make me see how a particular passage is absolutely essential for my life. Yet, often they don't package in a way that captures my attention; they are usually only decent in application, and they almost always suck in introduction and approach. Quite often they ramble on way too long in too many scattered directions (usually, they excuse this by saying they are just going wherever the text itself goes).

I think both elements, careful exegesis and creativity, are absolutely necessary.

I think the key is knowing what order to employ each of those elements in your sermon preparation. I think you must know how to discipline and harness your creativity so that it serves the text and not trumps the text.

Though both are essential, I think that exegesis must precede creativity.

When I let my creativity precede my exegetical work, then I end up cramming what I want to say into a text. The text serves as I kind of playground in which I find ways to use it to say what I already want to say. That kind of preaching is interesting but, at the end of the day, unfaithful to my calling and unsatisfying to those wanting to know God. The Summit Church does not need my word, it needs God's word.

But when I force myself to do the exegesis FIRST, trying to strip my mind of all creative elements, I can let the Holy Spirit teach me what He was trying to say in a passage first. THEN, AFTER I'm done with that, I can look back at what I've gleaned and allow my creativity to go to work, packaging that content in a way that captures people's attention.

If you stop with the exegesis, you will be right in what you preach, but unfortunately a lot of people will miss what you are saying. Our message is too urgent to be satisfied that we have simply presented the material accurately. No true fisherman consoles himself for catching no fish by pointing out the excellency of his bait.

Weighting yourself too heavily toward exegesis or creativity are both lazy approaches. The first fails to connect; the second fails to be faithful to God's calling. As a teacher of God's word, I am called to do both: to be faithful and connect. I am not called to simply expound a book; I am called to expound it to people.

Sure, if I had to choose one or the other, I'd much rather choose to be faithful to the text... but I do not have to choose.

Defending the gospels against contemporary critics

Mike Licona is a New Testament historian, author and Christian apologist. Mike is currently the Apologetics Coordinator at the North American Mission Board. He has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria) which he completed "with distinction" and the highest mark and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Liberty University.

As a teenager, Licona wondered, "Am I a Christian because that's the way I was raised? Or am I a Christian because it's true?" Mike wanted to know if his worldview was right.

He said, "I am a second-guesser by nature. I have a hard time picking out cologne at a store. If it's hard for me to pick out cologne, imagine how hard it must have been for me to pick out a wife! If you make a mistake about cologne, it will cost you a few bucks. If you make a mistake about your spouse, it will cost you your happiness. But if you make a mistake about your worldview, it will cost you your eternity."

After a careful search for truth, Licona came to the conclusion that Christianity was true. Then he began to wonder, "Was I just trying to prove what I already believed?" So, he worked on a doctorate. Now he is settled in his belief in Jesus.

Licona has engaged in 10 different debates with various skeptics. One skeptic Licona has debated is Bart Ehrman, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina.

Licona answers Ehrman's challenges with the ABCs... and Es and Fs.

A - Authorship.

Ehrman says that the gospels are written not by eyewitnesse, by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He says that the gospels are forgeries and that we don't have the original manuscripts. For Erhman, saying that Matthew really wrote Matthew is a dubious statement. After all, Matthew's name isn't really in the document at all.

Licona counters by saying that one of the most respected ancient historians is Plutarch. He wrote what we call Plutarch's Lives. The question is "How do we know Plutarch wrote the bios that are attributed to him?" Plutarch's name is not in any of the documents. It's only tradition that tells us that he wrote the Lives and yet no one really questions his authorship. Why, then, do we question the tradition that attributes the authorship of the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Licona admits that modern day scholars debate who wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but that it's at the very least reasonable to say that ti's possible

B - Bias.

Ehrman also questions the veracity of the gospelw because of bias. He says that the gospel writers were biased in making thier points about Jesus and, therefore, they are untrustworthy.

Licona counters by saying that we are all biased in different ways. The atheist Richard Dawkins has a bias against Christianity. Ehrman himself has a bias against the historicity and accuracy of the gospels. He challenges Ehrman to tell the gay activists at UNC that they cannot talk about gay rights because they are biased. He challenges Ehrman to tell the feminists at UNC that they cannot talk about women's rights because they are biased. Just because someone is biased doesn't mean that their positions should be dismissed. The question is not "Are the writers biased?" but "Are the writers right?" Yes, the gospel writers are biased. They wrote to prove that Jesus was the Christ. The question is "Are they right?"

C- Contradictions.

Ehrman claims that the gospels contradict themselves. For example, was Mary at the tomb alone as John says or were there multiple women at the tomb as Matthew, Mark, and Luke suggest? Did both thieves crucified next to Jesus curse or did only one?

Licona counters this challenge to the trustworthiness of the gospels by pointing out that these apparent contradictions can be explained. For example, it's reasonable to believe that both thieves cursed Christ and that one of them later saw the glory of Jesus and wanted to get right with God? It's reasonable to believe that John in his gospel showcased Mary but that others were present with her as the other gospels say.

Licona then asks, "How important to the whole are these apparent contradictions anyway?" Some passengers on the Titanic said that the Titanic broke in two before it sank. Others said that it went down in one piece. Obviously, someone got it wrong. But no one says that since their accounts don't agree, the Titanic didn't sink after all.

Licona says that even if you admit that there are discrepancies in the gospel accounts, you still have a consistent message - basic core beliefs that are consistent in all the accounts. 1) Jesus died on the cross. 2) The tomb was empty. 3) Jesus' followers claimed to have seen Him alive. 4) They were willing to be persecuted for their beliefs. Licona then say that the apparent contradictions if true (which they aren't) would impact the doctrine of innerancy, but not the core meessage - that Jesus arose form the grave.

D - Dating.

Ehrman says that the gospels are not trustworthy because they were written anywhere from 35 to 65 years after the events they purport to describe. He says that it would be like someone now writing about events that took place in WWII.

Licona asked the audience if there was a Vietnam vet in the room. One man raised his hand and siad he was in Vietnam in the early 7os. Licona asked us if we would doubt this man's stories about the Vietnam War simply because they took place almost 40 years ago. Would we say, "He's not a reliable witness"? No. Why then do we doubt the gospel writers? Writing something down 35-65 years later doesn't necessarily mean that the accounts are not reliable.

Licona mentioned that the written accounts from Putarch and Seutonius of Caesar Augustus are written 90 to 100 years after Augustus lived. Yet virtually no one questions their reliabilty. Why then do we hold the gospels to different standard than other ancient histories?

E - Eyewitnesses.

Ehrman says that since the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, the stories were corrupted like the game of "telephone."

Licona countered this critique by talking about how information can be passed along in very trustworthy ways. He illustrated the point by telling us has earned a second degree black belt in karate. He talked about the trianing forms that are used in martial arts. People don't change the forms. They just pass them along from teacher to student over and over. The forms passed along are the same generation after generation. In the same way, it's reasonable to think that the Jesus tradition was very carefully passed along from person to person, from church to church, from generation to generation.

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For more information, you can check out Mike Licona's website. You can follow him on twitter at DidJesusRise. Licona urged us to use the North American Mission Board apologetics site called 4Truth.net. You can also see
A debate between Michael Licona and Elaine Pagels on the validity of the Gospel of Thomas. You can also see Various debate videos / audio, including debates with Dan Barker, Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman, Shabir, Ally and Ali Ataie.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The argument for the existence of God from desire

Our son, Evan, and I just returned from the National Christian Apologetics Conference. Over the next few days, I will be posting some of my notes from conference sessions.

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Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King's College (Empire State Building), in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 55 books including: Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans, and Fundamentals of the Faith.

Kreeft spoke on C.S. Lewis' thoughts regarding evidence for the existence of God based on desire.

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You can ask a skeptic, "What is right and what is wrong in your opinion?" He or she will likely come up with a list that is very similar to the 10 commandments. That's when you can say, "Your 'internal prophet' has come up with a list very similar to the list of the 'external prophets' of the Bible. Why do you think that's true?'"

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Kreeft says that the argument for the existence of God based on desire is the most interesting and effective argument for his students.

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Kreeft says that when it comes to arguments for the existence of God, we can make two mistakes. 1) We can overuse them. 2) We can underuse them. (And, by the way, he says, "God is the only thing we cannot overdo and sin is the only thing we cannot underdo!") Every Christian must integrate his faith and his reason. Faith and reason are like the wings of a bird. The bird flies better when both flap! If your head and your heart contradict, that is a sad way to live.

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Kreeft says that the Bible expends no real effort seeking to prove the existence of God. The Bible assumes that His existence is self-evident. The Bible does expend a lot of effort to prove that God is good. There so much pain in this world that the fact of God's goodness is something we humans can easily doubt.

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Kreeft says that God could easily choose to wipe out atheism if He would simply be more clear in providing evidence of His existence. God, instead, has chosen to give just enough light that we will find Him if we seek Him. He says that there are 3 kinds of people in the world. 1) People who seek God and who find Him. These are reasonable and happy people. 2) People who seek God but have not yet found Him. These are reasonable, but not happy yet. 3) People who don't seek God and, therfore, do not find God. These people are not reasonable and not happy. God has made it so that only seekers actually find God. Why does God choose only to reveal Himself to seekers? It's because the pursuit of someone flows out of love for that someone. In this way, God wills Himself only to be found only by lovers.

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When it comes to seeking God, Kreeft says that He wants to know two things from God. 1) Who are You? 2) Who am I?

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Kreeft says that all arguments have two weaknesses. 1) You can doubt the premises for the arguments. 2) You can doubt the conclusions of the arguments. Nevertheless, we should use arguments because honest arguments at least plant some doubts in the minds of the atheist.

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Kreeft says that the two strongest arguments against the existence of God are 1) the problem of evil and 2) the apparent ability of science to explain things without God. Christians, of course, can give reasonable responses to these arguments from the atheists.

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He says that honest atheists aren't really happy that, to them, there's no God. Everyone should want to believe in a God who loves us, forgives us, and gives us meaning and purpose.

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Kreeft says that we all have desires. We desire happiness. We dis-desire unhappiness. This is why we pursue pleasure and avoid pain. We are all discontent and have restless hearts. We are dissatisfied with the world. We have 2 kinds of desires 1) innate desires that flow from our human nature - things like hunger; thirst; a desire for sleep; a desire for sex; and a longing for knowledge, friends, beauty, justice, and love and 2) conditional desires - things that we want because of advertising and marketing (like, Kfeeft says, the Red Sox winning!).

The innate/natural desires correspond to realities. Our natural desires prove that things exist that will fulfill the longings in our hearts. For example, hunger proves there is food and thirst proves there is something that will quench our thirst. Innate universal desires correspond to objective realities.

Kreeft says, "Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire. This something is what people call 'God' and 'life with God forever.'"

C. S. Lewis, who uses this argument in a number of places, summarizes it succinctly: "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")

Kreeft says that we all have an ultimate, innate desire for there to be justice, for there to be a someone who rights the wrongs in this world - for a heaven. He goes on to say that it's amazing that these kinds of desires fit the God revealed in the Bible.

Some might say, "Well, you jsut made up that God." He says, "Yes. I admit that it's incredibly suspicious that the desires and the realities match. But if every other desire corresponds to reality, then why not the ultimate desires?"

For more on this argument for the existence of God from desire, look here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How not to be a church planting pirate

An old friend who is on staff at a church in another state asked for some advice about church planting. I love his heart. He wants to be a blessing to his current church and ministry assignment from God.

He said, "I have been leading [a ministry in my current] church. My wife and I have recently felt like God is beginning to again renew this vision [to plant a new church] in our hearts. He has place a great team of people around us to support us and help lead the church as well as some wise mentors over my life and ministry. We're right now really trying to understand how to leave our current chuch and be remembered well. [We want] God's perfect timing for that movement.

I'm writing you as someone whom I know has a heart for God without agendas and as someone whom i've looked up to for years. Any kind of advice you'd have for me will be well received.

Thanks so much, man. I so much appreciate your heart and the ministry God has used you to create.

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Good to hear from you. Hope all is well.

Here are some suggestions for starting out:

1) Talk with leadership at your current church about God’s call on your life. Let them know that you want to explore whether or not you are called to plant a church. I would not announce, “God has called me to plant a church… 3 miles away!” That’s a sure way to get a negative response. I don't think you want to be a church planting pirate, right? Check out the You Tube video from Ed Young, Jr. about the dangers of being a church planting pirate. Please ask for your leaders' input and guidance. Does your church have a vision for planting? Let them know that you want to bless your current church and ministry within the church and that you will not do anything to hurt or harm the church. In fact, let them know that you want to bless and to grow your current ministry. Let them know your heart is still with your current church, but that you are pursuing what God may have in store for you.

2)Ask your leadership to help you identify whether or not you are gifted to plant. We use 3 assessments. The first is online. The second is a 4 hour interview with the church planter and his spouse. The third is a 4 day formal assessment that occurs in Wisconsin or Arizona. The goal of the assessments is to identify giftedness for planting. I do not think that anyone should plant without first going through the assessment process. If you are affirmed through the assessment process (which is vigorous) then church leadership will likely affirm and support your call to church planting.

The online assessment we use can be found here:

We have two sites for equipping church planters. One is here and the other is here.

We are a part of Vision 360.

Blessings, brother. By the way, why not come back to NE Ohio to do this?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Advent Conspiracy

I am looking forward to CVC participating in the Advent Conspiracy again this year. Check out the new video.



Will you participate in the Advent Conspiracy this year?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Babies have value before they are born (8)

Sue Gilliland, a CVCer who serves at the Cleveland Pregnancy Center, turned me on to the following encouraging story. More and more people are seeing that babies have value before they are born.

Read how Abby Johnson, the former director of an abortion clinic, had a change of heart on the issue after she witnessed an abortion.

You can watch an actual abortion online at The Center for Bioethical Reform [Note: the video begins immediately and is very graphic.] One of the fullest and best sites for education on abortion is Abort73.com.

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Planned Parenthood Clinic Director Joins Anti-Abortion Group

Abby Johnson quit her job. That simple act has become a national news story because Johnson, 29, was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who said she experienced a "change of heart" while participating in an abortion procedure.

Johnson has now joined a group called Coalition for Life, which prays outside the clinic where she worked.

"I had never seen an abortion happen on an ultrasound," she said. "My job during the procedure was to hold the probe on the woman's abdomen. I could see the whole profile of the baby 13 weeks head to foot. I could see the whole side profile. I could see the probe. I could see the baby try to move away from the probe."

Johnson worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, for nine years, first as a volunteer and then as the director. Her duties included running the family planning and abortion programs. The clinic performed abortions two days a month.

Although she had seen ultrasounds before, including during her own pregnancy, Johnson said she had never seen an ultrasound image during an abortion. She is unclear why, as the director of the clinic, she was asked to be in the procedure room on that day, because it was not a normal part of her duties. Still, Johnson said, the experience changed her forever.

"I just thought, 'What am I doing?'" she said. "And then I thought, 'Never again.'"

Two weeks later, Johnson quit.

"I looked out the window and saw a couple of women praying and I thought, 'That's where I need to go,'" Johnson said.

She walked down the street and into the welcoming arms of the Coalition for Life.

Although she had originally been happy at her job, Johnson slowly grew to question "the motives of the organization," she said, particularly because her superiors were "pushing clinics that did have an abortion program to bring in more money."

Diane Quest, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said she could not speak to Johnson's allegations about money, but said 90 percent of the health care that "our affiliates provide is preventative in nature -- contraception, screenings and STD testing and treatment."

"Obviously, many people -- both patients and health care providers -- experience complex thoughts and emotions about abortion," Quest said. "That's why Planned Parenthood respects it as a personal, emotional issue."

And the emotions around this issue have been running at fever pitch since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 in the now-famous Roe v. Wade decision.

Johnson's defection will undoubtedly be seen as a public relations coup for the antiabortion movement, not unlike when "Jane Roe" herself announced that she had become a member of Operation Rescue -- an anti-abortion rights group.

Norma McCorvey, the 61-year-old woman who was at the center of the famous Roe v. Wade case, supported abortion rights until the mid-1990s.

Around that time, McCorvey befriended several people from Operation Rescue and she has remained an anti-abortion activist ever since. McCorvey was ejected from Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination hearing after yelling that Sotomayor was "wrong" about abortion.

Planned Parenthood filed a "restraining order of disclosure" against Johnson, because of fears she may have taken confidential files out of the organization. Johnson denied those allegations, and the two sides will meet at a hearing on Nov. 10.

Johnson said she is not out to become an activist.

"I'm not doing this to judge anyone," she said. "My goodness, I have participated in the abortion industry for eight years. I'm just here as a resource and telling my story ... and maybe somebody will be touched by it."

As for Planned Parenthood, Quest said the organization's work will go on regardless.

***

May the work of those who are saving the lives of the onborn go on until the day when, as a nation, we will view abortion as an unthinkable act of violence just as we now view the lynching of African-Americans as an inthinkable act of violence.

Hasten the day, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Babies have value before they are born (7)

After speaking a few weeks ago from Psalm 139 about how babies have value before they are born, I was very aware that in our church were men and some women who had in thier own personal lives participated in and approved of past abortions. I saw people leaving church with tears of regret in their eyes.

So at the end of the message I said, "You may be thinking, 'I don’t deserve forgiveness after all I’ve done.' And that’s exactly right. None of us deserves forgiveness. If we deserved it, we wouldn’t need it. Christ got what we deserved on the cross, so we could get what we don’t deserve—forgive¬ness, a clean slate, a fresh start.

"No matter what you have done, no sin is beyond the reach of God’s grace. A great leader in the church, a man named Paul, was a murderer; he had participated in the killing of Christians. He called himself the 'chief of sinners.' God forgave Paul and used Paul greatly. He can forgive you and use you.

"Maybe you imagine that in heaven the skeleton’s going to come out of the closet and someone will discover you had an abortion. Well, no skeletons are going to come out of the closet, because there are no skeletons and there are no closets. God knows already. God has seen us at our worst and still loves us.

"God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way. He is determined to bring us to our knees to confess, repent, and be healed.

"Once we acknowledge our sin and repent and ask God to forgive us, we must resist the temptation to wallow in guilt feelings. We are no longer guilty.

"I recently read about a woman who said, 'I believed God could forgive any sin, except my abortion.' She discovered that she had been wrong. She’d been punishing herself for a sin Christ had already taken the punishment for. No sin is too big for the Savior to forgive.

"That’s the amazing grace of God. So, come to Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you. Believe He died on the cross to pay for all your sins. Trust Him.

"There are some unique aspects to abortion that often require a very special healing process. Most of the people in the church who’ve lost children to abortion have never really come to terms with it. There are a number of people hearing this message who’ve never told a single person they’ve had an abortion. They’ve suffered in silence. We are hoping to create a climate that lets them come out of the closet if that’s what they want to do.

"If you have suffered the loss of the unborn through miscarriage or abortion, we care about you. Look at the back of your worship guide. And you will see something
If you have suffered loss, you probably feel very much alone with the memories of your experience. The Cleveland Pregnancy Center (CPC) offers a confidential, seven week program called: H.E.A.R.T. (Healing the Effects of Abortion Related Trauma). This program uses the truth of God's Word to guide you through the specific steps of forgiveness, emotional healing and restoration. If you would like more information, call CPC at 440-243-2520."

I then encouraged our people to spend time reading through and meditating on Psalm 139, particularly verses 13-16.

I also encouraged our people to support adoption ministries in orger to help those women who decide not to raise their baby but who still choose to give brith rather than take a life. I encouraged them to check out Together for Adoption.

I also encouraged our people to support the Cleveland Pregnancy Center.

Finally, I encouraged our people to read Randy Alcorn’s book: Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers.

We closed our service by announcing that our Care Ministry and the Cleveland Pregnancy Center had extra women and men available up front after the service for prayer and counseling to help those who were seeking some comfort and healing because of their loss.

I am hoping that your church, too, will stand up for the unborn and provide a service for healing for those who have suffered a past loss.

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