Last week, I was invited to give a pro-life talk. There was a young man in the second row with tears coming down his face. It was evident his emotions were stirred towards the truth he was hearing. His friend explained to me that earlier this week he was suicidal, likely from the guilt and shame of taking his girlfriend to get an abortion at Planned Parenthood.
An undercover video by the Center of Medical Progress, led by David Daleiden, has shown a top ranking Planned Parenthood abortion physician meeting with investigators posing as Fetal Tissue Procurement Company. In the video, Dr. Mary Gatter, an executive Planned Parenthood abortionist, shows interest in selling intact unborn fetuses for profit. Before the Center of Medical Progress exposed Planned Parenthood, other groups including Live Action, led by Lila Rose, have documented “rampant sexual abuse cover-up, racism, medical misinformation, the willingness to assist sex traffickers, false statements made by Planned Parenthood executives, sex-selective abortion, and infanticide.”
Many Americans who have not been familiar with the history of Planned Parenthood, have been asking questions about Planned Parenthood. Some are wondering if these videos are a fair representation of Planned Parenthood. Others are asking if abortion is only one of the many procedures that Planned Parenthood does or is abortion the primary procedure? What is the true nature of Planned Parenthood?
Tonight I’m preparing to give about multiple lectures and sermons (mostly pro-life talks) for New Hampshire and then Virginia the following week.
My friends Paul Compton and John Welborn have asked me to speak at their churches and I’m honored also to lecture at a Ratio Christi chapter at the University of New Hampshire.
I want to share some of my rough sermon notes and thoughts with you. Please forgive my poor grammar.
I’ve been asked to give a pro-life message on Mother’s Day coming up and I’ve been wrestling with what angle I should take so that I can address the horrors of abortion but show appreciation for mothers. I’m leaning towards starting with Luke 1.
Ethan Pope, a prolific author and radio voice, has provided a practical wake-up call in his book Prepare. In this book, Pope examines how both America (as a nation) and Americans (as individuals) have seemed oblivious to the economic storms that are ahead. Ethan’s book shows how America as a nation has (1.) unrestrained government spending; (2.) a growing national debt; (3) a downloaded credit rating, leading to rising interest rates, resulting in an inability to service their debt.
Ethan explains how our economic problems are really symptoms of our spiritual problems both as a nation and individuals. The book says that our first priority is to prepare spiritually and second priority is to prepare financially. This book is more about individual and community preparation than it is about trying to solve all the problems of federal government, the president and Congress.
Almost a decade ago, I remember attending Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, packed with thousands of young evangelical leaders. It was there, that I first heard a young creative pastor named Rob Bell, pastor of the fast growing Mars Hill in Michigan. At the age of 25, I was finishing up seminary, but felt rejuvenated when I heard the line up of Catalyst speakers like Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and Andy Stanley. These teachers were creative but avoiding a lot of the controversial doctrinal issues that I heard from my alma mater Liberty University’s founder Jerry Falwell.
Rob Bell and these Catalyst communicators did not have pulpits, but were either walking, or sitting in comfortable chairs and bar stools. They weren’t talking about politics, or hell, or inerrancy of Scripture, or homosexuality and certainly not abortion. By no means were these guys like James Dobson or Falwell’s Moral Majority.
To me, their teaching seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the dry doctrine. I felt burnt out on from seminary. There was excitement like the energy of a concert. I was not alone, thousands of those who grew up in non-denominational, Southern Baptist or Church of God congregations were drawn to this new kind of Church. Out of this generation, some sons and daughters of conservative Bible expositors, including Andy Stanley, Jonathan Merritt and Rachel Held Evans would drift away from their father’s evangelical fundamentalism and rise up to become today’s defenders of tolerance, social justice and gay “rights” at bakeries.
Ten years ago, at my first Catalyst conference, I did not agree with everything these younger communicators were saying, but I thought perhaps they could bring more balance. Weren’t these guys like Rob Bell and Donald Miller authentic by asking questions? We were the generation that was more about what we were “for” and not “against.” After all, there was no need for me to also always be discussing controversial things like abortion, gay marriage, doctrine and apologetics. In my young ignorance and piety, I told myself that I appreciated their “tone.”
So as a 25 year senior pastor of the SBC Immanuel Baptist Church, I got rid of the pulpit, bought some skinnier jeans began showing Rob Bell’s Nooma videos to the church on Wednesday nights. As I sipped on my Starbuck’s latte and saw an excitement from younger people, I felt relevant. I thought Bell’s teaching was authentic and fresh. But as time passed, I noticed things that concerned me. As I read the Bible and compared it to the teaching of some younger evangelicals like Bell, I did not always see correspondence. Fortunately, my seminary professors like Dr. Thomas Howe and Dr. Norman Geisler had engrained in my mind the laws of logic, the inerrancy of Scripture and the historical grammatical method of interpretation. I knew that I had responsibility to train others into the truth. Thankfully, there were several individuals who challenged my thinking when I started to get off track. As I returned to those old dusty seminary books by J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and Peter Kreeft and scholastics like Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas, I started rediscovering life in the truths of God. Thankfully, God saved me from the fruit loops theology of Rob Bell, Oprah and Rachel Held Evans.
President Obama’s comments of comparing Christianity to ISIS at the National Prayer Breakfast has stirred some controversy. He said, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
Many people have asked if this negative attitude towards Christianity and America’s founding is really helpful and even fair? Rev. E.W. Jackson said, “The President wasn’t just wrong to attack Christians and equate our faith to terrorist acts at Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, he empowered and emboldened our enemies. Obama needs to stop apologizing for America and providing terrorists with a recruiting tool.” Here are several concerns:
1. Why Ignore those being Persecuted Today by Islamic Jihadist?
Obama seems to want to draw empathy for Islamic jihad by mentioning past sins of Christianity. But Obama diminishes and ignores the thousands of Christians who are dying around the world, and the highest percentage is caused by Muslims. The Vatican told the UN, “Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders – as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo (Syria).” Obama implies that to emphasize these evils would “to get on a “high horse.”
2. Can We Blame Christianity Alone for the Evils of the Crusades?
Even today, both Catholic and Protestant acknowledge that there have been a misuse of Christ throughout history. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Yet, to blame the Crusades as the evil led by Christianity alone is not completely fair.
I don’t think it is right for the president to bring up the Crusades done a thousand years ago, while encouraging Christians to never speak a word of negativity against evils done by Islamic Jihadist in our present time? For one, the Crusades were not led by America, but called by the Catholic Church after Islam had conquered over half the Christian world. Islam had already conquered Jerusalem, attacked Spain, Italy and France for years. Also it’s very difficult to blame all the crusades solely as the evils of Christianity. Let me give you an analogy. As an American Christian, I may disagree with the extent America’s use of atomic weapons at the Hioshima and Nagasaki bombings, but this does not mean that I would to call all of America’s WWII involvement evil. In fact, I’m very thankful that America did get involved with WWII to rescue many lives.
Likewise, if the Catholic Church would have not responded to Islam, then Islam would have taken over the entirety of Europe. If Pope Urban would not have responded with the crusades, there would be no Oxford or Cambridge. There would be no United States, if it was not for the Catholic Church fighting back Islam’s conquering of the world during the crusades. Should Pope Urban have allowed the Jihadists Turks to rape women on alters, slit the throats of priests and children and burn churches? Obama may believe that he should have “turned the other cheek.” In reply, let’s suppose that Pope Urban was completely 100 percent wrong and the Catholic’s response to Islam’s threats were wrong in every single event. Do the evils done a thousand years ago in the name of Christianity mean that Christians and Americans should be silent today about ISIS? If we speak out against the evils of ISIS, does that really mean that we are on a “high horse?
We all become aware of death at different ages, through different experiences. For many of us, our first encounter comes with the death of a great-grandparent at a ripe old age. The less fortunate may experience having a parent or a child torn away far too soon. But regardless of the nature of the introduction, death leaves an unmistakable mark. A couple of years ago in Dallas, I watched a nurse escort a young woman from a building to her car. From across the street, I could see that the patient’s cheeks were stained with tears. She looked barely out of her teens, but her face was tight with pain and shock. I had seen that look before: the mark that an encounter with death leaves on an innocent face.
The building I was watching wasn’t a hospital; it was an abortion facility. I was standing across the street praying for the women entering and leaving. As I drove home that day, I fought back tears and found myself only able to pray the words of Christ: “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Death is a natural part of life, but at times in history it has swelled to epidemic proportions, swallowing up all in its path. The Black Death of the mid-1300s claimed between a half and a third of Europe’s population, leaving almost no city untouched. An estimated 39 million souls have perished from AIDS since 1981.
But other epidemics have been completely manmade. An analysis of 20,000 mass graves in Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields indicates that Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge executed and buried roughly 1.4 million innocents. More recently, around 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in Rwanda over a three-month period in 1994.
A German Christian during World War II recalled hearing the sound of the trains that were taking Jewish people to the Nazi death camps, where 6 million of them would die:
“Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us.”