Celebrating Sanctity of Human Life Sunday In Your Church

Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. If you are a pastor or church leader, I encourage you to celebrate this in your church. Here are a few resources you might consider:

1) Here’s an oped I cowrote with my colleague Andrew Walker for Christianity Today. A snippet:

As evangelicals who came of age during the culture wars, we’re part of a generation ready to move past the pitched left-right debates. The critiques of Christian political activism have held some merit: A hyper-focus on elections, voter guides, and strategy has often buried the gospel story. Sometimes following Christ has strangely looked like following an elephant or a donkey.

We need the hope, optimism, willingness of new generation of evangelicals to get dirty serving the poor, fighting for justice, and eschewing party labels. Their wide-eyed engagement has awakened new interest in bipartisan horrors such as human trafficking, environmental degradation, the orphan crisis, and child poverty in underdeveloped nations.

And yet, in our rush to justice, we cannot forget the prophet Micah’s haunting words:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, ESV)

These words motivate our desire as God’s kingdom people, to pursue justice where we can and pray for it where we cannot. But what about causes that push against the culture? Surely God’s intention for his church didn’t simply include only a portfolio of chic causes.

And that leads us to the pro-life movement, dating back to the 1970s. Being pro-life was missional, incarnational, and radical way before those terms became evangelical buzzwords. And yet, caring for and advocating on behalf of the unborn remains controversial.

You can read the rest here.

2) The ERLC has released a number of excellent resources for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, including: 

  • A bulletin insert
  • A sermon outline
  • A short video by Dr. Russell Moore

You can access those here

3) You might also provide a way for your people to connect with a local prolife crisis pregnancy center. Here are a few links: 

Don’t let your kids say this phrase

There is a phrase in our vocabulary that nobody has to teach us to say. It’s a phrase kids learn very quickly in childhood. And it’s a phrase you should ban in your household:

“That’s not fair.”

It sounds innocent enough. Everybody wants life to be fair, right? But this is an insidious phrase, revealing a sin so bankrupt it goes back to the very beginning, back to the Fall of Man. It’s essentially what Eve was told by the serpent. “You’re getting a raw deal. You’re entitled to more. God is holding out on you.”

If you read Paul’s account of the Fall in Romans, you’ll discover that it was this attitude–ingratitude and entitlement–that lit the match of sin, plunging Creation into darkness. And it’s a surefire way to test your own heart, to see where the idols are.

Maybe it seems a bit melodramatic to bring all of this up to my four children ages 2,4,5, and 9. But I fear that if I allow them to embed entitlement in their little hearts right now, if their first reaction to a someone else getting an extra dessert, a gift from a friend, a new pair of shoes is “That’s not fair.”

And so we don’t allow this in our home. And when it comes up, my kids know they are in for some form of punishment, which usually involves a long-winded soliloquy from Dad that goes something like this:

First, you are right in saying that life isn’t fair. Because it’s not fair that little children go to bed hungry this very night, having eaten nothing but a handful of rice and here you’ve just had seconds on french fries. It’s not fair that some boys and girls grow up without a mother and father, orphaned by a war they didn’t start. It’s not fair that some children won’t even see many birthdays, succumbing to diseases we treat with immunizations and routine trips to the doctor. So if there is a complaining about being fair, its you and me and all of us in prosperous, free America on the other side of “Not fair.” So in the line of people complaining about a bad lot in life, we are several zip codes away from the front. Most of the world is pointing to us and saying, “Life isn’t fair” and they have a much better case.

Second, you really don’t want life to be fair. We all have a scale of what is just–but the problem is that we are human and not God. He actually holds the scale and the Bible says to us that it’s weighed down heavily in favor of His mercy. Listen to the words of the prophet, Jeremiah, “It is of his mercies we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22). In other words, because of our sin against Him, it is overwhelming mercy that we are not immediate targets of His judgement. Instead, we are beneficiaries of His grace. We really don’t God to be fair, but to be just. What’s unfair is Jesus’ assuming our wrath and guilt on the cross on our behalf so we could be restored to a right relationships with God. And on a more personal, pragmatic, earthly level, we should ask ourselves: do we really want God to even out the score? For us in wealthy, rich America, that might mean taking some things away from us and giving them to the less fortunate. Or someone more appreciative.

Third, a heart of ingratitude and entitlement is evident of a deeper problem with God. This is what worries me most about entitlement. It is saying to God: I do not trust you to be my Father, to take care of my needs, to love me and care for me. Worse, it elevates self to a god-like position. Ingratitude says: I know better what is good for me. I’m a better god than God. When we say, “That’s not fair”, we are saying to God, you haven’t distributed things as evenly as I would. Even though I’m a sinful human, I know much more about what is just and right than you. That’s a dangerous position to be in, because we know from Scripture that God is the perfect Heavenly Father and to trust ourselves to our own care, our own lordship, only spells disaster (Proverbs 14:12; Matthew 7:9-11). You don’t want to go through life as your own lord, your own god, your own master. You only have to look around at the misery and despair in the world to see that’s not a path worth pursuing.

After this, I then give them three things to consider about their ingratitude:

First, the cure for ingratitude and entitlement is the gospel. We don’t simply want our kids to “buck up”, but we want them to be sanctified by the Spirit of God. You see the gospel cures our our entitlement syndrome by reminding us that Jesus is enough. It reverses the curse of the Garden. It answers Satan’s lie about God by pointing to a bloody cross and a suffering Savior. It says: God did provide all you need. God is your Father. Anything else you think you need is a cheap, worthless, soul-crushing substitute. 

Second, the gospel nurtures in us a healthy sense of justice. You see there are imbalances in the world, but rather than looking inward at what we think we lack, God’s love teaches us to look outward at the injustice in the world. As members of Christ’s kingdom, we now become part of His plan to heal and restore. We stop looking at our own lives and saying, “It’s not fair” and we start looking at others, who are suffering under the weight of the Fall and we devote our lives to getting involved in alleviating injustice around us. When give up our own entitlement for the sake of others, we become a small window into the Kingdom to come, where Christ will fully restore all things.

Third, resisting ingratitude early on help us avoid unnecessary disappointment and sorrow later in life. This is not to dismiss genuine, real suffering and pain endured by so many people. However, there is much in the way of trial and hardship that is brought on simply by unrealistic expectations of what God is supposed to give us in this life. The entitlement mentality is never happy, always looking for what is mine. This is a fruitless, miserable pursuit. But a gospel-centered gratitude that recognizes God as Father and giver of good gifts helps us enjoy the blessings we already have, to revel in the grace we possess rather than wishing for things we think we are owed.  In a sense, it’s the reverse prosperity gospel.

In Summary: Don’t let your kids say the phrase, “It’s not fair” about their own situation. It’s the phrase that pays in misery and alienation from God.

Preaching as a Craft to Be Cultivated.

I love preaching. I love the act of preaching and I love listening to preaching. There is something wild and mysterious and beautiful about God’s Word flowing through a flawed man empowered by the Holy Spirit as a primary delivery method for spiritual change.

This week I had the chance to interview Matt Woodley, managing editor of PreachingToday.com, an excellent resource for pastors and church leaders. Our conversation was wide-ranging, really. I queried him on plagiarism, fact-checking pastors, etc. But my favorite part was reading Matt’s thoughts on the act of preaching itself. Here’s a question I asked him:

If you could give one piece of advice to an up and coming pastor or church leader about preaching, what would you tell him?

Love preaching. It is a craft like mending shoes, fixing cars, throwing a curve ball, writing poetry, performing surgery, teaching British literature, and so on. You can grow as a preacher. So apply yourself to the craft. Learn from other preachers. Read good sermons (and reading is better than listening). Get feedback. And for Christ’s sake (and I mean that literally) stop being so defensive about your preaching! My gosh, it’s not like a sermon is your child or something. But when it comes to preaching, decide right now that you will be a lifelong learner of the craft.

But on other hand, don’t take your preaching too seriously. You aren’t primarily a preacher. You are a child of God. You are a member of the body of Christ. You are a friend, spouse, and parent. Your identity is not wrapped up in how well you preached last Sunday. So read and do lots of stuff that have absolutely nothing to do with your role as a preacher. Preachers who just preach are really boring. Be an interesting person, do interesting stuff, go to interesting places.

Read the entire interview here: 

Fearless Predictions for 2014:

A fair warning: I’m likely the worst prognosticator in the world. Just ask President Pawlenty. And yet here I am making predictions for 2014, well, just because this is what writers do. So without further fanfare, my picks for 2014:

 1)   After a year (2013) of religious liberty setbacks, this will be the year religious liberty wins in the courts. This is not just a left-right issue, but also a constitutional issue. I think the Supreme Court will strike down the HHS mandate in a win for religious organizations and businesses.

2)   Peyton Manning will win his second Super Bowl, leading the Denver Broncos to a narrow win over the Seattle Seahawks. This year will further bolster Manning’s case as one of the greatest QB’s to play in the NFL

3)   There will be two or three major controversies that will continue to divide the Christian blogosphere. Some will fan the flames for continued blog traffic, platform building or fundraising. Others will issue cliched appeals to harmony, unity, and getting back to important work, like instagraming every meal.  And a few smart influencers will offer thoughtful and original reactions.

4)   A pop culture icon will do something crass, foolish, or vulgar (or all three) allowing regular people to feel better about themselves.

5)   Southern Baptists will continue to quietly serve as the third largest disaster relief operation in the world, but nobody will notice.

6)   No Chicago sports teams will win a championship. The Cubs’ 100-year plus rebuilding project will continue at its glacial pace, the Bulls will me a mediocre-but-not-elite team without Derrick Rose, the Blackhawks will take a year off from winning championships, the White Sox will continue to have no plan, and the Bears will rise and fall on the health and maturity of their quarterback, Jay Cutler.

7)   Evangelicals of my generation and younger will continue to try to be cool and Christian with less and less success. As the stigma of radically following Christ pushes against cultural winds, many will run for the high ground of acceptance and eschew courage.

8)   Political parties and activist groups will tell us again (without irony) that the 2014 midterm election is the most important of our lifetime. This will lead some to fevered and worried anticipation, others to involvement, and others to apathy.

9)   Dr. Russell Moore will continue to grow in influence among those trying to apply the gospel of the Kingdom to current culture. His winsome voice will help younger evangelicals think through difficult moral and ethical issues and key institutional leaders will continue to seek his advice on evaluating and making policy.

10)  Some will continue to wring their hands at the decline of the Church’s influence and power while quietly, the gospel will advance in cities around the world. A burgeoning gospel-centered movement to church plant in the worlds’ biggest population centers will slowly transform whole neighborhoods, boroughs, and even whole cities.   Small town pastors will continue their faithful gospel work. And Jesus’ promise to build His church will continue unabated by other factors.

11)   People will continue to demand content in a variety of platforms. Reading of online content on smart phones and iPads will increase. The desire for magazine-style journalism on digital devices will increase. And the consuming of e-books will level off but not drop off as readers appreciate the complimentary nature of both digital and analog.

12)   Smart, young, conservative evangelicals will continue to quietly make their mark in leading cultural and political institutions. Christian colleges and seminaries will keep churning out committed, well-read, world-shapers eager to contribute to human flourishing in their generation.

13)   The color of the Church as we know it will continue to change. The embrace of intentional racial diversity by the evangelical church, rapidly changing North American demographics, and changing attitudes about race will continue to bring Sunday gatherings closer to John’s vision of the Kingdom in Revelation 9.

14)   Bloggers will continue to blog about Mark Driscoll, even if there is nothing left to talk about. No explanation needed here, really.

15)   The prolife movement will continue to make gains, both in public attitudes, in state-by-state legislative remedies, and in the heroic work of countless crisis pregnancy centers around the world. The outrage of abortion on demand will continue to prick the American conscience.

16)   Dr. Russell Moore will continue to mock me for calling Diet Pepsi “pop” instead of coke. And I’ll continue to stand out as a Midwesterner among southern gentleman here in Nashville.

17)   Tim Keller will continue to churn more awesome books than I  have time to read.

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