This question brings to the surface some of the hidden considerations involved in end-of-life decision-making. The primary consideration for many people is whether life can have “meaning” beyond certain thresholds of suffering or the loss of vital functions. One problem in evaluating such “meaning” is the often subjective nature of the decision-making process.
A deeper consideration is the will of God, the Giver of life and the Giver of wisdom—wisdom that is sorely needed amid life’s suffering (Psalm 27:11; 90:12). It is God who gives life purpose and meaning up to the point of death. As a gift from God, life should be preserved. God Himself is sovereign over the time and manner of our death. A doctor who administers a life-saving treatment is not “playing God”; he is honoring the gift of God.
The conflicting values in end-of-life decision-making lie at two extremes. At one end of the spectrum are those who promote euthanasia, or mercy killing: suffering is evil and must therefore be eliminated—by killing the sufferer, if necessary. At the other end are those who view life as sacred, to be extended at all costs, using any technology available.
The problem with the first view, besides the fact that euthanasia is murder, is that Scripture nowhere urges us to avoid suffering at all costs; in fact, believers are called to suffer like Christ in order to fulfill His righteous and redemptive purposes in us (1 Peter 2:20–25; 3:8–18; 4:12–19). Often, it is only after someone has been disillusioned by significant suffering and loss that he takes stock of what is truly meaningful and can then make progress in advancing God’s purposes.
The complication inherent in the other view is the definition of “life.” When does life actually end? The classic illustration is the so-called persistent vegetative state in which a person can live for many years by simply being fed and hydrated. Many assume that such patients have no cognitive awareness and therefore have no “life” at all. Neurologists measure patient response to certain neurological stimuli in an attempt to inform the decision-makers. However, others believe that, if a person in this condition has a heartbeat, then there is hope and life must be preserved, even if only by machines.
The best answer probably lies somewhere between the two views. The Christian will attempt to preserve life, but there is a difference between preserving life and prolonging death. Artificially maintaining a semblance of life functions, simply because someone has a hard time “letting go” would indeed be “playing God.” Death comes at the “appointed” time (Hebrews 9:27). When a patient’s body begins shutting down, when medical intervention will not heal but only prolong the natural process of dying, then removing the machines and allowing that person to die is not immoral. This calls for wisdom. Actively speeding up death is wrong. That would be “playing God.” Passively withholding life-saving treatment might also be wrong. But allowing life to run its course, providing palliative care, and permitting a person to die in God’s time is not wrong.
Given these considerations, a clear and present danger of “playing God” exists at both extremes: eliminating suffering at all costs, and utilizing every possible therapy at all costs. Rather than play God, we should let God be God. Scripture tells us to depend on God for wisdom (James 1:5) and to weigh what is meaningful while life remains (Ecclesiastes 12).
Many people find praying publicly or in a group to be a daunting prospect. Public speaking of any kind is one of the greatest fears experienced by people. Public prayer adds the extra pressure of the spiritual aspect and makes people even more nervous because of the potential impact public prayer may have on others. It should be remembered, however, that although prayer is commanded by God, public prayer is not. In fact, Jesus said when we pray, we should go into a room, close the door and pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). So the first thing to understand about public prayer is that it is not a necessity of the Christian life.
For those who want to join in praying publicly, there are several ways to reduce the nervousness that often accompanies the experience. First, it’s important to pray with a group of people with whom we are comfortable, those we are sure won’t judge us for our less-than-eloquent prayers. Praying with others can be a great comfort when we hear our needs being lifted to the throne of grace by those who care enough about us to do so. Others who hear us pray for them are similarly encouraged. A group of people who love one another and accept one another in love and humility will usually ease the fears of those who are nervous about praying in public.
Another way to ease the burden of nervousness is to pray silently in advance of the public session, asking God to direct our minds and hearts to Him and away from ourselves. When we direct our thoughts toward the Creator of the universe and allow ourselves to become immersed in His immense nature, we will find our thoughts and feelings about ourselves diminishing. Our concerns will be more centered on what God thinks of us, not what others think. God loves us with an uncompromising love, and if we belong to Him through Christ, He has put our sin as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and He invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Being mindful that He does not judge us for our lack of eloquence will go a long way toward easing nervousness. Men look at the external, which includes the speech, but God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Finally, many people find that the sheer repetition of praying in public will ease the nervousness. Praying with others can be a very edifying experience, but ultimately prayer is the privilege of communicating with our heavenly Father who sees our hearts and knows what we need before we even ask. He doesn’t need to hear eloquence in our prayers in order to bless us and draw near to us. What He asks for is a contrite heart and a lowly spirit, things He will never refuse (Psalm 51:17), no matter how eloquent our prayers.
The primary difference between a Christian wedding and non-Christian wedding is Christ. Christians who marry are making a commitment to Christ, as well as to each other, and that commitment should be obvious to everyone who attends the wedding. In a non-Christian wedding, the couple—particularly the bride—is usually the focal point. In a Christian wedding, Christ is the focal point.
A Christian couple who truly want to glorify Christ through their wedding can start with the early preparations, beginning with biblical premarital counseling with their pastor. Premarital counseling based upon sound biblical principles outlines the roles of the husband and wife as they relate to each other and to their prospective children (Ephesians 5:22–6:4; Colossians 3:18–21). The wedding affirms before God and friends and family that the couple’s desire is to live according to God’s plan for the family.
The wedding ceremony should also be a reflection of the couple’s dedication to the glory of Jesus Christ. Every part of the service, from the music to the vows to the message delivered by the officiator, should reflect that commitment. Music should be reverent and Christ-honoring, not worldly or flippant. Vows should be taken with the couple’s full understanding that the words they speak to one another constitute a lifetime commitment and with the knowledge that what they promise to one another, they are promising to God. The message delivered by the pastor should reflect these truths and commitment.
A Christian couple should choose their attendants carefully and with their commitment to Christ in mind. Bridesmaids and groomsmen aren’t simply there to dress up the ceremony. Their presence testifies to their agreement with, and their promise to support, the commitment of the couple to honor Christ in their marriage. Along that line, the bridal gown and bridesmaids’ dresses should be modest and appropriate for standing before God. There is no room for low-cut, revealing clothing in a Christ-honoring ceremony.
If there is a reception, it should be equally Christ-honoring. Although non-Christian family members are often present at Christian weddings and receptions, serving alcohol at a Christian reception sends the wrong message to the unbelievers, a message that says there really is very little difference between those who profess Christ as Lord and those who do not. Even if the believers who plan the wedding see nothing wrong with alcohol and partake of it with a clear conscience, other Christians may be offended by the presence of alcohol, and we are not to use our liberty to cause anyone to stumble.
A couple whose wedding is Christ-honoring will remember the beauty and seriousness of the wedding for a lifetime and will find it a wonderful way to begin their life together.
Here is an update on the Alpha Course, a program that was started by Nicky Gumbel at the Anglican church in London. This church was the center of the holy laughter movement in England and Europe, and has been known for services that include being “slain in the spirit” and behaviors such as uncontrollable laughter, spasms, loud animal-like noises and physical manifestations during emotionally driven services. In some cases, these elements have found their way into the teachings of this course. (Gumbel is also a member of Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation.)
Among the many more prominent leaders to endorse ALPHA are Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Tony Campolo, Tim Keller, J. I. Packer and others. And starting this week, Willow Creek will offer Alpha. Ken Silva over at Apprising Ministries revisits the Alpha Program with this robust report about the ecumenical nature of a program that is uniting Catholics, Evangelicals and others in a way that is blurring the lines:
How do you evangelize people who don’t know anything about the Bible? How do you witness to people who are smarter than you? Pastor Mike preaches a sermon from Acts 17 which gives you 3 words that answer these important questions.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” 2 Thessalonians 2:3
In these Last Days, the Devil is very openly active in the affairs of men. We read in 2 Thessalonians that one of the signs that will immediately precede the Rapture of the Church of Jesus Christ will be the great “falling away” from the faith once delivered to the saints of God. One “fruit” of this end times demonic activity is Chrislam, the evil mutant hybrid of Christianity and Islam that is pushed so hard here in America by false teachers like Rick Warren.
“Here I stand, I can do no other!”
Please watch this video of the one they call the brave German woman, and see her courageous stand against not only the false religion of Islam, but of Chrislam itself.
And as you watch this video, ask yourself why YOU remain silent as you see Chrislam on the rise in America, and say nothing against it.
Hey Christian, do you have as much courage and guts as the brave German woman?
In his new book, Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, charismatic radio show host Michael Brown points to his commitment to sola scriptura as the main reason he is a continuationist. Not only does Brown reject cessationism “because of the definite and clear testimony of the Word” (AF, 166), but he also finds the position “exegetically impossible” (AF, 165).
In chapter six of Authentic Fire, Brown presents the primary biblical arguments for the continuation of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. In one of these arguments, Brown appeals to the words of Jesus in John 14:12. In this verse, Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12).
According to Brown, John 14:12a — “he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also” — contains a universal promise to the church of Jesus Christ that “whoever believes in the Son will also perform miraculous signs” (AF, 189). To support his conclusion, Brown notes that the immediate context emphasizes miracles as the works done by Jesus and that the phrase “he who believes in Me” (ho pisteuon eis eme) is universal in its scope when used elsewhere in the Gospel of John (6:35; 7:38; 11:25; 12:44, 46) (AF, 189). According to Brown, then, everyone who believes in Christ will perform miraculous signs.
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Ed Welch: “I hate the prosperity gospel or any teaching that suggests good Christians will be healthy, wealthy and happy. As a counselor I see its wretched fruit. I hate it, and I am not alone. The number of haters is reaching a critical mass, maybe even a tipping point. But I can understand why this pernicious teaching endures. In many places, Scripture seems to teach it, so there will always be a contingent of prosperity folks among us.”