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57 Million and Counting

57 Million and Counting

            Like plodding horses with blinders by their eyes, Americans have blinded themselves to the moral and practical horrors of abortion. Our blinders are our deliberate decision to look away. Looking straight ahead, we do not allow ourselves to see, or count, or consider the reasons behind the numbers.

            Declaring that they want abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare," abortion advocates in the U.S. have crafted some of the world's most tolerant laws regarding the purposeful termination of pregnancy. How tolerant are they? According to the Guttmacher Institute (a group dedicated to the liberalization of abortion laws, and once a subsidiary of Planned Parenthood), "Abortion is a common experience: At current rates, about three in ten American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45."

A "Common" Experience

            How common is abortion?

            Since 1973, when abortion was legalized in the U.S. by the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, there have been nearly 57 million abortions. Current abortions numbers are at almost 1,000,000 per year during a period in American history when pregnancy rates are decreasing.

            How many is 57,000,000?

            If all of those children had been allowed to live and became their own state, they would easily be the largest state in the United States, with a much larger population than either #1 California (38.3 million) or #2 Texas (26.4 million). Do the math. There have been more than twice as many aborted American babies than there are living Texans.

            How common is abortion?

            Arguing in favor of some of the world's most liberal abortion laws (in supposedly more-liberal Europe, most countries limit abortions to the first trimester, and waiting periods, and parental consent for minors are common), abortion advocates have used medical necessity and cases of pregnancy after rape as talking points.

            Yet when asked why they opted for abortion, women who have been surveyed following abortions include the following explanations:

  • 75%      say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other activities.
  • 75%      say that they cannot afford a      child.
  • 50%      say they do not want to be a single parent.
  • Only 15% list "problems with getting      contraception" as a reason.
  • Only 12% list "medical reasons" - this      includes emotional and psychological categories.
  • One percent report that they were survivors of rape.

Without the Blinders

            Removing the blinders that have quieted the controversy over abortion (most have adopted a blinded "It is what it is" attitude toward abortion) one is forced to face two facts:

  1. Abortion continues at an alarming rate.
  1. Abortion continues primarily because of convenience.

Why Does This Matter?

            These two facts about abortion contradict two moral absolutes.

  1. It's about innocent life. As a gift from God, innocent life is to      be protected (Prov. 6:17). Do not      waste your time trying to explain to me that unborn Benjamin Price Prather      is some kind of blob and is not living, human, and innocent.
  1. It's about responsibility. Perhaps even more morally insidious than      the taking of innocent life is disregarding the life of the unborn for the      sake of convenience. If it is      thought to be in poor form to throw your plastic bottles onto Texas highways      ("Don't Mess With Texas"), how much morally poorer is it to throw      away your child so you can "get on with life" (Don't mess with      the unborn)?

Systematic Desensitization to Sin

Systematic Desensitization to Sin

Wile E. Coyote & Penelope Cruz

            I do not think that watching Wile E. Coyote get tricked into a face full of ACME explosives by the Roadrunner dooms anyone to a life of cruelty and crime.  I do not think that occasionally hearing Clarke Gable tell Vivian Leigh, "Frankly, my dear, I just don't care as much as you would like for me to" permanently contaminates character.  I don't even think that thoughtfully observing a jacked Hugh Jackman in Australia (female version) or Penelope Cruz in All The Pretty Horses (male version) leads to inevitable corruption of heart or mind.

            But that's not what we are talking about, are we?

  • 60 percent  of television programs now contain violence.  Not Roadrunner violence.  More than half of the violent incidents feature physical aggression that would be lethal or incapacitating if it were to occur in real life.
  • In the 2013 movie Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DeCaprio, the "F" word was used 506 times, an average use of 2.81 times per minute.  Limits on language are gone with the wind.
  • "Strong sexual content" is included in 70% of all television programs and 85% of movies.  Not content to show Hugh Jackman in a tuxedo, advertisers are now turning to sexual violence as a way to sell soap.      

Problem

            Systematic Desensitization is an approach of behavior therapy that is employed to help people overcome irrational fears.  An example is paralyzing dread of spiders.  Gradually, first by looking at pictures of spiders, then by looking at real spiders, then by touching a fake spiders, then by holding a spider in a box, and eventually by holding a real spider in your hand, fear of spiders is diminished. 

            Systematic Desensitization illustrates how human psychology can be manipulated in a positive way, slowly adapting to what was once feared until the anxiety vanishes or becomes manageable.  The system is gradual exposure to more and more of something.  The desensitization is slowly losing aversion.

            Systematic Desensitization reveals a reality of human nature.  Our resistance can slowly diminish to the point that we accept what we once rejected.  Our internal limits are not set in stone.  Instead, they are set in the mushy, malleable substance of our thoughts and emotions - and the mush can be slowly rearranged. 

            Systematic Desensitization also illustrates how human psychology can be manipulated in a negative way.  If we can lose our fear of spiders, of heights, or of riding in airplanes by gradual exposure to what we fear, then we can also lose our moral aversions, eventually accepting what we once rejected.  Solomon is the classic example, slowly losing his religious aversion to paganism due to the systematic desensitization of his many wives' influence.  

            Test yourself: what do you now accept that you once rejected?  You see, Systematic Desensitization works.

Solution

            Mushy, malleable human thoughts and emotions explain why Paul said, "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you" (II Cor. 6:17).  We would like to think of ourselves as tough guys, able to withstand whatever the world throws at us.  We are, in fact, moral weaklings whose restraint can be easily compromised. 

As God’s promise...for the Israelites, obliged them to separate themselves from their heathen neighbors, that they might not be ensnared with their paganism; much more are Christians obliged...to separate themselves from the society of the ungodly, and from all their sinful practices, customs, and habits (Benson).

            Generally, then, this means that you and I have to very closely monitor the input we receive.  Just like monitoring salt intake, we have to remain aware of how much of the world is coming in through our eyes and ears.  Just like saying no to salty French fries, we have to say no to certain kinds of images and messages.  There are no comfy half-measures that allow us to remain cozy with the world. 

            Specifically:

  • What television shows and movies do you watch?
  • What is your favored music?
  • What publications do you read?
  • What is going on inside those electronic games your kids are playing?
  • What kind of systematic desensitization are your friends and close acquaintances exerting on you?
 

--

Don Prather

The Ministry Of An Hour Here And An Hour There

The Ministry Of An Hour Here And An Hour There

            Choosing to worship in buildings, congregations also choose the upkeep and maintenance that buildings require.  They do not do much upkeep.  Church building maintenance is typically accomplished by volunteers who contribute an hour here and an hour there.

            The phrase "The Ministry of an Hour Here and an Hour There" is in use.  Accustomed to work places and public spaces that are professionally maintained, we are unaccustomed to the necessity of volunteer upkeep of church buildings.  Me and not them is the subject of this article.  What can you do around the building in an hour here or an hour there?

But First...

            Fussing at the Liberty Church of Christ is impossible.  Too many of us do too much.  Perhaps these examples of service will encourage you to add your hour of upkeep here and there.

  • Walden David does a tremendous job with yard maintenance.
  • Wayne Noonkester also helps with the yard (Wayne, and others, also conduct out Food Bank, but this article is primarily about spending an hour here or an hour there on building upkeep and maintenance). 
  • Chris Young contributed several hours to painting outside doors.
  • David Warren and Kelly McCain recently spent several hours here and there working around the baptistery and on the projector screen.
  • Several others spend many hours here and there on upkeep and maintenance but do not want the attention.

Why?

            Three factors combine in favor of an hour here and an hour there; (i) necessity, (ii) economy, and (iii) Christian service.  The necessity of an hour here and an hour there is obvious.  What would your home look life, for example, if you never did any upkeep?  The same is true for every facility.  Maintenance is required.

            Equally obvious is the economy of an hour here and an hour there.  Can you imagine the cost of calling a professional for every this or that needed around a church building?  We could easily quadruple or building maintenance budget and still be far short of all that can be taken care of in an hour here and an hour there.  It is absolutely true that churches financially depend on volunteers.

            Obvious areas of Christian service are teaching Bible classes and evangelistic Bible studies, benevolence, and care for those who are suffering.  While necessary, these are not sufficient.  Choosing to worship in buildings, congregations also choose the upkeep and maintenance that buildings require.  Many who are not quite ready to jump into the deep end of the Christian service pool can wade in slowly with an hour here and an hour there.   

What?

            Here are some  things that can be accomplished by your volunteer time.

  • Check and replace light bulbs in the main building.
  • Consult (don't necessarily do all the work yourself) on the hedges: what do they need?
  • Do the detail cleaning in our FLC kitchen that is typically not part of regular custodial care.
  • Check and replace light bulbs in the FLC.
  • Do the detail cleaning in the kitchen in the main building that is typically not part of regular custodial care.
  • Replace room numbers on our classrooms (at some time in the past, the room numbers were removed and were never replaced).
  • Ask Shannon Smith (who recently spent an hour her and an hour there changing out toilet seats, and who is primarily responsible for the building).  He can let you take a look at his list of things to do.
  • Ask Barb.  She can also give you a list of some things that take and hour here and an hour there.
  • Ask one of our elders.  They can also make sure that you have everything you need to make your volunteering successful.

Centering Ourselves Isn't Salvation

Centering Ourselves Isn't Salvation

            Living in 2016 has its advantages. Many of us enjoy a quality of life that was impossible in pre-medical days. An example is the cataract surgery - no more troublesome than an average dental procedure - that allows me to keep working and playing, often without reading glasses. One hundred years ago, I would have gone blind.

            Modern psychology parallels today's medical advantages. Instead of the one-size (mis)fits-all lunatic asylums of centuries past, we now enjoy the benefits of sophisticated mental, psychological, and emotional understanding. These understandings and their treatments (therapy, counseling, prescriptions) improve quality of life for many.

            Just as run-away medicine is contrary to God's will (examples include abortion and sex "reassignment" surgery), run-away psychological theories are also part of "this present evil world" (see Gal. 1:4). Wise medical consumers seek "second opinions." Wise consumers in the world's marketplace of ideas should also seek something other than the newest theories from the latest, greatest psychologists. This article words a warning about a misfit between psychology and Christianity.

One Offers Salvation

            As helpful as many psychological treatments are, they cannot overcome sin. They can redefine sin, they can ridicule sin, and they can even reject the idea of sin, but they cannot eliminate sin. Christ "has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26), "and the blood of Jesus...cleanses us from all sin" (I Jn. 1:7).

            Only Christianity offers a path through life, out of life, and into eternity "obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed...having been set free from sin" (Rom. 6:17-18). "The standard of teaching" includes being buried by baptism and walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). "Newness of life" includes a dedicated embrace of all of Christianity, and dedicated rejection of our sin in repentance.

One Offers Centering

            Grounding (reducing negative energy), centering (increasing focus), and mindfulness (concentrating on the present)are said to be accomplished through these seven steps.

  1. Find a quiet place      (the practiced skill of young mothers everywhere).
  1. Experience your      breathing; inhale, exhale, repeat, keep repeating (this step is essential).
  1. Imagine that you are      connected to Mother Earth. (if you have any questions, ask Oprah).
  1. Exert your physical      energy downward (and not toward me!).
  1. Push your spiritual      energy upward (insert your own sarcasm here).
  1. Feel your energy      flow throughout your being (if you still have any feeling throughout your      being).
  1. Find stillness (it's      out there somewhere in nature, yoga, creativity, or journaling).

Don't Confuse the Two

            There is no doubt that grounding, like Calgon, can take us away. There are, truly, tremendous emotional and physical benefits to centering. Mindfulness is certainly essential to effectiveness and productivity. But some have confused grounding, centering, and mindfulness with salvation, thinking that these steps are redemption, and that guilt, like spilled milk, can be cleaned up with the right state of mind.

            These examples of man-made semi-salvation can only take us so far.

            No matter how much negative energy we reduce, no matter how much we increase our focus, and no matter how thoroughly we concentrate on the here and now, we cannot empty ourselves of the guilt and the consequences of our sin. Herein is the danger of mixing too much contemporary psychology with the eternal principles of Christianity. That good feeling we might achieve is not salvation. That good feeling is terribly, terribly superficial in comparison with the scriptures that reveal "salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 3:15)

           

             

           

Some Are, But Others Are Not

Some Are, But Others Are Not

"What's in a name?

That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell just as sweet."

            With respect to Shakespeare's deep-thinking (that's sarcasm) Juliet Capulet, not everyone agrees that names are a non-issue. Reformation hero Martin Luther is a much deeper-thinking example of a much more credible someone who believed that the proper use of names was, well, proper. Hearing that his followers had begun to call themselves Lutherans, he said,

I ask that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone.

This Morning's Lesson

            This morning's sermon has to do with the biblical characteristics of the church. The name by which the church should be identified is only one correct characteristic of several. This article will give more attention to the suitable name for the church than can be given as part of one sermon.

            Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Mt. 16:18). What are the traits and attributes given to the church that Jesus built according to the New Testament that Jesus authored? Just as Luther reacted against the misuse of names, we present some names for the church that are appropriate, and some names that are not.

Names in the New Testament

            As our son and daughter-in-law select names for our upcoming grandson, they have looked in baby books and on internet sites. This is entirely appropriate as these books and sites are excellent sources for names of children. They stopped going to me, by the way, when I told them that the Prather family has a long tradition of Claudes, Clydes, Earls, Ottos, and Floyds. Their subtle wisdom is a subtle reminder that some sources for names just are not any good.

            What is an excellent source for names for the church? This question cuts to the quick about source material and authority for all of Christianity. Claude, Clyde, Earl, Otto, and Floyd come from outside of scripture, as do some other popular names. All of Christianity, including the proper name for the church, must come from within the Bible's books, chapters, and verses.    

            Several names were used interchangeably in the Bible.

  • "Church       of God" was very      common (Acts 20:28, Gal. 1:13, I Tim. 3:5, and etc.).
  • "Church" was often used all by itself (Acts      2:47, Eph. 1:22, Rev. 2:14, and etc.).
  • Also present in the New Testament are "Churches      of Christ" (Rom. 16:16) and the direct parallel, "Church of the      firstborn" (Heb. 12:23). Many      other passages emphasize that "Christ is the head of the church...and ishimself its Savior" (Eph.      5:23).

            Regarding these names, three statements are true.

  1. There is no single,exclusive name      for the church. Any New Testament      name will do, but those New Testament names are few.
  1. While the name of the      church is 100% important, the name of the church does not represent 100%      of the important characteristics of the church. The proper name must combine with proper      doctrine, organization, and practice.        
  1. There is no biblical      basis for the common practice of designating the church in honor of a      religious leader (example,      Lutheran), after some form of organization, (example, Presbyterian),      reflecting a kind of piety (example, Methodist), according to a point of      doctrine (example, Baptist), or in keeping with one's favored lifestyle      (example, Cowboy       Church).  

Conclusion

            Juliet Capulet was crazy in love with Romeo Montague, so we can forgive her romantic question, "What's in a name?" She was also two weeks away from her 14th birthday when she killed herself, so we should not follow her immature and suicidal love to biblically immature and religiously suicidal conclusions.

            Why would anyone set aside God's chosen names for the church and substitute "Church of Claude" for "Church of Christ?" or any of the other myriad names used for "Church of God?"  Some names are acceptable, but others are not.