Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Should We Control the Number of Children We Have?

Let me answer a Facebook question from Alison, who writes, “Should we ever try to control the number of children we have? More specifically, should a woman ever have her tubes tied, or should a man get a vasectomy?”

I don’t know why people ask me these questions. I have twelve children, nine natural children and three adopted children, so this is probably not a question for me. But with respect to birth control methods that should be avoided at any cost are those methods that destroy or prevent the implantation of an embryo, because an embryo is a living growing human being from the moment of conception.

Openness to children is as well an built in protection against the abuse of sex for mere self-gratification, and it is absolute imperative that as Christians we view children as a blessing not as a blithe. Our attitude of seeing our children as a blessing is something that pleases our Heavenly Father.

I think it’s also significant to recognize what’s going on when you have a fertilized human egg. That’s the beginning for the tapestry of life unfolding with a single thread and then through a process of incredible precision a microscopic egg in one human being is fertilized by a sperm cell from another and that marks not only the beginning of a brand new life, but it also marks the genetic future that life will have. Think about this: A single fertilized human egg, a zygote, the size of a pinhead, contains chemical instructions that would fill more than five hundred thousand printed pages. And the genetic information contained in that encyclopedia determines the potential physical aspect of the developing human being from height to hair color. Of course in time, the fertilized egg divides into thirty-trillion cells that make up the human body. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). This includes twelve-billion brain cells, which form more than a hundred-twenty-trillion synapses or connections.

If you lived in Darwin’s day, you would think a human egg to be nothing more, for all practical purposes, than a microscopic blob of gelatin. But today we know in an age of scientific enlightenment that a fertilized egg is among the most organized complex structures in the universe. In an age of scientific enlightenment it is incredible to think that there are people who would snuff out that human life in an early stage of existence. And that is precisely what we’re talking about with birth control methods that actually abort a conceptus. So we need to be very careful to guard against that. As long as you’re using a birth control method that does not involve that it becomes a matter of prayer between you and your spouse recognizing the biblical principles that I outlined.

But I’ll tell you as a 60 year old man now with a lot of kids knowing my predisposition early on which was with all the ministry that I wanted to do I didn’t want to have a huge family but my wife did. I am so happy that I listened to the wisdom of my wife because I cannot imagine life without my kids today. So kids are a blessing, and you can’t presume on the future, you just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, a lot of people who think they can’t afford kids fail to recognize that it’s not about the arm of flesh; it’s about the arm of God. God will give you, what you need. Not always your greed, but certainly He will provide for your needs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does God Harden Hearts?

On Facebook where we regularly post articles, discussion topics, and ministry announcements, Chris has this two part question: If God wants all people to come to Him, why does He in both the Old and the New Testaments harden their hearts? Or, as 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says blind the minds of unbelievers and veil the Gospel to those who are perishing? So in essence Chris is asking: Why does God blind people’s hearts? Why does He veil the Gospel? Why does He harden people’s hearts, after all He wants people to come to Him, why would He do that?

Well, first of all, hardening—the first part of the question—is interesting in that if you read the Word of God, you will see that mercy from God becomes the occasion for hardening. The quintessential case in point is Pharaoh. Every time God showed mercy to Pharaoh, Pharaoh responded by hardening his heart (Exod. 3-15). So God’s mercy is the occasion for hardening, but as the text explicitly tells us, Pharaoh also hardens his own heart (cf. Exod. 8:15).

With respect to the second part of Chris’ question: context, context, context! 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 does not say that God hardens the hearts of people or veils their hearts or blinds them; rather, this passage says, “the god of this world” does those things (cf. v. 4a). For example, Paul says the Gospel is not veiled but the Gospel is set forth plainly in the very verses that precede the passage that is noted by Chris (cf. 3:12-4:2). So the Gospel is not veiled, it’s plainly revealed. That’s what the text says. And then the text goes on to say that even if it is veiled, it is not veiled because God is veiling it, but it is veiled because “the god of this world,” or Satan is veiling it. It is he who blinds the minds of unbelievers. And then, says Paul, Satan becomes the de facto ruler who all who willingly subject themselves to his masterful deceit.

If we don’t belong to God, the God of the ages, then we belong to the god of this age. If we don’t belong to the Sovereign of the universe, we belong to Satan. There are only two kinds of people in the world—those who love darkness and those who love light. Jesus said to Nichodemus, “Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). In other words, they want darkness, they don’t want light.

Good question by Chris, but once again, it is not God who veils the Gospel, it is not God who blinds the mind, it is the god of this age, which is precisely what Satan is called.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

I want to address an issue brought up on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, which is an issue I did not have the time to deal with completely. A caller named Patricia asked about the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Christ says,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.

He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”

“Because no one has hired us,” they answered.

He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”

The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
—Matthew 20:1–16, NIV

Patricia was asking for the meaning of this parable. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is interesting in that those who worked all day long were actually envious of those who worked a fraction of the time. Why? Because they did not understand the concept of grace. They got what they bargained for. In other words, they got justice, though they accused the landowner of injustice. Those who do not understand grace and condemn the Grace Giver are not going to inherit the kingdom; for those who condemn grace, no grace will be given.

I remember reading R.C.H. Lenski, an expositor who once said, “The pearls of grace are never thrown before the wicked and self-righteous swine.”1 To accuse and condemn grace is the surest way to lose grace. Therefore, Jesus said, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” No matter how good one believes that they are, grace is lost when grace is rejected.


1. RCH Lenski, Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), 779.