Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abortion: To Deny What They Knew To Be True

Check out this video from South Dakota's Vote Yes For Life Campaign for Initiative 11. Pretty powerful stuff...

Also notice who else endorses initiative 11. Roe from Roe v. Wade.

And Doe from Doe v. Bolton

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama: Pro-Choice, Anti-Abortion, or Anti-Life?

I don't like to comment on politics...but this is important, so I am;) Everyone voting in the upcoming election and with an opinion regarding the "abortion debate" really should read this article, "Obama's Abortion Extremism", by Robert P. George. He earned a law degree and a theology degree from Harvard, and a doctorate from Oxford. He is currently the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and as the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He also serves on The President's Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

George lists the case for his claim that, "Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress," in the following points.
1. Senator Obama has, "promised to seek repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which has for many years protected pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest."

2. Senator Obama has promised, “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. ( FOCA)" This makes abortion a federally guaranteed right through all nine months of pregancy for any reason. Virtually every state and federal limitation on abortion that is currently on the books would be abolished (e.g., parental consent and notification laws for minors).

3. Senator Obama opposes the ban on the heinous practice of partial-birth abortion and strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the ban.

4. Senator Obama wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need.

5. Senator Obama refused to support the pro-life Democrats' “95-10” legislation (designed to reduce the number of abortions by 95% in 10 years by strengthening the social safety net for poor women). This would not have made abortion illegal; it would seek to reduce abortion.

6. Senator Obama, "opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability." The bill contained a specific provision that ensured that the bill would not affect abortion laws (Obama and his campaign misled/lied about this fact until it was proven in the records [A co-worker of mine pulled together this fact sheet]).

7. Senator Obama has co-sponsored a bill authorizing the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. It would require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning, and would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.

8. Senator Obama was one of the few senators to oppose a bill that would have put a modest amount of federal money into research that would develop methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos. "From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable. . . . Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives? It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos."

George then ends the article by writing that, "in the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies."

What do you think of all of this?

[HT: Justin Taylor]

Are You Narcissistic?

I have been reading 1 & 2 Samuel, and books about 1 & 2 Samuel, for a while in the mornings and this morning I was finishing up the overview sermon Mark Dever wrote about 1 Samuel in The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. To my shame sometimes I don't read the questions at the end of chapters in books, because sometimes it feels like I am being spoon fed. In my pride I don't realize how arrogant that is. I have the tendency to think, "why do I need their questions, I can think deeply about this on my own." How arrogant! Anyhow, I was reading the questions for reflection at the end of the chapter The Message of 1 Samuel: Faith in Faithless Times and there was a wonderful and very convicting question. Here it is:
"8. As Christians, we do not believe that narcissism is simply a 'psychiatric disorder,' as many might define it. It's sin. It's pride. Still, the American Psychiatric Association's definition of 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder' provides an apt profile of Saul as well as a good checklist for examining our own hearts! A person is 'narcissistic,' so they say, when he or she has 'a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.' More specifically, a narcissistic person displays some of the following qualities:
• A grandiose sense of self-importance: you tend to exaggerate achievements and talents; you expect to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.

• A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love: really, you feel like you deserve these things.

• An opinion of oneself as 'special' or unique: you tend to feel understood by - or prefer associating with - other special or high-status people.

• Desirous of admiration from others.

• A sense of entitlement: you expect people (parents, spouses, employers, restaurant servers, anyone behind a counter) to grant you special treatment, or to automatically comply with your desires and expectations.

• Interpersonally exploitive: you quietly and subtly take advantage of others for your own ends.

• A lack of empathy: you are unwilling to recognize or identify yourself with the feelings and needs of others.

• Feelings of envy: you tend to be envious of others, and you like to think they are envious of you.

• Arrogance: you are often haughty in your behaviors or attitudes.

How would you feel about handing this list to two of your closest friends and asking them to evaluate you?"
[Mark footnotes that this list came from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (Washington D. C.: APA, 2000), 717.]

I wasn't expecting it, but this was really pretty convicting to meditate on. I better start reading the questions at the end of chapters more often!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Battle of the Raccoon River

Lindsey and I have often talked about how we either didn’t pay attention at all during school (k-12) or some of our teachers didn’t teach us very well. We have especially felt this way in the subject of history. Lately I have been doing a little research about the religious history of Iowa and as I was flipping through the pages in Benjamin F. Gue’s four volumes of the History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century published in 1903 something caught my eye. I have never seen or heard this before. And trust me…no one told me this story because I grew up almost on the banks of the Raccoon River and I would have remembered this one!

First, A little History
Chapter IX of Volume I starts out describing the Pottawattamie (also known as Pouks by the French) Native Americans. Pottawattami means “makers of fire”. In 1804 the United States acquired land from the Sacs (also known as Sauks) and Foxes for the sum of $2,000 a year, which included much of Iowa. Black Hawk, the chief of the Sacs, never recognized this acquisition.

On August 24, 1816 the United States yielded a portion of these lands to the Pottawattamies, Ottawas and Chippeways in exchange for their lands on the west shore of Lake Michigan, which included the site of Chicago. After the United States yielded this land to them they then repurchased it in two treaties: first on September 20, 1828 and second on July 29, 1829. In the second treaty the Native Americans were to be paid $16,000 a year forever, for a small portion of the lands originally purchased from the Sacs and Foxes. In response to this Chief Black Hawk said, “If a small portion of our lands are worth $16,000 per [year], how was it that more than 50,000,000 of acres were sold for the insignificant sum of $2,000 per year?” Gue writes that this question could never be satisfactorily answered. Gue then describes how the Pottawattamies ended up living on the eastern shores of the Missouri River. Then on June 5, 1846 the United States made a treaty with the Pottawattamies in which they exchanged their Iowa lands for a reservation, which was thirty miles square within the limits of Kansas, and they moved there.

The earliest explorers of the Northwest recognized three powerful Native American nations in the Mississippi Valley in the 16th century: (1) The Pottawattamies, (2) The Dakotas who were the most powerful and populous of the nations. This nation spanned from Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, more than half of Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, all of Kansas and Nebraska, the greater part of Minnesota, to the north half of Wisconsin. The Sioux Native Americans belonged to the Dakota nation. (3) The Mahas or Omahas. The Oc-to-ta-toes or Octoes were a small offshoot of them that lived in western Iowa close to the Missouri River. Their hunting grounds extended from near Council Bluffs to the Des Moines River.

Hostile Relations
Gue describes the relational situation between the United States and the Sioux saying, “They were always more or less hostile to the Americans and only restrained from open hostilities by the wholesome fear of troops stationed in the frontier forts. They were also deadly enemies of the Sac and Fox nation."

This brings us to the events of 1841.
“A party of the Sioux surprised a hunting camp of twenty-four Delawares on the Raccoon River, killing all but one of them. The Delawares, led by their Chief, Neowa-ge [Neowage], made a heroic fight against overwhelming numbers, killing twenty-six of their enemies, four of whom fell beneath the terrible blows of the Delaware chief... One [Delaware] escaped to carry the tidings to their Sac and Fox friends, who were camped on the east bank of the Des Moines River, near where the State House now stands. Pashepaho [Pashepao], [their] chief, who was then eighty years of age, mounted his pony and, selecting five hundred of his bravest warriors, started in pursuit of the Sioux. He followed the trail from where the bodies of the Delawares lay unburied, for more than a hundred miles up the valley of the Raccoon River, where the Sioux were overtaken. Raising their fierce war cry and led by their old chieftain, the Sacs and Foxes charged on the enemy’s camp. The battle was one of the bloodiest ever fought on Iowa soil. [The combatants were mortal enemies.] Hand to hand [they] fought with a desperation never surpassed in [Native American] warfare. The Sioux were fighting for life and their assailants to revenge the slaughter of their friends. The conflict lasted for many hours. The defeat of the Sioux was overwhelming [even though they won]. More than three hundred of their dead were left on the field of battle. The Sacs and the Foxes lost, but [only] seven [of them were] killed.”
This is a combination of accounts from the following works:

Gue, Benjamin F. History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Volume I: The Pioneer Period (New York City: The Century History Company, 1903), p. 104; & Maclean, Paul History of Carroll County Iowa A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement Volume I (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 7-8.

Confirmation By Aftermath
In Paul Maclean’s History of Carroll County Iowa A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement Volume I he provides a few more details about what was left over a few years after the battle and a few more details of the battle.
“The settlers in the central part of the county found along the east bank of Crescent Lake (later called Swan Lake, now extinct) many signs to indicate that it must have been at one time the scene of a bloody and disastrous [Native American] battle. Human skulls and bones could be picked up at an early day, and the prairie around was strewn with implements of Indian warfare. Among these were several rusty muskets of a primitive type and thousands of flint darts and other weapons common among the [Native Americans]. There were, however, no signs to tell anything of the battle or the combatants, but this debris indicated that it could not have taken place a great many years before. Several ingenious theories have been advanced by way of accounting for a battle to fit the field and circumstances. It is probable, however, that the shore of Crescent Lake was the scene of a reckoning between the Sacs and Foxes and the Sioux.”

He further wrote the same account that I quoted above from the History of Iowa book by Gue. After recounting the battle Maclean then writes:
“The accounts of this battle do not locate it, but so far as is known there were but three [terrible Native American] collisions in western Iowa. A terrible battle was fought near Twin Lakes, in Calhoun county, between the Pottawottamies and the Sioux. The same foes again met on the South Lizard in Webster county, where the event was also a tragic one and where the Sioux were the victors as they were also at Twin Lakes. These are the same Sioux who perpetrated the massacres at Spirit Lake and Okoboji fifteen or twenty years later. The relics of the battle at Crescent Lake were so numerous and important as to indicate beyond probable doubt that that was the scene of the third of the three great [Native American] battles of western Iowa.”

Maclean, Paul History of Carroll County Iowa A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement Volume I (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 7-8.

So here are a few questions… Why didn’t we ever talk about the three great Native American battles in Iowa? Growing up playing down by the Raccoon River why hadn’t I ever heard of the great battle of the Raccoon River? I looked for arrowheads as it was…and I know that the main part of the battle was way up the river, but man I would have been down there looking for them more intensely if I knew events like this happened. Since we have lived in Washington, DC I have definitely grown in appreciation of history. This is mainly because we are able to go see all the actual locations of events such as George Washington’s home, the Whitehouse, I’ve been to Gettysburg and Vicksburg battlefields, and many other historical sites. I know that if I had known more of the history of where I lived I would have been more engaged. That’s all speculation though;)

Anyhow, if you have read all of this I hope you have picked up a bit more of a desire to learn about the local history of where you live. The next time I'm in Iowa I'm definitely going to head to the Raccoon River and ponder some of the events that took place along its banks.

What Sacraments are Designed to Secure

Sometimes folks make the sacraments (the Lord's Supper and Baptism) out to be completely objective and in the process squash much of what they portray when practiced in the local church. Some make the sacraments out to be completely subjective and end up removing the foundation that they have in the Word of God pointing primarily to the truth of the gospel. G. C. Berkouwer's book Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments has a helpful clarifying paragraph about this. What do you think about the sacraments? What in your mind do they depict or represent? I hope to post a few more quotes and comments about the sacraments in the future.
"The efficacy of the sacraments has often been misinterpreted, either by objectivizing them, or by making them dependent upon the subject. The mystery of the sacrament can be understood, however, only if both of these concepts are rejected. For God's acting differs from the objectivity of things in this world, and faith is something other than a subjective disposition which can be investigated as to its presence or absence. That is why Calvin can write that, apart from faith, the sacrament is nothing but a certain ruin for the Church. This is no subjectivizing of the sacrament, but a reference to the mystery of the sacrament, which can be understood only in the way of belief, and which in that way displays its full power. Those who expect more from the efficacy of the sacrament do not understand that thus they do not esteem the sacrament more highly, nor do they really strive after more reality, for this striving must alienate them from the one reality that the sacraments are designed to secure: the reality of salvation."

Berkouwer, G. C. Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 89.

What a great phrase: "Those who expect more from the efficacy of the sacrament do not understand that thus they do not esteem the sacrament more highly." If we import more into the sacrament than what Scripture would have us then we destroy the usefulness of the sacraments and as he quoted Calvin, "apart from faith, the sacrament is nothing but a certain ruin for the Church." With these "means of grace" we have to be very careful, because sentimentalism and a misunderstanding of their use and effect can supplant the sole efficacy of Christ's work on the cross to redeem sinners. It is as if we mistook a painting of the countryside to actually be the countryside. This doesn't mean that the countryside isn't real, or that the painting doesn't import an aesthetic experiential effect. It's just that the countryside is much more beautiful than the painting (for example...imagine the movement, the breeze, the smell, the sounds vs. the echo of the hall of an art gallery). How much more beautiful are the events of Christ's death and resurrection than the sacraments which depict them?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sexual Sin is Hate

Here is a helpful way to fight sexual sin and lust. If you haven't checked out the audio or video from the Sex and the Supremacy of Christ conference you really should (just click on the title of the conference and you can check it all out for free). David Powlison's talk was really helpful in showing how to get a little more understanding about how these sins work. Here's a quick quote from the book that was written as a result of the conference Sex and the Supremacy of Christ:
"The way Jesus loves is the diametric opposite from how sexual sin works. Whether flagrant or atmospheric, whether physical or imaginary, sexual sin is hate. It misuses people. Jesus' love treasures and serves our sexual purity. We misuse God's gift of sexuality when we do not treasure and serve the sexual purity of others. We degrade ourselves and degrade others. As Jesus starts to rearrange how you treat people, you are becoming a qualitatively different kind of person...

First, you learn to see and treat all people in wise, constructive ways. In principle, for the Christian, every person of the opposite sex fits into one of three categories: either family member, or spouse, or threat. (Every person of the same sex fits into one of two categories: either family member or threat.) "Family member" is the controlling category. In general we are to view and treat people as beloved sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandmothers and grandfathers. The lines are clear: anything that sexualizes familial relationships is wrong. True affection and fierce protection go hand in hand. The notion of incestuous sexuality is abhorrent before God. In marriage, one sister, Nan, becomes my wife, and I become her husband. All our sexuality belongs rightly and freely to each other. The notion of treacherous sexuality - infidelity - is abhorrent before God. A third group of people falls into the category of threat. Males and females who prove unfamilial in their intentions are threats. Again, the lines are clear: nothing sexualized, so flee seduction, whether in person or in imagination. The notion of an invitation to immoral sexuality is abhorrent before God. Love is radically free to be fiercely faithful."

Powlison, David Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken [From Sex and the Supremacy of Christ] (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 103.

How do you think about the opposite sex?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

First Baptist Marydel [Marydel, MD]

Here's a picture of First Baptist Marydel's church building.

For those of you that prayed for me on such short notice...thank you! I trust that my sermon went well, praise God. That said I still have a lot to learn about preaching. It was excellent preaching on the "Parables of the Kingdom" from Matthew 13. Trying to get all seven parables into a sermon was challenging, but it was wonderful. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the parables in Matthew 13 here's the breakdown and an idea of the structure I was going for.

I. The Unexpected Teaching: 2 Ways to Live in Parables
(1) The Parable of the Sower: Main parable acting as a lense in order to understand the following six. "2 kingdoms (kingdom of God & kingdom of man) or 2 ways to live in four kinds of soil" Also, God's Word is active seeking those people to save.
(2) The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: Jesus making the point that His kingdom is spiritual, not political despite what the people were expecting.

(3) The Parable of the Mustard Seed: "God's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and God's weakness is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25)."

(4) The Parable of the Leaven: Similar point to the Parable of the Mustard Seed. God's rule & reign is all consuming penetrating the entire life of the citizens of the kingdom. Also, the kingdom of God seemingly starts small & through weak means (e.g. Israel, Jesus coming as a baby, God using a moon worshipper in Abram, murderer in Moses, David, a persecutor of Christians in Paul, etc.)

II. The Unexpected Cost of the Kingdom
(5) The Parable of the Hidden Treasure in the Field: The citizens of the kingdom willingly & joyfully give up everything for it. A picture of repentance.

(6) The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Same point as the last one.

III. The Unexpected Judgment Depending on the Kingdom You are in
(7) The Parable of the Dragnet: Ultimately which of the 2 kingdoms one is in will determine how God judges. This is very similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares. Just because the kingdom has not been fully consummated now (despite their expectations of what the messiah would do) it doesn't mean that it will always be that way.

[Note: The last two points should not have been unexpected if the people were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures]

Thank you for praying, it was a joy to prepare and a blessing to visit First Baptist Marydel. By the way, "Ma" hosted a wonderful brunch!

Here is a picture of Pastor Bob Phillips & me.

[UPDATE: Here is a recording of my sermon, The Unexpected Parables of the Kingdom: Matthew 13.]