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Archive for February, 2011

Horrendous arguments don’t usually begin in the public eye.  They begin in smaller circles, between very smart people.  And then one day we begin to see the actual results.

Let’s take infanticide.

1973:

“Of 299 consecutive deaths occurring in a special-care nursery, 43 (14 per cent) were related to withholding treatment.”  Duff and Campbell, New England Journal of Medicine, October 1973.

1983:

“Where is the line to be drawn in the case of infanticide?  This is not really a troubling question since there is no serious need to know the exact point at which a human infant acquires a right to life.”  Tooley, In Defense of Abortion and Infanticide, p. 133.

1985:

“Decisions about severely handicapped infants should not be based on the idea that all human life is of equal value, nor on any other version of the sanctity of human life.” Kuhse and Singer, Should the Baby Live, p. 172.

2004:

“The Groningen Protocol was developed in order to assist with the decision making process when considering actively ending the life of a newborn, by providing the information required to assess the situation within a legal and medical framework.” Wikipedia

“According to A.A.E. Verhagen, who launched the initiative (Groningen Protocol): ‘It’s time to be honest about the unbearable suffering endured by newborns with no hope of a future. All over the world doctors end lives discretely out of compassion, without any kind of regulation. Worldwide, the US included, many deaths among newborns are based on end of life decisions, after physicians reached the conclusion that there was no quality of life. This is happening more and more frequently.’

2011:

“When labor was induced and a baby was born, Dr. Gosnell would kill it by cutting into its neck and severing its spinal cord in a process he referred to as ‘snipping.’” New York Times, January 19, 2011.

A final word from Dr. Grace Vuoto, Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal:

“There is nothing merciful about mercy killing: it is just another glorified way for the young and strong to discard those who are inconvenient. America is on the path to a war of all against all, as parents devour their children before they are born and children devour their parents as they are dying.”

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From Polishing God’s Monuments: Pillars of Hope for Punishing Times by Jim Andrews:

Just as the Lord forewarned Moses, so the Scriptures forewarn us that the Christian life is not going to be a walk in the park, that we should not be surprised when fiery trials come upon us (1 Peter 4:12), that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22), that we should not expect the world to love us (John 15:20), that many are the afflictions of the righteous (Psalm 34:19; John 16:33), and that various trials are both necessary and beneficial for us (1 Peter 1:6 and James 1:2). Still, despite all we should know and be well prepared for, we sometimes react as though, in the words of 1 Peter 4:12, some strange and unaccountable things were happening to us.

My friends, if anyone is intent upon taking up his or her cross and following after Christ, put this down: the abnormal state of Christian existence on this planet is an untroubled life. And, the truth be told, a healthy, vital spiritual life can ill-afford untrammeled peace and prosperity for long.  For it is a law of life that all strength is born of resistance, not repose.  Andrews, p. 276

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If you have not already read this entry by John Ensor on the Desiring God blog, please take a minute to do so.

I have lingered over these sentences in particular:

The blood-guilt of abortion festers under the surface of all Christian endeavor. It needs lancing. It needs to be outed. It needs to be called out by name, confessed by name, and brought under a gospel that declares that there is no forgiveness for the shedding of innocent blood except by the shedding of innocent blood.

Yes, Jesus is the answer to this incredible, horrible reality we live with.  The sin-cleansing blood of Jesus can cover even this, and set people free.

And we need to make sure that disability gets included in this ‘outing.’  There are Christian people who would say they are against abortion, but become ambivalent about it when the child is known to have a disability.

Ambivalence will not win the day. Ignorance will not win the day. The truth of God’s sovereignty over all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ – there is hope there!

Thank you, John Ensor, for another piercing, helpful, God-centered commentary.

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From Contagious Christian Living by Joel Beeke, p. 85:

If God doesn’t leave his mark on you, you will not be blessed with lasting profit from your afflictions. We must learn to welcome both pain and progress in our walk with God, realizing that we learn more through affliction than prosperity. Both are part of the contagious price of God, for he is most worthy to fit us for service in this life and the life to come.

I think we can agree we have learned more through pain than prosperity.

Justin Taylor shared the story of a family experiencing deep pain yesterday: their 12-year-old son died in an accident.  If you have not seen it, please take a minute to read, cry and ask God for that kind of sustaining faith.

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Do you have a broken spirit?

Do certain words ever leap off a page at you?

My reading through the Bible yesterday had me in Exodus 6.  God has heard the prayers of the people of Israel and seen their oppression.  Moses has spoken to Pharaoh, and his response is to make it significantly worse for the people of Israel.  Even Moses accuses God: “you have not delivered your people at all (Exodus 5:23).”  God responds, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh (Exodus 6:1).”

And the people can’t hear it: Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery (Exodus 6:9).

That phrase, ‘because of their broken spirit,’ crashed into my brain and then exploded.

I know what a broken spirit feels like.  Many of you know it as well when your hopes have been crushed one more time, and you can’t even hear good news.

Look at their situation. The elders had believed the signs that Moses had offered from God (Exodus 4:31).  Hope was being kindled.  Moses goes to Pharaoh. Rather than being released, Pharaoh made the situation even worse for them, and they blamed Moses.

Their hopes had been crushed.  Even Moses says he can’t go back to Pharaoh (Exodus 6:12).

What do health, wealth and prosperity preachers do with that?  Obviously God won’t be able to do anything since these people all lack faith.

Except, of course, God isn’t constrained by anything!

God looks at his spirit-broken people and the very man he has called to lead them, and begins to move with such power that we’re still reading and talking about it thousands of years later.  God says such astonishing, outrageous (except that it is God saying them) things about his sovereignty over all things in the next chapters that we will either bow down and worship him for his majesty and goodness and wisdom, or we will reject him entirely.

And, the irony is, because God isn’t constrained by our lack of faith, we can have faith that he will do all that he has promised to do for those he has called.  That’s what made my brain explode – God looks at dead, unbelieving, anxious, hopeless, broken hearts, and makes them alive.  Not one hint of faith on the Israelite’s part, and he moves to rescue them.

Because he knows the ends from the beginning, and has promised that all things work together for good, and truly knows what love looks like in all situations, and has given us a future hope that is so glorious it is indescribable, we can have faith that even our broken spirits will bring God glory and will be for our good.

These are not easy days in our household; I am fighting discouragement on several fronts.  But I KNOW that God is not hindered in his purposes when I am battling the sins of unbelief and anxiety.  I know that my dependency on him rather than on myself brings him greater honor.

Do you have a broken spirit?  Pray. God will help.  Trust his blood-bought promises rather than your perceptions.

Do you know someone with a broken spirit, and they can’t hear anything you say?  God will help.  Pray, and trust him that he will do the right thing.  Pray, and by doing so fight for them when they can’t fight for themselves.

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Old books remind me how unusual our ‘normal’ experiences are today.

In The Death of Ivan Ilych, on page 53, is this simple statement:

Though the salary was higher the cost of living was greater, besides which two of their children died and family life became still more unpleasant for him.

It seems very normal for Tolstoy to include that sentence, even in the life of a rising professional with access to doctors and resources in 1880′s Russia.

Yet how strange it seems in our own North American context.  We think we know what ‘unpleasant’ means, and that does not include the death of children.  We do not consider it normal at all within professional, middle-class families.

Maybe we should.

Buried in an article on a school for children with disabilities was this sentence:

Almost every year, a few medically frail students die.

That has been true at Paul’s school as well.  A short, sad announcement from the principle comes home in Paul’s backpack about a student who has died.  It isn’t every year.  But we have gotten several such notices over the years.  In seven years that has not happened even once at the school my other three ‘normally developing’ children attend.

Many people look at our lives, with all the doctors and complications and expense, and consider it strange and to be avoided at every cost.  Yet the ‘cost’ of avoiding it is usually the very life of our little one, the one God himself has given us to parent.

And when we look around the world, our ‘abnormal’ existence is experienced by millions and millions of families.  It is frequently the very thing that keeps bringing us back to God.

There is something else that seems more normal in old books: the presence of God.  I just finished A Narrative of The Mutiny, on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty by William Bligh and noted how freely he spoke of prayers and Providence:

For my own part, I consider the general run of cloudy and wet weather to be a blessing of Providence. Hot weather would have caused us to have died with thirst; and perhaps being so constantly covered with rain or sea protected us from that dreadful calamity.

So, though our experiences are abnormal in this culture, maybe we have been granted special insight into what normal life is really like, both historically and for much of the world’s population today.  What should we do with that insight?

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This really doesn’t have anything to do with disability – except for this reminder to you Minnesotans to shovel your walk! Those with mobility issues and blind individuals using canes (and your neighbors) will appreciate not having to trudge through a foot of snow.  Use some ice melt as well.

South Carolina and Kansas transplants braved five inches of snow (more than seven by the time they left) to join our monthly Barnabas prayer meeting for friends serving as missionaries in Asia. (It was at our house, so our effort was a little less impressive!)

The prayer time was very sweet; we love these friends who live so far away answering the call of God on their lives.

For those same friends who probably aren’t experiencing snow right now (and our other friends in other places of the the world), we caught this picture on Sunday afternoon when the snow was coming down at about 1 – 2 inches per hour.  They were coming to eat the crab apples.

Spring will eventually get here.  This was from LAST week, when temperatures were closer to 50 degrees.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Psalm 148:7-8

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