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April 21, 2015

There is little doubt that abortion is one of the greatest horrors of our time. I am very confident that a day will come when future generations will express shock and amazement that we ever allowed such a genocide to take place. They will be amazed that so many stood idly by, and that so many others denied what is very obvious: That a pre-born child is still a child with the rights of any other human being.

I recently stumbled upon a new documentary series from PBS titled Twice Born. This series looks at the new and groundbreaking medical frontier that is fetal surgery. It gives access to the doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and who specialize in surgeries that are done on babies while they are still inside their mother’s wombs. This series is one of the greatest arguments against abortion you will ever see.

Through the three episodes of Twice Born we are introduced to four parents or sets of parents, though the vast majority of the attention goes to two of them: Lesly, a mother whose child was delivered via an EXIT procedure (where the baby is partially delivered so the doctors can perform her surgery) and Bobby and Shelly, whose daughter needed fetal surgery for Spina Bifida. I found myself especially intrigued by Bobby and Shelly since they make it clear that they are Christians and that they are filtering all they experience through a biblical lens.

As I watched the episodes unfold, there were several things that stood out to me.

The series testifies to God’s common grace. God is good and he freely and widely dispenses grace to the people he has made. In Twice Born we see that “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). We see doctors and nurses who are not Christians and who may even deny the existence of God, but we see them using the gifts and talents God has given them to do astounding things. They perform the most difficult and intricate medical procedures, accomplishing things that just a few years ago we could not even have imagined. They do their jobs with love, compassion, and amazing skill.

The series proclaims the value of life. The parents who walk into The Children’s Hospital do not talk about their blob of tissue or their little fetus. They have absolutely no doubt that they are carrying a child and they have no doubt that they want to do what is best for that child. While the subject of “termination” does come up at one point, the parents obviously cannot even tolerate the thought of ending the life of their child. Twice Born makes it plain: life in the womb is real life.

The series testifies that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The doctors describe the intricacy of the human body and the amazing reality that they are operating on children who are just a few inches in size and still months away from being born. The cameras catch the incredible beauty and function of the human form. The parents marvel at the children given to them. God reveals himself as the ultimate artist.

Twice Born is a powerful documentary and one I commend to you. Though it makes no attempt to further the pro-life position, it cannot help but do so. It is a joy to watch as it powerfully proclaims the goodness and the greatness of the Creator.

If you are in America you should be able to watch the series for free online at PBS.org. If you are overseas you may be able to purchase the DVD, or wait and hope that it comes to Netflix.

Note: If you are squeamish you may want to be aware that the series can be a little bit graphic when it comes to the medical procedures. Also, some viewers may object to a scene in the first episode where a very pregnant mother sits through a photo shoot wearing just a bra or bikini top.

April 21, 2015

Zondervan has lots of good books on sale today, including Brian Croft’s excellent Practical Shepherding series: The Pastor’s Family; Prepare Them to Shepherd; Visit the Sick; Comfort the Grieving; Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals; Gather God’s People ($2.99 each). Also consider For the City by Darrin Patrick ($3.99).

Messy Community - It’s so true: “When life gets hard and there is no laughter to share, that’s when friendship is seen for what it truly is. When life gets messy, that’s where the rubber meets the road.”

I Pray This for my Children - Gregory Harris offers help on how to pray for your children.

Pray for Dr. Sproul - “Last Saturday, Dr. Sproul checked himself into the hospital. The doctors suspect he had a mild stroke. He remains in the hospital for further testing and observation. The Sproul family requests your prayers.”

It Will Fail - Peter Leithart says that gay marriage will fail and offers a very compelling argument to support his claim.

Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule - Here’s an important distinction.

Will We See God? - Now that is a deep question: Will we one day gaze directly at the full glory of God?

Church Plant Media and I are pleased to announce the winner of last week’s Free Stuff Fridays website giveaway contest. Doug Short from New River Valley Christian Fellowship was selected as the winner, and his church will receive a free responsive website, free monthly fees for the life of the site, and a free graphics package to get the site up and running. Congratulations Doug!

Anger may be handled wrongly in either one of two ways: blowing up and clamming up. —Jay Adams

Adams

April 20, 2015

I find one of the trickiest matters of Christian living to be the matter of motives. I often find myself wondering why I do the things I do. Just as often, I find myself wondering why I do not do those things I refuse to do. Sometimes, even with a lot of focused thought, I can make little headway.

I think the Apostle Paul would identify with me. In Romans 7, he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (vv. 15–16). He was not looking to his motives per se, but he was still considering his life and finding that he was unable to discern why he did sinful things even when he wanted to do holy things. He saw his lack of holiness and his pursuit of sin and marveled at his own inability to do even the good things he wanted to do.

Like Paul, I am a Christian. I have been granted salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Day by day, my mind is being transformed by God’s Word, and I am being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

As the Lord does this work within me, I find a growing ability to know the right thing to do in a given situation. When I am sinned against, I have a greater knowledge of Scripture to draw upon as I attempt to respond with grace. When I am asked to give money to a cause or a mission, I have deeper wells to draw from as I consider whether this is a worthy cause. When I am faced with a decision and am uncertain whether I should stay or go, whether I should say yes or no, I increasingly have the mind of Christ and with it the ability to make a wise and God-honoring decision.

And yet sometimes I still do not know why I do the things I do. Am I giving to that mission because I believe the Lord is using those people to do His work in his world, or am I giving to that mission because it makes me feel good or because I want the missionary to respect me? Am I speaking grace-filled words to the person who offended me because I really love him despite the offense, or am I doing it to show off and to convince myself of my own holiness?

Too often I simply do not know. I pray and think and ponder and in the end I simply cannot untwist it all. We are complex people with complex motives. We are being made holy, but in the meantime we still have sin clinging to every part of ourselves.

I have found freedom in two ways. The first is repenting of poor motives. Even if I cannot pinpoint where my motives are sinful, I know there must be some sin in them, and so I ask that they be forgiven through the work of Jesus Christ. And then I determine to concern myself less with discerning motives and more with doing the right thing. I look to the cross, I look to the Bible, and I attempt to discern the next right thing to do for God’s glory.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 20, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Against the Gods by John Currid ($1.99); Ancient Word, Changing Worlds by Stephen Nichols ($2.99); Inerrancy and Worldview by Very Poythress ($2.99); Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger ($5.99); Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? by Various ($5.99); A Life Observed by Devin Brown ($2.99).

Kindle Fire - If you’re looking for a Kindle device, Amazon has the Fire HD 7 at $60 off today only.

The Alone Instrument - I’ve really been enjoying this album from Columbia Presbyterian Church. I especially like the adaptation of “To God Be the Glory.”

Sticks and Stones - Steve Morrison makes lots of interesting points in this excerpt from a new book.

Editors and Writers Together - Gavin Ortlund offers suggestions on how writers and editors can best work together.

Themelios - The Gospel Coalition just released a new edition of Themelios (free). You may also be interested in the new edition of CCEF’s Journal of Biblical Counseling (free preview, $6 for the issue).

Don’t Be a Commentary Junkie - With all due respect to commentaries, they need to be used in the right way.

Work Worth Doing - Dorothy Sayers said it well: “We should clamor to be engaged on work that was worth doing, and in which we can take pride.”

The gospel is not for you who can save yourselves, but for those who are lost. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

 

April 19, 2015

We can make things far too complicated. We can make things far too dependent upon our own work instead of the Lord’s. John MacArthur looks at Mark 4 and says, “Just tell the truth.”

Look, all I can do is tell the truth. All I can do is speak the truth. I can’t take care of the results. I can’t give life. It’s mysterious, just like to the farmer to us. The only human act is to plant the seed and wait…and wait, go to sleep, it’s all God’s work. First Corinthians 3 says, “God gives the increase.” Life and growth is a divine operation. You must be born from above, John 3. Not of the will of a man…of men, not of the will of flesh, John 1:12, but of God. Listen to it this way, no human being contributes to the regeneration, conversion, justification, salvation process. All we can do is tell the truth. The seed is potent, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, Romans 1, the soil when prepared by God will receive it and once God makes it grow, I love this part of the little parable, when it begins to grow, it does not stop until it is harvested…first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head and then the harvest. What God begins He completes, right? Philippians 1:6, “Whoever begins a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.”

This is a critical lesson, by the way, to all evangelical manipulators and clever marketers who think they can make people believe. No human being no matter how persuasive, no matter how clever, makes a contribution to regeneration, conversion or justification. All we can do is give the truth. We can’t change hearts and we can’t produce life from dead people. That’s something the Lord alone does. “No man comes to me except the Father draws him.” And once He begins to draw him, then it’s the blade, then it’s the ear, then it’s the full grain. It needs to be drummed into the heads and hearts of all Christians who have been seduced by the contemporary lies, that if we just get better at marketing the gospel, we can be more convincing and we can convince people to be saved. Just tell the truth.

I hate to tell you this, music doesn’t have anything to do with it in terms of style. The content of what is said and sung in music may bring the gospel, convey the gospel. But it’s not about mood, it’s not about music, it’s not about invitations, it’s not about any human effort. We don’t do God’s work with human means.

April 18, 2015

Here are just a couple of new Kindle deals that may interest you: Cross, edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99); Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99); 

Even though Paul was inspired, he still wanted Timothy to bring him his books.

From Tiny Churches the Loudest Prayers is an interesting little photo essay of the storefront houses of worship dotting Chicago’s South and West Sides.

Millard Erickson suggests a pledge of Convictional Civility.

I found it quite interesting to read Paul Levy’s review of Paul Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling. I often find reviews that mix praise and critique to be the most helpful reviews of all.

Jason Helopoulos says rightly that the most important thing a pastor can do is pursue personal holiness.

Thanks to Church Plant Media for sponsoring the blog this week.

You are responsible to Steward the Gifts God Has Assigned to You.

Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. —C.S. Lewis

Lewis

 

April 17, 2015

As was mentioned yesterday in our interview with Church Plant Media, they are excited to be doing a free website giveaway to a pastor who regularly reads Challies.com. The giveaway includes a free responsive church website ($1,000 value), plus no monthly fees for the life of the site ($600 annual value). Features of this giveaway include a free responsive design, 24/7 usage of their Content Management System, regular upgrades and feature releases to core system modules, hosting at Rackspace and Amazon S3, and toll-free telephone and online support from their knowledgeable Support Team. It also includes “radius-protection” which means no other church within a 10 mile radius of your church can have the same design.

Here are the three requirements to qualify to get the free website:

  • You must be a pastor who loves the gospel and reads this site regularly (or at least occasionally).
  • You must affirm, endorse, and commit to uphold Church Plant Media’s Gospel Agreement.
  • Any pastor can enter their church, but keep in mind that the spirit of the giveaway is that it goes to a church that couldn’t otherwise afford it.

This giveaway is open to anyone in the world who meets the criteria above. We are planning to keep the comments open to facilitate this giveaway from today (April 17) until Sunday night (April 19). Church Plant Media will select the winner on Monday, April 20, and I’ll announce the winner at that time.

Please answer these 5 questions in the comments below:

  1. What is your name, your church name, and your affiliation?
  2. How long have you pastored and how often do you read this blog?
  3. How old is your church and what is the average number of weekly attendees?
  4. What is your favorite church website design style from Church Plant Media, and what do you like about it?
  5. How would a free website benefit your church?

To learn more about Church Plant Media, check out my recent interview with them.

CPM