Obama to roll back Bush policy on abortion

Attention to all you evangelicals who voted for Barack Obama. This was reported today by the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is moving to rescind a federal rule that reinforced protections for medical providers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on moral grounds, an official said Friday.

A Health and Human Services official said the administration will publish notice of its intentions early next week, and open a 30-day comment period for advocates, medical groups and the public. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official notice has not been completed.

The Bush administration instituted the rule in its last days, and it was quickly challenged in federal court by several states and medical organizations. As a candidate, President Barack Obama criticized the regulation and campaign aides promised that if elected, he would review it.

The rational behind the Obama move is that it could also hinder access to birth control, family planning services and counseling for vaccines and transfusions. If the Obama administration is really concerned about access to health services, it wouldn’t be pushing for nationalized health care. Rather, this is all about not only maintaining abortion services, but forcing others who would have moral objections to offer them as well.

Since the story notes that administration is looking for input from the public, we should do our part and ask them not to trample the rights of Americans who feel that abortion is murder.

The Man Comes Around: Johnny Cash and the Mars Hill series

As part of their Rebel’s Guide to Joy series, the folks at Mars Hill Church in Seattle put together this short bio of Johnny Cash. Today would have been his 77th birthday and it is good to remember a man on this day who saw the fallenness of his own nature and came to Christ.
Click on the image to see the bio of Johnny Cash
Click on the image to see the bio of Johnny Cash

We are all terrorists before God

“… After the blast, there’s this inferno of fire moving from the rear to the front.  And so this terrorist rolls out of the car waking up from the incredible heat and he starts to roll away. I’m just thinking to myself, there’s enough time for me to save this guy’s life but other thoughts are coming like what if he has a pistol, or he’s got a knife or he somehow tries to wrestle me and I don’t make it? I’m not going to risk my life for my enemy so I just decided to watch him die. The car bomb erupts and the blast rips him apart and after the dust settles I jump off my tank and I sprint over to where his body is and I see crimson just filling the sand. …”

In yet another powerful video from I Am Second, Chris Plekenpol describes how God can exist amidst terror and war and how his experiences in Iraq helped him see that we are all like terrorists before God.

Click on the image to view the video of Chris Plenkenpol as he describes his experience in Iraq.
Click on the image to view the video of Chris Plekenpol as he describes his experience in Iraq.

You’re not OK: God’s love is conditional yet unconditional

David Powlinson, in his booklet “God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional,” examines what people are intending when they talk about God’s “unconditional love” for them and how they may be not getting it right:

We can do better. Saying “God’s love is unconditional love” is a bit like saying “The sun’s light at high noon is a flashlight in a blackout.” Come again? A dim bulb sustains certain analogies to the sun. Unconditional love does sustain certain analogies to God’s love. But why not start with the blazing sun rather than the flashlight? When you look closely, God’s love is very different from “unconditional positive regard,” the seedbed of contemporary notions of unconditional love. God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.

. . . You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus.

If you’re still not convinced, consider a recent post where John Piper examines specific scriptures that point to how there are conditions God has set before us. Consider:

Matthew 25:46 — And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Romans 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

Romans 8:28 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

John 14:21 — Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

But also consider what aspects of God are really unconditional. That is, his electing love:

Ephesians 1:4-5 — even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will

Acts 13:48 — And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

The danger we need to guard against is having too high a regard of ourselves and too low a regard for God. If we are “OK” we don’t need a savior, and that’s just not the case.

HT: Justin Taylor

Being second is a good thing, just ask Jason Castro

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to help at a youth retreat that our two children attended with other kids from our church’s youth group. Like most events involving teens and preteens, there was a lot of activity, food, laughter and little sleep.

But the important part of the weekend, the meat in the sandwich, were a series of lessons we did together about how to put Jesus Christ first in our lives. Now, these are church kids and youth group kids, so this is a message that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to them. But, they’re just like us adults in that a simple message can often get confused when you’re living in the everyday world of U.S. culture.

So, it was very helpful when our youth pastor, Mat Ingram, went over passages like the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 or how we will reap what we sow as it talks about in Galatians 6. It was good to sit there knowing all these kids were hearing these things without the distractions of everyday, normal teen life bearing in on them.

Along with the messages, we would also watch testimonies from various people called “I am second.” The idea was that instead of striving to be the most important person in their lives, these people had seen the light and made Jesus No. 1 in their life. It was good for these kids — all of us, really — to see that everything this world has to offer is never going to be as satisfying as what Christ has to offer us.

Here is what Jason Castro, of American Idol fame, had to say about being second to Jesus Christ:

Lots of people in life have their ideas of what’s real and what’s not and sometimes they think faith isn’t real and I feel bad for them. But there were times on the show when I wouldn’t laugh at a joke and they were like, “Are you really that religious?” And I would tell them, “I just don’t think it’s that funny. I don’t think it’s right or something to laugh about it.” It is a challenge to stand up for what’s right, especially when it’s not cool, but being cool is overrated. Cool is a joke, cool is a perception and I don’t think it’s real. What is real? God is real, God is cool. I wish more people knew the real God and how cool it really is. Just imagine something bigger than you like your dad when you were a kid, you just want to know about him, and he can do so many things you can’t, and there’s something very cool about that.

Click on the image to see video of Jason Casto explaining why he is second.
Click on the image to see video of Jason Castro explaining why he is second.

And there are more great testimonies of the way God does great things for humble people, including Darrell Waltrip, Brian Welch (formerly with Korn), Greg Ellis and Stephen Baldwin.

The Pursuit of God in Corporate Worship: questions and answers

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.” Psalms 42:1-4

What does worship as the Body of Christ mean to you? What does it mean to God? Is He indifferent? Pastor John Piper, in a seminar from September 2008 at The Bethlehem Institute, explores some of these questions and more.

Click on the image to view the video
Click on the image to view the video

Christopher Hitchens acknowledges the supernatural

At least, in a way. This, from Lawrence Osborne in Forbes.com:

But later that night, three of our “scoop” brigade–Jonathan Foreman, Michael Totten and Christopher Hitchens–got involved in a street brawl with some thugs of a Syria-loving skinhead party called the SSNP after Hitchens rather gallantly insulted their swastika flag. On our way to a meeting with Minister of State Nassib Lahoud, Hitchens showed me the gashed knuckles and bruises suffered during the punch up. The attackers had apparently come out of nowhere on posh Hamra Street, where they had gone to buy shoes. “I was on the ground,” Hitchens said, “and getting it in the head.” It was a miracle they didn’t pull Kalashnikovs.

As James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web speculates about the author of “God Is Not Great”:  If Osborne’s account is accurate, God intervened to save the hide (though presumably not the soul) of a professional atheist. The Lord does work in mysterious ways. Maybe he just figures there’s no such thing as bad publicity.