5 Issues the Sanctity of Life Affects

Sanctity of Life

January 22, 2017 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Every year we specifically remind one another life is God-given and God-made. As we remind one another of this, we are sobered in that many disagree with this. We can easily sobered knowing such a biblically-based belief is so counter cultural. Below are 5 articles or messages that will help your understanding of the importance and effects Sanctity of Life has on life as a Christian, American, and citizen of the world.

Understand the Sanctity of Life and ethics. Carrie Earll and Focus on the Family explain the value of life is unquantifiable, and the baseline reason is found in that humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Human dignity and distinction are derived from this, and this is what drives our conviction.

Understand the Sanctity of Life in the face of abortion. John Piper, in this resource of 3 transcribed sermons, articulates abortion factually, exhorts us to consider Lordship, and the call to follow Jesus despite all else in the world. The last sentence is a gracious summation we need regular reminder of: “Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.”

Understand the Sanctity of Life and the American tax dollar. Joe Carter of the ERLC provides a credible exposé on the federally-funded Planned Parenthood, the nation’s most used women’s health organization and the largest provider of abortions in America.

Understand the Sanctity of Life Sunday and why we ought to pray it become unnecessary. Russell Moore, through anecdotes and cultural insight, reminds us that this Sunday is not meant to remain with the church for the rest of our history, unlike Christmas or Easter. A good prayer to pray is that this Sunday emphasis would be removed by the Lord orchestrating orphans to be adopted and abortions to be removed from the face of the earth.

Understand the Sanctity of Life as it relates to the world. David Platt helps us see that the issue does not exist in America, alone. The issue of devaluing human life is worldwide, and the answer is “make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20).

While the fight and disagreement about this issue transpires outside of the church and in the public square, we must have our minds set that when we gather, we gather not to argue about this issue, but to celebrate God and honor Him by strengthening one another and believing His Word.

Guest Blog From an Aspiring Missionary

At the age of 15, the Lord burdened my heart for the nations in a way that was different from brothers and sisters around me. I knew the trajectory of my life had come into focus on my first international missions experience. Due to the support and mission at Parkwood, I’ve been able to spend anywhere from a week to 10 weeks in different countries making disciples and leading others to do the same. The time is drawing near when my family will become “official” missionaries working among unreached peoples in Central Asia.

William Carey is best known as a British missionary who served until his death in 1834 in India. Some regard Carey as the “Father of Modern Missions.” Currently, the International MiWilliam Careyssion Board is discussing professionals using their jobs to take the Gospel to the unreached. Carey wrote about that in 1792. Currently, common practice is to send missionaries to join missionary teams rather than to work independently. Carey advocated that to be a better practice in his day. Currently, unreached people groups are the focus of missionary sending. Carey produced one of the first charts statistically accounting for how many Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Pagans (we would now delineate as Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, and Atheists) exist in every part of the world. He wrote an essay, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, that is still pertinent to our considerations of to what the Gospel’s calls our lives. Friends, family, and strangers have all made sure I was aware I could make disciples in my city because not everyone is a Christians here. The same have also given reasons as to why most individuals shouldn’t go, but, brothers and sisters, please contemplate William Carey’s rebuttals that he wrote before 1800.

“They are too far away.”

“Whatever objections might have been made on that account before the invention of the mariner’s compass, nothing can be alleged for it, with any colour of plausibility in the present age…Yea, and providence seems in a manner to invite us to the trial, as there are to our knowledge trading companies, whose commerce lies in many of the places where, these barbarians dwell.”

The compass was thought of as technology sufficient to get to all peoples. May I ask, what is our excuse when we can communicate instantly with 40% of the world?

“The way of life is too barbaric.” [Read more…]

Fasting and Prayer 2

And when you fast…

Having discussed the why of fasting in the previous post, we will here discuss the how. So how do you fast? Fasting is the negation of the physical for the promotion of the spiritual. Fasting is the intentional denial of a physical need, such as food, for the purpose of increasing your time and focus upon Christ in prayer and meditation. Abstinence from food increases your awareness of, dependence upon, and availability to God. A fast transfers desire for food into longing after God. When your stomach churns and growls for lack of nourishment, your mind is poignantly aware of your greater need for spiritual nourishment as attention is diverted from the physical reality to the equally true but radically more important spiritual reality. While you might be aware of your need for God without fasting, resisting physical need heightens your awareness of your spiritual need. Beyond awareness, fasting simply provides opportunity to reserve unhurried and extended time in the presence of God if the hours previously reserved for taking meals are given not to food but to prayer and meditation. In fasting, you intentionally decrease your desire for physical food and intentionally increase your desire for heavenly food; you loosen your grasp on physical need in order to strengthen your grasp on spiritual need.

Is it possible to fast from something other than food, technology for example? Sure, it’s possible. Refraining from food is not the only way to fast. Refusing other things, though, may lack the element of sacrificing need, as opposed to eliminating preference or convenience. Fasting from music is different than fasting from food, because food has a quality of need. Your body does not need music; it needs food. If you typically watch several hours of television each day, and you were to fast from television, then you would, appropriately and beneficially, be providing yourself unhurried and extended time with God. Fasting from television, you would have more time to pray, and may become highly aware, even distressed, by missing your favorite show. But the distinction remains that you do not need the television like you need food. Technology does, however, hold some similitude to need, particularly as we have become severely dependent on our iPhones and Androids. To the extent that we feel need and fulfillment in technology or something else, fasting from such things would be appropriate and helpful for our spiritual vitality.

Let’s consider how fasting might look generally in your life and specifically on December 16. Generally, fasting occurs during a meal, for a day, or over consecutive days that you choose to fast, either by way of discipline or because some situation has occasioned the fast, i.e. worship, grief over sin or otherwise, decision, need for help, or seeking the return of Christ. First, having chosen the meal, day, or days you will fast, act normal during the course of the day. Everyone you meet need not know that you are fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). Then fast and do not eat. Give your time to prayer and meditation. Since your day is focused on your fasting, you will likely pray more throughout the day as well, but intently give your mealtime(s) to God. As you give yourself to practice the presence of God, worship him, confess and repent of sin, seek clarity for decision, plead for his helping hand, and/or cry out for his return. Your fasting will be pleasing to God when your heart is surrendered to him. Don’t worry about experiential details. He wants you more than he wants your sacrifice, so give yourself to God as you fast.

The Parkwood faith family is called to a time of corporate prayer and fasting on Wednesday, December 16. You can choose to fast the entire day if you prefer, but everyone should (if you can) fast during lunch and supper on that day. You can pray on your own if necessary during lunch, or you could plan to gather as small prayer groups. Let me encourage you to spend a lunch break with other believers in prayer. Meet somewhere for lunch, or if not for lunch, then somewhere sometime during the day. At 6:30pm, though, we will meet as a church in the worship center and pray together. We will pray earnestly. More earnestly than our bodies hunger after food, we will hunger after our heavenly Father.

The focus of our prayer and fasting on this day is threefold: the International Missions Offering (IMO), global workers, and sending Parkwood members to the Lake Wylie campus. For the IMO, pray prayers of petition, asking God to bless and increase this offering. Pray prayers of decision, asking the Father to lead you to give sacrificially. And pray prayers for Christ’s coming. For global workers, pray prayers of petition, asking the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:36-38). Pray prayers of decision, asking if he would have you go to the harvest. And pray prayers for his coming, for that is why we give and that is why we go, that his mission to magnify his glory and proclaim his gospel might be accomplished among all nations. Finally, for sending Parkwood members, pray prayers of petition, asking that God would lead this work and make it fruitful for the kingdom in this community. And pray prayers of decision, asking if you are being called out to this new gospel work in Lake Wylie. These three points will focus our praying on December 16. If you would benefit from further direction in prayer, make use of this personal prayer guide.

If you would like additional reading on fasting, consider John Piper’s A Hunger for God or Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Fasting and Prayer

And when you fast…

It is puzzling how often the phrase “fast and pray” occurs in the Scriptures and yet how rarely it is practiced or even discussed in the American church. Fasting occurs in the Scriptures in several contexts. Fasting is for worship, mourning as well as confession and repentance, decision-making, petitions for help or preparation, and longing for Jesus’ return.

First, fasting is in the context of worship. The church of Antioch, for example, was “worshipping the Lord and fasting.” Coupled with worship, fasting appears as an aspect of personal worship in Deut 9:9 and Luke 2:37, and of corporate worship in Isaiah 58:3-7 and Acts 13:2. In this case, the individual or the church is not fasting for something as much as fasting in worship. It was part of worship. Fasting says, “I worship you; I treasure you, God, more than I treasure _____.”

Second, fasting is often found in contexts of confession and repentance and mourning over sin. This impetus of fasting is observed in 1 Samuel 7:6, Daniel 9:3, and Joel 1:13-14 as people of God are confronted with sin and consequently fast before the Lord. In contexts of confession and repentance as with worship, fasting is performed by individuals and collective groups as they grieve over their personal sins or the sins of the people of God. In some instances, like 1 Samuel 31:13 or Nehemiah 1:4, situations of mourning do not involve confession or repentance of sin directly and yet still occasion a motivation for fasting. When grief ensues or when sin is committed, fasting says, “God, I need you more than anything, more than that which is now lost, or more than that which occasioned my sin.”

Third, fasting is practiced throughout Scripture when people are faced with a decision. The congregation at Antioch fasted before they sent off Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:3, and, following their sending church’s example, Paul and Barnabas fasted before they appointed elders in Acts 14:23. Fasting was characteristic of the decision-making process. People typically fasted during intense times of seeking direction or before making decisions of particular import. Here, fasting says, “God, you alone are wisdom and truth, and from you alone I seek direction and guidance.”

Fourth, petitions for help or preparation often prompt fasting. In 2 Chronicles 20:3-4, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for Judah when faced with enemies; in Ezra 8:21, the fast was for protection over the people of Israel before a dangerous journey; and in Esther 4:16, fasting preceded Esther’s going before the king unannounced. In each of these occasions, the fast was not connected directly to making the decision as in the previously mentioned context. Rather, the decision had been made or the cause for concern already enacted. In these instances, fasting was connected to the petition for help in impending circumstances. They faced a difficult situation and fasted as they sought preparation for the task or help from God’s hand. Fasting says, “You are my only source of strength, O God. I need you more than physical sustenance, and I place myself in your hands alone.”

Finally, fasting is prescribed for longing after Christ’s presence, specifically in the second coming. When John’s disciples asked Jesus, in Matthew 9:14-15 (also in Mark 2:18-20 and Luke 5:33-35), why they and the Pharisees fasted but the Lord’s disciples did not, Jesus responded by assigning a specific purpose to fasting: longing for his presence. Jesus said that they had no reason to fast while he was with them, but his disciples would fast when he was taken away from them. Since the ascension, therefore, it has been appropriate to fast for Jesus’ second coming. Fasting says, “I am not made for this world; I am made for you. I long for you more than food. I desire for you to satisfy my soul more than I wish for food to satisfy my hunger.”

These contexts summarize five biblical motivations for fasting. Found on so many pages of God’s Word, can we possibly ignore fasting? As an element of worship, as an expression of dependence, or as a spiritual discipline, fasting is undeniably biblical, not only relevant but significant for each of us. If you would consider participating as we prepare for a day of corporate prayer and fasting on Wednesday, December 16, consider some of the contexts previously mentioned and the passages referenced above. Now to be sure, we have discussed specifically the why of fasting. We will turn our attention to how next week. If you would be willing, consider investigating further by reading and meditating on Matthew 6:16-18, and even watch or listen to a previous sermon from that passage.