Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pro-lifers & the Proverbs: The January LifeSharer Letter

Normally, I merely post here on the blog a link to the LifeSharer letter which is published in full over on the official Vital Signs Ministries web site. (The LifeSharer is the monthly newsletter/commentary of Vital Signs Ministries, sent free of charge to supporters and other friends of our work.) However, as I mentioned in a previous post, a few days ago we suffered a "hostile takeover" of our web pages by a Turkish hacker with an apparent grudge against Christian pro-lifers. Therefore, until we get things back in order over there, we will publish a few things here at the blog site that would otherwise go there. Okay?

January 2007
Dear VSM LifeSharers,

We had barely finished our last group prayer of the morning and were gathering our things to leave the abortion clinic where we had been sidewalk counseling when the young man pulled up to the intersection and roughly yelled at us.
“Don’t you people have anything better to do?”
I smiled and started towards his car. “You gotta’ be kidding me, right? I mean, what can you come up with that’s better than saving a baby’s life? Firemen, doctors and nurses, lifeguards – are you tellin’ me that they’re wasting their time too?” I kept walking towards the vehicle.
The fellow gestured over to the Planned Parenthood clinic. “But this is America. We have something called free choice, you know.”
“Of course; I’m not saying you don’t. All I’m doing is telling people the facts about abortion – the facts that they’re not going to be told in this place. You’re pro-truth, aren’t you?” I was next to his car now and kneeling down so I could speak to him face to face. “You’re not against newspapers or TV commercials, are you? Just giving information – you aren’t bothered by that. I’m doing the same thing – except the information I’m offering is free and related to the highest stakes possible.” I then moved my head towards the building. “At any rate, I’m not taking away anybody’s freedom. See that iron rail fence surrounding the place? You know, I haven’t scaled that thing and tackled a girl all morning long.”
That finally drew a little laugh from him but he then asked, more calmly and seriously than I was expecting, “But…don’t they already have their minds made up?”
“You know, you’d think that, wouldn’t you? But I’ve been doing this for years now and there have been hundreds decide not to have the abortion – even though they get to this stage of the proceedings. That’s something else, huh?”
By now a couple of cars had pulled up behind him and so I motioned him on. “Hey, you’re starting to hold up traffic now so you’d better book. But thanks for stopping, man. Take care.”
The young man smiled and acted, for a brief moment, like he was going to try another tack. Then, putting his car in gear and quietly (almost graciously) saying, “Well, okay; you people try and stay warm,” he drove off.
I turned back to my colleagues. There were a couple of grins and an arched eyebrow or two. Somebody said, “Well, that had a different ending than what I would have guessed.” Someone else suggested, “That Denny sure is a personable cuss, isn’t he? Makes friends in the most unlikely places.” And then there was Mark, nodding his head in approval as he said quietly, “Yes, a soft answer turns away wrath.”

Ah, the Proverbs! How valuable is the wise counsel they give us. Now, the Proverbs aren’t always guarantees. A soft answer, for instance, doesn’t always turn away wrath (how we pro-life activists know that!) but the Proverbs do show us how life should be. And even when deliberate sin breaks the consistency of those rules for life which the Proverbs are, they always point us to the ideal standards. And I can assuredly testify from years of experience, even amid the intense pressures of being at abortion clinics, protests, sit-ins, debates, answering questions (and charges) at speaking engagements and so on… that a soft answer, as Proverbs 15:1 instructs us, is usually a very reliable (and always a very godly) tool for turning aside wrath.

The morning’s incident got me to thinking about some of the other Proverbs that have proven of particular value in our ministries as pro-life Christians. And, in this month’s letter, before I get to a couple of news items, I thought I’d share just a few.

There are, of course, many, many of the Proverbs that you can see having a direct application to our work. Among the best known is this passage, an obvious and foundational motivation for nearly all we do.
Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
If you say, "See, we did not know this,"
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Those words of life and spiritual liberty we share, however, are frequently misinterpreted by those running from God. As a result, we are often rejected rather than welcomed, ridiculed rather than praised, hated and persecuted rather than having our message embraced. But that doesn’t affect our obligation to keep on telling the truth, even those truths that the world most hates nowadays – truths about abortion, sexual perversion, cowardice, commercialism, etc. Note how wisdom perseveres (and even wins some listeners) in this passage:
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.
For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil. (Proverbs 1:29-33)

The same kind of situation is spoken of here:
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. (Proverbs 9:7-9)

The previous passage is not intended to dissuade the Christian from reproving he who would commit grievous, dangerous sin. It simply lets you know what to expect so you will be prepared. And it also provides a hint of the worthwhile nature of the effort, for we have no way of knowing just which foolish, scoffing person will one day listen and be turned. After all, back in 1970 Chuck Cooke had the faith to take a chance on a young Colorado thug, confronting him with the Word of God. Had Chuck tried on his own to discern whether or not I was a confirmed scoffer, yours truly would still be dead in his sins. And, most probably, dead period!

Chapter 10 of Proverbs is an absolute storehouse of relevant truth for pro-lifers, especially for those who take Christ’s banner to the abortion mills where they will unavoidably deal with the taunts made by passersby, the threats made by certain clients, and the mocking done by workers and escorts. The entire chapter (which you’ll have to go read yourself – not enough space here) gives fantastic contrasts between the wise and the wicked with many key warnings of what the wise must avoid at all costs. Proverbs 10 should be high on the required reading list for pro-life activists, supplemented also by several others which carry a similar warning… like these:
When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man,
The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.

A fool always loses his temper,
But a wise man holds it back.

An angry man stirs up strife,
And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.(Proverbs 29: 9, 11, and 22)

Now, this next Proverb may not seem particularly serious to some of you but, trust me, there has been a lot more than one dark, winter morning when it has been of immense convicting value to me, urging me to get up and go stand for the babies instead of pulling the covers over my head:
How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest – (Proverbs 6: 9-10)

I love how the Lord uses humor to make His point here; that is, the rhetorical pause that follows verse 10, replicating the so-common experience of someone nodding off to sleep (even when it wasn’t planned) only to be startlingly awakened much later. Very good.

I could go on for quite awhile citing some of my favorite, most useful Proverbs. Among them would be the description of the “excellent wife” which, quite honestly, is a good portrait of Claire (31:10-31); the promise of God’s vengeance on such people as unrepentant abortiontists (11:31); the vivid picture of how powerful and beautiful encouragement is to the troubled (12:25); and a “summary version” of the Shema (3:3-5).

One more before I close. “Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net in the sight of any bird” (Proverbs 1:17). The word picture here, taken from hunting techniques, is a striking one. It emphasizes how keen are a bird’s eyes and how wary its instincts. Indeed, the hunter who sets a ground trap where the bird can see what’s happening is a hunter who most likely will be opening a can of tuna fish for his supper! Thus, effective hunters use blinds, decoys, artificial calls, bait, the right timing, and who knows what else to lure the birds to them. The hunter cannot go get the birds in their element so he has to fool them into coming down into his – an element made to appear safe and natural but is actually anything but.

Is Proverbs 1:17 dropped into the Scriptures then simply as a tip for bird hunters? Of course not. The application is clear from the context that it is a warning for all of us to stay alert, always watchful. I must remember this myself; I am not immune from certain dangers of the enemy. But, as a believer whose soul is protected by the Almighty Hand of God and even whose temporal being can be protected by putting on the whole armor of God, I have a duty made clear by the Proverbs to warn, challenge, and otherwise inform others of the dangers posed to them by the evil one.

Therefore, when I am holding my big baby sign or a banner (“Mom, We Care About You and Your Baby”) outside an abortuary, I am (using the metaphor) trying to keep the innocent safe and free from the clutches of the abortionist hiding behind his camouflage. Through our presence, our words and our prayers, the sidewalk counselors (and, by extension, the whole Vital Signs Ministries team) are trying to make the prey aware of the enemy that draws them in. We raise the alarm. We offer sanctuary. We are not, as Proverbs points out over and again, always going to be successful. We will even be hated by both hunters and the hunted. But, because of our faithfulness, some will live.

Of course, no matter what happens, God is really pleased at our efforts to properly, persistently observe His Proverbs. And that is the paramount motivation. So, whether it involves our sidewalk counseling, blogs, speaking, articles, letters, events, literature, or intercession, we will keep on being His agents of truth, freedom and grace.

Okay, I promised you a few news items before I sign off so let’s do it. First, Claire and I will really be blessed this year to enjoy the participation of Matt Troutman, Dick Loneman and Quint Coppi on the Vital Signs field trip to Washington for the national March for Life on January 22nd. (Claire, Dick and I already attended the Walk for Life down in Lincoln – very cold and snowy but quite invigorating!) While in D.C., we will be doing a few other tasks too, including our traditional prayer tour the evening before the March. And this year there’s a new activity – a pro-life bloggers’ conference over at the Family Research Council office the morning of the March.

Also up in the coming weeks are the year’s first P.A.L. Night (Monday, January 29th); the year’s first Book It! Discussion (Monday, February 19th discussing Surviving Hitler: Choices, Corruption and Compromise in the Third Reich); and the first speaking engagements (West Omaha Kiwanis and Country Bible Church in Blair). Give us a call if you’re interested in these or any of the regular Vital Signs activities. And please keep checking the Vital Signs Blog. Our visitor numbers are increasing all the time – and there must some good reasons why!

Until next month, please know Claire and I remain so very grateful for your generous, encouraging partnership with us in this ever-critical, ever-difficult work. As it is put in Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” We love you all.