The Posture of Growing
January 16, 2016 | Brian Bill
We stand with thousands of other churches this Sanctity of Life weekend and proclaim that human life begins at conception and is therefore worthy of protection. This Friday marks the infamous anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing the murder of unborn children.
Here are some stats that I hope just don’t stay in your head but make their way to your heart…
- There are approximately 1.1 million abortions each year in the U.S. On average, that’s one baby snuffed out every 20 seconds.
- Since Roe v. Wade, over 56 million babies have not been allowed to take their first breath. That’s the combined population of 26 states.
- Nearly 1 in 4 (22%) of pregnancies end in abortion.
- 50% of women now seeking abortion have had at least one previous abortion.
- Approximately 1/3 of American women have had an abortion by age 45.
- Abortion disproportionately affects black and Hispanic women.
To put these stats in perspective, check out this graphic that compares deaths from the various wars we’ve fought to the accumulated deaths from the war that’s taking place in wombs across our country [show graphic].
Before we go much further, please know that there is no sin beyond God’s forgiveness. If you’ve had an abortion, there is forgiveness and healing for you. If you’ve paid for an abortion, you can find forgiveness in the One who paid for your sins.
You may wonder what this topic has to do with our series called GROW. Actually, it has everything to do with it. Two weeks ago we learned that we must develop the practice of growing by standing firmly, becoming stubbornly faithful and by sacrificing fully in 2016. Last week we pondered the Paradox of Growing as we established that we have more than we think when we offer the little that we have. And today we’re going to discover that we must maintain the right posture for growth by living our lives with conviction and purpose, fulfilling the unique roles that God has for each of us.
I have preached on the Sanctity of Life every January since I became a pastor and each year I try to take a different approach and preach from a different passage. I was greatly helped in my preparation from a sermon by Salim Suh called, “The Infanticide of Exodus and Abortion of Today,”
Before we dive in, here are a few preliminary comments.
- Because of your outrageous generosity and sacrificial giving, over $47,000 has been given toward the purchase of a Mobile Ultrasound Van for Pregnancy Resources! Our goal was $45,000. To God be the glory!
- Because the mobile ultrasound campaign is just finishing up, the Baby Bottle Project will begin on Mother’s Day this year and continue through Father’s Day. This is a project where we fill baby bottles with change for the ministry of Pregnancy Resources. Last year, over $9,000 was given!
Use Your Influence
Here’s the sermon in a nutshell: Use your influence to make an impact. Influence refers to having “the power to change or affect someone or something.” We like to celebrate difference-makers in our society, don’t we? TIME magazine announces a Person of the Year “who for better or worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year.” A couple years ago Christianity Today highlighted “Fifty Women You Should Know,” showcasing influential Christian women who are making an impact in politics, the church and public life.
We’re going to look at some extremely influential women who made an incredible impact. I believe there is a special calling that God is placing upon women on the issue of abortion (don’t worry I’ll address men at the end). Please turn to Exodus 1:15-2:10 (page 57 in the pew Bible). We’re going to see how God used women of different ages and stages of life to stand up for life.
Here’s a bit of background to put our text in context. The Israelites are in Egypt to avoid a severe famine and have begun to multiply greatly. A new king had come to power and became threatened by the increase of the Israelites so verse 13 says that he “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service…”
I see four pro-life roles in our passage. As we go through each one, ask God which role God is calling you to play in order to use your influence to make an impact.
1. Save those who can’t save themselves by fearing God (Exodus 1:15-21).
After the Pharaoh did everything he could think of to make life miserable for the Israelites, he eventually turns to euthanasia. Let’s pick it up in verse 15: “Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah.” Since there were no OB doctors back then, it was common for a woman to use a midwife. The word literally means, “One who helps to bear.” The name “Shiprah” means, “beautiful or brightness” and “Puah” means, “blossom or splendor.” It’s interesting to note that their names are given, but not the name of the Pharaoh.
Verse 16 details their gruesome task: “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” Essentially he was commanding them to do partial-birth abortions on all the boys.
In verse 17, we see that because of their convictions they refused to follow the king’s command: “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” Don’t miss why they refused to take innocent life. Do you see it? It’s because they “feared God.” This is the first time the name of God is found in Exodus. They knew God would be dishonored if they carried out the king’s desires. Incidentally, we also read in verse 21 that they “feared God.” To fear God is revere Him, to live in awe of Him and to submit to Him.
I believe that abortion is ultimately an attack on God and on His most prized creation, those whom He has created in His image. Abortion is not simply a social justice issue, though it certainly is that. It’s not primarily a political issue or a women’s rights issue. This is a God issue and the baby is not just tissue. That’s why it all comes back to fearing God. When we see Him for who He is, we will understand that the taking of any life that He has created is a direct assault on Him.
When we revere God we will be repulsed by evil. We see this in Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.” Listen. If you don’t fear God, you’ll fear someone else. If you don’t revere God, you’ll revert to what’s easy. These godly women were so committed to God that there was no way they could take human life. They were living out Proverbs 24:11: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Their commitment also makes me think of Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.”
The king calls them out in verse 18 and in verse 19 the midwives tell him that the Hebrew males were born before they could arrive. Maybe they told him they got stuck in traffic on the bridge. I wonder if they responded slowly when labor started? In verses 20-21 we read that God dealt well with the midwives and His people continued to multiply.
Shiphrah and Puah, the first pro-life heroines in the Bible, used their influence to make an impact.
I had the pleasure last week to interview an influencer named Sue Thayer. She started working at an abortion clinic in Iowa many years ago. As part of her training she traveled to Des Moines to watch surgical abortions. They had her observe 25-30 abortions in one day and told her to stand against the wall so she wouldn’t faint. She mentioned that the sights, sounds and smells torment her to this day.
In 2007, the clinic announced they were going to do webcam abortions. She told me the clinic liked webcam abortions because they didn’t have to have a doctor on site and didn’t have to pay travel or security expenses. They also didn’t have to invest in surgical equipment or crash carts. In addition, webcam abortions are the same price as surgical abortions so there’s a lot more profit for the clinic.
She then explained to me how these chemical abortions work. When a woman finds out she’s pregnant, the staff at the clinic is trained to say, “We can take care of the problem today. All you have to do is take some pills.” Then an ultrasound is administered and a doctor sitting in his or her office in Des Moines reads the image on a computer and measures the size and stage of the baby. If the baby is 70 days or less the doctor taps a button on the screen that opens a drawer in the room where the patient is. Then via Skype (sometimes from hundreds of miles away), the doctor watches the woman take the pills. The woman then takes some more pills a couple days later at home which starts the contractions and then she delivers the deceased baby.
After some time, God convicted Sue so she left her job and started speaking out. In 2011, she helped organize 40 Days of Life in front of the clinic where she used to work. At first she was nervous about seeing former co-workers. On March 1, 2012 the clinic closed.
There is now a Pregnancy Resource Center in the same community that once housed a clinic that killed babies! They’re ready to celebrate their three-year anniversary this year!
Because she fears God she has no fear about speaking up for those who have no voice. She has met with politicians and testified in October in Washington, D.C. By the way, Luana Stoltenberg from Davenport also testified at this same hearing. Sue also also met with Governor Branstad.
At the end of the interview I asked her one final question.
Q: What would you want a pastor to say to his people?
- If every pastor from every pulpit in America would speak on the sanctity of life, Roe v. Wade would go away…but one pastor and one church can make a difference.
Sue Thayer, once a manager at an abortion clinic has a new job. She is now the Lead Strategist for Iowa Right to Life! Jennifer Bowen, executive director, said this about her: “If not for her courage, webcam abortions would have exploded across Iowa and throughout the nation…Further, we have seen Iowa abortion rates plummet 40% since 2007.”
Are you ready to be like Shiphrah and Puah…and Sue and do what’s right, no matter what? To quote Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] do nothing.” We can…and must…do something.
The next role won’t apply to all of us, but will be fulfilled by some of us.
2. Give birth to your baby by being courageous (Exodus 1:22-2:4).
Pharaoh is now really amped up because his plans have been thwarted and so he makes a proclamation in verse 22: “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” This is a direct order to all people and is very specific: “every son” is to be thrown in the Nile.
In Exodus 2:1 we’re introduced to a couple: “Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman.” The Levites were set apart for worship and service. Look at what happens in verse 2: “The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months.” The word “fine” means, “well-pleasing.” When she saw the beauty of God’s creation she did everything she could to protect her son.
We know from other passages that her name is Jochabed. At the very minimum, she is facing an inconvenient pregnancy but actually she could be killed herself if she kept her baby boy. What a picture of a mother hiding her baby! The very heart of a mother is to protect and nourish her offspring. God saw fit to place babies inside the womb of women because they are at the most vulnerable and dependent stage. Unfortunately in America today, the womb has become the most dangerous place for a baby.
Be courageous even when it’s costly
Moms, be courageous even when it’s not convenient. Be courageous even when it’s costly. I love what Warren Wiersbe writes: “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence but obeying in spite of consequence.”
The Bible clearly teaches that life begins at conception as stated in Psalm 139:13: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”
We see what she does next in verse 3: “When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.” Think about what they went through as parents. They couldn’t hang his diapers on the clothesline or buy baby food at the store. Plus, they had to keep him quiet so nobody would hear him crying. So she puts him in a basket, which by the way is the same word for “ark” in Genesis 7.
I’m sometimes asked why I speak so often on this topic. Isn’t it just preaching to the choir since most Christians would never consider an abortion? Actually, 1 of every 5 abortions are performed on women who identify as evangelical Christians. Let me share a true story that took place right here in this room, one year ago during a sermon on the sanctity of life.
“Well a few months before [my daughter] found out she was pregnant her and [her boyfriend] wanted to come to church…it was the first time the boyfriend had ever been to Edgewood. And the message was on abortion. I remember them both saying what a weird message it was. Later on [my daughter] found out she was pregnant and her and [her boyfriend] were fighting and were broken up at the time. She said she didn’t want his baby and thought about abortion. She even went as far as going to a clinic for information. Then once she was there she said God put it on her heart the message she heard that night and she couldn’t go through with it! Now we have a beautiful baby boy in the family! God is so good!”
Are you in a posture of growing? Will you be like Shiphrah and Puah and save those who can’t save themselves by fearing God? If you get pregnant, or are pregnant right now, will you give birth to your baby by being courageous like Jochabed? Use your influence to make an impact.
The third role is where the majority of us will find ourselves.
3. Be an advocate by staying close to someone in need (Exodus 2:4, 7).
In verse 4, we’re introduced to Miriam, the sister of Moses: “And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.” She knows that Moses is in a basket (we could call him a basket case) among the reeds so she stays close. By the way, she may have been 10-12 years old or maybe a young teenager.
The irony of what happens next can only be described as God’s providence in verses 5-6: “Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’”
Miriam jumps into action, using words that are both wise and respectful in verse 7: “Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’” Her emphasis is on the princess, not on the baby – “call you a nurse…for you.” Miriam was watchful, creative, inventive, available, faithful, cordial, and nearby.
But that means we’re going to have to get out of our Christian cocoons and not just spend time with those who look like us, talk like us, and act like us
Let’s practice the principle of proximity. We have to be near someone to help them when they’re in need. If you’re close you can reach out in a crisis. That’s one reason we talk so much about getting to know our neighbors. If we hang out with them, they might reach out when they’re hurting. But that means we’re going to have to get out of our Christian cocoons and not just spend time with those who look like us, talk like us, and act like us.
Because Miriam stayed close, she was able to speak up and speak into a crisis situation. She’s living out Proverbs 31:8: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
I was talking to a college student this week about this. He shared that he had the opportunity in class to identify himself as a Christ-follower. Imagine what might happen if he spoke up for the preborn in a class setting. Later on, one of his classmates might get pregnant and not know what to do. Maybe she would remember this guy who spoke up and reach out to him. At that point he could tell her about Pregnancy Resources where she could get a free ultrasound and end up choosing life. Maybe by then the mobile ultrasound van would be parked in the college parking lot so she wouldn’t have to get a ride. See how it could work?
God is calling each of us to be advocates by staying close to someone in need. Use your influence to make an impact.
I see a fourth role in this passage.
4. Use your platform to protect life by living on mission (Exodus 2:5-6, 8-10).
Pharaoh’s daughter (Bithiah) represents someone in a position of power who uses her platform to protect life.
She was moved with compassion when she opened the basket and saw the “child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’” The word for crying here is “wailing and weeping.” The poor little guy is in deep distress. When she heard his helpless cries, she was committed to help. By the way, that’s why we’re so committed to helping people view an ultrasound of their baby. It’s a modern day way of “opening the basket.” Once a baby is seen, a woman is naturally keen on saving its life. I know I fell apart when I saw images of our daughters and turned to mush when viewing ultrasound pictures of our daughter Lydia and son-in-law Jamie’s baby. Lord willing, we’ll be grandparents in June!
After Miriam comes up with the idea to have the mother of Moses care for the baby, Bithia says in verses 8-9: “‘Go.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother…‘Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him.” Jochabed is not only able to nurse her son but also nurtures him during his formative years. And the really funny thing is that she gets paid to do so! How ironic that Pharaoh, who called for the killing of boys, ends up paying the mother of Moses to raise her own son!
Don’t miss the importance of this time she had with Moses to teach him about the ways of God. We read in Hebrews 11:27 that his faith was strong: “Not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” If you’re a mother and need some help in this way, I highly recommend the “Entrusted with a Child’s Heart” class that will be offered again in September.
In the providence of God, we read in verse 10 that Pharaoh’s daughter then raises him when he’s older and names him Moses because she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Ironically, Moses ends up leading his people out of the water when they flee from Egypt. He was drawn out so he could draw others out. One of Pharaoh’s own children delivers a Hebrew child who would later deliver God’s children from the bondage of Egypt. God uses one from the house of the seed of the serpent to help deliver the seed of the woman. That’s some deep stuff right there.
Interestingly, Moses is given a great education as the grandson of Pharaoh and receives military and administrative training, which later helped him lead the Israelites. Only God can do this! He has a plan. He loves to bring good out of bad.
Bernard Nathanson’s first involvement with abortion was as a medical student in Montreal. In 1945, when his girlfriend became pregnant, he scheduled and financed her illegal abortion. In 1970, when New York legalized abortion, he became the director of the largest abortion clinic in the world where he oversaw more than 75,000 abortions and performed almost 5,000, including one on his own child.
By 1974, a year after Roe v. Wade, Nathanson began to question whether the fetus was just an “undifferentiated mass of cells” or a developing human being. He was becoming increasingly sure that an abortion was, in fact, a death, not merely a medical procedure. Yet he continued to perform them because he remained convinced that abortion was “a legitimate solution to a woman’s personal problem.”
In the 1970s, however, a new technology was introduced in the United States that would change him forever—the ultrasound. For him the ultrasound made it impossible to deny that abortion was anything other than the deliberate killing of a human being. Using ultrasound technology, he would later produce a pro-life documentary, The Silent Scream, with film footage of an actual abortion.
He explained: “These [ultrasound] technologies and apparatuses and machines, which we now use everyday, have convinced us that—beyond question—an unborn child is simply another human being, another member of the human community, indistinguishable in every way from any of us. Now, for the first time, we have the technology to see abortion from the victim’s vantage point. Ultrasound imaging has allowed us to see this.”
Nathanson spent the rest of his life fighting the pro-abortion laws he helped put in place.
Like the daughter of Pharaoh, he used his platform to protect life. You can do the same. If you’re in the medical profession or a counselor or a teacher, you have tremendous influence. If you’re in high school or college, choose a profession where you can live on mission by standing up for life. I read a post recently that called on the church to encourage young people to not just go “into the ministry” but to become painters and plumbers and physicians and poets and pastry chefs and programmers who see themselves “in ministry” for the glory of God and the good of people. Every profession can be a platform for protecting life.
Here are some other ways you can leverage your position:
- Give of your resources to support life.
- Steward your civic responsibility by voting for candidates who protect life. The Iowa caucuses are two weeks from Monday!
- Be open to adoption or foster parenting.
- Consider serving as a “Safe Family” by being temporary parents for mothers in crisis.
- For more ideas, check out the “7 Prolife Resources” on the Sermon Extras tab on our website.
You might think that none of this will make a difference. Check out this good news:
- Operation Rescue reports 54 abortion centers either closed or stopped providing abortions in 2015, leaving only 730 in business—down from 2,176 in 1991.
- State lawmakers introduced almost 400 pieces of pro-life legislation in 2015.
- The CDC reports that the abortion rate today is at its lowest since 1973. I believe one reason is because so many are fulfilling the roles that God is calling us to fill.
Where are the Mighty Men?
2 Samuel 23 describes a group of mighty men who stepped up to the plate to serve King David. God is looking for mighty men who will serve King Jesus by protecting and preserving life. Hebrews 11:23 tells us that both of Moses’ parents stepped up: “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”
It’s interesting that both Pharaoh and Herod murdered male babies. Why? One pastor puts it like this: “If you minimize the male, you can master a nation.” It’s time for men to man-up, to speak up, to show up and to stand up. Men, I charge you from 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
What about it, guys? You are made for greatness. Use your position and stop being passive. You and I were born to defend women and children, including the preborn. Don’t sit idly by when you know lives are being snuffed out.
I read a true story about a couple in Flint, Michigan who walked into an abortion facility with their two-year-old son. The woman was pregnant and intended on having an abortion. A compassionate Christian who had been praying outside the clinic called out to them before they went inside but the woman screamed back, “It’s not your body!” Shortly after, when the father and the little boy came back out, this Christ-follower approached the father and told him abortion would change his family because a woman wants a man who will rescue and take care of his woman and children. The man was moved and sent a text to his girlfriend pleading with her not to do go through with it. She read the text, turned around, left the clinic and they kept their baby.
How about it guys? Will you protect and will you provide?
What Role Will You Play?
Travis Peterson writes, “While you may be able to make arguments as to how other social issues are important, the fact still remains that the intentional slaughter of 3,000 children per day is a great evil that no reasonable person can deny. If swine flu were killing 3,000 people per day, the nation would move heaven and earth to put a stop to it. If Islamic terrorists were able to kill 3,000 Americans per day, people would be screaming for military intervention at the highest level.”
We often look at horrific injustices in the past like the Holocaust or slavery or racial segregation and assume that we would have hidden Jews in our homes, run the underground railroads or marched in Selma.
Well, we have an opportunity right now to use our influence to make an impact. With God guiding and directing us, we could put an end to one of the greatest injustices the world has ever seen.
Who do you identify most with in this pro-life narrative? Are you ready to use your role as God writes His story for His glory? Will you use your influence to make a great impact?
- Like Shiphrah and Puah, save those who can’t save themselves by fearing God.
- Like Jochabed, give birth to your baby by being courageous.
- Like Miriam, be an advocate by staying close to someone in need.
- Like Bithiah, use your platform to protect life by living on mission.
God was preparing to save people through the birth of a baby boy. We’re all guilty of killing the truly innocent child, the Son of God. It was our sins that sent Him to the cross and it was his death that sets us free. Will you receive the free gift of salvation by repenting and receiving Him into your life?
Imagine that Brit Hume came and did a story on how the people of Edgewood fulfilled their roles and used their influence to make an impact. That would be quite a story, wouldn’t it?
But before we do anything, we need to thrive if we want to help the helpless survive!
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive