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Why Protest Planned Parenthood?

I have been asked how a pro-life person could protest Planned Parenthood. It’s a fair question. After all, Planned Parenthood provides a lot of services. Many of these services reduce unwanted pregnancies and presumably abortions. Check out their graphic from their 2014 annual report. According to the graphic, only 3 percent of the services they provide are abortion:

planned-parenthood-3-percent-abortion-2013 (1)

First off, even if I accepted this accounting (and I don’t, as you’ll see), I don’t believe it justifies the carrying out of 327,653 abortions,more than any other provider in the nation.[1] There is no amount of good an organization can do to justify its existence while committing 327,653 abortions per year.

Second, this graphic is grossly misleading, giving a false impression that abortion is a small portion of what Planned Parenthood (PP) does. The information is misleading because it separates every ‘service’ provided even though the services provided are not equal. A woman getting an abortion may use several ‘services’ even as a part of the abortion procedure.[2] I will illustrate PP’s deception by analogy and then offer three ways of reporting the data that provide a more accurate assessment.

Although my thinking isn’t unique and others have seen the same thing, because of how often statistics are misused and how little trust people have in stats, I am purposely trying to make these points using PP’s self-reported data so that what I’m offering is a bare analysis of PP’s practice. I will attempt to cite other sources that make the same points as I go along.

An Analogy

Let’s say I had cheated on my wife with three separate women, one time each, in 2014. This is the picture my wife Ileana would have of my behavior. It would display what a pig I was for doing that:


Now, if I had an interest in looking like I was pretty faithful, I could separate that very same data into ‘sexual episodes’ or, perhaps, days. This would leave me with charts like these:

Sexual ActsDays in 2014

Again, if I had an interest in promoting my faithfulness, I could tell the story by saying, “97 percent of sexual activity in my marriage was faithful.” Telling the story that way wouldn’t make me less of a pig, and I can promise you that Ileana would think the first chart tells the story a lot better than the second two. These are different ways of presenting the same data.

It is my contention that PP’s argument that, “Abortion makes up 3 percent of our services” is exactly like this. It presents the data with a particular interest in minimizing abortion. I believe there are three ways the data of abortion and PP should be presented that paint a clearer picture.

Sheer Volume

Three percent sounds small. When I put it on a pie chart it looks really small. But, reporting the actual number of abortions (327,653) gives a much different picture.  PP performed 327,653[3] abortions in 2013. Let that number sink in. To put that in perspective, that’s 897 every day, or one every 96 seconds.

PP performed one abortion for every 96 seconds in 2013.  They can argue they are about other things more than abortion, but that is a mind boggling statistic. You simply can’t argue that abortions are peripheral to what you’re doing when you are doing one every minute and a half (and more than one per minute during business hours).


Another more honest statistic would be abortions-per-patient. If a patient goes to PP and gets an abortion, it doesn’t matter to a pro-life person that she got an STD test too. I want to know how likely a person going into PP is to get an abortion. That is the way to know how central abortion is to PP operations. To get that statistic, you have to dig into PP’s footnotes. Remember, they have an interest in making abortion look peripheral to what they do. According to the footnotes of that pie chart, PP had 2.7 million patients in 2013.[4] As noted earlier, PP performed 327,653 abortions. If we put those numbers on a pie chart, it looks more like this:

Abortions per patient

Twelve percent of PP patients receive abortions.[5]  One out of every eight people that go into PP receives an abortion. A company that has twelve percent of its clients performing an activity has no right to label the activity peripheral. It is central.

Services Provided to Women with Unwanted Pregnancy

This statistic is extremely important and it is haunting. Unwanted pregnancies happen all the time in America. According to the Guttmacher Institute, over half of the pregnancies occurring in the United States are ‘unintended’ (either ‘mistimed’ or ‘unwanted’).[6]

Those numbers are tragic. I can’t imagine the turmoil a young woman is going through when faced with an unintended pregnancy. Some of these women feel ashamed. Many of them feel afraid. Some of them are strong-armed into abortion by bad husbands or boyfriends who don’t want to care for their babies. Many of these women are faced with the possibility of economic ruin.

How does PP deal with a woman after she is pregnant? The reason this statistic is important if we’re looking at how central abortion is to the organization is because abortions are not possible on people who aren’t pregnant. There are three, reported ‘services’ that PP provides to pregnant women: Adoption referrals, pre-natal services, and abortions. According to their accounting, PP performed 1,800 adoption referrals and 18,684 pre-natal services in 2013. Remember, PP performed 327,653 abortions.

This means, out of 348,217 services that PP provided to pregnant women, 327,653 were abortions.

This pie chart would look like this:

Services Related to Pregnancy

Ninety-five percent of services related to pregnancy provided by PP were abortions.[7] 348,217 women received pregnancy related services at PP in 2013. 327,653 of those services were abortions. Regardless of what their literature says about three percent, PP has a very clear way they deal with unwanted pregnancy: Abortion.


Even though PP literature likes to say that abortion is peripheral to its mission, abortion is central. A more true rendering of their data gives a clearer picture. PP performs an abortion every 97 seconds. One out of every eight women receiving services at PP receive abortions. Ninety-five percent of services related to pregnancy were abortion services. Abortion is not a peripheral part of an otherwise noble organization. It is a central aspect of PP activities.

When it comes to pregnancy, PP is about only two things: Preventing and terminating unwanted pregnancy. Pro-life people do not have an ally in Planned Parenthood.

[1] According to the PP 2014 annual report, PP carried out 327,653 abortions in 2013 (see page 18 of their annual report: http://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/annual_report_final_proof_12.16.14_/0)

[2] PP’s description of the abortion procedure says that it requires ‘lab tests.’ (see http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures especially the question, “What happens during an in clinic abortion?”

Each lab test would count as a service. If a woman receives two lab tests (the bare minimum for the literature to use the plural) then, if every person walking in the building got an abortion, 33 percent of ‘services’ provided would be labeled abortion services.

[3] This accounts for an incredible 25 percent of total abortions in the United States.

[4] See footnote six on page 17 of their 2014 annual report: “In 2013, Planned Parenthood health centers saw 2.7 million patients, who collectively received 10.6 million services during 4.6 million clinical visits.”

[5] Assumes one abortion per patient receiving abortion. There would be a slightly different result if we adjusted for the number of patients receiving multiple abortions, but those numbers aren’t reported by PP. Having those numbers wouldn’t change the analysis in any substantial way. The fact remains that an abortion takes place for every eight, unique visitors to PP.

[6] See http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html

[7] For a great video that makes this point, and also lays out the deceptive, 3 percent figure, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKIOBOFaVYs&feature=youtu.be

Receiving Life, Even as we are Perishing

I’m kind of a clutz. So, last night, when I rolled my ankle it was no surprise. I tripped on a step that has been in front of my apartment since I moved in a couple years ago.

What was surprising was the pain. It hurt. So bad. I actually thought I broke it when I felt the pain. Thankfully, besides some slight swelling and some discomfort I’m fine. But, at times like last night, we long for incorruptibility. We long for bodies that don’t deal with pain, fatigue, soreness, and corruption.

We deal with this in a more serious way at every funeral we go to. At funerals, we look death, our greatest enemy, in the face. Because we were made for immortality, looking at death angers us, scares us, and makes us long for immortality. We have a deep longing for eternal life and immortality.

That is what makes Ash Wednesday so weird.

Think about it. A bunch of people make a special trip to church on a Wednesday night to put a black mark of repentance on their forehead. They hear the words of the curse as they receive the ashes:

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

In that moment, these people express contrition for their sin. They also deal with the reality that they will die. One day, they will go back to the earth they came from. And, likely, they will be forgotten.

Yes. One day, we will die. And, after our death, the world will keep right on spinning. There will be a small number of people really bothered by it, but the world will keep turning, the tide will come in and it will go out, and everything will happen just like it did the day before when several thousand other people died.

In an awesome song, folk singer Michael Smith reminds us of that. He points out that even the richest of them all, the Egyptian Pharaohs, decay like everyone else. Addressing King Tut, he says, “Your sarcophagus is glowing but your esophagus is showing.”

Rich and poor, righteous and wicked, peasant and president all have one thing in common. They will die. The world will go on without them

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

That does seem like a really strange reason to make a special trip to church in the middle of the week.

We know it’s true though. And so much of our energy and desire to be noticed, and our tweeting and updating our Facebook status, and our attire, and our home decorating come from our desire to forget that. We want to be noticed, to stand out, and to forget, if even for a second, that the same fate awaits all of us.

There is a freedom that comes from realizing that we are just dust. And I, for one, am really grateful that the Church doesn’t lie to us about that. It doesn’t try to take away the sting of death. It tells us like it is.

Thankfully, however, that isn’t the only thing we do on Ash Wednesday. We also come together for the Lord’s Table. We receive Christ freshly. In doing this, we unite with Jesus in his death, resurrection and ascension. We receive what Ignatius of Antioch called the ‘medicine of immortality.’ We remember Christ, we pledge to walk with him, and we remember where our desire for immortality can really be met.

In short, we learn how to participate in immortality, even as we are dying. We learn how to receive the hope of imperishability, even as we are perishing. And, in so doing, we walk away from all the silly ways we try to build a name for ourselves, recognizing we are dust and we are returning to dust.

This Ash Wednesday, cast your life upon Jesus. He is the only one that can meet your true desire for immortality. And then, learn with me how to receive the hope of imperishability, even as we are perishing.

Paul Receives the Spirit at his Baptism

There were two things Ananias was to do when he traveled to meet Paul. He was sent that Paul might regain his sight, and that Paul might be filled with the Holy Spirit.

What ends up happening is really interesting. Paul instantly regains his sight. Then he rises and is baptized (9:18).

So Ananias is sent to heal his sight and to see him  filled with the Spirit. In clear paralellism, Luke says he regains his sight and is baptized. This puts an unmistakable link between Paul’s water baptism with his reception of the Holy Spirit.

If there is any doubt, Luke uses that word immediately again in the very next passage. That word isn’t as common in Luke as it is in Mark, so it is interesting that he used it twice in such close proximity. And, what is Paul doing? He is preaching Jesus in the synagogues, amazing people, and confounding the Jewish people who would try to refute him. Luke’s account does at least look a bit like Luke 4:14-15 when he speaks of Jesus traveling through the region being glorified by all after his baptism and temptation.

So, according to Luke’s account, it seems clear that he is linking Paul’s reception of the Holy Spirit with his water baptism. I think it would be foolish to read this any other way. Ananias came to heal Paul’s sight and that he might be filled with the Spirit. Paul’s sight is healed, he is baptized, and he leaves in power to do the things that Jesus did after the Spirit descended on him in baptism. Immediately after his baptism, the man who had previously ravaged the Church is defending the Way to those who would oppose him.

This is what happens as we receive the Holy Spirit. Praise God for this radical transformation.

Hearing from God in Real Time

Philip was incredibly attuned to the Spirit. In real time, right in the moment, the Spirit told him, “Go over and join (the Ethiopian eunuch’s) chariot.” (Acts 8:29).

When Philip does what the Spirit told him to do, he bears fruit. The eunuch converts immediately and submits to water baptism.

I have moments like this. Before my first time knocking on any doors I sensed a call of the Spirit. I even got a word from the Spirit that God was more pleased with door knockers than criticizers. I knew that was from Him. It led me into this, particular ministry.

I want more of that, in real time. I want to be convinced that I’m doing the work of God because I am in tune with the Holy Spirit. I want the Spirit to lead me into a mighty work and then give me the power to bear fruit.

This wasn’t something limited to Philip. This is something you can do today. You can pray for the Spirit’s leading, hear God’s voice, and act on His impressions. When you listen to God and do what He is doing, you will bear fruit.

Look for God in real time. He’s still speaking.

God’s Not for Sale

God’s not for sale. I know that the shiny cars and silly hairstyles on television might cause some to believe differently, but God’s not for sale. The thousands of pastors with more education than many college professors living on a modest salary should testify that God is not for sale. Although there are many out there attempting to use God for profit, true religion, religion that honors God, is never a for-profit business.

Simon the magician learned this. He was used to impressing people with magic to make money. It isn’t clear whether he was performing illusions, which is what we usually mean when we say ‘magic,’ or whether he was empowered by dark forces. The latter seems more likely given that the people were convinced he had power (verse 10). So, either he was empowered by spiritual forces or using illusion to deceive people into believing he was.

When this magician believed, he probably gave up a lot. He would have had to renounce his magic before Philip would have baptized him (Verse 13). Because, whether he was demonically empowered or faking power to deceive people into giving him money, there was going to be no place for what he was doing in the Kingdom of God. He was going to need to find another line of work.

Old habits die hard, though. And even though he was a true believer, he was used to making money through spiritual power. So when he saw Peter and John lay hands on people who would receive the Holy Spirit, he wanted that power. He knew it could make him a profit. Perhaps, he could have his job back! He could just do it in the name of Jesus now.

So, Simon offers them money for that power. He is used to making an investment in his business. And Peter rebukes him immediately. He even says that he’ll perish with his silver. To Simon’s credit, he repents immediately and asks Peter to pray for him.

It is tempting to try to use God for our benefit. We want to give money to the church so that God will give us a job. We want to pray more so God will be in our debt and save our loved ones from illness.

Pastors aren’t exempt from this temptation. We want to use gifts of the Spirit and anointing for preaching to have people talk about how smart we are. We want to use gifts God gives us for writing to sell books. We want to be rewarded for our spirituality with a lot of blog hits or Twitter followers. In short, we want to build our kingdom.

The problem is, God isn’t for sale. He is about His mission in the world, not yours. His power is available to believers, but only for the benefit of His kingdom. The beautiful thing is, when you seek his kingdom, you get all the other stuff you need thrown in.

Seek God’s kingdom today. Repent, like Simon did, for how you try to use God for your benefit. Then, work to build up His kingdom. Doing this reminds us of one, unalterable truth. God isn’t for sale.

When we are Faithless, God Shows Mercy

It seemed that God’s people were always on the wrong side of things. In a mock trial, Stephen rehashes their history. He shows how God continued to be faithful to His covenant even in the midst of His people’s faithlessness.

When God blesses Abraham’s line with 12 patriarchs, they conspire to sell one of them into slavery. God shows mercy, using this very act to save them from the famine.

When God sends a redeemer to get them out of slavery, they misunderstand him and ask who made him in charge. God shows mercy, sending him back with powerful signs and wonders to demonstrate the authority he would have.

When God takes his people out of Egypt, they immediately fall into idolatry and worship a golden calf. God shows mercy, even gracing the temple they built with his presence.

When God’s people remain faithless, God is faithful. He still moves toward them with mercy. He still looks to redeem. No matter what.

Stephen closes his speech by showing that God’s people are still doing the same thing. They rejected John the Baptizer, rejected their Messiah, and now they are charging Stephen with wrongdoing.

The people present respond by stoning Stephen. As they are stoning him, though, Stephen cries out to God to have mercy on them. In doing this, he reminds us of someone else. He also shows us a glimpse into the heart of God.

God is a God of mercy. Even when we are faithless and evil, he loves bringing mercy. The voice of Stephen calling out between the blasts from the rocks is the voice of God. He loves showing mercy to those who have done evil. Call out to him today to receive mercy. He is faithful even though we are faithless.

In addition, realize that Stephen is a prototype for all that follow Jesus. God showed mercy so that he could make a merciful people. People who have been shown mercy are required to show others mercy. Resolve to be a person that shows mercy to those that wrong you. This is most definitely the heart of God. When we are faithless, God shows mercy.

Delegate Authority, Not Only Tasks

There was a problem with racism in the early church. During the daily distribution of food, the widows that had converted to Judaism were being passed over in favor of the widows that were of Jewish descent.

This couldn’t continue. Something had to be done. It had to happen right away. The apostles knew that. They had an important work to do, though. It was one that couldn’t be put aside.

The apostles’ work was clear: Prayer and ministry of the word (6:4). They couldn’t stop doing those things, and there was so much praying and preaching to do that there wasn’t time to do anything else.

So they appointed people to help them. This appointment wasn’t because the job wasn’t important. In fact, it was just the opposite. Because it was so important that there was equity in the food distribution, the Apostles wanted people who would make it their job to oversee it.

It is easy to get spread thin and to think about so many things that nothing gets our full attention. These Apostles knew that, and they continued giving their full attention to prayer and to the ministry of the word and appointed people to give their full attention to the food distribution.

Notice what they did. They laid hands on them, they set them apart for this ministry and they gave them the authority to take care of the food distribution.

So often, when we think of delegation, we think of delegating tasks. We will give people jobs to do while we maintain authority. That is not what the Apostles did. They set these people apart, giving them authority to do the job they were given. No longer did these seven need to run everything by the Apostles, for they had been given the authority and the grace of the Holy Spirit to take over ownership of the food distribution.

May we heed their example. May we be people that are quick to turn over ministry. This is the way to ensure that all that God commands of His church is being performed in our local body.

Nothing Stops a Genuine work of God

If it’s really a work of God, there is no stopping it. Nothing will stop a genuine work of God. People dropping out, persecution, public humiliation, and even the gates of hell don’t stand a chance.

A Pharisee named Gamaliel knew this. He saw what these ‘spiritual revivals’ that were powered by man did. There were several of them. All of them had the same result. When the leader dies, the revival fizzles out and loses steam.

So the man gives great advice:

“So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39)

The guys kind of take his advice. They decide to beat the apostles within an inch of their lives instead of killing them. After all, if this isn’t from God, you can be sure it will fizzle out anyway.

Now, we know the end of this story. We know that this revival never lost momentum and ended up being the largest religion in the world. That’s because, just as Gamaliel said, if it’s a work of God, there’s no stopping it. Even the beatings were no deterrent. Because this was a work of God, these crazy men were rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer.

It’s easy to forget this truth as we labor in God’s field. It’s easy to feel insecure when someone doesn’t like something about the worship service or to feel ineffective when there is disappointment. But, if what we’re doing is really a work of God, there’s no stopping it.

Nothing can stop genuine works of the Spirit. Not persecutions and beatings from the power structures or even death of key leaders. Not people not showing up. Not a bad music set. Not a terrible sermon. Not a word of criticism from a visitor. If it is a genuine work of the Spirit, nothing, and I mean nothing can stop it.

As ministers, then, our task is to prayerfully discern what God is doing, and then to labor with him. And we have to stop with the insecurity, the accommodation and the weird codependency and labor with the confidence that comes from knowing that if it’s a genuine work of the Spirit, nothing can stop it. Nothing.

God Isn’t Mocked

God won’t be mocked. He looks deep into the heart. He sees right through the false pretenses, the feigned humility, and the masked generosity that we use to impress one another.

Ananias and Sapphira learned that the hard way. As the Holy Spirit fell on people and made them a family, the people of God were doing crazy things like selling whatever they had so that the money could be used for the people in need among them. Perhaps feeling a bit of shame about their great wealth, Ananias and Sapphira come up with a plan. They’ll sell the land, hold on to some of the money and lay the rest at the apostles’ feet to be distributed to the poor.

Doesn’t seem like a bad plan. Seems quite noble actually. There is nothing wrong with selling some land, holding onto some profit, and distributing the rest to the poor. After all, it was their land and they had the right to do what they wanted with it (Acts 5:3-4).

These two, though, decided to make it appear as if they had given all the proceeds of the sale to the apostles. They were putting on a show and trying to appear more generous than they were.

Peter tells them something interesting: You didn’t lie to men but to God (Verse 4). When they try to appear more spiritual than they are before God’s people, they are trying to lie to God. Ultimately, this costs them their lives.

God isn’t a God of coercion. He doesn’t want our false pretenses. He doesn’t want us to fake more faith or love or generosity than we have. He sees right through all that.  He desires us to be authentic before him and to live with integrity.

Be authentic with God and His people. He knows anyway. And he desires you to live with integrity before him and others. In addition to that, pray for grace from God. Pray that he would do such a work in your heart that you’ll never have to fake holiness. Pray that he will make you actually become holy so that you never have to fake it.

God doesn’t want us to fake holiness. He wants to make us truly holy, so that we don’t have to fake it. Live openly before him today. But do it with open hands, knowing that he is going to change you into the type of person that never has to fake it.

Proclamation Accompanied by Power

There is a beautiful prayer in Acts 4 after Peter and John’s persecution. It is obvious that the traditions that use Collect prayers took the form straight from prayers like this.

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them… look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

In the intervening words, there is an example of David’s Psalm and an affirmation that Jesus is the fulfillment.

I love this prayer. This prayer is the foundation for ministry. The believers ask for two things to take place simultaneously. First, they ask that God gives them grace to continue to speak with boldness amidst persecution. They are undergoing incredible persecution, and they need God’s help to proclaim the Gospel with boldness.

Second, they ask that God would continue to display the Gospel with healing, signs and wonders. They ask God to reveal himself as they proclaim the good news with boldness.

I must confess, I have very little experience with displays of miracles as accompaniment to the proclamation of the Gospel. I have seen a few miracles as I and others have prayed for each other. God healed a bum knee for someone I prayed for, he instantly healed a headache for another, and a shoulder for another woman. I am sure there are more that I haven’t recalled.

But these guys expected this to be commonplace. Signs and wonders were part and parcel of the ministry of the early church. They were signs that accompanied the Gospel. They made it obvious something new was happening.

These early Christians also asked God to stretch his hand to heal. This is distinguished slightly from the signs and wonders. Healing includes the signs and wonders the church prayed for, but it also includes removal of all of the effects of the curse of sin.

This, I have seen much more of. I have watched people’s lives changed by the good news of Jesus. I have seen people walk out of depression. I have seen addictions broken. I have seen hearts warmed toward God and others. I have seen drug dealers turned into CEO’s and people with terrible anger made new. Our proclamation of the good news will only be effective as God invades hearts and changes lives. When he does this, the results are undeniable.

So then, we ask the Lord to give us boldness. We proclaim the good news that God came to set us free from the curse of sin. We depend on him to accompany that proclamation with the miracle of lives set free and signs and wonders.

This is the formula. God, give me grace to live it.