Everything had to be carefully prepared. The attendants laid fuel for the fire in the rearward facing hearth of the hollow, life-sized bronze figure.  The musicians began softly, building intensity and volume as the fire grew hotter and the statue began to glow. The worshippers, having already made lesser offerings in the first six chapels, entered the seventh chamber to the mind-numbing thunder of pounding drums and clashing cymbals and a now red-hot bronze of a man with the head of a bull, seated on a throne with blazing arms outstretched to receive their infant sacrifice. Welcome to the 15th century B.C. worship of Molech, where the cries of the victims were swallowed up by the cacophony of the celebration.

I paint that ancient picture to remind you that no one should be surprised by what we are seeing in the video expose´ of Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts-for-dollars enterprise. In the first place, syndicated columnist Mona Charen reported on this practice as far back as 1999.  But more importantly, human nature has not changed.

Molech, mentioned in Leviticus 18:20, was one of the gods of the people who occupied the land before Israel came in. From an ancient, near eastern perspective the local deities “held the franchise” on prosperity. If you lived in Egypt you needed to know the Egyptian gods. Ditto in Babylon. But in Canaan you needed to know the Canaanite gods. They held the keys – if you were inclined to forget the real God – to your prosperity, your physical health and wellbeing. When you come right down to it, idolatry was economically driven.

Now, put yourself in the 21st century shoes of a young, unmarried woman. She lives in a culture that prides itself on sexual freedom and expression. Her culture also increasingly frowns on traditional families and motherhood and urges women to find fulfillment in a professional career, in having money, and things, and freedom. Then she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. She learns that the father of the child isn’t interested in being a father. She will bear the parenting burden alone. Perhaps her parents won’t help. She will bear the financial burden alone. She can afford to go to college or raise a child, but not both, her economic chances are being constrained. Or perhaps she is already in a professional career, one that will not make room for a child. What are her options?

Meanwhile the High Priestesses of Choice chant, “It’s about your freedom! Your body! Your rights!” And the drums of fear thunder louder in her ears, and the “clinicians” cymbals clash ‘it’s only tissue’, ‘a simple procedure’, ‘over in a moment’, adding to her confusion, drowning out the silent screams of the baby in her womb.

The arms of Molech wait in Planned Parenthood clinics all over America. The only difference is that they’ve figured out it’s more financially advantageous not to incinerate “the product,” but to sell it.

The question for us is: Can this situation change? Pro-life leaders in Congress are proposing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, and I hope they succeed. Only when hearts change, however, will we stop the abortion holocaust. We must work upstream of politics with the message of hope in Jesus Christ. He alone can open the eyes and secure the hearts of women in fear. He alone can free us from the greed that drives the abortion industry.

If you are a woman who has undergone an abortion and you feel the brokenness and the guilt of it, there is hope. If you are a person who has worked in the industry and now regret it, there is hope. The guilt you feel has been born by another. The defilement you feel as a human being can be washed away. Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the law, was sacrificed as our penalty for sin and was raised so that we could be free. He has poured out his Spirit on us so that we can be cleansed. I urge you to invite him in to your life, to be your Lord and savior today.

MAX is good for the family

Tired of over-the-top, digitized special effects? Weary of wacko main characters, vulgar vocabularies, and gruesome violence? Meet MAX, the brave dog that beats the bad guys and mends a broken family. MAX isn’t “Mad,” isn’t a “Trainwreck,” nor is he “Furious,” though the villains in this film would like everyone to think so. MAX is a war hero who desperately needs a friend.

Sounds syrupy and predictable, right? Yes, it is, in all the right ways.

MAX, the story of an ex-war dog suffering from PTSD, and the grieving family of his late handler, is rated PG for mild profanity and violence. It is currently playing in theaters to yawning reviews and low numbers, which means it will go to DVD and probably Netflix sooner than later. Frankly, I’m OK with that, because it will make the film available to more families seeking wholesome entertainment on a budget. We need this kind of storytelling because it encourages the values we want to build in our kids and reminds parents of the things that really matter.

And the film is stuffed with those things: the sacrifices and service of our military, selfless loyalty, sacrificial friendship, racial bridge building, the power of honesty, and the importance of both parents in the lives of children.

MAX also deals honestly with the power of grief and the subtle slide into unintended consequences brought on by greed and pride. The best part of the film (spoiler alert) is when main human character, Justin, the younger brother of the dead Marine, faces a devil’s bargain. His illegal downloading and reselling of video games has put him in a compromising position with the local drug dealer. He must choose between the dog who loves him and exposure of his crime to his parents, not to mention the loss of income from his hacking. He succumbs, at first, to his darker nature, but is brought to repentance by two things: the humble honesty of his dad and the indomitable love of his dog.

God’s Word encourages us to fill our minds with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. There’s a reason for that. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The more we meditate on positive values, the more likely we are to imitate them and experience the peace; the Shalom of a godly life. Stories stick in our memories better than anything else, especially in the minds of children. MAX is the best kind of story because it is noble, pure, and praiseworthy. I encourage you to watch it with your family.

THE INFORMATION / OPTION OVERLOAD and what to do about it

It has never been more important to choose, or more difficult.

Information used to be hard to come by. Now we carry more data and processing power around in our handheld devices than Neal Armstrong took to the moon, and it increases exponentially by the hour. Lev Grossman, in the June 25 issue of TIME, reports, “Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, once estimated that every two days humanity creates a quantity of data equivalent to the entire amount created from the dawn of time up until 2003 … Every day humanity tweets 500 million times, shares 70 million photos on Instagram and watches 4 billion videos on Facebook. For every minute that passes, we upload 300 hours of new content to YouTube.”

And it isn’t just information. Consider the options before us as consumers:

• More than 800,000 apps in the Apple App Store
• 240-plus selections on the Cheesecake Factory menu, not including lunch or brunch special
• 135 mascaras, 437 lotions and 1,992 fragrances at
• In 1980, the typical credit card contract was about 400 words long. Today, many are 20,000 words.
• One company, PC Pitstop, deliberately buried a clause in its end-user license agreement, offering $1,000 to the first person who emailed the company at a certain address. It took five months and 3,000 sales until someone claimed the money.*

We are a culture in the middle of information – option overload.

It used to be that if you wanted to find a spouse you went to church, the social, to college, or to a bar. With e-Dating your options are almost endless. If you wanted a job you either did what dad did or apprenticed out, or looked at the classifieds. Now you post your skill set on Linkedin for thousands of HR managers to read, and tell all your Facebook friends what you’re looking for.

The information – option boom is both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because more options mean a greater range of possibilities, and a curse because more info and options make choosing more difficult. We want to make the best decision possible, so we keep searching, keep clicking, keep scanning, and keep hesitating. That’s where the rub comes, and where I see many people floundering, missing out on God’s best for their lives.

The modern proverb, “Failing to choose is choosing to fail,” is close to the point. Every choice has costs, the first of which is that it excludes other choices. But refusing to choose slams the door to the fruit that can only be produced by disciplined, long-term commitment to a single path. For example, I would love to be able to play the piano and speak another language, but I never committed to either task and cannot experience the blessings. Some choices, like marriage, like financial discipline, or like personal growth, are more serious. Refusing to choose is in fact a choice: a choice of perpetual drift, unending insecurity, and guaranteed mediocrity.

We cannot know all outcomes of all possible options, so we must choose, and that choice comes down to faith. The Bible is a book about a God who chooses a people and calls them into the blessings of obedience, the benefits of choosing faith in his word, his plan, and his Son. He wants what is best for us and has given us instructions on how to live in a world of endless options. All we have to do is choose.

It’s never been more important to choose, or more difficult. But we make our choices and then our choices make us. Make the choice to obey God and you will know the fruit of a life with him.

*Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn, “When Simplicity Is the Solution,” The Wall Street Journal (3-29-13)

AFTER OBERGEFELL: A Biblical Response to the New Law of the Land

Long-time family friend, Cyndi Simmons, hosts the radio program Heart of the Matter, a ministry “for women seeking the elegance of God’s wisdom.” (Find her at Cyndi asked if I would provide some pastoral feedback on the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states. I hope you find my responses to her questions helpful.

Q: How do we get past discouragement over this ruling?
First, remember who God is and do not be afraid. I don’t know what does this for you, but I just returned from vacation on the beach. Standing there at sunrise, where earth and sky and water meet, sensing with my whole being the endless rhythms of wind and wave and feeling in my bones the vastness of creation, helps me remember who is really in charge of the planet. It isn’t the Supreme Court. The puny voices of two men and three women will not overturn nature or the decisions of nature’s God. Human civilizations rise and fall like the tides. Ours may be falling, but that is no cause for alarm for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Second, remember that resurrections don’t happen without crucifixions. We are witnessing the death of many things in our culture: the death of family, the death of churches, and the death of reason itself. I believe we are also watching the death of cultural Christianity, which I see as a good thing. Keep your eyes on Christ the first fruits, and watch with hope for what comes next.

Third, from a strictly earthly point of view, keep in mind that Americans love the underdog. The same sex community has successfully painted itself as the underdog for over thirty years. Now they’re the top dog. I expect that the victors will soon increase oppression of their opponents. When they do, if we seek the good of the city and continue to serve our communities, public opinion will shift, and we will become the underdogs.

Q: As women, compassion energizes us. We want to have compassion on these confused people. How can we do that without accepting their bad choices?

Because Christ has had compassion on us, we can have compassion on anyone, not just sexually confused people. But how we express that compassion depends on whether they claim to be church members or not.

Rosaria Butterfield’s memoir, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, is extremely helpful in understanding how to love your homosexual neighbor who doesn’t claim to be a church member. Other resources include Such Were Some of You, by Pure Passion media; Loving Your (LGBT) Neighbor, by Glenn Stanton; Sing Over Me, the biography of Dennis Jernigan, and the works of John Stonestreet and Eric Metaxas and the team at

For church members, the Apostle Paul clearly delineated this for us in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13. If someone “calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler,” we must not associate with him or her, not even to eat a meal. The reason is a compassionate one, so that the one caught in sin may understand the gravity of the issue, that by their choices they have alienated themselves from Christ and his body. Hopefully this drastic measure will help bring them to their senses. But it is a last resort, and should be preceded by the careful application of the principles of church discipline Jesus gave us in Matthew 18, along with the sensitivity expressed by Paul in Galatians 6:1. (Note: churches that are unwilling to engage in discipline against the rest of the sins on that list are being hypocritical if they discipline the sexually immoral).

I should include here that, because there is so much cultural Christianity in western civilization, as a pastor I make a distinction when applying this teaching between members of the church I lead, and people who claim membership in other churches. I am only responsible to discipline someone who has covenanted with God and my congregation to uphold the standards we have embraced. That said I should include that I do not associate with pastors who have embraced LGBT theology, because they are held to higher standards.

Q: Based on Romans 12:1- 2 our devotion to Christ is 24/7. How can we effectively live out our faith as society becomes less tolerant of what we believe?

The good news here is that living under persecution has been standard operating procedure for God’s people from the get go. You and I became adults in a historical blink of time when Christianity was ascendant. The Bible is full of examples of how to live faithfully as aliens on planet earth. The book of Daniel, which I plan to teach through this fall, is a good example, as is Esther. First and second Peter also comes to mind. The point is that a treasure chest of spiritual riches awaits us in these books, but we’ve never seen them because we’ve never had to.

The complete interview airs Thursday, July 9, on