Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

January 16, 2019 • Samantha Wichman

This Sunday, Park Hills and hundreds of other churches across America will celebrate the sanctity of human life. National Sanctity of Human Life Day began in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan instituted the national observance. January 22, 1984 was the eleventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Roe vs Wade case. Not all presidents since Reagan have continued to observe this day, but many have. Roe vs Wade was a landmark court case in which the Supreme Court essentially legalized abortions in America. More specifically, prosecutors in the case targeted a Texas state law that banned abortions and the Supreme Court ruled that banning abortions violated a woman’s right to privacy, as established in the 14th Amendment. According to Life Matters Worldwide, National Sanctity of Human Life Day is meant to “celebrate God's gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage.” It may not be an easy stance to hold publicly, but Scripture is absolutely clear about life in the womb: Psalm 139:13-16 says: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Although babies in the womb are somewhat of a mystery, God knows each one of them personally. In His infinite power and wisdom, He knows who each unborn child is and already has plans established for them. Unborn babies are quite possibly the most vulnerable group of people on the planet. They cannot speak for themselves and are completely at the mercy of the communities around them. While it is important for believers to stand up for the rights of unborn children, it is vital that believers understand that they are called to do much more than simply vote for a pro-life candidate during the election season. Throughout history, countless women sought abortions even when they were dangerous and illegal. What makes us think that women in the 21st century would be any different, should abortions become illegal again? Voting for pro-life candidates is just the start of really being pro-life. Being pro-life means caring about both the mother and the child. It’s about befriending the mother, supporting her, guiding her in making the right choices and providing material needs when required. Being pro-life also means supporting adoption when it is best for the mother and baby. Just because a mother can’t care for a baby on her own doesn’t mean that no one can. Adoption honors life, and honors Jesus as the author of life. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission believes that “the greatest strategy the local church has is to create a culture where this cause matters and real action is taking place. If a church is seeking to be pro-life, there are proactive ways to accomplish this.” Here are five actions that the ERLC believes will have real and lasting impact: 1. Talk About It: Pastors and those in leadership roles have an obligation to educate and equip their congregation to be clear-minded, confident, and on mission. 2. Speak with Justice and Justification: Believers must not only condemn the practice of killing unborn children, but also whole-heartedly proclaim the gospel’s message of redemption and forgiveness. Both truths must be proclaimed together. 3. Create a Church Culture that Respects and Reveres Women: Many pro-choice women believe that pro-life rhetoric is aimed at oppressing women. By creating a culture where women are valued and respected, believers can push back against this belief. 4. Get Involved at a Local Pregnancy Center: These organizations need so much help carrying out their powerful work. They are the people helping women practically understand that abortion isn’t the only option. Give them your time and resources. 5. Be Pro-Life in All of Life: Don’t confine your pro-life believes to election season.

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Acts 4: When Life Gets Complicated

February 15, 2019 • Samantha Wichman

The second and third chapters of Acts are so encouraging to read. Believers receive the Holy Spirit, prophecies are fulfilled, people are healed, and even more people believe in Jesus for the first time. It’s exciting! While all of Scripture points us to Jesus, some passages make that easier to see than others. Who doesn’t love reading passages like Acts 2 and 3 when the disciples are doing awesome things, people are being helped, and the gospel is spreading? This Sunday we will learn from Acts 4, and this passage will put some things in perspective for us. In Acts 2 and 3 we see the disciples having great success, but we will see them face some difficulty and opposition in Acts 4. In Acts 4, we are told that Peter and John are once again teaching people about Jesus and proclaiming his resurrection from the dead, and that this has made the Sadducees and other members of the religious elite extremely upset. They don’t want this message spread because they believe it to be blasphemy. In order to try and prevent this message from spreading, they arrest Peter and John. Before releasing Peter and John, the Sadducees interrogate the two disciples and order them to never again speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Although we are told that 5,000 more people believe in Jesus because of Peter and John’s teachings in this chapter (Acts 4:4, Acts 4:21), and that’s amazing, this passage isn’t as plainly triumphant as chapters two and three are. If Peter and John are still acting on the power of the Holy Spirit and working to teach people about Jesus, then why are they all of a sudden facing such difficulty? The answer to this question might seem simple to some of you, but it’s worth the discussion nonetheless. God never promised that believers would have an easy life. In fact, he promised the exact opposite! In John 16:33 Jesus says to the disciples: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In the world we will face tribulation. In the world, difficult things will happen for seemingly no good reason at all. Hard, sad things will happen to people who are truly living for Christ. Scripture tells us that this is the case, but we can also see the truth of Jesus’s statement in the lives of many missionaries. Take a look at this blog that gives brief biographies of 15 missionaries. https://kindredgrace.com/missionary-heroes-stories/ Despite feeling wholeheartedly called to the mission field and selflessly living out their specific callings, not a single one of them had a difficulty-free life. They faced illness, extreme aggression, dangerous circumstances, and deep sorrow. There’s no formula for when or how much difficulty a believer might face during his or her lifetime. We know undoubtedly that life will have a mix of easy and hard moments, and that God is with us in all of them. As we continue our study in the book of Acts, let’s remember that God is just as present in the hard times as he is in the easy times. He is at work, carrying out his glorious plans in both types of circumstances.

The Movement of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 & 3

February 7, 2019 • Samantha Wichman

If you were asked to identify two chapters in Scripture that are parallel in structure, how long would it take you to name the second and third chapters of Acts? It would’ve taken me a really long time. At first glance it’s difficult to see how a chapter about Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit and a chapter about a miraculous healing are all that similar. Of course, there are many differences between the two chapters, but their main message is the same. Let’s find out what that is. We’ll dive into the third chapter of Acts this coming Sunday, so here’s a short summary for the meantime: In the third chapter we see Peter and John heal a man who has been severely disabled his entire life. From the passage we can gather that the man was born without the ability to use his legs, and it’s this disability that Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, heals. Because this man had begged at the temple gate for most of his life, people knew who he was. Verses nine and ten tell us: “And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” Immediately after this, Peter launches into a speech, just like he did in the second chapter of Acts. Now let’s look back at chapter two for a bit. In the second chapter of Acts, the Holy Spirit is given to believers. When this happens, the believers are suddenly able to speak in tongues, and this is a direct result of being filled by the Spirit. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the people in this chapter are able to speak in tongues. Although no one is healed, this is a miraculous event. It is a miracle. The Holy Spirit is the moving force behind the miracles in chapters two and three. The Holy Spirit fills the disciples and enables them to speak in tongues, and the Holy Spirit fills Peter and enables him to heal the disabled man. This is the first similarity between chapters two and three: the Holy Spirit moves and does something miraculous through believers. The second similarity between these chapters is the message that Peter preaches after the miracles occur. Just as the Holy Spirit filled Peter and enabled him to speak in tongues and heal someone, so too the Holy Spirit filled Peter and enabled him to effectively proclaim the gospel. Peter’s speech in chapter two (Acts 2:14-41), and his speech in chapter three (Acts 3:11-26), both present the gospel. First, Peter defends the identity of Jesus as the promised Messiah, and then he urges listeners to repent and follow Jesus. When considered together, these two chapters and the parallel events that are recorded in them tell us that evangelism must be carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of the Holy Spirit, whether displayed through word or action, that changes people’s hearts. Because these chapters also give us two different examples of ways in which the Holy Spirit moves, we know that we have a principle for evangelism and not an exact formula. Speaking in tongues is no more a precursor for effectively sharing the gospel than is healing someone’s physical ailment. These passages show us that the Holy Spirit knows what is necessary for each situation and needed by the heart of each person.

Sharing Your Testimony

January 2, 2019 • Samantha Wichman

Before I became a Christian, I had no idea what a testimony was. When I was fourteen, one of our neighbors invited my mom over for coffee and asked if she could share her testimony with my mom. Until my mom explained to me what our neighbor had told her, I was completely confused thinking about what she could have meant by that phrase: “share her testimony.” Now that I’ve been a Christian for a few years, the phrase seems second nature to me. I wonder, however, if the practice has become second nature to me as well? While there aren’t any Bible verses that flat out say: “you should share your testimony,” there are many Bible verses that tell us how good it is to talk about what the Lord has done for us: 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 says, “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” These verses clearly tell us that we are supposed to talk publicly about what the Lord has been up to. Another powerful example is found in the book of Mark. In the fifth chapter, Jesus heals a man who was possessed by a legion of demons and gives him this command: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds a whole lot like “go and share your testimony” to me. Now, even though Scripture is clear that sharing our testimonies brings glory to God, many of us still don’t do it. I doubt that most Christians refrain from sharing their testimonies because they disagree with Scripture. I think most of us struggle to share our testimonies simply because we’re afraid! What exactly are we afraid of? We’re afraid of being judged for our past actions. We’re afraid of sharing too much with the wrong person and being gossiped about. We’re afraid of leaving too much out and being ineffective. We’re afraid of being misunderstood. We’re afraid of incorrectly sharing the gospel. We’re afraid of being labeled as “one of those crazy Christians.” The great thing about all of this is that God has an answer for all of our fears. He’s not asking us to do any of this on our own strength! He knows that sharing our stories takes humility, vulnerability, and courage. He doesn’t tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and figure it out, He tells us to lean on Him for strength and wisdom! If the idea of sharing your testimony makes you a little uneasy or stirs up some questions, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer this week! Ask God to help you understand the purpose of sharing your testimony. Ask him to give you the strength to do it, and pray for discernment about when to share it and with whom.