Receiving Sweet Refreshments Daily

I woke up late this morning. That rarely happens. I guess my body was dictating that I needed it. But unless I am leaving in the early morning on a trip, my early routine is always the same. My goal each day after getting “presentable” is to get a hot tea or coffee and head to my “chair” to be alone. Well, not alone–the Lord is there already in the closet, waiting for me to come.

I hold my Bible. The Bible. The Word of God. We can routinely grow used to having it and this can hinder how much we profit from our daily reading. What I mean is that when I pick up my Bible any morning, I often don’t remind myself often enough what I am getting ready to engage in–hearing the voice of God Himself from the Bible. I must engage my mind, my heart and soul to conscious treasuring the Bible daily. We must consciously cultivate a high and treasuring view of the Bible when we read every morning. If we don’t have that every morning, we won’t have that attitude on Sundays or anytime we hear the Bible preached. Our goal ultimately should be, as Anne Steele puts it, to find “sweet freshment” from the Bible.

Whenever I open my Bible daily to read—

– Do I have a reverent heart?
– Do I engage my heart to be teachable?
– Do I pray in faith for God to speak to me?
– Do I view my reading time as communion with my Father rather than a time to gain Bible knowledge or information?
– Do I remind myself when I read that I am reading God’s words and hearing His voice when I am reading?

Anne Steele’s heart, expressed in her hymn, Father of Mercies, In Thy Word, expresses the attitude and heart which we should cultivate daily in our daily reading of Scripture—

Father of mercies, in Thy Word
What endless glory shines!
Forever be Thy Name adored
For these celestial lines.

Here [in the Bible] may the wretched sons of need
Exhaustless riches find;
Riches above what earth can grant,
And lasting as the mind.

Amidst these gloomy wilds below,
When dark and sad we stray,
Here beams of heaven relieve our woe,
And guide to endless day.

Here springs of consolation rise
To cheer the fainting mind,
And thirsty souls receive supplies,
And sweet refreshments find.

Here the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around;
And life and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.

Oh, may these hallowed pages be
Our joy by day and night,
And still new beauties may we see,
And still increasing light.

Divine Instructor, gracious Lord,
O grant our fervent prayer,
Teach us to love Thy sacred Word,
And view the Savior there.

– Mack Tomlinson

Glorious Truth

It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.
– Robert Murray McCheyne

The moment you come to realize that only God can make a man godly, you are left with no option but to find God, and to know God, and to let God be God in and through you.
– Major Ian Thomas

Be dogmatically true, obstinately holy, immovably honest, desperately kind, and fixed upright.
– Charles Spurgeon

What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.
– J. C. Ryle

O Lord, keep our hearts, our eyes, our feet, and our tongues. – William Tiptaft

The Gospel in Suburbia

NEWSFLASH: Subdivisions are full of sinners.

It’s true.

There are just as many sinners in pristine, gated communities as there are in the slums. In fact, I’ve found the Gospel to be more opposed in the land of manicured lawns and picket fences than in the inner cities.

Do we realize the nice, clean, “safe” suburban neighborhoods need the Gospel as much as any other area in the world? Or do we pay less attention to the souls in subdivisions because we’re so quick to move onto other areas of ministry with “more pressing” needs?

Matthew Spandler-Davison, executive director of 20schemes and pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church in Bardstown, Ky., has lived and labored in both poor and wealthy societies and has noticed some striking contrasts.

“In poor communities, people know they’re sinners,” he said. “You don’t need to convince people in poor communities that they’re a sinner. That’s not offensive to them. They know that. They make fun of it.”

But if you live in the Bible belt like I do you might quickly discover that the true Gospel is more resisted in the subdivisions.

I mean, everyone is a “Christian” here. People are nice and polite and mostly genuine, but life in more polished societies is just that—polished. But regardless of how much you shine and wax the outside of a grave, the inside is still filled with dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27-28). So while our images might appear squeaky clean on the outside, the core is rotting with the same poisonous sin that taints us all.

Subdivision Pharisees often cling to a sense of pride and dignity, desiring to protect reputation rather than admit brokenness. Matthew continued to say the mindset in wealthy or middle class communities is all about maintaining respectability and reputation.

“My reputation is everything,” he said of the common belief system. “It’s what I do, it’s how I raise my kids, it’s where I live, it’s what car I drive, it’s what job I have. I’m trying to build this sense of reputation amongst my peers and friends.

“That’s a very difficult area to do ministry because people rarely acknowledge their need. They don’t acknowledge their need for a Savior, their need for a God, their need for somebody to come alongside them and help them journey through this life. It’s a very hard place to do ministry. I think it’s harder to do ministry in a more middle class, wealthier context than it is in a poorer part of the world because people are not real with themselves or their own sense of need.”

In light of that, how do we take the Gospel to the dead bones of suburbia?

THREE REASONS THE GOSPEL NEEDS TO COME TO THE ‘BURBS

ONE. THERE IS NONE GOOD

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” -Mark 10:18

Behind “safe” streets, privacy fences, and security systems, we find broken people in need of rescuing grace. The thing is, brokenness in the suburbs is typically masked with self-appointed goodness and tainted with a touch of Pharisee.

While suburban life might not seem “hard” at first glance, the reality is that sometimes hearts are harder there than in the most unreached places of the world.

In his book Church in Hard Places: How the Local Church Brings Life to the Poor and Needy, Mez McConnell writes,

When I listen to pastors battling away around Europe and the States in well-off areas, I break out in a cold sweat. How do you evangelize in an area where everybody has a decent paying job, a nice place to live, and possibly a car (or two) in the driveway? How do you break through the intellectual pride of a worldview that thinks religion is beneath them and that science has all the answers? How do you witness in an area where the average house price is more than $400,000? How do you talk to a guy who feels no need for Christ because he is distracted by his materialism? How do you make it work in an area filled with nice, law-abiding citizens, who don’t cheat on their wives, beat their kids, and spend their evenings stoned on a sofa watching reality television? Now that’s hard.

Pharisees need the Gospel too. And such was I (1 Corinthians 6:11). A Pharisee of the Pharisees, my heart was stubbornly clinging to my filthy rags of good works when the Lord met me in my deepest need. I needed someone to come to me in my supposed righteousness and confront me about my illusion of self-sufficiency and expose what my flesh never wanted to admit was true: I needed a Savior because I couldn’t be good enough to rescue myself.

Respectable sins still damn our souls for eternity.

No one offers good enough “good” works to convince God to grant us pardon. If you haven’t been transformed by redeeming grace, it doesn’t matter what street you live on, your address is in the kingdom of darkness.

The Gospel in the suburbs addresses the hardness of self-inflated hearts, our stubborn dependence on our own intelligence, the compulsion to compare ourselves to anyone other than God’s standard—Jesus. But it doesn’t leave us there. The Gospel gives glorious hope to “good” people as it boldly declares that despite (and in spite of) our shameful best efforts to appear presentable and earn eternal favor, God in flesh has come to us to bear our curse and rob us of our sin and shame. Jesus, the wealthy Son of heaven, became poor to give us true riches. And that’s better than anything a gated community or white-picket-fence society could ever offer.

TWO. BUSYNESS DOES NOT EQUATE HOLINESS

On that day many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” -Matthew 7:22-23

While subdivisions may boast of full refrigerators, full closets, and full schedules, they sometimes contain empty and fragile hearts. In our excessively fast-paced western world, it’s become easy to hide behind busyness, striving to maintaining a certain persona of having it all together and accomplishing so much when really it’s just a mask that covers exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy, and a deep desire to feel important and needed.

Stop the glorification of busy. –Tim Keller

Even if it’s filled with good things, over-packed schedules can be distractions that keep the voice of the Lord quieted and our need for Him squashed.

The Gospel in the suburbs addresses the constantly-on-the-move heart with the life-giving reassurance that we do not have to look a certain way, play a certain part, or live according to a certain culturally-formatted system to fit in, find fulfillment, or have peace. The Gospel tells the most exhausted heart that holiness, satisfaction, and acceptance is not found in the fast-paced life but in the face of Jesus Christ. In Him alone do we find rest for our weary, over-busy souls.

THREE. LONELINESS IS REAL

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another, for the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:13-14

Sometimes behind the façade of goodness or busyness resides a deep loneliness that masks itself as confidence, security, or even arrogance.

We are wired for deep relationships but it’s hard to live up to our desired image when confessing hurt, pain, and need. Be a friend. Be willing to go beyond superficial platitudes to share your story and sit with people in theirs. And remember what is true about the “good” person beside you (as well as the one you find in the mirror): they are in desperate need of redemption.

Residents of the suburbs need to see God and, if you are a believer, He is living in and through you. We are, as Matthew Spandler-Davison said, to put Jesus on display wherever He sends.

Our presence, our attention, our care, our making space, all point to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He drew near. He understands our hearts and hurts. He speaks to our deep needs. Listening demonstrates the Gospel implications. And, if we really listen, we will discern the deep longings of the heart that the Gospel truly speaks to. I have found that if I truly listen, it is not difficult to speak the Gospel to someone in a way that really does sound like good news to them. –Jeff Vanderstelt

The Gospel in the suburbs addresses the need for community and belonging in every person by exposing their need then providing them with the answer to it. The Gospel gives its recipients a family, a community, and an eternal home all because Jesus left His throne to ransom rebels and change their address to the kingdom of light.

Regardless of your location, the mission is the same: make disciples of all nations (which includes the suburbs, the slums, the cities, the villages, and the uttermost parts of the world).

We have the Gospel. We have our mission. What’s stopping us?

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The Holy Spirit: The Only True Reformer

Many of us are vexed over the state of our nation and our society today. Sometimes we might feel like echoing the cry of Jeremiah: ‘Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people’. (Jer 9:1). What can we do to stem the tide of evil sweeping the land? ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ (Psa 11:3). We know that the Lord is upon His throne, and He is in control of history, but the same Lord has been pleased in the past, at his ‘set time’, to revive His cause and to stem the tide of evil.

WHEN THE LORD WORKS

What is the means through which the Lord will do his work of reformation and renewal? He will use human instruments as He did on the Day of Pentecost, at the Protestant Reformation, and during the Great Awakening. But it is not left merely to human instruments. There are many in the Churches today who are trying to bring improvement in society, and who are reaching out with the Gospel, but to little effect. Where are the conversions to Christ, a heightened spirituality in our churches, and a real effect upon our society? In our eagerness to see a change, have we forgotten something?

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Davies, regarded by some as the greatest preacher that America has produced, in commenting on John 16:8-11, declared:

The Holy Spirit is the only effectual reformer of the world. If he is absent, legislators may make laws against crime, philosophers may reason against vice, ministers may preach against sin, conscience may remonstrate against evil, the divine law may prescribe and threaten hell, the Gospel may invite and allure to heaven, but all will be in vain.The strongest arguments, the most melting entreaties, the most alarming denunciations from God and man, enforced with the highest authority, or the most compassionate tears, all will have no effect, all will not effectually claim one sinner or gain one sincere convert to righteousness.

WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES

Much as the disciples would miss the presence of their Master, He assured them in the ‘Farewell Discourse’ (John 14-17) that He would send ‘another Comforter’. In fact, He would return to them in the Holy Spirit: ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you’. (John 14:18). His main ministry would be to believers, but He also has a work to do on ‘the world’, which would change it radically. The great mission of the Holy Spirit to the men and women of the world is that He will act as a prosecuting attorney to confront them with their guilt and bring them to see the folly of their ways, and to repent. Without this work all the activity of man is in vain. Besides, this is the only work that will ensure a radical change in the sinner and bear lasting fruit in his life.

‘When he is come he will reprove the world of sin’: The word translated ‘reprove’ in the AV has generated a lot of debate as there is no exact synonym in English. ‘Convict’ comes nearest to the meaning. It is to ‘convince by proof of a fault or error.’ The world is at fault regarding sin righteousness and judgment. The Holy Spirit is going to act like a prosecutor and secure a conviction; He is going to bring the facts to light, make a case for a guilty verdict. The sinner will be exposed and constrained to plead guilty about these three things:

1. About Sin: The world has a wrong idea about sin because it has a false idea of God. Men will acknowledge certain evil acts as sin, but as far they themselves are concerned, they are liable to speak only of ‘my failings’, or ‘my shortcomings’. We must let God define sin. It is measured by the enormity of the offence against the majesty and glory of God. Sin is an infinite evil because it is against an infinitely good God. It strikes at the very being of God , it is deicide. But the particular sin the world must be convicted of by the Holy Spirit is the sin of unbelief: ‘because they believe not on me’. The people who constitute the world do not believe in Jesus. If they did believe in Jesus they would believe His statements about their guilt. The Cross of Christ proves, among other things, the dreadful nature of sin. But they refuse to acknowledge that and they reject the only remedy there is from the consequences of their sin. This is the sin that will ultimately destroy the sinner. ‘How shall we escape if they neglect so great salvation?’ (Heb 2:3). He needs to see this.

2. About Righteousness: The world has its own concept of righteousness. This was supremely manifested in the treatment meted out to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jewish leaders, who were of the world, regarded themselves as righteous and Christ as the sinner. ‘This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them’ (Luke 15:2). He healed on the Sabbath day and as a result they sent officers to take Him. Then they took counsel together to put Him to death. Peter, later addressing the Jews, could declare: ‘But ye denied the Holy One, and the Just, and desired a murder to be granted unto you. And killed the Prince of life’ (Acts 3:14).

Why does He say ‘of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see me no more’? In a short time He was to be resurrected from the dead, ascend to heaven, and be seated at the right hand of the Father. This would mean His vindication and acceptance with heaven and it would then be seen who was ‘the righteous One’. This would show up the pretentious claims of the ‘righteous’ Pharisees; there would be a great reversal. When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost he said: ‘Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). We are told that ‘when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart’ (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit secured a conviction as far as they were concerned. The only acceptable righteousness to be found before God is that which Christ wrought out on behalf of His people.

3. About Judgment: ‘Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged’. All of the lies, falsehood, rebellion, and evil in the world originate in the devil. He deceived our first parents and held sway over mankind as a result. Christ referred to him as ‘the prince of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30). Paul calls him ‘the god of this world’ (2 Cor 4:4). Sinners are enslaved by him. He directed his venom on the Son of Man, and sought to destroy Him. The devil appeared to triumph in the crucifixion of Christ, but what was apparent victory turned into ignominious defeat. His head was bruised (Gen 3:15) and as was foretold by the Saviour: ‘Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.’ (John 12:31). God works by contraries. Manifest weakness was used to make the great reversal of the Cross: ‘Having spoiled principalities and power, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it’ (Col 2:15). The world is now on the losing side and all who maintain their alliance with Satan will be cast out with him. The sinner needs to see this.

APPLICATION

Firstly, this is the serious nature of the work of salvation. It is a mighty deliverance from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. There has to be a convicting work of the Spirit to bring the sinner to despair of his ‘refuge of lies’, and flee to Christ alone for salvation. A radical change has to take place in repentance and contrition. This is what seems most lacking in evangelicalism today.

Secondly, the calling of the preacher is not to set the sinner at ease and make him happy, his task is to strip him of his self-righteousness and go for a guilty verdict, before applying the balm of the gospel.

Lastly, the work of salvation from first to last is of the triune Jehovah. The Father purposed and planned, the Son executed, and the Holy Spirit applies. Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6). All the schemes that we can devise are ineffective without the sovereign work of God. How we need to bend the knee and cry: ‘Come Holy Spirit, Come’.

– John J. Murray

Your View of God Determines Everything

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us!

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion. Man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base — as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

The most important question before the Church is always God Himself. And the most significant fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he, in his heart, conceives God to be like.

Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.

Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God. The weightiest word in any language is its word for God.

That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence.

A right conception of God is basic not only to theology, but to practical Christian living as well. There is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics which cannot be finally traced to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.

It is my opinion that the current Christian conception of God is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God, and actually to constitute something amounting to a moral calamity!

– A. W. Tozer

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.