Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Horrible Disease & Why I'm Not Doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

As I saw the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge getting closer and closer to my circle of friends, I knew it was only a matter of time.  After my good friend Michael Jordan failed to nominate me, I got the call from a few other famous guys via Facebook.  But I’m not taking them up on the challenge.  Here’s why.

Before the why, it’s important to make something clear: ALS is a terrible disease.  Working toward a cure for ALS is worthy of financial and social media support.  I appreciated this post from blogger Bo Stern about the challenge and what it’s like to live with ALS.  It’s worth a read.

I say that so you know I’m not against the social media wave and support for a worthy cause, or that I am insensitive and unaffected by the plight of others. 

But I cannot support the ALS Association because they are open to and are currently funding (according to the America Life League) at least one research project that uses embryonic stem cells.  Neither can I participate in a social media experiment that may cause others to support such an endeavor. 

The ALSA describes embryonic stem cells on their website: “Human embryonic stem cells are derived from fertilized embryos less than a week old.”  For those of us that hold to life at conception, this is an ethical and moral problem.  The ALSA seems to acknowledge as much: “The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in culture with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough. However it has raised a great deal of ethical questions.”

Yet, even though they acknowledge the ethical dilemma involved, they still support research using embryonic stem cells: “Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases.”

It is difficult to see how an organization can promote the advancement of life based upon the destruction of life.  As Fr. Michael Duffy has pointed out, Pope John Paul II said it best: “Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”

This is why I cannot support the Ice Bucket Challenge.  But where to go from here? 

First, I would love to see the ALSA become a worthy place for pro-lifers and Christians to support through their commitment to stop funding embryonic stem cell research.  This is a horrible disease and families need help.  I am happy for the millions of dollars that will go toward helping NON-embryonic stem cell research.  I am grieved for any of the money that will be used to research on embryos. 

Second, commit to pray for those suffering with ALS, and seek to encourage and come alongside anyone under its pain. 

Third, if you participated in this challenge (or nominated me!) and are pro-life, don’t wallow in guilt.  In God’s providence I found out about the stem cell research about an hour before I was nominated.  Otherwise, I would have been in.  What you can do is make sure others know what their support (financial and social) is potentially funding. 

Fourth, perhaps someone knows of a worthy organization that can be supported by pro-lifers.  If so, share in the comments. 

UPDATED 8/26/14
One cause that does not fund embryonic stem cell research is Team Irvine.  This is a specific family dealing with the financial burdens of ALS.

A national initiative worthy of support is Team Gleason.  I e-mailed them specifically about stem cell research and they confirmed that they do not fund projects of this nature.  Here is a second reply I received from them:
"Team Gleason, does not as its mission fund research. When you were told, we "only support" the retrieval of skin or blood samples, we just want to be clear that that initiative, Answer ALS,  is the only one we fund, because it came from our own Team Gleason Summit. There are no embryonic stem cells used in the plan, nor was it ever suggested. Aside from that one research project, all of our funding goes to directly help those currently living with ALS."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blog Break | Popular Posts

Over the past few months there has been plenty of other things to focus on in life and ministry, so I have taken a break from blogging.  Not quite sure when I will be back to it, but if you're reading this there are plenty of previous posts with content to peruse.  I've decided to repost some of the most popular (as in most hits, I don't presume that anything I do is actually "popular") just below this one.  I hope they help you fix your eyes on Jesus.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jesus Will Serve Us?

I'm reading through the Gospel of Luke and recently came to these verses that blew me away.

Luke 12:35-37 (ESV)
Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.

Now, we all know the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet before his crucifixion, that great act of servant leadership. Books have been written on it, sermons preached about it, selfish leaders criticized by it. But I always saw this as an act Jesus only did before his death to be an example to us and to display his humility. In the illustration Jesus uses above, he indicates that in the coming kingdom, he (yes, Jesus) will serve those stewards who are ready and waiting for his return. Jesus will serve us in eternity? Apparently, if we are awake, ready, and waiting for him. That blows my mind.

How Tall Was Jesus?

This past Sunday I spoke on the humanity of Jesus. There was quite a bit of shock in the room when I announced that the average specs on a 1st century Jewish male would have been 5' 1" and 110 lbs. Since Jesus was a normal, real-life human being living in the 1st century, we can assume that he was somewhere around this height and weight. It is quite weird thinking that Jesus was, well, from a Western perspective, small. But he was fully man and would have looked like all the other Jewish men living in the 1st century. He might have been a bit taller than 5' 1" but we can safely assume he didn't tower over everyone like a giant. He was an average, normal looking human. Side point: no more making fun of short people!

Read more on Jesus' physical appearance:
Below is an attempt from forensic anthropologist to reconstruct a more accurate picture of Jesus as shown in the magazine Popular Mechanics in 2002:

"Preach the Gospel, If Necessary Use Words" Really?

That quote is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi though he probably never said it. While it commends us to live out the Gospel through our life, it falls short of what it means to preach the Gospel and it actually makes no sense at all. I recently heard D. A. Carson comment that it would be like telling a news reporter to "Give the news and if necessary use words." After all Gospel means good news. News is something you tell people.

Ed Stetzer has said it would be like telling people to feed the poor and if necessary use food. At a minimum, verbally sharing the Gospel is essential to effective, biblically-faithful evangelism. If we call what do sharing the Gospel (or evangelism), then it must include a verbal proclamation.

Good works like feeding the poor, engaging in social justice, and "living out the Gospel with our lives" are corollaries to sharing the Gospel, but they are not equal to it. These realities flow from the Gospel and should mark the lives of Christians who are seeking to be faithful to the Gospel. But we must not confuse the two.

In their book Total Church, authors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis pick up on this by saying:

There is a tendency in some quarters today to promote a kind of evangelism without proclamation. Acts of service are done or people are invited to experience Christian worship. But without words of explanation these are like signposts pointing nowhere, or worse still, signposts pointing to our good works. The Gospel is good news- a message to be proclaimed, a truth to be taught, a word to be spoken, and a story to be told (p. 54).

UPDATE: For more information on the St. Francis quote and his life, check out this article from Mark Galli, who wrote a biography on the life of St. Francis. He writes:
I've heard the quote once too often. It's time to set the record straight—about the quote, and about the gospel.
Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."
This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.
The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age.

The Enemy Is On The Attack

Spiritual warfare comes in many forms: false teaching, divisive spirits, deception, roadblocks to the Gospel, and yes even physical attack. I'm not prone to seeing every physical discomfort as a direct attack from the enemy, but there are times when it seems like the forces of evil are pouring it on. The last couple months have been like this in our family, our church staff, and our church. I can't remember another time when this many physical issues were taking place in the people around me.

We've had two different people from our church told they are "one in a million" for being so young and having serious health issues. Both are married. One was diagnosed with heart disease resulting in triple bypass surgery. One, in his 20's, was diagnosed with MS. Our church staff and their families have experienced thyroid problems, carpal tunnel, eye problems, spine issues needing surgery, viral infections, pregnancy difficulties, and cancer scares. Then others in the church are dealing with congestive heart failure, chemical imbalances, cancer, family deaths, polio, and all sorts of other surgeries and conditions.

I know many of these conditions are common, but in the past couple months most of our people have seen the onset or worsening of these conditions. We can also account for some of the more odd medical conditions from Huntington's disease to trigeminal neuralgia. Add to this a number of marriages on the brink of disaster, financial struggles, and the regular difficulties of life in a fallen world and you have an all out onslaught by the enemy.

Whether or not you are from our church, you've experienced times like this where life is pressing in upon you. Where "when it rains, it pours" seems more like "when it rains, it pours and floods and causes lighting damage and sweeps us away in a tornado."

So how should we process these things? One approach would be to simply see these circumstances from an earthly perspective. You know, these kind of things just happen. And then trudge along until things get better, if they ever do. Another approach is to recognize that there is whole lot more going on in this world than what we see with our eyes. This is why Paul says "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12, ESV).

Of course not every illness is from the Devil, but some are. And when illness and disease comes like a downpour to multiple Christians at the same time in the same place, I suspect that the Enemy is at work. We don't normally think this way, but we must. We must recognize that Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Physical trials can weaken us, cause us to doubt God, cause laziness, distract us from prayer, or they can drive us to the only One who can deliver and strengthen us.

So what do we do? We go to the Word of God, which gives us clear direction for dealing with spiritual warfare. Maybe you could take some time to meditate and pray over these texts. Pray for wisdom in discerning where the enemy is attacking you. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ that are under attack. Pray that we would all "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might" (Eph. 6:10, ESV).

Here's what God has to say about Spiritual Warfare:

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (ESV)
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For two messages on Ephesians 6 see here and here. Some other posts on spiritual warfare see here and here.

The Difference Between Religion and the Gospel

This resource from Tim Keller, put together by The Resurgence, is a helpful exercise in renewing your mind with the truth of the Gospel. Kevin DeYoung's insights in the previous post are still helpful (in regard to religion), but if we understand religion to be "my good works earning God's favor," then this resource is dead-on and extremely helpful.

Download the Resource Here
(The PDF may take a minute
to open after you click)

Should I Get Married Young?

Trip Lee and his wife, Jessica, were 21 and 22 when they got married. Below, they offer their reasoning for getting married at a young age. While they say that marrying young is not for everyone, their reasoning is sound and a needed corrective to the "enjoy your youth" or "get established first" mentality. Click the links to read their full response.

Trip's Response
  1. I met a godly woman
  2. I was ready
  3. Marriage is a blessing
Jessica's Response
  1. I found a godly man
  2. We were encouraged by the people in our lives
  3. The Lord showed me the beauty of marriage
Best quote from Trip:

So when people say, “What possessed you to get married so young?” my new response is, “You’re asking the wrong question.” I think at the root of that question is the assumption that marriage steals something away from me, as if my youth is being wasted in committed sacrificial love when it could be used for casual pleasure and flakiness.
As a pastor, I encourage young adults to get married sooner rather than later as long as they can positively answer a few questions.
  1. Are you spiritually and emotionally mature enough to commit your life to someone? The next two questions will help you answer this one.
  2. Are you in community with other believers and counselors? Are they affirming your decision to get married?
  3. Are you willing to participate in pre-marital counseling?
  4. Can you survive financially? You don't have to eat steak, but you have to at least be able to afford Ramen. And as a man, you better be willing to work hard and provide.
One final point for men: Man Up! Pursue a godly woman, get to know her, love her, sacrifice for her, lead her. Stop playing video games and pursue. And just maybe, she will say yes.

For more on this topic see:

Help for Busy Moms on Balancing Life

Grace Driscoll, the wife of Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, has begun to blog at their new site While I'm not a mother, I know this post by her will be very encouraging to busy moms. She begins:
While I'm responding to these questions about “balance” in the home, I have stacks of paperwork on my desk, a “to-do” list a mile long, kids coming home from school soon, have realized I forgot to eat breakfast, and I’m wrapped up in a Wonder Woman blanket of all things.
A scenario like this is all too common for busy moms with any number of young kids. One of the hardest things for me is to keep perspective of who I am serving, instead of all the tasks that are flooding over me. Husbands need encouragement and affection, newborns take every moment to care for since they can’t do anything alone (even sleep sometimes), toddlers are constantly moving and asking questions, young kids need help with school homework and projects, and teens need emotional time and a listening ear. These are all a natural part of kids growing up and being in relationship with people we love.
If I list all the things and people I'm called to care for, it seems impossible, and it is…at least to do so perfectly, every moment. I wish I could give you a 10-step process to the smoothest running home, but I can’t. We're all different women, with different husbands and children. But thankfully, we all have the same God to help us.
You can read the rest of the post here.
I also found this quote encouraging (you know, for moms and dads):
“The kids can be running like a bunch of hooligans through a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster, and yet, if organization and order can still be found in my attitude, we are doing well. But if my attitude falters, even in the midst of external order, so does everything else” (Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic).