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The Wichita Divide

The Tuesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog examines something I have been reading lately. Usually, I can read about one book per week. These posts are meant to share some of my reflections from the latest book I have or am reading.

A few days ago, I started reading Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle Over Abortion. It is written by Stephen Singular who writes for The New York Times. The title of the book is somewhat self-explanatory about the subject. It is a book detailing the events leading up to the murder of abortion doctor Dr. George Tiller just a few years ago.

What prompted me to read this book is two things:

First, as some of you know, my family and I moved to Wichita, KS this January for a new opportunity of full-time ministry at Wichita Bible Church. Upon coming here, I knew very little history of Wichita other than Wyatt Earp once was deputy marshal, they have a pretty good college basketball team and something called the Summer of Mercy in 1991.

Second, I visited a local ministry here in town – only a few miles from our church – called Choices Medical Clinic. This is a Christian organization that is spreading the Gospel to women who have had unplanned pregnancies. And guess what is right next door? An abortion clinic. In fact, Dr. Tiller’s abortion clinic is the one within arm’s length of Choices. Dr. Tiller’s clinic has been the subject of national controversy over the last few decades is only a few miles from my home and my church.

So I have a vested interest in the history of this city and my immediate community. In fact, as I understand WBC has had members protest at the abortion clinic over the years and even had some elders arrested during the summer of 1991 – but that is another story for another time.

Since I am only 52 pages into the book, there is not much to say but perhaps when I complete my reading, I might re-blog about some things I learned.

What I would encourage any of you to do is this: be a student of history and especially, if at all possible, a student of your community’s history. You could be surprised what you might learn and it will only benefit you in your task of making disciples if you know the people you are trying to reach even better.

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Practical Atheism in the Public Square

For years now, I have laughed at the over-sensitivity of some who are offended by even the brief mentioning of the name “God.” I laugh, not because I want to try to be insensitive to them, but because of the real silliness of these scenarios. It would appear there is a “should we remove the name ‘God’” controversy in about every state. Many states have wrestled with the issue of whether they should take down copies of the Ten Commandments; other states have decided against praying before meetings or assemblies.

The latest story comes from the University of Purdue. Two graduates of Purdue donated $12,500 to the School of Mechanical Engineering in 2012 and asked for the following inscription to be placed on their plaque, “To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. In honor of Dr. William `Ed’ and Glenda McCracken.”

This statement, as you can imagine, created a fire storm over the use of the name “God” because of the concern that the state is now endorsing Christianity – violating the separation of church and state.

As a battle over the name “God” ensued, Purdue suggested an alternative statement be written on the plaque – “Dr. Michael and Mrs. Cindy McCracken present this plaque in honor of Dr. William “Ed” and Glenda McCracken and all those similarly inspired to make the world a better place.”

One of the donors – Michael McCracken – has said,

“I believe that there are certain situations in life where one must decide if they are going to stand for their principles — regardless of whether or not it is the easiest or most convenient option. … That is why my wife and I felt it so important to resolve this issue instead of ignoring it. Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of freedom of speech and religious freedoms, yet recognized their dependence on God.”

You can read more about this story here.

My point in re-telling this story is not to make a case for the name “God” on our public documents or money; my point is not to talk about the validity or harm of the philosophy of the separation of church and state. My point is this: people have a guilty conscience and they don’t want God to hover over it.

C’mon America! Why are we freaking out about the name “God” on our money, in our constitution, on our scholarship plaques, etc.?” Are you that convicted about your own sin that you think that by removing His name from the public eye that you will somehow clear your conscience?

The heart issue is not separation of church and state; the heart issue is God’s judgment over sin. People aren’t crying for the removal of Allah or Buddha from the public square because they aren’t real and there is not anything to fear from them. People don’t want God in the public square because He will actually hold them accountable for their thoughts, words, and actions.

The Bible says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ …” (Ps 14:1a). This is someone who is not intellectually stupid but morally evil. It refers to an inner perversity before God. This is the essence of depravity: foolishness. Why is he a fool? He is a fool because he denies what he knows to be true. He knows there is a God but lives as if there isn’t one; he is a practical atheist. How foolish to know there is truly a God to judge and condemn and yet live as if He isn’t righteous! That is the “fool” here.

The fool says “in his heart” that “there is no God.” Let me explain to you grammatically why he is a practical atheist and not just an intellectual one. In the original language, this is how it reads: in Elohim or “no God.” There is no “there is.” It reads, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘No God.’” See the difference? The idea is “no God for me.” Because it comes from his heart, this is practical atheism – he lives as if there is no God; it’s not that he doesn’t believe there is a God. He says “no God.”

Pray for our country!

We are a nation filled with fools!

But we are a nation filled with ambassadors for Christ as well! “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:38).

 

 

Moore Lessons

As many of you know, one of the most powerful tornadoes in our nation’s history struck Moore, OK last Monday evening. Some of you may not know that I live in Tulsa, OK – some 90-100 miles NE of Moore. Tornadoes are a “way of life” in Oklahoma; we grow up being told we live in tornado alley, which means there are more tornadoes in this part of the country every year than anywhere else. There is a sense in which you get used to seeing powerfully destructive storms in late Spring and early Summer, but you never get used to the loss of life or the damage they are capable of.

As a person who believes in a sovereign God, I also conclude that God doesn’t waste storms. He doesn’t ever mindlessly send them for His own pleasure and our own fearing. There are always lessons to be learned. God uses even the destruction of a tornado and the pain cause by such an event for God-glorifying purposes.

Moore, Oklahoma Tornado on Ground

Today, I wish to share with you 7 lessons that I believe we can gain from such a destructive event like this one. You can apply these lessons to any great tragedy: cancer, a powerful storm, traumatic car wreck, etc.

Lesson #1 – When we need help, we ought to pray and pray persistently.

All throughout the Psalms, we see men praying with urgency when they needed help. The believer is never silent when he needs God to intervene. Desperate times create desperate prayers.

Don’t be afraid of persistence. Never stop praying. Don’t be afraid of repetition. Be diligent. Our perseverance in praying communicates to God that we are patiently waiting upon Him with eagerness.’

Lesson #2 – Be transparent before God when you pray.

Too many people fear transparency in their relationships and especially in their prayers. God wants to us to express our human emotions, doubts, complaints, struggles, etc. He wants us to ask Him “difficult” questions and beg Him to do things a certain way. Being transparent before God is what some have called courage of imperfection. It is a time when we are brazen enough – without sinning – to acknowledge you are not who you want to be and where you want to be.

Lesson #3 – When tragedy strikes, probe your heart for sin.

I would hope this is a natural reaction to any affliction. It may not be your first response, but it should not be delayed. Ask God, “God, search me and know. See if there be any wicked way in me.”

James 5 refers to a time when leaders in the local church gather around a sick individual who is suffering due to his own sin.

Just yesterday, my father was sharing with me of the 40+ references to a whirlwind (i.e. tornado) in the Bible, all of them either are a sign or metaphor for judgment. Some Christians are timid or afraid to ask the question too soon after a hurricane or powerful storm, but we must: “Is God judging here? Is there unconfessed sin in my life?”

Lesson #4 – Every tragedy is temporary.

It never seems like there is a temporary nature to affliction – especially when you’re in the middle of it. But always in hindsight, and certainly in eternity, we will look back and think, “Well, that wasn’t too big of a deal.”

When we contrast God’s eternal nature with our brief sufferings, they seem so trivial or trite.

Tragedies will come and go. They will always pass. They have an end.

Lesson #5 – Practice humility.

In some ways, this is a forced lesson during tragedy, because trials always humble us. “We pray best when we pray in the depths,” Charles Spurgeon once wrote.

Posturing oneself before God as need, unable and insufficient is not only appropriate but sanctifying. When one humbles himself before a God who has no lack who is capable of anything and is sufficient, that man has found the foundation for true holiness during suffering.

Lesson #6 – Our personal tragedies are opportunities to instruct others.

When we are suffering, we don’t look outside ourselves enough. We don’t consider how many “non-sufferers” are watching our reaction, listening to our speech, observing our behavior, etc. We don’t realize how many people are impacted by our growth or lack thereof.

Just like we read the Psalms some 3,000 years later, we are students of those authors who suffered before us. They are our teachers for tragedy.

There may even be a time when our personal sufferings serve no other purpose than to be a lesson or warning for another.

Lesson #7 – God is still in charge.

Chaos, as observed by humans, is still order with God. God never loses a grip on His sovereign reign over His creation. Every moment of suffering and affliction falls under His wise, all-powerful arm.

That is why you never see those saints in the Bible panicking. They know who their God is. They know He is trustworthy.

In conclusion, tragedy is more often than not a medicine for us. It is not a poison. It is meant for our good and maturation. It is meant for His glory.

So when it strikes in your hometown or household next, and it will, open your Bible to the Book of Job and read that opening chapter. Learn from a righteous man who acknowledged God gives and takes, but He remains the same yesterday, today and forever.