For the Unborn

Abortion is one of the most difficult topics to discuss today, but it’s also one of the most important topics to discuss today.

Below is a message I preached on January 17th, 2021 in Cortland, NY entitled “For the Unborn.”

Here’s a picture of our two amazing boys, Landon (5) & Declan (1).

They’re super cute because of their mom, and they have a lot of attitude… because of their mom (obviously)!

Declan is one year old, just started walking, and his favorite hobby is ransacking our whole house. Landon is five years old, and his story is very unique:

In 2015, my wife Joy & I experienced what no parent ever wants to face but so many do…

The doctor came into the examination room about 10 minutes after we heard Landon was a boy and told us that he had a potentially life-threatening heart defect.

He sent us to a specialist who confirmed that Landon had #HLHS (hypoplastic left heart syndrome).

Basically he was (and still is) missing an entire chamber of his heart and it’s still a life-threatening condition to this day.

Honestly, this was one of my greatest fears in life coming true.

I was always afraid of parenting a special needs child because I honestly didn’t think I could handle it. I didn’t think I had what it takes to be the father I needed to be for a special needs kid.

But I don’t think I’m alone in that fear… In fact, I know that thousands of people today have that same fear about parenting in general — for healthy kids too.

But the doctor offered a solution for our fear, and his solution was to “explore options.”

And as we talked further, what he meant was — have an abortion.

Today, we’re going to talk about this incredibly personal, painful and often private topic.

Now, as soon as the word “abortion” comes out of my mouth… let’s acknowledge what just happened: tension just rose through roof.

Some of you reading this have very strong opinions and very emotional experiences related to abortion…

And I know this can be a very tough topic, but please stick with me through this entire piece wherever you’re coming from.

There are over 2,300 abortions every day in the United States. [1]

Abortion is normalized in our country—even one of the latest episodes of NBC’s This Is Us chronicles the journey of why Kate chose to have an abortion at 18 years old.

Maybe you experienced an unplanned pregnancy like Kate.

Maybe you’ve gone through crippling fear of the unknown, a toxic relationship or pressure from family.

Most likely, some of you reading this have either had an abortion or helped someone get an abortion.

Maybe you’re a father, boyfriend, or husband who’s encouraged your significant other to get an abortion.

You might see this topic primarily through the lens of politics.

You might call yourself “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”

You may feel like you’re not very well informed to say much about abortion either way.

Some of you have “What about this…” questions or “What if” scenarios you’re wondering about.

Truth is: I’m not going to resolve every tension, address every angle, or clarify every concern in one write-up.

But I can point all of us to the grace and truth of Jesus, no matter where you’re coming from!

I’ve spent several weeks asking God to give me wisdom and clarity on what I should write & how I should write it.

And I’ve prayed that I’ll balance compassionate care along with tough truths — because Jesus gives us both.

Circling back to our journey with Landon… When the doctor offered for us to consider abortion for our son, we refused.

It’s not because we think we’re morally superior to anyone — we aren’t.

It’s not because we weren’t wrestling with fear — we were.

Joy & I refused because the purpose of our lives is to give worth, value and priority to God.

We constantly ask the question: “What does God want?” in every area of our life.

We refused to abort Landon because we know that life is a gift from God, and God clearly tells us that gift is not ours to take.

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us in the dark on who he is, what he’s all about, and who we really are as well.

He gave us a divine collection of 66 books written over 1,500 years by 40 authors on 3 continents in 3 languages with ONE point & purpose:

His Son Jesus.

And if you study the life of Jesus, you’ll notice he quotes from almost every book in the first half of the Bible (the Old Testament) as divinely authoritative.

Let’s look at it together & see what God says about our identity and uniqueness as humans…

In the very beginning of creation we see: “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

This picture is a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates almost a century ago.

In 2016, this card sold for $3.12 million dollars!

What makes this card so valuable? It’s not the cardboard or the ink…

It’s the image on the card that makes it so valuable. [2]

Every human life has value because every human life bears the image of God!

Psalm 8:3-6 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”

God clearly created us differently than animals; we are not animals.

Every human being is made in the image of God and entrusted with divine stewardship of the gifts God gives us — including this world, our ecosystem, the animals, our time, talent, treasure, and our children too.

God’s Word also clearly tells us when our children become our children.

God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5).

A very godly man from the ancient near east named Job said, “Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (Job 31:15).

When Jesus was a baby inside his mother Mary, Dr. Luke records this in the second half of the Bible (the New Testament), “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb…” (Luke 1:41).

King David of Israel said, “13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

And God also spoke through the Apostle Paul when he told the early church in ancient Corinth, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1st Cor. 6:19-20).

Joy and I refused abortion for Landon because these two truths form the railroad tracks of our worldview…

1) Life begins at conception.

2) Our physical bodies belong to God.

So how do we know life begins at conception scientifically?

In her 2018 book, Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey says, “Virtually everyone today agrees that the baby in the womb is human—biologically, physiologically, genetically human…virtually no professional bioethicist denies that life begins at conception.”

Dr. Alfred M. Bongiovanni (professor of obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania) says, “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception…”

Before a congressional subcommittee, Dr. Bongiovanni testified, “I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty is not a human being. This is human life at every stage.”

Dr. Jerome LeJeune said this while serving as a genetics professor at the University of Descartes in Paris, “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being… this is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

Harvard University medical school professor Micheline Matthews-Roth said, “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

Even experientially in 2015, when Joy & I started our medical appointments at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia while Landon was still inside of Joy, the doctors always called him: “Baby.”

So if this is all true, why does our cultural narrative say life doesn’t begin at conception?

Because we typically adhere to the science that suits us.

Just because something is scientifically verified doesn’t mean we’ll choose to adhere to it.

Whatever your perspective on abortion might be, here’s the medical science of a baby’s life in the womb…

Conception: The father’s sperm and mother’s egg combine to form a new human being who carries as much DNA information as 50 sets of a 33-volume encyclopedia including the sex of the baby.

Day 20: Heart, brain, spinal column, and nervous system are almost complete — eyes begin to form.

Day 22: The heart begins to beat. (Within the first month)

Week 4: The baby has muscles, arms, leg buds, & a head.

Week 5: The face, forehead, eyes, nostrils, and mouth are evident.

Week 6: The brainwaves can be recorded.

Week 8: We see fingers, toes, fingerprints, and all organs are present, complete, and functioning except the lungs.

Week 9-10: Thumb sucking.

Week 12: The baby can smile.

Month 4: The baby does somersaults & REM recorded while sleeping.

Months 5-6: Weighs one pound with 50% chance of survival if born with proper medical care.

Months 7-8: Recognizes mom’s voice and 90% chance of survival if born with proper medical care.

Month 9: The baby is ready to come out of the womb.

Now, since science can no longer deny babies in the womb are humans, our culture says, “Well, a fetus may be human, but it isn’t a person.”

This is where Christianity has a much higher view of the body than the system of this world!

Our culture consistently de-values the significance of our physical human bodies when it comes to our identity and personhood.

Personhood is not dependent on what we do. It’s intrinsically designed in who we are since we are made in the image of God.

We don’t need to earn the right to be treated as a valuable person.

Medical science proves that human life begins at conception, and God’s Word also shows us that at conception, we are persons of infinite value to God and each other.

But right now you might be pushing back — maybe even angry & thinking…

Dan, you don’t have a clue about the extenuating circumstances!

You’re not a woman…

You’ve never experienced what I’ve experienced or my friends have experienced.

You’ve never faced the financial challenges, the poverty, the pressure from the father, or the shame from the family…

And you’re right.

I haven’t experienced any of that.

I cannot imagine how hard and excruciating it must be to feel like your only solution is abortion.

But even though I haven’t experienced the hardship of these extenuating circumstances myself, let me tell you some stories of people who have and see what you’d recommend[3]

STORY #1
– Father is sickly
– Pregnant mom has tuberculosis
– 1st child is blind, 2nd is dead, 3rd is deaf, 4th has TB

Considering quality of life & genetics… would you recommend abortion?

If so, Beethoven would never have been born.

Ludwig Von Beethoven
– Insanely gifted musician
– Most famous works include 9 symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets
– Became one of the greatest composers of all time

STORY #2
– 13 year-old African-American girl lives in Chester, PA
– Raped by a white man and becomes pregnant

Considering rape… would you recommend abortion?

If so, Ethel Waters never would have been born.

Ethel Waters
– Broadway star, nominated for an Academy Award & Primetime Emmy
– First African American to star on her own TV show
– Ministered to millions of people
– Traveled with Billy Graham

STORY #3
– Mom develops amoebic dysentery
– Strong antibiotics are used to treat the infection, before they discover she’s pregnant…

STORY #3
– Doctors strongly recommend that she abort the “mass of fetal tissue” and keep herself safe
– There seems to be irreversible damage to her baby, but she refuses to abort and nearly loses the baby 4x

Considering the doctors’ recommendations… would you recommend abortion?

If so, Tim Tebow would never have been born.

A few weeks ago, I took a personal tour of Tim Tebow’s new multi-million dollar camp right by my house in Bear Creek, PA.

This camp will serve hundreds of special needs children across the nation who God loves more than we can imagine.

All because Tim Tebow’s mom chose to fight her fears with love.

Now, maybe choosing abortion is a part of your past.

Maybe you made the choice reluctantly and believed you were making the best choice you could because our culture says it’s ok, but now you see that it wasn’t right.

Maybe you’re a guy who’s helped a lady in your life get an abortion.

Maybe the pain of regret and secret shame have plagued you for years.

Maybe you’ve started to see that although abortion is the legal, cultural norm today, we cannot minimize or excuse its opposition to God’s will.

But here’s the great news: if choosing abortion is a part of your past, Jesus wants to give you grace, hope, and healing for your future!

God loves you more than you could possibly imagine.

He doesn’t hate you; he wants you!

“There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

“Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Two of our greatest needs are forgiveness and freedom from our fears.

We find both in Jesus.

John, the best friend of Jesus wrote this: “If we confess our sins to God he is faithful & just to forgive us…” (1st John 1:9).

He also said: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1st John 4:18).

Ultimately, the issue of abortion is so personal, private, and painful because of FEAR.

And we all struggle with fear… especially in 2021.

When God says perfect love casts out fear, he’s not being dismissive of our fears: he’s giving us hope-filled courage and the ultimate resolution to our fears!

Here’s the great news: Jesus is FOR us, not against us.

When we give our lives to Jesus—putting our faith in his perfect life, death and resurrection on our behalf… he doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love & and a sound mind.

But we still struggle with fear because we struggle to love… all of us do.

We struggle to love God like we should & love others like we should.

We fear the future and we fear each other — especially on this topic of abortion.

We live in a such a polarized, tribal society that tells us we can’t love if we disagree… and that’s a lie!

Disagreement ≠ Hatred!

If you completely disagree with me today, I still love you.

If you have had an abortion, hear me clearly… God loves you, and I love you.

If you have helped someone have an abortion, hear me clearly… God loves you, and I love you too.

If you have faced extreme fear and believed abortion was your only option… or maybe you’re considering an abortion right now — God has you reading this piece for a reason.

Jesus offers hope and healing if you’re willing to come to him in humility.

Truth without love is mean, but love without truth is meaningless.

I wouldn’t be very loving if I didn’t share truth with you.

And the same is equally true for those of us who would call ourselves “pro-life.”

Here are three challenging questions for pro-lifers:

1) Who matters most?

2) What about politics?

3) What about Jesus?

First, who matters most — the mother or the baby?

The answer is: both the mother and the baby are equally valuable to God, and they should be equally valuable to us.

Scott Sauls says, pro-life and pro-choice people both “advocate for someone who is in a weak and distressed position.

Both sides are challenged — whether truth or perception — that they give partial treatment toward one side, and dismissive treatment toward another.

Neither seems to be fully in line with what James called “true religion” which is to attend to widows AND orphans (vulnerable women AND children) in their affliction (James 1:27).

If we don’t show deep concern for both mother AND child, James says our religion is lopsided…”

This means we must be comprehensively pro-life.

We can’t ignore issues like racism, lack of affordable healthcare, poverty, abuse, and so many others…

Which brings us to the issue of politics: Is the abortion issue primarily political?

Unfortunately, the pro-life movement has often put politics in the driver’s seat and often replaced relationships for attempts at political power.

Especially in 2020.

David French says, “For almost three decades, the Supreme Court lesson has been clear — put not your trust in judges to rescue America from the moral stain of abortion.”

Actually, the great news is that abortions in America have continually declined since the early 80’s, and they declined most rapidly under President Obama (a pro-choice President).

In fact, from 2011-2017, abortions in America fell by nearly 20%. [4]

Now, that decline really has more to do with fewer unplanned pregnancies, reduced teen sexual activity (technology and pornography have a lot to do with this), more access to healthcare, new state restrictions, and more affordable adoption.

Which, by the way, I personally know tons of pro-life people who are leading the way in adoption efforts through sacrificial love like Jesus.

But here’s the point — politics will never ultimately solve America’s abortion problem.

Should we vote for who God leads us to vote for? Yes!

But here’s a big weakness of ours…

David French says, “We’re most passionate about the president. Yet too many of us are less interested in the crisis pregnancy center down the street.”

Are we more interested in power or love?

Love is Christianity 401, not 101 because love IS the power of Jesus!

Jesus entered the world through the most unique unplanned pregnancy in human history — in humble love rather than power.

And when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4… she was ostracized from her own community, from a different ethnic background that Jesus’ Jewish community hated.

Later we learn she was divorced 5x, but it was probably due to a deeply painful infertility struggle rather than her being a “homewrecker.” [5]

Jesus broke all the cultural norms and boundaries of his day by dignifying her, engaging her relationally, and lovingly pointing her to the truth of her need for Him.

She was the very first person who discovered that Jesus was actually the Messiah (before the 12 male disciples even clued in).

And Jesus radically changed her life through his love while she was hurting, vulnerable, and scared. [6]

What if we lived more like that?

What if we built more bridges than walls?

What if we were known far more by who we are FOR rather than what we oppose?

What if we used social media to bless people rather than blast people?

What if the Church was a healing community for the broken where everyone — regardless of their past — found freedom in the gospel?

What if mothers with unplanned pregnancies RAN to the Church first because they knew they would find hope and help?

You might be thinking… wow, that’d be awesome!

But how do we do that when the Church is often not that?

I’ll summarize how with three words: Availability, Learning, Serving.

First step: we position our lives to be available to people who need love.

Back home in PA, our neighbor just recently had her first baby in an unplanned pregnancy where she courageously chose life for her son.

Before her beautiful son was born, Joy noticed hardly anyone in her life was buying gifts on her Amazon registry.

So we threw the link out to hundreds of believers in a FB group that we started through Northeast Collaborative.

Pretty soon they were FLOODED with gifts from Northeast followers of Jesus in multiple states.

Our neighbor told us she couldn’t believe how so many complete strangers could be so loving!

We’ve been able to talk through the gospel multiple times with her as we keep growing our friendship.

This is where it starts: availability.

Start praying for God to give you relational opportunities with people in your neighborhood, your job, and other spheres of influence.

Second step: learning. Here are some great ways we can educate ourselves more effectively…

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called Reversing Roe that will give you very helpful information mostly from the pro-choice perspective.

We need to do much better at breaking out of our echo chambers and listening to people that we disagree with.

There’s also a really challenging video from Christians Phil Vischer & Skye Jethani if you search for their Holy Post abortion video on Facebook or Youtube. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s well worth 15 minutes to take in.

If you haven’t seen the movie, UNPLANNED, you need to. This is the true story of Abby Johnson who was an abortion clinic worker that left the industry after what she experienced.

If you want a more academic study on a theology of the body and hard questions regarding life and sexuality, Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey is a phenomenal resource.

These two resources are helpful too: Why Pro Life? by Randy Alcorn and Abortion by R.C. Sproul.

If you have the YouVersion Bible app on your phone, there’s an excellent reading plan called “Reimagining Pro-Life” you can start.

And a great organization called CareNet with unplanned pregnancy help centers across the nation has terrific training videos on Right Now Media called “Making Life Disciples.”

Third step: serving. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Care Net Pregnancy Centers are great places to find answers for the future if you have an unplanned pregnancy and healing from the past if abortion is part of your story.

You can find a Care Net affiliated pregnancy center near you at their website: www.care-net.org.

They’re also great places to serve!

Get involved with these pregnancy centers financially and relationally so that we can come alongside mothers with unplanned pregnancies and battle their fears with them.

We’ll become the Church God wants us to be by 1) positioning our lives to be available, 2) learning all that we can, and 3) serving like our Servant King Jesus.

Joy & I have no idea how long Landon will live with #HLHS.

Ultimately, he belongs to God.

He’s doing well after his 3 open-heart surgeries, but the future is still a mystery. While we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.

And we’re so glad we chose life for Landon.


[1] https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2019/09/us-abortion-rate-continues-drop-once-again-state-abortion-restrictions-are-not-main

[2] This illustration comes from my friend Mark Stuenzi @ Parker Hill Church.

[3] These illustrations come from my friend Justin Bleuer @ Berean Bible Church.

[4] https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2019/09/us-abortion-rate-continues-drop-once-again-state-abortion-restrictions-are-not-main

[5] https://blogs.bible.org/samaritan-woman-stay-away-from-me/

[6] Learn more in-depth, cultural background in Kenneth E. Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Chapter 15, “The Woman at the Well,” pgs. 200-216.

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