Fort Worth Locals for Life Rally—September 23

Perhaps you have seen the recent Planned Parenthood expose videos and they made you sick. Perhaps you have received a devastating diagnosis about your unborn child and struggled with your doctor’s recommendation to abort. Perhaps you have listened to the political rhetoric about abortion and walked away unsatisfied. Have you ever wanted to do something to support the pro-life cause but didn’t know how? If that is you, then don’t miss a unique opportunity in Fort Worth, TX on September 23.

The Locals for Life Rally will be held on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:00 p.m. Locals for Life was started by a group of ladies that wanted to do something to promote life in light of the growing controversy over the Planned Parenthood videos. These ladies envision a place where pro-life advocates can gather and see all the various local ministries and organizations that work in the pro-life arena. They also want a chance for Christians to pray for these ministries. Finally, they want to provide a point of contact for those who desire to volunteer and support these ministries.

The evening will consist of a time of prayer, testimonies, and encouragement. Some of the speakers include Anthony Moore, pastor of The Village Church Fort Worth; Konni Burton, Texas State Senator from District 10; and Matt Krause, Texas House of Representatives from District 93. There will also be testimonies from real people who made tough decisions for life in the face of very difficult circumstances.

Check out their website at www.localsforliferally.org and follow their updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fwlocalsforlife. If you want to get involved or donate to support the rally, visit the website and click the “Contact Us” link.

Guest Post: 3 Back-to-School Prayers for Your Children

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

I don’t know where I first heard it, but I have always loved the saying, “Having happy children is good, but a parent’s real job is to mold great adults.” It is with this thought running through my mind that I make my list of prayer requests for my children this school year. Yes, I would love for my children to ace all of their classes, always have someone to sit with at lunch, and received all of the best awards at the end of school. However, would the ease of a typical, great year truly build strong character and emotional endurance? Yes, it would be easy, but muscles are not built by a life of ease. In the same way, my overarching prayer for my children this year is that their spiritual, emotional, and academic muscles will grow stronger and their endurance through instruction and personal relationships will grow deeper and wider. Specifically, these are the three ways I will pray for my children during the 2015-2016 school year.

1. I pray they will grow in their love of God and learn to trust Him more.

My two oldest daughters are believers, and I pray this year they will grow in knowledge of their Savior. I wish this was as easy to measure as their physical growth, but, this year, I will look for opportunities to gauge where they are in their walk with Christ. I pray they see him move in ways they have not experienced before. I know that this cannot always be done with sunny skies and cool breezes. I pray when the hard days come for my children, I can help them turn to Christ for comfort or direction. For my younger children, who are not to the age where they are aware of their need for a Savior, I pray that they will see the Lord more in me. If they are going to be drawn more to Christ, I must be drawn to Christ as well.

2. I pray they will continue to grasp the command of Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

As they do their math homework, as they do their chores, as they help a sibling, I want them to grow in their understanding of God-focused work. The sin tendency within us automatically gravitates towards laziness, but I pray we will learn to counter-act that tendency with a heart towards working for the Lord in whatever we find ourselves doing. In the same vein, the second part of the verse is equally important. Many tasks are attached to immediate rewards, either personal or social. A child does his school work in hopes of a good grade. She completes chores with the expectation of an allowance. He practices an instrument to impress the instructor. Earthly rewards are not bad for children, and in some instances they help spur them on to work harder. However, the insatiable desire to please their Savior and honor Him with a good work ethic is important over a lifetime. Therefore, my prayer this year is that my children may simply grow in their understanding of what it means to “work as unto the Lord.”

3. I pray my children will have opportunities to learn to love well.

At school, there are many different personalities. Each instructor, each peer will have good days and bad days. I pray that my children will flex their love and compassion muscles to show grace to those around them. Honestly, this does not come easily for all my kids, but to love those around us is a way we can point people to Christ in a very tangible way. There is always a reason to be kind and I pray that this year will bring many opportunities for them to do so.

Family Balancing: A New Trend in the Fertility Industry

One of the jobs I held in college was working for a fertilizer and weed control company. It was a family-owned small business with probably 8–10 employees. We met at the owner’s house around 7:00 a.m. to get our trucks and supplies and hit the road to make people’s yards look beautiful. The owner had six daughters who ranged in age from about 2 to 17 at the time. I once asked him what it was like to be the only man in a house with 7 women. His response was classic: “I get to hire all the sons I want and then fire them when I get tired of them.” Even though his response was in jest, it made me work a little harder on the job.

My former boss and other families like his would have been prime candidates for a procedure highlighted in today’s Wall Street Journal—family balancing. Sumathi Reddy reports:

About one out of five couples who come to HRC Fertility, a network of fertility clinics in Southern California, doesn’t need help getting pregnant. Instead, they come for what is called family balancing, or nonmedical sex selection. ‘They usually have one, two or three children of one gender’ and want their next child to be of the other sex, said Daniel Potter, medical director of HRC Fertility, which includes nine clinics.

The testing required to make such selection is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). PGD is most often used during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process to test for genetic diseases, but some clinics are now offering the testing in order for families to select the gender of their babies. Essentially, a woman can have IVF and request that the only embryos injected into her uterus be of a certain gender.

Interestingly, this practice of family balancing through PGD is only legal in a few countries, two of which are the U.S. and Mexico. There is also a difference of opinion among professional organizations on the ethical implications of the practice. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that fertility practices are under “no ethical obligation to provide or refuse to provide nonmedically indicated methods of sex selection.” However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the practice.

As with many aspects of the fertility industry, little thought has been given to the ethical ramifications of such practices. Let us consider two related to sex selection.

First, preferential sex selection for “family balancing” opens the door to eugenics.

The WSJ article notes, “Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine, said family balancing can become a smoke screen for families who want boys. ‘When you are treating the fertile in order to produce something that they prefer as opposed to a disease, I do think you’re really opening the door to a potential slope toward eugenics,’ Dr. Caplan said.”

My family would fall into the category of unbalanced. We have three girls and one boy. We know of other families with even greater imbalance. However, the gift of life is so precious that gender should not matter. I would not trade any one of my girls for another boy even if it meant we had achieved more balance.

Much like the result of the one-child policy in China, sex selection through PGD could end up producing an imbalance in genders for a generation or more. While the article describes the practice of balancing both genders in a family, at least one of the fertility clinics mentioned places no restrictions on sex selection even for the first child. If couples prefer one gender over another, they could select never to have any children of a particular gender.

The practice of eugenics has a long and ugly history (as I noted in a post a few years ago). The net result of American eugenics programs was those deemed undesirable by society were eliminated. What if girls are deemed undesirable because they are weaker? What if boys are deemed undesirable because they are troublesome? The use of preferential sex selection allows families to operate their own small-scale eugenics program.

Second, preferential sex selection for “family balancing” results in the destruction of unwanted children.

In order for PGD-based sex selection to work, IVF must be employed. The IVF process results in multiple fertilized eggs that develop into embryos. Those embryos are then genetically tested for gender and only those of the selected gender would be injected into the uterus. The remaining embryos could be frozen or discarded. If the purpose of sex selection is to provide “balance” to an already “unbalanced” family, then the embryos that do not match the preferred gender would most likely be discarded. In effect, this is the elimination of human life.

Even when they are not discarded, frozen embryo storage has become an ethical dilemma. Most estimates put the number of frozen embryos in the U.S. at over 600,000, although it is uncertain anyone knows the real number. Storage of frozen embryos costs roughly $500–1,000 per year. Many embryos are stored indefinitely or discarded when the responsible party no longer desires to keep them in storage or fails to pay the storage fees.

Since life begins at conception, these unwanted or frozen embryos are children who deserve a chance to live. However, the number of frozen and discarded embryos increases each year, resulting in the destruction of children who are “unwanted.” This is a tragedy that must be addressed. While some have promoted embryo adoption, the better option is probably to reevaluate the whole fertility industry that results in this tragedy.

The saddest line from the article came from the medical director of a fertility clinic in New York. The WSJ reports, “Joel Batzofin, medical director of New York Fertility Services in Manhattan, said about 20% of its patients come for sex selection. Nearly a third of them come from abroad. ‘If people want to avail themselves of the technology, why not?’ Dr. Batzofin said. ‘They’re not hurting anyone. They’re paying for it. [The American Society for Reproductive Medicine] thinks that it’s OK.’”

Technology without a moral compass is dangerous. In the case of “family balancing,” it appears we have crossed the moral line.

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Sumathi Reddy, “Fertility Clinics Let You Select Your Baby’s Sex,” The Wall Street Journal, 18 August 2015.

Leadership Lessons from Bush 41

The 1988 presidential election cycle is the first one I truly remember. Yes, I was alive during President Reagan’s successful bids for the White House in 1980 and 1984, but I was only 2 and 6 years old, respectively. I have memories of President Bush’s vow where he said, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Although I have studied some aspects of presidential politics back to the days of Washington, my experiential knowledge essentially starts with Bush 41 (except for a memory in fourth grade when my class at school sent a letter to President Reagan asking about his favorite Bible verse—as I recall, it was John 3:16).

I just finished reading 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. It was a fascinating book with an abundance of insights into the life of George H. W. Bush, much of which could only have been told by his eldest son. In fact, I often caught myself verbalizing the words in my head in the younger President’s signature Texas drawl.

The book is full of personal stories about the Bush family. There are glimpses into difficult decisions to pass up opportunities of privilege in order to work his way to the top. Parts of the book are very emotional as the reader gets a picture of what it is like to win and lose on the political stage.

As I read the book, I was struck by some of the insightful lessons on leadership demonstrated in the life of George Bush. These are lessons that are beneficial no matter what your political persuasion may be.

1. Add a personal touch. I was amazed by the constant references to personal, handwritten notes from the desk of the President. At various times throughout the book, the details of a story came from the notes that President Bush had written to others. The recipients of these notes included family, friends, allies, and political enemies.

No one really writes notes any more. We usually say that we are too busy to do so. But how much busier are we today than the President of the United States. Yes, Mr. Bush was in office nearly 30 years ago, but he served during the end of the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, and countless other crises in those four years. Yet, he still found time to write personal notes to friends and enemies alike.

Perhaps sending handwritten notes and letters is a relic of previous generations, but I think it is something we should revive. When I receive the occasional note from individuals whom I admire and trust, my spirits are lifted and my loyalty is strengthened. Such a note lets the recipient know he is valued.

2. Treat others with respect. Very few people will ever have the opportunity to develop as many allies and enemies as the President. One of the funniest lines in the book came when George W. Bush recounted his own decision to run for President. He writes, “When reporters would ask how my father would affect the race, I joked that I had inherited half of his friends and all of his enemies” (p. 262). Bush 43 then goes on to state that his father actually had very few enemies. The reason for such seems to be that he treated everyone with respect.

Bush’s career was characterized by difficult relationships. He served as chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal. He wrote a personal letter to President Nixon suggesting that he resign for the good of the country. At the beginning of his term in the White House, he inherited a tense situation with the Soviet Union. Part of that tension was managing his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev. In the midst of the political upheaval in 1989, Bush chose not to celebrate the demise of communism publicly, but instead authored a handwritten letter to Gorbachev proposing a summit. Many now credit President Bush for his work in orchestrating a peaceful end to the Cold War.

One of the most interesting relationships discussed in the book is the one between Bush and President Bill Clinton. Clinton unseated Bush in the 1992 presidential election, but the outgoing President sought to make his successor’s transition as smooth as possible, even leaving a letter of encouragement for him on the desk of the Oval Office. The Bushes welcomed the Clintons to the White House in January of 1993 and then transitioned to private life. However, George W. Bush would later call on the two former Presidents to work together on fundraising for disaster relief following the tsunami in Asia and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike in the United States. These two political rivals formed an enduring friendship through their work together. Bush 43 writes:

The friendship they formed through their shared service has endured. Bill Clinton visits my parents regularly in Maine. Over time, it became clear that Clinton treated Dad as a sort of father figure, perhaps because Clinton never knew his father. Mother took to calling Clinton her long-lost fifth son—or, as Marvin put it, “a brother from another mother.” Clinton embraced the image and started calling himself the black sheep of the Bush family. He joked that Barbara Bush would do anything to claim another President in the family. (p. 271)

The tendencies I see in leaders today is too often self-promotion at the expense of others. Gone are the days of treating everyone—including your enemies—with respect. In fact, I have witnessed some leaders treat allies so poorly that they become enemies. In an age of self-promotion, respect is a forgotten virtue. Perhaps that is because treating others with respect has a tendency to downplay one’s own accomplishments and importance. True leaders, however, know that relationships are more important than self-promotion.

3. Be willing to serve. The history of the Bush family is one of service, long before George Bush ever ran for political office. The generations that preceded him had served their communities and country. George Bush wanted to do the same. He was a pilot in World War II, escaping what would have been an untimely death after being shot down over the Pacific Ocean. He served as a Congressman from Texas, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, Liaison Officer to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President, and President of the United States.

In several instances, Bush was asked to leave a comfortable role in order to do something difficult. While serving in China in 1975, Bush received a telegram from President Gerald Ford asking him to leave China and become director of the CIA. The CIA was under investigation by Congress for illegal activity under multiple administrations. The position required approval by the Senate and also had the potential to remove him from future considerations to run for higher political office. However, Bush was determined to serve where he was most needed and accepted the post at the CIA.

Political expediency and personal gain are often the goals of service today. Many “leaders” want to take positions that stand to benefit them the most. What Bush demonstrated was a willingness to serve in roles that benefited those around him the most, even if they included the possibility of derailing his own aspirations. Such selflessness is the epitome of service. Taking positions for personal gain isn’t truly service of others—it is self-serving. We should aspire to be leaders who are selfless.

There are many other great lessons to be learned in this profile of Bush 41. His story is one of great triumph, occasional defeat, and spectacular service. While George H. W. Bush may not go down in history as one of the most popular Presidents of all time, he has certainly left a legacy of a selfless leader for others to emulate.

Christian Marriage in a Post-Christian Age

wedding rings“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14–16

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled. June 26, 2015, is a date to be remembered for generations. According to the majority opinion of the Court, the Fourteenth Amendment provides a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. And according to Chief Justice Roberts’ dissenting opinion, the majority has also paved the way for polygamous and polyamorous marriage. So what are we to do now? How are Christians to live in a post-Christian age?

There is much to be said about the SCOTUS decision, but I will save that for another day. Right now I want to offer a positive spin on the future of Christian marriage in a post-Christian age.

I am fully convinced that by the time my children are old enough to marry, the status of marriage in the United States will be completely different than when my wife and I married over 12 years ago. This will create a number of challenges for us as parents and as Christians, but these are challenges that we can and should take on with confidence.

Here are a few thoughts about what Christians should do regarding marriage in a post-Christian society.

  1. Teach what the Bible says about marriage.

The foundational passage of Scripture about marriage is Genesis 2. In fact, when Jesus and Paul taught about marriage, they both referred back to the creation narrative to make their case. Genesis 2:24 reads, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” There are a few key points that we see in this verse that are also affirmed in the New Testament.

  • Marriage is created by God to be monogamous. When we see the divine commentary on the first marriage in Genesis 2, we see the original model for marriage—“a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife.” When Scripture speaks of marriage, it speaks in terms of monogamy. Yes, polygamous marriage was a reality in the Old Testament, and a number of the early patriarchs participated in such marriages. However, in each case, polygamy led to very difficult marital circumstances. Jealousy, backbiting, and ridicule were the norm in these relationships. If you fast forward to the New Testament, Jesus and Paul both affirm the monogamous nature of marriage and appeal to the creation narrative in order to do so (see Matthew 19:1–12, 1 Corinthians 7:1–40, and Ephesians 5:22–33).
  • Marriage is created by God to be heterosexual. Before God instituted the first marriage, he had a choice. He had only created the man, and he declared that it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Thus, God decided to make a woman and bring them together in marriage. Thus, the first marriage was intentionally heterosexual in nature according to God’s design. Jesus affirms this directly in Matthew 19:4–6a when he says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Jesus declared that marriage was designed around the fact that God created male and female. This was the design of marriage in the garden of Eden. It was the design of marriage that Jesus upheld in his teaching. It is the design of marriage that we should teach.
  • Marriage is created by God to be permanent. The Supreme Court did nothing specific to undermine this aspect of marriage, but we have already been undermining it as a culture and the church for decades. In Genesis 2:24, we see that a man and his wife will join one another. The old KJV uses the term “cleave.” The idea is simple. The man and woman join together and become one. This is more than a partnership or contractual relationship. They become a single unit. After quoting Genesis 2:24, Jesus then gives a brief explanation of the verse. He says, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Notice the last phrase of the verse. We are not to separate what God has joined together. In a culture that celebrates individuality and recommends divorce when life gets difficult, we need to teach the permanency of marriage.
  1. Model biblical marriage in the church and culture.

Marriage is not a random social arrangement. It has clear public goods, such as ensuring that children have the right to be reared in the home of their biological mother and father. It is also the most effective and efficient way to move the next generation from helpless infants to productive members of society. But more than that, marriage is one of the clearest illustrations of the gospel that we have. It illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5, Paul quotes the foundational marriage verse of Genesis 2:24 and then states, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). This is all part of his lengthy description of the relationship between a husband and wife. Thus, he declares that God’s design for marriage even in the garden of Eden was to point us to how he relates to his people.

Therefore, we should take the instructions of Ephesians 5 very seriously. Husband, love your wife as Christ loves the church. Care for her. Protect her. Sacrifice your own interests for her good. Wife, submit to your husband as to the Lord. Follow him. Respect him.

Even in the church, we have undermined biblical marriage by making light of the model that God created. We should not quickly jump to divorce as the answer to difficulty. We should not mock or ridicule our spouses for a cheap laugh. Instead, honor and cherish each other—just as our vows promised. If we follow the biblical model of marriage, our marriages will be different. They will be as a city set on hill giving a public witness to the world of the power of Christ in our lives and our marriages.

  1. Instill in our children the importance of biblical marriage.

For many of us, we have a historic understanding of marriage that will most likely not be impacted that much by the changes wrought by the Supreme Court decision. However, our children will grow up in a culture that will be inundated with unbiblical models of marriage. Already we are beginning to see commercials, children’s literature, and school curriculum seeking to normalize same-sex marriage, cohabitation, plural marriage, and divorce. There is no way to shield them from seeing these things, so we must learn how to counter them.

First, we need to model marriage in our homes. Make sure that your children see how you interact with your spouse in a godly way. Demonstrate the truths of Ephesians 5 right in front of them. Second, talk about biblical marriage with your children. I don’t ever recall having long conversations with my parents about God’s design for marriage, but it is not because my parents ignored the issue. They didn’t need to explain it to me. I saw it all around me—in our home, in our church, and in my school. That will not be the case for my children. We must talk about marriage as a key doctrine at all times in the model of Deuteronomy 6:7. Third, we must encourage our children to marry when the time comes. I recognize that some of our children will be called to singleness (1 Corinthians 7:8), but most of them (from a historical standpoint) will not. However, many in the next generation may see marriage as a pointless, cultural relic by the time they are old enough to get married. We must encourage marriage as God’s model for joining together in intimacy and rearing future generations. Without such encouragement, even Christian young people may give up on marriage.

So what should we do in light of the Supreme Court ruling? While we could start wringing our hands and fretting about what the future may hold, I believe we should instead redouble our efforts to live out the biblical model of marriage in a watching world. Trust me, the world is watching, and they will want to know why our marriages are different if we truly model the biblical pattern.