Sunday, April 23, 2017

This Lady Was Baptized Today - What Is The Significance Of Baptism?

Baptism Saves! Yes it does!
(Written by Kevin A. Hall  04.23.17)

Today I witnessed the power of God's spiritual kingdom upon this lady... Without a doubt, she experienced Pentecost. She received the Promise - ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind’ (Acts 2:17). She’d been attending the church for a few weeks now and last Tuesday, decided she wanted to be baptized. We were so excited for her. God is moving upon the hearts of the people of this island. So, here we are. Today was her BIG day. You could sense the anticipation of a blessing in her spirit. She was hungry. She wanted God. I saw her on Wednesday night at the annual convention where she told me she couldn’t wait till Sunday!!
Sunday has come...Last week we celebrated 'Resurrection Sunday'. Today is her "Resurrection Sunday'. Bless the Lord!!  Those who respond to the Gospel message have new life in Christ!
It wasn’t long after she was “immersed” into the water that she came up stuttering…she began to worship God…the intensity of her worship increased…and then…she began to SPEAK IN TONGUES!!  Just like on the day of Pentecost.

The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Keeping in mind the significance of the moment, I thought I would pen my thoughts on Baptism. What happens when a person gets baptized? Well, Baptism now saves! The Apostle Peter describes it this way: “Baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Baptism takes care of the legal problem of guilt for sin. It satisfies the penalty. Through the process of Baptism, the Holy Spirit regenerates the sin sick heart, taking away the guilt through the power of the blood. In response to the Apostle Peter's message on the day of Pentecost the people asked “What shall we do?” Peter said to them “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

REPENT > The turning away from
BE BAPTIZED > An outward act of receiving God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins

Friday, April 21, 2017

Controversial Considerations For Those Seeking To Start A Family

An Opinion On Reproductive Technology

(Written by Kevin. A. Hall  10.13.16)
Reproductive technologies play a major role in the lives of so many in our culture.  When I think of what the term means I automatically think of options for assisting folks with having a baby. The term actually refers to “various medical procedures that are designed to alleviate infertility, the inability of a couple to produce a child of their own” (Rae, 156). I am in total support of technologies that aid the reproduction process but the ethics of the process cannot be ignored.
As it stands, options available for parents/parent include artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood. Compassion comes to mind when one thinks of the couple or the single adult who so long to have the joy of a child in their lives. This process can make this possible. Here’s a quick overview of available options:
  • Intrauterine insemination(IUI) – performed with the use of a man’s sperm being inserted into the uterus of the woman artificially rather than through natural sexual intercourse. This process is often inexpensive and gives the couple a greater chance of conception
  • Donor insemination – performed with the sperm of an outside donor, anonymous or with consent, also inserted into the woman’s uterus
  • Egg donation – women can get involved by donating multiple eggs retrieved through surgery and given to an infertile couple
  • Gamete intrafallopian transfer(GIFT) -  the woman is given hormonal treatments that assist her with producing eggs. Eggs are extracted, the man’s sperm is obtained through masturbation, eggs placed together with sperm, allowing for a greater chance of fertilization as eggs are placed back in the fallopian tubes.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) – the woman receives hormonal treatments to release eggs, the man’s sperm also obtained through masturbation but fertilization takes place in the lab rather than in the woman’s body. Later on the fertilized eggs are placed back into the uterus.
  • Surrogate motherhood – this process involves the man’s sperm being inserted into a contracting donor who conceives, carries and give birth to a baby. Another option is Gestational surrogacy where the womb of a donor is used, not the egg. IVF is performed with the couple, then embryos are implanted into the surrogate who carries and gives birth to a child.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ISCI) – another available option that is very expensive but reliable. A single sperm is injected into an egg using technology resulting in pregnancy.
We do not yet have a child of our own. My wife and I have recently started the process so I can empathize with anyone trying to have a baby. The fact that these options are available can provide needed hope and alternatives. Yet, consideration must be given to which approach violates morality. One never really considers certain issues until it reaches home. I am a bit tossed on a few of these, yet very much against others. Christians are people of the Book (Bible). All decisions must be considered against the Word of God. For those of is seeking to have a baby, we first turn our attention to prayer as God is the one that has declared that we should be fruitful and multiply. So the “Bible has general optimism about medical technology as part of the mandate to establish dominion over the earth” (Rae, 163). Only that some options are not morally appropriate.

I am not Catholic and these topics are taboo for most Christian denominations including mine, so any consideration of reproductive technologies are usually a private matter between the couple. I can’t say that this is something I would discuss with my Pastor. Therefore, my worldview on the matter is what will take precedent. The Catholic position employs use of the stating that ‘sex is reserved for marriage and tradition makes little room for any reproductive technology that interferes with the natural process of procreation” (Rae, 163).  The Catholic position states that procreation should only occur in the context of marriage, therefore surrogacy is morally acceptable. I agree with this position. This position can be embraced by Christians but we cannot expect the non-Christian to embrace this position. For them, this is a morally acceptable option that can provide needed joy. I can understand this, although I would not promote it. This biblical position supports conception happening as God intended – in the mother’s womb and not with the involvement of a third party. Things can get pretty muddled with both surrogacy and sperm donation. The baby will have the genes of parties outside of the marriage.

There is also the issue of obtaining of eggs through masturbation. The Catholic position on this is that “masturbation may not be used as a substitute for sexual relations in order to collect sperm outside the body to be inserted into the womb” (Rae, 164). This position I consider hardline! My wife and I spoke about this one. We are of the position that considerations must be given to individual cases. We shouldn’t just paint a broad stroke in decisions for everyone. Some couples experience Vaginismus – the woman experiences vaginal spasms where the muscle contracts during penetration which makes sexual intercourse painful and un-pleasurable. Should we not consider this woman and assist her? Then there’s the man who experiences erectile dysfunction – imagine the frustration experienced here. Should he not be helped? I am of the position that as long as obtaining the sperm within the context of marriage, the couple in agreement, then there is no guilt associated with masturbation to achieve an agreed goal. This I believe is morally acceptable. But, there’s also scripture that encourages us to be content with our lot (1 Cor. 7: 17-28). This scripture is used to “suggest that use of any reproductive technology “could” fall outside the parameters if its use is motivated by desperation” (Rae, 167).
Lastly, my position on this matter is (1) Procreation should take place within the context of a stable, permanent monogamous, and heterosexual marriage (2) Effort must be made to protect fetuses and embryos in fertility procedures (3) Adoption is a viable option (4) Reproduction technologies that involve surrogacy and outside sperm donation is not a morally acceptable option (5) Christians need to bathe these decisions in prayer.
Children are a gift from God and so is technology. Deliberate considerations must be given to the use of technology. As long as it does not violate God’s command, the use of reproductive technologies are an available option.

Rae, S. Moral Choices. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan (2009)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Is The Influence Of Our Churches Diminishing?

The Diminishing Influence Of Our Churches In A Post-Modern World
(Written by Kevin A. Hall   04.19.2017)

I conducted a study of the diminishing influence of our churches within this post-modern generation recently based on an excellent Doctoral Dissertation. I am unable to share the resource, but found it necessary to document a few takeaways which are key to our present attitude of “doing church”.
There is no doubt, that the perceived influence of the church has diminished over the past few decades. One contributing factor has been philosophical thought especially the influence of Post-Modernism upon this last generation. Mike McDaniel makes a very good case about the demise of Christianity post-Christendom. Its effect is global, reaching even what may seem to be remote parts of our world with the ushering in of Globalism. I can tell you that even on an Island of less than 5000 people where I presently reside, we see the effects of Post-Modernism. Churches on this island are fairly empty. It is not uncommon for the average Sunday Morning attendance to be less than 17. One church I attended had  10 in attendance. There were 2 males over 40 years old, 6 females over 60 years old and 2 children under 11 years old. Where is the younger generation? Working adults under 40? Strong young men between the ages of 16- 30? How about the children? How can our churches be missing their precious laughter and presence? Travelling around the countryside I was pleasantly surprised to find “the missing”. Schools were filled to capacity with children and young people. Young men were on the streets in the afternoon playing basketball. Kids were up and about on Saturdays. Ever so often I would see a young lady walking on the street. I met them in the places of business and in the laundromats; also by the beach or the Bayfront with their babies. The young men I found at the barber shops and the liquor store. They often congregate in groups, usually in someone’s yard. Thankfully, it seems they are not running wild on the streets. There seem to be a method to their gathering. They are almost invisible, but they are here…and in large numbers. It seems that most people stay indoors. Crime is low, but there is a high percentage of babies being born to single family homes. A large percent of the church’s target audience is staying home, and this trend is not uncommon to Christendom in general.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Big Miss On Palm Sunday

The Big Miss On Palm Sunday
(Written by Kevin A. Hall    04.09.17)

Jesus walked wherever He went. There were no cars, no bicycles, no motorbikes, no trucks, no planes, no buses. They had chariots, horses and other animals of use… but His preferred method of travel was by foot. This makes me think about the days when there were strikes in the country and a couple of us would “foot it” for miles back home from school. Those were the days. The good old days. Nowadays, if you are like me, then I park my car near a mall entrance, return to my car, then drive to the other side of the mall (unless of course my wife is with me..then I have to walk the entire mall. I get lazy sometimes. But not Jesus! He loved “footing it”. Except when He traveled by boat, or walked on water! Today would be different. Today, He gave His disciples a different kind of instruction:
 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”
4They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it (Mark 11:1-7)
His followers knew something was about to happen. Why did Jesus want to travel on a young donkey?  Imagine what was going through their heads…He is up to something Today.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

God's Strategy For The World

A Biblical Perspective  -  God’s Will For Reaching The Nations
 (Written by Kevin. A. Hall 04.08.17)

The Evangelization of the world has been the mission of God since the beginning of time. The God of the Bible is a “sending God” with a heart for the peoples of all nations. We see his passion demonstrated throughout the pages of biblical history and supported by natural history and sciences. God is missional. God's purpose and goal is His entire creation. One can say that the lives of people lived over thousands of years is a divine drama “divided into a series of Acts following the lives of the people it portrays as they struggle with the reality of a broken world and their own yearnings to connect to the One in whose image they are made” (Moreau, 25).
God reaches out to the nations through Mission, working through His people (Missionaries) who engage the world through acts of Missions.

Mission -  This is everything the church is doing that points toward the kingdom of God

Missions – This is specific work conducted by the church and agencies in the task of reaching                        people for Christ by crossing cultural boundaries

Missionaries – A prepared Disciple whom God sends into the world with His resources to make
                           Disciples for His Kingdom
                                                                                                                (Moreau, 17 – 18)

                                                   The Mission of God in Scriptures
To gain an understanding of God’s heart for all the nations of the world, it is necessary to view it through the pages of Scripture, beginning with the Old Testament. Mission “arises from the heart of God himself and is communicated from His heart to ours.(Wright, 24). Let’s investigate this divine drama unfolding through a series of seven (7) "Acts" described by Moreau throughout the pages of biblical history. As you review this, try to place the many biblical figures and stories you have been taught in Bible studies and Sunday School within each "Act":