Category Archives: Christian Living

Q & A: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

As a pastor I get lots of questions, here is one of the more interesting ones I have received lately:

Hi Pastor Steve, I have a question I’m hoping you can help me with. What, if any, is your church’s opinion on birth control pills? I’ve been on the pill since we got married and neither of us had any convictions against it, but Sunday we were listening to Mark Driscoll’s Religion Saves and there is a part where he talks about all the different birth control methods and what is ok for Christians. When he came to the pill he said that Mars Hill hired doctors (I think 5) to do a study and that they concluded that they cannot confidently say that the pill doesn’t cause abortions, nor can they say that it does. Because of this his family decided to be cautious and not use it, they also don’t recommend anyone in their church use it. He said they certainly don’t consider it a sin or something that would involve church discipline but they do strongly caution against it. This was all news to us, we certainly don’t want to be taking any chances if the pill does cause abortion so we are praying about it and seeking counsel. So that is why I wanted to ask you if NCC or yourself had a stance.

Thanks!

Here is my response:

NCC does not have a policy regarding birth control pills.

My understanding is that the primary way birth control pills work is that they prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. That would mean that no eggs are being fertilized hence no abortion. There are other corollary effects of birth control pills that in cases where an egg is produced and fertilized these corollary effects make it difficult for the egg to implant in the wall of the uterus and as a result of that is “aborted”, or miscarried.

This is not a new discussion, it is odd to me that Mars Hill “hired’ doctors to do this study. Randy Alcorn wrote a book on this in 1997 called Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? The “issue” really has to do with the ability of the fertilized egg to implant with the existing conditions caused by the added hormones. You can find that information through a simple Google search, or looking in the Physicians Desk Reference.

If I were to write Randy Alcorn’s book I would title it: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Miscarriages? (it wouldn’t sell as many books though) That seems to be the essence of the moral argument: what is the true nature of the effect that is described as “abortion” in this instance. Abortion seems to me to be a deliberate action after the fact, “I find that I am pregnant, I don’t want a child, I take steps to end the pregnancy” or a specific decision to use a device that has as its main function to work after fertilization (like the IUD or RU486).

But the main purpose and function of the pill is to prevent fertilization from occurring and as a side effect it makes it more difficult in the rare instance of breakthrough ovulation for the egg to implant – not impossible just more difficult. I would call this miscarriage not abortion. You are not doing anything in a moral sense to “abort” you simply are taking the risk in good faith that feritilization will not occur. So your decision it seems to me is are you willing to take a risk that a breakthrough ovulation might lead to miscarriage. I still think that is a decision to pray over, I just think it is inflammatory to speak of that as “abortion” as it doesn’t have the same moral qualities.

for what its worth…

Steve

For a much different perspective, here is a PDF link to Randy Alcorn’s book: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

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Christ and Buddha

Got a question on facebook, thought I would write an answer here…

hi so i have a question… its a legit one. and ive been struggling with it… i have this gut feeling that religion is made up by man… ive been reading alot of bhuddist principles and it makes so much sense… the lack of diety intrigues me cause i grew up “taught” differently… i struggle with what i was indoctrinated and what i believe now,,….. how does someone believe the same thing for so long when life is ever changing? am i going to this “hell” if i believe this way? if there is even one…
and is god a concious being or just pure energy. ive been reading this book called living bhudda living christ and it talks about god not being a diety… hmmmm let me know

“i have a gut feeling…”

I would recommend that you evaluate this approach to making decisions about what is true or false.  Every “gut feeling” is based on a “mental process.” It’s best to delineate what those thoughts are so that you can truly evaluate the value of your gut feeling.  It means nothing to anyone else, and means nothing in determining truth.  So, contrary to popular opinion, you can’t always trust your gut. Bottom line, I don’t know what you mean by gut feeling and really can’t assign any value to the phrase.

“…religion is made up by man.”

Obviously this is a true statement.  Since there are many different religious systems which make mutually exclusive claims, not every religion can be “true”, therefore by definition most must be made up.  That statement has no bearing on the truth value of a religious system.  So, are you asking if Christianity was made up by man, or Buddhism?

“ive been reading alot of bhuddist principles and it makes so much sense”

What principles?  I am sure that there are many principles in all religions that make sense.  For instance, one Buddhist principle  that makes sense is to refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol).  In Islam adherents are encouraged to spend a portion of their wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy.  Every religion has principles which make sense.  

“the lack of diety intrigues me cause i grew up “taught” differently…i struggle with what i was indoctrinated and what i believe now,,….. how does someone believe the same thing for so long when life is ever changing?”

Based on this line of thinking, it would make sense for all Buddhists to become Christians (or something different) and all Christians to become Buddhists, because we had been indoctrinated and need some sort of freedom from our evil roots.  This reaction to upbringing is most likely appealing because we don’t like the representatives of our youth, not because Buddhism has more truth value than Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Atheism or whatever.  Just because you hate your parents doesn’t make their beliefs false and alternative beliefs true.

“and is god a concious being or just pure energy. ive been reading this book called living bhudda living christ and it talks about god not being a diety.”

Buddhism is “anti-deity” and there are inherent contradictions distinguishing “God”  from “deity.” The statement about “god not being a deity” is non-sensical.  By definition a God is a deity.  God and divine are synonyms.  It is like saying “blue is not blue.”  By definition when we talk about God we are talking about a conscious being.  If you want to be a Buddhist, recognize that they are not interested in a “creator” that would demand some sort of accountability from His creation, a personal God with whom there is the possibility of relationship, rather you are left with self:  your consciousness.  Since the Buddhist worldview is missing God, the self becomes the focus – and you have the embracing of contradiction necessary to mortality and immortality dependent upon this finite self.

“am i going to this “hell” if i believe this way? if there is even one…”

Believing there is no God, stripping Him of any positive attributes, equating Christ with Buddha, would put you in the Biblically defined category of unbeliever.  The Bible speaks of punishment and separation for unbelievers.  You might not like that, but it is hard to read the Bible and ignore it.

 

 

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12 Months to a Better Marriage: Expectations etc.

12 Months to a Better Marriage

Expectations are the starting point in any marriage equation. You have them. Lots of them. Some of them are conscious; some of them are unconscious. Some of them are legitimate; some of them are not. Most of your fights center around expectations. Since we are married to a human we are often disappointed by their imperfections, especially when those imperfections trespass on my expectations.

So here is my first marriage assignment.

Use this sheet using a notebook for your responses or download and printout the 3Questions document.

Follow these instructions in filling out the form:
Each of you will fill out the form individually and privately. The initial part of the exercise is solo.
There are 3 questions with two parts (His and Hers) that require 5 responses for a total of 30 spaces to fill in. You must fill in every one of those spaces

Once you are done with the filling out part…

Set a date with your spouse. Sometime between now and Valentine’s Day (this cannot be your Valentine’s Day activity) you need to have a date with the following parameters:

  • It cannot take place at home; you must go somewhere.
  • Just the two of you (no friends or children allowed).
  • The date will last for a minimum of two hours.
  • The date will consist of conversation.
  • If you go to dinner, it must be at a restaurant that will be comfortable with you taking a table for up to three hours.
  • Exhaustively cover all three questions on the 3 Questions Questionnaire.

The goal is to express and understand each other in what we expect from one another, what we like about one another, what we are afraid of with regard to one another and the future. Ask clarifying and probing questions.

Here are the three sets of questions:

Expectations

Expectations are the starting point in any marriage equation. You have them. Lots of them. Some of them are conscious; some of them are unconscious. Some of them are legitimate; some of them are not. Most of your fights center around expectations. Since we are married to a human we are often disappointed by their imperfections, especially when those imperfections trespass on my expectations.

  • What are your spouses (future spouses) 5 top needs?
  • What are your 5 greatest needs?

Strengths

Strengths make a marriage. Emphasizing strength is the building block strategy that smart couples adopt in their marriage and family. A healthy marriage is based upon two healthy/strong people joining together and working together to accomplish the God given goals of marriage.

  • List 5 qualities that attracted you to your spouse (future spouse):
  • What are your 5 best qualities?

Fears

What are you afraid of in your marriage? Often these fears are left unspoken in the hope that marriage will change things. That is unlikely. As you look into the future and have an honest discussion about what you will be fighting about you will likely discover what it is you are afraid of

  • In Order of importance, list 5 potential problem areas you foresee in your marriage:
  • List the 5 areas you think your future spouse thinks will be problems:

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Please Call Me.

The tragic story of Bill Zeller has prompted this invitation.

Bill Zeller was a lost young man.  Abused at an early age, the effect of abuse haunted him and drove him to take his own life.  He left a long explanatory letter which is heartbreaking.  Read it but be prepared to be heart-broken.

If you are in this situation, if you are having thoughts of suicide – please don’t make the same mistake that Bill made. The mistake I am referring to is not his suicide, rather his belief that he had to keep his horror story to himself.  He didn’t feel he could trust anyone to keep his story confidential.  I have years of experience and a track record of confidence.  Please come talk to me.  If Bill could have found just one person to vent to, cry with and release his demon – he would be alive and maybe moving toward health today.

So call me, or someone like me.  It can be different.

Bill Zeller’s letter was haunting.  I have said that in 25 years of ministry I have never witnessed demonic possession.  This letter comes close.  His description of the perpetrator always lurking as a presence in his life, a presence he names “darkness” who controls his thoughts, emotions, demeanor and attitude is the equivalent of the demonic possession described in the Scriptures.  I am not saying he was possessed and needed an exorcism – I am saying that the power of this event and the control it had over this poor soul is what Jesus came to free us from.

It is so unfortunate that much of his demonic experience came in the form of fundamentalist parents and dysfunctional Christianity.

Here is the problem with our modern demonology:  when we talk about demons we picture the Exorcist (movie) or the new movie coming out now starring Anthony Hopkins called  “The Rite”.  Demonic activity is more often seen by this kind of human abuse of all that is true, good and ultimately godly.  The destructive effects of his rape, religious abuse culminated in the destruction of his life.  What a shame.

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12 Months to a Better You: Conversion II

12 Months to a Better You  Step #1: Conversion

Conversion is the foundation for all change. All change is conversion. The first conversion is the conversion of power. The conversion of power is a conversion of who is in control of not only my life but every area of my life: relationships (marriage and family); occupation; destiny; money, time, possessions, my body, etc.

The major picture that is used in the Bible to help us apply sovereignty to life is the metaphor of Father. The sovereignty of God is transferred to our life through relationship with the Father. Both the Son and the Spirit have as their goals to lead people to the Father and to glorify the Father. The work of Christ and the work of the Spirit in our lives is to connect us with the true Father of us all. The first Father imprint on his children is the imprint of identity.

So your conversion assignment is to truly believe that you are a son or daughter of the Father. Our first lesson in conversion is a lesson of identity.

First, list how you describe yourself. How do you see yourself and what are the phrases you use to describe yourself, to yourself. This the language we use when we ponder our worth, value, strengths and weaknesses. This is not a list of how you are “supposed” to think of yourself, it is a list of how you actually think. Since you aren’t going to show it to anyone, be honest.

Second, read and study and memorize the verses below. Read them in context. Allow the Scriptures to reorient your thinking. This is the first step to renewing your mind and transforming your life.

John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

Galatians 6:15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

Revelation 21:5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Third, make some lists.

  • First, make a list of how you think God views you.
  • Second, make a list of what the Scriptures say above about the identity of the believer.
  • Third, revise your first list with the truth of the Scriptures from list two.

The renewal of your mind that will lead to transformation with regard to your identity is to have your lists match. I truly see myself how God has made me and sees me (that is believing). I have an accurate view of how God sees me. I agree with God (that is submission).

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12 Months to a Better You: Conversion

Christian change is conversion.

Much of the language of the New Testament focuses on the process of conversion.  Regeneration, New Creation, Rebirth,  Repentance, Faith, Transformation, Renewal, are all words that imply change.  Some of the words imply that the change comes in a moment, an instance of time and other words imply that change comes over time, that is, it is a process.

There is no kind of change or conversion that does not have at its root a mind process:  either repentance or renewal.  This is how it happens initially at the conversion where justification occurs when we were made new by the Spirit and born from above.  This is how it happens on the way during sanctification where the believer is in the process of holiness and moving toward the goal of the fullness of the stature of Christ.  Repentance and renewal correspond to the Bible language of putting off and putting on.

There is one essential mind shift necessary for conversion and transformation:

The shift of power:  The Sovereignty of God

This shift of thinking then needs to be applied to all areas of life:

  • Morality and Values
  • Reconciliation
  • Occupation
  • Relationships

Click on the picture of my scribblings to see a chart of the path to personal growth and impact, an overview of where we are going this year in our 12 Months to a Better You.  Follow along here at the Temple if you are a distance from NCC, this Sunday we will be giving a challenge to incorporate Sovereignty into the change process!  This week I will post musings on this topic in preparation for our Sunday morning challenge.

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Planning and Planners

I used to be big Franklin-Covey planner guy.  I like the whole day planner idea – setting aside time to pencil out my plan, then try to accomplish the plan.  With the advent of first the Palm Pilot and the evolution to Android, it has been a long time since I have actually purchased planning materials.  My calendar is on Google easily synced and shared with others and my phone.  My to-do list is integrated – I have pretty much made the shift to planning in the cloud.  But I still like pencil and paper. So I love this site that has a ton of different templates and options for paper planning.  The site is called D*I*Y Planner:  The Best Thing in Printing Since Gutenburg and you can find templates for planning, calendars, recipe sheets, notes, address books, weight watchers pages and more.

I first got wind of this site when I found the Ben Franklin Virtues Chart and have blogged about that for the past several years in January.  So if you are in the middle of trying to figure 2011 out, check out these resources.

As I have been emphasizing in church the last few weeks, in your planning change the paradigm question from “What do I want to do/change in 2011?” to “What does God want me to do/change in 2011?”  This not so subtle and all important starting point is critical for believers.  It is an internal acknowledgement of the sovereignty and providence of God applied to my outlook on life; past, present and future.

Psalm 139:23-24 is a good choice for the prayer of the planner:  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (NASB)

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12 Months to a Better Believer…

I am starting a new mini-series that will extend throughout 2011 at NCC:  12 Months to a Better Believer.  We will be taking a 3-5 minute segment each Sunday to focus on three different areas:

12 Months to a Better Believer

  • Conversion
  • Conviction
  • Convictions
  • Contentment
  • Connections
  • Conversations
  • Confidence

12 Months to a Better Marriage

  • The Expectations of Marriage
  • Love and Marriage
  • Unity in Marriage
  • Values and Marriage
  • Reconciliation in Marriage
  • The Service of Marriage
  • The Mind of the Marriage
  • The Language of Marriage
  • Communication in Marriage
  • Balcony Conversations
  • Rights and Responsibilities
  • The Intimacy of Marriage

12 Months to a Better Family

  • Identity
  • Discipline that Develops
  • Legacy
  • Character Building
  • Education
  • Meta-Conversations
  • Letting Go: Family Commissioning
  • Values, Vision, Mission

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