Shout Your Abortion?

  
  

The mantras claiming “my body, my choice” and “my life is more valuable than potential life” are currently being shouted with vigor across social media, and it seems anyone who replies with any disagreement will be trolled, mocked, and shamed in response for their views. (Ironic, considering what the “movement” claims to be about.) In our prevailing American culture where individual freedoms are held sacred above all else, death has become celebrated.

While reading through social media posts and articles online trying to get a better understanding of what is being shouted, it is clear that there is a massive misunderstanding of the pro-life view for starters. The consistent misrepresentation and strawmanning of the “pro-life” view to absurd degrees as to imply the view is nothing more than a horrible war on women meant to oppress them by robbing them of all their freedom or that such proponents of any opposing views do not care about people once they’re born is ridiculous, distracting nonsense. By trying to rebrand anyone’s view that doesn’t celebrate the “choice” of abortion as hateful “anti-choice” is not adding anything helpful to the conversation. I also keep seeing people ask how it could possibly be better for the child to grow up in poverty than just killed in the womb… I don’t know about any of you reading this, but I haven’t come across very many people who would honestly rather have been killed before having a chance in life than to grow up poor.

Sadly, we all too often lose sight of the real issue at hand with the abortion issue though, and begin to view other people as enemies. The true adversary that needs to be addressed here is this prevailing idea of individualism that is rampant in our culture.

“For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. . . At the moment, then, of Man’s victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ‘natural’ – to their irrational impulses.” — C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man

Before rolling your eyes and closing the browser, please let me try to explain. This society-eroding idea of individualism snuck its was into American thought early on and has only snowballed. It came to us via liberalism. Liberalism (think liberation, liberty, freedom) was born out of an 18th-century revolutionary movement in France and America that stressed individual liberty and rights. It brought together deist and utilitarian philosophies, and while ushering in great, countless positive advancements for civilization, it also led the way for a potentially monstrous society of individualism. If God simply set the world in motion (deism) and left sinful man to follow what gives him pleasure (utilitarianism), then society naturally gets built on individual rights… rights that are to be secured at all cost.

Our need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially ‘deify.’ We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion, even if we think ourselves as highly irreligious. Because of this inordinate amount of value our culture places on individual freedoms, we distort our lives, and in turn further warp our society.

“True freedom is not being unshackled to create your own truth, but is liberating submission to the Truth. Freedom is not the complete absence of any restrictions, but rather the presence of the right restrictions put in place. For example: a fish out of water. The fish is not more free when released outside of the confines of the water, but instead his ability to enjoy life is drastically hindered and he is sure to die.”

In this broken arrangement, everyone inevitably becomes an intruder. When an individual’s “rights” are ultimate, injustices abound, and citizens make demands of the State. In the case of abortion, both sides claim an enormous injustice.

On one hand, a woman, aware that parenting is life altering, may fear that her ambitions will be aversely affected, that her ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness might be severely hindered. To someone making the difficult choice of abortion, the innocent child is seen not just as an unwanted presence but as an intruder. The mother feels she has the right to defend her personal interests… after all, she’s an individual with rights first, a mother second.

The fetus, on the other hand, in no way responsible for his or her own “intrusion” and unable to defend against any attack, also claims injustice. The same inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness belongs to the unborn, but they’re unable to speak up. Termination would thus be the ultimate intrusion.

Such a divisive conflict like this will always result in a frustrating stalemate as long as liberalism (from all sides) gives birth to individualism. Individualism is the real enemy.

“What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as they are disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves. . . . Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” – Edmund Burke, 1791 ‘A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly’

It’s been over 40 years since Roe vs. Wade, and we’re still talking about the sanctity of life because the mere mention of it generates a moral friction on our human souls – souls fashioned after the Creator God who makes human beings distinctive among His created order.

It is this imago Dei (image of God) imbued to human beings (Genesis 1:26-27) that makes us human in the first place. This is the genesis of the biblical worldview: that God created and imprinted His image upon each person, giving dignity and value to every single human life despite its stage of development.

James tells us we kill because we “desire and do not have” (James 4:1-4). These impulses are birthed and fueled by our Genesis 3 desire to put ourselves in the place of God where no such warrant exists. We do great evil when we use or destroy lives to suit our whims and warped worldviews. When our society values happiness and feelings over truth, nobody really wins.

“We are free to choose, but we are always a slave to our greatest desire.” – Jonathan Edwards

So when someone stands to pray, defend, and cry out for the unborn and oppressed in the face of this celebration of individual freedom, they are calling for us all to refuse the lie of individualism. Autonomy, being a law unto oneself, is no basis for life together. Community is the only way forward to better change. Society must protect both women and the unborn in a way that doesn’t pit them against each other. The debate cannot center only on individual rights but, instead, must address the duties and responsibilities of, not just the biological parents, but the families, friends, neighbors, churches, and social services that can nurture and support them. The burden of pregnancy, especially pregnancy out of wedlock or for women in crisis, should never disproportionally fall solely on the pregnant mother. She still has a claim on the community, no matter the circumstance of the pregnancy. The community still has (in these cases, often extraordinary) obligations, no matter the circumstance of the pregnancy.

A community that models mutuality and solidarity affirms life in a way that dispels notions of children being intruders to personal pursuits. Life together where families and marriages are valued and where freedom is about stewardship rather than unlimited potential turns fear of intrusion into hospitality. Rather than see a baby as a burden, we see it as a life to be welcomed into community, a responsibility to be shared, a joy to be experienced. Any agenda to end abortion must include a vision for mobilizing community to function as it should.

There’s an old saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.” There is a lot of truth to that, and we should stop expecting women to go through it alone. Every abortion done under the banner of freedom and convenience is a failure of humanity: failing a human being in crisis and a human being in utero. Creating and protecting life is fundamental to human flourishing, but community is equally important. Both of these are indispensable, and individualism is an enemy to both.

Two Men Went to the Temple (Luke 18:9-14)

20140112-112906.jpg

I was recently given the privilege to preach at our home church, Vintage Church in Allen, TX.

Sermon audio link.

Sermon notes (rough draft of transcript):

Two Men Went to the Temple (Luke 18:9-14)

Opening Question:

What if our sin problem isn’t that we’re wicked? What if it’s that we’re good?

Scripture passage:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

Opening quotes:

“The greatest threat to the church isn’t atheism or materialism, but moralism that celebrates a righteousness which doesn’t come from Christ.” – Paul David Tripp

“Satan’s masterpiece is the Pharisee, not the prostitute.” – Tullian Tchividjian

Characters:

1. The Pharisee (like the elder brother in Luke 15)

This guy was varsity. He followed the law in a way that would embarrass the rest of us. If morality was a sport (and to some people it is), this guy wouldn’t have enough fingers for his championship rings. [Go over his listed credentials.]

Kind if like when I’m building a résumé for applying for a job, or an application to get into a certain school, I have found myself at times building some kind of a spiritual résumé, almost like a checklist, or some list of qualifications that could somehow prove to myself cognitively that I’m worthy of God’s love and affection. Am I alone in this? Am I the only one who has ever sat there and compared myself to my neighbor, a co-worker, another person who performed worse than you in a similar situation? Have you ever had the thought, however fleeting, at least I’m not a hardened criminal, I’ve never stolen that much money, never killed a guy, it’s not like I’m Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jeffry Dahmer, or Charles Manson… I’ve just made a few mistakes in life, but for the most part, I’m a pretty good guy. You will always be able to find someone worse than you; at least you should be able to do that. Anyone else feeling strangely able to relate to the Pharisee here?

[Our neighbors and their pet’s story… Costco customers and their shopping carts story…]

2. The Tax Collector (like the younger brother in Luke 15)

There is no cultural equivalent to a tax collector in first century Rome. A tax collector was a wicked, sinful, piece of trash who was more than deserving of being burned alive. They purchased the right from Rome to collect money (up to 90% of annual income) from their own people. It’s worse than them just taking an extra $20 from everyone. They purchased the right to collect taxes for Rome… for the empire that ruled and reigned over most of the known world at the time… how did they do that? With a standing army… they have jets, hummers, missiles, or satellites… So they needed a lot of tax money to afford that military. Tax collectors were the mediators helping to fund a massive army that was responsible for the rape, murder, torture, and crucifixion of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and even children; many of whom were the same race, ethnicity, and people group as the tax collector taking money… in this case, the Jews. To the Jews, tax collectors were men raising money to support the atrocities taking place against them and their family. Zacchaeus was not simply a cute wee little man, he had done disgustingly vile things. Would it not raise some eyebrows if our pastor went over to a guy’s house for dinner who was known for financially supporting sex-trafficking, drug cartels, and the brutal murder of innocent women and children?

Yet, Jesus tells us the tax collector went home justified… but not the Pharisee… this would have been very shocking to the original listeners.

What was the Pharisee not seeing?

The Pharisee (and a few verses later the rich young ruler, also) fails to understand what many of us fail to understand: that Christianity is not a religion. He thanks God for his exceptional morality and righteousness, but misses the fact that his “goodness” is still woefully short of the bar (Isaiah & Philippians: bloody rags and poop). The mantra of religion is, “I obey, therefore I am worthy and accepted.” The Scriptures, however, teach vehemently against this idea constantly.

The message we usually hear from the pulpit at church is “repent of your wickedness.” Stop sleeping around. Stop doing drugs. Stop getting drunk. Stop watching rated R movies that aren’t about the crucifixion of Christ. Stop partying. Stop cussing. Stop skipping church, because if the door is open, you should be there. I would agree that many of these things are sinful and need to be repented of, but that’s not the message of Luke 18. Instead of calling out the overtly wicked, Jesus says this: “You good husbands, you good fathers, good wives, good mothers, good students, you small-group-leading, church-going, tithing, morally righteous men and women… you need to repent.”

When we grasp that we are unworthy sinners saved by an infinitely costly grace, it destroys both our self-righteousness and our need to ridicule others (the Pharisee thanked God he wasn’t like other men, like the tax collector). Trying to somehow earn your salvation through good works is just as God-belittling, Scripturally ignorant, cross-mocking wickedness as anything on the secular pagan, dark side of the fence. We tell ourselves, “I’m a better man than my father was… my neighbor George is a horrible dude, I’m not like him… I’m a good husband… I’m a good dad… I’m a good wife… I’m a good mother… I’m a good student… I’m a hard worker… I’m involved in the church.” Jesus says, “Repent! That does not save you. None of your works save you! That does not justify you.” When we understand this rightly, we don’t stand next to the cross and tell everyone else to repent, we lay down on our face and tell others there is room.

Looking at the passage in the context of the continuation of the text:

Luke 18:15-17… We must enter the Kingdom of God like a child.

“What did you have to do with being born? Did you work hard to earn the privilege of being born? Did it happen due to your hard work and skillful planning? Not at all. You don’t earn or contribute anything to being born. It is a free gift of life. And so it is with the new birth. Salvation by grace – there are no moral efforts that can earn or merit it. You must be born again.” – Tim Keller

Luke 18:18-30… The story of the Rich Young Ruler. One thing you still lack. PERIOD. PAUSE. He lacks something; he lacks Christ’s imparted righteousness. Jesus exposes his heart by asking him to give up his excessive wealth.* The young man is asking for insight on behavioral modification, not grace.

*Cross reference this story with Luke 12:32-34. Very important passage in understanding that Jesus wasn’t simply giving another rule to, but was exposing a heart issue in the rich young ruler. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Continuation Question(s):

So what does this old story from a couple thousand years ago about these two very different men have to do with us today?

Secularism and religion are both all about your personal performance. The Gospel is the performance of Another applied to you. I believe that the bulk of our weird American evangelicalism is built on this idea that “my behavior makes God owe me, and that what saves me is my good works.”

The basic premise of “religion,” that if you live a good life, things will go well for you – is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet He had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture. Jesus says in the gospel that everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change. The essence of other religions is advice about how to live. The essence of Christianity is news – here is what has been done.

That whole illustration, those analogies with scales when it comes to being good or bad, they all need to be tossed out and forgotten. There are no scales!!! You’re either fully justified and redeemed by the blood of Christ on the Cross and His resurrection, or you’re not justified at all.

There are two ways of being lost, two ways of trying to save/justify yourself, two ways of trying to avoid God or somehow put Him in your debt. One is to keep all the rules, and the other is to break all the rules (like the two sons/brothers in the Luke 15 parable).

Before we continue, please nobody try to take this where it’s not going. Discipline is not legalism. I still love, pursue, and date my wife. I still work on loving her better and growing deeper in relationship with her, I’ll admit I fail at doing that as well as I should, but none of that is to get her to marry me… we’re already married.

Closing remarks:

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying the law is of no value. Any theology that denies God’s moral law, and then domesticates sin by its absence, does not have Christ’s atoning love, God’s justifying pardon, or the Holy Spirit’s kind company. But the law cannot save.

Do you possess a desire for, strong affection for, and an exaltation of the person and work of Jesus Christ in the cross and in His resurrection? Or do you hang all of your hope in your righteousness on managing your own morality and church participation?

If your hope, confidence, and satisfactions are in being a good husband, being a good wife, being a good father, being a good mother, being a good churchman, a good kid, a good student, a good worker, a good citizen, just a good person at all… you’ve severely misplaced your hope in something that cannot and will not save you. No matter how law abiding or well behaved you are, we all end up 6 feet deep in the ground (or cremated if that’s more your style).

Repentance means coming back to the cross and confessing your infinite short-comings. We repent that we’ve become satisfied with just trying to better serve God rather than actually knowing or enjoying Him. We need to ask God once again for mercy, for His grace.

So, do you need to repent of goodness? I know I do. Do you need to ask forgiveness for your illusion of righteousness? I know I do. Constantly, I find myself trying to justify myself. We must throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Put our confidence in His cross, not in the fact that we’re “better” than our neighbor, or even that we’re better this year than we were last.

The Bible says it very clearly that if we could earn the favor of God with our behavioral modifications, then the cross of Christ was for nothing. In Galatians 2:21, Paul tells us: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

So is your confidence in your goodness? Repent. We have no confidence outside the goodness of Christ. Your goodness is a myth. Repent of worshiping your own righteousness and set your mind on the things of the Spirit – set your mind on Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Whatever you accomplish today and tomorrow, you are no more justified than you are right now in the already finished work of Jesus Christ. Work from your rest and rest in His already finished work.

“God is love.”

20130818-141652.jpg

There is an all too common thought being proclaimed, embraced, and believed throughout our culture today: that all we need is love, that God is love, that God loves everyone unconditionally no matter what, and love is tolerant and accepting of any behavior or belief; because truth is relative and love would never discriminate. This sounds sweet, even almost Biblical sometimes, but is it true? Does God tolerate, accept, and love everyone?

Yes.

And no.

The question of the validity of that statement is actually deceptively difficult. Some like to use the statement as a catch all, end all blanketing statement, but the Bible speaks of God’s love in several different ways. There are at least five (which are outlined in greater detail by D.A. Carson in his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God and mentioned by Kevin DeYoung in a blog on the Gospel Coalition website):

1. God’s trinitarian love. The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father. The love of the Son for the Spirit, the Spirit for the Father. Yes, it can be confusing. (Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 1:11, 9:7; Luke 3:22; John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 14:31; 16:26-28; Colossians 1:13; 2nd Peter 1:17)

2. God’s providential love over all that He has made. (Genesis 1:1-31; Psalm 33:6; Matthew 6; John 1:3; 1st Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)

3. God’s salvific stance toward His fallen world. (Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16, 15:19; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:13-15; 1st John 2:2)

4. God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward His elect. (Deuteronomy 4:37, 7:7-8, 10:14-15; Malachi 1:2-3; Matthew 25:34; Romans 4:4-8, 8:28-39, 9:8-29; 1st Corinthians 7:17; 2nd Corinthians 5:14-21; Ephesians 1:4-19, 2:1-10, 5:25; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:21-22, 3:12; 2nd Thessalonians 1:11-12, 2:13-14; 2nd Timothy 1:8-10; Titus 3:3-8; Hebrews 12:2; 1st Peter 1:3-5)

5. God’s love toward His own people in a provisional way, conditioned upon obedience. (Exodus 20:6; Psalm 103:8-11, 13, 17-18; John 15:9-10; Ephesians 1:15-19, 2:8-22; 2nd Peter 1:12-25; Jude 1:21)

There are often ignored complexities and overlooked dangers of emphasizing one aspect of the love of God over the others.

First: If God’s love is defined exclusively by His intra-Trinitarian love, which is perfect and unblemished by sin, we won’t grasp the glory of God in loving rebels like us.

Second: If God’s love is nothing but His providential care over all things, we’ll struggle to see how the gospel is any good news at all because, after all, doesn’t He love everyone equally already?

Third: If God’s love is seen solely as His desire to save the world, we’ll end up with an emotionally charged God who doesn’t display the same sense of sovereignty and justice we see in the pages of Scripture.

Fourth: If God’s love is only understood as His electing love, we’ll too see easily say God hates all sorts of people, when that truth requires a good deal more nuance.

Fifth: If God’s love is bound up entirely in warnings like “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21), we’ll fall into legalism and lots of unwarranted self-doubt.

Talking about God’s love sounds like a simple theological task, but it’s actually one of the trickiest. I’ve actually heard of people debating about whether their kids should be taught “Jesus loves me” (some of the children might not be saved after all, you never know). I know many more people and churches which so emphasize God’s all-encompassing love for everyone, everywhere and always, that it’s hard to figure out why anyone should bother to become a Christian and follow Christ. The fact is that God loves everyone and He doesn’t. He hates the world and He loves the world. He can’t possibly love His adopted children any more than He does, and He is profoundly grieved by our sin. (Seriously, can some of us stop pretending sin/idolatry [or whatever you want to call it] isn’t that big of a deal… how would we even begin to explain or understand the cross in any way that makes any sense at all if we ignore the seriousness of sin.) The challenge of good theology is to explain how the Bible provides warrant for all those statements and how they all fit together.

“Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us, but it keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information, but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.” – Tim Keller

True love is not exactly tolerant and ever-accepting, for rather true love would call the other person out and remind them that it is ok to not be ok, but it is not ok to stay there. Genuine love warns someone when they believe they are in danger. True love wounds more like a physician, not a criminal, because while discipline, rebuke, and honesty can hurt, it may be just what the person needs to save their life; and regardless of whatever cost, we should seek reconciliation and repentance for our greater joy. So, when God wounds, He wounds like a purposeful surgeon. He doesn’t wound like a criminal. He doesn’t bash your whole world with a bat; that is not what He does. But God will lovingly take the scalpel to us. We all, like a cancer patient, have a serious infliction of sin in our hearts, and often times that requires some rough chiseling and intense reshaping of our hearts.

“Being true to ourselves doesn’t make us people of integrity. Charles Manson was true to himself, and as a result, he rightly is spending the rest of his life in prison. Ultimately, being true to our Creator gives us the purest form of integrity.” – John Wooden

“For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love.” -Søren Kierkegaard

The Scriptures help to make this abundantly clear:

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:5-6

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:5-11

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1st John 3:16-18

There is no love without wrath. What infuriates many people today is the wrath of God: “I can’t believe in a God who judges people, would condemn people to some kind of hell, and send people to suffer eternally. God is love and no loving God would get angry or be filled with wrath.” We must understand that a God without wrath is a God without love. Many people ask, “What kind of a loving God could be filled with wrath?” But any loving person is often filled with wrath. In the book “Hope Has Its Reasons,” Becky Pippert writes, “Think how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it… Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference.”

“Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it.” – C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (page 97)

Pippert then quotes E. H. Gifford, “Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor.” She concludes: “If I, a flawed, narcissistic, sinful woman, can feel this much pain and anger over someone’s condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them? God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but His settled opposition to the cancer of sin which is eating out the insides of the human race He loves with His whole being.” God paid the ultimate cost Himself to love us; He passionately loves us, and simultaneously He ferociously hates sin and the sin within us.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Tim Keller

Idols are not made from scratch. Idolatry involves the distortion of already present truth. The truth is changed into a lie. The lie depends upon the truth it is distorting for its power, just as the counterfeit depends upon the authentic for its value. Our idols of God contain truths within them, making them all the more seductive to us. To be sure, God is love. To reduce God to love, however, is to change the truth into a lie.

Jesus says in the gospel that everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change. And that’s the hope and change we all really need. We need the hope that we have been justified by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. And we need the hope of the promise of Romans 8:28, that God will work all things, even the fallout from our past sins, together for good for us; for His glory and our joy.

—————•—————

Related Articles/Videos:

“Three Things We Should Know About God” by: Jonathan Parnell

“The Doctrine of the Wrath of God” by D. A. Carson (Desiring God Theology Refresh blog)

“Will All Be Saved?” by Gerald R. McDermott

Compassion

20130807-172954.jpg

Henri Nouwen explained it well that “Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.”

Our God has displayed ultimate compassion in His Son, Jesus Christ. By putting on flesh, stepping down into darkness, walking this earth, feeling pain, temptation, loss, weakness, abandonment, betrayal, hatred from others, unjust persecution, and wrongful sentencing from the government… witnessing the death of friends, and even experiencing death Himself on the cross and disconnection with the Father, the triune God has shown us He is not immune to pain. Rather, God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it upon Himself. In Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and death He suffered in love, identifying with the abandoned, persecuted, and godforsaken. The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, eloquently observed, “For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love.” Might we be moved by His grace and reflect this great love to the world instead of trying to merely subdue it with suffocating law. Because everything that isn’t gospel, is law.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” – John 15:1-17 (ESV)

“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by Whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:10-18 (ESV)

Life, and the sanctity thereof.

20130715-093317.jpg

There is a lot of talk these days about the horrors of abortion, as there very well should be. But Christians should also be proclaiming the forgiveness that is available in Jesus Christ for women who have had abortions, for the doctors who have performed abortions, for men who have encouraged abortions, for government officials who have legislated easier means for abortions, and anyone who has ever been involved with the action of an abortion. Because the bad news is, abortion is murder. The good news is, Jesus Christ died for murderers.

I of course cannot speak for everyone who claims to hold a “pro-life” point of view, but for me personally, I’ve yet to meet the person face-to-face who calls themselves “pro-life” and honestly advocates that any form of abortion, in any possible given situation, under any conceivable circumstance, for any possible reason is absolutely wrong, a “one-way ticket to hell,” and should never be allowed in any case whatsoever even to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape and incest. (It should be noted however, that since Roe v. Wade, the number of legal abortions done for those reasons amount for less than 2 percent of the 55-million-plus abortions performed in the United States since 1973.) The overwhelming majority of people I know, and the things I have read that take a “pro-life” stance, are against elective abortions being performed outside those perimeters, especially those that are merely due to inconvenience, financial issues, because of the gender of the baby, or high percentage probability that the child might have cognitive disabilities… those type of abortions are the clear cases I find it nearly impossible for anyone to justify morally.

Some reasons I’ve seen given for abortion outside of rape, incest, and severe endangerment to the mother’s health, are the issues or problems with the current adoption and foster care climate in the United States. I don’t know if those making that argument would go so far as to say it’s better to just kill a child in the womb than allow them the chance of a life outside it because it’s just statistically more likely that their life will be spent in poverty and strife, but that seems to be the logical conclusion of some advocates for this situation. I’ll admit that I am by nature a skeptical pessimist, but I have not been able to bring myself to such a logical conclusion as that. I find it difficult to justify choosing who gets a chance at life and who doesn’t. I don’t understand how the adoption and foster care systems of our country not being as effective as they should be, supports the case for women to electively abort babies anytime they please or see fit to do so (because it’s their body and nobody has a right to think any form of ethics should be a factor). Blaming such problems on a particular political party, however misguided and corrupt said party (let’s face it, all parties to varying extents) might be, doesn’t negate the ethical and moral implications of the fundamental issue at hand.

The battle over human dignity is waged not just at the local abortion clinic or crisis pregnancy center, nor merely in the halls of Congress or the Supreme Court. It is also carried out in our choice of words. And this is where the fundamental issue resides: what is life, what is human, when do ‘rights’ begin?

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV)

The ‘pro-choice’ stance on the sanctity of human life relies on bullets of deception and warheads of untruth – in short, on what George Orwell called “political language,” which he said “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Those who support the legal killing of unborn human beings in the womb have used political language for decades, cloaking their morally indefensible position in innocuous-sounding terms such as “choice” and “women’s health” – hoping the rest of us will forget about the status and rights of the other person directly affected in the abortion transaction – namely the fetus.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft says that the “personhood of the fetus is clearly the crucial issue for abortion, for if the fetus is not a person, abortion is not the deliberate killing of an innocent person.” Kreeft adds, “Persons have a ‘right to life’ but non-persons (e.g., cells, tissues, organs, and animals) do not.”

Many people, when hearing about abortion, have maybe conjured up in their minds some not-so-invasive, painless “medical process.” That’s not what abortion is… Abortion is the dismembering of one human body in order to be able to more easily extract it from another human body. We read in disbelief about ancient pagan’s throwing their babies into fires in sacrifice to their “gods” – yet we harden our hearts to the reality of children this very hour being dismembered in worship of the god called “women’s rights.”

So it seems to be clear that the real fundamental issue in which many in our society differ on, is what is a human being (and when does life and basic human rights for that life begin)… I would dare to say that as a man, I have equal right to define human life as a woman (contrary to what some people have told me); since men and women are both humans and both are needed to procreate (outside of the use of a test tube, but that is silly and a bit pedantic to try to cloud the core issue with extreme cases). I believe that as a man, I have every right to help conceive a child, love a child, emotionally nurture a child, care for a child, provide monetarily for a child, protect a child, and fight for both the life of my wife (the mother of my child) and my child (whether biologically related or adopted).

It is well accepted in our society and culture (and yes, pretty much universally) that murder is wrong, whether from a legal, moral, or ethical basis. The issue therefore of abortion ultimately boils down to whether or not the one being aborted is a living human child. If so, he or she is to be protected by the same principles, and basic rights which guide our guarding of other human life. There are at least eleven important questions that I cannot quickly recall having heard “pro-choice political candidates” being frequently asked by the media:

1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraceptions. Are there any restrictions at all, under any circumstances, or any particular situation that you would approve of?

2. In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate any pregnancy because the unborn fetus is a female (or any gender)? If you don’t agree a woman should be able to abort a child because of the gender of the baby, why not?

3. In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but legally cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?

4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it does begin? At what stage of development should an unborn child have basic human rights? (What supports your view on this? Science, constitutional law, ethical principles, moral philosophy, faith, religion, worldview, personal experience?) (If an unborn baby isn’t really a human life yet, why do miscarriages seem to be so emotionally and psychologically difficult for mothers who experience such unfortunate events?)

5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome (or other genetic “disadvantages” or “flaws”), many women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?

6. Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her ethical, moral, or religious conscience by providing medical insurance to cover any and all abortion procedures (especially those of an elective nature) and provide easy access to abortifacient drugs to any and all employees?

7. Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.) has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to this charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas, servicing large numbers of minorities? Do you simply dismiss it as status quo, and give the excuse that “minorities” make up the majority of inner-city populations?

8. Many “pro-choice” advocates describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not truly morally or ethically objectionable at all, then why is it so tragic then? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?

9. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?

10. If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence? If so, why?

(Many supporters of no restriction, “pro-choice” under any circumstance make statements along the line that it is a woman’s body and men have no right to have a say, an input, or even an opinion. While I would agree that yes, the baby is very much conceived and living inside of the woman’s body, the baby is a separate entity. The baby is its own person, distinct from the mother… when would you say a child has basic human rights of its own? At what point does it become a human being with any rights?)

11. If a woman (mother) has the right to choose to abort her unborn child or carry the pregnancy to term and deliver the baby, and the man (father) has no say at all in the matter, should the man (father) still be equally legally and monetarily responsible for the child? That is to say, if a woman (mother) gets pregnant unexpectedly and she opted not to have an abortion, and the man (father) had already been very clear he did not want to have a child, the mother had previously agreed to abort the child, and the father had steadfastly made it clear that he did not want any part of the child’s life, then should it be legally possible for the single mother to request the court to mandate the father to pay child support? While I personally believe that the father is morally responsible for taking responsibility for the life he helped create, does this issue present a double standard in regards to abortion rights? If not, why?

Some more questions worth considering in regards to literally zero restrictions, legally eligible under any circumstance, elective abortions:

What should we legally, medically, realistically call the unborn in the womb?

If the entity in the womb is a living thing, is it not a life? If your person began as a single cell, how can that fertilized egg be something other than a human being? Isn’t it more accurate to say you were an embryo than that you simply came from one? So when exactly does a human being have a right to life?

Should we say it is size that matters in determining this distinction? Is the unborn child too small to deserve our protection? Are big people more valuable than little people? Are men more human than woman? Do big offensive linemen have more rights than little jockeys? Is the life in the womb of no account because we can’t hold him or her in our arms, or put him or her in our hands, or because we can only see them on a screen?

Should we make intellectual development and mental capacity the measure of our worth? Are three year-old children less valuable than thirteen year-olds? Is the unborn child less than fully human because he cannot speak or count or be self-aware? Does the cooing infant in the crib have to smile or shake your hand or recite the alphabet before she deserves another day? If an expression of basic mental acuity is necessary to be a full-fledged member of the human community, what shall we do with the comatose, the very old, those who have down syndrome, or the fifty year-old mom with Alzheimer’s? And what about all of us who sleep?

Shall we deny the unborn child’s right to life because of where he lives? Can environment give us value or take it away? Are we worth less inside than outside? Can we be justly killed when we swim under water? Does where we are determine who we are? Is it simply the eight inch journey down the birth canal that makes us human? Does this change of scenery turn “its” into persons? Is love and worth a condition of location?

Shall we reserve human dignity only for those humans who are not dependent on others? Do we deserve to live only when we can live on our own? Is the four-month old fetus in the womb less than human because she needs her mom for life? Is the four-month old infant less than human when she still needs her mom for life? What if you depend on dialysis or insulin or a breathing apparatus? Is value a product of fully-functioning vitality? Is independence a prerequisite for human identity? Are we worth only what we can think, accomplish, and do on our own?

If the unborn life is human life, what can justify snuffing it out? Would it be right to take the life of your child on his first birthday because he came to you through sad and tragic circumstances? Would you push an 18 month old into traffic because she makes our life difficult? Does a three year-old deserve to die because we think we deserve a choice, better opportunities, and less inconveniences?

What do you deserve now? What are your basic rights as a human person? Did you have those same rights five years ago? What about before you could drive? Or when you used training wheels? Were you less than fully human when you played in the sandbox? When you wore a bib? When you nursed at your mother’s breast? When your dad cut your cord? When you tumbled in that watery mess and kicked against that strange wall? When your heart pounded on the monitor for the first time? When you grew your first fingernails? When you grew your first cells?

What shall we call the child in the womb then? A fetus? A mystery? A mistake? A wedge issue? An inconvenience? A choice? What if science, philosophy, Scripture, and commonsense would all have us call it a person? What if the unborn child, the messy infant, the wobbly toddler, the rambunctious teenager, the college freshman, the blushing bride, the first-time mother, the working woman, the proud grammy, and the demented old friend differ not in kind but only in degree? Where in the progression does our humanity begin and end? Where does life become valuable? When are we worth something? When do human rights become our rights? What if Dr. Seuss was right after all, and a person’s a person no matter how small?

Why celebrate the right to kill what you once were? Why deny the rights of the little one who is what you are?

There is also the way our country’s Media frames the “Abortion Debates” we see today.

Framing the abortion debate as an “assault on women’s reproductive rights” plays well with abortion advocates because it paints any abortion restriction from the pro-choice point of view. But this is precisely what the debate is about, and why Americans are so conflicted on this issue.

One side believes in a woman’s unalienable right to terminate her pregnancy. The other side believes in human rights for all, including the unborn human in the womb.

If reporters and journalists were to frame all conversations about abortion as a “War on Babies,” I suspect abortion advocates would cry foul. They would protest such coverage as biased toward the pro-life view, and they’d be right. So shouldn’t we recognize that pro-life advocates are right to question the journalistic decision to adopt a pro-choice perspective in framing abortion restrictions as a “War on Women”?

When news reports use this motif or describe those who protest restrictions on abortion as “woman’s rights protestors,” they’re being unfair. They’re also being inaccurate.

Edmond Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” He also leveled this timeless critique to culture, “What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as they are disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves. . . . Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” (1791 ‘A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly’)

Along these same lines, John Stuart Mill made this statement, “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

These words from Martin Luther King Jr. also apply here, “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws.”

The only issue I have ever seem to come across where many of the secular, relativistic humanists of our culture today do not want the evidence of science to bear great weight on the issue, is the issue of abortion. At eight weeks in the womb, it is scientific fact that the baby has brain waves, a heartbeat, a functioning liver, functioning kidneys, a fingerprint, and recoils from a prick. Again, this is scientific fact. There is not a great debate over these truths. Yet the argument is, “That’s not a human life. That’s a woman’s body, and a woman should be able to do with her body anything she wants to do with her body.”

However, even if we throw science out the window just “for the sake of argument,” and go with the current laws of our country, this is completely untrue in so many of our other laws. If you don’t believe me, try taking off your clothes and running through the streets naked. Do you know where you’re likely going? Jail. Try to sell your body for sex. If you try to do that, chances are you might get busted. Do you know where you’re probably going? Jail… along with the guy(s) who tried to buy it. What about drugs? If it’s really true that the woman’s body is her body, and she has the right to govern her own body anyway she chooses, what happens when she takes illegal drugs or substances? If caught, that usually ends in some jail time as well. So this idea that self-autonomy rules and reigns is not completely true in many of the other domains of our laws, except around this one…

On top of that, many of the laws are so backwards. If a man were to assault a pregnant woman and the baby were to die in her womb, he’d be tried for manslaughter. Yet the same woman can go to a clinic, and for a small price (maybe even subsidized by the government), can have the baby inside of her killed, the baby who does not have her genetic code, who cannot have her same blood-type, who does not have her fingerprints, who does not share the mother’s heartbeat, lungs, brain, etc.

Of the one million plus abortions that occurred in the United States of America last year, the majority of them occurred after eight weeks, which means there’s a heartbeat, brain waves, and functioning organs. But the ‘pro-choice position’ seems to be: “That’s not human. That’s not really a soul. That’s not a person with separate rights.” In fact, we know you can potentially sustain a baby’s life after 23-24 weeks if they’re born early, if they’re born prematurely. But in many states it is still legally viable to kill that baby in the womb post-24 weeks. If we step away from the ‘life issue’ and just look at it on the surface, how can one logically buy into this unless they’re willing to suppress some truth? Scientific, logical, rational truth…

Besides the gymnastics needed to evade the scientific problems that arise in this discussion, abortion also has deeply racist effects. Abortion is discrimination based upon one’s degree of development and location, and is in fact more offensive and objectionable than racism and sexism because it almost always results in the death of its victims. Francis Beckwith explains:

Just as skin color (racism), ethnic origin (ethnocentrism), gender (sexism), national power (imperialism), and birth date (ageism) are irrelevant to one’s possession of fundamental human rights, so is one’s degree of development and location inside or outside the womb (natalism). Unfortunately, this politically correct prejudice, manifested in the practice of abortion, nearly always results in the death of its victim” (Francis Beckwith, Politically Correct Death, 12).

I really enjoy reading and studying history. In doing so, there come about times where I’m reading about a specific issue or certain topic, specifically stuff that revolves around slave trade, sexual-slave trade, and genocide, where I’m just reading history and I’m just left with this overwhelmingly crushing question: “What were they thinking?!” Not individual persons, because I completely understand how particular persons can stumble into dark things and do terrible things. I completely get that. I am a person. I’ve done some pretty dumb stuff. But my question when I read history isn’t just about persons; it’s about people. Like if you read about the slave trade and read specifically about it coming out of England, that the slave trade was really about sugar… SUGAR! The English were stealing Africans and taking them to the Caribbean to harvest sugar because they tried to use the Irish, and the sun just burned them all up. (I’m part Irish, and I can attest to this.) Literally hundreds of thousands of Africans were brutally killed for sugar, for sweet tea, and biscuits! So, I’m left with these nagging questions, “What were they thinking? What were they doing? Where were all the people who were going, ‘Hey, this is crazy!’? How did this bull continue on for as long as it did?”

What we find in history though, is that really underneath and subversively witling away at the foundation of that nonsense were faithful men and women, but the culture by and large was passive and ignored it. So, history is this long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as the words of Reinhold Niebuhr remind us: groups can be more immoral than individuals. I earnestly believe that over the next few years, science itself will help overturn some of the ridiculousness we see in our culture. I really think our children’s children will look at us and go, “What in the world? Where were you? What were you doing? Why didn’t you see this? Why didn’t you sense this? Why didn’t you stop this? How we’re you too busy to end this injustice? I mean, if you’re going to say that you believe what you believe, that a child in the womb is a life, how could you not do anything as millions were killed every year, the most helpless of helpless, the weakest of the weak, those who could not defend or speak for themselves… yet you did nothing?!”

I don’t really have any political affiliations. I vote, I have a voice, but I certainly would not label myself as a republican, democrat, libertarian, etc… and hope you and others would not paint me with any of those brushes. Life is so much bigger than political parties. I sometimes jokingly say (like a former pastor of mine) that I’m with the kingdom of God party, we already have our Guy. But in all seriousness, I find it difficult to support any man or woman who does not believe the sanctity of a human life is more valuable than convenience and relativistic personal beliefs, and is willing to sacrifice the defenseless innocent for popular opinion.

If life begins at conception… the Bible clearly weighs in it does (Psalm 139:13-16… but if I understand correctly, that doesn’t mean much to the majority of this country, and that is perfectly understandable that they wouldn’t heavily consider what the Bible says on an issue if they don’t trust or respect it as being an accurate, trustworthy, or authoritative source); however even secular science agrees with the Bible here, and would say life does begin at conception. One has to be careful playing this little game of, “Well, I define life as this amount of brainwaves.” Because, if that’s true, we have to pull the plug on a lot of people in a lot of hospitals. Our definition of personhood is another piece of this kind of relativistic schizophrenia prevalent in our culture, “it’s what I want to do” and “this is what I personally believe” type of ethic that’s driving this industry, because if we were to say, “Well, it’s only a human when it’s breathing on its own,” then we have a lot of people in ICU who need to go out, don’t we? We need to start pulling some plugs. We need to get rid of our dialysis machines. We need to get rid of our respirators. We need to stop wasting time and money keeping so many helpless people alive.

I believe this issue has become so logically insane, that I’ve found myself provoked at times by the insanity…

However, at the very same time, I do not believe that any women who has had an abortion (or anyone who has had a hand directly or indirectly in aborting a child) has gone beyond the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. In fact, a church I served at in the past has a large ministry called “Grace Abounds” that exists for men and women who are dealing with the post-abortion stress, guilt, loss, and sorrow. There is no condemnation for the repentant person seeking help, no judgment for them. From my limited knowledge, there are also advocacy and pregnancy centers all over near where I live… the DFW Metroplex has many of them, there is one in Denton, one in Lewisville, several down in Dallas, a relatively new one up in Keller. Their sole purpose is to walk with young women, support young women, care for young women who are pregnant and don’t know what to do.

There are also numerous documentaries available that support a more “pro-life” stance. However, the critiques of many of these documentaries seem to just side step most of the issues raised and attempt to “poison the well” argumentatively, attack a “straw man,” or throw a bunch of “red herrings” into the discussion. A lot of what I’ve found to be somewhat interesting in reading the comments on these videos, is the hypocrisy, ignorance, selfishness, and false humility. (Usually, I have a very general and strict rule that I don’t read blog comments or the comments on YouTube stuff, but I just can’t seem to help myself sometimes and inevitably read some of them…)

Here’s some of what what I’ve found in reading comments I should have known better than to give my time: the graphic scenes in these documentaries are just manipulative. “That’s emotive, manipulation, not based on fact. It’s overly graphic and completely distorted just to make people feel guilty.” Now here’s the irony of that. I’m not a huge television watcher and we haven’t paid for even basic cable in at least a few years (Hulu and Netflix are our only sources of television), but I can’t remember the last time I watched television where I didn’t hear something along the lines of Sarah McLachlan singing a song with a puppy that was all beat up. So this is something I’d like to point out, nobody (that is at all sane in the head) is going to say this is the same, that this puppy has more rights and honestly requires more care than any human. Nobody is going to say it, but if you fight for the rights of the unborn, then you’re manipulative… but if you want to give little Sparky a new home, that’s a worthwhile cause. Even the great comedian Jim Gaffigan draws attention to this when he asks, “Wait, there’s still kids starving in Africa, right?”

I hope that in all of this though, as anyone reads this, you know and understand that I believe Christians are no better than non-Christians. In fact, the believer in Christ who has actually been converted and understands the Scriptures doesn’t see them-self as morally fit for God at all. In fact, they see them-self as so desperately broken that unless God sends Jesus to become the wrath-absorbing sacrifice for our lives, we have no chance at ever being restored. So, here’s the thing I just love about the evangelical Church today, and what I mean by “love” is “openly mock,” is that so many self-proclaimed Christians continually show they don’t understand the gospel by pretending we’re more moral and more devoted than everyone else. I’m sure many of you have picked up on a bit of that nonsense. Maybe just a little?

I’m not claiming to have never said anything arrogant and dumb before (or that it’ll never happen again), but I get just as sick and tired as many skeptics and non-Christians when I see things posted on Twitter and Facebook claiming “We’re more moral.” It’s why we’ve got to picket stuff. “We’re more devoted. We don’t do those kind things or make those kind of mistakes.” That’s why we have to eat at Chick-fil-A, don’t drink Starbucks, and won’t pay to see certain movies. Now, despite all the empirical data to the contrary, it’s what so many people like to preach on, it’s what so many love to talk about, it’s what some idiots even put on their t-shirts… it’s just this weird, silly, odd, confusing Bible-belt subculture. “We’re more devoted than the rest of you, and we’re more moral.” But of course that’s not true, and that’s certainly not the gospel. In fact, it’s really the enemy of the gospel. It’s the antithesis of the good news of Christ.

The gospel is not we’re more moral or we’re more devoted. The gospel is, “Jesus saves.” Saves us from what? Us… our inability to be as devoted as we need to be, our inability to be as moral as He’s commanded us to be. Like those places in the Bible where God says, “Be holy as I am holy” (1st Peter 1:13-17 is one place) – do you know anybody else having some difficulty getting there, anyone else failing to act in such a manner? Anybody else you know have some trouble being perfect? Is it just me who struggles with that one? Am I really the only one who is selfish at times, messes up, and makes mistakes… regularly? Alright, so that’s what makes the teachings of Jesus so unbelievably intriguing. Because if religion had a bumper sticker… and I’ve never been a bumper sticker fan… unless it’s a Jayhawk… (Btw, nobody drives well enough to have a bumper sticker that has Jesus’ name on it. It’s true! Seriously! Nobody! If Evangelicals were really thinking, they’d just go the complete opposite. “I don’t believe in Christ,” and then drive like a madman.) Anyway, in the end, if religion had any kind of motto, it would say this: “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.” That’s it. That’s religion. Whatever belief system you want to get into, that’s it, but that is not the teaching of Jesus. Religion says, “Morality and religious observance are means of salvation,” but that is not the message of Jesus.

Our faith teaches us that we are not just set free from fear-based behavioral modification, and the vain pursuit of pleasures that never deliver what they promise, but we are saved to the freedom of knowing that God’s affection for us does not waver despite our persistent failures and shortcomings. We have been set free to enjoy the love of our Father as adopted sons and daughters.

Religion says, “We’ve got it right and everyone else be damned,” and Jesus says, “You love the Muslim, you serve the Muslim, if necessary, you die for him. You love the Jew, you serve the Jew and if necessary, you die for them. You love the Hindu, you give up your food for the Hindu, you open your home to the Hindu, you sacrifice your own life for the Hindu. Even the angry atheist, you love him and serve him, you sacrifice your time, money, and even life for him.” Jesus says, “Love your enemies. Don’t just love your friends. How easy is it to love your friends? Even murderers can easily do that.” I mean, this is a crazy Man here. The stuff He teaches, it is not really religious in nature in any way historically as religion has been defined. The teachings of Jesus go contrary – now, not necessarily what Evangelicals teach and do, but the teachings of Jesus; they’re very, very different. His teachings are the good news, He is the gospel… Jesus is better than life. We don’t walk in fear of some tyrannical deity, but in love for our adopted Father. We are no longer slaves to our own insecurities, rather we have been set free from fear-based behavioral modifications, and into love motivated pursuit of what we long for most. We’ve been set free from the pursuit of pleasure that has as an aftertaste of guilt and shame, and into the pursuit of pleasure that leads to ever-increasing joy. We have been blood-bought, purchased out of slavery to sin. And that is the motivation for why I believe what I believe about the controversial issue of abortion.

However, some people who discuss this topic seem to believe that as a male, I don’t have any right to even enter into the conversation, let alone hold an opinion on the matter that should be viewed with any credibility since I don’t have two X chromosomes…

However, I believe truth is truth, no matter who says it, and gender does not deem one’s views irrelevant to this issue. I will respectfully disagree with that offensive position, and will continue to speak about this topic. I care a great deal about this sensitive and divisive issue in our country, have just as much libertarian freedom and right to speak about it as anyone else. Like many, I have also been deeply affected by experiences both personal and those of very close friends and family. I’ve also been affected by what I’ve read and studied over the years; as well as a great deal of dialogue composed of conversations with people who agree and disagree with me to varying degrees. So I’m not entering into this discussion with views based strictly on emotions or some detached opinion formulated without any change, growth, or careful consideration.

My parents spent years trying to be able to have kids, my mother went through surgeries, and the heartache of miscarriages. Eventually my mother was able to have children and gave birth to me when my parents were both about 30-years-old, then my three little sisters were all born within the next five years. My Dad actually didn’t finish going to school and get his degree until well after I was born. When I was growing up, we were very grateful for the immense assistance we received from the government, friends, and family. There was a period of years in my family’s life where my father was only making between $15-20k each year, and that was with four kids and a stay-at-home mother. My father worked 60+ hour work weeks for many years to provide for us. So for those who might want to dismiss me as some mind of “right-winged conservative, Christian nut-job” who just wants to see the government neglect the poor and deny help to “those who don’t help themselves.” That is simply ridiculous.

I definitely do not think any government assistance is evil and should be terminated immediately, my own family actually benefitted from it directly. However, I would dare to say that the hope and goal of such programs should be to assist the individual(s) and/or families to “get back on their own feet” or become as “self-reliable” as possible after a given amount of time. That all would of course be a very relative, case-by-case scenario, but that should at least be the end goal of such programs, shouldn’t it? The government should not be enslaving its people to depend on it. Even if some would claim that to be a bit too idealistic.

Contrary to when you believe ‘life’ and ‘human rights’ begin in said life, the Bible gives us this command: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:3-4 (ESV)

Life is precious and to be protected. Sometimes in protecting life, we must give up our own comforts and self-will, but we must remember that love demands that we lay ourselves down for the sake of others. Abortion is contrary to the demands of Scripture to protect life, care for those who have not the ability to protect themselves, and humble ourselves by considering others before ourselves.

This particular passage of Scripture also gives us a deep resource for this controversial topic as we continue to discuss it and wrestle with the implications of the shifting values of our surrounding culture.

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2nd Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV) (emphasis mine)

To those reading this who have had an abortion in the past, helped someone else have one, or been a steadfast supporter of “pro-choice” easy-elective and abortion-approving legislation, I don’t know what you’ve gone through or what painful personal experiences you’ve lived through that have served to influence and shape your beliefs on this controversial issue and the closely related issues tied to it, but I trust that you have done the best you could, with what you had, and where you were. I believe we’re all beggars in need of grace, and you will not get any hate, condemnation, or judgement from me. I would implore you to seek to know Jesus, as the Scriptures testify of Him, and rest in the hope, mercy, grace, and love He offers us all in His Gospel.

The gospel is the good news that God saves. It is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures from Satan, sin, and its effects to the Father and each other through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and future return of the substitutionary Son, by the power of the Spirit, for God’s glory and the Church’s joy.

We should never forget that grace and forgiveness exist for all in Jesus Christ.

If you have had an abortion or have somehow been affected by an abortion, homicide, suicide or euthanasia, allow me to encourage you in the gospel. Our great God and King brought us the forgiveness of sins through His Son, Jesus, for all who believe. There is no act of taking human life that is beyond the redemption that is possible in Jesus. The Bible is full of murderers such as Moses, David, and Paul, who were redeemed to serve God. For those who are repentant, God’s grace always washes away the painful stain of sin.

My hope is by far greater than you merely adopting a view that sees abortion as murder, but that you will rest in the mercy, love, and grace of our beautiful Savior. That you would know and follow Jesus; understanding then that God sees you as His child, and your identity is in Christ, not in your sin.

—————–•—————–

Recommended Articles:

“The Gospel in an Abortion Culture” by Russell Moore

“Made in the Image of God” by Zach Lee

“We Know They Are Killing Children – All of Us Know” by John Piper

“Questions for Our Pro-Abortion Friends, Church Leaders, and Politicians” by Kevin DeYoung

“Unborn Babies Are Hearing You, Loud and Clear” article by: Meghan Holohan, NBC News

“Is the Abortion Battle a War On Women or a War Between Women?” by Trevin Wax

“Abortion and the Negation of Love” by Joe Carter

“Respecting Women is Respecting Life” by Pat Gohn

“Two Women are Behind Legalized Abortion in America: Now Both of Them Want it Reversed” by John Jalsevac

“The Truth (About Abortion) Will Set You Free” by John Piper

“Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion” by John Piper, Desiring God Ministries

“9 Things You Should Know About Roe v. Wade” by Joe Carter

“Anniversary Pictures: Remembering Roe v. Wade” by Kathleen Nielson

“10 Surprising Quotes from Abortionists”

“Beyond the Rhetoric: Gosnell and the Late-Term Reality” by John Knight

“Is Abortion Sinful?” by Geoff Ashley

“Aborted Babies and the Risk of Doing Nothing” by Michael Spielman

“Why We Should Legalize Murder for Hire” by Betsy Childs

“Why the Simple Right to Abortion is Unjust” by John Piper

“Comparing Gosnell to Newtown” by Adam Griffin

“Why the Gosnell Trial Shocks” by Jordan Sekulow

“On Abortion, Wendy Davis Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About” article by Kirsten Powers

“9 Things You Should Know About the Gosnell Infanticide and Murder Trial” by: Joe Carter

—————–•—————–

Recommend Sermons:

“Life (2012)” by Matt Chandler

“Life (2013)” by Matt Chandler

“Abortion and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” by: John Piper

“Christ, Culture, and Abortion” by John Piper

“Abortion: The Innocent Blood of Our Sons and Daughters” by John Piper

“Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ” by John Piper

God is the Gospel

20130618-103628.jpg

Sometimes, I wonder whether some of us who claim to know about this guy named Jesus, really understand the message of His Gospel… Even people who don’t have backgrounds in church have usually heard the 23rd Psalm. In Psalm 23 David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd…” and ends it with, “He restores my soul and He leads me into paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.” And just from this passage (along with well an overwhelming number of other passages in Scripture that all clearly teach this) we read that God loves you, God is for you, and God will provide for you, but the motivation behind all that is not your awesomeness, but rather God. God is ultimately for God. God is about God. What God wants is the praise of His name in the universe. It’s the reason that everything exists. You, I, animals, plants, the nations, the planets, and the entire universe exist so that we might display that infinite perfections of God Almighty.

Now that rubs against the air we breathe, because the air we breathe is that we’re the point, we’re what it’s all about and everything should be about and revolve around us. We breathe that air. Every commercial is pointed in that direction. “You earned it. . . you deserve it. . . why wouldn’t you have this?” Almost all marketing schemes are built around how worthy you are of [insert product here]. So the Bible teaches that in reality you are not the center of God’s affections. You are most definitely not the center of the universe. Ultimately God is the center of the universe. But that rubs most of us so raw that in our pride we refuse to even question how and why this is good news. How can everything not being about me, be good news?! As big of a deal that I may think I am sometimes, God being about God is infinitely better than God being about me, you, or any of us.

Three reasons why it’s the best news in the universe that God is ultimately for God: If God is after the praise of His glorious grace, then He is not at odds with my desire to be filled with joy. If God is for God, He is not after my begrudging submission. He’s not after me just doing what He says so He won’t destroy me. If His goal is to be praised, to be worshiped, to be enjoyed and in that enjoyment to show Himself to be glorious to the world and to the universe itself, then He is for my joy. Which means all the commands of God in Scripture are not about taking anything from us, but rather leading us into deeper joy than we can imagine.

Now I know many people immediately upon reading this want to sit down and have a drink so they can tell me how that’s not true for them. “You don’t understand my situation. You don’t get my relationship. You don’t understand the part of life that I’m in right now or how I’m wired.” Many of us would love to sit down and explain why that’s not true for us and how the commands of God shouldn’t apply to us because, if we were to do what God commanded, that would easily lead to our misery all the days of our life until we died. However, the fact is, that is really an unbelievably arrogant and closed-minded position. No one has been a greater threat and caused greater violence to your joy than you have. Now have people jacked with you? Absolutely. Do we live in a broken world? Yes. But how you have handled that, how you have responded to that is completely on you, not them. You’re the greatest enemy of your joy, not God. God is beckoning towards life, and you’re pulling toward death.

C.S. Lewis describes the state of so many of our hearts well, in his book The Weight of Glory. “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” Now he’s talking about pleasure here. So Lewis is saying that he thinks God thinks that our desire for joy is not too strong, but it’s too weak. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” I love this quote. Because it’s us! We don’t yearn for Him, long for Him. Why? Because Bravo and TLC have some cool shows about cakes and dresses. Because it’s March Madness time and teenage boys are trying to get an orange ball through a hoop. (Or insert the NBA Finals, Baseball in October, the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Cup, etc. etc.) Because if we can just meet this deadline at work then we’ll get to the next level and we’ll somehow obtain a greater identity. That’s why we don’t yearn more for God. Because after a long day’s work, there is nothing you would rather do except sit on your behind and watch television. Don’t fool and delude yourself with the worn out excuse “I don’t have time.” You have all the time there is. You have just as much time as the rest of us. We don’t because we don’t want to. There are not other issues. We sin because we want to sin, and we don’t pursue Jesus because we don’t want to pursue Jesus. There are other things to us that are more valuable than Him, and that is why we don’t pursue.

You may go on to say “Well, I don’t know how to read my Bible.” You read it. One word at a time. And there are an unbelievable amount of resources put out there for us. Everything from how you read it on a day-to-day basis to how you study it in depth is available for free on more than one website. But here’s the thing… Some of you didn’t know how to fly fish, garden, paint, sew, play an instrument, etc… but you do now, don’t you? Do you know how you did that? Well you bought some equipment, you got a book, and got all geeked up about it and spent time practicing. Why? Because we all love mud pies in the slums. You never see a grown man playing actively in the kiddie pool, do you? Not without his kids. Because if he’s without his kids, don’t we call the police? Why? Because grown men were meant for the deep end. They weren’t meant for the kiddie pool. So it’s a provoking thing to me that so many of us like to sit in that shallow warm water when the deep end is right over there.

So in Lewis’ great illustration, the prideful, closed-minded skeptical person hears that God is offering a holiday at the sea, but they want to stay in the slums playing with mud. They think that the invitation to the sea is robbing them of the joy they have making mud pies. In buying into the lies of this world, we miss out on the reality that God’s being about God is tied to our ever-expanding, ever-increasing joy. And that’s how God is praised and gloried in, in our ever-increasing joy in Him and in His perfections. What do I mean by His perfections? I’m talking about Him lining us up with how He designed life and the universe to work.

So, if you’re not the center of the universe, that frees you up in a thousand different ways. Because if I’m the point, then I have a whole list of things my spouse or significant other had better be doing. If I’m the point, I have a whole list of things that my kids had better do. They had better not represent me like I really am. And if I’m the point, then I view my money a certain way. If I’m the point, how dare you go 45 mph in the left lane. If I’m the point, if you cut me off, I’m going to have to follow you home and maybe punch you in the throat. If I’m the point, I’m easily offended. Because, “It’s my universe. How dare you intrude on my universe? I have a set plan for my day. How dare you get in the way of my day. Because I’m the point. My plans are flawless and anyone who would interfere with them is obviously of the devil. Because I’m the sun. This universe revolves around me. It’s all about me.” But if I’m not the point, I’m a free man. If I’m not the point, I’m hard to offend. If I’m not the point, I have been set free to love my spouse and not have a list of things they had better do. If I’m not the point, then I’m set free to love and shape my children with grace and not fear. If I’m not the point, then that frees up my finances and I’m not constantly worried about what I have and don’t have. If I’m not the point, then I don’t get as offended when life just happens.

You might be type-A and plan out your day to the millisecond, but it doesn’t always work that way, does it? And when things don’t go as planned we freak out and get angry, don’t we? All frustration is birthed out of unmet expectation. So if it’s not about us, that’s all a lot easier to handle. If it is about us, that stuff is very difficult.

But I believe, as the Bible teaches, God is ultimately for God and that’s good because, if God is infinite and He has always been and will always be, then that joy, regardless of time, is ever-increasing. There is a great book in the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes. Solomon, who was a king with more money, more power, more fame than we will all have even if we combine all our clout, writes a whole book on how everything in life is meaningless. It’s really quite a chipper little read. So he has all this money, and he says it’s vanity, it’s meaningless and it doesn’t matter. He literally says, “Even if you have money, you’re going to die. And your kid is probably an idiot because you’re rich and have spoiled him. It’s vanity. It doesn’t matter.” And then he builds. He plants forests and vineyards. That puts your little garden in your backyard with the Crepe Myrtles to shame. And he says, “It’s vanity. It’s meaningless.” He builds houses for his wives and concubines, he builds the temple of the Lord and says it’s meaningless. “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun.” And the reality of God being infinite and for our joy means that our experience of that joy is ever-increasing to the point where we don’t hit that ceiling or finally get to the bottom. It’s ever-growing and ever-expanding.

Keep this in mind though when contemplating the great truth of the gospel: only the Holy Spirit can open a person’s eyes to the beauty and splendor of Christ. We can and should do our best to try to provide all the answers we can, and pray constantly for others on their behalf, but only God can soften hearts and enlighten minds. 1st Corinthians 1:18-19, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (cf Ephesians 2:1-10)

Love: Discipline & Dependence

20130613-094308.jpg

Have you ever read, or pondered the closing words of the Old Testament? Malachi 4:6 states: “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” These are the last words contained in the Bible before a 400 year silence.

In the Gospel of Luke, the author lets it be known that this was not forgotten “… and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Fathers, as you look to our heavenly Father, may the preaching of the Gospel in the spirit of Elijah turn your hearts toward your children. Don’t let work, hobbies, disappointment, or your pride turn your heart away from or against your kids. Be kind, considerate, patient, and encouraging with your words. Don’t provoke them to anger, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Fathers and mothers, let us prepare the way of the Lord and anticipate His return by pointing our affections toward Christ, and reflect His love towards our children.

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” – Proverbs 29:17

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

The Scriptures tell us that God at times, nurtures us by speaking the truth in love, and sometimes that plays out in an aggressive way. There was an interesting study I read recently about behavioral analysis. It was a study on certain adolescents who came from really good homes, but their hearts were just filled with rage. And so, they would medicate them, talk with them, and try to figure out why. In an effort to better understand where this rage was coming from, they started this intensive study on why these kids were angry like this, and here’s basically what they found:

In almost every one of the cases, they found a mother who took nurturing to a sinful level. Let me try to explain what I mean by that. From their research and study, they found in one case in particular, that one of the kids would be painting and then as the kid walked away and left the paint and started playing with another toy, the mother would clean up all the paint and put it away. And then the kid would move over to this other toy for a little bit, but then he would come back and want to paint again. And so, the mother would pull out all the paints and then put back up the other things and the kid would start to paint again. And so while the kid was painting, the mother would go over and clean up the toys over here and clean up the toys over there. And then the kid would leave the paint, come over back to the toys that the mom just put up and pull them out and start playing with them again. So the mother would go back and clean up all the paint again, because you couldn’t leave the paint out or it would ruin. So she would screw on the top, she would take down the easel, she would put it all up and then the kid would come back over and want to paint again. And so the mother would get the easel back out… and I’m sure some of you are reading this, thinking about your mom, and are just like, “Who is this mother?!” It certainly was not my mother (for which I am grateful). But this mom would pull all the paint supplies back out and set it all back up again, over and over.

And what ended up happening was, as the kid grew and developed, they weren’t really ready for any of the disappointment that is life. Because that little scenario is the only bubble in which you’ll get your way all of the time. And so, the kid couldn’t deal with kindergarten. And so as they grew, they began to develop this anger and this rage towards everyone who didn’t give them what they wanted. Because if we would just give them what they want then everything would be great… and I don’t know if you’ve ever been with anyone like that, like they just have this pervasive problem and they can’t ever see that the common denominator is them. And what happened here in this case is that it was not biblical nurturing. Biblical nurturing would be more like, “Uh sweetie, mommy put those up. You can paint tomorrow. (kiss) Little artist, go on now. (hug) Go on, play with your other stuff. Mommy already put the paint up.” The Biblical idea of nurturing is more like that. And overall, women just naturally provide nurturing nourishment much better than men do, but that does not excuse fathers from raising their children in a nurturing manner.

We must always remember though, that as parents, we’re not going to be a good enough to pull off salvation in our children’s hearts. We’re just not. We’re not going to be able to model it well enough. All we can do is commend God’s works to them. He’s got to save them. So we are to plead with Him. Men and women who walk in pride, they don’t need to plead for the lives of their children. You know why? Because they’ve got it. Why would they need to plead? God forbid if their kid runs amok. You know what the issue was? The issue wasn’t them; the issue was all you other guys’ kid. Your kid(s) came into their life, influenced them into darkness and if you would have done a better job, if you would have watched what they watched, if you would have watched what they read, if you would not have allowed them to watch the “Smurfs, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, the Disney Channel” or whatever the Evangelical community is now saying is evil and wicked and after the souls of our children, if you would have done that, then in the end, “my kid would love the Lord, because I raised them to love the Lord. That’s not how I raised them. Your kid was the real issue.” I’ve been in that room before. I’ve actually heard parents declare that nonsense.

Or here’s one I think that most everyone has seen. There are men and women who cannot sustain relationships for any period of time. Like, they have a good friend for about six months and then they’ve got this whole other group of friends for about six months, and then they’ve got this whole other group they run with for about six months. Or they go from this relationship, to that relationship, to this relationship. And if you sit down over a drink with them, they could tell you all about all that was wrong with all of those people without ever being able to see that the common denominator is them. And that’s pride. “Let me tell you why everyone else has issues.”

People who walk in pride are just perpetually in crisis. There’s always a crisis, always. It’s never having to do with them though. It’s always someone else. It’s absolutely devastating to the pursuit of Jesus. Because in the end, you don’t believe you really need Him despite the fact that all objective evidence would say it’s the other way. But you can’t see objective evidence. It’s this insane belief in our own sufficiency that robs us of freedom and life… it’s pride (Luke 18). I mean, God has flat out said that proud He will know from afar and they will not be able to draw near to Him (Psalm 138:6). Think about what that means? God opposes the proud. (Ecclesiastes 7:8; Jeremiah 13:15; Luke 1:51; James 4:6; 1st Peter 5:5)

The proud also deny their need for dependence. The Bible is clear in its teaching that we are all beggars, in desperate need of grace. We are completely dependent on God for everything; we are to praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Job’s conversation with God near the end of the book of Job is a great display of how little and not-in-control of things we all really are.

There is this idea of sanctification in the Christian faith that is beautiful, but pretty painful at times; more specifically, it is the truth that God is working all things together for our good so that we might look more like Christ. This is easy to regurgitate but difficult to really believe and apply in our daily lives. I am bent toward a particular cynicism that doubts the goodness of God in my life and His unwavering commitment to finish the good work He began in me (Philippians 1:6). My natural inclination is not to see every situation as His grace toward me and care for me in leading me to depend less upon myself and my wisdom and more upon Him and His.

As parents, there are so many more ways to see this, and feel this, than those without children.

I am more confident in my ability to love and serve my wife when I am in prayer. As parents, we are called to be more confident in our ability train and discipline when we are in prayer. I’ll admit my first thought is not always to pray. My first thought is not always to ask the sovereign Ruler of the universe to watch over and protect my marriage. The reality that I have access to the Father, through Christ, does not always immediately enter my mind when I first begin to have difficulty or struggle.

But we are dependent on God. Even when we’re not fully aware of it, or living as if we don’t believe that. In subtle ways, as parents we are to continually train our children in dependence. It doesn’t matter the situation or circumstance – dependence upon God or dependence upon ourselves to grow in maturity should be taught. This road was never promised to be easy, or to be filled with happiness and void of pain. But in the end, we hope for something greater, we rest in the idea of this promise: “Some day, things that look like broken glass to us here will make sense… as small parts of a beautiful stained glass picture of God’s redemptive work throughout history.”