Monthly Archives: November 2013

Advocating for Life: Following Jesus’ Example

Abortion is about as polarizing an issue as we have in the United States. On one side are the pro-life advocates seeking to protect those who are alive in the womb and unable to defend or speak for themselves. On the other side are the pro-abortion advocates who consider abortion nothing more than a women’s health issue and a choice to be made; the fetus is not living and therefore is not entitled to protection. Because we are so polarized over this issue, the American abortion dialogue has, to a large extent, declined into a miry pit of mudslinging and name-calling on both sides of the argument. The issue gets lost in the personalities of those discussing it as the waters are muddied with personal attacks. This is unfortunate. Such a dialogue plays right into the hands of the pro-abortion crowd while innocent children continue to die.

Abortion Memorial

Abortion Memorial (Photo credit: DrGBB)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 18% of pregnancies in 2009 were terminated through abortion (227 abortions for every 1,000 live births). In total, 784,507 lives were terminated by abortion providers in 2009. This is the most recent year for which the CDC has published such statistics. While these are sobering statistics, they also report that the abortion rate steadily declined from 2000 through 2009; a small silver lining perhaps, but for those whose lives were taken, a tragedy nonetheless. (source: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/#Abortion)

I am a pro-life advocate. Like other pro-life advocates I believe abortion on demand is a sin and an American travesty. Unfortunately, our message is too often lost in the delivery. Many of us on the pro-life side of this issue profess to be Christians. Why is it, then, that we often tend to leave our Christianity at the door when we embark on a discussion of abortion? How would Jesus handle such a discussion?

I believe the answer to this question can be found in a real-life encounter Jesus had with a woman in Samaria:

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” ~ John 4:7-26

Jesus and Samaritan woman

Jesus and Samaritan woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus exhibits several traits in this encounter that we modern-day Christians would be wise to emulate – not just in a discussion on abortion, but in any circumstance in which we encounter sin:

  1. Jesus addresses her directly and with respect. Although He knows what she’s done, He doesn’t look down His nose at her, nor does He speak to her in a demeaning tone. He speaks to her as One who loves her.
  2. Jesus is honest with her. As He talks with her about her marital history, 5 husbands and all, He does so in a no-nonsense manner but in a manner in which His message is crystal clear.
  3. Jesus never puts her on the defensive. He listens and answers her questions. At no time does He call her names, belittle her, or send her on a guilt trip.
  4. Jesus tells the woman who He is. After this scene the woman leaves the well and heads into town proclaiming that she has met the Messiah!

Now fast-forward to 2013. A pro-abortion advocate tells us how shortsighted and selfish we are. He proclaims that we pro-lifers hate women because we want them to resort to coat-hanger abortions in back alleys. She calls us male pro-lifers a bunch of chauvinistic pigs that care nothing about women’s health. They say that science teaches that the fetus in the womb is nothing but a mass of cells, no different than a tumor. Of course, none of these things are true. But as they malign us for standing on our faith as we advocate our pro-life position, how do we respond?

Abortion card001

Abortion card001 (Photo credit: John Ensor)

Our response can either contribute to the polarization, thereby impeding the advancement of our cause, or it can be a tool through which, one by one, we may persuade the pro-abortion advocate to understand our position and perhaps even come to embrace it alongside us. If we call them murderers, sluts and whores are we emulating our Lord? If we bomb abortion clinics, as some have done, do we really expect to win them over? Do we have any chance whatsoever at persuading them to change their minds through such discourse and action? Of course not! Such rhetoric and action backs them into a corner as it fuels their anger. Instead of gaining ground we lose it as they point to us and call us a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. When we respond in this manner, they have a point. And when respond in this manner, we galvanize their position even as our behavior disappoints our Lord.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, known as a "King o...

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, known as a “King of abortion”, would later be an active member of a pro-life/anti-abortion organization. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if we approached the pro-abortion advocate with the same traits Jesus exhibited at the well in Samaria? What if we treated him with dignity and respect, even if he hurls vile accusations our way? What if we share our position honestly and respectfully, with an attitude of love? What if we are careful not to attack her personally as we speak against abortion, instead being sure to focus only on the issue and not on the messenger? What if we speak honestly about the sin and God’s offer of forgiveness through His Son? I am convinced that a unified pro-life message articulated in this manner would one day turn the tide and ultimately lead to legislation that would, once and for all, protect the preborn from dying in her mother’s womb at the hands of an abortionist.

Abortionists took 784,507 lives in 2009; that is an average of 2,149 lives each and every day. This is a moral travesty that we Americans must address with a sense of urgency. If we pro-lifers continue to allow the discussion to reside in the dark reaches of human depravity, we will never win the battle for these precious children. Let us instead resolve to stand firmly on God’s Word with the same attitude of love and respect that Jesus showed the woman in Samaria. It’s not just a recommendation; it’s a command:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Matthew 12:28-31

My Prayer This Evening: Dear Heavenly Father, my heart aches for the children whose lives have been taken through abortion. I pray that you would move our nation to an attitude of confession and repentance. Help me, Lord, to advocate for these children out of Christian love for them and for those who are considering abortion. Guard my mind and my tongue, Lord, as I seek to glorify Your Son in all that I do. It is in His name I pray, AMEN.

Black Thursday? No. Happy Thanksgiving!

In this age of American consumerism run amok, as large retailers battle one another for our Christmas shopping dollars even on this national day of Thanksgiving, I hope and pray that each of us will use this day for its original intention:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Today, let us set aside our seemingly endless desire for more. Let us take stock of what we’ve been given and take nothing for granted. Let us look beyond ourselves to the Creator of all things, and humbly approach His throne in a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. The shopping can wait. Today let us give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy as a nation, as families, and as freedom-loving Americans.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a tur...

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a turkey and football player. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Honey, Be Still

American Airlines MD-82; N7521A@SLC;09.10.2011...

American Airlines MD-82; N7521A@SLC;09.10.2011/621dx (Photo credit: Aero Icarus)

I settle into my aisle seat, 9D with extra leg space, and watch as my fellow passengers board our flight from Orlando to Dallas/Fort Worth. Flying home on a Tuesday evening usually means I’m sharing my flight mostly with other business travelers. However, that is usually not the case when flying out of Orlando. Passengers boarding our flight include families with young children sporting their Mickey Mouse headgear, young adults heading home after a long weekend getaway, and just a few of us road warriors sporting our casual business attire and our Swiss brand backpacks. All of us want the same thing: to take our seats and enjoy an uneventful flight to our final destination.

“Honey, be still.”

Over the hustle and bustle of the boarding process, those words spoken in a husky voice by a female passenger close by grab my attention. She is seated in 8B, the aisle seat across the way and one row in front of me. Although we are at the gate, her seat is fully reclined as she sits under her blanket, clutching a plastic cup and a small stuffed pony. She is blond, middle-aged, and somewhat heavyset with large glasses. Her eyes are closed. Her husband, a rather small man with dark hair, is seated at the window next to her, looking outside and commenting on the baggage handlers and other tarmac workers busily prepping our plane for takeoff.

“Honey, be still.”

She says it again as he comments on something else he sees as he points outside. Is she nervous? Is she downright afraid to fly? Maybe she’s not feeling well. Whatever it is, she appears to be quite uncomfortable and more than just a little annoyed.

Seated behind the couple in 8A and 8B is an older couple obviously traveling together, both entranced with their iPads. Attired in dark dress slacks and a white business shirt with no tie, he is a distinguished looking gentleman with salt and pepper hair and silver wire frame glasses. She looks more than a tad bit younger than he, dressed in a sophisticated dark pantsuit with her iPad adorned in a white leather case. As the flight attendant walks by he points to “Honey, be still”, reclined so steeply that their eyes would meet if she simply looked up, silently reminding her that all seats are to be in their full and upright position for takeoff. The flight attendant acknowledges his gesture with a smile but says nothing.

Now, fully tuned in to the people around me, I notice the gay couple seated in front of me. How do I know? Men don’t gaze into each other’s eyes and lean into each other unless there are feelings between them far beyond fraternal friendship. These guys aren’t buddies, they are a couple; even I can see that. Although I am not a fan of the gay lifestyle I can’t help but be touched by their obvious affection towards one another; I’m just hoping there is no in-flight PDA.

Seated next to me are two ladies, each traveling alone. Both are donned in professional business attire and sport nicely coiffed blond hair. We exchange friendly greetings as I stand to allow each of them access to their respective seats, but once seated the three of us are all business. Beyond our friendly greetings we focus on our respective in-flight habits. 9F listens to her business motivational book on CD (I haven’t seen a portable CD player in a long time!) as she gazes out the window at the sunset on the horizon. 9E has her hardcover book called [Something] One nestled in her lap as she sleeps. I try to make out the title, but I can’t unless I lean far closer than what would be appropriate or comfortable. It has a large silver question mark on the cover; maybe you’ve read it. And I, in 9D, compose this essay as I observe the people around me.

IMG_2104

Blogging at 36,000 feet.

Well into our flight, “Honey, be still” wakes from her nap. From where I sit I see a smile on her face as she speaks softly to her husband. That’s a good sign. I take a sip of my red wine as I look at the people seated around me, and I can’t help but smile. Tonight we share a flight to Dallas. But I’m reminded that we all share this life we live on planet Earth. Each of us has a story. Each of us has a purpose. We have our burdens, our hopes, and our dreams. We have victories and we have losses. We have each other. I find myself lifting each of these people seated around me in prayer, asking God to guard and protect them as they complete this flight and continue on their journey through life.

As I re-read the draft of this essay, feeling somewhat proud of my perception and intellect, “Honey, be still”’s husband rises from her seat and heads to the back of the plane. That’s right – her seat. He is a she, with short-cropped dark hair, sporting a gray tank top, baggy painter’s jeans and tattoos on both arms. What was once a smile is now a full-tooth grin as I remind myself that things aren’t always what they appear to be. Husband? Daughter? Partner? Caregiver? Close friend? I have no idea. All I know for sure is, as perceptive as I thought I was, I had totally missed the mark.

“Honey, be still.” As I wash down my slice of Humble Pie with the remnant of my airline Cabernet, I’d say that’s some pretty good advice.

True Light ~ John 1:6-18

Have you ever felt like your life was muddling along with no real direction or no real purpose? Have you ever looked at what is happening in the world around you and wondered, “why?” Have you ever sensed that there is something bigger and better than what this world has to offer and wished you could wrap your mind around that concept? I believe that most of us have felt these things at one time or another.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. ~ John 1:6-18

Absolute darkness

Absolute darkness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As John continues his introduction of Jesus, he refers to Jesus as the Light. The answers to the questions cited above can be answered through Him. You see, when sin came into the world it enveloped humanity in darkness. Sin seeks to blind us from God’s truth, and in doing so, becomes the focus of the human life. Why do we sometimes feel that we lack purpose? Why do people lie, cheat, steal and kill? Why don’t we readily see that God has a greater plan for us than this? It’s because of sin.

Fog

Fog (Photo credit: rchughtai — “not very active”)

Sadly, many of the very people Jesus came to save didn’t recognize Him. That continues today. Our world is cloaked in darkness; the evidence of sin in the world is all around us. Sin causes humanity to reject God’s truth, embracing human wisdom instead. It motivates us to seek position and power for ourselves, even if we have to climb over the backs of others to succeed. Sin rationalizes sin, from the driver cutting off the driver alongside him because of a perceived driving discourtesy all the way through the spectrum to a society rationalizing killing the unborn in the name of “choice”.  Sin clouds our vision as it seeks to forever separate us from our Creator.

English: Flame. Around the base are the words ...

English: Flame. Around the base are the words “Jesus – Light of the world” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus didn’t come to light the way to a more prosperous life; He didn’t come so we could be happy campers on planet Earth. Jesus came as the True Light to expose sin for what it is and to win the victory over sin once and for all. As sin seeks to envelop us in darkness, Jesus brings Light into the world. Through Him the darkness is overcome and we instead live under His grace and truth. Are we who believe perfect and free of sin? Of course not. But through Jesus, the Light of the World, we are saved from the eternal separation from God that sin delivers. Through His sacrifice on the cross we are sanctified (made perfect) and freed from the bondage of sin. We look forward to spending eternity in the glorious presence of our Creator. Until that day comes, we seek to live lives that glorify our Lord and Savior.

As John’s account of Jesus continues to unfold, let us walk in the Light together as we seek God’s Truth for humanity.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save us from sin. Help me to live a life that witnesses to the promise of salvation that comes only through Him. In His name I pray, AMEN.

I Place My Trust…

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ~ Psalm 1

This is the man I yearn to be: one who trusts completely in the Lord. There is a significant element of peace that comes with standing firmly on The Rock, even as the world around me embraces sinful ways. My heart aches for my country and for the church, but I take great comfort in God’s sovereignty: no matter what happens in American politics or church polity, Jesus Christ has won the battle over sin. On that promise I stake my life. May God help me live a life that consistently witnesses to this Truth and may He give me the ability to lovingly and respectfully share this Good News with a world that so desperately needs to hear it.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

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