A TED Talk That Raises More Questions Than It Answers

In this five minute TED talk, commentator David Brooks provides some penetrating insights into the human condition. The contemplative listener will rightly respond to Brooks’s talk by asking, “Well, how does that happen?! How do I experience that salvation? Where does that forgiveness come from? I am powerless to wrestle with my sins and win! O, who will deliver me from this body of death?!”

There’s only one answer. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give it.

Watch his short TED talk now.

Life Theology

Roe v. Wade and the Ultrasound of Our Second Baby

January 22 was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As Joe Carter at TGC writes, “To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Center for Reproductive Rights released a creepy video in which actor Mehcad Brooks attempts to humorously sexualize and anthromorphize the abortion-on-demand law.”

January 22 was also the day that my wife and I went to see an ultrasound of our second child. (I’m proud to say that our baby is a girl—our second.) It was surreal to think we are celebrating the life of a little girl, one we get to see through the common grace of modern technology, on the same day others are celebrating the slaughter of millions of little girls and little boys.

Today, our daughter is just over nineteen weeks old. Did you know that according to the latest statistics, 1.8% of abortions kill babies that are between 18-19 weeks? That is almost 22,000 people.

That’s 22,000 people who have their heart beating about 155 beats per minute.

That’s 22,000 people who have a 3 cm-long femur.

That’s 22,000 people who have two fully-functioning kidneys.

That’s 22,000 people who start to grow hair.

That’s 22,000 people who can taste, see, smell, and touch.

That’s 22,000 people who can hear their mommy talk and sing.

That’s 22,000 people who have the ability to suck their thumb, cross their legs, and push back when the ultrasound tech presses in.

Of course, there are nearly 1.21 million total babies each year—3,700 each day—in the United States who are killed. The majority (nearly 90% of babies), however, never get the privilege to develop this far. This right is stolen from them. If we remember anything from our childhood days, it should not be so, for “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

In light of that, consider these four simple arguments from Scott Klusendorf that prove true Dr. Seuss’s wisdom. You can remember these arguments with the acronym S.L.E.D.

Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more human than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve more rights. Size doesn’t equal value.

Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than the adults they’ll one day become. But again, why is this relevant? Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? Some people say that self-awareness makes one human. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. Six-week old infants lack the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, and those with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable.

Degree of Dependency: If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.

When the day is done, abortion is killing babies. Not tissue or cells. Babies. They will not turn out to be anything else. They will not be birthed as trucks or frogs or trees or laptops or dogs. They are human. Babies.

This is terribly bad news. But there is good news. Don’t you long for some good news? The good news of the gospel is that God saves sinners. Everyone is a sinner—including those who have had abortions, supported abortions, and made creepy abortion videos. Also hear me say, this includes Christians who have been unmerciful and even nasty toward those who have aborted babies. This also includes me, the Christian blog writer, who needs Jesus more than you can imagine! The gospel is the good news that Jesus lived the kind of life we should have lived, in perfect obedience to God, died on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins, and rose from the grave as proof that God accepted his payment. This is for everyone. All who come to Jesus receive hope, forgiveness, healing, and new life. All who cry out for mercy and grace will be heard.

They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

Save us, O Lord our God!

(Psalm 106:37-47)


Fig Trees, Moving Mountains, and Forgiveness

After a long walk on a hot day, Jesus was hungry and wanted a snack. He walked up to a fig tree that was starting to sprout green leaves even though it wasn’t the season for figs. He immediately curses the tree: Woe to you, figs! (speculation, of course). The disciples hear the curse and probably wonder if Jesus woke up on the wrong side of his rock that day (see Mark 11:12-14).

Well, Jesus wasn’t in a bad mood and he didn’t wake up on the wrong side of anything. This curse was an object lesson for the disciples—immature, hardheaded, impressionable men who so often failed to get it. Immediately after the fig tree incident Jesus and the disciples enter the temple and Jesus starts to “clear out” the temple (Mark 11:15-19). That means he got fired up, tipped over tables, threw coins on the ground, and told the hypocrites who did not truly love God to leave God’s building.

So immediately after cursing the fig tree, Jesus enters the temple to curse the Jews, essentially saying, “I don’t want your lip service and legalism.” How does this connect to the poor, inanimate tree? The reference of the fig tree implicated Israel, who was often referred to as a fruitless fig tree by God (see Jer. 8:13; Hos. 9:10; et al.) Israel often appeared righteous (remember the green leaves?), but was actually wicked and dead. Not much had changed by Jesus’s day, and, in prophetic fashion, he exposes their idolatry again.

In Mark 11:20-25, Jesus fully explains why he cursed the tree. By cursing the tree (and clearing the temple), Jesus teaches the disciples that they are to do whatever is necessary to remove obstacles to fruit in their lives. The point was, “Have faith in God,” then he added that faith will throw mountains into the sea. “Moving mountains” is a hyperbolic expression and was historically used for what seemed impossible to accomplish (Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10). Faith in Christ overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles (cf. 1 John 5:4). The implicit point also is that faith is in God. It does not take much faith to move a “mountain”—faith only the size of a mustard seed, actually (Matt. 17:20). Therefore, it’s not the amount of faith that matters, but the object of faith. Jesus then tells the disciples the oft-quoted popular line, “Whatever you ask in prayer,  believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus is not giving an un-qualified promise for a certain kind of “prayer of faith.” He simply says, “If there is something that is standing in the way of you bearing fruit in the Christian life, pray that it will be removed and God will do it for you.” Sin, suffering, or whatever. When we seek to desire more of Christ, and we pray for it, God will do it. Maybe not immediately or the way we imagine, but he will do it.

At his conclusion (Mark 11:25), Jesus points out one major hindrance to producing fruit at: lack of forgiveness. When we pray for obstacles to be removed, but we are unforgiving toward someone, there will be no victory over our obstacles. An unforgiving heart is the greatest obstacle to bearing fruit because it shows that we truly do not understand the gospel. When we fail to forgive, we assault God’s character, grace, and sovereign work. Being habitually and resolutely unforgiving may actually prove that we have not actually experienced God’s grace at all. On the other hand, an evidence (fruit!) of God’s gracious saving activity in our lives is that we forgive others just as God in Christ forgave us (Col. 3:13).

Here are some penetrating questions to make this applicable for today:

  1. What obstacles must I overcome to bear fruit?
  2. Where am I not truly believing the gospel, focusing on Jesus as the object of my faith, and thus failing to move these “mountains”?
  3. Am I resorting toward coldhearted legalism or I am delighting in God as my supreme Treasure and letting my actions/fruit flow from that?
  4. Am I actively praying for fruit that comes out of a new identity and a true love for Jesus (see John 14:15)?
  5. Is there anyone in my life that I have not forgiven?
  6. Am I truly resting in the forgiveness I have in Christ so that I am free to quickly, sincerely, and lavishly forgive others?

Jesus, the Lamb of God Who Never Went Astray

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. (Psalm 119:176)

This verse ends the longest chapter in the Bible.  Psalm 119 is all about God’s word and the psalmist’s desire to follow it. Often he makes bold statements, as he does in verse 176, petitioning God to “seek his servant” because he “does not forget God’s commandments.”

If you read the whole chapter, however, you will notice that this is rooted in repeated requests from the psalmist for God to teach, open eyes, give mercy, give understanding, and be gracious. Our “remembrance” of God’s commands is rooted in one thing: God sovereignly and generously granting it. Thankfully, God does grant it to some.

This psalm looks forward to the Messiah, because the ability to remember God’s word and rejoice in it “like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162) was ultimately purchased by Jesus, the great treasure (Matt. 13:44) and the perfect Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He is not just God’s servant like the psalmist; he is the Suffering Servant who took the iniquity of the sheep who have gone astray (Isa. 53:6), and he becomes our Good Shepherd and gives life to God’s flock (John 10:10). He does not simply “not forget” God’s commandments, he is the only one who has perfectly communicated God’s word, being, and character to the world (John 1:1-5; 14:5; 15:15; 17:8, 14; Heb. 1:1-3).

If you want to know, remember, and rejoice in God’s word, you must know Jesus, and all of your failures to do what God demands must be cast upon him. Run, silly sheep, and embrace your Good Shepherd.

Life Theology

Passion Week – Monday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Luke 22:24-30:

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

As I read this passage, my own pride rushes to the surface of my heart.  It’s plainly exposed.  And you know what?  It’s ugly.  Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you become as the  youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  Do I do that?  Am I that?  Most days, I am not.  I crave applause and recognition.  I want people to know my name and face. I want people to read my blog and visit my Twitter.  I want people to be impressed with what I know or how I present myself.  I want people to like me. But, it’s not just addiction to acceptance, as psychologists might put it.  Most fundamentally, it’s idolatry.  I idolize myself instead of worship God.

Jesus ends the disciples’ dispute in our passage by saying that the Father has given him a kingdom, and Jesus is giving that kingdom to his disciples so they may “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.”  Jesus is bringing them in, not so that they can be the king, but so that they can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. We, by grace, get to be participants. It’s all about Jesus.  Not me.

Father in Heaven, forgive me.  Help me be humble. Pride is a damning thing, and if I want to be great, I need to be the least. Let me be a servant in your kingdom; help me be like you.