26 February 2021

Difficult Choices Facing Parents

At what point is it right for a parent to make decisions that will impact the entirety of their child's future? Though not always the case, men and women often decide whether and when they will become parents. This leads to more decisions about, among other considerations, neighborhoods, schools, work, and churches. What about a name? What about circumcision or baptism? What about vaccinations? So many decisions need to be made, and every one will impact the child's life forever.

These are scary choices when you're "ready" and prepared to make them. Within two weeks of birth, a parent has already chosen their child's name, whether or not to vaccinate, whether or not to circumcise, and whether or not to baptize their child. Sure, they've had nine months to figure it out, and maybe they know the gender, but you might not even know their hair or eye color until the moment they're born. Within eight days of meeting them, a parent will have already made permanent, irreversible, and possibly even harmful choices for their child.

Of course, these decisions start much sooner. We've known for decades now that smoking and drinking during pregnancy can be harmful for the growing fetus; so can stress. This is really the first choice a parent, a mother, a woman makes, whether or not to even have a child.

I have heard so many sermons where a preacher tells his congregation about the "evils" of abortion and the moral failing of women who "choose" it. They compare such women to the women of ancient Canaan who worshiped idols and sacrificed their newborn infants to false gods (Leviticus 18:21, 20:1-5). They completely gloss over that a woman today may be fleeing an abusive husband, masoginistic ex-boyfriend, or even a rapist who would pursue them to the ends of the earth like the dragon in Revelation if he found out he had an "heir." They do not consider the effect a child has on a woman's body and mind. They preach of moral failings and murder from archaic "laws" which Christ never quoted.

What did Jesus have to say about women in desperate situations? How did Jesus treat women with "moral failings?" More importantly, what did he say to their attackers, their pursuers, and the ones who had victimized them? I cannot think of a single scripture where Jesus did not stand up for women, for their rights, for their dignity, where Jesus saw a woman suffering or in need and did not offer help and healing. (Matthew 9:20-22, 15:21-28, Luke 7:11-17, 7:36-50, 10:38-42, 13:10-17, John 4:1-26, 12:1-9)

Is abortion right or wrong? Ultimately, it's the wrong question. The real question is, what are you (or your church) willing to do to support someone in need? Are you willing to provide for their health and well-being, as did the Good Samaritan who not only helped an injured man but provided for his recovery? Are you willing to support someone financially and emotionally as Christ did for his mother by asking John to provide for her? Are you willing to stand between a woman and her attackers as Jesus did for the woman who was accused of adultery and sentenced to to death by stoning? If you aren't willing to stand up and be responsible, to be Jesus for someone in need, then you have no right to impose your morals on them. A mother's right to make choices for her child starts on day one, even before there is a child, even before she is a mother. Circumcision, vaccinations, even names can be harmful to a child, it is still a mother's right to make these choices, and more.

12 February 2021

Storing Up Treasure in Heaven

The Bible has very little to say about Hell. When it does, it is in parable, allegory, or metaphor. In fact, there's only one clear reference to what modern Christians would recognize as Hell, and it is in one of Jesus' parables (Luke 16:19-31).The Bible says so little about Hell that there are many Christians who do not believe it to be sound biblical teaching to affirm its existence.

In contrast, the Bible refers to Heaven hundreds of times. A biblical justification for Heaven is easy, and yet there are some Christians who also do not believe in Heaven. What is even more clear, in fact it was proclaimed by Jesus numerous times and is recorded in every gospel, is that there will be a "resurrection of the dead." Much like the pharoahs of old, we Christians are storing for ourselves "treasures in heaven" (Matt 6:19-21). Just like our resurrected bodies will be different than our bodies in this life, so too will our treasures.

There is no point burying ourselves with precious treasures, or even collecting them in this life. John tells us in his Revelation that the streets of the new Jerusalem will be paved with gold. The treasures of the resurrection are not like the treasures of this life. The most precious treasures we can imagine are mere cobblestones in the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead of storing gold, Jesus tells us to "bear fruit" (John 15:5) and Paul tells us exactly what virtues we will "grow" in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the treasures we store for ourselves in Heaven for that day of resurrection.

Imagine that there were no Heaven or Hell, and that at the end of time, all the people who have ever lived would be resurrected. Then all the treasure we had saved in life, all our virtues, the new currency of the new Jerusalem, would be given back to us so we could make our homes in that bright city. We know that Lazarus would have more treasure than "the rich man" (Luke 16:19-31). Just like that rich man, there would be people who are poor, who had led despicable lives and who most people would agree truly deserve a place like Hell. I find it difficult to believe God would agree.

God is full of mercy and compassion (Psalm 145:8-9). It is God's way to forgive (Micah 7:18-19). When we were lost, God sent his son to die to bring us the gospel of his grace (Hebrews 2:17-18). There is no Hell because it is not in God's nature to condemn. God is a parent to humanity, guiding, correcting, sometimes chastising, but God will not cut us off for eternity. Like the father of the prodigal, he is waiting at the door for his lost child to come home (Luke 15:11-32).

The One True Living God is a generous god. As you store fruit for the day of harvest, remember to put aside a little extra for your poor neighbor down the street. Who in heaven could let their neighbor go hungry, or cold, while they are rich? That isn't how God's kingdom will be, not because we all have the same amount, and not because none are poor, but because all will be generous, just like their creator.

05 February 2021

A Case of Writer's Block and Learning to Listen

This week, I had a wonderful idea for an article in my head. I really had something profound to say. I had read the scripture and I was ready to write my thoughts on the topic. But when I went to type, the words were gone. I reread my passages and once again felt inspired to write, and once again found I had nothing to say.

In Luke's gospel, Zechariah is struck mute by an angel and his voice does not return until he is ready to do as God commands (Luke 1:19-66). In Exodus (4:21), God hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he would not listen to Moses. What does that mean? It means Pharaoh had had a bad day and was in a mood when Moses arrived. Sometimes God's hand is clear in its movement, but more often it is almost imperceptibly subtle.

When I sat down to write, I was not writing the article the Spirit was leading me to write. That message was for me and not to be shared (Rev 10:4). I realized that when I turned to a random page and immediately wrote about what I read. That message was the message for sharing.

I remember once being told that Jesus gave his disciples "secret" teachings (Matt 13:10-11, Mark 4:10-11). However, in his testimony to the High Priest, Jesus denied ever keeping any of his teachings secret (John 18:19-21). He had not given them secret teachings, but had made his meaning plain for them, tailoring his message for their ears.

Does God give secret teachings tailored to each person, each with an inscrutable command? Of course not. But sometimes, The Spirit hides part of the message as Jesus did, while other times the Spirit makes that same message plain. God saves the seed of his Word for when the ground is fertile and the season right for planting, not to mislead, but to increase the bounty at the harvest time (Matt 13:3-9).

God is still speaking. What message is waiting for you to receive in the Spirit and in truth? Perhaps it will come to you in prayer, or in time. Listen with an open mind, and when you hear it, I pray you have the courage to take up the Spirit's call.

Peace be with you.