Changing opinions on abortion when legislation isn’t an option

armstrong-kids

I hate abortion. But I didn’t always.

Prior to my mid-20s, I was fairly certain that abortion was good for our society. My arguments were the typical “woman’s right to choose/health” related variety, but I doubt I would have been able to articulate any position terribly well. Why? Because the truth is, my conviction really had less to do with the good of another, and more for my distaste for “those people”—the ones who would be on the sidewalk outside the hospital with signs with Bible verses, ultrasound pictures and the occasional picture from an abortion (which I’m not entirely sure help, by the way…).

I didn’t know them, but I didn’t like them. And because I didn’t like them, whatever they were talking about was obviously wrong (because that’s how logic works, right?). I was the type that would make obscene gestures driving past, who would probably make a comment about being on “the wrong side of history”.

Then I meet Jesus.

After becoming a Christian, no one really had to tell me that abortion was wrong. No one had to convince me that life began at conception, and that the life growing inside a mother’s womb was a person. But I also didn’t realize my own complacency about the issue. I didn’t see my support by virtue of my distaste for people of conviction on this issue as participating in the sin of abortion, but also a sin against those people.

What woke me up, really, was a book I read a number of years ago, Innocent Blood by John Ensor, which I still feel is one of the finest books on the subject published to date. This was one of the passages that made me realize that I could no longer be privately pro-life, but publicly silent:

Being personally pro-life but otherwise passive is a cowardly and shameful position. Christ is trying to show this in the way he describes the behavior of the priest and the Levite in his parable (Luke 10:25-37). Seeing a man beaten and about to die, they let it stand unchallenged. They might well comfort themselves, “That is just horrible. I do not believe in that.” However, merely believing that murder is wrong does not qualify as obedience to the commandments of God… When you can live with death, work around it, or let it go unchallenged, you are not pro-life. (53)

Reading that hit me like a ton of bricks all those years ago, and it still does even now, particularly that last line.

I live in Canada, and one of the difficult things about being pro-life in this nation is how it’s more-or-less a non-issue here. Keep in mind, we are the only nation in the western world without any laws regarding abortion. Globally, we’re on par with North Korea on this issue. (And can we just agree that we shouldn’t be in the same category as North Korea on any issue at all, ever?) All but one of the major political parties in this country are staunchly pro-abortion, and the other party has no official position (which is, of course, a position).

In the hospitals where our children took their first breaths, innumerable were (and are) never given the chance to take theirs. Christians and all Canadians who are opposed to abortion have no ability to challenge our government to reconsider. We are forced to live with death. We might not be happy about it. We might accompany a small group of people and hold up a sign, but we also recognize that doing so won’t change the fact that there’s (currently) nothing we can do to change the legal situation.

So where does that leave us?

Interestingly, with an opportunity. We can’t legislate change here, but we can influence opinions. We can help people recognize the value of children (not merely the evil of abortion) through our love for children—which starts with having children in our lives! Our church, for example, is very pro-baby, with a nursery that’s bursting at the seems. More than a few guys have had certain procedures reversed (and paid for it out of pocket) because they’ve been convicted they ought to have more children. There’s even one family that, every time I see them, I smile because they are a living, breathing preview of the new creation.

But is also happens through showing true compassion to those considering abortion, or those who have had one. The last thing a woman who’s dealing with the emotional fallout of an abortion needs is to be told how what she’s done is wrong and evil. She already knows this. Instead she needs to know there’s hope for her and to have genuine love extended. Our city’s crisis pregnancy center—founded and run by evangelical Christians—provides alternatives for women considering abortion and counselling for those who have had one, as well as tons of education for prospective parents (including dads), and real sex education (the kind that talks about four new cases of Chlamydia being diagnosed daily, almost exclusively among high school and post-secondary students). Ministries like this one are not only helping people deal with the chaos of a surprise pregnancy, but helping them come to know Christ.

And no doubt there’s more going on that I’m unaware of and much more that could be said. There are lots of families who are doing pro-life things, and honoring Christ, but just don’t make a big deal of it. It’s just what they do, and what we should do as well. When we demonstrate that children really matter, and when we help people who are facing the decision to know they are loved by us and by God, that they and their babies have value and dignity, that’s our best opportunity to really make a difference. We can stand against the culture of death by actively engaging with those lives that matter.

Everything you wanted to know about Canada (but were afraid to ask)

Today is Canada Day here in Canada, eh.

It’s kind of like the Fourth of July except, instead of declaring war, we asked permission to move out of mom’s basement (true story). And 2015 is the 148th anniversary of our becoming a kinda/sorta/not really independent nation, and the 33rd of the existence of our formal constitution1. That’s right, America: we’re not only polite, but we take our time.

For those curious, here’s a look at how Canada works:

That was pretty helpful, right? And what makes it funny is it’s all true. Our head of state isn’t a President, or even a Prime Minister, but a representative of the Queen of England, the Governor General. And yes, we are indeed subjects of the Queen—a fact may Canadians aren’t actually aware of (or are in denial about)!

I spend a fair bit of time in America these days. And one of the strangest compliments I’ve received was at a conference when someone told me, “Wow, you’re from Canada? I can’t even hear your accent.” While there, I spend much of my time dispelling myths about the frozen wasteland our forefathers chose to colonize. We’re not dirty commies, we’re dirty socialists thank you very much. We’re just as racist as many Americans, just more passive aggressive about it. We don’t all really love Tim Horton’s—even McDonalds’ coffee is better. And our universal health care isn’t free—it’s all paid for with tax money.

Lots—and lots—of tax money.

And the service really isn’t all that good. Unless you’re on the brink of death. Then, it’s aces.

*Ahem*

Thankfully, few of my friends ask me about ice-fishing in July:

But the truth is, we really do have our problems—things Canadians only really understand:

Even so, there are things about Canada I do appreciate.

Despite being a socialist nation, we still enjoy a lot of freedoms, such as choosing the educational direction of our children. We still have the freedom to say more or less what we want, with few immediate repercussions (currently no one is coming to arrest me for some of the things I write). We make most of the world’s maple syrup (and it’s delicious). We’re the ideal neighbor for America—we’re quiet, polite and don’t call the cops when you’re throwing wild parties. And if that’s not enough, we even get to number William Shatner and Don Carson among us!

All that to say, Canada’s not too shabby.

P.S. Sorry again about Bieber. Sorry.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

My friend Barnabas’ new book is available for pre-order now at Amazon. You can get Help My Unbelief for $7.99 now. This is one I’m looking forward to checking out. Also on sale:

The free book of the month from Logos is Esther by Anthony Tomasino from the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series. Christian Audio’s free audiobook is Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur.

Who Are Leaders Accountable To?

Matt Perman:

The necessity of leaders being accountable to those that they lead follows from the fact that all people are in the image of God and equal. Because all people are equal, no person can lord it over another. Which is the same as saying, anyone in a position of leadership is accountable to those that they lead. Nothing else reflects that equality.

You Can Almost Always Trace Legalism Back To This

Stephen Altrogge:

Because life is complicated, there are times when I want someone to spell things out for me. Just tell me what to do. Tell me how God wants me to teach my children. Tell me how I’m supposed to eat. Tell me whether or not it’s okay to watch “Mad Men”. Tell me if I’m supposed to give exactly 10% to my church. Just make it black and white for me.

The problem with this approach is that it almost always creates legalism.

The State of Evangelicalism in Canada

If you were ever wondering how to pray for Christians in Canada, this might help.

Ordinary Christian Work

Tim Challies:

Yet that old tradition is never far off, and if we do not constantly return to God’s Word and allow it to correct us, we will soon drift back. It is encouraging that today we find many Christian pastors and authors exploring what it means to be ordinary Christians doing ordinary work as part of their ordinary lives. It is encouraging to see these leaders affirming the worth of all vocations. The questions every Christian faces at one time or another are these: Are Christian plumbers, cooks, doctors, and businessmen lesser Christians because they are not in “full-time” ministry? And what of Christian mothers and homemakers? Can they honor God even through very ordinary lives? Can we honor God through ordinary lives without tacitly promoting a dangerous kind of spiritual complacency? What does it mean to avoid being conformed to this world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2) in this area of vocation?

Brothers, We Are Not Managers

Andrew Wilson:

I suspect we autocorrect eldership to leadership for two reasons. First, especially in larger churches, we think of ourselves in organizational terms, as a firm rather than a family, let alone a flock. So we look for vision-casters and managers instead of fathers and shepherds. Second, most of us don’t understand what elders are or what they are supposed to do. Are they like tribal chieftains? Advisers? Beard-stroking sages?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, Crossway’s put seven eBooks from the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale is Desiring God’s edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress ($2.99).

The Hardest Sins to Talk About

Tim Challies:

One of the most difficult things to do is to lovingly confront another person about sin, or—even harder—about what may have been sin. In his excellent book Side by Side, Ed Welch offers some practical counsel on doing this well.

Was The Holy Spirit Not On Earth Before Pentecost?

Jared Wilson shares an illustration from John Piper.

Why your children’s ministry should take a break

Miles Morrison:

What exactly is meant by the words “children’s ministry” can be very different depending on the church. But while these ministries can come in all different shapes and sizes, they’re all based on the same basic principle that children require specialized teaching and care separate from their parents. I’m not saying that’s wrong or that children’s ministry is bad – I love and serve in the children’s ministry in my church – I’m merely making the observation that while this ministry can and should serve the church, it will never replace it. Regardless of what curriculum or structure or teaching style your children’s ministry uses, here are some reasons why it’s healthy from time to time to take a break and encourage your parents to worship with their children.

Introverts in the Dearest Place on Earth

Jared Musgrove:

In the last century, especially here in the United States, we’ve morphed into a “culture of personality” that can’t stop talking. Those with a preference for extroversion—energized by and focused on people, activity and accomplishment—tend to be better understood by the world, progressing faster in organizations and relationships.

Both extroverts and introverts must do the work to see that those with the gift of introversion are a grace to God’s Church. In this sense, I have some considerations for my fellow introverted church members and the extroverts who love them.

How to revive a Sharpie

One-third of American 8th graders think Canada is a dictatorship

According to the U.S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33 per cent of American eighth graders currently believe that Canada is a dictatorship.

This finding was one of many revealed by the NCES in its 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress report when it was released late last month.

What should the church expect as same-sex marriage moves forward?

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This probably is no shock to the Americans reading this, but Canadians don’t really get you.

We look across the border, and we marvel at the evil of your health care system (y’know, the one that has people seeing a doctor in emergency rooms within 15-20 minutes as opposed to eight hours or more.1 But, y’know, “free” health care, or something). We are confused by your political structure (because you actually vote for the head of your nation, which is just weird). And we are baffled at how you keep having these wild, open debates about controversial issues like same-sex marriage.

Most of us here in Canada don’t get what all the fuss is about. In fact, even as the US Supreme Court deliberates on whether or not to redefine marriage in America (with a decision expected to come near the end of June), and despite it being the major news story for months in some way, shape or form, it barely merits a mention here.

Heck, you can barely get a mention of the fact that Ontario’s former deputy education minister plead guilty to charges of child pornography possession (and claimed a number of other horrible things to his chatroom friends on the Interwebs)!

But I digress (ish).

We’re not the same

Here’s the thing: we’ve already been through what you’re going through in Canada. Except not. See, we’re not a society that really has a great deal of open discussion about issues. There’s often a great deal of fiery rhetoric thrown about within a session of parliament, but it’s rare when people get hot enough to actually demand open discussion in the public square (though it does happen on occasion).

But we’ve been where you are, America (or so we think). And as many supporters of same-sex marriage will tell you, our society hasn’t apparently fallen apart.

And yet, many of us are unaware of what we’ve lost.

In some cases this is because we’ve never really had it to begin with.

It’s helpful to remember that Canada’s political system—and, more importantly, our culture—is entirely different than yours. The differences between us are much greater than socialized healthcare, maple syrup and superfluous Us. And despite what some Americans say, we’re not Communists. But we are socialists (note the lower-case). We have a form of democracy, but we are also a “freedom from” culture. We gleefully bought into the secular experiment and its values of personal happiness and the accumulation of wealth. We have determined that big government is best, because when the government makes decisions for us, life is certainly a lot easier (even if it’s not better).

Which takes us back to same-sex marriage. When it was officially made law in 2005, there was some public debate, but very little. And all of it was inconsequential. The decision makers had already made up their minds on what they were going to do, and went ahead more or less unscathed.

This happened because they understood that the best way to make a radical change is not to jump in with both feet, but to make subtle shifts over a long period of time. You introduce them through backdoor channels and get people comfortable with them, so they don’t even notice (until someone actually mentions it) that they’ve redefined the nature of parenthood, for example. Canadian children no longer have “natural” parents, merely “legal” ones (something Dawn Stefanowicz helpfully points out here). And gender matters not.

Further, though our Charter of Rights2 continues to describe our fundamental freedoms as being

  1. freedom of conscience and religion;
  2. freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  3. freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  4. freedom of association,

the free exercise of these freedoms puts you at risk of prosecution. You can still state your belief about what marriage is or is not, at least according to the letter of the law—the law itself explicitly states this in clause 3, regarding religious marriage—but the spirit of the law is to squelch dissent, a position reinforced by a 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In other words, we are free to think what we want, and believe what we want… but it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.

How does it really affect the Canadian church at the moment?

And here’s what it’s meant for the church here, at least insofar as I’ve been able to see: evangelical pastors have been able to, at least to this point, conscientiously object to performing same-sex ceremonies. We have also, at least so far, been free to continue to teach what the Bible says about marriage and human sexuality, though technically I could be at risk for prosecution for simply having positively reviewed Kevin DeYoung’s latest book should someone feel that it represents hateful speech. There hasn’t been a great deal of witch hunting at this point.

To some degree, and in addition the aforementioned clause in the law, this is for at least two reasons:

First, many mainline denominations embraced homosexual unions long ago, so there was already a ready-made option for those seeking a religiously oriented ceremony, even if these denominations are all dying.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, evangelicals aren’t a much larger segment of the Canadian population than those identifying with the LGBTQ community. The best high-end estimates put us at around 10 percent of the population. Realistically, it’s probably about half that.

So we’re in an interesting spot. There’s not a ton of political pressure to make an example of us because there simply aren’t that many of us for it to really make a big difference. You can’t scare people into conforming when there are hardly any who need to be conformed. (Then there’s the whole passive aggressive thing that we don’t need to get into…)

In Canada, though, our charge is simple: we need to clearly communicate the truth of the Bible faithfully and winsomely, all the while prayerfully and willingly accepting the consequences of going against the prevailing cultural and political orthodoxy.

How the church in North America moves forward

There isn’t a desire to challenge the standing law in Canada, not from the majority of the population nor from our government officials. Thus, same-sex marriage will not go away in Canada any time in the foreseeable future. And should it come to pass in America, and it seems all but inevitable that it will, it will likely be there to stay as well.

While that seems rather defeatist, consider what awaits on the other side. As strange as it is to say, this has the opportunity to be a refining tool. The creature comforts we’ve become so accustomed to will inevitably be stripped away from us. We should be preparing our friends and congregations for this reality. Tax exempt statuses will inevitably be withdrawn. Some pastors will likely face heavy fines or even jail time in the years ahead. In other words, the church in North America will suddenly start to look a lot more like the church in other nations hostile to Christianity.

But this should not be a deterrent to us in speaking the truth. We would all do well to remember Peter and John’s response to the Sanhedrin’s demand that they stop speaking about Jesus: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). And just as their trials bolstered their courage in the gospel, we must pray that the same will be true of us.

The gospel spread like wildfire in a world that was openly hostile to it. Perhaps it can again.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is the last day to take advantage of this week’s deals from Crossway:

4 Marks of a Good Mentor

Mike Leake:

The younger we are in our faith the more likely we are to view God like Monty Hall. I’ve especially noticed this in working with teenagers. They stress out (and in someway rightly so) about big decisions like where to go to college, who to marry, how to get rid of zits, and what career to strive for.

SaskatcheWHAT?

This is clever:

Let Boys be Non-Medicated Boys

Greg Gibson:

My story is a common story for many boys. I talk with parents often about their intentions in medicating with Ritalin. I get it. They want their boys to succeed, have good grades, and not get in trouble, but there is a considerable complication with this manner of thinking. Sometimes, though, it might be needed. For instance, there are times when this sort of medication is medically necessary. I’m not a doctor, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I do think that because we live in a fallen world, there are cases where it might be needed. Even the goodness of boyhood energy is broken by the fall. But in most cases, I think we are getting the diagnosis wrong.

But if I Preach Christ in Every Text

David Prince:

Hands immediately began to go in the air with questions that presuppose preaching Christ in every sermon can only be done at the expense of credible exegesis and hermeneutics. Students begin to ask questions like: If we preach Christ in every text how can we avoid allegory? What if the text isn’t about Christ? What if the sermon is on a particular doctrine? What if the sermon is simply advocating a biblical moral principle? Will all of my sermons begin to sound the same if I preach Jesus every week?

Christian bakery that refused to make cakes for same-sex marriage closes

Fearing future legal battles, the owners of a successful Christian bakery in Indianapolis who declined to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples have decided to shut down their business.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s weekly deals center around devotionals:

Also check out:

10 things about Canada that shock first time visitors

This is a helpful (and mostly true) list for y’all.

6 Thoughts on Sacred Space

Nick Batzig:

When God created Adam, he set apart sacred space in which he would enter into fellowship with his newly created image bearer. Just as He had created time and space (Gen. 1:1-2), setting apart a portion of that time to be sacred unto Him, so the Lord set apart a portion of sacred space in which man would worship Him. While the story arc of Scripture is that of man’s fall from fellowship with God and of his great rebellion against the God who had created him for fellowship with Himself, the climax is the restoration of man to fellowship with Himself in the New Heavens and the New Earth–the renewed Garden paradise from which Adam was exiled. Consider the six following thoughts on the importance of sacred space in the Scriptures.

You Cannot Serve Both God and Theology

Marshall Segal:

But is money more spiritually dangerous than theology? The answer may be trickier than we think, especially within the numbing comfort of a proudly affluent and educated American Church. Money is a tangible, countable, often visible god. Theology, on the other hand — if it is cut off from truly knowing and enjoying God himself — can be a soothing, subtle, superficially spiritual god. Both are deadly, but one lulls us into a proud, intellectual, and purely cosmetic confidence and rest before God. Theology will kill you if it does not kindle a deep and abiding love for the God of the Bible, and if it does not inspire a desire for his glory, and not ultimately our own.

Do You Literally Interpret the Bible Literally?

Justin Taylor:

I am not a fan of linguistic legalism and I recognize the need for terminological shortcuts, but I am an advocate for clarity, and the use of an ambiguous term like literal can create confusion. It’s a single term with multiple meanings and connotations—which is true of many words—but the problem is that many assume it means only one thing.

Why Bible Typography Matters

This is 47 minutes long, but it’s very interesting.

10 banned names

I had no idea Tom was banned in Portugal…

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s added a couple of additional titles from the On the Christian Life series to their weekly deals ($3.99 each). Be sure to check all these out before they end:

Also on sale:

4 Kinds of Fake Faith and How to Spot Them

Chad Hall:

A fake faith stands in contrast to authentic faith. A fake faith stems from a wrong attitude, puts the emphasis in the wrong place, aims in the wrong direction, and/or encourages the wrong expressions. Fake faith comes in many forms, but I see four clear and common examples among Christians throughout the West. Here’s my list of four types of fake faith and the premise behind each.

This was our first Prime Minister

Meet John A. Macdonald, notorious drunk.

What are the hardest languages to learn?

This is an interesting infographic.

Changing Our Mind

George Guthrie does a great job on this review of a new book advocating for an inclusive position on the LGBT issue.

Blessed Are the Overlooked

Chris Martin:

Every other year, I do a Bible reading plan for my daily devos. Every other year I do the whole “read the Bible in a year” thing, and last year was one of those, so 2015 is a year in which I’ll hopefully study a smaller amount of text in a deeper fashion. When I read through the Bible in a year, I don’t bother with much extra-biblical materials like commentaries or study notes—there’s not enough time in the day. But, when I get to study on a less rigid reading plan, I can spend more time in smaller amounts of Scripture, and maybe even read a simple commentary alongside the Scripture.

When 2015 came, I decided that I was going to read through the gospels at least once, but maybe even multiple times. I haven’t ever really camped in one section of Scripture for a long time, and I’d love to spend a lot of 2015 getting to know the gospels a bit better.

I started with Matthew last week, and right away, just in the first few days, I came across the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

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“Sexual preference is a human right.”

I read these words Sunday afternoon as CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi, best known as the host of Q, announced that he had been fired from theCanadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) because of his sexual preferences, and would be suing the taxpayer-funded broadcasting company for a hefty sum. Ghomeshi, as he revealed on his Facebook page, preferred to engage with ladies in BDSM, and a jilted ex had decided to take it public, saying he had abused her. (Note: use wisdom in determining whether or not to click the link. The language is fairly clean, but it’s a pretty frank discussion of all the events from his perspective.)

Now here’s the twist: though his employers agreed (based on evidence Ghomeshi provided) that his relationships were consensual, their problem was they believed “this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC.”

This, friends, is secular sexual ethic at work, in all of its inconsistent glory. Consider a couple of ways it plays out, both in this story and in a broader context:

1. Preferences are a right… unless they’re too icky for us. The CBC has long promoted socially and politically liberal ideologies. In fact, they’ve been tireless advocates of all sorts of non-traditional sexual behaviors, and spent a good amount of taxpayer money getting us all acclimated to them. (Exhibit A: The Survival of the Fabulous.) So it seems a bit odd that they’d have issues with Ghomeshi’s behavior—especially given how quickly it’s been normalized thanks to a whole lot of people reading 50 Shades of Creepy.

(And as an aside, nothing is more disturbing than your teenage niece telling you how “romantic” those books are. Barf.)

So the question becomes, who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

2. Sexual preference should be private… except when we think it shouldn’t. Pierre Trudeau, the father of the modern mess that is Canada, said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” This was often quoted to Christians who advocated against the legalization of same-sex marriage here in 2005 (which, ironically, was a push into the bedrooms of the nation). And yet, we continually see the media—and by proxy, the state—push into our minds and bedrooms as they attempt to acclimate us to certain ideas. Remember how only 20 years ago, it was shocking that a gay character would be featured on a sitcom? Now, if you don’t have one you’re considered out of touch or worse.

So which is it? The problem is, the secular sexual ethic generally want to have it both ways: If you disagree with us, fine, but keep it to yourself. But there’s an agenda to push and by golly, we’re going to push it.

In the end, as grieved as I am that Ghomeshi’s lost his show (while I disagreed with much of what he said, he was and is a skillful and winsome interviewer), and that he had to share details about his personal life he’d have preferred remain private (although, as the investigation has continued since this was first written, his version of events were less than accurate, which brings up a whole different issue), these events reveal something very important: the secular sexual ethic, in all of its preposterous inconsistency, is like a snake eating its own tail. It will devour itself. It fails in practice because it doesn’t have a firm foundation. It just doesn’t make sense because we weren’t made to work that way.

And this is where Christians have the opportunity to show our non-believing neighbors something better: a sexual ethic that brings dignity, and builds up men and women. A way of looking at gender, marriage and sexuality that’s internally consistent. A tested and true ethic built upon an immovable foundation. One that, in the end, you can look at and realize “it just makes sense,” because it’s the way God made us.

Links I like

Free eBook: An Essential Guide to Christian Accountability

My friend Jacob Abshire’s put together a terrific free eBook discussing “the concept of teaming up to kill sin and practical ways to thrive in it.” Head over to Jacob’s blog to download your copy.

Steve Jobs on Leadership and the Idol of Approval

Eric Geiger:

Jony Ive is the senior vice president of design at Apple and is known as the great design mind behind the products at Apple. In a rare interview, Jony shares some lessons he learned from working with Steve Jobs. In the interview, he recounts a conversation with Steve where Steve rebukes him for leading to be approved, for wanting approval from his team more than anything else.

What Millennials Misunderstand About Marriage

Aaron Earls:

Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, grew up with the reality of broken homes and divorced parents. But in their efforts to avoid those mistakes, they often go in the wrong direction and end up in the same situation.

In the NPR story, “For More Millennials, It’s Kids First, Maybe Marriage,” we meet Michelle Sheridan, her boyfriend Phillip Underwood, and their children. Their lives were characterized by scraping by with low income jobs and government assistance as well as having no real desire to get married.

Their reasoning continuing to live together without the rings sounds like many other millennials and the common misunderstandings they have about marriage. Here are four things Sheridan, Underwood and millennials in general miss about living together and getting married.

Faith To Keep Praying For Your Unsaved Children

Mark Altrogge:

Nothing concerns Christian parents more than the salvation of their children. And God is concerned even more than we are.

God created the institution of family to reflect his own desire and love for his family. He sent his Son to bring us into his family.  When God saves us he adopts us as his children. He becomes our heavenly Father. He loves us as his precious children and makes us joint-heirs with Christ. Scripture is filled with his promises to parents.

The “S” Word: Three Models of Submission

David Murray:

These words, especially the “S” word, sound horrendous to most modern ears and also to many Christian ears. That’s partly because most people’s idea of marriage comes from Hollywood. But it’s also partly because we may have had awful experiences or seen terrible examples of this biblical principle being abused.

That’s why it’s so important to begin any consideration of submission with the husband’s duty to be a Christ-like leader and a Christ-like lover in a complementary relationship, and also with confession and repentance over our past failures in these areas.

Laboring that Vancouver Might Reflect the Beauty of Christ

Alastair Sterne:

The city is crying out for renewal, yet it is also becoming more and more irreligious. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, almost 33 percent of people living in Vancouver will not align themselves with any religion. And those who currently checkmark “no religion” in Vancouver already exceed any other metropolitan area in Canada. Religion, and Christianity in particular, has been relegated to the corridors of personal opinion. Religion is seen as deludedly useful for self-help but useless for anything else. People are welcome to believe whatever they wish, but they should not be so mistaken as to think their beliefs have any usefulness in the public sphere, or accuracy about how things really operate in the universe. This is deeply problematic because the issues that plague Vancouver find their ultimate resolution in the very place they’ve determined to be deluded and useless.

10 things you want to say at the border but really shouldn’t

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“Do you have anything to declare?”

I get asked this question every time I return to Canada, and every time I have to stifle a giggle. This is mostly because I’m terribly immature. But seriously, every time I cross the border, I have to fight from making a silly comment that’s sure to send me straight into the loving arms of Canadian or American security personnel.

On our way home from Nashville this past weekend, Emily and I were laughing about the things we could say when asked this question. Here are a few of the answers we thought were pretty funny:

  1. “We had a wonderful time, thanks for asking!”
  2. “I’m a little gassy, sorry.”
  3. “Bankruptcy!”
  4. “Do you know they’ve got beer in their grocery stores?”
  5. “A monkey and a jetpack.”
  6. “I forgot my passport, can I just show it to you next time?”
  7. “I love lamp.”
  8. “The only things we bought were a bunch of Guns… [uncomfortably long pause] and Roses t-shirts.”
  9. “These aren’t my kids.” (See also, “These aren’t my parents.”)
  10. “Not really, do you?”

What about you? What are some ways you’ve always wanted to answer the declaration question at the border?

When church people are nice like Canadians…

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If you’re from any other part of the world, you’ve probably heard stories of how nice we Canadians are. Like painfully, ridiculously, apologizing when you do something wrong nice.

While we do (strangely) apologize for things we didn’t do all the time, can I let you in on a secret?

Canadians aren’t really that nice. 

Canadians are actually a pretty passive aggressive lot. We generally avoid eye contact with one another. We don’t really speak to people unless we have to. We enjoy the benefits of being in close proximity to America while projecting our own issues slamming its people/government/fatness endlessly. We convince ourselves our “free” healthcare system1 is pretty great when a trip to the ER usually requires a minimum five hour wait unless you’ve got a knife sticking out of your chest2

And we don’t really like it when people tell us the truth. 

One of the things we desperately need in our church cultures is a willingness to tell people the truth—people who are willing to speak plainly, rather than waffling about trying to find a “nice” way to say something, or outright lying to people altogether. This doesn’t mean we should be going about blasting people willy-nilly, nor does it mean we should be unnecessarily hurtful or rude…

It just means being honest people, and it’s something we clearly need more of. Church leaders need honest people around them who have the chutzpa to tell them what’s really going on. Church members need honest pastors willing to discipline them when they sin. And the lost need Christians who are willing to tell them that sin really does have consequences—that these ideas in the Bible about wrath, judgment and eternal damnation aren’t figurative, but the certain fate of those who remain apart from Christ.

And we also have to be honest about the good stuff, too—we need people willing to encourage pastors who struggle with a heavy burden. We need pastors who are capable of comforting grieving church members with the hope of the gospel. We need Christians willing to share the glorious benefits of the gospel—that it’s not simply a “get-out-of-hell-free” card, but a new identity and new life in Christ.

But what we really don’t need are more church people who are “nice” like Canadians.

Links I like

10 Steps to Preach From Your iPad

Tim Challies:

About a year ago, or maybe a little more, Paul Martin (the Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church) went away for a couple of weeks and left me to preach. Because I prepare my sermons digitally, I was finding it increasingly silly to convert them into the older medium of paper. They say that “while the cat’s away the mice will play,” so I took this as an opportunity to begin preaching from an iPad instead of a paper manuscript. I have been preaching from that iPad ever since.

There are many ways to go about it, but I will tell you about the system I have been using for the past year or so. I have found that it works very well. You need only two programs to do this: Pages and GoodReader (or Word and GoodReader if you use a PC). While I continue to use a full-size iPad, this system will work just as well with the Mini.

Note: this is more or less what I do, except I convert my notes to an ePub file and have my manuscript open in iBooks.

Zondervan’s perspective series on sale for the Kindle

Zondervan has put a number of their multi-view books on sale for $2.99:

Also on sale:

Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor?

Mike Niebauer:

As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult. Yes, we face many challenges—ministry may involve times of high emotional and spiritual duress—but I don’t think these difficulties merit special recognition with regard to other vocations. After all, being a pastor involves almost no manual labor, which makes it physically easier than most other occupations in history. It doesn’t require a 60- to 80-hour work week, unless you somehow equate longer working hours with more of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And although the emotional and spiritual challenges faced are difficult, teachers and social workers—to take just two examples—face similar or greater obstacles.

New Research: Discipleship in Canada

Ed Stetzer:

Two-thirds (66 percent) of churchgoers surveyed agree with the statement, “I desire to please and honour Jesus in all I do.”

However, when asked how often they read the Bible outside of church, a third (34 percent) say rarely or never. Only 11 percent read the Bible daily. Just over a quarter (27 percent) read it at least a few times a week or once a month.

Only 3 percent say they do in-depth Bible study on a daily basis. More than half (53 percent) rarely or never study the Bible.

Most didn’t seem to feel bad about skipping the Bible reading.

Sixty-two percent disagree with the statement, “If I go several days without reading the Bible, I find myself unfulfilled.”

Get Blood Work in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Blood Work by Anthony Carter (ePub and MOBI) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory by Jeremiah Borroughs (paperback)
  • The God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde (hardcover)
  • Sola Scriptura (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The Promise of Change and the False Hope of Politics

Today—May 2, 2011—is Election Day in Canada. For those who are keeping track (or interested), it’s our fourth federal election since 2004.

Over the last several years, since I grew up and started paying taxes, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with politics.

A big part of it has to do with Canada being strapped with minority governments for the last several years. Now, for those who don’t know, a minority government exists when the party that gains the most seats still has less than the combined total of the various opposition parties. So, as you can imagine, when you’ve got four “big” parties plus independents, it’s not easy to get a majority (though certainly not impossible). The upshot of this is the opposition can be an aid in keeping sketchiness to a minimum among the ruling party. The downside is that the opposition can also come together and prevent any good plans the ruling party might have.

(They can also form a coalition and take over the government. See, who says Canadian politics are boring?)

Nw, here’s where the love-hate thing comes into play…

What I Love About Politics

I love seeing people—especially young people—take an interest in politics. This needs to happen. When I was growing up, my mother gave me the following piece of advice: If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what the government does. Stated positively, exercising your right to vote gives you a voice into shaping how you are represented on a municipal, provincial and federal level. It is extremely important to exercise this right that we have been afforded, particularly since millions of people around the world do not have the ability to do this thing that we take for granted.

What I Hate About Politics

I hate seeing people—especially young people—get caught up in the demonizing of political leaders that comes with campaigning. Sadly at this point, I just expect a whole whack of mud slinging from the party leaders. I don’t like it, but I expect it. But that doesn’t mean that we have to engage in it.

Through this campaign, I’ve seen people trying to encourage university students to vote this year by creating attack sites devoted to trashing the sitting Prime Minister. I’ve seen young idealists talking about the rights of the working class, but seeming to have no idea what those rights are. I’ve seen people across the board make assumptions about every party’s plans without even reading them. Heck, I saw one young guy (who is either ridiculously stupid or mentally unhinged) write that if you’re a “right-winger,” you need to be murdered in the streets.

I don’t care where you land on the political spectrum—whether you’re a hair over to the right of center, left, really left, or you’re upset that trees don’t have the right to vote—but the folks you don’t agree with are no more (and no less) evil than you are. And it is profoundly unwise to fall prey to demonizing those with whom you disagree.

Yet we all do it, don’t we?

I would suggest two reasons why: [Read more…]