When Abortion Stopped Making Sense, Pt 2

The usual justification for abortion is that the unborn person is not a ‘person’. It’s said that ‘Nobody knows when life begins’. But that’s not true; everybody knows when life, a new individual human life, gets started. It’s when the sperm is dissolved in the egg. That new single cell has a brand-new DNA, never before seen in the world. If you examined it through a microscope, three cells lined up– the newly fertilized ovum, a cell from the father, and a cell from the mother. You would say that, judging from the DNA, the cells came from three different people. When people say the unborn is ‘not a person’ or ‘not a life’, they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life.

But there’s no agreement about which of the abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, law cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is ‘Can I kill this?’, the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data. And the fact is, an unborn child, from the very first moment, is a new human individual. It has the three essential characteristics that make it ‘a human life’–it’s alive and growing, it is composed entirely of human cells, and it has unique DNA–it’s a person, just like the rest of us. Abortion indisputably ends a human life.

But this loss is usually set against the woman’s need to have an abortion in order to freely direct her own life. It is particular cruelty to present abortion as something women want, something they demand, and find liberating. Because nobody wants this. The procedure itself is painful, humiliating, and expensive; no woman ‘wants’ to go through it. But once it’s available, it appears to be the logical, reasonable choice. All complexities can be shoved down that funnel. Yes, abortion “solves” all the problems; but it solves them inside the woman’s body. And she is expected to keep that pain inside for a lifetime, and be grateful for the gift of abortion.

WHAT NOBODY WANTS

Many years ago, I wrote something in an essay about abortion, and I was surprised that the line got picked up and frequently quoted. I’ve seen it in both pro-life and pro-choice contexts so it appears to be something both sides agree on. I wrote, ‘No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.’ Strange, isn’t it, that both pro-choice and pro-life people agree that this is true? Abortion is a horrible and harrowing experience. That women choose it so frequently shows how much worse continuing a pregnancy can be. Essentially, we’ve agreed to surgically alter women so that they can get along in a man’s world. And then we expect them to be grateful for it.

Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it 2,800 times every day? If women are doing something 2.800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation they have won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression.

And so we came around to one more March for Life, like the one last year, and like the one next year. Protesters understandably focus on the unborn child because the danger it faces is the most galvanizing aspect of this struggle. If there are different degrees of injustice, surely violence is the worst manifestation, and killing worst of all. If there are different categories of innocent victim, surely the small and helpless have a higher claim to protection, and tiny babies the highest of all. The minimum purpose of government is to shield the weak from abuse by the strong, and there is no one weaker or more voiceless than unborn children. And so we keep saying that they should be protected, for all the same reasons that newborn babies are protected.

Pro-lifers have been doing this for 43 years now, and will continue holding a candle in the darkness for as many more years as it takes. I understand all the reasons why the movement’s prime attention is focused on the unborn. But we can also say that abortion is no bargain for women either. It’s destructive and tragic. We shouldn’t listen unthinkingly to the other side of the time-worn script, the one that tells us that women want abortion, that abortion liberates them. Many a post-abortion woman could tell you a different story. The pro-life cause is perennially unpopular, and pro-lifers get used to being misrepresented and wrongly accused. There are only a limited number of people who are going to be brave enough to stand up on the side of an unpopular cause. But sometimes a cause is so urgent, is so dramatically clear, that it’s worth it. What cause could be more outrageous than violence, fatal violence, against the most helpless members of our human community?

If that doesn’t move us, how hard are our hearts? If that doesn’t move us, what will ever move us? In time it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, ‘It’s not like they didn’t know.’ They can say, ‘After all, they had sonograms.’ They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters. One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind.

– Frederica Mathewes-Green

When Abortion Stopped Making Sense, Pt 1

At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, I was an anti-war, mother-earth feminist hippie college student. That particular January, I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist ‘underground newspaper’, Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read ‘Don’t labor under a misconception– legalize abortion,’ The first issue of Off Our Backs after the Roe decision included one of my movie reviews, and also an essay by another member of the our group, criticizing the decision. It didn’t go far enough, she said, because it allowed states to restrict abortion in the third trimester. The Supreme Court should not meddle in what should be decided between the woman and her doctor. She should be able to choose abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

But at the time, we didn’t have much understanding of what abortion was. We knew nothing of fetal development. We consistently termed the fetus ‘a blob of tissue’, and that’s just how we pictured it, an undifferentiated mucous-like blob, not recognizable as human or even as alive. It would be another 15 years or so before pregnant couples could see and show sonograms of their unborn babies, shocking us with the obvious humanity of the unborn.

We also thought back then that few abortions would ever be done. It’s a grim experience, going through an abortion, and we assumed a woman would choose one only as a last resort. We were fighting for that ‘last resort’. We had no idea how common the procedure would become; today, one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion. Nor could we have imagined how high abortion numbers would climb. In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, there have been 59 million abortions. It’s hard even to grasp a number that big. Twenty years ago, someone told me that, if the names of all those lost babies were inscribed on a wall, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall would have to stretch for 50 miles. It’s 20 years later now, and that wall would have to stretch twice as far. But no names could be written on it because those babies have no names.

A woman who had an abortion told me, ‘Everyone around me was saying they would be there for me if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d be there for me if I had the baby.’

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, for her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad. Abortion is like a funnel–it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose an abortion rather than adoption or parenting. A woman who had an abortion told me, ‘Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.’ For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, ‘If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything will be fine.’

But that’s an illusion. Abortion can’t really ‘turn back the clock’. It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself will struggle. When she first sees the positive pregnancy test she may feel, in a panicky way, that she has to get rid of it as fast as possible. But life stretches on after abortion, for months and years, for many long nights, and all her life long she may ponder the irreversible choice she made. Abortion can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death.
But it’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child. If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn, and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, ‘Something must be really wrong in this environment.’ Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals. The same thing goes for the human animal.

WHAT WOMEN WANT?

Abortion gets presented to us as if it’s something women want; both pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric can reinforce the idea. But women do this only if all their other options look worse. It’s supposed to be ‘her choice’, yet so many women say, ‘I really didn’t have a choice’.

I changed my opinion on abortion after I read an article in Esquire magazine, way back in 1976. I was home from grad school, flipping through my dad’s copy, and came across an article titled ‘What I Saw at the Abortion’. The author, Richard Selzer, was a surgeon, and was in favor of abortion, but he’d never seen one. So he asked a colleague if, next time, he could go along. Selzer described seeing the patient, 19 weeks pregnant, lying on her back on the table (That is unusually late; most abortions are done by the tenth or twelfth week). The doctor performing the procedure inserted a syringe into the woman’s abdomen and injected her womb with prostaglandin solution, which would bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage (This method isn’t used anymore, because too often the baby survived the procedure, chemically burned and disfigured, but clinging to life. Newer methods, including those called ‘partial birth abortion’ and ‘dismemberment abortion’, more reliably ensure death). After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright in her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, ‘I see something other than what I expected here… It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.’ He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead.

Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing–the will to live. He will fight to defend his life. The last words in Selzer’s essay are, ‘Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. You cannot reason with me now about abortion. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?’

The truth of what he saw disturbed me deeply. There I was—anti-war, anti-capital punishment vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence. Well, abortion sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism? How could I think it was wrong to execute homicidal criminals, wrong to shoot enemies in wartime, but alright to kill our own sons and daughters? That was another disturbing thought: Abortion means not killing strangers, but our own children, our own flesh and blood. No matter who the father, every child aborted is that woman’s own son or daughter, just as much as any child she will ever bear. We had somehow bought the idea that abortion was necessary if women were going to rise in their professions and compete in the marketplace with men.

But how had we come to agree that we will sacrifice our children as the price of getting ahead? When does a man ever have to choose between his career and the life of his child? Once I recognized the inherent violence of abortion, none of the feminist arguments made sense. Like the claim that a fetus is not really a person because it is so small. Well, I’m only 5 foot 1. Women, in general, are smaller than men. Do we really want to advance a principle that big people have more value than small people? That if you catch them before they reach a certain size, it’s alright to kill them? What about the child who is ‘unwanted’? It was a basic premise of early feminism that women should not base their sense of worth on whether or not a man ‘wants’ them. We are valuable simply because we are members of the human race, regardless of any other person’s approval. So do we really want to say that ‘unwanted’ people might as well be dead? What about a woman who is ‘wanted’ when she’s young and sexy, but less so as she gets older? At what point is it all right to terminate her?

To be continued–

Fredrica-Mathewes Green

Grace Alone

None is so empty of grace as he that thinks he is full.
– Thomas Watson

Grace puts its hand on the boasting mouth, and shuts it once for all.
– Charles Spurgeon

The text says that when the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he loved her. God was saying, ‘I am the real bridegroom. I am the husband of the husbandless. I am the father of the fatherless.’ This is the God who saves by grace. The gods of moralistic religions favor the successful and the overachievers. They are the ones who climb the moral ladder up to heaven. But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into this world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves.
– Tim Keller

Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.
– Jonathan Edwards

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance; cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus Christ.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christians do not practically remember that while we are saved by grace, altogether by grace, so that in the matter of salvation works are altogether excluded; yet that so far as the rewards of grace are concerned, in the world to come, there is an intimate connection between the life of the Christian here and the enjoyment and the glory in the day of Christ’s appearing.
– George Mueller

The Purpose of Ministry

We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39)

Don’t look at the temporary cost of love, and shrink back from confidence in God’s infinitely superior promises. If you shrink back, not only will you lose out on the promises; you will be destroyed.
Hell is at stake in whether we shrink back or persevere. It’s not just the loss of a few extra rewards that hangs in the balance. Hebrews 10:39 says, “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed.” That is eternal judgment.
So, we warn each other: Don’t drift away. Don’t love the world. Don’t start thinking nothing huge is at stake. Fear the terrible prospect of not cherishing the promises of God above the promises of sin. As Hebrews 3:13–14 says, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
But mainly we must focus on the preciousness of the promises and help each other value above all things how great the reward is that Christ has purchased for us. We must say to each other what Hebrews 10:35 says: “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” And then we must help each other see the greatness of the reward.
That is the main task of preaching, and the main purpose of small groups and all the ministries of the church: helping people see the greatness of what Christ has purchased for everyone who will value it above the world. Helping people see it and savor it, so that God’s superior worth shines in their satisfaction and in the sacrifices that come from such a heart.
– John Piper

Repairing a Fractured Faith: Timothy Paul Jones on His Conversion and Ministry

It all started in a library.

A product of a Christian upbringing, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, was the first in his family to attend college.

And the culture shock was real.

“It was a Christian college and the professors, for the most part, believed the Bible, but they didn’t believe the Bible quite the same way I had been taught to believe the Bible,” Timothy said with a smile. “For us it was King James Version only and all these extraneous things, but in college I started learning about the New Testament text and all these things I never knew about and I found myself questioning my faith.”

Enter the library job.

Timothy, a preacher’s kid, began work in an academic library surrounded by thousands of books and plenty of time.

One night, as he shelved books returned that day, he looked down to find Bertrand Russell’s 1927 essay Why I Am Not A Christian.

“I was questioning my faith in a lot of ways, I was struggling with certain things, and so I just thought, ‘Huh, this is interesting. Why I Am Not A Christian.’”

After reading Russell’s essay, Timothy continued to run into conspiracy theories about Jesus and, as a result, the next several months were spent poring over every skeptical and atheistic work he could get his hands on.

“My faith just began to fracture and crack beneath the weight of all I was reading,” he said. “I was simply not prepared to answer any of the questions that I was being faced with.

“I had never heard about apologetics, I didn’t know what apologetics was. It wasn’t anything I was familiar with at all; I was just reading all this stuff that was attacking the faith in so many different ways.”

MERE CURIOSITY

As his crisis of faith continued, Timothy discovered C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

Due to Lewis’s books being banned at his Christian grade school, Timothy’s interest was piqued.

“I began to read and see there is a reasonable case to be made for trusting in Christ,” he said. “But more than that, what really got me was [Lewis’s] sensibility. He wasn’t panicking as if the faith was under attack and he had to angrily respond in attack or anything like that. It was simply, calmly, saying and showing there is a reason to believe in Jesus Christ.”

Maybe it was that calm, winsome way of communicating that did it, or maybe it was Lewis’s prudent way of making sense of the world in a way that told a bigger and better story than he had heard before, but Timothy was hooked.

Over a brief course of time, he was introduced to other writings from F. F. Bruce, R. C. Sproul, and others that took his curiosity from questions to conviction. Conviction about Scripture, reasons for the Christian faith, and, most importantly, the bigness of God.

Timothy, who has authored or contributed to more than a dozen books, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biblical literature before getting his master of divinity in church history and New Testament studies and a doctorate of philosophy with an emphasis on the psychology of faith.

FROM STUDENT TO TEACHER

Timothy is now the associate vice president of the Global Campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as well as a C. Edwin Gheens professor of Christian family ministry.

He also teaches courses in applied apologetics and serves as a pastor at the Midtown congregation of Sojourn Community Church.

Fueled by his own internal struggle to find good reasons for what he thought true about the Bible, Timothy landed in teaching and writing on apologetics in effort to prevent others from struggling the same way he did.

Family ministry, though not his primary focus in research and writing, was his focus as a pastor, minister, husband, and father.

So how do those two fields connect?

“When I teach my class here, for example, on apologetics and the local church, a lot of what I’m doing is talking about what are the factors that contribute to college students losing their faith?” he said. “What are children’s natural inclinations about God and how do we correct false views of God in a way that makes a faith that is more resilient for the future? That’s a lot of what we do, which is the nexus, it’s that point where family ministry and apologetics do interconnect with one another because both are about developing resilient faith that will last into the upcoming and forthcoming generations.”

Firmly persuaded that the call to apologetics is not a call for a certain gender, profession, or role within the church, but for the church as a whole, Timothy is convinced of the necessity of women being trained to reasonably defend the faith.

“Some of the most important apologists in the world are going to be mothers because they are going to hear the questions a long time before the rest of us,” he said. “We need to train our young women to be apologists. We need to train our young single women to be able to mentor young girls and try to help them unpack the issues they are facing in the challenges to their faith. That’s part of what we ought to be doing because 1 Peter 3 is not given to one particular class within the church, this is given to the whole church.”

Timothy and his wife Rayann have been married for 23 years and have four daughters, Hannah, Skylar, Kylinn, and Katrisha. They reside in Louisville.

A Merry Heart

This a true and humorous report that reveals what level of thinking our generation has; just enjoy;

These are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published
by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while the
exchanges were taking place.
______________________________ _
ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
______________________________ ______
ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.
______________________________ _______
ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.
______________________________ ________
ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his
sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
______________________________ ______
ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He’s 20, very close to your IQ.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
WITNESS: None.
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Your Honor, I need a different attorney. Can I get a
new attorney?
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town, I’m going with male.
______________________________ _______
ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant
to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
______________________________ ________
ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you
performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: ALL of your responses MUST be oral, OK?
What school did you attend?
WITNESS: Oral.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 PM.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?
______________________________ ________
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

We all should enjoy a good laugh regularly–a merry heart does good like medicine!

To Scotland and Beyond

Returning to Scotland was always the plan.

Burdened for the people of Scotland to know and embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Matthew Spandler-Davison left his job in Scottish Parliament in 2002 to participate in a ministry internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. 

The next year, Matthew moved to Louisville, Ky., to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with every intention of returning home to Scotland and planting a church.

“When I came to seminary here, I came with a strong conviction that I was not going to be that guy that doesn’t go back to Scotland,” he said. “The struggle we have is that in places like the UK, we lose our best because they get trained up and they don’t go back. I didn’t want to be that guy.”

But God had other plans.

Matthew Spandler-Davison is the executive director of 20schemes, an organization committed to building healthy Gospel centered churches for Scotland’s poorest communities through church planting and revitalisation.

Though born in Norway, Matthew, 37, grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland, where he now knows of only six Gospel-preaching churches in the entire city of almost 237,000.

“Most of them have considerably less than 100 people in those churches,” he said. “For me to come [to the States] and see so many churches and so many good churches and faithful churches, and to be in a seminary that is literally pumping out thousands of ministers every year, was such a culture shock for me and it just increased my burden for Scotland.”

Matthew’s home church in Scotland, where he was converted as a teenager, does not have a pastor nor can they afford one. Even if they could, Matthew said there are no men to hire.

“I know churches in Scotland that have been sitting without a minister for years and have been desperate for a minister to come but there’s no one applying,” he said. “There are churches around here where, if a job opens up, you get hundreds of resumes. A job opens up in a church in the UK and you may spend three, four, or five years before you get your first resume from somebody interested in that position.”

With that kind of weighty information, Matthew was plagued with the question: How can I be here and yet see such a need there?

Yet, in 2004, God called Matthew and his wife Tracy to plant a church in Bardstown, Ky.

“There were many churches but not healthy Gospel-preaching churches in the area so we were convicted to plant a church and start a small group Bible study in our house,” he said. “It was a Tuesday night meeting that became over time a church, not necessarily by design, but it developed into a church. But from the very beginning, the first year of our church, we had a mission trip to Scotland. From the very beginning we were thinking through, ‘How can this church really be used by God to see a church established and planted in Scotland?’”

Enter Mez McConnell.

Mez, the pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, grew up in a scheme, served time in prison, and was himself caught up in addiction.

When released from prison, Mez was converted. He moved to Brazil and started a church among street kids before experiencing the same convicted as Matthew.

“He was surrounded by all these missionaries and he thought, ‘Who is sharing the Gospel back home? Who is starting churches back home?’” Matthew said. “So he felt led to go back to the United Kingdom and went to this little community on the edge of Edinburgh called Niddrie.”

A community known for poverty and violence, Niddrie was a place people typically avoided. And it was just the place Mez planted a church in 2007.

“I was fascinated by a number of things,” Matthew said of meeting Mez in 2011. “One, his own story. Second, the fact that he is seeing a church growing in Scotland. That is unusual to see a church grow in Scotland. I’m used to seeing struggling churches but he’s seeing a church thrive. He’s seeing people come to faith. He’s seeing a church grow through conversions.

“And the fact that it’s in a scheme, that we’re seeing someone come from heroin addiction be converted and now being trained for ministry in this little church right there in Niddrie, Edinburgh, a church of 60 or 70 people, I was just so excited.”

Though the men differ in personality and background, they share a love for the church, a love for the Gospel, and the same heart and passion for church planting in Scotland.

“I want to see churches like this established right across the schemes of Scotland,” Mez told him. And right then and there in the backyard of Mez’s house, the pair started mapping out what would become 20schemes.

“Let’s do it,” Matthew told Mez. “Let’s come together as two churches where we can watch this ministry and let’s recruit workers. Let’s get other churches to partner with us. Let’s raise some money and plant some churches right across Scotland.”

Matthew smiled. “That’s how the Lord in His providence and wisdom uses a little church in central Kentucky to do the very thing I felt like I was called to do: plant churches right across Scotland.”

Now, five years after launching 20schemes, the organization has seven church planting teams in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glascow, all at various stages of planting or revitalizing the Gospel work in Scottish schemes.

“It is incredibly exciting to see what the Lord is doing, to see His church built right across the most unlikely parts of Scotland in the schemes,” Matthew said. “As you reach the poor then other churches across the city will take note. You cannot deny Gospel transformation in the poorest parts of your city. When you see a community that has been transformed by a Gospel-preaching church, when you see someone converted from heroin addiction to life in Christ Jesus, when the government has been pumping money into these communities to try to deal with the drug culture and the decay and the urban blight, and yet you see a church started and all of the sudden families are transformed because of the Gospel—people will take note of that. I don’t think that will just affect the schemes but the whole of Scotland for the sake of the Gospel.”

“That’s what Jesus does, right? That’s where He went first. He went first to what seems foolish to the world. He went first to the most unlikely of places and yet the leaders took note. The Pharisees took note, the governor took note, the tax collectors took note, because they saw a transformation happening in the most unlikely of places, and I think that’s what’s going to take place in the schemes of Scotland.”

The country, which is home to almost 5.5 million, is not the poorest nor the least reached nation in the world, but there is a great need for the Gospel and a great opportunity to meet it.

“There’s a wide open door right now, there’s a great opportunity to come and be a part of this ministry,” Matthew said. “Ministry is actually pretty easy there. You’re not trying to create ministry opportunities, it’s everywhere. In fact, people are very open to having spiritual conversations.

“Jesus is worthy to be worshipped in the schemes of Scotland. We’re convinced of that. There are parts of Scotland where He is not being worshipped today and so our motivation is that Jesus be worshipped amid the poor of Scotland where He deserves to be worshipped and across the poorest of Scotland. Who will go? Who will join us?”

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Joy in the Midst of Trials

The Greek term chara appears throughout the New Testament. It is translated by the word joy and refers to an inner feeling of happiness. Holy Scripture refers here to an emotion, a sense of delight and gladness.

Paul declares that he is rejoicing even as he experiences suffering, and that he will continue to rejoice in the future. This is not to say that the presence of sadness in our lives is a moral blemish. The same apostle bears witness to his perpetual sorrow as he contemplates the Jews in their unbelief: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart” (Romans 9:2). It is possible to have joy in our hearts even while there is an undercurrent of sorrow. This is the way it was for the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied that he would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). Yet he also spoke about an inner happiness: “These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11). There was simultaneously joy and sorrow in the heart of Jesus, and we can expect to find the same in our experience too. Joy unmixed with sorrow must await the consummation of the eternal kingdom.

How was Paul able to have joy in his innermost being when he wrote Philippians? He was not a superhuman or a divine person, but simply a man among men, an earthen vessel.The joy Paul experienced was supernatural, generated by God Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Joy is a beautiful manifestation of the moral renewal which the indwelling Holy Spirit produces within the person who is united to Christ by faith. Paul determined to face life’s trials with joy. We must resolve to do the same.

– Mark Lawson

Let us fight bravely against all the trials of this brief life, confident that our Lord will uphold us by his power until we have fully overcome.

– John Calvin

Glorious Truth

What are you really living for? It’s crucial to realize that you either glorify God, or you glorify something or someone else. You’re always making something look big. If you don’t glorify God when you’re involved in a conflict, you inevitably show that someone or something else rules your heart.
– Ken Sande

Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.
– Andrew Murray

Amy Carmichael’s great longing was to have a “single eye” for the glory of God. Whatever might blur the vision God had give her of His work, whatever could distract or deceive or tempt other to seek anything but the Lord Jesus Himself, she tried to eliminate.
– Elisabeth Elliot

Every blossoming flower warns you that it is time to seek the Lord; be not out of tune with nature, but let your heart bud and bloom with holy desires.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon

God is the greatest thing that exists, ever has existed or ever will exist; so for us to glory in anything else would be sin, as there is nothing greater than God, and there is no calling greater than praising God.
– John Piper

Our gifts are very pleasant to Him. He loves to see us lay our time, our talents, our substance on the altar, not for the value of what
we give, but for the sake of the motive from which the gift springs.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon

We ascribe to God. We don’t add to Him.
– John Piper

A Celebration of the Hard Place

The church of Jesus Christ has never been in a good place.

It has forever lived in a hostile environment. It was born in the dragon’s lair where the hot breath of the beast is always felt. Its infancy was bloody; antagonists surrounded it and adversaries attacked it, and nothing has changed in two millennia. The world hates the church because it hates its Founder, Jesus Christ. The world and the church are on opposite courses. They represent two different kingdoms, two diverse realms. So, the church has always existed in a hard place.

But hardness is not necessarily bad for the people of God. By the amount of adversity God allows His church to endure, it must have some positive effect. The church’s finest hours seem to be when she stands bravely in stark contrast to the wicked world while feeling the fury of the beast against her. It is then the people of God, though tried by fire, have sung their best song. They have shown a watching world the beauty of their King, who also suffered the Serpent’s bruise.

The western church’s difficulty is not the heavy hand of persecution but the easy hand of prosperity. It is when we court the politician’s favor, the academia’s admiration, and the media’s approval that we suffer both morally and spiritually. We are like Samson in Delilah’s tent; we are flirting with captivity and begging to have our eyes put out. This is the hardest place for any church. When it wants success and stature in a world that is destined for destruction, it can’t end well for either church or world.

How many churches have become comfortable in its environment?

How many are comfortable with the world? Ease in Zion is not a good sign. Comfort always precedes collapse. But it’s when the church is in the hard place that it advances and the gates of hell cannot prevail.

It has always been that way. God’s people are not strangers to pressure or peril. When the children of Israel stood before the Red Sea, they experienced a hard place. With a vengeful Pharaoh and his well-equipped army in battle formation behind the former slaves, it looked hopeless. But the man of God lifted his rod and the Lord performed a miracle of deliverance by creating a highway through the sea.

Gideon suffered a 450-to-1 deficit. The enemies of Israel were the undefeatable Midianites. They had a 135,000-manned military, while Gideon didn’t have an army. It was more like a small battalion of 300 men. And their weapons were unconventional. Each man had a lit torch, a pitcher, and a trumpet. That was their entire weaponry. But as it played out, they needed no swords because God brought confusion upon the Midianites who turned on themselves and slaughtered each other until hardly a man was left standing.

King Jehoshaphat experienced something similar, only his army sang their way to victory, and God turned an ambush into a bonanza of loot. When the dust settled, the enemy army lay dead before Jehoshaphat and his praise team; all they had to do was pick up the treasure trove. The plunder was so much; it took them three days to collect it all.

Surely, my reader, you know the stories, each one a tale of impossibilities.

A brother sold by his jealous brothers to foreigners and winded up ruling over the foreigners. A shepherd boy against a warrior giant, three young men who wouldn’t bend or bow, but also wouldn’t burn when thrown into the fiery furnace. A praying old man thrown into a lions’ den slept comfortably among the ferocious felines, while the king who threw him into that hard place tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep in his palatial bed. Yes, all of these and more were in hard places, places no one, including the men and women who were there, would have chosen to visit or occupy. But in the hard place, God wrought deliverance and made them all unlikely heroes of the faith.

But not all the stories end up with a “slam-bang finish.” Some hard places end with tears, pain, and suffering. Some end in death, but that doesn’t mean the hard places were a defeat. When Jesus stood before His enemies all alone, there was no miraculous deliverance. He may have been able to call for twelve legions of angels, but He didn’t. He chose Calvary. The cross was His weapon, but it brought no deliverance from death; it became the instrument of His death.

In the most confusing twist of plots and storylines, the God-Man died an unjust death, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, the righteous for the unrighteous.

Jesus did not come down from the cross by divine power. He came down by two men pulling the nails out of His lifeless body, removing Him from the cross timbers and burying Him in a tomb.

For Jesus’ weak and cowardly followers there could be no harder place. Their Messiah dead and gone. Their sorrow compounded by the guilt of forsaking Him in His hour of need. How bitter was this place of hardness! But out of the jaws of defeat God secured His victory. The weakness of God was still more powerful than all of hell’s might. Satan bruised His heel, but nipping at someone’s heels puts your head in a vulnerable position. Jesus crushed His enemy’s head, and the blow was fatal. And in so doing, God proved that the hard place does not have to end in miraculous deliverance for Him to bring about His good purposes. He doesn’t need to display His power to win; He can win by demonstrating weakness, humility, and infirmity. Over and over this has been the weaponry of God: allowing His church to suffer hardship and through weakness win.

Martyred in the Ecuadorian jungle in January 1956, no one could imagine what the sacrifice of five young men would produce.

The men, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian were endeavoring to take the Gospel to the Waodani people, whose tribal rivals called them “Aucas,” meaning savages. Why did they have to die? Why did their blood stain the river beach and their speared bodies get cast into the river’s current? Days later only four of them were found and then buried in a common grave on the spot where they died. Why such a waste of youth and missionary zeal? What a hard place for the wives and children of the martyred.

But the mystery of the hard place once again proved that God’s weakness is stronger than anyone or anything. Within days, volunteers came forward to resume the outreach to the Waodani. As news of the tragedy spread throughout the western world, thousands of young people were emboldened to respond to the call to foreign missions. Within two years, Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of Jim Elliot, along with their daughter, Valerie and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel Saint, entered the Waodani encampment extending forgiveness to the very men who had killed their loved ones. They lived among them for years administering the Gospel and medical care.

The Indians saw the love of God lived out before their eyes; the Gospel came alive to them. They heard and saw the Gospel and conviction had its perfect work. Many of them were converted, and today the church of the Waodani prospers in Ecuador.

Yes, the church thrives in the hard place.

But many who profess the name of Jesus find themselves responding very differently to adversity. You see, the hard place is a gift from God to bring us to the end of ourselves. It is His love that leads us to the position of desperation to free us from the self-reliance that so often keeps us from trusting Him. Desperation is designed to lead us to dependency. That is God’s purpose, but Satan perverts the hard place in the mind of the Christian. Instead of desperation leading to dependency, it leads to despondency. And despondency leads to unbelief, a distrust of God and His hard places.

Everyone faces difficult times. Hard times are no respecter of persons. But it is the severe places in life that proves who you really trust. They expose what we truly rely upon. The principle of sin still remains in the Christian and, if allowed, it will work in us a self-reliance that is both stubborn and tough to detect. It is the hard place that drives self-reliance out of hiding and makes us see that it must be absolutely abandoned so we may totally trust in God.

If we are going to live a supernatural life, (the only kind of life a Christian is to live), we must believe God’s will is best and that the hard place is necessary for us. It is not a matter of learning to adapt to difficulty or adopting a tougher mindset. No, it is believing that your God is a Father who so loves you that He will never abandon you in your hour of need. You must have faith that He has brought you to the place of need to see your real need, not deliverance from the circumstantial problem, but deliverance from a self-will that determines a plan different from God’s agenda for you.

Your weakness is the vehicle He uses to win the day, not your strengths.

Too many Christians are trying to overcome by becoming better, better at faith, better at making wiser choices, better at being more sanctified. This is only asking for more trials by fire. The whole purpose of the hard place is not to show how strong a Christian you are, but how God’s weakness is greater than any power. It is to display through your inabilities that God is the One who brings us through. God is not looking for strong believers; He is looking for impotent instruments to demonstrate His great power. Some of us need our sanctification sanctified.

The church was born in the environment of adversity, and it is in that climate the lungs of the church are best suited to breathe. As the eagle is made to navigate the thinner air of the higher atmosphere, so is the church built to soar on the absence of human strength. It was made to fly in the power of God only. So, celebrate the hard place because it is there God manifests His glory. It the glory of God revealed that makes us rejoice. The less visible our human glory, the more of His glory will we see and so will others.

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