The Church for Life

The Church for Life

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Call of Gideon - Judges 6:1-35

(I gave this message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines Florida on September 20, 2015.)

As we go through life year after year, God opens new doors placing new opportunities before us leading us to take on new responsibilities. A young person wrestling with the question "What does God want me to do with my life?" "Where do I go to school?" "What should I study in preparation for that calling?"

A young married couple about to have their first child. Excited in anticipation of the new arrival, yet perhaps a bit apprehensive of the responsibilities, challenges and sacrifices of becoming parents.

Perhaps you've just started a new job. The learning curve is steep. You find the assignment difficult, even overwhelmed with the unfamiliar. Perhaps you're a businessman, sensing God's leading to start a new business; to venture out on your own for the first time. Perhaps in following God's call you've accepted a ministry assignment but struggle with doubts and a sense of inadequacy. Maybe it's a person you need to speak with to make things right. Or the Lord has put His finger on a besetting sin in you life.

We could likely come up with as many different scenarios as there are people here this morning. Maybe you're waiting to get started, or you've already taken the first step. Perhaps you are well on your way but facing obstacles, even opposition, prompting doubts whether or not you should even continue.

Thousands of years ago God called a man by the name of Gideon to an assignment he felt woefully unprepared for. And in the Biblical account recorded in the book of Judges, we find principles that transcend time, culture and circumstances speaking to us today in the 21st century as we face new opportunities and assignments.

Note with me the historical setting. In a message from the book of Joshua a little over two years ago we learned that God does His work through His people, serving in His power, carrying out His plan.

As Joshua lead Israel across the Jordan River into the promised land, Israel began to take possession of the land God had promised their forefather Abraham hundreds of years before. Under Joshua's leadership they began the daunting task of defeating and driving out their enemies as the Lord had commanded them. Judges 2:8 records the death of Joshua. The period of the judges that follows covers the next 300 or so year from the time of Joshua's death to the beginning of the monarchy in the mid 11th century BC.

Under Joshua's leadership, Israel began to conquer and take possession of the Promised Land. But when we come to the book of Judges a very different story emerges. As John McArthur writes, "Judges is a tragic sequel to Joshua. In Joshua, the people were obedient to God in conquering the Land. In Judges, they were disobedient, idolatrous, and often defeated."

Therefore John Davis notes, the contrasting themes of the two books. The book of Joshua, "Victory Through Faith." The book of Judges, "Failure Through Compromise." And David Howard writes, "The theme of Judges is the downward spiral of Israel's national and spiritual life into chaos and apostasy...." (ESV Study Bible pg. 433)

In this regard, Judges 17:6 could well be the key verse in the book, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (ESV)

Judges 2:10-19 provides us with a summary of this period in Israel's history.

"10 And all that generation [the generation of Joshua] also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.  11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 1Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways." (ESV)

Remember God had established a covenant with Israel through Moses at Mt. Sinai. After wandering in the desert for forty years, Moses renewed the covenant with the people before he died Deuteronomy 29. Joshua then renewed the covenant with the people after they entered and began to take possession of the Promised Land.

But the generations that followed Joshua grew up oblivious to God and oblivious to what God had done for Israel in the preceding years. This new generation lost sight of the unique identity they had as the people of God. Verse 10 they "... did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel." Verse 12, "... they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt."

 They settled in the land and became attached to the Canaanite people. They embraced the immorality and gods of the pagan culture around them. The book of Judges records seven seasons of such apostasy. A sequence of four events was repeated over and over again in these seven cycles of apostasy.

First, Israel would abandon God. They turned from the Lord and served other gods. Two, the Lord chastised them. He brought judgment upon His people subjugating them to their enemies. Three, Israel would cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Four, God raised up a judge to deliver Israel from their enemy oppressors. The title "judge" means savior or deliverer.

The issue in the book of Judges is the repeated rejection of the Lordship of God in Israel, and His gracious response to the repeated cry for deliverance by his wayward people.

The first judge Othniel delivered Israel from the oppression of Mesopotamia, chapter three, followed by 40 years of peace. Ehud then delivered Israel from the Moabites followed by 80 years of peace. Brief mention is made of Shamgar who defeated 600 Philistines. The prophetess and judge Deborah delivered Israel from the Canaanites, followed by 40 years of peace. Then the cycle started all over again. Judges 6:1-4,

"1The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. [In other words they were hiding in the mountains.] For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. Verse 6, And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord."

Again, Gideon's generation turned from the Lord and followed the pagan gods. Then after the Lord caused their enemies to oppress them they cried out for His mercy and He once again raised up a judge to deliver them from their enemies. This is the world in which Gideon lived. This is the context in which God called this man to deliver Israel from the oppression of their enemies.

I want to look at God's call of Gideon and note the process that followed the call. The process that prepared Gideon to both accept and carry out the assignment God had called him to. In other words, I want to note the steps it took to get Gideon "on board" and in particular how God worked with Gideon through out that process to bring him to a place of obedient faith to the calling God had placed on his life.

And I believe we will find principles in this process that apply to you and I in the here and now. I want you to know that in deciding to bring this message a degree of selfishness came into play. For I recognized that I need this message. Therefore what I share this morning is first and foremost for my benefit if for no one else!

God calls Gideon. Judges 6:11,12, Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him,  “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

Perhaps now you understand why I have taken the time to place the call of Gideon in its historical context. An entire nation is in distress. The Midianites had been plundering them for seven years. They are desperate. The supermarket shelves were bare so to speak. The commodities necessary to sustain life were vanishing as the enemy repeatedly devoured "...the produce of the sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey," verse 4. 

And a very ordinary man, evidently a farmer, is winnowing wheat in a wine press of all places, so as not to be discovered by the Midianites, when God appears to him and gives him the assignment. The call of Gideon itself is unusual. He is not approached by a prophet; he is not anointed by a priest; he is not elected by the people. No, God appears to Gideon in the form of a man, a theophany it is called, and calls him to deliver his nation from the enemy who had been plundering them for seven years.

As I've said before, God often chooses ordinary people to accomplish the extraordinary, here a middle-aged wheat farmer. You remember, God called Elisha while he was plowing his fields. Amos was a sheepherder from Tekoa; David a shepherd boy the youngest of all his brothers; Peter, James and John were fisherman when Jesus called them. You can add to the list.

G. Campbell Morgan, "God almost invariably discovers the man of the hour where no one else is looking for him."

You and I are included in that list. True, God might not be calling you to deliver your nation from an oppressor. On the other hand, maybe he will! God knows how much we need one. But in the world in which you and I live, a stay at home mother caring for or perhaps even home schooling her children; a postal worker delivering the mail; a physician tending to the sick; a sales representative marketing your companies product. You fill in the blank.

Never minimize where God has placed you. Never underestimate the value and significance of your calling. Never think, no matter how old you are, that there will never be new assignments God is calling you to. Reaching out to your new neighbor down the street who does not know Christ; discipling or mentoring a new believer in your church; becoming a foster parent to an orphaned or abandoned child.

Back to Judges. The NIV Topical Bible, "None of the major judges was a likely candidate for leadership in that society. Ehud was left-handed, Deborah was a woman, Jephthah was not only an illegitimate child but the son of a prostitute, and Samson was a Nazirite dedicated to living a simple religious life." (page 262)

God is not concerned about the pedigree, position, prestige, or power of those he chooses to use. Education, wealth, status and abilities are not what determine usefulness, as we will see momentarily.

Notice Gideon's response, verse 13, "And Gideon said to him, 'Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Fred Young writes, "In talking with the angel, Gideon questioned the validity of the stories he had heard about the power and presence of God in the experience of his ancestors...He hesitated to accept the offer of leadership the divine messenger made." (The Biblical Expositor page 251)

One word characterized Gideon's initial response to the Lord. Doubt. Are you familiar with that word? Has it ever popped up in your mind in the face of something the Lord has asked you to do or is asking you to do today? Apparently Gideon doubted the relevance of God in light of the dire circumstances facing Israel. Evidently, he had difficulty gaining encouragement from God's miraculous intervention in the distant past. His generation had not yet experienced God's intervention as his ancestors had.

You see, God's call often comes in the darkest hour; in the midst of trying circumstances. In that setting it is easy to respond to God as Gideon did. "Where have you been God?" It is always easier to jump on the "band wagon" when there is blessing and success than it is to stay on the sinking ship where the only challenge is to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Listen to God's response, verse 14, "And the Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?'”

In essence God is saying, "Get busy doing what I've called you to do!" And here's the key to that command. We learn in book of Joshua that God's plan always depends on God's power. Verse 14 - "Go in this your might." God is referring back to what He had said to Gideon in verse 12, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” In other words, God is challenging Gideon to go in the strength he has been given because the Lord is with him!

The German commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, "The demonstrative 'this' points to the strength which has just been given him through the promise of God." You see, God had called Gideon to a task, the success of which did not depend on Gideon.

Friends, nothing has changed over the years. What is God asking you to do? What is God speaking to you about today? His expectation is the same as it was for Gideon - Go! Do it! And the premise of the call is the same as for Gideon,"The Lord is with you, O mighty man of Valor!" verse 12, "Do not I send you?" verse 14.

Well, evidently Gideon had difficulty getting hold of this truth. Listen to his response, verse 15, And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.”

"How can I save Israel?" he asked. Gideon still didn't get it. He proceeds to give the Lord two reasons why he was not the right person for this assignment. "I don't have the right pedigree." He reminded the Lord that he was from the weakest clan in the tribe of Manasseh.

Secondly, he insisted, "I'm not qualified." "I feel inadequate." After all, I am the least in my family. I don't think God objected to Gideon's self-assessment. It's as though the Lord was saying, "That's precisely my point Gideon! That's exactly how you should feel. That's why I called you. You are not qualified for the job and you know it! But I am!"

"The Lord is with you...Go in this might of yours...Did not I send you!" were His words to Gideon. Centuries later, God said the very same thing to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To which Paul rightly responded Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

Notice God's specific response to Gideon's doubt. If I can read between the lines, "Gideon you don't quite get it yet! Let me spell it out for you again." Verse 16, "And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Taking down the Midianites will be a simple task FOR ME. But I intend to do it through you.

Listen, God can use us even in our weakness. If we feel inadequate to the task, from God's perspective that's a good place to be! Because whatever assignment He gives to us depends on His power and resources not ours!

Note how the Lord then prepared Gideon for the assignment. First of all there was an encounter with God, verses 17 - 24. Gideon wanted to be sure he knew who had commissioned him. Verse 17, "And he said to him, 'If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me.'"

He then asked the Angel of the Lord if he would wait until he brought him a present. And he prepared a meal for the visitor. At the request of the Angel the meal was turned into an offering, as Gideon was instructed to place the meal on a rock. Verses 21 - 22, "Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, 'Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.'"

At that moment Gideon knew he had come face to face with the Lord Himself. Therefore the "expression of alarm," "Alas, O Lord God!" His response is reminiscent of Isaiah's words when he saw the Lord sitting upon His throne, "Woe is me! For I am lost; I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5) But the Lord calms Gideon's terror with these words. Verse 23, "But the Lord said to him, 'Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.'”

Peace! That is what God offered Gideon! Having come face to face with Me, you will not die! Said the Lord. Perhaps before this experience Gideon knew of God. But in this encounter, he came into the presence of God. And he would never be the same. This was the first step of Gideon's preparation. Knowing the presence of God is the context in which we respond to the call of God.

Do you know God this morning? That's not the same question as, do you know about God? There is a difference between knowing God intellectually and knowing God experientially. The first step in responding to God's call is knowing the One who extends the call. If you do not know Jesus Christ this morning He invites you to put your trust in His death and resurrection.

His work of redemption on our behalf is complete. As our substitute, He paid the penalty for our sins when He shed His blood on the cross, reconciling us to God. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is proof that when we repent of our sin and trust in his Son for salvation, God will declare us righteousness in His sight and we will have peace with God. This is the clear witness of Scripture, "Therefore, since we have been justified (been made right with God) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 (ESV)

Verse 24, "Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace." If you do not know the peace of God that comes from the forgiveness of your sins hear the Lord's invitation today and call out to Him in faith for salvation!

There was a second step of preparation. Gideon was consecrated to God verses 25-27. There was something in Gideon's household that needed to be cleaned out before Gideon proceeded. In a sense it was his first assignment but also a necessary step of preparation.

Verse 25, "That night the Lord said to him, 'Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.”

As we have already noted, idolatry filled the land. And some of it was in Gideon's own backyard. There was something in Gideon's life that displeased the Lord. God put His finger on it, and asked Gideon to remove it. That's what consecration is. It means to take remove the idols in our lives.

Sin is inevitably an obstacle to both hearing God's call and responding to God's call. At a men's retreat years ago, Pastor Ron Walborn said that consecration means, "to get rid of the mixture in your life." Idols compete with the will of God in our lives. He said consecration means "to live in a constant state of repentance." It's like keeping short accounts with God.

This step of consecration was followed by the third step of preparation. Gideon was, empowered by God. Before God used Gideon to deliver Israel from their oppressors we read the following, verse 33, "Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel."

The enemy once again gathered to attack Israel. But this time, verse 34, "...the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. His mission began only after one last preparation. "...the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon."

The implication of the verb "clothed" is to have "complete possession" of. (Arthur Cundall IVP) As an army of 135,000 enemy soldiers crossed the Jordan River into Israel, Gideon became the "mighty man of valor" verse 12, as he was clothed with God's power verse 34.

As Jacob Meyers observes, "The spirit of the Lord became incarnate in Gideon, who then became the extension of the Lord."

A number of years ago now, a freighter being towed to Fort Lauderdale broke free from the towboat and drifted onto a sand bar, three hundred yards off Port Everglades. For days it languished on the sand bar completely immobilized stuck in the sand, unable to reach its intended destination.

You see, once the ship was disconnected from the tug boat it lost both its sense of direction and its source of power to get to its destination. That's the risk each of us face. That "mixture in your life" Pastor Walborn spoke of can easily side distract us from the call of God no matter what that may be, and disconnect us from experiencing God's power necessary to complete the call.

We're like that stranded ship. Out of its element grounded on a stretch of sand, immobilized, having lost the power and ability to get to its intended destination. Have you ever had that experience? I have, more times than I would like to admit.

God gave Gideon a glimpse of who He was. Had him deal with the idols in his life. And now He filled him with His power. You say, "God has never appeared to me!" I have not had a visitation by the Angel of the Lord calling me to do this or that.

Listen, friend, if you are in Christ this morning; if you have been born again by the Spirit of God, the same God who appeared to Gideon as a man in a theophany indwells you. God doesn't need to visit you in a theophany. Jesus indwells you in person of His Holy Spirit. As Paul gave witness, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Galatians 2:20a  (ESV)

Paul gives us this command, with a promise. Perhaps we could call it the New Testament version of Judges 6, Philippians 2:12,13 (ESV). I like the NLT version, "Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."

That pretty much covers it all. As we step out in obedience to God's call, He will give us both the desire and the power to do His will.

© James P. McGarvey All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Missing the Simple Equation - Planned Parenthood Harvest the Brain of a Live Baby

The question we must answer, how does the Church of Jesus Christ allow this to happen.
The Federalist reports,
“‘Hey, Holly, come over here. I want you to see something kinda cool. This is kinda neat,'” an abortionist told O’Donnell.

“The moment I see it, I’m just flabbergasted,” O’Donnell said. “This is the most gestated fetus and the closest thing to a baby I’ve seen.”

“[The abortionist] has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it starts beating. And I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus and it’s heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think.”

O’Donnell detailed how the abortionist performed the abortion in order to “procure” the baby’s brain. O’Donnell also described how the abortionist made her harvest the baby’s brain by cutting his face open with scissors.

In one portion of the video, a prospective organ buyer asked a supplier whether a baby’s heart is still beating during the procedure.

“So you know there are times when after the procedure is done that the heart is still beating,” Ben Van Handel, a Novogenix executive, told the buyer."

Pastor John Piper has written,
Abortion is one of the darkest works of the human race – it is child sacrifice. And the only way it can survive is for darkness to survive. Wherever the light of truth and love comes, darkness flies away. Therefore it is one of the great callings of the followers of Jesus to let their light shine in both ways: to expose darkness. The aim is partly negative: reveal the error hidden in the darkness, but mainly positive: to bring people to love the light and be made light in the Lord Jesus."

Does it bother you that the Church has largely failed to understand this simple equation? 

Read the Federalist report at:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Planned Parenthood Parted the Veil of Antiseptic Tidiness" - Where is the Voice of the Church?

Please watch Britt Hume's recent commentary "Planned Parenthood Parted the Veil of Antiseptic Tidiness." - Britt Hume

 My only regret is that a reporter said it first, not a preacher. As Martin Luther said,

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

And Charles Finney,
"Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation."

 Where is the prophetic voice of the church?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Plight of the "Pro-Choice" Attorney

I heard a liberal female attorney on radio the other day insisting that since the seven SCOTUS justices  declared the unborn are not human beings (Roe v. Wade 1973) she was fine with abortion, after all it was legal. It was apparent she was not familiar with or was willing to disregard what the scientific community, including embryologists, have acknowledged for years now - life begins at conception.
For example Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, M.D. Harvard University Medical School writes, “…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…”

The attorney insisted that viability of the unborn determined their humanity. (See my message, "The Preborn- the Scientific, Philosophical & Metaphysical Case for Life" here.)

Even though she kept reminding the audience she was an attorney, she was evidently not aware of or was willing to overlook the words of Justice Harry Blackmun who admitted the following in his prevailing opinion (Roe v. Wade),

"The appellee…argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment…If this suggestion of personhood is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the Amendment."

She vehemently objected to being called "pro-abortion" even though the host insisted that to be "pro-choice" (the attorney's preferred term) meant that you approved of the killing of the unborn.

The attorney's inability or refusal to make a rational and scientifically sound defense of her position reminds me of the spiritual deception or darkness endemic to those who defend or promote child killing in the womb.

Jesus exposed the source of this deception/darkness. "the devil is a murderer from the beginning…a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

The Apostle Paul further applied Jesus' statement to the condition of each of us apart from the Gospel.

"Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil--the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the Spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God." (Ephesians 2:1-2)

As I write this, I am thankful for God's work of grace in my life. As Paul wrote, "…he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins." (Colossians 1:13,14)

These spiritual realities underlying the premeditated killing of unborn human beings making abortion first and foremost a spiritual issue and therefore a gospel issue, a conclusion most of the evangelical (pro-life) church has not come to terms with… yet. It also explains the moral schizophrenia represented in the photo below.

(See my message "Abortion, the Devil & the Church -  Exposing the Spiritual Forces Behind  Abortion" at: here.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Spiritual Forces Behind the Abortion Crisis

(This is the keynote address I gave at the annual fundraising banquet for the Pregnancy Helpline Center of Three Rivers Michigan on April 27, 2015. You can listen to the address with PowerPoint slides on The Church for Life YouTube Channel here.)

In the Spring of 2006, three years after leaving the pastorate, I accepted a position as the Director of Development of Hope Women's Centers one of the nations largest CareNet affiliates, where I worked for over two and a half  years. At that time Hope was operating five pregnancy resource centers in the greater Fort Lauderdale area.

There are 23 abortion clinics in Broward County where I live. Over 12,000 preborn children lost their lives to abortion last year.

As a pastor working for Hope, I saw abortion through a theological or biblical paradigm. And I began to pray and fast "Lord birth in my heart your message for the church on the subject of abortion." As a pastor I had a file of sermons on abortion. But now that my attention was more narrowly focused on this subject, the Lord graciously built a message that focused on the spiritual nature of abortion, more specifically, the spiritual forces behind America's abortion crisis.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”   Ephesians 6:12

This evening, I want to identify the spiritual forces behind abortion, with the prayer that the Lord will sovereignly move those of us in this room to rise up in support of the strategic ministry of the Pregnancy Helpline Center in a manner that will glorify God, and advance the impact of this ministry, in this community, in the lives of abortion minded and vulnerable men and women and their precious unborn children.

Last year, in his pamphlet, Field Manual for Abortion Ministry, Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas  posed these two questions. "What does Christianity look like in a nation that murders its own children?

"Has the church failed to be prolife or have we failed to be Christian when it comes to rescuing our neighbors scheduled to be dismembered?"

I still wrestle with those questions.

Foundational to every effort to end abortion and minister hope, healing and restoration to the post-abortive, is understanding that abortion is first and foremost a spiritual issue. That makes it a gospel issue. That makes it a church issue. Understanding this premise is critical to every effort we make to end America's abortion crisis.

What is propelling the worldwide shedding of innocent blood? Who is behind the epidemic of death that plagues our land? The Biblical evidence would indicate that abortion is a Satanic enterprise. The stage was set thousands of years ago as recorded in Genesis 3:15. After Satan deceived Adam and Eve and man was plunged into sin, God said to Satan, "...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (NIV).

And with that, the epoch struggle between good and evil began. And Satan has been involved in an unrelenting attempt to kill the offspring of Eve ever since.

Jesus, Himself, said as much. John chapter eight records an encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. In that heated exchange Jesus said this about the devil, verse 44,

"The devil…was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (NIV)

Here Jesus identifies two roles of Satan: A murderer from the beginning and a liar and the father of lies. How successful has the Devil been in fulfilling this job description?
It is estimated that every year between 40 and 50 million pre-born children are killed by abortion worldwide. That's about one in five pregnancies.  (AGI “In Brief”, October 2007)

A study released in 2013 estimated there were 1.72 BILLION abortions worldwide in the previous forty years. That is an average of 117,800 per day for 40 years. (Dr. Brian Clowes, director of education and research at Human Life International 04-01-13)

Jesus said, as recorded in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." The Devil has been very successful in carrying out his agenda to exterminate human life.

Satan is also a liar and the father of lies. Deception proliferates in the abortion industry. In fact it would be accurate to say that deception characterizes the abortion industry.

Listen to these words of an abortion clinic counselor: "Although the test is positive, you shouldn't
consider yourself pregnant," she explained.  "It's really just cells dividing at this point. We can take care of the problem quickly and easily, and you'll never have to think about it again.” She made four statements. Each statement was a lie. Her words embody the mantra of the abortion industry.

Deception also involves withholding the truth. One study of post-abortive women revealed that, “Even though the majority felt rushed and uncertain, 67% received no counseling; 79% were not told about alternatives to abortion.”(VM Rue et. al.,  Medical Science Monitor)

Do you see the critical role the Pregnancy Helpline Center plays in your community as it communicates the truth about life in the womb and the dangers of abortion? We live in a culture of death in which deception on this subject is rampant.

Spiritual deception leads to moral schizophrenia, which has paralyzed the minds of millions of those at risk for abortion As Pastor Randy Alcorn has pointed out, “In America it is illegal to harm your pre-born child, but it is perfectly legal to kill him.” 

The Devil is “a murderer" and “a liar and father of lies.” These two attributes expose him as the Architect of Abortion.

The Biblical record reveals even more shocking truth regarding the spiritual backdrop of abortion. We trace the ancient origin of child killing back to Molech worship. Molech was a god of the Ammonites the descendants of Lot. Molech was a fertility god whose worship included child sacrifice. This is what God said, about Israel's participation in child sacrifice, "And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols…You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.” (Ezekiel 16:20-21)

King Solomon built the first high place for the worship of Molech. Subsequent kings

continued the practice including King Ahaz and King Manasseh who sacrificed their own children as they led their nation in worship of this pagan god.

There is a parallel here with abortion. In Molech worship a child was sacrificed to gain the favor of the fertility god. In other words, the parents sacrificed something of value their child, to gain something at a given point in time they considered to be of greater value. Seeking Molech’s favor for a good harvest, victory in battle or financial well-being.

Similarly in abortion, the mother sacrifices the life of her child for something which at that time is of more value to her than the life of her child: her education, avoiding personal shame, financial reasons, lifestyle preferences, personal convenience, her career, birth control, and so forth.

Rusty Lee Thomas, "Though thousands of years have passed,...the pagan ritual... persists. These ancient rites continue through clinics established by organizations such as Planned Parenthood in the abortion industry. The setting has indeed changed, but the lying message and brutal practice remains the same. Can you hear its voice today? "You are too young." "You have to think about your schooling and career." "You cannot afford a baby." "It will leave stretch marks" ...Moloch and Baal still whisper, "Give your child to me and all will be well with you." (Field Manual for Abortion Ministry)

Do you see the spiritual deception? The Scriptures identify the demonic nature of this child sacrifice in Psalm 106:37,38, "They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. "
Note three parallels with abortion today. When we abort our children we abort our family, our sons, our daughters, our grandchildren.
Secondly, notice, (verse 38). Abortion sheds innocent blood. Shedding innocent blood is the Biblical term for the unjustified taking of a human life. Leviticus 17:11 "For the life of a creature is in the is the blood that makes atonement for one's life"
This truth is central to the Biblical doctrines of both incarnation and atonement. Jesus' incarnation was the pre-requisite to His work of atonement. The writer to the Hebrews  understood this, writing, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." (9:22) And the Apostle Paul wrote, "In him [Christ} we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins..."  (Ephesians 1:7 NIV) No incarnation - no atonement. Theologically you cannot separate atonement, our salvation from the sanctity of human life because the life is in the blood.
John Ensor writes "Is there anything more valuable than human life and the redemption of human life? By virtue of our salvation, Christians have inherited from God a profound commitment to the sanctity of life and a devotion to make Christ known. Both come from holding blood (life) precious." (Innocent Blood, pg. 32) Those serving this community at the Pregnancy Helpline Center are giving witness to this truth.
Thirdly, "they demons." (vs. 37) Roman Catholic theologian, Rev. Thomas Euteneuer writes, "The spiritual dimension of [abortion] is its systematizing of ritual blood sacrifice to the god of child murder, Moloch.…this demon appears in many forms and cultures through history (Phoenician, Carthaginian, Canaanite, Celt, Indian, Aztec ad others) but is always the same blood thirsty beast that demands the killing of children as his form of worship." He continues, "The modern abortion industry offers ritual blood sacrifice to the ancient abortion demon. It is in every way a demonic religion."
Pre-born children killed by abortion are the casualties of the war between Heaven and Hell.
Pastor Randy Alcorn has written, "As the devil loved the sacrifice of children in the ancient heathen cultures, so he loves the sacrifice of children in our modern culture. Whether children are sacrificed to a heathen god called Molech or to the god of our own convenience, he does not care." He continues, "…there are demonic forces behind child killing. Abortion is Satan's attempt to kill God in effigy by destroying the little ones created in God's image. We are not dealing here with 'one more social issue,' but a unique and focused evil in which Satan has deep vested interests…"
Eric Holmberg & Jay Rogers, in their work, Massacre of Innocence, summarize, "The spiritual heritage of the Moabites and the Ammonites is passed down to our own day through abortion. Today the church is fighting against those same spiritual forces for the very survival of our nation.”
Lest you think that abortion and the demonic is just ancient history, let me bring you up to date, modern feminism, witchcraft & abortion. In December of 1985, an article, entitled, "Feminist Spiritualism and Abortion" appeared in the feminist, Ms. Magazine, written, and I emphasize, by feminists about themselves.
"The feminist spirituality movement began to emerge in the mid-1970s [Roe v. Wade 1973] and has become one of the largest sub-movements within feminism.…to the women in feminist spirituality, witchcraft had even a more fundamental meaning. It is a woman's religion, vilified by patriarchal Christianity, and now, finally, reclaimed.”
Eric Holmberg & Jay Rogers comment on this article, "Much space was given to goddess worship or adulation of the various demons associated with child sacrifice (including Isis and Aphrodite).”
Let me give you just a sampling of the thinking of modern day feminists. Patricia Baird-Windle owned three abortion clinics, responsible for 65,000 abortions. In an interview after retirement she said, "Abortion is a major blessing and a sacrament in the hands of women..." (The 'Sacrament' of Abortion: An Interview With a Retired Abortionist.")
Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, - said the following in a sermon in 2007, “When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight - only blessing.”
Psychologist Dr. Ginnette Paris, in her book The Sacrament of Abortion, wrote, "It’s rare for a woman to choose abortion because in some way she dislikes the fetus. She sacrifices it for the sake of something she judges at this moment to be more important, whether it be her existing children…or her own physical, economic, or psychological survival or the fate of the planet."
You'll remember what I just shared when comparing abortion to child sacrifice? She continues, "When abortion is necessary, not only should there be no shame there should be a new consensus that to have a child who cannot adequately be cared for is shameful…It is not immoral to choose abortion; it is simply another kind of morality, a pagan one.”

Father Frank Pavone, commenting on her book writes, "The fact that some defend abortion as a sacred act should alert us to the depth of the spiritual warfare that is going on. Abortion has never been merely or even primarily a political issue. It is a false religion."  He writes of a former abortion clinic security guard who "...after being converted, admitted why he was angry at pro-life sidewalk counselors: 'You were coming to protest in front of our church. That clinic was where we conducted our worship.’”

Again, Eric Holmberg & Jay Rogers, “Witchcraft, as an organized religion, was revived in Europe and America beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. And finally, goddess worship has resurfaced in a new 20th century feminist spirituality. And its no coincidence that abortion today's form of child sacrifice came right along with it.” (Massacre of Innocence)

The irony, is that many proponents of abortion understand what much of the church has failed to understand; the spiritual nature of abortion. This truth has many implications as to our response to America's culture of death. Prayer must be the first work of ministry, prayer and fasting to end abortion. Spiritual warfare becomes the context in which we minister. When I served as the prayer coordinator for Fort Lauderdale's first 40 Days for Life I put together a brochure, Praying to End Abortion. It is a compilation of Scriptures that I used when praying in front of abortion clinics. Copies are available in the foyer.

Please never underestimate the part you can have in that regard in the spiritual warfare on behalf of Helpline's ministry.

We must be careful not to oversimplify the circumstances of many facing an unplanned pregnancy. Their needs often demand a practical and compassionate response by the church. This is another reason why the ministry of the Pregnancy Helpline Center is so critical.

Over 50% of women who choose abortion feel they have no choice, for many reasons: forced by their mother; persuaded by husband or boyfriend; loss of family support; (Frederica Mathewes-Green, Real Choices) The Pregnancy Helpline Center is a sanctuary
for many in such circumstances.

The post-abortive men and women desperately need our help. One study showed that, “65% report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they attribute to their abortions.” (VM Rue et, all)

The post abortive face many emotional problems such as, anxiety/panic, grief/loss, fear of losing your child, guilt, self-hatred, depression, anger/rage. And behaviors such as: drug & alcohol abuse, child abuse, promiscuity, over-protective parenting, eating disorders and inability to bond with children. For millions of post-abortive in America the root cause of these destructive emotional and behavioral problems could be an undisclosed and/or unresolved abortion(s) in their past. 

Pregnancy Helpline Center offers help to the post-abortive, collaborating with Tim and Kristi Hall and their Save One abortion recovery ministry for both men and women.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the remedy for the guilt, shame, hurt and the emotional and behavioral problems faced by the post-abortive.

Several years ago I was on Facebook one Sunday afternoon. A pro-life advocate was having an online discussion about abortion. A woman came into the discussion, telling us she had three abortions in her past. Listen to what she went on to post,

"The consequences to women who have had abortions (and men as well) cut deep into the soul…The post-abortive women sitting in church on a Sunday morning need to hear about forgiveness for ALL SIN through Jesus Christ...abortion is not the unforgivable sin so many think it is...women need to know there is healing and hope in Christ - that they may also forgive themselves.”

The host asked her about how she was dealing with the loss of her three children. This was the powerful testimony she shared, “…the fact of the matter is that I don’t grieve any more. Christ has delivered me from all of the pain through his healing power! I know that one day I'll stand in heaven finally meeting my three precious children: David, Rebekah, and Grace Hope!...when they've asked the Father why they couldn't be with me on earth or why they never knew me here, He’ll look at them with love and say, “I don't remember.”

Abortion is a gospel issue? There is only one remedy for the shedding of innocent blood, the innocent blood shed on the cross. Jesus died in our place, and He paid the penalty for our sins, your sin and my sin, any and all sin, the sin of abortion, the sin of pushing a girlfriend, wife or daughter or granddaughter into an abortion, the sin of paying for an abortion, the sin of performing an abortion, the sin of doing nothing to end abortion. It matters not what sin it is. We can be forgiven and justified, declared righteous in God's sight our sin no longer being held against us "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

This is the conclusion I have been sharing with the church for over eight years now. The body of Christ, the church, is the only organism (institution) spiritually equipped to engage the Satanic forces behind abortion. Therefore the Church must take the lead in the efforts to end abortion. 

On January 20, 2011, Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America issued the following statement in a press release.

"...the time is now, for the Church to rise up and not wait for political parties, or the president, or Congress, or the Supreme Court to take care of the issue. It is our responsibility. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. Abortion will come to an end, when the Church of Jesus Christ makes up her mind it will come to an end – not a second sooner. The responsibility for ending abortion in America rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Church of Jesus Christ.” He is right!

Let me encourage you. Christ has already won the victory! “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

Paul goes on to say, verse 15, “...having disarmed the powers and authorities, he [God] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. How do we respond to 42 years of legalized abortion?

Unashamedly proclaim the gospel of life; and respond with compassionate and practical help to the abortion minded and vulnerable, like the Pregnancy Helpline Center is dong in this community every day that it is open, and some days that it is not open.

Tonight you can partner with this ministry in rescuing unborn children from the sentence of abortion. It's a sentence of abortion.

The writer of Proverbs, listen to what he says. It's like he wrote this for today. He said, "Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death;" Does that fit? "Don't stand back and let them die. Don't try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn't know about it." (24:10-12) Well you do tonight, if you didn't before walking through the doors.

Remember the question that I posed earlier from Rusty Lee Thomas, "What does Christianity look like in a nation that murders its own children?" "Has the church failed to be prolife or have we failed to be Christian when it comes to rescuing our neighbors scheduled to be dismembered?"

 You can help answer that questions tonight. That's what you're here for, with a generous gift and a pledge to help Helpline Center in their ministry.

John Ensor wrote the following in his book Innocent Blood, "The commands of Scripture exist that we might be compelled to do what does not come naturally." Ever found that true in your life? Boy, I do almost every day.

In Luke chapter ten Jesus helped a lawyer understand what it meant to love his neighbor. He was evidently hung up on exactly what that looked like. So he asked Jesus, "Who his my neighbor?"

So Jesus told the story of a man on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem who was robbed and beaten and left half dead alongside the road. Three different individuals had the opportunity to come to his rescue, in all likelihood to save his life.

Two of the three did not respond to the needs of the man bleeding by the side of the road. The two that did not respond to the man in distress were the church leaders of that day, a priest and a Levite, responsible for the spiritual care of their nation. And Jesus points out that not only did they fail to respond but they "passed by on the other side." In other words they purposefully distanced themselves from the needs of the dying man.

Jesus then pointed out that the one who proved to be the neighbor to the dying man  was the one who showed mercy to the badly beaten traveller. He then said, "Go and do likewise."

Friends, tonight we have the opportunity to "Go and do likewise." John Ensor, in his book Innocent Life, defines "Samaritan compassion" this way,

'Doing right in the sight of the Lord means acting to stop the shedding of innocent blood.  The only person in Jesus’ parable who is pro-life according to the demands of love is the Samaritan. Only he was willing to make the nearly dead man’s problem his own. Only he was willing to see the victim’s suffering as his own. Only he was willing to act according to what he would cry out for if their positions had been reversed."

There were 27,629 abortions reported in state of Michigan in 2014, over 1,100 of them in Saint Joseph and the counties contiguous to your county, the ones surrounding your county. Elevenhundred They were your neighbors.

Tonight, through your support of the Pregnancy Helpline Center you have an opportunity to respond in a very practical and compassionate way to help stop the violent death of unborn children in your community, and to reach out to abortion  minded and vulnerable men and women. Children will die unless someone intervenes on their behalf. In other words, you have an opportunity to "go and do likewise!"

According to Jesus' parable, our salvation has a moral imperative built into it with regards to the needs of those around us, our neighbors. The Pregnancy Helpline Center is where the truth about abortion and the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ are confronting the lies of hell itself.  

It is where the Church, the Body of Christ, is intervening in the lives of men and women often at a very critical time in their lives, when they need love, compassion and the gospel of life; at a time when, literally, life and death decisions are being made regarding their unborn children. Again, John Ensor, "Loving my neighbor will occasionally arrest me, and maybe even require me to help prevent someone from being murdered." You can help tonight.

The Ask (transcribed):

The cards that are on your table, they 're in a manila envelope. Will you take them out, please. Table host see that each one gets one. Here's what I want you to do. I'm going to walk you through this real quickly. It will just take just a few minutes.

But on the flap of the card, on the back side, there is a place for your name, your address, your phone number. Would you please just take a moment right now to fill that out; your name, your address and your phone number.  And if you have an email address, wouldn't you welcome an email address, Ms. Executive Director? Would you welcome them putting their email address down. Yes. That would be an awesome way to communicate with you. So name, address, quickly, if you'll just write that down, your phone number and email address. I've already filled mine out.

I want you to know that God wants to use you tonight. When you turn that flap up and look inside, the inside of that flap, I want you to notice the first section. It says, "Enclosed is my gift in the amount of," and you can fill the blank in.

Here's what I want to challenge you, three things tonight, to do, once you've filled in your name and address. I want you to consider giving a onetime gift tonight. You can make the check out to Pregnancy Helpline Center, or if you are not prepared to give a onetime gift tonight with a check, you can go home and go online to and you can donate online with your credit card. But I hope that even in this moment as I'm speaking you ask God, "God would you have me to share a one time gift?"

Remember Dawn shared the vision of the theater, six months worth, six months worth of advertisements preceding every film that will be shown in those six theaters here locally.  It's going to cost $4,200. Okay, $700 a month times six. I believe there are people in this audience that could write a check out for $4,200 tonight.

I encourage you to prayerfully ask, "God what do you want me to do?" You know in 2 Corinthians eight Paul was collecting an offering. Do you remember that passage? And he, he appealed to the church at Corinth to participate in that offering. And his whole comments are in the context of God's grace. In fact he used the Macedonians as an example to the Corinthian church. He said look at them, they were poor and suffering terribly. But you know what he says...they begged to give an offering for Paul to take to Jerusalem. And then he says they gave generously and they gave joyfully beyond their means. And then Paul says, and I'm sharing this challenge with you tonight, what Paul said to them. He said, I appeal to you that you excel in this gracious act of giving. So will you consider giving a onetime gift tonight?  

Secondly, if you look at the next section there it says, "I want to pledge my support in the amount of:" and again you can fill in the amount. Let me share this challenge with you. Everyone in this room lives in a home where you have monthly bills, right? Some of you pay a mortgage. Some of you pay rent. Comes due every month. Property taxes, electric bills, water bills, telephone, heating oil, the list goes on, every month. You write the check out or go onto you bank account online like I do most of mine and hit bill pay and you pay all these bills every month. Well guess what? Helpline Center does the same thing. Every month they've got a heating bill to pay. They've got waste management to pay. They have a staff salary to pay. You know where I'm going with this. Insurance; a bigger insurance liability policy now because of the ultrasound machine; I don't now if Dawn mentioned that or not but that's the reality. So they have monthly needs. And the greatest blessing you can be to this center is to be monthly sending them some money, because then they have an even cash flow and are not operating in crisis mode from month to month because the money's there; because you have been faithful in loving your neighbors here in this community.

And again Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 9, where he said, "I don't want you to give reluctantly, I don't you to give because of pressure," but he says, "I want you to give a gift." And what he says is appropriate to making a pledge. He says, "And God will generously provide all you need. You know that when you make a pledge to this ministry, you don't have to pledge based on what you have, you have to pledge based on what you know God has. And God will give through you. Trust me, if in obedient faith tonight you make a pledge.

And I did a little calculation. I was told there'd be, well I was here yesterday as they were setting up and I counted 304 seats. Let's just say for sake of illustration we divide that in half saying that there’re many married couples here. Let's say there are 150 giving units here tonight. I'd like to think that everybody here could participate in some way. And if 150 units gave $20 a month, that's $3,000 a month $36,000 a year.

Now some of you can give more than that. You give fifty a month.  Wouldn't even miss it. Wouldn't need to make a faith pledge. You got it. Some of you can't. In faith maybe you could. I've made many pledges not knowing where the money would be and I haven’t defaulted on one yet because God always sent the money in over the twelve months. He'll do that for you. Giving is a grace if you're a believer. And God wants to bless you and He wants to bless this ministry.

He goes on to say, "And God will generously provide all you need." Now listen, "then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." I'm just reading the Scriptures to you.

The third thing I want you to do is go back to where you filled out your name. Our director spoke tonight of the need for volunteers. Volunteers are the indispensible component of every pregnancy resource center I've ever been associated with or known of, critical. And she gave you the invitation. I just want you to do this. If you are interested or think you might be interested in volunteering, will you write word "volunteer" underneath where you put your name and address. Just write the word volunteer and then put a check mark by it and that way Dawn can be in contact with
you at the appropriate time to begin a dialogue with you as to how God might want to use you in the ministry.

Again, thank you for being here. I hope you've been encouraged. God is on the throne.
He's won the victory. He wants to win this battle. It's a gospel issue. It's a church issue.
So let's rise up. Let's serve God. Let's bless this ministry tonight. After you've finished your check writing, whatever you're doing, would you put them back, hosts, those hosts in your table, see that they get back into that envelope so that whoever is responsible for picking them up can pick them up. Thank you very much for your attention.

© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved