It’s a boy.
It’s a boy.
It’s a boy.
One person lived in the Southern US during the early 1800’s.
Another person lived in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s.
The last person was born in 1985.
As the conversation drifts to the fact that there is no slavery in Heaven, the person who lived in the 1800’s gets very quiet. It’s clearly awkward for them because they never spoke out against slavery.
As the conversation drifts to the fact that Jews are not being murdered wholesale in Heaven, the person who lived in the 1930’s and 40’s in Nazi Germany gets very quiet. It’s clearly awkward for them because they never spoke out against the evils of the Third Reich.
Which topic would make the person born in 1985 grow awkwardly quiet? The Church is pretty vocal against many of the evils of our day: pornography, sexual immorality, global slavery, greed. And yet the Church seems to look the other way in other cases: divorce, gluttony, sloth, materialism.
However, I’m convinced that there is one topic that is largely ignored and yet is the worst human rights crisis in human history. Abortion.
I’ve been afraid to write about this for a long time. Afraid that I’d upset some people I love. Afraid that angry, loud people would ‘come after me’ on social media. But the truth is, abortion is a topic about which I can no longer remain silent. I thought the best place to start would be a simple explanation of how I became adamantly, unwaveringly, and uncompromisingly pro-life.
My journey towards becoming pro-life started, of all places, on the Alaskan Canadian Highway. With my pregnant wife sleeping in the passenger seat, I began listening to a sermon I heard about John leaping for joy inside the womb when he heard Mary’s voice, and I was convinced that, for Christians, there was no other position but for us to be resolutely pro-life. I had previously been an ‘agnostic’ towards abortion; I thought it was bad for Christians but permissible for non-Christians. I would have said “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (1 Cor. 5:12)” I thought that those who held a pro-abortion stance surely had a good reason for doing so, even if I disagreed with them. Almost like the fact that I bought a Honda but other people purchase Subarus, Fords, or Chevys. Surely, those in favor of abortion had good reasons for supporting it… or so I thought.
The next piece of the puzzle was Tumblr. Before I decided to share a quote on this blog every Friday, I had a Tumblr site where I would send them. One day, I posted a link to this video:
Looking back, I don’t really know what motivated me to share that video. I was still a little on the fence about abortion. However, that video was quickly reposted by some abortion advocates and I got to see ‘pro-choice logic’ first-hand. Most people just attacked John Piper (ad hominem), which did nothing to convince me that abortion should be legal. Others argued that a fetus can’t sustain itself, and thus could be aborted. But, if a fetus can’t sustain itself, why would someone need an abortion? In other words, the fetus can sustain itself in its environment, which is why women get abortions in the first place. Furthermore, even a toddler can’t sustain herself without her parents. Can we ‘abort’ toddlers? Another person argued that the fetus looked like a “f***ing shrimp,” so who cares? In short, because a fetus is unattractive it should be expendable. But, using that logic, does that mean that all ugly people should be killed? And who decides who is ugly? A few others appealed to women’s rights. But what about unborn women’s rights? All of the ‘pro-choice logic’ that I encountered was completely illogical. Most of it was self-refuting; none of it was convincing.
Then, on November 22, 2011, my wife went into labor a week early. I remember realizing that Kara was coming a week early. Since Oregon has no abortion restrictions on the books, they would—technically—have still allowed me to get an abortion up until my daughter’s due date. And yet, here she was, a week early. Completely, 100% viable, and yet still abort-able?! Nothing biological was going to change when she was born. In fact, nothing had changed enough to make Kara morally different at any point, whether inside the womb or out. Certainly there had not been enough change in her to morally justify killing her at any point. (Note: I’m not saying there were no biological changes, I’m saying there were none that were substantial enough to morally justify killing her.)
Why then is abortion legal? It certainly isn’t constitutional. I was deep in my thoughts when it came time for my wife to start pushing. Our daughter was born on November 23rd, early in the morning.
The more I learned about abortion, the worse it got:
I’m convinced that the greatest way to fight abortion is by educating people about it. (If you’re pro-choice and you don’t believe me, just go look at some pictures of abortion victims. There’s a reason they’re so disturbing.) With abortion taking over 40 million lives per year globally, it is the worst human rights crisis in human history. Our generation can no longer remain silent on this issue. We must speak out for those who have no voice. A society founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will lose its pursuit of happiness if it does not respect liberty. It will lose its liberty if it does not respect life. Life is the most fundamental right to any human. We cannot look the other way. We cannot remain silent.
Our sin is like the sin of Sodom. In Ezekiel 16, the Lord sends Ezekiel to rebuke Jerusalem and he says this: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. (Eze. 16:49-50).” The sin of Sodom was that they did not aid the poor and needy. There is no one more helpless—more poor and needy—than a child inside her mother’s womb. There are 3,300 poor and needy every day—2.3 every minute—who are stripped of their most fundament, most sacred, of human rights. We can change this. Indeed, we must. Pray, learn, and speak about this human rights crisis.
God has been doing some amazing things in our family lately and I wanted to share them with you.
First, and most exciting, Connie is pregnant. We thought it would be fun to announce it today on Facebook to create a little stir. But rest assured, faithful reader, that Connie is indeed pregnant! In fact, she’s already started showing a little bit; it’s incredibly cute! The photo we used to announce it is too fun not to share here:
Another big announcement is that I’m going to stop attending seminary for a season. I originally began seminary pursuing a Masters of Divinity and have recently realized that it’s probably not the degree I need for the specific ministry role to which God is directing me. Rather than being the preacher on the stage, I feel like God is pushing me to be the man behind the scenes making sure that all the volunteers have what they need, that the electric bill has been paid, etc.
With that in mind, I recently began the application process for an MBA program at George Fox University. Truth be told, I would study theology whether I got a seminary degree in it or not, but I would probably not study corporate finance or organizational development unless I forced myself to do so. This is why I think the MBA program will equip me with a skill-set that I wouldn’t get elsewhere but will serve the Church well. Please pray for that process and ask God to grant me wisdom as I move forward.
Finally, this week I start a new job installing hardwood floors! As I transition from full- to part-time school with another child on the way, God has provided a job that will pay the exact dollar amount necessary for us to meet our needs. This is an answer to our family’s recurring prayer that God give us neither poverty not riches (Pr. 30:7-9). Another bonus is that Connie will be able to stay home with our children indefinitely, which is very important to us. Also, this job will help me accomplish one of my long-term goals: learn a trade!
Connie & I are excited about all these changes and look forward to watching God at work during this new season of life. God is good and has recently reminded me that He will provide for His children.
One of the things I absolutely love about my seminary is that they truly value the marriages of their students. As a result they have a couple’s banquet every year where the married students are served dinner by the professors, child care is provided, and a miniature sermon about marriage is presented. This year one of my professors, Carl Laney, gave four reasons why marriage should be held in honor and I thought they were so great I’d share them here.
There you have it! May your marriage be blessed and may it be a blessing.
I often feel a subtle pressure upon myself to “find a hobby” and I confess that I have spent no small amount of time feeling guilty for not having more hobbies. I feel slightly embarrassed that I don’t have some admirable list of impressive hobbies, all of which I have devotedly poured countless hours (and dollars) into so as to master them.After all, most of the times, when I initially meet someone, the conversation eventually drifts to hobbies: sports, movies, music, video games, TV shows, recreational shopping, golf, fishing, stamp collecting, whatever. I feel… boring, unimpressive, lame; like I just don’t fit in.
While none of those things are bad things, I don’t want to make them into ultimate things. I don’t want them to define me. I have decided that I want to be one-dimensional. I want to be defined by one thing and one thing only: Christ and Him crucified. I want to appear obsessed to those around me. I want to look crazy. I am convinced that the average Christian American is an American first and a Christian somewhere else on their list. I want to be a Christian, nothing else. I want my thinking to be like my Christ’s, not my culture’s. I want my heart to look like my Christ’s, not my culture’s. I want my priority’s to look like my Christ’s, not my culture’s. I want to be free of all the seductive deceptions of this world and wholly devoted to the liberating Truth.
I don’t want to be “well-rounded.” I don’t want to be “balanced.” If we’re honest, aren’t those just nice ways of saying “lukewarm”? I don’t want to be lukewarm. I want to burn out bright, knowing that I have lived my life fully for the glory of my King, my Savior, my Lord. I want to be one-dimensional so that, when I pass from this life to the next, I may hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
If you’re like me, you’ve checked out several websites that serve as digital bookshelves, but thought they looked like a waste of time. And, if you’re like me, you read that one story about the spaceship in 7th grade (or was it 8th grade?) and would love to re-read it but, for the life of you, can’t seem to remember the author or title. Additionally, if you’re like me, you oftentimes see books at the library, bookstore, airport, or other such place and are interested in checking them out but quickly forget their titles and never actually wind up reading them when you have the time. Finally, if you’re like me, you would love to know how many books you read in 2009, or how many pages you read in 2010, but certainly aren’t going to go through the effort of adding it all up.
For these reasons and more, Goodreads has become my new favorite website! At first glance it doesn’t seem very useful, but it actually has a ton of functionality. With the iPhone app I’m able to scan the barcodes of all my books and then organize them however I choose. I can also use this feature when I’m on-the-go, such as at the library or airport, and add the books to my “to-read” shelf. I can then check them out later and decide if I actually want to read them. The shelves are essentially tags, and can be used to organize books any way you choose. For example, I have a shelf that lists all the books I remember reading for my undergrad degree (check it out here), I have an ongoing shelf for all my seminary books (here), and I’m even going to start creating more specific shelves to help me in ministry later (such as church history, parenting, and coaching). Another useful feature (which you’ve likely noticed by now) is the ability to share my shelves with others.
Also, on my homepage, under the “Currently Reading” section, I can update my status as I work through a book. While this initially seems silly and vain, it will actually help me remember the contents of every book I read. I say this because, when I update what page I’m on, I can add some notes. I plan on using this section to type up a one-paragraph summary of the contents I just read. This forces me to recall what I just read (thus embedding it more effectively in my memory) and gives me a place I can go in the future to review the contents of the book.
When I finish a book, I’m able to write a review that will be shared with other readers and can give me a good reference to return to in the future. Another feature I like is that I can include the date I finish reading a book. This allows me to track how many books I’ve read, when I’ve read them, and what I thought of them. There’s also a cool “stats” area that shows me how many books you read (or how many pages, or what year they were published).
So, for these reasons and more, I can’t recommend this website enough! I am excited to see what other useful features they come out with next. What about you? Can you think of any other cool ways to use Goodreads.com?
(This post is brought to you by my lovely bride, Connie. This is her first post on this blog and I’m encouraged and challenged by her earnest desire to seek God and honor Him above all things.)
Anyone who has been in a committed relationship will realize that each person has different ways to feel loved, and usually those two people don’t share the same way. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts is a book that explains the five most common ways to feel loved. Daniel and I are no exception to the differences most people face. While my love language is acts of service, Daniels is words of affirmation or gifts. Recently, Daniel mentioned in passing that he would love a gauge for the propane tank. I bought it for him, and couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could surprise him with it. I’m terrible with surprises, I want to give the gift right away. As I sat through the long afternoon hours until he arrived home, I was practically dancing with anticipation, not easy to do with a cranky baby.
It made me think of how we should be with God. We should dance with anticipation, eager to be with Him and present him with gifts. We should want to be with him as soon as possible. Our every thought should be on how we can best please God, how we can glorify Him in our every day lives. A gas gauge is such a small thing. How much more is five minutes in prayer? A chapter of the Bible? Discussing Him with a friend?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23, 24)
It was the second half of 2005. I was 19, had just arrived at my first duty-station of Alaska, and had some big plans. First of all, I was going to sign up to go to the Air Force Academy. I had made this decision because, after listening to multiple general officers tell their stories, I realized that the Academy was my best shot at making general. I figured I would give the Air Force 30 or so years before retiring and figuring out what I wanted to conquer next. If I had to pick one word to describe myself, it would have been ambitious. I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure I was successful in my military career.
It was about then that I first read Philippians 2:3, which says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Uh oh. I had the sudden and horrifying realization that all my plans were nothing more than “selfish ambition.” Truly, at that point the only thing that motivated me was “vain conceit.” I was selfish and conceited; and I knew it. But, truth be told, I wasn’t really sure what else to do or how else to be.
But then it got worse! I made the mistake of joining a Bible study group that happened to be working through 1 John and I ran across this: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:17).” Not only had I realized that all I cared about was myself, but now I realized that all my goals and plans were ultimately pointless because they were unlikely to outlive even my short life. I would never leave a legacy because I would never actually devote myself to a lasting cause. So what did I have to live for? What could be my purpose?
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, God delivered the death-blow to my pride when I decided to start reading through the Gospels for myself and was pierced by this arrow: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).” I realized that I had a choice: either build up God’s eternal Kingdom, or pour my life into building a castle of sand that would quickly be washed away by the waves of time.
My motives: selfish and conceited.
My plans: pointless and ephemeral.
My ‘kingdom’: short-lived and pitiful.
It all came to a head one night. It was a Saturday night in the Fall of 2005 and I was just a little drunk. I was looking at the second half of my strongly made Jack & Coke—mostly Jack with a dash of Coke, really—and I was trying to calculate how much of it I could drink and still be sober for choir practice the next morning (yup, you read that right). If I finished the drink, they’d probably be able to smell the alcohol on my breath and either way I would definitely feel terrible. So there I sat, 19 years old—which meant I was drinking underage, by the way—trying to figure out how drunk I should get when the Holy Spirit whispered three words in my ears. They were three words I’d ignored for at least 3-4 years up until that point but deep down inside I knew them to be true. In fact, those three words had bothered me ever since I started going to church in high school and claiming to be a Christian while still smoking pot, popping pills, drinking alcohol, cussing like a sailor, and messing around with girls. Those three words: “you’re a hypocrite.” Somehow I had managed to ignore those words while I pursued idol after idol: an Air Force career, impure dating relationships, worldly success. But at last, the Holy Spirit convicted me; I was “cut to the heart” as Luke said in Acts 2:37. I realized that I was on a path that would never lead me to an intimate relationship with God; I was on a path that would never make me the man I always wanted to be. I was pursuing idols, not God. It was time to try something else.
And so I did. And I haven’t looked back since. So what’s holding you back? Are you building your own short-lived kingdom or are you devoting your life to an eternal Kingdom? Are your plans eternal or vaporous? Are your motives selfish or selfless? I can’t answer those questions for you, but I promise you one thing: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1, 2)
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples many things but one that popped out to me this week was His simple statement in John 16:32: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed by one of His first disciples and abandoned by all the rest within hours. He knew that as soon as He was taken into custody His boldest and most enthusiastic follower—Peter—would deny Him to a servant girl.
“Yet I am not alone,” he said. Not alone? Why? Because “the Father is with me.”
We love those verses where God says He will never leave us or forsake us (like Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5, 8; etc.). We feel encouraged when we hear Jesus promise that He will be with us always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The only problem is that we don’t truly believe those verses. Not truly. We are discouragingly quick to develop spiritual amnesia and quickly forget the extravagant promises made to us.
The truth is, any time you feel abandoned, alone, companionless, deserted, estranged, forgotten, forsaken, isolated, left, lonely, lonesome, outcast, rejected, renounced, or withdrawn you have forgotten the reality that you are never alone. That feeling of loneliness is an illusion; a lie. You are not alone, for the Father is with you.
For many years I used to feel alone when I was surrounded by a crowd of people. I completely understand the feeling that no one understands you. I also know the loneliness that you feel, because no one, not even your closest friends (not even your spouse), truly understands you. And yet the desire to be understood is universal to all of us. People say things like “he just gets me” when we describe how we feel about our friends. But the truth is that no one truly understands us except for God. We know a God who knows us better and deeper than we will ever know ourselves.
For the first time in my life I do not feel alone because I’ve learned to turn to God for understanding, comfort, and companionship. He TRULY gets me! And only He will ever get me. He knows when I wake up and when I lie down. He knows my words before they are on my lips. He knows me. I can’t tell you how real this has become to me over the last few months. Leaving Alaska and the military, starting over at a new church, starting seminary. None of those people get me. They could never. The truth is, as long as God is here with me, those feelings of loneliness are an illusion. God promised to never leave me nor forsake me, He knows everything about me, and so I rest on His promise that I will always be understood and I will never be alone. I encourage you to look up for understanding and not to your left or right. You are not alone, for the Father is with you.
Podfasting |pód-fãs-ting| Noun – Abstaining from mega-church podcasts so as to hear more clearly the voice of the Holy Spirit
I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions, but the first day of this month I decided to try an experiment. I stopped listening to podcasts. I felt like I was hearing too many voices; I was subscribed to 4 podcasts, would look at 5 others to see if I was interested in what they were preaching on that week, and had Wayne Grudem’s entire Systematic Theology podcast series completely un-listened to. All told, I had over 500 unplayed podcasts and they were piling up way faster than I could listen to them.
I had been getting so much teaching so rapidly for so long that for several months I felt as though I needed to start digesting all that I was eating. I started to feel like a theological-chipmonk who was stuffing his cheeks without ever actually digesting anything.
Add to that an ongoing seminary education and I was getting more than enough head knowledge. Knowledge wasn’t the problem; obedience was. I felt like I was focusing on all head with no heart; all information with no transformation; all data with no devotion. So I stopped listening to podcasts for (at least the first month of) 2012.
I feel like it’s been very, very helpful. I hear God’s voice more clearly and feel closer to Him as a result of narrowing my input to just His Word–the Bible–and whatever else my coursework brings my way. For my Greek class, I’m translating substantial (or at least substantial to me) passages and really mediating on them as much as I can. I feel like I’ve been able to focus on the voice of the Holy Spirit instead trying to hear Him in the midst of a cacaphony of mega-church pastors. Instead of filling “empty time” (i.e. my drive to work or the time I walk the dog) with a podcast, I’m now using it to think about the Bible verses I translated that day, how to apply a passage of Scripture I read, and catching a quick prayer. It’s been good and I think it’s becoming more and more necessary in our day of celebrity pastors.
So here’s the challenge: for the next 30 days, stop listening to whatever it is that you use to fill your “empty time.” Maybe it’s music, maybe you call people on the phone, or maybe you’re like me and you listen to podcasts, but stop! Instead, try to focus more specifically on the Bible and use that “empty time” as an opportunity to meditate on God’s Word and pray to your Father. You won’t regret it.