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Archive for December, 2012

little girl & thinkerThe following was written by my friend Stacey Harding and included with her family’s Christmas photo.  It is a one-word “sermon” for the Christian life.  Thank you, Stacey, for your faithfulness as a Biblical woman, wife, mother… and friend.

I wonder… what would happen if I forgave others freely as Christ has forgiven me?  (Matthew 18:21-35)

I wonder… what it might be like if I gave up my selfishness and took up a servant’s heart? (Philippians 2:3)

I wonder… what it would be like if I really listened to my daughters and my husband to hear their true needs? (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:12)

I wonder… what could happen if I made great efforts to communicate with love in my voice? (Psalm 35:28)

I wonder… what might be if I spoke in truth and with conviction? (Psalm 37:30; Job 27:4)

I wonder… what would the impact be if I chose to always unite and never divide? (John 17:20-23)

I wonder… what would happen if I imitated Christ instead of the world? (3 John 1:11)

Do you wonder what these verses say?

What are you thinking these days?  What wonders inside of you?  What are you seeking to find?  The only thing that can possibly satisfy the need (your wonder) is what created the need.  This is the meaning of redemption — it creates and satisfies.  There are no other answers, no other opinions, no drugs or drink, no amount of money or security or happiness that will fulfill your soul of wonder and lead you to salvation.  The world lies to you in all things and at all times.  But God calls you to seek Him.  His promises are true and remain for you and for me.  When you wonder, seek His Word.  You will find Him and with repentance gain His forgiveness, love, grace, peace and more!

The time is now!  Seek Him… the Wonderful… our Savior.

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preborn baby 4-D“The battle over human dignity,” writes Eric Metaxas, “is waged not just at the local abortion clinic or crisis pregnancy center, nor merely in the halls of Congress or the Supreme Court.  It is also carried out in our choice of words.”

Metaxas points out that “the war on the sanctity of human life relies on bullets of deception and warheads of untruth – in short, on what George Orwell called ‘political language,’ which he said ‘is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’”

Metaxas explains that those who support the legal killing of unborn human beings in the womb “have used political language for decades, cloaking their morally indefensible position in innocuous-sounding terms such as ‘choice’ and ‘women’s health’ – hoping the rest of us will forget about the status and rights of the other person directly affected in the abortion transaction – namely the fetus.”

Planned Parenthood folks typically deny the humanity or personhood of the baby in the womb by calling it a “lump of tissue,” “product of conception,” or “potential person.”  But, writes Metaxas, “it’s hard to keep up the verbal sleight of hand all the time.  A case in point is the considerable elation over the news that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is carrying a child. That’s right, a child, not a ‘product of conception.’  We are told that her ‘baby’ will be third in line to the throne, behind only Prince William and Prince Charles.”

At this point, the pro-life Christian has opportunity to reveal “verbal sleight of hand” and also ask questions that help others think.  The Duchess is in her first trimester.  Is this a baby or not?  Is this a child with a destiny or not?  Is this child special or just like the other non-persons who have been aborted from wombs in Britain, the U.S., and all over the world?  As Christians, we are compelled to answer all questions from God’s perspective, not our own.

As Metaxas (and others) point out, “the language we use matters.  Is the life in the womb a ‘product of conception’ or a person, maybe even a prince in waiting?”

In a response to Metaxas’ commentary, someone named Kevin posted, “Try to imagine even the most staunch abortion advocate being present at a childbirth and, when the head is coming out, saying, ‘Look!  It’s turning into a human!’”  Bearing this in mind, the Christian is compelled to do what philosopher Peter Kreeft suggests.  We need to see the personhood of the fetus as the defining issue for abortion, “for if the fetus is not a person, abortion is not the deliberate killing of an innocent person.”  The Christian does well to know God’s Word on this matter of human dignity, life and death.

As we reflect on the first coming of Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer of all human life, let us draw near to His Word about life: Job 10:8-12; Psalm 8:4-5; 119:73; 139:13-16; Ecclesiastes 11:5; Isaiah 44:24; Luke 1:15; 1:41-44; John 16:21; Galatians 1:15-16.

Apprection to Eric Metaxas for “The Royal Fetus”  www.breakpoint.org
and The Unaborted Socrates by Peter Kreeft

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sandy hook school shootingThe Apostle Paul was inspired by God to write, “Mourn with those who mourn.”  Following the loss of human life in schools like Newtown, CT., we as fellow citizens and especially as Christians are called to mourn with the families of those who died.  We do well to mourn with few rather than more words.

However, as John Stonestreet brought to my attention, it becomes tempting in this fast-paced, technologically-driven society to Facebook or Twitter our thoughts.  It appears that both Christians and non-Christians took advantage of their “freedom of speech” to make public political or moral comments on the situation.  Many of the comments, it seems, were made with little thought of the families that simply need time to grieve.  As Christians, we are always called upon to respect our fellow human beings.  We are called to a higher standard.  A standard of thoughtful behavior that is reflective of our holiness in Christ.

On Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation.  God became Man.  The very Creator and Redeemer of all human life came into our messy, depraved, and broken world.  He did more than hand us a book or tell us a story.  He came in the flesh.  He offered Himself.  He sacrificed all that He had… for us.

Evil exists in our world because of sin.  Our sinful flesh becomes a willing instrument of destruction in the hands of Satan.  But, in Jesus Christ, we become new every morning.  This means that we are given opportunity to reflect the God who made us rather than ourselves.  We are equipped to make choices that help others rather than hurt them.  As new people in Christ, we are called to act in a more holy way, wait on the Holy Spirit for His discernment and, when the time is right, speak the Truth in love.

There is a time to speak.  The Christian is not called to silently allow non-believers and those who oppose the Biblical worldview to rule the day.  We are to be well informed and ready to defend the faith.  But, in times of tragedy, we are called first to mourn.  Offer care and compassion.  If given opportunity, we are to serve those who are facing adversity and trial in their lives.   When possible, we can help carry a burden. Then, in whatever conversations crop up, we can help ourselves and others contrast the things of God with the things of this world.  Good and evil are real.  God and Satan daily do battle for our very souls.

It is for this reason that Jesus Christ came to live among us.  He entered into the lives of sinful, broken and hurting people. Everything He said and did directed people away from self to God; away from despair to hope; away from evil to good.  He knew when to speak and, when He did, He spoke The Word.  He also knew when to grieve with those who mourned.

We might learn a valuable lesson from Job’s three friends.  “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place . . . to show him sympathy and comfort him . . . they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.  And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13).

Suffering will be great in this world.  But, Job’s friends did harm when they pontificated on what Job had done wrong to cause such suffering.  We, too, do wrong when we place blame or fail to remember that God works in the midst of trouble to lead us to Him or refine our faith.  When we are perplexed in affliction, may we – through the eyes of faith – see Christ, whose affliction saved us from sin and eternal despair.  May we be silenced by the awe of such sacrifice.

But, when asked how to prepare for such evil as a school shooting, may we speak up with the answer:  Tell your children and grandchildren about Jesus.

Only in Christ the Savior can any child — of any age — know victory over evil, suffering or even death.

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African American grandmother, mom & daughterThe phone rang.  Almost out the door, I turned to answer.  It was Lauren, the daughter of my friend Jane.  “I’m so glad you’re home.  This call is completely out of the blue, but I wanted you to know that my mom told me.”  There was a pause, then, “She said you would understand.”

I did.  I knew immediately that Jane, after thirty-some years, had decided to confess her abortion to her only living child.

Did Jane have to confess this sin to Lauren?  No.  Did mother risk a changed relationship with her daughter?  Yes.  But, as Lauren talked with me, I sensed she was genuinely relieved to know the truth.  “Suddenly everything makes more sense,” Lauren said.  “Certain attitudes and behaviors of my mom now have new meaning to me.”

Lauren continued, “I often wondered why mom seemed, well, heavy with life”.

“Do you mean melancholy?” I asked.

“Yes,” Lauren replied.  “That’s it.  Melancholy.  And, you know, she doesn’t really want to discuss the tough things out there in the world.”

Lauren explained that birthdays “have often been difficult for my mom.”  There was something else.  “Mom apologized a lot,” Lauren said, “as if she didn’t think she was a good mom.  That made no sense to me because she is a good mom.”

Lauren continued. “She’s a good grandmother, too.  She gives an extraordinary amount of herself — her time and energy — to my children.”  Lauren was expressing what I knew to be true.  My friend provides daycare for her grandchildren during the week.  She returns home tired, but she tells me over and over again how privileged she feels to be a grandmother and how precious the time is with her grandchildren.  This is not unusual for most of us grandmothers.  Lauren agreed, but added that now she sees her mother’s relationship with her grandchildren “in a new light.”

It does not surprise me that it took so long for Jane to confide in Lauren.  It took many years for Jane to tell me her story in bits and pieces.  Only as she learned to trust me did Jane share details of the choices that made abortion thinkable.  But, telling her daughter was different.  Jane was afraid.  The harmony with her daughter mattered too much.  She did not want to lose it.

The phone call from Lauren to me was significant.  It was evidence of God’s work.  He had been strengthening the bond between this mother and child.

“We had our difficult days when I was in high school,” Lauren told me.  She assumed it was the usual stress between moms and daughters made more challenging by single motherhood.  “But, you know what?  I’ve always known the blessing of two parents who love me.”

Lauren supposed that her mother tended to be melancholy about life, in large part, because of the divorce.  But, with Lauren’s knowledge of the abortion came new understanding and opportunity to process certain memories and experiences.  It seemed that Lauren was responding to the surprise of her mother’s abortion in much the same way I had.  Neither of us turned away from Jane.  Instead, the Holy Spirit cultivated a greater love.

Listening to Lauren, I wondered.  With her carefully guarded secret now exposed, would Jane’s energy be better used?  In knowing her mother’s restlessness, doubt, and unfaithfulness in marriage before the decision of abortion, would Lauren better avoid temptations?

“My marriage is a struggle,” Lauren told me.  “I was nearly tempted away from my husband.”  But, her mother recognized the signs.

Oh, what a difference is made when one generation mentors another!  When a mother is not afraid to act her age or revisit the mistakes of her past, she becomes an invaluable teacher.  She can steer the younger woman away from foolishness and despair.   Jane identified her daughter’s marital frustration and impatience.  She knew the consequences of doubting God and determining for herself the way life ought to be.  She had searched for a more preferable love.  She allowed herself to be wooed by another man.  And, to “fix” the resulting “problem,” she scheduled an abortion.

Jane knows the generational effects of her abortion.  That decision influenced the way she sees her own mother.  Her daughter.  Her grandchildren.

I’m sure that, on occasion, Lauren will ponder her mother’s seemingly strange apologies, but she will also know wisdom gained through her mother’s experience.  There is every reason to believe that, from now on, both mother and daughter can bear witness to one another of the divine order and amazing grace of their heavenly Father.  In this, there is hope for generations to come.

Lauren was at ease during our phone conversation.  She had only one question.  “Did the abortion happen before or after me?”

“It was after you were born,” I told her.  “But, please believe me when I say that the decision had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with you.  Your mother loved you before you were born and she loves you now.  One of her greatest fears, I think, was that she could never be the kind of mother to you that her mother was to her.  The love, however, that your mom has always had for you is as real as the love God has for you both.”

Lauren had not shed a tear to this point, but now she gave way to emotion.  Between sobs, she whispered, “Thank you.  I needed to hear that.”

Can a daughter find comfort in her mother’s failures?  I believe so.  It was helpful for Lauren to realize that her mother had struggled with a marital frustration and impatience similar to her own.  It was instructive for Lauren to know that doubting God and putting ourselves in His place leads to danger.  It was protective of Lauren when her mother chose to remember the sins of her past.  When she did not resist using lessons learned the hard way, mother was equipped to lead daughter and grandchildren away from harm.

Lauren has been granted a new perspective… one that will serve her family well.  But, just as time was needed for Jane to trust me – little by little – with her story, time was also needed for mother to trust daughter.  Jane and I talk often about God’s faithfulness in her life.  I believe it is that faithfulness on the rocky road of life that nurtured trust between mother and daughter.

A long time ago, Jane gave me permission to share her story with women wherever I speak.  “I can’t tell my story,” Jane said to me.  “But you can.  So, please.  Tell young women not to do what I did.  And tell older women that Jesus loves them no matter what the sins of their past might be.  The forgiveness of Jesus is real.”

I have done what my friend asked.  And, in doing so, many women have approached me privately with confessions of their own.  Christian women in every family and congregation are carrying heavy burdens of disappointment and guilt.  They see the Cross.  They know what Jesus did for them.  They may even trust His forgiveness.  But, like Jane, they are unable or unwilling to forgive themselves.

It is my prayer that Lauren will help her mother forgive herself.  God is the God of relationships… and of the healing that comes through tenderheartedness.  He uses parents and children, friends and even strangers to bring us closer to Him.

Perhaps this Christmas will bear a gift never before found under my friend’s tree.  As Jane looks into the eyes of her daughter and grandchildren, may she find confidence in her confession of Christ.  Confidence that emboldens her to proclaim:

He who is mighty has done great things for me.  Holy is His name.  His mercy is for those who trust Him… from generation to generation.

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