Wednesday, September 20, 2006

John Piper letter republished

I've long stopped wondering why doctors work so hard to save babies when our country works so hard to get rid of them. Everytime WORLD magazine publishes an article reporting on abortion clinicians who have been accused of killing a baby due to a botched abortion or unintended delivery, I wonder what makes these "healthcare providers" harm these little babies?
I realize the answer is sin, but somedays that answer just doesn't seem adequate enough. I want to get in their face and shout at them to open their eyes to their own wicked hearts. Kinda like what God sometimes has to do to me. Gulp.
Anyways I've posted this letter from Piper's website that he wrote over 10 years ago as a response to a newspaper article.

Open Letter to the Star Tribune
By John Piper January 1, 1995

Dear Editor,

Are you aware of the fact that the same day the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the unconditional permission to terminate the lives of 24-week-old fetuses, the neonatology unit at Abbot Northwestern was caring for a 22-and-a-half week-old (500 gram) preemie with good chances of healthy life?

Now that is news and calls for profound reflection. Instead, your lead editorial the morning after (Feb. 26) glossed over this critical issue and endorsed abortion because it is "one of the most personal decisions a woman can make" and because "the abortion decision is undeniably sensitive." This level of reflection is unworthy of major editorials in good newspapers.

I assume you mean by "personal decision" not: having deep personal implications; but: having deep personal implications for only one person, the mother.

But abortion is emphatically not a "personal" decision in that limited sense. There is another person, namely, the unborn child. If you deny this, you must give an account of what that little preemie is at Abbot Northwestern. Abortion is a decision about competing human rights: the right not to be pregnant and the right not to be killed.

I assume you approve of the Committee's action. But I also assume you would not approve of the mother's right to strangle the preemie at Abbot before its 25th week of life. If so you owe your readers an explanation of your simple endorsement of abortion because it is "personal" and "sensitive".

In fact I challenge you to publish two photographs side by side: one of this "child" outside the womb and another of a "fetus" inside the womb both at 23 or 24 weeks, with a caption that says something like: "We at the Star Tribune regard the termination of the preemie as manslaughter and the termination of the fetus as the personal choice of the mother."

I have read in your pages how you disdain the use of pictures because abortion is too complex for simplistic solutions. But I also remember how you approved the possible televising of an execution as one of the most effective ways of turning the heart of America against capital punishment (a similarly complex issue).

We both know that if America watched repeated termination of 23-week-old fetuses on television (or saw the procedure truthfully documented in your paper), the sentiment of our society would profoundly change. (The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimated over 9,000 abortions after 21 weeks in 1987.)

Words fail to describe the barbarity of an unconditional right to take the life of a human being as fully developed as 23 weeks. You could never successfully defend it in the public presence of the act itself.

You can do so only in the moral fog of phrases like: Abortion must be left to the woman because it is "undeniably sensitive". This is not compelling. There are many sensitive situations where the state prescribes limits for how we express our feelings where others are concerned. And there is another concerned. If you are willing, you may meet this "other person" face to face in dozens of hospitals around the country.

Sincerely yours,

John Piper


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Having God's Perspective

I found this link via Tim Challies blog and knew immediately that this should be posted here as well. My words are inadequate so here's the link.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Doing God's Work God's Way

Catching up on some of my reading, I came across some concepts from Amy Carmichael's life that struck me as extraordinary. Her mission work started in her hometown in Northern Ireland amongst the mill girls, who were disparagingly referred to as "shawlies". (These girls wore shawls instead of hats, which were more "respectable"). She writes about the expanding work:
From this time on, the work for the mill-girls grew and grew till we needed a hall that would seat 500; just then we saw an advertisement in The Christian. An iron hall could be put up for 500 pounds and it would seat 500 people.
When I was about ten or eleven I was asked to collect money for the Birds' Nest, Dublin, and as I happened to be staying with my grandmother I took the collecting card to her various friends in Portaferry and asked them to help. There was one who had just built a new house for himself. He refused to give anything.
Perhaps it was the repulse of that refusal that set me thinking: Why not ask God to make those who love Him want to help the little children whom He loves, instead of asking for help from those who perhaps don't love Him?
Later on many thoughts came, and in the end I settled that it is enough to ask our Father only, for the money for his work. I had no thought then, no faintest dream of what He was going to do in answer to prayer like that.

Amy then goes on to tell how God used a Christian friend of her mother's to provide the funds and Amy herself after much prayer approached a mill owner about purchasing part of his land. Everything was provided for and her hall was built and given the name "The Welcome". Looking only to the Lord for her finances and provisions was the method Amy carried with her into all her future work.
Looking around her at the various church groups using fundraising for their projects brought these words:
We must have money. We can't build spires ninety feet without it, we can't decorate our churches with elegant windows without it, we can't issue costly programmes for our social meetings without it, we can't furnish our sanctuaries with real polished mahogany without it...How are we to get it? You may touchingly plead for the 865,000,000 heathen abroad. You may paint a picture terrible and true of the state of the home heathen at our doors. You may work yourself into hysterics over these and other intensely real realitiies but you won't get the money. So another plan must be devised. We shall get up a fancy fair.

Next she writes about an advertisement in the local paper about one such fair put on by a local church and the theatricals involved.
Continuing in a light hearted manner she says:
Let us fancy for a moment we are a band of Israelites who want to build a magnificent abode for the Mighty Presence to dwell in. We convene a committee...Moses says, stroking his beard meditatively, "Ah the people's tastes must be considered, in the present state of society we cannot do otherwise, though of course it is not a desirable course to pursue."
"But brother,"remarks Aaron, "the Tabernacle must really have decent curtains, and if they are to be of goat's hair they will cost quite a large sum of money and then they must be embroidered..." Then Bezaleel speaks: "You speak, my brethern, as if nothing but the curtains should be considered, but there is a great amount of carving in wood and cutting in stones to be thought of and various curious things to be devised out of gold and silver and brass. These too will cost money." There is a silence. Moses looks puzzled when in a very hesitating voice Aholiab says, "Have we not, Bezaleel, got both time and talent to devote to this work? Could we not spend and be spent in the service of the sanctuary?" But he is quite squashed by the head-shakings of the committee. Such a thing would never do. "What would become of our families if we worked for nothing? Really Aholiab should be ashamed of himself--such an idea!" etc.etc. Suddenly Moses' face brightens. "Just what I remarked at first," he says pleasantly, "In the present state of society we must conform a little to the world. We'll have a Bazaar!"

Isn't it a pretty picture--far superior to: "And they came both men and women as many as were willing-hearted and brought bracelets and earrings and tablets and jewels of gold and every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the Lord." Three things we may notice:
1st as many as were willing-hearted
2nd brought their own possessions
3rd unto the Lord.
Is the work for which we want the money God's chosen work for us, or our chosen work for Him? If the former, will not He see after the money necessary? If the latter, then how can we expect anything better than we have?

In her biography of Amy's life, A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot concludes this part of Amy's work by adding:
These principles, discovered when Amy was alone with her Bible and her God, written down only for the small circle of readers of Scraps were never laid aside. Years later their influence was felt by thousands.

Looking for people to help her in work with the mill girls was another issue that Miss Carmichael was determined to be different.
Frank Houghton writes this in his book, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur:
What was required in one who was to take part in this work? As Amy studied the book of Ezra the question was answered. At that time others beside the Lord's people offered to help in building His house, but their offers were refused. Even though refusal caused offence, and in fact delayed the completion of the work, the Jewish leaders held firmly to the principle that none but the Lord's people could share in the task (Ezra 4).

Amy's words continue:
It is the word of 1 Corinthians 3. 11-15 again. Do we want to build in substance that will abide the test of fire? Then let us see to it that the builders are those whose hearts are set on building in gold, silver and precious stones. This was what was taught to us then.
You will not find it difficult to see the bearing this has on all that was 'before ordained' to be. What I want you to notice specially is the great kindness of our Lord. He led me into this truth at the very beginning and He has kept it as a settled thing in my heart ever since. Nothing that I have told you made for a superior attitude as some said it would. It was just the opposite. It had and it has a very humbling influence.

Houghton writes about the outcome of such a strange practice:
And as she waited, refusing to accept kindly offers of help from any who were not utterly one with her in her desire for the salvation of the mill-girls, a band of loyal friends was given, including older Christian women as well as Amy's contemporaries.

I'm not advocating a certain financial policy of missions and ministries. I just wanted to highlight Amy's reliance on the Lord for all her needs. Lessons to be learned here for sure.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Mother's Heart

I've posted about the book A Mother's Heart by Jean Fleming before, but I this time I want to post her thoughts that I have written down, read and reread countless times now. This is not just another book on mothering. For me this is, next to the Bible, the most helpful book on being a godly mother that I have yet to read. In one of the early chapters entitled A Vision for the Task this is what she says:
Mothering can seem an isolated occupation unrelated to anything beyond the immediate needs of the family, but there is no more natural way for a mother to influence her world for Christ than through her own children. We will touch few lives with more intensity than the children God has placed in our homes. The implications are awesome.
Time devoted to our children should not be spent marking time, but as an investment in one of our greatest ministry opportunities. Although our children should not be the focus of our lives, if we neglect them to pursue other opportunities we may one day find we lacked a biblical vision of mothering.

"Marking time" is what Jean Fleming calls it. I certainly am guilty of doing just that. Entertaining my son while looking at the clock wondering how much longer until I can do what I want. Providing filler activities to pass the time until dinner and bathtime. If you, like me, feel convicted in this area, just wait, it might get worse.
If you think you would do a better job if you had a "real ministry", one that people would recognize and want to learn from you, listen to her talk about a women missionary.
Several years ago, I heard a dedicated missionary share what she would do differently if she could start raising her family again. This woman was committed to Christ and his cause and she spent her life serving others--so the depth and quality of her life made me sit up and listen when she shared. She said she would stay home more, be kinder to her children, and feed them spiritually.
Not what we would expect is it?
Fleming went on to recount:
Even knowing she would spend almost all of her married life as a missionary in Asia, this woman said she would have postponed full-time language study--which took her away from her children during their preschool years--until she could do it without being gone from her children.

Her response to this missionary's revelation is, I think, the key paragraph to this book.
I too am jealous for the influence I have at this crucial period in my child's life to teach him what is good, to enrich his life with beauty, to train him in obedience and respect, to stimulate his eager intellect, to encourage his attempts to try new things, and to play with him. I want to enjoy these years that happen only once and are soon gone forever.

Once the full import of this way of thinking sets in, the question no longer is, "What will we do all day?". The question becomes, "How on earth will I ever get all this done in such a short time?".
Ending the next chapter, What Values Are Really Important?, Mrs. Fleming writes:
I must constantly remind myself that though the visible, tangible world is so insistent and clamorous in its demands, I must not let it badger me into spending my life unwisely... I must take the long view. I must choose to do those things that will give satisfaction as I view my life as a whole, rather than measure satisfaction at the end of each day.
She then quotes this poem to strengthen her insight.
Time is of the Essence
by Irene Foster

Now is the time to get things done...
Wade in the water,
Sit in the sun,
Squish my toes in the mud by the door
Explore the world with a boy just four.

Now is the time to study books,
How a cloud looks,
To ponder "up,"
Where God sleeps nights,
Why mosquitoes take such big bites.

Later there'll be time
To sew and clean
Paint the hall
That soft new green,
To make new drapes, refinish the floor,
Later on...
When he's not just four.

A tender reminder of how important mothering is to our children.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Life Under the Sun: No More Mommy Wars

Michele writes about the problems with arguing about parenting styles in her post Life Under the Sun: No More Mommy Wars. Even if you're not a parent, you can still enjoy her thoughts.