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Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online
August 21, 2015

You have heard by now that the site AshleyMadison.com was hacked and that millions of users had their information made public. Ashley Madison is a company that exists to facilitate (and even guarantee) adulterous relationships, and now those people who wanted to be quietly unfaithful to their spouses have been suddenly outed. As I read the headlines and heard of some of those caught up in the scandal (including, sadly, Josh Duggar), I thought back to one of the first times in Internet history that we had to grapple with the power of the data we leave behind us every time we use the Web. For that we will need to go back to 2006.

In 2006, America Online made an epic misjudgment which taught us a valuable lesson: Who you are when you are alone and online, that is who you really are—no more, and no less. As part of a research project headed by Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, AOL made available to the public a massive amount of data culled from their search engine—the search history of 650,000 users over a three-month period. This totaled some 21 million searches. Before releasing the data, they anonymized it, stripping away user names and replacing names with numbers, so that a user with a name like timc2000 simply became User #75636534. Yet because of the often-personal nature of the data, it did not take long before many of those abstract numbers were linked to real names, an obvious and serious violation of privacy and confidentiality. Within days, AOL realized its mistake and withdrew the data, but already it had been copied and uploaded elsewhere on the Internet, where today it lives on in infamy.

Some of the search histories were dark and disturbing, others unremarkable in every way. Still others were strangely amusing. It was often possible to reconstruct a person’s life, at least in part, from what they searched for over a period of time. Consider this user:

  • shipping pets 2006-03-01 16:36:48
  • does ata ship pets 2006-03-01 17:10:35
  • continental.com 2006-03-01 21:34:53
  • pet shipping 2006-03-01 21:35:11
  • broken bones in cat 2006-03-04 03:31:53
  • cat has broken bones above base of tail vet said it will heal on its own
    2006-03-04 03:32:53
  • cat broken bones and diarreah 2006-03-04 03:58:24
  • cat health 2006-03-04 14:10:22
  • cat has broken bones wasn’t bleeding before but now is and now she
    can’t defecate too 2006-03-04 14:16:35
  • mucous blood diarreah in cat 2006-03-04 14:22:47

It is not too difficult to understand what transpired through this three-day history of searches. The search engine data tells a sad story about a person and his or her cat.

This glut of user data raised a nearly endless number of questions and concerns. Primarily, it brought awareness to the fact that search engines know you better than you may like. Actually, they probably know you better than you know yourself in some ways. You tend to forget what you have searched for in the past; they don’t. We may like to think that our searches are just quick queries, harmless and pointless inquiries known only to us.

Here is an AOL user whose searches tell a sad story (for sake of space, I have stripped out a large number of searches):

  • body fat calliper 2006-03-01 18:54:10
  • curb morning sickness 2006-03-05 08:53:23
  • get fit while pregnant 2006-03-09 18:49:37
  • he doesn’t want the baby 2006-03-11 03:52:01
  • you’re pregnant he doesn’t want the baby 2006-03-11 03:52:49
  • online degrees theology 2006-03-11 04:05:24
  • online christian colleges 2006-03-11 04:13:33
  • foods to eat when pregnant 2006-03-12 09:38:02
  • baby names 2006-03-14 19:11:10
  • baby names and meanings 2006-03-14 20:01:27
  • physician search 2006-03-23 10:20:04
  • best spa vacation deals 2006-03-27 20:04:09
  • maternity clothes 2006-03-28 09:28:25
  • pregnancy workout videos 2006-03-29 10:01:39
  • buns of steel video 2006-03-29 10:12:38
  • what is yoga 2006-03-29 12:17:31
  • what is theism 2006-03-29 12:18:30
  • hindu religion 2006-03-29 12:18:56
  • yoga and hindu 2006-03-29 12:32:05
  • is yoga alligned with christianity 2006-03-29 12:33:18
  • yoga and christianity 2006-03-29 12:33:42
  • abortion clinics charlotte nc 2006-04-17 11:00:02
  • greater carolinas womens center 2006-04-17 11:40:22
  • can christians be forgiven for abortion 2006-04-17 21:14:19
  • can christians be forgiven for abortion 2006-04-17 21:14:19
  • roe vs. wade 2006-04-17 22:22:07
  • effects of abortion on fibroids 2006-04-18 06:50:34
  • abortion clinic charlotte 2006-04-18 15:14:03
  • symptoms of miscarriage 2006-04-18 16:14:07
  • water aerobics charlotte nc 2006-04-18 19:41:27
  • abortion clinic chsrlotte nc 2006-04-18 21:45:39
  • total woman vitamins 2006-04-20 16:38:16
  • engagement rings 2006-04-20 16:58:37
  • high risk abortions 2006-04-20 17:53:49
  • abortion fibroid 2006-04-20 17:55:18
  • benefits of water aerobics 2006-04-20 23:25:50
  • wedding gown styles 2006-04-26 19:37:34
  • recover after miscarriage 2006-05-22 18:17:53
  • marry your live-in 2006-05-27 07:25:45

This woman goes from searching about pregnancy, to realizing that the father does not want to keep the baby, to researching abortion clinics, to researching whether she can, according to her faith, choose abortion, to dealing with a miscarriage. And at the end of it all, life goes on and she seems ready to be married.

What is so amazing about these searches is the way people transition seamlessly from the normal and mundane to the outrageous and perverse. They are, thus, an apt reflection of real life. The user who is in one moment searching for information about a computer game may in the next be looking for the most violent pornography he can imagine. Back and forth it goes, from information about becoming a foster parent to the search for incestual pornography. One user went from searching for preteen pornography to searching for games appropriate for a youth group. Others, spurned lovers, sought out ways of exacting revenge while still others grappled with the moral implications of cheating on their spouses. These searches are a glimpse into the hearts of the people who made them.

And now millions of Ashley Madison users have been outed in much the same way, except this time their actual names and personal information are sitting right there alongside their data. They have been exposed as people who went looking for adultery. And the whole world is sitting by, looking on with an amused eye. Spouses are searching through the data wondering if even their husband, their wife, may have been involved. Gossip blogs are combing the data looking for headlines.

One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are. And who you really are will eventually find you out. God will not be mocked.

(Much of this article is excerpted from my book The Next Story. Image credit: Shutterstock)

There Is No Better Life
August 19, 2015

The old catechism says it well: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. You and I exist for God’s glory. In fact, all things exist for God’s glory. We get that. But how? How do we glorify God? I want to list 4 simple ways that you can glorify God today and every day.

Glorify God by Admiring God

You glorify God by admiring God, by simply appreciating him for who he is and for what he has done. Within the Bible we see plenty of examples of each.

Consider Paul admiring God at the end of Romans 11. Paul has spent all this time discussing man’s great need and God’s great provision in Jesus Christ, and then he just can’t help himself: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!…For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:33, 36). He just has to break into this little song of worship, this little song that brings glory to God.

You can also admire God for who he is, pondering his character and attributes. We see this in the little doxology at the end of Jude: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25). Jude considers who God is and then naturally glorifies him.

You glorify God through your admiration of his character and his ways. Do you make it your habit to admire God?

Glorify God by Worshipping God

You glorify God by worshipping God. Just think of Psalm 29 which begins like this:

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

Worship is one of the great privileges of the Christian life (which is why I recently asked What Would I Lose if I Lost Worship?). Worship is ascribing to God his own worth. It is “the art of losing self in the adoration of another.” When we worship him we give him honor, we magnify him in the sight of those who join with us. We declare that he is the point and purpose of our entire world and our entire existence. God is glorified in this kind of self-forgetful worship.

Do you love to worship? Do you take every opportunity to worship? Do you worship for God’s sake and God’s glory?

Glorify God by Obeying God

You glorify God by obeying God. This is true whether that obedience is expressed through character or through action. You glorify God by living a life of obedience, by doing those things he says to do, and by refusing to do those things he forbids. The New Testament tells us with crystal clarity that there is an old way of living that God tells us to turn away from and a new way of living that he tells us to embrace.

It makes God look great, it brings glory to his name, when you stop sinning, when you put to death those evil deeds and evil desires. It makes God look great when you begin living righteously and, even more, when you long to behave righteously. Why? Because you prove that the power of God is active in you.

God is glorified in your holiness, not in your sin. Do you grow in holiness so that God can be glorified? God is glorified in your selfless deeds, not your selfish ones. Do you love and serve others?

Glorify God by Delighting in God

Finally, you glorify God by delighting in God. To delight in God is to have great affection for him, to find your heart moved by him, to find ultimate joy in him. It is to love and long to do things that make him look great. It is to engage all you are and all you’ve got in the full-out pursuit of God. Like Jesus said, it is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). When you delight in God you express free and willing love toward him. You see God as a great treasure who is worthy of your pursuit, worthy of your affection.

I love how Thomas Watson says it: “True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God.” Could it be said of you that you are burning in love to God?

No Better Life

God does all things for his glory. If you can get this in your mind and into your heart, it will transform the way you look at the world and the way you live in the world. It will change everything. It will allow you to give up pride and position as long as God is glorified. It will allow you to give up lifelong dreams and treasured sins as long as God is glorified. It will even allow you to joyfully give up your life, firmly believing that God will be glorified. There is no better life than the life lived for the sake and the glory of God.

Note: These 4 points were drawn roughly and loosely from Thomas Watson’s commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Taking God at His Word
August 18, 2015

So much of the Christian life comes down to this simple discipline: Taking God at his word. God speaks to me through the Bible and makes so many precious promises. The question is, will I believe, and will I obey? Will I take God at his word?

If I take 1 day out of every 7 and dedicate to it rest and to worship, will you still provide? Can I have confidence that I don’t need to work 7 days out of the week in order to survive? God says, “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Take me at my word” (Luke 12:24).

Have my sins really been forgiven? Am I actually blameless before the righteous Judge of all the universe? God says, “I have delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of my beloved Son, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Take me at my word” (Colossians 1:13–14).

If I refuse to succumb to this sexual temptation, if I walk away from the opportunity or refuse to give in to the desire, will you really satisfy? Can you actually satisfy? God says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from me, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Take me at my word” (James 1:17).

Can God really use this painful situation for my good? Can he really bring beauty from these ashes? God says, “I work together all things for good, for those who are called according to my purpose. Take me at my word” (Romans 8:28).

Is salvation really all of grace? Isn’t there at least something I still need to earn? Isn’t there at least something I need to contribute? God says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Take me at my word” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Do I really need to stop this sin I enjoy so much? It’s such a little one and it brings me such joy. Does it really matter that much? God says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments. Take me at my word” (John 14:15).

Can I actually have confidence that I will not fall away from God? Can I have confidence that I will go to heaven? God says, “Be confident of this very thing, that I who have begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Take me at my word” (Philippians 1:6).

The great enemy of the Christian is the sin of unbelief—the sin of refusing to accept what God says and the sin of refusing to do what God says. The great friend of the Christian is the joy of belief and the joy of obedience. Where is God asking you to simply take him at his word?

August 17, 2015

Can you imagine your life without worship? Can you imagine your life without regularly gathering with God’s people to worship him together? Corporate worship is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. And perhaps it is one of those privileges that over time we can take for granted. When I pause to think about it, I can’t imagine my life without it. I don’t even want to. But I guess it is worth considering: What would I lose if I lost worship?

We live in a consumeristic culture where we tend to evaluate life in very selfish ways. We do this even with worship. “The sermon really didn’t speak to me today. I just couldn’t get into the songs we sang this morning. That Scripture reading was a little bit too long in my books.” When we speak this way we may be proving that we are coming to church as consumers, people who want to be served rather than to serve.

Yet the primary point and purpose of worshipping God is his glory, not the meeting of our felt needs. We worship God in order to glorify God. God is glorified in our worship. He is honored. He is magnified in the sight of those who join with us.

In this way worship cuts completely against the grain of consumerism and demands that I worship for his sake and for his glory. I have heard it said that “Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another.” And that is exactly the case. I forget all about me and give all honor and glory to him.

What would I lose without worship? I would lose the opportunity to grow through hearing a sermon and to experience joy through singing great hymns. I would lose the opportunity to join with other Christians in prayer and to recite great creeds with them. But more than anything else, I would lose an opportunity to bring glory to God. If I stopped worshipping, I would neglect a means through which I can bring glory to him.

Do you see it? Worship is not about you or me. Worship is about God. And really, this changes everything.

When I view worship as something that ultimately exists for my good and my satisfaction, it is easy to take a day off, to think that my presence makes no difference. But when I come to bring glory to God, I understand that no one else can take my place. God means for me to lift my hands, to lift my heart, to lift my voice to him.

When I view worship as something that is really all about me, it is easy to jump from church to church, to always be looking for a better fit for me. But when I view church as something that is really all about God, I find myself looking for the church that is the purest and best at worshipping in exactly the ways the Bible demands—I look for the church through which I can bring him the most glory.

Worship is a privilege, to be sure. But it is also a requirement, a responsibility. And the greatest responsibility and the greatest privilege in worship is to bring glory to God.

My Own Personal Bollywood
August 12, 2015

Bollywood movies crack me up. Every now and again a friend will send me a clip, a highlight, from one of the Bollywood blockbusters, and inevitably the scene is utterly preposterous. Many of these films are known for their far-too-long and over-the-top fight scenes where the mighty hero defies all the laws of physics and all the constraints of the human body to conquer an entire army of enemies—inevitably with fists a-flying.

I suppose that people who enjoy Bollywood accept a certain level of unrealism. Implicit in the genre is a very different understanding of how the human body functions, not unlike all the superhero movies that are so popular today. Just like the flowery dialog in the movies of the 60’s or the “aw shucks mister” way of speaking in the films of the 50’s, there is a level of unrealism that is deemed acceptable. Why shouldn’t one man stop a train with his fists? Who is to say that a hero can’t pick up an entire jeep and throw it off a jetty? The genre allows it.

At the suggestion of a friend, I recently laughed my way through another of these corny scenes. But as I watched Singham commit another great feat of strength, I saw a bit of a parallel between Bollywood and its big brother Hollywood. Hollywood allows its own version of unrealism in the movies we enjoy. We just take our fantasy on a different level.

If the Bollywood fantasy is all about physical strength, the Hollywood fantasy is about emotional connection that quickly works its way into sexual intimacy. The Bollywood fantasy tells us that a man can single-handedly intercept and destroy an army, and when he does this, the woman will swoon and he will have earned his right to marry her. The Hollywood fantasy tells us that we can meet a soul-mate, feel a powerful relational connection, and experience perfect, regret-free sexual intimacy all in the span of just a few scenes.

In both cases, reality takes a back seat, and we just allow ourselves to get immersed in fantasy. All of the struggles of a real sexual relationship disappear into this Hollywood fantasy. She is always eager. He is always able. They are always in the right location. Nothing is ever awkward. Nothing ever hurts. Nobody ever has next-day regrets. Everything just works perfectly.

This fantasy is not harmless. It teaches those who watch it. It presents a form of reality that we may desire, but cannot attain. The Bollywood hero can’t actually stop a train and human begins created in God’s image cannot actually experience that Hollywood kind of intimacy just the way it is presented. This Hollywood fantasy allows us to believe that sex precedes love, that I can’t possibly know I love you until I’ve slept with you and a lot of other people besides. It allows us to believe that sex is powerful enough to be a unique form of union between a man and woman, but that sex is also meaningless enough that it can be experienced with many people over a lifetime without regret and without consequence. It allows us to believe that a sex life can be carried on through the passion of a relationship that doesn’t involve investment, difficulty, and self-denial. It is a particularly unhealthy and unrealistic fantasy.

We can laugh at Bollywood and all they accept as realistic. But we should be laughing at ourselves as well.

An Introverted Christian
August 11, 2015

Who would have guessed that introversion would become such a popular subject? Who would have guessed it would even carry a book to the New York Times list of bestsellers in Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking? Her book brought into the public eye a personality type that is both common and misunderstood. While I cannot agree with all she wrote, I was glad to see her open up what has become a fascinating conversation.

There is no doubt that I am an introvert. If we place introversion and extroversion on opposite sides of a line and say that each one of us falls somewhere between the two extremes, I would be pretty far from center along the introvert side of the scale. I may not be as far along as some people, and I still enjoy some exposure to crowds of people, but at heart I gain energy and perspective in solitude and then expend it in a crowd. My default reaction to a crowd is to run away to find a place of quiet. I love and enjoy people, but do better with small groups than large ones. Even after several years of public speaking, it still takes a lot of effort and self-denial to stand in front of a crowd. I walk to the front of a room slowly and, when finished, sprint to the back. That’s just the way I am.

Quiet allowed me to better understand myself. In some ways Cain introduced me to me. I had all kinds of those “Aha!” moments where things I’ve long thought or felt suddenly made sense. It was refreshing. Yet as I progressed through the book, I found it doing something unexpected deep inside. I began to feel a kind of peace with my introversion that may have gone a little too far. Even Aileen noticed it in me and pointed it out. She noticed that I began to feel justified in fleeing crowds and being by myself. She said I was becoming selfish.

I believe that God made me introverted. It seems clear that some of us are naturally more outgoing while others are naturally inclined to be quiet. I am naturally quiet and this is part of God’s good design. Neither one is inherently wrong and neither one is intrinsically better than the other. But what Cain does not acknowledge, writing as she does from a secular perspective, is that we inhabit a world of sin where any trait or quality can be used for God-glorifying ends or for self-glorifying ends. Not only that, but God calls us to be always willing to deny our desires in order to serve others. Both introverts and extroverts will face particular temptations to sin. My temptation as an introvert is to run away from people instead of serve people. It is to be selfish instead of giving.

The Christian life is a life of self-denial. It is a life of saying, “Even though this may be what I want, duty compels me to do something different.” There are many times when I am to deny my own desires in order to serve others. Even the desire to be alone. David Powlison says it well:

The Christian life is a great paradox. Those who die to self, find self. Those who die to their cravings will receive many times as much in this age, and, in the age to come, eternal life (Luke 18:29). They will find new passions worth living for and dying for. If I crave happiness, I will receive misery. If I crave to be loved, I will receive rejection. If I crave significance, I will receive futility. If I crave control, I will receive chaos. If I crave reputation, I will receive humiliation. But if I long for God and His wisdom and mercy, I will receive God and wisdom and mercy. Along the way, sooner or later, I will also receive happiness, love, meaning, order, and glory.

I have no right to crave introverted solitude. Rather, the gospel compels me to deny even that trait and all its desires in order to serve other people. I am introverted, but this does not give me a different calling in life than the gregarious Christian.

What I had to face in Quiet is that introversion is what I am, not who I am. And this is where the discussion of introversion and extroversion often seems to go wrong. We elevate these traits too high and use them to justify selfishness instead of selflessness. I have to be slow to define myself in a-biblical categories. This is not to say that it is wrong to say that I am an introvert, but that this is a distinction the Bible does not make. With this being the case, I don’t want to allow introversion to define me or to dictate my behavior. Introversion is a useful description, but a poor definition.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The Man Who Is Most Free
August 10, 2015

I don’t mean to brag, but yesterday I preached the greatest sermon of my life. I’d say it was downright inspired. Let me explain. Through the summer we’ve been using our evening services to look briefly at some of the shorter books of the Bible. We read the entire book one Sunday, then teach the book’s major themes over the next two Sundays. Then we move to the next book and do it again. So my task last night was simply to read Colossians. And it makes for a brilliant sermon.

I did not have a lot of time to think about the book as I read it—my primary concern was reading it well and reading it fluently. But there was one part that still managed to jump out at me. It was right at the beginning of chapter 3 where Paul transitions from theology to practice, from the good news of what Christ has done to the Christian’s response. And right there Paul makes a powerful contrast.

In many ways the New Testament is about the contrasts. There is new versus old, clean versus dirty, alive versus dead, gospel versus law, and many more. And here in Colossians Paul contrasts above with below. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Then he goes on to explain what that means, to describe what it means to live with your mind set on earthly things or your mind set on heavenly things. Those who live with their minds below are consumed with sexual immorality, idolatry, evil desire. They are full of malice and strife and envy. It’s an ugly picture. But those who have experienced salvation are now free to be holy and compassionate and patient and self-controlled.

We live in a world obsessed with the very sins that Paul provides as evidence of earthliness, of living below, of living in that way that God hates. People love to live below. And yes, there are times that even Christians love to live below, to continue on in those old patterns of sin.

In that contrast of below and above, we see that sin feels like freedom but is actually captivity. What feels like joyful self-expression is actually harmful wallowing. Sin is like a pig proclaiming his cleanliness while he wallows in the muddy filth of his pen. We look at him and realize he is deluded, that he is filthy. And those who continue with their minds set on earthly things may believe they are free and clean, but they are actually wallowing in the very sins they are meant to hate. True freedom is not found in pursuing sin but in rejecting sin. The man who is most free is the one who is freed from the power of sin.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Be Careful of Nice People
August 06, 2015

Now you be nice to your sister.” “Make sure you play nice tonight.” “He is such a nice young man.” As human beings, it seems that we are drawn to niceness. We like nice people and encourage people to behave in nice ways. We dislike people who aren’t nice or who don’t behave in nice ways. We teach our children to be nice and juxtapose niceness with a host of vices: grumpiness, cruelty, mean-spiritedness.

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the qualities of fleshly, worldly people with the qualities of Spirit-filled, godly people. He lists the fruit of the Spirit, those character traits that ought to mark God’s people, saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23). Conspicuously absent from Paul’s list is niceness. Kindness is there; patience and gentleness too. But not niceness.

Why isn’t niceness a fruit of the Spirit? Because niceness is a hollow trait that a human can generate even without the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Niceness may require some force of will in the face of disagreement or controversy. It may require restraint. But it does not require an inward transformation.

True love, true joy, true faithfulness and gentleness—these are all qualities for which we are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s work in conforming us to the image of Christ through the Word of God. As we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, as we carefully seek God and His will through the Bible, the Holy Spirit gradually but surely grants us these qualities in growing measure. Now we are able to love—truly love—whereas before we could only hate and brood and love selfishly; now we are able to display patience whereas before we would always explode with anger or perhaps simply simmer with anger; now we are able to be gentle whereas before we were so consistently harsh.

But niceness? Niceness doesn’t require that work of the Spirit. In fact, niceness is often a clever ruse Satan employs to fool us into following ungodly leaders. Be careful around nice people. Evil and ungodly men often rely upon niceness to cover their sin. Where Christians can be fast and blunt in defending the truth, unbelievers—and especially unbelievers claiming to be Christians—can look good in contrast. They can seem so nice as they nicely undermine the very foundations of the Christian faith. Their smiles, their soft words, their sympathetic questions, their niceness—these are all tools designed to mask their opposition to God.

It is not bad to be nice. It is not an evil trait. But it is far better to strive for the higher qualities, the Spirit-given qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law, because such Spirit-given qualities cannot be faked forever.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Planned Parenthood: 4 Ways to Respond
August 05, 2015

We have come to a singularly important moment in the battle against abortion (which is to say, the battle for life). The stunning undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress have taken us right to the heart of the abortion industry. They have shown that Planned Parenthood is enriching themselves with the bodies of murdered babies. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood is willingly increasing the risk to the women they serve in order to enrich themselves—altering the abortion procedures to deliver intact bodies. Planned Parenthood is a business, a government-supported business, that buys and sells death.

Yesterday’s video, the fifth, is the most horrendous yet. It shows a Planned Parenthood representative discussing babies as line items, considering how she can maximize profit as she sells “the products of conception.” It continues to the lab where we see people picking through the slaughtered remains of a child, lifting up pieces, separating an arm and a leg, lifting up the intestines and lungs, considering the monetary value of each one. It is absolutely sickening, absolutely shocking, absolutely unflinching, absolutely real. It exposes the industry, shining a billion-watt light into its darkest recesses. What was meant to remain hidden has now been made plain.

Once you see this, you cannot unsee it. Once you know what happens in Planned Parenthood and a host of other clinics, you cannot unknow it. That’s true even for those of us who live on the other side of an international border. What happens in America doubtless happens in Canada, England, and everywhere else.

This is an important moment.

In the face of such overwhelming evil, it can be difficult to know what we, as individuals, can actually do. Few of us have any significant power or ability. We do not have access to the ear of the President or the front page of the Times. But we can still act.


Aborted Baby HandOne small but important thing you can do is share this news. The mainstream media is largely avoiding it, but this is exactly where power has shifted in an age of social media. CNN may control what is broadcast to a few million people on the television, but we control what is shared with hundreds of millions through Facebook. Hashtag activism has been much-maligned, but it is activism nonetheless. Perhaps we have overdone Twitter and Facebook outrage in the past. But not this time. Share. Share this story through your social media channels. Use hashtags like #PPSellsBabyParts and #DefundPP. Share it widely and share it consistently.

I would focus on sharing especially well-written stories, but also the few you will find in major media outlets like the Washington Post or The Atlantic. Where the mainstream press is covering the issue, share it or like it. Don’t let it go away.


Also, talk to people about this—people in your home, your church, your school, your neighborhood, your workplace. Ask them if they have seen the videos. Ask them if they are willing to watch them.

This is a good time to arm yourself with SLED, a very helpful way of Making the Case for life. A little while ago I prepared a slideshow on the issue, and you may find it helpful.

You are free to download and adapt the slides for your own purposes. Note: The slideshow uses the font Museo Slab. It is available as a free download if you plan to use the Keynote or Powerpoint.


And, of course, you can and should contact your legislator. March for Life offers some help in that. Contact them, express your horror, and demand action.


Finally, and most importantly, pray. Pray that God would use this situation to promote the cause of life, to stop the evildoers, to save the lost, and to bring glory to his name.

As I conclude, here are some helpful articles I have collected over the past few days:

And a few books that are worth reading:

Fractured Christians
August 04, 2015

Have you ever considered how books of the Bible would be changed if God had left out their final chapter?

Matthew without chapter 28 would leave us as Christians without a Great Commission. Ruth without chapter 4 would never allow us to marvel that this Moabite woman was the great-grandmother of the great King David and the great-(many times over)-grandmother of our Savior, the greater King David.

And what if Jonah was a book with three chapters instead of four? A three-chapter Jonah is a powerful story of a man running from God, being transformed by God, obeying God, and witnessing a great and unexpected revival. But Jonah has four chapters, and it is in that final chapter that everything changes. In chapter four, Jonah goes off the rails; he witnesses the mighty power of God in bringing revival to an entire city, but he responds in a disconcerting way: 

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3)

There is a challenge here for the theologically minded Christian—the Christian who loves doctrine and, even better, loves sound doctrine.

Even in the midst of his complaining, Jonah described some of the best and greatest qualities of God. He was correct in describing God as merciful and gracious, as slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, as relenting from disaster. Yet these qualities of this sovereign God were qualities Jonah came to resent.

Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. He believed that he and his people were worthy of God’s attention and worthy of God’s salvation. And he believed the people of Nineveh were unworthy of God’s affection and salvation. Jonah failed to see that the very qualities that allowed God to save Nineveh were the qualities that allowed Him to extend grace to Israel. He was blind to his own desperate need.

Jonah warns us that we too can have correct doctrine even while we neglect to love God for being who He is. In our minds and hearts, we can partition God, embracing the qualities we like while rejecting the qualities we dislike. We can be fractured Christians, speaking glorious facts even while feeling bitter resentment.

The book closes with this tension unresolved, and I am convinced it remains unresolved so that you and I can ponder and apply this truth: To resent even the smallest part of God’s perfect, holy character is to resent all that God is.

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