Archive for January, 2013

Abortion and Conscience

January 22, 2013

Recently I did my own little survey.  I asked a number of people who call themselves liberal (not necessarily democrats), how they felt about Hobby Lobby owners being forced to violate their own conscience when it somes to providing for abortion pills under Obamacare.  They simply could not understand my question.  The answer was usually “you can’t force your conscience on someone else.”  Pressed about the meaning of that statement, they came up with “If you don’t pay for abortion pills, you are forcing your conscience on someone who wants them.”  They couldn’t understand that forcing the employer to pay for abortion pills in the first place is forcing someone else’s conscience on the employer.  Going further, I asked if they could think of anything that would bother their conscience  if they were forced to do it.  Only one person had an answer and it was “I would hate to have to carry a gun to protect kids in a school.”  After much thought, I have to come to the conclusion that while “liberals” have passionate feelings about what they feel are their rights, they don’t have such passion about matters of conscience.  I go further to state that none of these liberals has any solid belief in a personal God, particularly not a belief in a God who makes moral demands.

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Why did Jesus have to die for our sin?

January 19, 2013

There is currently quite a controversy going on in the theological circles of England.  It seems someone has said we could be saved without Jesus death.  God could simply forgive sin, and indeed a God of love would do so without requiring punishment.  Requiring punishment, according to the thinking is sadistic and unworthy of God.  Further, it says letting Jesus go to Earth and die was child abuse if Jesus is truly the son of God.  This camp teaches God’s love and mercy saves sinners, and Jesus death on the cross, while proof of his love for us (He came even though He knew evil men would kill him)  was not necessary for salvation.

 

Clearly, the above is not what the bible teaches.  Every part of the bible either points to, prophecies about, or tells about one who would come to save mankind from sin.  The Old Testament rites of animal sacrifice and Passover foreshadowed it.  The prophets described the Messiah as a “suffering servant” who would save mankind.  Jesus talked about his coming death, and used the curious word “ransom”.  The apostles clearly explained that Jesus death was an atonement or payment for the sins of Men, and that belief in Jesus atoning sacrifice was the key to salvation.  Salvation is a work of grace, paid for by Jesus and acquired by faith.

 

Why could it not have been another way?  Now the creature is questioning the Creator, who obviously knows things we don’t know and can’t understand.  Beginning to ask these questions has a sense of arrogance about it that makes me want to tiptoe.  At the same time, begging God’s patience, I believe He does want us to defend our faith from the questions of skeptics as well as answer the questions of would-be believers who sincerely wonder.

 

I keep going back to the curious word “ransom” used by Jesus.  We know the first sin wasn’t the sin of Adam, but the sin of Lucifer.  Lucifer’s sin wasn’t one of questioning God, but the sin of pride.  Though He was God’s creature, He considered Himself equal to God, and tried to wrest the throne of God away for himself.  The Church Fathers said Lucifer’s words were “I will not serve”.  Scripture says a third of the angels followed Him.  A second chance was never offered to the angels.  Perhaps that’s because the unforgiveable sin isn’t doubting God, or even wanting to be like God, but blasphemy.  Lucifer defied God with full knowledge of what He was doing.  He wanted to BE God, and He had all the intellectual capacity and knowledge to know what that defiance meant.

 

Lucifer became Satan, God’s most powerful enemy.  Satan hates God, and wants to hurt God in the only way He can—through God’s creation.  So, Satan devised a plan to wrest God’s children, the humans away from God.  He used lies and deceit, and catered to the desires of the human for knowledge and power.  He put doubt about God into the heart of Eve.  Adam may not have doubted God, but seeing Eve taste of the forbidden fruit, He had a decision to make.  He could choose to side with his wife, or stand for God.  We know his choice.

 

When Adam and Eve sinned, they willingly sided with Satan against God, and broke their relationship with God.  It would be similar to a child today siding with criminals against their parents.  As in the case of today’s child and that of Adam and Eve, once the decision is made, it cannot be easily undone.  Adam and Eve had basically sold their souls to Satan for the knowledge and power He falsely promised them, and they could no longer buy their way out of their contract.  God would have to intervene.

 

Imagine this possibility: in the great halls of Heaven, before all the angels, court was held.  Justice sided with Satan, for the great Law of the Ages was that defiance of God (known as sin) would mean separation from God forever.  It could be no other way.  No defiance can pollute God’s perfect heaven.  There would be a price to pay for mankind’s freedom, and that was death, both physical and spiritual.  Only someone without sin could pay that price, for the sinners belonged to Satan.  And that someone would also have to be human, since it was humankind who was guilty.  But what if God himself became that sinless human?  This proposal may have taken Satan by surprise, as up till that moment He believed He had mankind won forever.  Indeed, Satan may have been the one to devise the methods of crucifixion through his evil influence over evil human imagination.  Perhaps he thought he could cause the fully human Jesus to shrink back from the horror of it.  But God, the all -powerful, all loving One, in his nature as the Son, came to earth as Jesus and hence became the “ransom”.  Thank you Jesus, forever, for what only you could do.  Thank you for loving us so much, before we were in any way worth loving.

 

Some have asked why God didn’t just destroy Satan at that point.  Therein lies more mystery.  There is a drama still to be played out before the great audience of Heaven, both angelic and human.  Part of that involves a triumph of God’s people over Satan and his armies of angels and humans.  And all humans have a choice: to choose for God or for Satan; to search for truth or search for what satisfies sinful desires; to serve God or to serve Self as Satan did. 

 

And beyond all these possibilities are many mysteries of God that are beyond mankind’s ability to discover or reason through.  As the apostle Paul said “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

Why Doesn’t God Protect His Own from Suffering?

January 19, 2013

You asked a very good question. Even people who have been Christians a very long time struggle with the question “Why does God allow His own to suffer?” Many times I struggle with it myself. God does protect us, but sometimes He allows very hard things to happen to us, and we can’t understand the reason. In my own life the hardest things have been the loss of loved ones through sudden, early death. We all die, we all suffer pain, and we all lose people we love.

One thing we know is that we live in a fallen world. When sin came into the world, it was no longer the fully good and perfect place it was before. We left the door open for Satan, and He hates us. He especially hates those who love God. That may answer where the suffering comes from.  But it doesn’t answer why God doesn’t protect us from all suffering.

We know Jesus suffers along with us when we hurt. In the story about the death of Lazarus we have the shortest sentence in the bible: Jesus wept. Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus, but being with those who grieved touched Jesus’ heart so deeply, he wept along with them. And, He did raise Lazarus. Eventually everything we suffer will be made right, and there will be no more tears in God’s home. (Rev 21:4)

The other thing we know is God uses every thing that happens to us for our good. (Romans 8:28) I personally believe if we could see the end result of everything that happens, we would choose it for ourselves, although it might be very difficult.

I hope this helps you as you struggle with these issues for yourself. Its part of the walk with Jesus that we learn to trust Him, and if it was always easy, our trust wouldn’t be worth very much, would it?

Did you ever read a book where in the middle the main character is in such danger you wonder if he will even survive? And then you have to leave the story and do something else. Later, when you read the end, everything turns out great, but you can’t see that when you have to leave the story. Thats kind of how life is. We don’t get to fast forward to see that it turns out ok in the end.

I prayed Jesus will give you fresh reassurance that He loves you and is always on your side no matter how things look.

 

A Prayer on my 65th birthday

January 12, 2013

Dear Lord I can’t believe I’m looking at my 65th birthday already.  It came so soon…much sooner than I expected.  I still feel like I’m in my 30s or maybe my 40s.  Then I look in the mirror and I can’t believe this is my face and my body.  Its still a little shocking, because in my mind I’m much younger.  I wish I had known how fast the time would pass.  I might have spent at least some of my time differently.  I might have made more time for some things and less for others.

Thank you for letting me live long enough to see my children launch their own lives, and to meet most of my grandchildren at this point, although I hope there might be one or two more of those coming along yet.

Thank you for health, relatively few physical complaints, and at least no mental deficiencies that I can see (although my family might be too kind to point them out to me.)

I would like to ask you for a few things as time goes on.  I’d like to ask for physical health and strength to serve you for a long time yet.  I’d also like to ask for the mental capacity to be able to help, listen to, counsel and encourage others as long as I live.  I would like to ask you for the humility to age gracefully.  Please help me keep my own problems on the back burner and not burden my family and friends with too much information about those issues, especially my physical health.  Please help me have the wisdom not to always compare today with “the good old days”.  I know times have changed, and our morals have changed for the worse I think, but there was plenty going wrong when I was young.  Help me not to talk about “young people nowadays.”   Help me instead to be a friend to young people, to listen to their problems and encourage them.  Help me focus on the positive instead of the negative in all things.  Help me know when someone is asking me to share my wisdom, and not force it on people who really aren’t desiring to hear it.  I did learn most things through life experience, but not everyone wishes to hear about it. 

Help me continue to be of service to others, and to focus on what I can contribute, not what I can no longer do.  The narrowing of my boundaries due to aging may allow me to discover skills I never had time to develop before.  Help me rejoice in that.

Help me keep my attention outside of myself and try to be a blessing to other people and to my world, whatever size of a world I’m able to have.  Help me have a healthy interest in keeping myself fit, not a morbid interest in my health.  Help me talk less and listen more, be thankful, pray more and worry less. 

Help me talk to You more and listen to You more.  Help me put a priority on continuing to hear You, through Your words in scripture.  I want to know You and be comfortable with You so that I do not fear my approaching end.  I want to continue in faith that You and I will be together then, as we are now, and we will walk together out of this sphere into Your home, where You will have my rooms waiting for me.

You have loved and cared for me my whole life.  Thank you Lord.  Keep me faithful to You, loving You, through all that is yet to come till that wonderful day when I will see Your face.

How to Pray

January 11, 2013

People have sometimes asked me how I pray.  The best way I know is just to talk to Jesus  like you would talk to your best friend.  When we see our best friends, we always greet them.  We say things to let them know we value and appreciate them.  We thank them for things they’ve done for us.  We tell them about what is going on in our lives, and finally, we ask them to help us.  Here’s where it is a little different, in that Jesus can help us with things our friends can’t begin to do.  But I like to imagine Jesus is right beside me, and I just talk to Him about whatever is on my mind.  I do keep in mind He is great and holy, but He is also forever human too.  When He came to earth as one of us, humanity became a part of His nature for all eternity.  I love that about Him.  He loved us so much, He totally identified with us, becoming in all ways as we are, except for sin.

He totally understands what we are experiencing, because He experienced every human emotion Himself.  He is truly our best friend–the best friend any human can be.

Praying for Enemies

January 7, 2013

Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies.  What exactly does that mean?  When someone has been very hurtful, it is extremely difficult to even wish them well.  If we pray for them, what do we pray? 

Maybe it must start out with our being entirely honest with God about how we feel.  He understands perfectly.  There isn’t a situation nor an emotion Jesus didn’t experience Himself when He walked the earth.  No enemy has ever hurt me the way He was hurt by His.  If I can sort out my own emotions in His Presence, I can begin to heal with His help.  Now I can do the hard part of asking Him about what I need to do to make things right, at least on my side.  Sometimes there is nothing I can do.  Sometimes my enemy is my enemy simply because of who I am or things for which I have taken a stand.  If I can’t change my position, I can’t apologize.  If I was rude, I can apologize for that.  But one thing I can never apologize for is telling the truth, even if I hurt someone by doing so.

Having satisfied the need to be right before God–having nothing He would have me do which I am refusing to face, I can ask His help for my enemy.  Of all things I could pray for them, its for their own soul to be at peace before God, and to be in right standing with Him themselves.  If my enemy hates me for purely political reasons, thats one thing.  Maybe they need to sort out some of their own emotions surrounding the stands they are taking.  But if they hate me because they are in rebellion against God, thats an issue I can certainly pray about.  Christians have some rather virulent enemies, especially if they have taken stands on moral issues, or even a particularly well explained stand on such basics as the existence of God.  When one is faced with that sort of enemy, God alone can help.  First, one needs to pray for protection, since this kind of hatred may be inspired by evil spiritual power.  Second, one needs to pray for the release of bondage for the person involved.  One can pray that God will do all in His infinite power to break through that person’s defenses, as only God knows how to do.  God is a God of mercy, and our prayers for a merciful intervention by God on behalf of our enemy, is surely a prayer pleasing to Him.  Whether that person has gone over into the realm of blasphemy against God’s spirit, is something only God can know.  It is not our affair.

Boundaries on one’s thought life

January 3, 2013

Something that was once part of daily practice has been forgotten in this culture.  In earlier times, one often reviewed one’s day to determine if deeds, words and thoughts conformed to one’s conscience.  Thoughts were considered under one’s control, and each person was responsible for the thoughts allowed to inhabit one’s mind.  That idea has been largely ignored in modern times, and a person’s mind is usually a jungle of cavorting thoughts and fantasies.  It was Jesus, himself, who said all things good and bad had their origin in the “heart”, or human imagination.  Lets consider for a moment, the kinds of things we allow to wander freely in our minds.

Porn addiction is a serious problem, affecting marriages, work, and relationships.  How many crimes of a sexual nature committed against adults and children had their start in the thoughts and imaginations of the perpetrators?  Crime is a serious problem, and is most often pre-meditated.  Addictions of every kind begin with thinking about the object of one’s desire.  Depression has its roots in negative thinking.  Anger has its roots in negative thinking.  And on and on.  What if people put boundaries around their thoughts, and periodically during the day asked themselves “What am I thinking?”  What if one refused to dwell on negative thinking, imagining wrong things, and craving wrong things? 

This is hard.  When a person consciously tries not to think about something, its always there.  The secret is to replace wrong thinking with good and positive thinking.  Instead of angry thoughts, replace with thankful thoughts.  Instead of depressing, negative, “what if”  thinking, one replaces with thoughts of beauty, kindness, and admiration.  Instead of thinking “what must I have?”, thinking “what can I give”?  What would the world be like?

The apostle Paul, who probably suffered about as much as any human over a lifetime, said this : “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Hobby Lobby and the Government

January 2, 2013

What can you call a government that forces you to violate your conscience or be severely punished?  In the past, our government allowed for issues of conscience, in ways ranging from provisions for conscientious objectors in wartime, to provision of special diets.  Now, this administration is telling religious objectors that they must supply abortifacient drugs in their healthcare plans or face bankrupting fines.  In the past, religious objectors were not required to perform abortions.  In the past, taxpayer money was not used for abortion.  Now, suddenly, employers must provide abortion drugs.  Clearly, something happened.  The government has decided that what it decides is the “common good” pre-empts individual conscience.  This is a 180 turn from the thinking of the constitution’s writers.  They were descended from settlers who left their native lands, in many cases, in order to practice their religious beliefs and follow their consciences in freedom.  Freedom of conscience is the whole principle underlying first amendment freedom of religion.  What is happening to Hobby Lobby and 119 other employers is not only unconstitutional, but is showing this administration to be a tyrannical government.