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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert. Tyndale Momentum. 276 pages. 2014 edition

This is the book upon which the powerful film Unplanned is based. Abby Johnson begins by telling us that her story is not a comfortable one to read. It’s not a comfortable one, but it’s honest and true. The film follows the book pretty closely, but as always, a book can give you much more of the story than can a two-hour film. So even if you have seen the film Unplanned, I would recommend that you still read this book.
The book takes us through Abby’s story from being recruited as a volunteer by Planned Parenthood while a junior on the Texas A&M campus through rising to the position of director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. She was attracted to Planned Parenthood believing that its purpose was primarily to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the number of abortions. That had been her goal. She wanted to help women in crisis.
The book begins with Abby’s own crisis moment in September, 2009, when she was called into the exam room to help the medical team with an abortion. Though she had been with Planned Parenthood for eight years, she had never been in the room when an abortion had taken place until that time. Those ten minutes would shake the foundation of her values, and change the course of her life. She realized that what she had told people for years, what she had believed and taught and defended, was a lie.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of “How to Ruin Your Life: and Starting Over When You Do” by Eric Geiger, and “The Prodigal Son: An Astonishing Study of the Parable Jesus Told to Unveil God’s Grace for You” by John F. MacArthur
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

Abby writes that growing up, she had attended church weekly and loved God. But when she went away to college, her behavior had not followed her values. She would get pregnant with her boyfriend Mark, who encouraged her to have an abortion, which she did in Houston in 2000 at age 20. She would later marry Mark, get pregnant and have a painful abortion via RU-486, also known as Mifeprex, the abortion pill, as her marriage ended due to Mark’s infidelity.
As a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, Abby’s first assignment was to escort women who came to the clinic from their vehicles to the clinic doors. An iron fence, which would become an important metaphor in Abby’s story, served to separate the clinic on one side, from the pro-life supporters on the other. Abby would meet Marilisa, from the Coalition for Life – a pro-life organization, on her first day as a volunteer. Marilisa would later meet Shawn Carney, who would assume leadership of the organization. Abby didn’t know it, but God would use Shawn, Marilisa, and others from the Coalition for Life mightily in her life. Abby believed that those on her side of the fence were defending and helping women, as Planned Parenthood protected them from those on the other side of the fence.
Abby would later meet Doug, who like Abby’s parents, didn’t approve of abortion. Surprisingly, he still wanted to marry Abby anyway. At the time, Abby considered herself to be a pro-choice Christian, truly believing that she was helping people, and saving and improving lives.
Abby writes of the Coalition for Life’s first “40 Days for Life” campaign. She states that none involved – neither the clinic workers nor the pro-life volunteers—could have dreamed what God would set in motion through that campaign.
Abby and Doug would attend different churches, one time being denied membership because of her role at Planned Parenthood, and later ending up at a church that was pro-choice. She admits that she was leading an unexamined life, one filled with deep-seated inconsistencies and self-deception. For example, she was opposed to late-term abortions when the baby was viable outside the womb, but was fine with abortions prior to the baby being viable. Her husband was trying to open her eyes to the fact that a human life, whether only six weeks along was just as worthy of life as baby who was viable.
Abby became director of the Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood clinic. In 2008, she would be named their affiliate’s “Employee of the Year”. Yet, not long after that, things began to change as Abby saw Planned Parenthood begin to focus more on increasing abortion targets and move towards performing late-term abortions. She also began to have conflict with her supervisor who had previously been her supporter and mentor. She was told to get her priorities straight, meaning to increase the number of abortions performed at her clinic. This eventually resulted in her receiving an official reprimand.
As hard as it is for us to believe, Abby was volunteering or working at Planned Parenthood for eight years before she truly saw what the organization did. After her crisis moment witnessing an abortion, she knew that she had to leave. She no longer saw Planned Parenthood as a benevolent charitable organization with the goal of decreasing unwanted pregnancies. She was now convinced that it was an abortion machine in the business of killing unborn babies and meeting revenue goals. On October 6, 2009 she planted her feet on the right side of the fence—the side of life. She left Planned Parenthood and was embraced by the kind people from the Coalition of Life. She was betrayed by good friends from her clinic, lost relationships in her pro-choice church, and was taken to court by Planned Parenthood. But, in God’s providence, a press release from Planned Parenthood accomplished the exact opposite of what they had intended with its restraining order.
Abby writes that God is in the business of changing hearts and minds and using ordinary people for His extraordinary purposes. He had chosen to demonstrate, through her, that He redeems the foolish, the broken, the sinful, and then uses them to accomplish His purposes. Abby would go on to found “And Then There Were None”, a non-profit organization which assists former abortion clinic workers by providing four critical types of support: emotional, spiritual, legal, and financial.
The Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood clinic, where Abby served as director, closed on August 1, 2013.

How to Ruin Your Life: and Starting Over When You Do by Eric Geiger. B&H Books. 208 pages. 2018

This is a timely book because many – leaders, political and entertainment figures, friends, co-workers, church members, and many people we will never hear about – have become disqualified due to what the author refers to as character implosions. An implosion is something that collapses from the inside. The falls seem sudden to outsiders, but these falls do not happen overnight.
In this book, the author uses King David’s implosion story. You know, the one who was a man after God’s own heart. The one who slayed Goliath. And the one who would later commit adultery and murder.  The first half of the book is about David’s implosion. The second half is about his confession, forgiveness and restoration.
Although it is King David’s implosion story that we hear about, the author writes that we are all disqualified, save for the grace of God. None of us are above an implosion.  But an implosion doesn’t need to be the end of our story. Sin doesn’t need to be tamed, but slain. It can lead to self-destruction. But God’s grace is greater than our sin.

The author tells us that there are three things that will lead to an implosion:

  • Isolation
  • Boredom
  • Pride

If you want to implode, chose isolation, independence and escapism over community.

Boredom can cause a holy discontent. Isolation and boredom weakened David’s foundation of character and were fueled by pride. Entitlement goes up when pride goes up. Pride fuels entitlement.  The opposite of pride is humility. Pride was the first sin to take root in David’s heart. It is also the first sin to take root in our heart as well.
The author looks at pride in the life of King Uzziah. He tells us that unless we’re killing pride, it will kill us. Humility increases as we move closer to the Lord.
David was confronted of his sin by Nathan the prophet. He repented (Psalm 51) and was forgiven, but there were still consequences of his sin. How we respond when we are confronted about our sin reveals who we really are. We need to own our sin, repent and surrender. Then there will be forgiveness and restoration.
Some people waste their implosion, while others use it to turn to the Lord and turn their lives around. When we uncover the sin, our implosion is covered by Christ.
We continue to hear about implosions, whether in the news or in our close circle of friends and acquaintances. We should never say that that couldn’t happen to us. We can’t keep ourselves from falling. Instead we need deep dependence on the Lord.
This is a helpful and timely book. It would be a good one to read with a friend.

The Prodigal Son: An Astonishing Study of the Parable Jesus Told to Unveil God’s Grace for You by John F. MacArthur.  Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. 2010

This book was originally published in 2008 as A Tale of Two Sons. It changed the way I thought about the best known of Jesus’ parables – the parable of the prodigal son – and this is one of my favorite books about it.
The author, a respected pastor, states that of all of Jesus’ parables, this one is the most richly detailed, powerfully dramatic, and intensely personal.  He tells us that the central message of the parable is an urgent and sobering entreaty to hard-hearted listeners whose attitudes exactly mirrored the elder brother’s.  He tells us that the lesson of the elder brother is often overlooked in many of the popular retellings, and yet it is actually the main reason Jesus told the parable.
MacArthur tells us that the central lesson of the parable is that Jesus is pointing out the stark contrast between God’s own delight in the redemption of sinners and the Pharisees’ inflexible hostility toward those same sinners.  Themes included in the parable are grace, forgiveness, repentance, and the heart of God toward sinners.
The author tells us that there’s a good reason this short story pulls at the heartstrings of so many hearers – we recognize ourselves in it.  For believers, the prodigal son is a reminder of who we are and how much we owe to divine grace.  For those who are conscious of their own guilt but are still unrepentant, the prodigal’s life is a reminder of the wages of sin, the duty of the sinner to repent, and the goodness of God that accompanies authentic repentance.  For sinners coming to repentance, the father’s welcome and costly generosity are reminders that God’s grace and goodness are inexhaustible.  For unbelievers (especially those like the scribes and Pharisees, who use external righteousness as a mask for unrighteous hearts), the elder brother is a reminder that neither a show of religion nor the pretense of respectability is a valid substitute for redemption.  For all of us, the elder brother’s attitude is a powerful warning, showing how easily and how subtly unbelief can masquerade as faithfulness.
The elder brother in this tale symbolizes the Pharisees.  The parable is a rebuke of the attitude of the religious leaders who resented Jesus’ ministry, which was done for the joy of God.  Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son primarily for the Pharisees’ benefit and as a rebuke to them.  The parable demands repentance from prodigals and Pharisees. The elder brother’s most obvious characteristic is his resentment for his younger brother. But underneath that, it is clear that he has been nurturing a secret hatred for the father. Both sons were far away from the father. In the end, they both came home—but with totally different attitudes and to very different receptions.  This firstborn son clearly had no affection for his younger brother, but the father was the one whom he most resented.  The elder son is a perfect emblem for the Pharisees. He had no appreciation for grace because he thought he didn’t need it.  But the truth is, this son was secretly much more of a rebel than the Prodigal had ever been.
MacArthur tells us that throughout Luke 15, Jesus is describing and illustrating the celebratory joy that fills heaven over the repentance of sinners. That is the single, central theme and the major lesson that ties all of Luke 15 together.
The parable ends without a conclusion, MacArthur writes that everyone who hears the story writes his or her own ending by how we respond to the kindness of God toward sinners.  This is a wonderful book about a parable that you think you may know well.

  • Book Briefs. Kevin DeYoung shares a few comments about some of the books he’s been reading the past few months.
  • The Crossway Podcast. I was excited to hear about this new podcast from Crossway. This is a show featuring interviews with authors about the Bible, theology, church history, and the Christian life.
  • A Company of Heroes. In reviewing Tim Keesee’s new book A Company of Heroes, Tim Challies writes “With one eye on the present and one on the past, he powerfully tells the stories of dedicated men and women from today and days gone by. I encourage you to join him on this journey and to come to see and know the greatest treasures in the world.”
  • 20 Quotes on Identity from Jackie Hill Perry. Matt Smethurst shares these quotes from Jackie Hill Perry’s excellent book Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been.
  • A Writer’s Retrospective with Iain Murray. I enjoyed this visit between Mark Dever and Iain Murray, the co-founder of The Banner of Truth Trust and long-time Presbyterian pastor, as Murray looks back at the past 50 years of his own ministry and writing.
  • Review of Why I Love the Apostle Paul. Kevin Halloran reviews John Piper’s new book Why I Love The Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons. He writes “I recommend Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons by John Piper for people who love both Paul and Piper and want the dual-biographical approach the book winds up taking. What I recommend more than this book is to soak yourself into the Apostle Paul’s 13 letters and life as told in Acts.

BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur

We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”?  MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer.  For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges.  The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands of Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?

This week we look at the Preface to the Anniversary Edition:

  • Thirty years ago (in January of 1978) I began preaching through the gospel of Matthew verse by verse. That series lasted seven and a half years, comprising some 226 sermons — and Grace Community Church was dramatically changed in the process. The series took us through a rich study of biblical soteriology (the doctrine of salvation).
  • A few years after finishing that series in Matthew, I wrote this book to distill my observations about how Jesus proclaimed His own gospel and to take a hard look at the truths He included in the gospel message. I knew the book would be controversial, of course, because I wrote it partly as a response to an already-existing controversy.
  • But I did not anticipate what a large and far-reaching debate it would spark. For the next couple of years, the subjects dealt with in this book seemed to dominate the evangelical discussion – and then to a lesser degree, the debate has continued ever since.
  • People have been trying to domesticate Jesus’ message for many years. Long before The Gospel According to Jesus was first published, it was popular in certain circles to exclude any mention of Jesus’ lordship from the gospel message.
  • The idea, apparently, was that declaring Jesus’ lordship was tantamount to preaching works — because lordship implicitly demands obedience, and obedience per se was automatically portrayed as a work.
  • Some argued that even to encourage an attitude of obedience (like the simple, submissive heart of the thief on the cross or Zaccheus’s intention to make restitution), was to preach a works-based religion. Ostensibly trying to keep the gospel as untainted as possible from works-religion, some evangelical leaders became insistent that no gospel appeal to unbelievers ever ought to include the truth that Jesus is Lord of all. Unconverted sinners were not to be urged to repent. The cost of discipleship; the need to hate one’s own sin; Christ’s call to self-denial; His command to follow Him; and (especially) every mention of submission to Him as Lord were systematically expunged from the message Christians proclaimed to unbelievers. Sanctification became wholly optional. A whole new category — “carnal Christians” — was invented to explain how someone could be converted to Christ and given eternal life but left totally unchanged in heart and lifestyle by such a transaction.
  • In the minds and methodologies of most evangelicals, the entire gospel was finally reduced to one easy idea: that Jesus is a kind Savior who patiently waits for sinners to “accept” Him (or invite Him into their hearts), and that He offers eternal life – no strings attached – in exchange for anyone’s decision to do so.
  • The faith He called sinners to was a repentant, submissive surrender to the truth — including the truth of His lordship. That message is still valid today — and as a whole new generation discovers the so-called “lordship controversy” and seeks biblical answers to the issues that debate has raised, this book still expresses what I believe Jesus said about the gospel in the best way I know how to summarize it.
  • My prayer with this edition is that a whole new generation will understand the gospel through the lens of Jesus’ own ministry and be committed to following our Lord both in how they live and how they proclaim the good news to a confused and dying world.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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