where were you?

8 years ago today, I was getting ready to go to my racquetball class during my second year at Bethel College. It was early in the morning and I was watching the news (as usual).

I left for the short walk to the courts. After about thirty minutes of playing our coach called us together to tell us that he just had a phone call saying that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. He led us in prayer together, then dismissed us.

I rushed back to the apartment on campus where my roommates and I lived and flipped the TV back on. The reporters were nervously speculating about how it was possible for a plane to crash into the WTC.

Then, I watched as a second plane crashed into the towers.

As everyone who was watching at that moment knows, it is very hard to describe the feelings being felt at that time. Suffice to say, there was no more speculation. Everyone knew that this was no freak accident.

I continued to watch, sickeningly, as the towers collapsed one by one. Then came the phone calls from family and friends to check in and process.

I am thankful that no more attacks have happened in these 8 years. I’m thankful for the men and women who sacrifice to keep us safe. God is merciful.

So, where were you?

frozen embryos: awaiting demise or continued life

Al Mohler takes a look at what he calls the “disposition decision” in regard to frozen embryos:

For those whose progeny are now frozen in fertility clinics, the “disposition decision” will eventually have to be made. The decision about the eventual disposition of these human embryos will reveal what these couples truly believe about human dignity and the sanctity of human life. On the larger landscape, the pattern of these decisions and the policies adopted by medical practitioners will reveal the soul of our culture as well.

Mohler discusses just some of the many complications surrounding frozen embryos:

Advances in IVF technology now project the potential that frozen embryos could be successfully transferred into a womb years or even decades after fertilization. For the first time in human history, this allows for a form of generational confusion human beings have never encountered before. Quite literally, an embryo from a genetic ancestor generation could potentially be transferred into a womb and gestate, thus being born after the generation of what would be considered his or her grandchildren.

Mohler reports that patients fall all across the board when asked to rank the moral status of their frozen embryos from minimum moral status to maximum moral status. Some view the embryos as a back-up plan should anything happen to the children they currently have.

According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility, very few patients are willing to have their embryos adopted.

And then there are those very few patients on the other end who are willing to give their embryos for scientific research.

Mohler says:

A significant number of patients are deciding to “thaw” their embryos and allow their demise. Hauntingly, Merrill writes of some patients and couples who understand clearly enough that these embryos are of some moral significance, and some patients express a desire for some ceremony to accompany the demise of their embryonic progeny.

For the vast majority of patients, the current decision is to make no decision at all. This condition will not last, for the reproductive technology industry faces logistical, moral, financial, and technological limitations to the indefinite storage of what may even now be more than a million human embryos that are never to be transferred into wombs.

This issue is challenging me to think of ways in which the Christian community can work to save these small embryos.  The very beginning of life is frozen in labs all over the USA.  Many are being thawed and discarded.  Do we care?  What will we do to change it?

an ipod for a Bible: yea or nay?

Tim Challies (with whom I often agree) wrote this article, “Don’t Take Your iPod to Church.”  

I’m having a hard time agreeing with his reasoning.  

He asserts that,

“the method we use to convey information is inseparable from the content of that information. And even more so, every medium carries with it both content but also a worldview. When we read the Bible electronically, we read the very same words, but in a way that influences us toward a different worldview, a different way of understanding the reality of those words.”

So, to recap, he is saying that reading the Bible electronically influences our worldview and even influences the way we interpret or understand the Bible.  

He sums it all up with this: 

“So where does this leave us?  It leaves us wondering what ideological bias, what predisposition, is carried in the book and in the electronic book.  It causes us to wonder what skill or attitude is amplified in the book and what skill or attitude is amplified in the iPod.”

As much as I love real books, (meaning printed-with-ink, pages-bound-together books) I just can’t agree with him.  At least not yet.  He promises to follow-up this article with another one next week offering (I hope) more logical and foundational reasons as to why the printed Bible is better than the e-Bible.**

The point of the Bible is the message it provides.  Not the medium by which the message is given.  Is the Bible less powerful in oral form?  Does it’s worldview change when read from a scroll?  

The power of the message of the Bible, cannot be in anyway subdued or watered down by the medium it is presented in.  It is the very power of God.  Printed ink on pages holds the precious message, as do spoken words, as do pixels on a screen, as do tablets of stone.  

Confusing preference and worldview is a bit dangerous.  The assertion that medium guides and influences worldview I could swallow if it were in regard to anything other than the Bible.  But the Bible contains God Himself, the glorious Gospel.  

It is a message that cannot be bound by medium.  No, it cannot even be influenced by medium.  If it is the unadulterated message and Word of God, medium is of no consequence.  That is the beauty and power of the Word.  

The worldview of the hearer is already in place when he is using an iPod to read God’s Word.  As is the worldview of the person reading it in ink.  

The medium doesn’t shape the worldview, it is an indicator of it.  

And the power of the Word of God reaches through that medium to radically transform both the worldview of the one reading pixels and the one reading ink.  Whether I read it on a screen or a page these words contain the same persuasive swaying power, “God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

So, as much as I love Challies’ blog, I’ll go ahead and say it: bring your ipod to church and let the Word of God in pixels transform your iPod-loving worldview.  And bring your printed bible to church and let the Word of God in ink transform your ink-loving worldview.  

The Word of God has the power to shape and change our worldview and will not be influenced by or secondary to pixels or paper or preferences.

**I am looking forward to hearing his next article on the topic.  I went ahead and responded to this first one because I had some foundational disagreements.  But I’m willing to listen and be open to his forthcoming arguments for the negatives of an ipod Bible in church.  I could agree that the ipod Bible might be distracting and would entertain not using it for that reason, but that isn’t the premise he’s working with.

What say you?  Do you read the Bible on your ipod or blackberry?  Do you think doing this has influenced your worldview in “understanding of the reality of those words”?

abortion: complex or painstakingly simple?

Our President recently said at his address to the graduating class at Notre Dame,

“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.  

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies.  Let’s make adoption more available.  Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term.”

So let me get this straight.

We’re agreeing that the decision to abort a baby is not one to be made casually.  Why not?  And is a decision that has moral and spiritual dimensions.  What would those be?  I’d really really like to know what the President thinks the moral and spiritual dimensions of abortion are.  

Is part of the “moral dimension” that a woman is making a decision to kill?  Is it that a doctor is complicit and profiting from this decision to kill?  

And is the “spiritual dimension” that an eternal soul is being put to death?  And that there’s no one standing in the gap for this eternal being, created in the image of God?

If there’s nothing wrong with abortion, then why make it rare?  Why not have one casually?

As President Obama acknowledges the “moral and spiritual dimensions” of abortion and asks us to work at making it rare, pro-lifers can take heart.  In his desire to be all things to all voters, he is conceding important ground in the abortion “conversation.” (I really hate don’t like that term.  When it’s babies dying, having a “conversation” is not exactly high on my priority list, but rather, saving babies.  I digress).

After all, there’s nothing conversational or civil or calm or reasoned when a baby is killed.  It’s violent.  It’s brutal.  It’s painful.  It’s very very ugly. 

The new (or old and re-used) M.O. of abortion advocates or “pr0-choicers” as they prefer to be called, is to throw out words like, “complex” or “complicated” when describing the situation surrounding a woman choosing abortion.  As though trying to navigate a difficult (abusive even) relationship with a boyfriend or figuring out career and college and baby make killing understandable and “complex.”

Yes, real life is always complex.  Situations are always multi-faceted.  Abuse is real.  Relationships are hard.  And killing a baby is still always evil.  

Often when discussing the Civil War, someone will throw out the assertion that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, it was about state’s rights.  As though it was just some crazy coincidence that all the states concerned about state’s rights were also the ones who wanted to keep their slaves.

I support state’s rights, but the truth is that the Southern states were using “state’s rights” as a cover for doing something so wicked and immoral that it dwarfed the issue they were covering it up with.  It couldn’t be covered up.  

Neither can abortion be covered up by saying it is complex or pointing to the sad stories of the women getting them.  The evil being perpetrated so dwarfs the difficult circumstance surrounding it to make it null.  And I fear for and pity those who so strongly advocate for the “rights” of these women.  I do not speak with winsome softness towards them.  To do that would be to dishonor those sacrificed on the hard altar of convenience.

The cop-out, “I call myself pro-life, but I’m not comfortable with making abortion illegal,” just doesn’t work for me.  Slavery didn’t end because of people saying, “I’m anti-slavery, but I’m just not comfortable making it illegal.  Let’s just work to make slavery rare.”

One day, history will look at pro-choicers with the same disdainful wonderment that it now gazes at those who fought for slavery.  And to them I say, it’s not too late to change your mind.  And I pray that you will.  For your own sake and the sake of those dying.

wit, humor and sarcasm: a resolution for my generation (and me)

The saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” is not my generation’s motto.  I think ours is more along the lines of, “If it’s not witty, funny or bitingly sarcastic, keep it to yourself.”

I’m not sure why we’re like this.  Perhaps it is because millennials (I think that’s my generation… I’m 27, so if anyone knows for sure, please inform me) have basically had coddled life-experiences.  I’m speaking generally here, not wanting to minimize anyone’s significant painful experiences.  But, on the whole, we are unfamiliar with the serious traumas that other generations have faced.

Whatever the reason, here is what I find to be true about my generation (and myself).  We want to be clever.  And if we can’t be clever, we’ll settle for some sarcasm and a laugh.  We avoid saying simple truths outright, because they don’t sound clever or original enough.

This is trouble where the Gospel is concerned.  For one, the Gospel is a simple truth: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  We don’t sound smart when we say this; we sound converted.  Two, we may be more concerned about getting a laugh from someone (the ultimate sign of respect for us, albeit perverted), than we are with sharing the Gospel with them.  And if they are a fellow Christian, this is all the more true.  Why bother talking about Christ?  We are all Christians anyway, let’s just have a laugh.

But here’s some good news for the humor-hungry generation. Life is full of unmanufactured humor. We cannot avoid it. Kids overflow with it. No matter what our station in life, humor will be there. We need not promote its cause to an idolotrous place.  There is a time for everything under the sun: a time to laugh and a time to cry.  We don’t need to be funny all the time. Humor comes even when we aren’t creating it.

So let’s let the simple admonition of the Bible be our resolution concerning our speech.  It’s not clever… but it is original.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

James 3:9 With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be so.

Col 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

1 Tim 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

The list could go on and on.  I need much work in this area.  I’m praying for a year of gracious speech in 2009.  Speech that isn’t afraid to be serious-minded and Gospel-centered.  And I’m sure I’ll have a few laughs along the way.

10 things I hope to emulate about my mom, on her birthday

Today is my mom’s birthday.  There are lots of things that I love about my mom.  Here are a few things about her that I hope to someday emulate:

1) She is generous and holds onto material things loosely.  More often than not, if you admire something she has, she will give it to you.  Even special, big things.

2) She adopts people, and not just for a season.  My mom included some of my friends like family when I was growing up.  Not that they were just allowed to tag along.  She loved(s) them (probably more than I did at times), and, even now, she holds them very closely in her heart, prays for them and misses them.  She does this with lots of people, more than just my friends.

3) She is feminine, yet very very capable when it comes to all things electronic, fixing things, yard work, handling a chainsaw, and just hard work in general.  

4) She handles large life-changes with determination and grace.  Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after 50 is a pretty big shock to the system, but she has persevered, throwing herself into the new lifestyle, and barely missed a beat.   

5) When she has guests over, she makes them feel like they are doing her a huge favor by being there.  As though, changing the sheets and making the food for them is a big honor for her.  

6) She is the best Nana I know, possibly the best the in the whole world.  She cares about and nurtures her grandkids’ spiritual development.  She babysits tirelessly.  She has a special and distinct relationship with each of her 12 grandkids.  They all feel very loved.  

7) She is in relationships for the long-haul and isn’t afraid of a messy one.  If you’re a hopelessly flawed person, my mom won’t be scared off, she’s in it for the duration.  She gives grace as she’s received it.  

8) She has the right perspective on things.  Things are meant to be used for a purpose.  If they break in the process, no sweat.  It means they were getting used.  She doesn’t protect her things, she protects people.

9) She has never apologized for being first and foremost the manager of her home.  She stayed home when we kids were growing up and she stays home now.  She understands the value in it.  

10) It is her glory to overlook an offense.  This probably happens much more than I know. 

Well, as I read through the list, I know it falls short.  But it is a glimpse of the things I see and hope to be.  And, if you know my mom, you know that, for her, talk is cheap.  So, while she will appreciate this list, she is a woman of action.  So, if I write the list with admiration, but don’t treat her well, it means little.  And she’s right.  That’s another thing I could add to my list. 

Happy Birthday, Mom.

bah humbug! 5 reasons I'm not a santa fan.

I admit it.  I’m not a santa-endorser.  He started as a nice thing and I like his history, but (I think) he’s morphed into an unhelpful distraction that has the potential to pervert the meaning of Christmas.  So, here’s 5 reasons not to “do” santa:

1) Presents from santa do not promote thankfulness (at least thankfulness to the correct person).  How do presents from santa fit into the understanding that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above” James 1:17, or the commandment to “Honor your father and mother,.”  who are, after all, the gift-givers.

2) Telling our kids to “believe in” santa may sound, in their ears, similarly to telling them to “believe in” God or His Son.  The similarity of language makes for some confusing distinctions.

3) Santa promotes getting, not giving, for children.  Children only ever receive from Santa, rather than from a family member, from whom they receive and give back to  in return.  

4) Kids seem to glom onto santa and presents at Christmas time, which makes it really hard to make the deep, perhaps more difficult to see, truths of the season come alive.  Santa gives them sweet treats that don’t satisfy, but dull their senses to the beauty of Christ.  

5) As my pastor says, santa is bad news for a sinner in need of a gracious savior.


As usual, here’s a disclaimer.  There are plenty of godly families who “do” santa and I respect them; they have grateful, sweet kids.  And there are those, who in self-righteousness (I’m praying I don’t fall into this category), believe that santa is just satan spelled wrong.  To those, I say, I’m all filled up on crazy here, you’ll have to go elsewhere 🙂