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Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

This morning, the FB post of a young friend of mine caught my attention. The post read something like this: My attitude is based on how you treat me. I took a deep breath and responded, saying: Or, my friend, there’s this. I’ve been working on having a better attitude… no matter how anyone treats me. Sometimes I need to confront my own negative spirit so that I can adjust my attitude concerning a person or situation.

My friend thanked me. But our conversation didn’t end there. My reason and all my senses encouraged me not to shy away from a deeper conversation. So, transitioning to a less public mode of correspondence, I confessed my fear of offending her. But here’s the thing, I told her: There is a negative spirit spreading not just across the country but in our congregational families and homes. At times, I feel this negative spirit wanting to consume me. I must call it what it is… and press back against it. It’s too easy to give myself a pass and just say what I want or maintain the attitude that justifies my cause. But, truth be known (and more often than not), it’s my own attitude that needs adjustment.

Stay the course, I encouraged my friend: Don’t forget who you are! You are God’s own daughter in Christ. Knowing that, you are equipped to battle all wrongs… in the spirit of humility and truth. Your family needs you. Your life and how you live it matters to more people than you know.

Only a few minutes passed before my friend reached out. “I appreciate your honesty and am not offended at all,” she told me. “But lately it seems as though I’m a literal rug laying on the floor of this home. Some days it’s so hard to keep going… to keep giving… knowing that everything I do is for people who don’t seem to appreciate me. Deep down, I know they do, but they sure could do a better job of showing it! I know… I’m selfish. I admit it. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when I feel like I’m taken for granted.”

It wasn’t difficult to recognize myself in this younger woman. And it would have been unkind of me to just let her confession hang in thin air. I took another deep breath and wrote these words to her:

My dear friend, I do understand. Some challenging experiences in my life once prompted my husband to share this verse and commentary with me. I’ve never forgotten them. St. Paul writes, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). The commentary that speaks so well to this Scripture is from Oswald Chambers who wrote,

Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful—to pour out your life blood as a libation on the sacrifice of the faith of others? Or do you say—”I am not going to be offered up just yet, I do not want God to choose my work. I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice; I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, ‘Well done.’ It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a doormat under other people’s feet … Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?

Remember your Baptism! As Lutheran Christians, you and I are both God’s children through Baptism. God has given us the gift of faith! He has called us by His name! He has made us His heirs! We are redeemed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit! Believing this, we begin to reflect more of Christ and less of ourselves. Our attitude toward others changes.

Oh my! I wish I would have better understood the Lutheran teaching of vocation when I was a younger wife and mom. God has been patient with me and now, as a grandmother, He is showing me that a vocation is the station in life where God places us and from where we serve others.

Think on this! You have vocations of woman, wife, mother, daughter, niece, friend, and so on. In all these vocations you are called by your heavenly Father to serve your neighbor. You are called to be faithful in these stations whether you feel appreciated or not. Why?

Because in doing good for others we are loving God. Those we serve—whether they acknowledge our service or not—are receiving the benefits of our love for God.

As for our own personal care and nurture, well, God knows our needs better than we do. He provides just what we need when we need it most.

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Jesus Christ never asks for or demands the sacrifice of children.   Instead, Jesus wants us to teach children about Him so that they might love and trust Him.  He tells us to never put anyone — father, mother, or child — in harm’s way.

It is for this reason that people who defend mother and child gather for 40 Days of Prayer in front of abortion clinics across the country.  Many working inside the clinics are already struggling with their conscience.  They’ve grown weary of hopelessness and death.  They have felt the movement of a yet to be born child, seen the look of fear and sorrow on the mother’s face, and tried to find some peace in what they’re doing.  But, peace alludes them.  That’s because abortion is unnatural.  Ripping new life from the womb puts the physician at odds with his profession and the mother at odds with her child and her soul.   It is an act of desperation.

Christ, seeing us all caught in sin’s desperation, offered Himself as the only sacrifice necessary.  He suffered persecution and death so that all of us — born and unborn — might have eternal life.  Yet, mocking the Giver and Savior of life, Planned Parenthood (PP) has put out a pro-abortion prayer guide called “40 Days of Prayer Supporting Women Everywhere.”

PP has set its altar in place.  It is at the foot of Molech.  PP’s Prayer of “Thanks for Abortion Providers” and their “Sacred Care,” reads like this:  “Today we pray for all the staff at abortion clinics around the nation.  May they be daily confirmed in the sacred care that they offer women.”

PP’s 40 days of prayer began March 18 and continues through April 27.  Here are a few more of their prayers:

“We pray for elected officials, that they may always support a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions [i.e. abortion].”

“We pray for women who have been made afraid of their own power [of choice, i.e. abortion] by their religion.  May they learn to reject fear and live bravely.”

“We pray for a cloud of gentleness to surround every abortion facility.”

“We give thanks and celebrate that abortion is still safe and legal.”

But, abortion is not safe.  The grim procedure kills a human child already named by God and places the mother’s life at risk physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The only cloud of gentleness is outside the abortion clinic where those willing to help women in times of difficulty lift their voices in prayer not to Molech, but to Jesus Christ.

PP has partnered with a group called Faith Aloud to write these pro-abortion prayers.  Perhaps you should visit the web site of Faith Aloud.  Contrast their worldview with that of God.  If our choices and behavior are to be blessed because they are right in our own eyes, they why do we need Jesus Christ?  If taking the life of another human being — no matter how small or seemingly inconvenient — is not evil, then what is?  Why did Jesus, when tempted by evil, say, “Be gone, Satan!”  Of what evil does Jesus ask us to be delivered in the prayer He taught us to pray?  And why did Jesus give His life on the cross and rise again to victory over evil?  Calling abortion a “good” thing is giving in to evil.  It is bowing at the altar of idols.  Those idols are more than the stone god Molech.  They are our own fear, selfish desire, and uninhibited sexuality.

I know of a woman who called abortion “the sacrifice she had to make for herself.”  But, not once — not in all of His Word — does the Triune God ask for such a sacrifice.  Recently, the woman president of the Episcopal Divinity School attempted to get her audience to join her in a chant: “Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.  Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.”  But, not once — in all of His Word — does the Triune God ask us to choose death.  Instead, He says,

. . . I set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days . . .  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

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For centuries, the rule of the sea was “women and children first.”  Survivors of the sinking ship, Titanic, remember men who gave their lives so that women and children might live.  Whether Christian or not, these men were influenced by a teaching that had shaped their thinking and behavior.  Their sacrifice modeled that of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:25).

In 1996, another ship sank off the coast of Indonesia.  Men on board this ship saved themselves first.  Women and children died that men might live.  This is the inevitable consequence of forgetting or rejecting Jesus Christ.

Jesus did more than speak about humility and service.  He demonstrated it (John 13:12-17).  With His example, He established a pattern for men and women to follow.  A hero of titanic proportions is a man who practices self-control for the sake of a woman.  A husband who covers his wife with his name.  A father who rescues his child from death.

Ninety-three percent of the abortions performed in the U.S. are for convenience.  Studies show the top three reasons for abortion are:

  • “A baby at this time would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities.”
  • “I cannot afford a baby.”
  • “I do not want to be a single parent,” or “I’m having problems” with husband or partner.  (Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1/97, A. Torres and J.D. Forrest, “Why Do Women Have Abortions?,” Family Planning Perspectives, 1988)

When it appears the ship is sinking — and life hangs in the balance, God desires that men step forward.  Engage deceit with Truth.  Do battle for the honor of women and lives of children.  Adam, the first man, failed.  He was silent.  Unwilling to engage.  Lead away from death.  His passivity left woman vulnerable.  His rib exposed.  A target.  At risk.  When he joined with her in sin, he forever changed the course of history.  Children would pay the highest price.

Indeed, they do.

But, must they continue to pay with their lives?

No.  God brought hope to Adam and Eve with a promise.  The promise was kept when Jesus Christ sacrificed His life on the cross.  Became the Savior of the world.  Proclaimed victory over Satan.  Gave men and women authority over lies and deceit.  Jesus Christ  removed all reasons for any parent to sacrifice the life of their child.

Today, men bring order out of chaos every time they remember and use God’s Word.  Choose life over death.  Involve themselves with the teaching and disciplining of children.  Deny themselves for the mother of their child.  Lead away from danger with a servant’s heart.  Deposit sin baggage at the Cross of Christ.  Forgive as they have been forgiven.  Re-build.

This is titanic love.

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Yesterday was not a day of celebration for those wounded by abortion.  Mother’s Day is a difficult day for the women who have an abortion in their past, for men unable to save a child from abortion, and for grandparents.  Mother’s Day, for many people, is a reminder of lost lives and denied relationships.

Abortion continues to be a heated debate in this country, but for millions of American women and for the men, grandparents, siblings, and friends in the lives of those women, abortion is  not a debate — it is a loss.  It is the loss of a son, a daughter, a grandchild.  That’s because motherhood and fatherhood — yes, grandparenthood, too — begin at conception.

Many of us know someone who has lost a child through miscarriage.  We grieve with them, offer the peace of Christ, and entrust their precious little one to God.  But abortion is a secret pain.  It is a dagger of guilt.  It is a loss that is carried deep inside and alone.

The great loss of life should pierce the heart of every one of us.  The numbers are staggering.  More than 3,000 women have an abortion every day.  These women are in our families, congregations, and circles of friends.  They are Christians who worship with us and go to Bible study with us.  I know some of these women.  At least 25 of my friends, relatives, or acquaintances have had abortions.  Seventeen of them are Lutheran.  Three are the wives of Lutheran pastors.  At least three have had more than one abortion.

Abortion has created a new mission field for the church.  There is a need to enter this mission field — but first, we must understand that we will almost certainly encounter denial, anger, self-hatred, distrust, grief, remorse, and the nature, but perhaps deeply buried, desire for reconciliation with the Giver of Life.

For those in denial, I pray my message can gently convict.  For those already convicted, I pray my message will offer hope and my behavior be welcoming.  I pray my arms remain open with the merciful love of Jesus who reconciles us all with God.

When I became a grandmother for the first time, I realized that holding my grandson was surprisingly different from holding my own two sons.  Each gaze upon the child of my child is a generational moment.  The room of my heart excitedly received my first grandchild.  The room of my life rearranged itself.

Often, when holding my first… then second, third, and fourth grandsons, I think of the thousands of other women of my generation whose arms will never hold a grandchild.  Their arms will never hold the child of their child.  That’s because when finding themselves “with child,” these women believed the lie: “make this one sacrifice and choose a better time to be a mother.”  Although the room of their hearts may have whispered a word of welcome, the room of their lives did not.

Because these women either did not hear or did not trust God’s promise, the world captured their every thought and desire.  Tossed in a tumultuous sea, these women reached toward “salvation” in the guise of a “quick and painless” abortion.

But the degrading act goes against all that is maternal and natural.  Sent away from the abortion clinic, women are abandoned to burdens of guilt, grief, and anger that threaten to pull them into cold and lonely darkness, away from the Giver of Life.

So, how do you and I respond?  Please read on to my next post . . .

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The first man and woman were naked in the Garden.  There was no shame because both were created in God’s perfect image.  But, when Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, they fell from that perfect image and were no longer righteous (holy) in the sight of God.  They lost their pure and trusting relationship with God.

Sin distorted what God created.  The man and woman no longer saw each other with perfect eyes or experienced a perfect relationship.  Eve tried to cover her nakedness with leaves.   But, God said a bikini of fig leaves wasn’t enough.  What she did with her own hands wasn’t enough.  Trying to partially cover herself wasn’t enough.

The consequences of sin changed everything for men, women, and all of their children.  Today, we are deceived by our distorted ideas of right and wrong.  We are arrogant and immodest.  But, God still says that a bikini of fig leaves isn’t enough.

So, is that it?  Does God just sit in His heaven and count our sins against us?   When sin exposed nakedness and spoiled a perfect relationship between God and his creation, did He abandon us all?  Did He say, I am Holy.  You are not.  I am finished with you.   No.

God had mercy.  The Creator of life had a plan that would reconcile sinful people with a Holy God.  Adam and Eve could no longer stay in the Garden, but God did not send them naked or without hope into a changed world.   He made a promise… and then He covered them with garments of clothing made by His own hands.  The promise was a Savior from sin.  The clothing was really more than just animal skins.

God’s mercy required sacrifice and special clothes.  We can think of that sacrifice and “robe of righteousness” today.  On Good Friday, we remember that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  There is nothing we can do to cover our sin.  But, thanks be to God!  Adam and Eve did not have to despair, and neither do we!  In mercy, God clothes those whom He loves.  We are clothed in righteousness at our baptism.  We are clothed in righteousness when we hear the Gospel and the Holy Spirit works faith.

Physical clothing reminds us of our sinful condition.  But, the clothes we wear also remind us of God’s mercy.  When God covered Adam and Eve, He sacrificed an animal.  This first shedding of blood in the Bible points us toward God’s ultimate shedding of Jesus’ blood on the Cross.  Every time we get dressed, we can remember that God has “clothed [us] with garments of salvation” and “wrapped [us] with a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

The covering of our sins by Christ on Good Friday was not partial, like a bikini of fig leaves.  It was complete.

Makes me think differently about getting dressed.

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In January, a trial opened for Faleh Almaleki.  Mr. Almaleki is an Iraqi immigrant accused of murdering his 20-year-old daughter, Noor.  Noor’s father was upset that his daughter dressed and behaved like a Westerner.  He was angry that she was about to marry, not the man he had chosen for her, but an American.  And, so, on October 20, 2009, he ran over her with his Jeep in a Peoria, AZ., parking lot and injured her so badly that she died.

Noor’s father killed her because she had dishonored her family.  Her murder is called an “honor killing.”  It is justified by Muslim tradition.

Abigail R. Esman, a self-defined “liberal,” wonders why her liberal peers, journalists and activists, are not reporting this “honor killing” as well as thousands of others.  Esman writes, “U.N. statistics of 5,000 honor killings per year are generally recognized to be grossly understated.  In the Netherlands alone, the official number of honor killings per year stands at 13, or more than one every month — and that does not include the growing trend of ‘honor suicides’ — girls and even boys who take their own lives knowing that if they don’t do it, others will, that they’ve been marked for death.  In England and Germany, the numbers are about the same.”

Esman continues, “These are not — as often is claimed — your standard cases of domestic abuse.  Honor violence, unlike the domestic abuse we know, is often supported, sanctioned and even encouraged by the local Muslim community.  Indeed, parents frequently feel they have no other choice.”  (The Washington Times Weekly Edition, 2/14/11)

There is another way.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life . . . (Deuteronomy 31:19-20).”

Jesus Christ does not call us to “honor killings.”  He calls us to honor Him with our defense of human life, no matter the circumstances.  No matter the failures or disappointments.  No matter the inconvenience.  No matter the embarrassment.  After all, He died in our place — to remove the failures, disappointments, inconvenience, and embarrassment. To remove the stain of sin.

We disobey our Father with our daily sins, but He does not attempt to kill us.  Instead, He has mercy on us.  His mercy is new every morning.  It is given and shed for us.

Jesus sacrificed Himself on our behalf.  We are created, loved, and redeemed by God.  We are treasures of great value.  For this reason, Jesus says:

Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

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Relationships grow when rooted in the love of Christ.  Christ’s love was shown in the doing of a hard thing.  Christ’s love was sacrificial.  We don’t have to sacrifice for our salvation.  Jesus Christ did that on the Cross for us.  It’s done… once and for all.  Believing that, we’re called to live as forgiven people who also forgive others.  In a working marriage, husband and wife are constantly forgiving each other.  A particular “need” or “want” may be sacrificed for the sake of the relationship.  Such sacrifice cannot be measured, but is a fragrant offering to God.

During my lifetime, women have been told they have the right to have their needs met.   A “good” husband is expected to meet those needs.  But, what if he doesn’t?

Time and experience wrapped in God’s Word speak.

“I thought I could change him.”

A friend wasted so many years trying to “fix” her husband.  She pushed, prodded and regularly reminded him of his failures.  In time, she realized that her techniques never worked.  Instead of trying to change him, she asked God for a changed attitude.  Little by little, she learned that it was her job to love her husband and God’s job to change him.  1 Peter 3:1-5 reminds a wife that she can win even an unbelieving husband with respect, pure conduct, and a quiet spirit.

“He doesn’t make me happy.”

A friend admitted that she was very dependent on her husband for her happiness.  She married him because he seemed strong, stable, and confident.  She expected him to take care of her like a good dad would take care of his daughter.  So focused on her own insecurities, she didn’t see that he, too, was sometimes fearful, unsure, and struggling.  One day, she adjusted her prayers.  “Please, dear God, help me be a better wife.”  She welcomed him at the door with a smile.  She asked him about his day.  She left cheerful and encouraging notes on his mirror, by his plate, and inside his boots.  It sounds rather magical, but in choosing her words with care and thinking of little ways to make her husband happy, this wife became more content.  She had a purpose.  She was serving God and He was surprising her with joy.  Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

“I feel more worthless with him than I think I would without him.”

A woman does not get her identity from her husband.  Treasured or abused, her value does not come from man.  Nor does our identity change with the circumstances of life.  Our identity — our value — is sure and certain because of what Jesus Christ did for us.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

“He’s such a disappointment.”

For many years, the wife mourned her marriage.  She was sure that God had made a mistake.  We’re too different, she thought.  This will never work.  Quite unexpectedly, the woman realized she really wasn’t fighting her husband, she was fighting God.  Focusing on her disappointment, she was paralyzed to think or do good.  Over time, she began to zero in on her husband’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses.  Every time he acted in an annoying way, she chose to think about his positive attributes.  She stopped criticizing him to her friends and started speaking well of him.  People of light “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 4:5, 11).

“He doesn’t seem to care about meeting my needs.”

No matter what the feminists told us, men and women aren’t the same.  Equal, yep.  But, not the same.  So, first of all, men can’t know all of our needs because they don’t think, feel, or communicate like we do.  And, second of all, shame on us for idolizing ourselves!  Are we called to be served, or to serve?  Honestly, who really knows our needs: us… or the One who made us?  A wife of many years put it this way: “I’ve learned that my husband is meeting my greatest needs.  His faithfulness is my security.  His labor provides financial covering and numerous freedoms.  Our shared faith makes us companions even when times are hard.   Does he love me?  Yes.  It is shown in his perseverance (1 Corinthians 13:7).”

“I don’t feel loved.”

Maybe we have the wrong definition of love.  If it’s an emotion, sometimes we’ll feel it and sometimes we won’t.  Love is better defined as the willingness to act for the benefit of another.  Love is being patient, kind, and unselfish (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).  I have found that love is when a husband and wife, in spite of differences, want to be a team.  “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).  This is a world made hard by sin.  When the enemy of life stands at the door ready to devour us, feelings and emotions will provide little defense.  But, real love evidenced by selfless partnership will overpower evil.   “A threefold cord (husband, wife, and Christ) is not quickly broken” (v. 12).

“Everyday, he grows more distant.”

A woman has great power.  She can break or make a man.  She can crush a man’s spirit — with a look or a word — or she can help his spirit soar.  When she emasculates him, brashly or subtly, her dagger slices deep to his masculine core to attack his very personhood.  No wonder it is better for him “to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).  Indeed, “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

Marriage is a hard dance.  Not surprising when we remember that we are sinful people living in a sin-filled world.  Not surprising when we acknowledge that men and women are equal, but different.  Not surprising when we consider our uniqueness as persons.  For this reason, we need the Word of God as our music.  Only then does the dance begin to change. 

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