Why I Am (& Always Will Be) Pro-Life

10 week fetus

Here in Tennessee, abortion is once again the debate of the day. With Amendment One on the ballot today, the last few weeks have seen a dramatic spike in television ads, conversations, debates, and the return of the same old arguments both for and against abortion in general. I’ve heard the typical arguments: “God gives life. We must protect babies who cannot protect themselves. Abortion is murder.”  and, “It’s a woman’s body and it’s her right alone to choose how to deal with it. A child who will be neglected or unloved shouldn’t be brought into this world. If a woman is raped, it’s simply inhumane to expect her to carry a reminder of the horrific event.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. To both sides.

There are philosophical and rational reasons to be pro-life. I appreciate bio-ethicist Scott Klusendorf’s argument of simplifying the debate to one question: “What is the unborn?” It removes the religious element altogether and places the discussion on a philosophical level.

But in all of the level headed discussion that’s possible, this debate quickly digresses into emotional and experiential arguments. People tell me that I don’t know what it’s like to be in the position of being pregnant and being unable or unwilling to care for the child. I’ve never been raped and don’t know what I would do if I was in the position of dealing with the aftermath of both rape and pregnancy. And those people are right. My personal experience doesn’t lend me the opportunity to speak from that perspective.

However, my experience allows me to speak about abortion from a very different but still VERY personal perspective; some of my favorite people in this world were born out of the circumstances described above, and I refuse to believe my life would be better without them.

When I hear people say that babies who will be born to people who will neglect or abuse them should be aborted, I hear them say that this world would be a better place if my three sisters and several of my best friends weren’t here.

When I hear people say that babies who are the products of rape shouldn’t exist, I think of my ministry friend Ronnie Hill, and I think about the work that wouldn’t be done if his mom had decided to abort him after she was raped as a teen.

When I hear people say that women who aren’t ready to have babies are better off when they delay parenting until they’re in a better position to parent, I think of my friends and women I have counseled, who made that decision 15 or 20 years ago, and still weep with grief over the loss they never realized they would experience.

I’m sure that the suicide rate of people who grow up in abusive environments is higher than in those raised in better childhood situations, but if we’re going to argue for choice, shouldn’t that person have the choice to end their life rather than the choice be made for them?

I am well aware that my parents (and all foster parents) are the exception and not the rule to caring for kids, and I know that countless children do live horrific lives of abuse and neglect, with no known way of escape.

But I also know that there is love and care beyond the two people who gave birth to those children. As I mentioned above, there are three incredible women who are my sisters who had really crappy birth parents, people completely incapable of caring for them. And the only reason I have those three sisters is because their crappy, drug addicted, abusive, neglectful mothers didn’t have abortions when that would have been the easy and even understandable option.

So why am I pro-life? I could give you a theological explanation and spout a lot of Bible verses. I could lay out a debate full of philosophical laws and rhetorical devices. But today, I have friends and family who have spent weeks hearing tv ads and talking heads say that they shouldn’t be here, and I want to be pro-sisters. And pro-friends.

I want them to know that they are loved. And valued. And wanted. I want them to know that I am pro-them.



(top photo credit: http://imgarcade.com/1/human-fetus-at-12-weeks/)

Exodus Freedom Conference: The Reality of Grace

Last week’s Exodus International Freedom Conference was a HUGE blessing to all who attended! This year’s theme was “The Reality of Grace” and each speaker brought a message of that reality to those in attendance. God’s grace IS a reality in which we can rest, and it was such an encouraging reminder to me of His love and grace.

The workshop I presented with Salida Brooks was well received and encouraging to many. We spoke about the role of the church and the counseling community in the healing process of those who have suffered trauma.

Please continue to be in prayer for those who counsel and minister on the “front lines”. Pray that those seeking healing will find it in the Great Physician.

Several opportunities for further ministry with other groups around the nation were presented; please pray that God will open doors for unified work with other ministries.

During our workshop there were several excellent questions asked that we were only able to give very brief answers to due to time constraints, so over the next few days I will be addressing some of them at length.

If you have questions concerning ministry with people who struggle with overcoming past trauma or same-sex attraction (both were topics addressed in our workshop), please post them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.

Instruments, Part 6

The last two chapters of the book deal with the action aspect of change in the heart of the church as a whole. While the first three parts of the personal ministry—Love, know and speak—are vital to the confrontation of people in sin, this last aspect, the doing aspect, is the key to keeping one another in a healthy state of change. “Do” is the daily process not of achieving some sort of behavioral perfection, but rather, the process of learning daily how to fulfill the commandment to “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44) (239). The process of becoming instruments of change is not with a foreseeable end. As long as people are living and breathing on this planet, Tripp reminds the reader that change is possible and required. “Do trains people in the decisions, actions, relationships, and skills of Christ-centered, biblically informed living. We have a wonderful opportunity not only to teach people how to solve their problems biblically, but to turn their lives around for the long run” (243-244).

The appendices to the text of this book are full of valuable practical application information that will be vital to a successful ministry of helping others with biblical change. In the appendices, Tripp covers valuable topics, such as hindrances to the data gathering process, biblical explanations for the success of giving homework in biblical counseling, descriptions of the types of qualities a counselor should bring into the life of a counselee, and how each of these concepts fit into the overall process of counseling.

This is a solidly written book rich in biblical truths, but there is one main witness a reader should be aware of prior to reading the text. There are times when Tripp’s writing can digress into a long list of personal anecdote stories that occasionally feel as though they are filler words to meet a publisher’s page number requirement. Often, when making a point about a certain type of struggle, or in an attempt to show the universal effects of sin, he will include numerous life examples, either anonymous examples or personal examples. This issue by no means takes away from the quality of the writing as a whole, but for someone who is reading this as a more academic endeavor, entire paragraphs of applicatory examples from “real life” can begin to seem pointless and redundant.

While many books available on counseling today are geared specifically to the professionally trained counselor, Tripp remains true to his original goal of providing a way to instill change in the church as a whole. Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer is not a book full of technical jargon and psychological terms. Rather, it is an instruction manual for becoming an instrument of change in the lives of others that can be understood and appreciated by all members of the body of Christ, from the seasoned pastor to the young layperson. The strength of this writing is its readability and the effort Tripp shows to make the reader understand that this type of lifestyle is not only possible for all believers, but it is a Scriptural commandment for all believers.

Instruments, Part 5

Chapters Nine and Ten offer what is certainly the strongest accusation against the church today: “We tend to have permanently casual relationships that never grow into real intimacy. There are things we know about each other, but they fool us into thinking that we know the human being who live within the borders of those details” (163). The self-protecting anonymity of society has destroyed the concept of friendship to such a level that there are people with whom we interact on a daily basis but we have failed to grasp the intimate, spiritual details of their lives. Tripp implores the reader to consider this concept: “We must not let ourselves become comfortable with the casual, where ministry is limited to offering general principles that would fit anyone’s story. The genius of personal ministry is that it is personal…You cannot minister well to someone you do not know” (165).

To overcome this tendency to be fact-knowers instead of people-knowers, Tripp focuses specifically on the questions to ask and the key answers to look for in the process of getting to know a person and his struggles. Based on Hebrews 4:14-16, Tripp tells the reader that Christ is the greatest model for data gathering. Christ “was tempted in everyway, just as we are—yet without sin” 166). He is the one who has personally experienced any type of suffering that can be imagined—and he handled them all in sinless perfection. “For thirty-three years, he lived among us, gathering data about the nature of our experience” (167). Because of that experience, Christ has sympathy for the suffering of humanity. A sympathy, Tripp states, that all Christians are called to emulate in our relationships with one another.

Getting to know people can be a difficult process, and to aid the reader in this process, Tripp gives many practical examples of the types of questions that should be asked and the way those questions should be asked. Specifically, Tripp gives four principles for good questions:
1. Always ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
2. Ask a combination of survey and focused questions… Survey questions scan the various areas of a person’s life and look at the person as a whole… Focused questions look intensively into one area of a person’s life.
3. Remember that certain kinds of questions reveal certain kinds of information.
4. Ask a progressive line of questions, in which each question is based on information uncovered in the previous question (175-180).

Tripp concludes this section with a deeply challenging observation:
Asking good questions is vital to helping people face who they really are and what they are really doing… As sinners we all tend to recast our own history in self-serving ways… Because of this, we all need people who love us enough to ask, listen, and, having listened, to ask more. This is not being intrusive. This is helping blind people embrace their need for Christ (181).

Once a person has embraced a fellow sufferer in love and has listened with the ears and heart of Christ to the struggle in her life, Tripp states that there is a time to speak in response to the struggle. Instruments are meant to be receptors of confessions; we are called to respond, to admonish one other when the need arises. Confrontation and the speaking of truth can, at times, be the most difficult expression of love, but it is a commanded part of reaching people with the love of Christ. Tripp claims, rightly, that confrontation has become such a painful and uncomfortable subject because it is a part of the Christian life that has been all but forgotten in recent years.

This portion of instruction is based upon Leviticus 19: 15-18, which “discusses God’s intentions for this aspect of relationships and personal ministry” (200). According to Tripp, this passage describes confrontation not as an uncomfortable and unusual aspect of our relationships, but as a “constant conversation… where the daily intervention of honest rebuke is a regular part of all relationships” (205). At this point, Tripp reminds the reader that in order to be a proper minister of change in the lives of others requires a change and constant check-up concerning the condition of our own hearts. Confrontation cannot flow from a heart of anger or frustration or personal agenda. Confrontation brings someone face to face with the love and truth of God, and to be able to bring that to someone, the confronter cannot come with his own agenda in mind for the one being confronted.

Tripp tells the reader there are four steps to a biblical process of confrontation: Consideration, Confession, Commitment, and Change. While the first step to the process is the responsibility of the person who is confronting, Tripp emphasizes that true biblical change is ultimately the responsibility of the one being confronted, because the last three steps deal with the response to the speaking of truth by the one who is being confronted.

Instruments, Part 4

Chapters Seven and Eight deal with Tripp’s concept of Christian love and how followers of Christ should interact with one another in loving relationships. In order for the reader to become an instrument for the radical change needed in the hearts of people today, Tripp states it is necessary to consider the following point: “I am deeply persuaded that the foundation for people-transforming ministry is not sound theology; it is love” (117). Tripp does not discount sound theology. Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer is a writing full of sound explanations and applications of Scripture. But his point is expressed in an old Sunday school poster: “They don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” People need to know they are loved, and Tripp firmly states in this section that there is more to love than conditional lip service. People who truly want to be a light in the world around them must have a grasp on the unconditional, committed love of Christ.

Paul says, “You are recipients of Christ’s love and nothing can separate you from it.” This love offers hope to anyone willing to confess sin and cry out for transformation. Yet this is where we often get stuck. We want ministry that doesn’t demand love that is, well, so demanding! We don’t want to serve others in a way that requires so much personal sacrifice. We would prefer to lob hand grenades of truth into people’s lives rather than lay down our lives for them (118).

Tripp clearly lays out in these opening pages a call that will be difficult to accept for many. Being an instrument of the Redeemer means giving up the right to perform as an instrument of your own will or agenda. This is a well explained point, and a challenging call that the reader is forced to ponder as the book continues. Christ has not called us to a life of convenient assistance. Rather, we have been called to follow in his footsteps and lay down our lives for our fellow man.

Once Tripp lays out this challenge for radical change in the love shown by the church, he explains how Christ has exhibited this love in the lives of all believers: through our “justification, adoption, and sanctification” (120). Relationships are the key element to the Heavenly Father’s work on this planet. Our relationship with Christ is what redeems us to Him, and our relationships with one another is one way he continues his sanctification work in each of us.

Tripp has written much to this point about the love and redeeming work of God, and so much discussion on love often brings up the questioning of God based on the suffering in the world. All of Chapter Eight is devoted to explaining to the reader how God is active in the suffering in this world to bring about redeeming change and ultimately show his love to the world. It this point, having an ultimate faith in the inerrancy of Scripture and the sovereignty of God becomes paramount to the reader’s understanding and acceptance of this idea. Suffering, Tripp states, is “one of God’s most useful workrooms” (145). In suffering, every person is brought to a level playing field of reliance upon God. Suffering is also the way Christ made redemption available to humanity. It was through his suffering that Christ made salvation available to man and showed that he understands the suffering people experience daily.

Tripp shows the reader that suffering has an ultimate purpose in the lives of people. Personal suffering is one of the greatest tools anyone can use to proclaim the sovereignty of God to the life of another. Experience can be the connecting bridge between God and man, and often it is the experience of similar or shared suffering that creates that bridge. Suffering also instills in God’s instruments a certain understanding and Christ-like compassion for those experiencing similar suffering. Often those who have traveled similar roads of suffering and change are the ones that can lead many down the same road of God’s healing love and redemption. Tripp closes the chapter by explaining that “God’s acceptance is not a call to relax, but a call to work…The grace God extends to us is always grace leading to change” (158). Radical change in the church will begin, Tripp concludes, when people become willing to share their sufferings with one another and then are willing to accept one another while assisting in the change God is seeking to make in lives.