Sunday, December 23, 2012

My ONLY Gun Post

In the  light of recent shooting tragedies in CT and elsewhere around the country this year, the whole situation has given me some cause for reflection.  I'm not looking to make a political post or use these terrible massacres as an opportunity to stand on a personal soap box.  But I, like everyone else in this country, cannot help but pause and ponder what exactly all this means and what I have learned.

I'm a gun owner.  I went through the process of paying for and attending a gun safety course.  I brought my certificate to the local police department and filled out an application for a Class A Large Capacity gun permit.  I paid the fee, submitted the personal recommendations, and waited.  Eventually I received my permit which allowed me to purchase a gun and carry it.  I did so.

There.  My cards are on the table.  If the above means that I cannot speak rationally or reliably on the be it. 

The point of this post is not to persuade the reader in one direction or another.  I respect your right to hold whatever opinion you have on the subject of gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment of our U.S. Constitution.  But I wanted to share what thoughts have been impressed upon my heart in the light of these terrible murders this year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Broken Hearts - And Getting to the Heart of Sandy Hook

The hearts of a nation are broken today as we seek to figure out how to respond to the terrible tragedy in Newtown, CT in which 20 children and 6 adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The lives of many parents, family and teachers have been forever altered by this unspeakably evil event.  A strange mixture of grief and anger wells up in our soul as we try to make sense out of this senseless and horrible massacre. 

We grieve because we cannot imagine the sorrow and pain that these families must now deal with.  We grieve because we know that our own children – though far removed from Newtown – must also cope with the fear and anxiety that this event naturally provoke.  And we grieve because, deep down, events like this display all too clearly that something is terribly wrong in our world.  Evil is not confined to stories or history or even our prisons and jails.  Evil walks openly in our streets, enters uninvited into our homes, crashes into our schools.  We cannot escape it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

ASPIRING Christians

K2, Pakistan - 2nd Highest peak in the world
I have been working my way through Richard Alleine's (1611 - 1691) The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian.  I'm a little over half way through the 160 or so pages that make up this brief work.

He's a very quotable and thought-provoking author.  I find myself frequently underlining, circling and arrowing his remarks.  I like books like this.  If you are looking for something from the Puritan era, and have not read it - put it on your short list.  Anyway, this morning I read this:

"Oh, be aspiring Christians!  Look up to the highest and do not be content to take up with low attainments.  Follow on to know, to serve, to imitate the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"


What struck me was his use of the word "aspiring."  Typically we think of someone as "aspiring" when they are working toward something...but have not yet arrived.  An aspiring artist, musician, doctor or even (if you are so unfortunate) pharmacist.  Aspiring means you have a dream, a goal and hopefully a plan.  Aspiring is typically a lofty and long-range vision for something you hope to be.  We don't aspire to get the grocery shopping done.  We just do that.  But we might aspire to be a respected chef, restaurant owner or renowned connoisseur of French cuisine. 

But when Alleine uses the term "aspiring Christian" I don't think he intends to suggest we become something we are not.  Rather, he appears to be saying be MORE than what you are.  Yes - you are Christian - but be MORE so.  Yes - you have faith - now have MORE faith.  Yes, you have Christ - but now have Him even MORE.  Be aspiring Christians.  Aspire to rise up beyond the level of your current exercise of the Christian faith.

Am I doing good for others?  Do more.  That is the goal of the aspiring Christian I think.

Am I reading and studying the Bible?   Read more.  Learn more.  Compare Scripture to Scripture.  Look for the truth.  Get commentaries and helps and advisers.

Am I serving my church?  Serve more.  Aspire to use all the talents and gifts God has given me to bless those around me.

Am I praying?  Pray more.  Pray fervently, passionately and continually. 

Am I resisting temptation?  Resist more.  Whatever that sin is that I am allowing to linger in my life - put it to death - aim for its destruction.  Stop excusing worldliness. 

And so, today, I hope to be an aspiring Christian. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Leadership and Light

"Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night."
Genesis 1:16a
Courtesy of

As I thought about this verse the other morning, an unexpected application occurred to me.  I suppose the thought arose because this text uses the word "rule" to denote the activity of the sun and moon.  Other translations use the same sort of personification, translating the word "rule" with "govern."

Ruling.  Governing.  These are positions of authority and privilege.  These are offices to which some are called upon and expected to function in for the good of others.  Those entrusted with the responsibility to rule and govern are expected to be great leaders, men & women of vision and benevolence, outstanding examples of public service. 

But here in this text the Lord assigns one particular - and maybe often overlooked - responsibility to those who rule:  Shed Light.  The sun and the moon fulfill their office by shedding light upon men.  The greater ruler sheds more light.  The lesser ruler sheds less light.  But either way, their special calling is to make things visible and clear. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Letter to President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President, 

I am writing to congratulate you and your party on your victory.  The American people have given you both the privilege and responsibility of another 4 years as our Commander in Chief.  This letter comes to you with the promise of my prayers – both for you and for our Nation.  I am a Republican.  I have never voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate, and I did not vote for you.  The fact, however, that my party did not win the Presidential race shall not discourage me from working and serving my fellow citizens – seeking their good and the good of my community.  If anything, it impresses upon my heart to be even more active, Lord willing, in promoting those things which I believe will lead to greater freedom and prosperity in our land. 

Mr. President, I am a conservative Christian, a husband and the father of 4 children whom I love.  I am a pharmacist.  My wife is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools our younger two.  We are actively involved in our local church.    I am not, I suppose, the type of voter your party is very fond of.  However, I am writing today to share with you the things which you could do to secure from even a voter such as myself, an acknowledgment of respect and support for your efforts.  These are the things I will be watching.  These are the issues, from my perspective, most deeply affecting our Nation and her prosperity and blessing.  Progress in these areas will turn our country around for good, and lead us away from the moral, spiritual and economic collapse that seems otherwise unavoidable.

1.      Please labor to make Abortion less frequent.  If you cannot support making abortion illegal, at least make every effort to reduce its frequency.  Do this, Mr. President, not simply by making contraceptives more accessible.  This has not helped.  We need more self-control not more birth control.  Reduce the frequency of abortion by promoting the importance of Godly families in our nation.  Do this especially, and boldly, amongst those with whom abortion is most frequent.  Promote adoption options as an alternative to abortion.  We must find a way to offer kind assistance to those who have made poor choices, while at the same time not applauding or encouraging those sorts of choices.  I pray that the deafening silence of the murdered unborn would ring every day in your ears.  Let us not be silent in our response.  Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all those who are appointed to die (Job 31:8).”

2.      Please labor to reduce our National Debt.  We must begin to make significant efforts to pay back what we owe, and slow down the spending of money we do not have.  There is no way to accomplish this without a radical change in the way we currently operate.  Federal government programs not essential to the safety of our nation must be dramatically reduced.  When government employees earn perks and benefits that the private sector can hardly ever afford to give, we are asking for problems.  When public schools feel the need to build virtual cathedrals rather than simple classrooms - things are out of control.  We need to change.  Every individual citizen of our nation must contribute financially to this challenge – either through a decrease in government support or a contribution to our government’s debt problem.  No one segment of our country can single-handedly fix this situation.  It is endemic.  If our tax code unethically allows the wealthy to pay a lower effective tax than the middle class, then it needs to be fixed.  But we also need to ensure that every American is contributing financially to our future.  The issue is not primarily how much they can contribute.  We must all do something.  The American people will not willingly tighten their belts only to have the government loosen its own.  Romney’s comment about the 47% may have hurt him.  But the fact is that if we don’t all have our skin in the game, then many will simply not care what happens.  This is not the pathway to greatness.  The steep slope of mounting debt is the fastest route into slavery as a nation.   “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives (Psalm 37:21).” 

3)  Please labor to reduce the culture of government dependency.  Work to encourage principles and policies and values that will move people toward independence.  As a parent my goal is to raise children who began by being entirely dependent upon me and end up as adults who stand on their own.  The same is true for a nation.  While offering real help to those who cannot work, we must not encourage those who simply will not work.  As someone who has worked with the public for most of his life, I am sad to inform you that the mindset of dependency is rampant.  Government handouts are expected.  Those working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet are often doing much worse financially than the person who sits home and does nothing.  Is this right?  These things ought not to be.  “If a man does not work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).”  Help our nation get working again by making it easier for businesses to start up and hire people.  Create strong incentives for U.S. companies and U.S. jobs.  Promote industries that will reduce our energy-dependence on other nations, while providing honest work to citizens of our own country. 

Mr. President – I commend you to the Lord with the promise of my prayers.  I pray that you will have the courage to do what is right, and not necessarily the thing that makes you popular.  Remember, “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  May such wisdom be yours, and may you remember that to whom much is given, much will be required.  We, the citizens of this country, will be watching from below, but the Lord will be watching from above.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Jason Poquette

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on "Presidential" Qualities

Okay.  Jonathan Edwards didn't actually write specifically about U.S. Presidents.  He was about 30 years old when George Washington was born, and would himself die about 30 years before Washington would begin serving as our first President.

However, he did preach once on the qualities of good rulers.

The sermon was entitled "God's Awful Judgment in the Breaking and Withering of the Strong Rods of a Community."

The text was Ezekiel 19:12 "Her strong rods were broken and withered." 

By "strong rods" is meant Good Rulers.  And the occasion of this sermon was the funeral of the Honorable John Stoddard (died 1748), member of the Majesty's council, chief justice of the court of Common Pleas, judge and chief colonel of the regiment.  A well respected leader.

In the sermon, and based upon Scripture, Jonathan Edwards outlined 5 qualities which make a ruler a  "strong rod." 

Here they are - somewhat abridged.  You can find them in full-length in Volume 2 of his Works, p. 36-37 (or ONLINE). 

1)  First, one qualification of rulers whence they may properly be denominated strong rods, is a great ability for the management of public affairs.  This is the case, when they who stand in a place of public authority are men of great natural abilities, men of uncommon strength of reason and largeness of understanding; especially when they have a remarkable genius for government, a peculiar turn of mind fitting them to gain an extraordinary understanding in things of that nature.  They have acquired great skill in public affairs, and things requisite to be known in order to their wise, prudent, and effectual management.

2)  Second, when they have not only great understanding, but largeness of heart, and a greatness and nobleness of disposition, this is another qualification that belongs to the character of a “strong rod.”  It greatly establishes his authority, and causes others to stand in awe of him, when they see him to be a man of greatness of mind, one that abhors those things that are mean and sordid, and not capable of a compliance with them: one that is of a public spirit, and not of a private narrow disposition; a man of honor, and not of mean artifice and clandestine management, for filthy lucre; one that abhors trifling and impertinence, or to waste away his time, that should be spent in the service of God, his king, and his country, in vain amusements and diversions, and in the pursuit of the gratifications of sensual appetites.

3) Third, when those that are in authority are endowed with much of a spirit of government, this is another thing that entitles them to the denomination of “strong rods.”  They not only are men of great understanding and wisdom in affairs that appertain to government, but have also a peculiar talent at using their knowledge, and exerting themselves in this great and important business, according to their great understanding in it. They are men of eminent fortitude, are not afraid of the faces of men, and are not afraid to do the part that properly belongs to them as rulers, though they meet with great opposition, and the spirits of men are greatly irritated by it.

4)  Fourth, stability and firmness of integrity, fidelity, and piety, in the exercise of authority, is another thing that greatly contributes to, and is very essential in, the character of a “strong rod.”   He is not only a man of strong reason and great discerning to know what is just, but is a man of strict integrity and righteousness, firm and immovable in the execution of justice and judgment.

5)  Fifth, and lastly, it also contributes to that strength of a man in authority by which he may be denominated a “strong rod,” when he is in such circumstances as give him advantage for the exercise of his strength for the public good; as his being a person of honorable descent, of a distinguished education, a man of estate, one advanced in years, one that has long been in authority, so that it is become as it were natural for the people to pay him deference, to reverence him, to be influenced and governed by him, and to submit to his authority.


1)  Great Ability to Manage Public Affairs
2)  Largeness of Heart - a Great and Nobel Disposition
3)  A Spirit of Government - Talent to Use Knowledge, Not Afraid of Men
4)  Integrity, Fidelity & Piety
5)  Possesses the Needed Circumstances for Ruling and the Respect of Others

These are the things Edwards' says constitute "Strong Rods" in the role of government.

May the Lord raise up such individuals in our day.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Carcasses of Christianity" - Joseph Alleine

This weekend was the Bolton Conference.

For those unfamiliar with this event, it is the annual conference sponsored by the New England Reformed Fellowship (NERF).

Three things draw me to this conference, which begins on Friday afternoon and ends on Saturday afternoon, every year.

First - the lineup of great speakers.  This year was no exception.  Dr. Greg Beale and Dr. Dale Ralph Davis spoke on themes particularly suited to their areas of study with clarity, passion, depth and practical application.  For Dr. Beale this consisted primarily of insights into the book of Revelation and the use of the Old Testament images in this final, and often mysterious, book of the Bible.  Dr. Davis taught on various aspects of reading and applying the Old Testament - both in private reading and in public preaching.

Second - I love the fellowship.  Seeing old friends and connecting again for a brief while is a precious part of this weekend treat. 

Third - I'll admit it - I always look forward to the book table.   

This year I picked up 3 treats which should keep me busy for a few months. 

"The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian" by Joseph Alleine was one of them.

It was shrink-wrapped - and thus I had little notion of what the real nature of the book was going to be like.  I new the name Richard Alleine (1611 - 1691).  He wrote An Alarm to the Unconverted, which is actually available online to read for free.  Having read that some time ago, I was pretty sure I would benefit from whatever this other work had to say.

So far, my suspicions were correct.

I'm only 40 pages into it, but already he is putting his finger in my eye and probing my heart - qualities in a book which are far too rare today.

His focus, thus far, has been on the dangers of worldliness.  It's so subtle.  The "world" (taken in its derogatory sense) works its way into the heart - deadening our faith.

We become, as he puts it so colorfully, "Carcasses of Christianity."

"More like shadows of Christians than like living Christians."

The world poisons our walk with the Lord.  Churches become cold.  Hearts become lukewarm.  "Though the name of religion is among us and upon us, yet the spirit of it seems to be greatly vanished away."

Worldliness is part of Satan's deceptive work in the world and in the church.  Alleine says "If the devil can only persuade men that the present good things are so good that there is nothing better and the present evil things are so evil that there are none greater, he will gain a great advantage."

I would be lying if I said this didn't hit me straight between the eyes.

His final warning in the section I'm reading runs so counter-intuitive to the way we tend to think.  He points out that Satan seems to be well-aware of our weaknesses.  He flatters us and tempts us toward those things that our flesh wants most.  If we want wealth - he loves to give it.  Applause?  He will see we are cheered and loved.  Power?  He will do all he can to hasten our progress to the top. 

With that in mind, Alleine says:

"Never suspect the devil more than when he pretends to do you a courtesy.  Whatever it is by which he usually pleases you, dread that as you would hell.  Mistake neither God's chastisement nor the devil's kindnesses   Be content that God should afflict you and cross you in your hopes and designs and be afraid when the devil pleases you.  Be convinced that Gods' smitings are a precious balm and the devil's soothings are stabs at your heart.  Fear not Satan's thunder and storms as much as his warm sun." 

And thus, once again the Bolton Conference has done me good.  I am thankful to those who give so much of their time and energy to make this conference happen.  It blessed me.  It challenged me.  And I hope, by the grace of God, it is changing me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Infinite upon Infinite

The mathematical symbol for "infinity"
"Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end?"
Job 22:5

I've been reading the biography of Jonathon Edwards by Iain Murray.  In it he records the following entry from Edwards' journal:

"I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite.  Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth.  'Infinite upon infinite...Infinite upon infinite!'  When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell."

Taken in isolation - one might quickly conclude that Edwards was a pretty melancholy man. 

But those familiar with his other writings, particularly his works on heaven, know otherwise.  In fact, it occurs to me today that the more infinitely unworthy I see myself to be - the greater my potential for happiness.


Consider this.

Who is happier? 

1)  The person moved from a position of $5 in debt to the opposite ($5 in the bank)


2)  The person moved from a position of $1,000,000 in debt to the opposite ($1,000,000 in the bank)

The answer is obvious I think.  The experience of person #2 is one of inexpressible joy.  The experience of person #1 is hardly worth noticing. 

Change the illustration over to a contemplation of heaven.

Who is the happier Christian on earth?

1)  The one who expects to move from a position of a few bothersome bad habits - to heaven without them?


2)  The one who expects to move from a position of INFINITELY ugly sin and sinfulness - to a heaven INFINITE holiness and love?

It is, it seems to me, the Christian who sees his/her infinite upon infinite sin that has the greatest potential for joy here on earth.  Edwards, I believe, knew that joy.  I want to know it too.

And this highlights for me the great tragedy of the modern gospel.  The modern gospel waters down the seriousness of sin.  And the consequence is harmful to unbelievers and believers alike.  The unbeliever sees nothing from which to be saved.  And the believer sees almost nothing worth waiting for.  Both individuals are left to get all they can from this life.  The unbeliever - because he does not fear hell.  The Christian - because he cannot love heaven.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Death with Dignity? Massachusetts Ballot Question 2


“I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asks for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”
—from the Oath of Hippocrates

On Tuesday November 6, 2012 voters in Massachusetts will be doing more than choosing between Presidential candidates.  In fact, I suggest a far more weighty decision has been placed before us.  Popularly known as the “Death with Dignity” Initiative, or Question 2, this ballot question plunges voters into an emotionally charged and morally challenging debate. 

The proposal would allow terminally ill patients (defined as those believed to have less than 6 months to live) the right to request from a physician enough medication to end their life.   The request must come from a patient deemed competent to make such a serious decision.  The patient’s diagnosis and life expectancy must be confirmed by a second physician.  The patient must make the request both verbally and in writing, and includes a provision for a 15 day waiting period.  Currently just 2 other states (Oregon and Washington) have similar legislation. 

How are Christians to respond to this issue?  What is the Biblical way to approach this subject?  In what way should our faith inform our decision to support or oppose this initiative?  The following points are a few which come to my mind.

First, I am deeply concerned as a Christian with the issue of suffering and death.  Suffering surrounds us in this world.  The grim reality of death is inescapable.  The Bible explains that both these things are a radical and terrible distortion from God’s initial purposes in Creation brought about by sin.  Paul deals with this reality in great detail in Romans 5.  There he says that “sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.”  I have known personally the difficulty of seeing a close acquaintance die from cancer.  I have spoken at the funeral of someone who died unexpectedly.  As a pharmacist I have dispensed hundreds of prescriptions to patients battling the pains and fears of terminal illness.  This is our present world.  In this world death, misery and suffering meet us around every corner.  Such miseries and tears cannot leave us unmoved or unsympathetic. 

Second, the desire to die when faced with the prospect of nothing but misery is not unnatural.  Take the case of Job.  He was a man whom the Lord Himself declared to be singularly Godly, “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1:8).”  But then, confronted with the loss of his children, his livelihood and his health – Job preferred death to life.  He said “May the day perish on which I was born…may that day be as darkness…why did I not die at birth (Job 3)?”  His suffering was intense and he wanted to die.   He said “Oh that I might have my request, that God would grant me the thing that I long for!  That it would please God to crush me, that He would loose His hand and cut me off (Job 6:8-9)!”  Jonah, the Lord’s prophet to Nineveh had a similar experience when he said "Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live (Jonah 4:3)!”  Those who find themselves in the midst of despair are not alone or unique when they feel or express a desire to end their life. 

Third, God Himself is concerned with our suffering.   The whole scope and history of God’s dealing with mankind displays His compassion for our circumstances and His purpose to deal with it.  He is concerned not merely about the terrible tragedy of physical suffering and physical death, but also with the far greater tragedy of spiritual suffering and spiritual death.  This dual concern - for both the physical and spiritual ruins of mankind – finds its greatest expression in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself was not unconcerned with our suffering.  He wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11) and was moved with compassion at the death of a widow’s son (Luke 7).  But most significantly, He Himself endured the greatest of suffering and cruelest of deaths, in order to bear the penalty of sin for His people.  Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”  Peter tells us Christ “suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18).” 

Fourth, neither the degree of our immediate suffering nor the apparent hopeless before us, gives to us as God’s creatures the prerogative to end our lives.  Against the temptation to do so, as with any other temptation, the Lord makes His promise to believers that "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)  The Christian and Biblical view of murder traces the heart of the issue back to the image of God in man.  The unlawful taking of life, either our own or others, is an assault upon God’s image within us.  Life is God’s to give.  He is the God who “gives life to all things (1 Timothy 6:13).”  And God expects us to honor that gift of life.   “The Lord is with those who uphold my life (Psalm 54:4).”  On the contrary, Proverbs 8:36 says “All those who hate me love death.” 

Finally, a Biblical view of suffering must always take into account that God, in His infinite wisdom, can use even the worst circumstances and suffering to bring about good.  The apostle Paul knew pain, suffering and sorrow.  Many times he was persecuted and brought near the point of death.  He was often alone and rejected.  He endured whatever he mysteriously calls his “thorn in the flesh.”  Yet in the end he could say “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).”  For all who turn to Christ, there is the assurance that their pain – however difficult to bear – is not meaningless.

In addition to these 5 concerns, it may also be worth pointing out that the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts  Medical Association oppose the idea of physician-assisted suicide.  To quote from the AMA Code of Ethics “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life … in order that these patients continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy and good communication.

Conclusion:  The Christian is intimately concerned with and sensitive to the issues related to the “death with dignity” ballot question.  But our concern must begin by taking God’s idea of compassion first – compassion far more comprehensive and gracious than our own.  We uphold the efforts of all who seek to minimize suffering through medical interventions, but we also must object strongly to any legislation that contributes to our cultural attack on the image of God in man.  This law would seem to suggest that some lives, those of the terminally ill, are no longer worth living.  It contributes to an eroding appreciation for the value of life.  The Lord is not less concerned with the lives of those who are near the point of death.  The thief on the cross next to Christ was – if you will – terminally ill.  However, he did not have 6 months.  He didn’t even have 6 hours.  But Christ spoke to Him the words of life.  And that repentant sinner heard the good news from the lips of Jesus:  “today you will be with Me in paradise (Luke 23:43).” 

And we also believe, as Christians, that there is something worse than death.  This is a sobering thought, but it must enter our discussion of this issue.  Death is not really the end for anyone.  The Bible says "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).”  For those who put their faith in the Savior Jesus Christ there is something glorious on the other side of our suffering.  But for those who reject the Lord, there awaits something worse on the other side of death. 
Christ came to give life.  He said to Martha at the tomb of Lazarus “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this (John 11:25-26)?”

Dear reader – Do you believe this?  

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I Believe...1-3-1

The older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity.  Achieving simplicity, however, is not easy.  I am fond of the quote attributed to Blaise Pascal (and others): "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time."

Rambling is easy.  Simplicity takes time and effort.  The goal of simplicity in writing is to maximize the number of things you do not say.  And so, with simplicity as a goal, I wish to express what I believe as a Christian.

  • I believe 1 thing about myself.
  • I believe 3 things about Jesus.
  • I believe 1 thing about the future.

That is the outline.  1-3-1.  I don't know how to reduce it any further.  And so, let me now explain what those things actually are.

I believe 1 thing about myself:  I am a sinner.  Of this fact I am utterly convinced and persuaded.  Both my own experience and the Bible confirm this time and time again.  Animals have instincts.  Their actions may be pleasant or unpleasant, but they can never truly be classified as right or wrong.  Man is different.  We are bound inescapably to an awareness of good and evil, right and wrong.  We call this the Moral Law.  I am obliged to keep this Moral Law.  But I don't.  And I know it.

I believe 3 things about Jesus:

     First:  He was not merely a man, but God in the flesh.  Jesus was God entering into the human world as a man.  No other conclusion adequately explains everything He did and said.   His birth and life fulfilled every prophecy that the Old Testament predicted.  The only rational explanation is this:  He planned it.  He was both the Author of the prophecies and their fulfilment.  His miracles, words and life confirmed He was God.  Add to this the fact that He actually claimed to be God.  Good men don't do this - unless, of course, it is true. 

     Second:  He died as a substitute for sinners like me.  The cross was a cruel, but not uncommon, instrument of death.  But Jesus' death was unique.  It was not an accident.  It was not a failure.  It was not, ultimately, a tragedy.  His death was a planned and purposed substitution - bearing the penalty for sin that sinners like me deserved.  Like the lambs slaughtered by the priests in the Old Testament as sacrifices for sin, so Jesus Christ died as a perfect, sinless sacrifice for all who would put their faith in Him. 

     Third:  Jesus rose again from the dead.  On the third day He rose.  Death could not hold Him.  God the Father accepted His sacrifice and acknowledged Jesus Christ to be precisely who He claimed to be.  The soldiers, whose lives depended on guarding the tomb, could not explain away what happened.  And so remarkable and convincing was His resurrection that His disciples, previously discouraged, were now willing to die preaching the good news of this truth to others.  And most of them did. 

I believe 1 thing about the futureA Day of Judgment is yet to come.  If this is not the case, then the world we live in makes no sense to me.  Those who do wrong often seem to get the furthest ahead.  Those struggling to do what is right often suffer for it.  Cruel misfortunes seem to fall randomly upon our race.  If all our hope is tied merely to this life, then life is ultimately meaningless.  There is no right or wrong.  Life would be, to quote Shakespeare's famous line in Macbeth "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."  But this life does mean something.  I know it does.  And I think we all do.  Life is significant.  What we do and what we believe matters.  Right now, in fact, counts forever.

That is as simple as I can make it.  I'm sure others could do better.  Maybe if I had more time...I could too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Great Judgment Morning

Was reading the words of this Southern Gospel song this morning as part of my devotions.  I believe the musical arrangement is attributed to Charles Tillman (1861 - 1943), though the words themselves originated in a poem he found.

Here is the fourth verse:

The moral man came to the judgment, But his self-righteous rags would not do
The men who had crucified Jesus, had passed off as moral men too.
The soul that had put off salvation, "Not tonight; I'll get saved by and by
No time now to think of religion!"  At last they had found time to die.

The final two lines struck me. 

They remind me of Christ's parable of the rich man who could think of no better use of his time, than to make greater provision here on earth for all his treasure.  Jesus, describing the man, said:

"And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”" (Luke 12:19-21, ESV)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Modern Preachers & the Bible Buffet

The problem with most modern preaching can be stated, sadly enough, with this simple image.  The preacher stands before the Word of God as a hungry child stands before a beautiful buffet.  With no restraints whatsoever he is allowed to pick and choose the dishes he wishes to deliver.  The problem with such preaching is easy to discover.  As with the child at the buffet, his plate is likely to be filled with all the things that make him smile, while avoiding most scrupulously the things less appealing (though probably beneficial) to his body.  He contends that he is faithfully preaching God's Word, for everything he says comes from the provisions of the buffet, but it fails miserably to represent the intended healthy balance and beauty designed by the Great Chef. 

The Gospel is a balanced meal.  It contains on the one hand the gentle invitations and genuine sympathies of a good God who does not delight in punishments.  Christ is presented as a sufficient Savior - and the Cross a testimony of His rich provision for our complete forgiveness for all who believe in Him.  The Lord beckons men with the promises of better things: Living water, Answered prayers, Eternal life.  All this, and much more, are at hand for the person in the pulpit to please his hearers with. Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1)

But there is another side.  The God who woos is also the God who warns.  The same Lord who holds forth the promise of Heaven also threatens with the prospects of Hell.  The free provisions of the Gospel are always coupled with the unswerving and unbending demands of the Law.  The joyful prospect that some can be saved is always compared in Scripture with the dreadful reality that most will not.  The beauty of holiness is always contrasted with the real stench of sin.  Paul says to those who persist in unbelief  "But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5)

This is why the real problem of modern preaching is so hard, at first glance, to discover.  The problem is not so much with what IS said, but rather with what is NOT said.  Dessert is fine when consumed in its proper proportions.  Wine is wonderful when moderation is maintained.  But the problem with modern preaching is that it leaves the hearer's soul fat and drunk on Bible promises, while dying from spiritual malnutrition for lack of a balanced meal.  The modern pulpit no longer warns about the dangers of unbelief, nor does it convict comfortable Christians who persist in soul-destroying sins.

And let's be fair.  We who sit in the pews are equally to blame.  We "vote" (if you will) for the type of preaching we demand by our faithful attendance (or lack thereof) every Sunday.  We may agree in our hearts that a more balanced Gospel, the true Biblical Gospel, is what our generation truly needs.  But as long as we tolerated the textual truffles and chocolate covered content week after week, we tell the church leadership what we really prefer.

I need a balanced Gospel. Like G.K. Chesterton once quipped, I want "a religion that is not only right where I am right, but a religion that is right where I am wrong."  My soul needs this kind of preaching.  I need my eye poked and my heart prodded with the truth.  I need a ministry that does not fail to bring "the whole counsel of God" to bear upon my life.  Buffet-style, pick-what-you-please  preaching will never do this.  Balanced preaching is not something merely to be "liked" on our social media platforms.  It is literally a matter of life and death.  May the Lord give us the courage and wills to insist upon it. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Seeking is DOING

"Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God." 
1 Chronicles 22:19

Silly and entirely unrelated photo of Joshua...
So frequently is the command given to Christians to "seek God" or "seek the Lord" or "seek the kingdom of God" that it would not be far off to say that seeking the Lord is essentially an expression for what it means to live the Christian life.   

But what struck me today, as I read this passage from Chronicles, was the words that follow immediately after David's counsel to his son.  In verse 19 David tells Solomon to seek the Lord.  Then, without so much as taking a breath it seems, David goes on in the second half of the verse to say "Therefore arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord your God..."

"Seek" he told him.

Then, as if to explain it,  "arise and build."

There it is.  Seeking is DOING.  It is not naval gazing about spiritual things.  It is not silent tingles about heaven and angels or deep doctrines.  Seeking is not a feeling.  Seeking is not even, primarily, thinking.  Seeking is DOING.  Arise and build

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Silence of the Leeches

"The Leech has 2 Daughters: Give & Give!"

Proverbs 30:15

I don't suppose I've ever heard a sermon on this verse. Maybe the brevity and obscurity of the saying causes it to be passed over for easier texts. Or possibly the meaning is too clear. Maybe the spirit of the leech clings so closely to all of our souls that the obvious implications are too painful.

I see the leech and her daughters. I see it in the lack of contentment with my circumstances that often rob me of all present joy. Man has that blessed capacity to imagine. But corrupted by sin, too often my imagination fashions ideas of circumstances and situations far better than I currently enjoy. Thus a lust for something more robs the joy from everything here right now. Wretched leeches of discontentment, sucking all the life out of the present day by wishing for a better tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doorpost & Gate Christianity

 "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates..."
Deuteronomy 11:20

Oh my soul.  Consider Moses' dying words to his people.  The Lord had told him he would die.  He would not travel with them into the Promised Land.  But he does not despair - if ONLY they will hold fast to the Word of God.  He is not concerned whether or not they remember his personality, his stories or his possessions.  But they must - if they want their souls to prosper - remember the Word of God.  "Therefore you shall love the Lord your God and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always (Deut. 11:1)."

Parents - what shall your children remember of you when they are gone?  As a parent myself I admit that I fear my legacy may be better remembered by my hobbies and habits...rather than a saturated commitment to the Scriptures. 

Preachers - what shall your people remember of you when you are gone?  Funny stories and silly antics?  Or shall your people always remember you as the preacher that lived and breathed the very Word of God in your sermons and your life?

Drawing closer to the text at the top of the page I note in this passage a 3-fold progression of God's Word in the lives of His children.

1)  God's Word in the Heart - "you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul (Deut 11:18)."

Christians - are we storing up God's Word, His commands, in the chambers of our hearts and minds?  Are we keeping His Word close by frequently bringing it into remembrance throughout the day?

2)  God's Word in the Home - "you shall teach them to your children... (Deut 11:19)."

Christian - What is the mark of our presence in our homes?  Is the fragrance of Christ throughout our house?  Do I ever speak openly and honestly with my family about what the Lord is doing today in my life - so as to be an encouragement to the lives of those nearest to me? 

3) God's Word to the World - "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates...(Deuteronomy 11:20)." 

Here is the part that really got me thinking.  The "doorposts" and "gates" would be the FIRST thing that a total stranger would encounter when coming to meet someone.  I take this to mean that it is NOT enough for God's Word to fill my heart and home...but must also extend beyond my immediate family and profess to the world that I belong to Jesus Christ. 

How do we do that today?  Here I think every Christian needs to look at his/her own circumstances and consider the opportunities God gives us.  But if I am content to keep my faith in the smallest possible circle...what does that say about the state of my soul?  How can I say I love my neighbor and never speak to him about the things that matter most? 

Interesting - According to Ezekiel 45:19 the priest was to put the blood of the sacrifice for sin on the doorposts and gates of the temple:  "The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and on the gateposts of the gate of the inner court."

We are, Christian, the temple of God.  Christ, therefore, our great and only sacrifice for sin, must always be on the doorposts and gates of our lives.  Let the world look on.  Do they see the blood?  Do they see a soul living joyful in obedience to the words of my Savior? 

Oh for more sanctified doorposts and gates!  


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Christian - Start Crying

"Attend to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are stronger than I."
Psalm 142:6

Oh my soul.  The longer I live this Christian life, the more convinced I become that my greatest enemies are not OUTSIDE but INSIDE.  Satan may tempt and the world may allure, but no fiend has so prevailing and devilish an influence in my life than my indwelling sins.  They are "my persecutors" to use the words of David in this Psalm. They may not have the LAST word on my eternal estate, but they indeed have a LOUD word with respect to my current condition.  I am ready to confess with the psalmist, from the sore and sad experience of my soul, that "they are stronger than I."

One thing that this verse tells me is the need we have as Christians for crying.  The way to glory is through the veil of tears - and these tears first and foremost must be tears over my own sin.  Such crying is a Christian grace - and I confess that far too often my heart is hardened against so good an affection as that.  Godly sorrow works repentance...not the other way around.  Dry eyes are no indication of spiritual health.  David wept.  Jeremiah wept.  Even Christ - though not for His own sin - nevertheless wept in the face of sin and its sorrowful consequences. 

This verse also tells me the dangers of becoming comfortable with my sin.  David knew that his persecutors had brought him "very low."  But far too often, I fear, my sin has not had the same effect upon my heart.  It might make me angry, bothered, and inconvenienced and out of sorts.  But low? Very low?  Somehow I have rationalized my sinful thoughts, words and deeds so that they hardly interrupt me, let alone bring me very low

This verse tells me that God delights to deliver us from our sins.  David prayed "deliver me!"  And it is especially delightful to the Lord when we confess that we are too weak to deal with them on our own:  "they are stronger than I."  God sent a Deliverer - Jesus Christ.  He heard David's cry and the cry of others who, through grace, know that in themselves "dwells no good thing."  He will hear our cry as well.  Christian - start crying. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Spiritual Bankruptcy

"Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment  and immediately her flow of blood stopped." 
Luke 8:43-44

O my soul.  In these words, "spent all her livelihood," I think we find the true secret to spiritual health and healing.  There is a world of difference between those who come to Christ lacking something, and those who come to Christ having nothing.  Many are looking for a spiritual experience to supplement their otherwise worldly lives.  Many look for religion to satisfy some felt need for connection with a higher power.  But oh how few come to Christ admitting and acknowledging that they are utterly and entirely bankrupt, having nothing left at all and seeking everything from the Savior of sinners?  What is needed today more than anything is a revival of spiritual bankruptcy.  What is needed today is an utter collapse of our economy of self-worth.  What is needed today is a great depression of our spiritual pride that only looks to Jesus for a little help, a little advice, a little comfort...rather than falling before Him knowing that He is our only hope for we have "spent all" and have nothing left.

And you, O my soul, have as much to repent of as the most worldly and Godless ones in our society.  Do you think that somehow, having come to Christ, that you have any riches, any resources, any accomplishments that are valuable apart from Him?  O for a more humble heart that properly perceives my utter dependence upon my Savior for any good!  O for a more present awareness of my bankruptcy apart from Him who is my Bread of life, my Living fountain of water. 

O my soul, let no day pass you by in which you are not - as this poor sick woman - reaching out to lay hold of your Savior as your only hope.  The moment I think I am well, and have no need for His healing, is the moment in which my spiritual decline begins.  But O what encouragement is found a bit further in the text, when Jesus said concerning her touch "I perceive power going out from Me."  Power.  Power to fight the war with sin, both within and without.  Power to live for Him who died for me.  Power to be bold in speaking up on His behalf.  Power to endure the trials and troubles of this life that so often overwhelm the soul.  Christian, that is the same power He offers today - but only upon the terms of our spiritual poverty.  And thus the believer is truly the one who has nothing, but possesses all things. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Finishing a DISAPPOINTING book

We are quitters by nature.  As a rule, when a thing ceases to please us, we cease to pursue it.  We see this in virtually every area of our culture.  When that dream job loses its luster, we tend to move on to something else, usually every 3-5 years.  When a church or pastor no longer meets our felt needs, we simply stop going, or "shop" for a different church.  When a spouse ceases to please us, many "check out" of the marriage either emotionally or permanently, typically in about 8 years or so. 

Books seem to be no exception to our custom to quit.  I suspect I have started many more books than I have finished, and likely you have done the same.  But although there may occasionally be a valid reason to stop a book once started, I have come to believe this is typically a mistake.  Giving up on a book simply because it proves to be LESS than expected is, in my opinion, a bad habit that needs to be broken.  Ray Bradbury, author of the classic Fahrenheit 451 once said "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."  Regularly quitting the books we begin is not much better than not reading at all.   And so, having just encountered this situation once again, allow me to share the sorts of things that now help me push through an author's work, even when it is somewhat disappointing.


1)   Remind yourself why you chose the book in the first place.  Did the subject matter intrigue you?  Did the author inspire you?  Was it a friend who recommended it?  Think about the circumstances that originally aroused you to purchase and/or start reading the book.  Re-kindle those beginning thoughts on the furnace of your heart.  

2)  Give some particular thought to the author's qualifications and the reputation of those who have recommended the book.  Has the author been places, done things, experienced life, obtained degrees that you have not?  Then he or she undoubtedly has a perspective on the subject of the book that is unique to them.  It should not, in some senses, surprise us that a book ends up being different than we expected.  Let a humble recognition of the author's accomplishments and experiences persuade you to keep going even when you find yourself, for some reason, unimpressed. 

3)  Consider that jewels of wisdom are sometimes found in the dark mines of difficult reading.  Samson found honey in the carcass of a lion.  Readers often find sweet delicacies buried in an otherwise boring paragraph.  A single quote that crystallizes some truth in your mind, changes your approach to certain aspects of life or even provides just a few moments of needed encouragement may well repay the hours spent slogging through the dry desert of unfruitful pages.

4)  Find an outlet.  When tempted to give up on a book, consider that maybe the contents (though not especially helpful to you) may be helpful to others.  Share it.  Talk about the book with a friend, post a quote online or include it in an email to a friend, write a brief summary or review of a chapter recently read.  It has often been my experience that the very act of articulating an author's point helps to increase our appreciation for it.

5)  Remember that reading profitably involves some hard work.  When a book you are reading is disappointing, take it as a challenge to strengthen your reading and application skills.  The resolve that is developed while working through a difficult or unsatisfying book will pay rich rewards, either in this book, or possibly the next.  Effective reading involves thinking, and real thinking is hard work.  Napoleon Hill once put it this way "Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit." 

6)  Make a plan and include a reward.  When reading an engrossing page-turning story, no other plan or incentive is needed beyond the pure joy of the book itself.  But when you are knee-deep in a difficult book, it may be helpful to set a plan for daily reading and a reward for finishing.  Can you commit to 20 pages per day until it is done?  Can you hold off on buying or borrowing another book until this one is done?  Such things may help you keep you marching through the hard terrain of a disappointing book.

So...these are my thoughts on getting through a difficult or disappointing book.  In the middle of a hard book?  Keep going!  Afraid to start another book from fear of quitting?  Push ahead!  Dare to read again!  Allow me to leave you with the memorable words of Douglas MacArthur:  "Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Are There Amorites in Your Attic?

Are there Amorites in your Attic? 


Missing the Opportunities by Focusing on the Problems

In the 13th chapter of the book of Numbers Moses has led the people of God right up to the doorstep of the Promised Land.  In preparation for their invasion he sends in 12 spies to inspect the land and bring back a report:  Be of good courage, and bring back some of the fruit of the land (Num. 13:20).”  One man representing each of the 12 tribes joined together and traveled into and through the land for 40 days. 

Upon their return they had good news and bad news.  The good news was this:  “It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit (Num. 13:27)” as they displayed a large vine filled with grapes before their eyes.  But there was, as they perceived it, bad news also:  the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea…” (Num. 13:29).  Mountains and oceans were fantastic pieces of real estate.  Hills provided protected positions on which to build strong cities and easily-defended walls.   The sea offered almost unlimited fishing and commerce opportunities.  The Promised Land was not a barren desert.  But for at least 10 of the 12 spies they were almost blinded to the opportunities because they chose to focus on the problem, namely “the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea.” 

Application 1:  When we focus upon the problems we miss the opportunities.  Where are the Amorites and the Canaanites in your life today?  That is, what are the problems and challenges that are drawing your focus away from the promises of God?  Are you afraid to take on some new spiritual challenge because you are afraid you might fail?  When is the last time you dared to attempt anything great for the Lord?  Many Christians, like those 10 spies, find themselves living stagnant lives for Christ because of unbelief.  In John Bunyan’s classic on spiritual warfare entitled The Holy War, he describes the difficulty encountered when trying to purge the town of “Mansoul” (an allegory of the Christian man or woman) of doubts.  He says “Mr. Unbelief as a nimble Jack; him they could never lay hold of, though they attempted to do it often.”  So it is that many believers find themselves entirely weakened and helpless before their doubts.  The Amorites and the Canaanites have control.  Are there Amorites in your attic, ruling your thoughts and controlling your actions?

A life that is dominated by negative thoughts like “it can’t be done” or “it will never work” or “this will never change” is neither honoring to Christ nor helpful to us.  The weeds of depression grow rapidly in the soil of doubt.  The Christian missionary, William Carey, had a different outlook.  He preached a sermon on Isaiah 54:2-3 which prophesied the increase of God’s people: “your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”  Carey rallied a missionary spirit on the basis of these promises, saying to his hearers: “expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.

Carey saw the “mountains” and the “seas” and refused to focus on the “Amorites” and “Canaanites” that presently stood in the way.  Caleb, one of the spies who refused to surrender to unbelief, said to the nation “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”   What about you and me?  Will we continue to be satisfied with a low meager living of the Christian life and never dare to trust in the power of God to do great things?  The Apostle Paul put it this way “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Application 2:  We cannot enjoy God’s blessings without first dealing with our sin.  Just as the Amorites and Canaanites must be eliminated before Israel could enjoy the land, so our sins must be fully dealt with before you or I can begin to enjoy fellowship with God.  And we must deal with our sin in the only effective way possible:  repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  The Amorites and Canaanites would not leave on their own.  They knew Israel was coming.  Word had spread throughout the land about what God had formerly done for His people in delivering them from Egypt.  But they were prepared to fight rather than flee.  So it is with our sins.  They will not go away on their own.  They cannot be coddled or corrected to become virtues.  They are black stains on our record, debts too large to pay, offenses too great to overlook.   Our sin, unforgiven, will condemn us.  Just as the unbelieving spies said of the land of Canaan “the land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants (Num. 13:32).”  Sin, not repented of, will likewise devour and destroy us all. 

Reader, the cross of Jesus Christ is the place where God once and for all dealt with sin.  It is the cross you must go to.  It is the cross you must flee to.  You cannot inherit God’s blessings while the guilt of sin still hangs over us.  God is too holy to overlook sin, but He is so good He has promised to forgive it for all who come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Doorstep, a Democrat and a Debate for Life

I tend to avoid writing political posts like the plague.  I consider myself far too simple and cynical to say anything meaningful on issues of government and the economy.  Better to close my mouth and have you think me a fool than to open my mouth and prove it.  But alas, every once in a while even I feel compelled to say a few words in defense of my own convictions - however ludicrous they may sound.

True Story:

This afternoon our doorbell rang.  Thinking it to be the neighbor I asked Joshua to answer it.  He peeked through the window and said there were two men standing on our steps.  Hmmmm.  I suppose you know what I thought:  Jehovah's Witnesses.  I got up from the couch rehearsing in my mind the things I (a Christian) tend to say to them. 

It wasn't the Witnesses.  Rather, before me stood Democratic Senator Mike Moore and a supporter, handing out flyers and hoping to win votes for the upcoming election.  I stepped out onto the doorstep, greeting the two smiling men with handshakes and hellos.  I must admit I was impressed that one of my representatives was out actually going door to door and talking with the people he hoped to help.  In a day dominated by emails and text messages and..umm..blogs, it is becoming increasingly rare to find individuals actually willing to engage in that most ancient form of communication:  talking.

Unwilling to lose this rare opportunity, I asked him a few questions about some of the issues of the day.  We talked briefly about the economy and jobs. We talked about the size and roll of government.  But these issues were just appetizers.  The issue heaviest on my own heart is the issue of abortion and what has come to be called "pro-choice." 

WARNING- If you are easily offended by those who are persuaded pro-lifers - stop reading now. 

I asked my Democratic friend (yes, I'm quite fine calling him a friend) if he could present to me what he believed to be the STRONGEST argument in FAVOR of the pro-choice position.  "What" I asked him "is that argument that most convincingly persuades you that an abortion should be a legal option in our society?" 

He did not shrink back from the challenge.  With a polite smile and calm tone in his voice he gave me not 1, but 2 reasons why he believed that abortion should be a legal option.

Here they are:

1)  A baby before a certain age in the womb is not "viable" and therefore cannot be considered in possession of those basic human rights and privileges that we enjoy.  Viability determines humanity and rights.

2)  A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body.  To forbid abortion is to rob a woman of this basic right.

These are fairly common arguments.  I'm sure you have heard them before.  And I am grateful that Senator Moore allowed me a few moments to present a brief response to these opinions.   We didn't agree.  But he listened and was willing to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a very important issue to me. 

Here is the substance of my position which I shared with Senator Moore:

VIABILITY:  The argument that basic human rights of "life" and "protection" belong only to those who can demonstrate "viability" on their own is, in my opinion, entirely gratuitous.  First, based upon the word itself, "viability" simply means capable of growth or development.  Normal healthy children at every stage following conception are capable of growth and development.  But what proponents of the "viability" argument usually mean is the age at which the baby "could survive" if separated from the mother.  But here the argument fails too.  No baby, either before or after birth, is truly viable in this sense.  Can a 6 month old child survive completely on its own?  How about a 1 year old...or two year old?  Um...I know some 18 year olds for which this might be a struggle!   Actually, this argument is quite scary when you think about it.  What about those children (or adults) with medical conditions that prevent them from caring for themselves?  Are they viable?  Without constant help they would not survive, yet no one argues their lives should not be protected.  Ultimately, we don't really believe "viability" is the thing which determines a person's rights to life and protection under the law.  The viability argument falls apart on every level.  As Senator Moore stood and listened, his friend was brave enough to agree, saying "the viability argument is quite a slippery slope." 

A WOMAN'S BODY:  The second argument seems stronger.  Shouldn't a woman have the right to do with her own body what she wants?  Is it the job of government (or the church for that matter) to tell her what she may or may not do with her own body?  For many, this line of reasoning is the final word on the issue.  Does this line of thinking persuade you?  Allow me to ask a few questions:

1)  Is it her body?  Really?  The child within her has his/her own head, hands, feet, heart, lungs, etc.  In what sense is it her body?  Does a pregnant woman have two heads?  Four arms?  Four eyes?  That sounds like a monster.  But you would never say she has two heads.  She has a head, and the baby has a head.  They are 2 people.  It is not her body.

2) If it IS her body, then this line of reasoning argues AGAINST the previous "viability" argument.  If the woman has a right to an abortion because the baby is HER body, then that right should continue right through the "viability" stage of development.  If anything, the baby is MORE her body (since it is bigger) during the 3rd trimester than the first.  In other words, both of these arguments cannot be true at the same time. 

3)  Finally, we all agree that my "rights" to do with my body only extend as far as your nose.  I don't have the right to punch you with my fist, even though my fist is my body.  I don't have a right to walk into your home uninvited, even though it is "my body."  I may not parade myself up and down the street unclothed (thank goodness!) claiming I have the right to do with my body what I please.  The "my body" argument only extends so far.  I may not use it to harm another or encroach upon their rights.  Abortion is the ultimate attack upon the rights of another "body." 

BUT someone might argue...that baby is connected to the mother's blood supply!  Correct.  The baby needs the mother to survive.  But, as we have already discussed in the "Viability" argument, that will be true AFTER the birth of the child as well.  Anyone who has had a baby knows this full well.

SUMMARY:  The life growing within the womb of a woman is a human life at every stage of its development.  It must grow, but it is human growth.  It will change, but it is human change.  It will become more and more independent, but this is part of the process of maturing that every human experiences.  As human life, humans should protect it.  Every person, whatever size or color or gender or age is made in the image of God.  The baby has as much a right to life as the mother who carries it. 

FORGIVENESS:  I wish to end this brief post with a word about forgiveness.  I believe abortion is wrong and should be illegal in a just society that seeks to love God and love our neighbor.  But I also believe in forgiveness.  No sin....NO SIN....repented of is unable to be forgiven by God.  That is why Jesus Christ came and died on the cross.  He died for sinners like you and me.  The Apostle Paul wrote that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."  Jesus saved the chief of sinners.  And He offers salvation to you.

P.S.  And to Senator Moore, who gave me the privilege of this discussion, I wish to thank you.  I cannot, for conscience sake, vote for you.  But I do respect you.  It would be great if more of our elected officials actually took the time to talk to those they represent.  I do not suppose my arguments will change the view of my friend.  Were he to move into the pro-life position it would probably cost him his political career.  But I think we must, as a society, continue to bring our arguments to the table and discuss them fairly, openly and honestly.  People can change.  Opinions can change.  Whole societies can change.  And with respect to the current perspective on abortion in our society, I pray that one day we will change.