The news of late has been filled with the disturbing news of Planned Parenthood trafficking in the body parts of aborted babies. Anyone who has watched the horrific videos that have been circling around social media can’t help but notice the sickening glee by which the Planned Parenthood operatives rejoice over the opportunity to use these body parts as commodities. It really breaks my heart that anyone would view these precious unborn babies as nothing more than a means to an end. This anger thankfully is being shared by many across the country.
So what do we do about an organization such as Planned Parenthood or abortion in general? There are a great many calls to defund Planned Parenthood. A worthy endeavor, but unfortunately there is little zeal within the realm of politics to actually pass such a measure. Lots of talk for sure with little demonstrative action taking place and no action likely to take place that will cease federal funding of Planned Parenthood or abortions.
There is arguably more of an opportunity to effect change at the state and local level as the appetite to restrict abortion services seems to be more likely there. Even still, Planned Parenthood is all over the country and has their tentacles extended into all levels of government, supporting financially those candidates who are in favor of the murder of unborn babies in the name of women’s health.
This can all seem very discouraging, namely trying to defund a monstrosity such as Planned Parenthood and abortion. So again….what can one do? I have one suggestion – get involved in supporting adoption and those who offer those services at the local, state, and national levels.
I am the parent of an adopted child so the issue of adoption is very near and dear to my heart. In reality, it should be near and dear to every believer’s heart given the fact that God rescued us from the clutches of sin and death and adopted us as His children. To extend a loving and helping hand to an unwed mother, to a parent who cannot care for their child for whatever reason, to a child who was mistreated by their birth parents and is looking for the loving arms of parents who care – these are things God desires for His people to be about doing.
Even if God has not called you to adopt a child, you can certainly assist those who have been called either financially or through others means of support. You can volunteer at a local adoption agency or crisis pregnancy center. You can be involved in Boys and Girls clubs or inner city ministries that service those whom Planned Parenthood attracts. Churches as a whole can sponsor families interested in adoption. Let me tell you that adopting a child is not cheap. There are many fees (in the thousands of dollars), training that costs money, let alone outfitting your home for a child. The body of Christ can begin to put their money where their mouth is so to speak by investing in families who in turn are investing in the lives of children, both born and unborn.
This is an opportunity for us to act in a way that mirrors how God acted on our behalf. It is a chance to show love and mercy for those who are being targeted for death. Abortion is indeed the murder of the innocent. We should not stand idly by while precious children are being slaughtered and their body parts sold. Political action is certainly one method by which to address this atrocity. However, on a more practical level, we can be involved personally in the lives of those in our community, perhaps even opening our homes to a child and raising them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
What say you? Are you willing to do more than be angry at YouTube videos and new reports? Are you ready to act on behalf of the defenseless? Are you ready to invest in the lives of people who need help and who might feel the only alternative is abortion? The time to act is now. Encourage your local church to become involved with local adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers if they are not already. If they are involved and you are not involved as well, the time to become a part of the solution is right now. Do more than just write a check. Mentor young men and women. Reach out and help those in need, the unborn, the born, and those who are looking for answers. Righteous anger needs to lead to impactful action.
Will you do it?
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Few issues are as important or as neglected as biblical church membership in our day. Following his successful book I Am A Church Member Dr. Thom Rainer has recently written I Will! Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian which advances the conversation he started in his previous book I Am A Church Member. I Will moves this conversation from “a right attitude (“I am”) to right actions (“I will”).
Many church members wonder what they should do in the church. They think that if they aren’t preaching or visibly leading in some way that they aren’t doing anything of significance in their local churches, however, every work in the local church is equally important. Just as important as leading worship or even preaching—the sanctuary, foyer, and floors need to be cleaned throughout the whole church. Every task in a local church is important none are greater than each other—although in the case of the Sunday service everything culminates on Sunday through the preaching of the Word.
We move from I Am to I Will by having the right attitude in our service to the Lord. Dr. Rainer notes, “If we have the right attitude, doing becomes natural. It becomes joyful. In other words, if you have a right biblically directed attitude you will experience joy in church membership (14). To this end, Dr. Rainer helps Christians in chapters two through six understand how they will worship with others, grow with others, serve with others, go in missions, and give generously. In addition to this he helps readers understand in chapter seven the reason why people drop out of the church and in chapter eight how to avoid the trap of walking through the motions of Christianity. Chapter nine calls readers to make a difference to the glory of God. The book concludes with an appendix that contains a commitment to the “I Will” principle.
I Will is a short but powerful book that will help church members to understand how to grow in the grace of God and serve by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some Christians have no problem with becoming a member but may have issues getting involved in the life of the church. This book will help readers struggling with how they view their local church to understand that people all around them don’t have it together and we all have a role by God’s grace to play in each other’s lives.
This book will help Christians in the pew to understand the role they can play in the life of others all around them. You never know what the person sitting next to you is going through. By having a joyful attitude (not fake either), you can make a difference in the life of people all around you. By regularly attending and getting plugged into the life of your local church you are doing one of the most countercultural things you can do—you are submitting to the rightful King Jesus Christ and placing yourself under biblically qualified godly men who will care for your soul. You are also committing to honoring the Lord by fulfilling the fifty-one another passage in the New Testament. I Will is an excellent follow-up to I Am a Church Member. Pastors should buy this book by the case load for their parishioners. This excellent book has many uses from a sermon series on church membership, small groups, or Sunday school to one-on-one discipleship. I highly recommend I Will and believe every Christian will benefit from reading it slowly and prayerfully.
I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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I learned very quickly that I had a choice. Either I could constantly invoke my inner attorney to give myself legal defense, or I could invite misunderstanding and let that be okay. Sure, there’s a tension and wisdom that tells us both responses may be done with a confident humility, but maybe one of these options is the better one?
Ministry is challenging. Discipleship is messy. Doing life as a sinner with other sinners can be sinful. When our heart’s desires make tangible appearances through words and actions, bad things can happen. Blowback can and does occur. How should we respond to one another when misunderstanding occurs? How ought we as reconciled-to-God-in-Christ-now-justified-sinners deal with interpersonal conflict and sinful interaction? Thankfully, Jesus, the Second-Person of the Trinity, took on flesh and dwelt among us. He identified with us and exemplified in himself what it means to do ministry and invite misunderstanding.
In Matthew 13, we find Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God in various parables. He tells of the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Weeds, the Mustard Seed and Leaven, the Hidden Treasure, Pearl of Great Value, the Net, and the Master of the House with Old and New Treasures. Each of these stories are likened to some aspect of the kingdom of God and are used by Jesus to explain himself and his ministry.
But that’s not all we find in this chapter. Matthew gives us a look into what is happening behind the scenes, as it were, and explains a bit more about the parables. In Matthew 13:10-17, there’s an excursus that involves only Jesus and his disciples. The crowds are not privileged to this particular conversation. “Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” (Mat. 13:10). Conflict is on the horizon. What seems to be the problem?
SECRETS OF THE KINGDOM
Jesus responds to their question, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11). Any information that disciples glean from Jesus’ parables is to participate in the secrets of the kingdom of God. In other words, the mysterion that Jesus explains can only be given through the Sovereign hand of God and divine revelation. The Apostle Paul shares the same thing, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (2 Cor. 2:14).
What Paul means (and I believe by implication it is the same thing Jesus believed) is not that you have to be a super Spirit-filled person in order to understand this stuff, and if you say the right prayer, do the right thing, you’ll eventually figure it out. No—Paul means that any particular revelation of knowledge that pertains especially to the kingdom of God is only granted from above.
Men do not use logic and reason, then conclude God. Men cannot use logic and reason without God. God is the one who imparts wisdom and understanding. This is what Jesus is getting at with the secrets of the kingdom. It is not an issue of natural insight and basic rationale. It’s an issue of divine revelation. It is only for those, “It has been given.”
PUSHING IT FURTHER
Jesus goes on to say, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (v. 13). Don’t miss what Jesus is saying: There is a dividing line when it comes to the kingdom of heaven. What I am doing in my teaching is clearly laying out the lines of demarcation. There is no middle ground; in fact, there are only two ways to go about this—either you will understand because the Spirit makes you understand, or you will continue in your sin and constantly go about misunderstanding what I’m telling you.
Jesus pushes it further by creating the dividing line. Why did he do it? To start, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 6. Isaiah was to go and preach and Israel wasn’t going to listen. (Not the greatest ministry task. . . . Go and preach, and don’t get mad—they won’t listen anyway. Who wants that job?) Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is Isaiah—a prophet to a rebellious Israel.
The other reason Jesus creates the dividing line this way is because Jesus is okay with misunderstanding. Remember he didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, for the world was condemned already; Jesus came to save it (Jn. 3:17). By drawing the line, Jesus gave no ground for having a neutral position. You are either for him, or against him (Matt. 12:30). Either men will turn to Christ in repentance, or they will harden themselves and perpetuate misunderstanding.
VULNERABILITY IN COMMUNITY
We can learn much from this passage. I want to try and bring one aspect into focus, and it has everything to do with you. If you’ve been involved in ministry in any capacity, you know that misunderstanding abounds. The story I hinted at to start had to do with me being a pastor who has had his share of misunderstanding. In fact, in one Sunday I heard two things: 1) “I learn something every single week when you preach!” and 2) “We’re leaving because we don’t feel like we’re learning anything.”
How does that work? How can a pastor sit at someone’s bedside who is dying from cancer and be told the next day that he doesn’t care about people? Consider another paradox in ministry. How can a lay person who is passionately involved prayer about many different issues be told by someone else that she has bitterness in her heart and seems rather uninvolved in ministry? What’s the deal with misunderstandings in community?
Discipleship is an invitation to be vulnerable. It invites misunderstanding and chooses to put that inner attorney out of a job. It’s being so comfortable in your justification that your messy sanctification doesn’t trip you up. The reality is, any amount of investment you make in someone else’s life will invoke misunderstanding. You reap what you sow. The deeper you get into someone’s life the messier it gets. And that’s okay.
Jesus was quite okay with being vulnerable and he built his ministry on misunderstanding. That’s how it was supposed to be. “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Is. 53:2). He wasn’t spectacular and outwardly special. He left his home in glory to take on flesh and serve his people. He taught with wisdom and compassion yet was treated foolishly and hated by many.
What makes this special for us in discipleship is knowing that we don’t have to defend our case, but can live our lives for the glory of God free from the chains of man-pleasing. We can be vulnerable and okay with misunderstanding. Why? Because Jesus was vulnerable and misunderstood—so much so, that he was crucified for you. The misunderstanding of Christ led to the salvation of men. So rest easy, and continue to run.
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