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Archive for March, 2011

A friend of mine who is experiencing some very deep waters because of disability in his family sent me some prayer requests in an email earlier this week.  It included this:

That I would genuinely grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus through this particular season (vs. just enduring it), and that as a result I might become an increasingly worshipful and loving servant leader in our home

I read this and just worshipped God for the extraordinary grace that poured through the computer screen and over my heart as I read it.

His child is already complicated, and new circumstances have only increased the complications.

Yet he wants more of Jesus, and not just for himself, but for the sake of his behavior towards his family.

Thank you, my friend, for encouraging me to want more of Jesus in every season!

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Thank you to Jan Lacher for pointing me to this.  This video has been around for almost a year, but I just saw it and was reminded, again, how extraordinary is the love of God toward us.

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In the pile of papers I referenced yesterday were some old test scores.  Since Paul attends public schools, they assess his educational progress as mandated by various federal and state bodies.

The things they want to measure, he can’t do.  His scores on reading, reading comprehension, math, math concepts and the like were as low as you can score and still be breathing.

The things they can’t measure – like his inherent, God-created dignity as a human being – he excels at.

I used to cry when those came in the mail every year.  They still make me sad, not because of how severely disabled they ‘objectively’ show him to be, but because this is the cultural measure of his worth.

And therein lies a danger to children with disabilities not yet born.  These are the objective measures of ‘reality’ that doctors and social workers and university professors understand – and which are communicated to parents who live in and breathe the air of this culture.  The decision to do away with such seemingly worthless human beings then appears to be obvious.

No, let us talk about what is truly real.  God creates some to live with disabilities (Exodus 4:11), he knows all their days (Psalm 139:13-16), he will supply every need (Philippians 4:19), and he knows the end from the beginning (Revelation 21:5-7).

It is entirely speculation on my part, but I believe that my Paul will someday hear these words from Jesus himself:

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

And for another look at what’s going on inside the womb, the folks at Abort73.com have released another video – The Case Against Abortion: Prenatal Development.

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A pile full of grace

We have one of those closets that is full of things we don’t want to really want to deal with.  But we’ve started to deal with it.

One of the things in the bottom of the closet was a pile of papers.  As I started through those papers I found old bills for medical tests, hospitalizations, chemotherapy, professional services and the like.  Stacks of bills, some outlining individual charges in excess of $3,000, $5,000 and $10,000.

All of them paid.

As Dianne walked through I just said out loud, “God has taken care of us.”

Yes, she replied, he certainly has.

 

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In a Friday New York Times editorial, The Shame of New York’s Group Homes, the closing sentence makes a clear and urgent moral pronouncement:

The answer lies in the state’s urgent obligation to protect those who cannot defend themselves.

They are absolutely correct, though it is not just the state who has an obligation to protect the defenseless.  In this case they are speaking of those living in group homes because of their developmental disabilities.

Please pray The New York Times would extend this logic to those even more defenseless: children in the womb.  Imagine the impact that could have if God were to wake up The New York Times editorial board to see this issue clearly!

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After more than 26 years of being associated with Bethlehem, I can say that Pastor John’s preaching has been his primary influence on me.  But a close second are his books.  And of his books, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist lays the foundation for all the rest that are to come.

Through April 7, you can buy a copy of the newest edition of Desiring God for only $5.

A live-streamed web broadcast will take place every Thursday in April at noon (live Eastern Standard Time, rebroadcast at noon during Central, Mountain and Pacific Times), where Pastor John will take questions on two chapters of Desiring God.

Reading the Bible and seeing God as sovereign and good has been massively important in my life in how I understand and respond to disability and disease.  And God has also used Pastor John to help me when he speaks or writes specifically on the issue of suffering:

For (the Apostle Paul) any suffering that befell him while serving Christ was part of the “cost” of discipleship.  When a missionary’s child gets diarrhea, we think of this as part of the price of faithfulness.  But if any parent is walking in the path of obedience to God’s calling, it is the same price.  What turns sufferings into sufferings “with” and “for” Christ is not how intentional our enemies are, but how faithful we are.  If we are Christ’s, then what befalls us is for his glory and for our good whether it is caused by enzymes or by enemies (emphasis mine). John Piper, Desiring God, p. 260.

If the notion of Christian hedonism just seems strange (or even blasphemous) to you, buy the book, read the first two chapters of Desiring God and join in the live-streamed discussion on April 7.  You might think about God’s interest in your happiness in an entirely new way.

You can also read an earlier edition of Desiring God online for free.

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Thank you to Justin Taylor, who posted this announcement on his blog on Thursday:

Harvard Law Professor William Stuntz died last week at the age of 52 after suffering from colon cancer. Both pieces in The New York Times refer to his strong Christian faith. Professor Stuntz developed a distinctly Christian perspective on his field of expertise and in so doing became “one of the most influential legal scholars of the past generation.”

Justin quotes Dr. Stuntz from a Christianity Today article from 2009:

Our pain is not empty; we do not suffer in vain. When life strikes hard blows, what we do has value. Our God sees it.

Justin also provides links to an interview with Timothy Darymple and to the article Dr. Stuntz wrote for Christianity Today.  The interview is, in some ways, very difficult to read for its raw emotion, and Dr. Stuntz had a great way with words which adds to the impact of the suffering he is describing.

But the interview ends on this wonderful note:

The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet.  I almost cannot bear to say them aloud.  They are achingly sweet for me to hear.

Thank you, Justin, for pointing to this life well lived.

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I’ve mentioned the bio-ethicist Peter Singer before, and his arguments to kill infants with disabilities.

Members of the Supreme Court of the United States have also held such views about people with disabilities.

Paul Lombardo’s horrifying history of a case brought before the Supreme Court, Buck v. Bell, includes this statement from Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1902 – 1932:

As I have said, no doubt, often, it seems to me that all society rests on the death of men.  If you don’t kill ‘em one way you kill ‘em another – or prevent their being born.

Lombardo goes on to say:

He had no compunctions about ‘restricting propagation by the undesirables and putting to death infants that didn’t pass examination.’  Lombardo, p. 165

For a season the eugenics movement in the United States had the backing of the Supreme Court, powerful members of congress, a couple of United States presidents, influential philanthropists, university professors, scientists, and even members of the clergy.

That season is gone.  The organizations that grew up out of that movement, like Planned Parenthood, have needed to entirely change their message to continue to exist.

May it be so for this evil season of abortion as well.

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After Paul had his ‘spell’ in church on Sunday, we made our way up to the sanctuary and needed to sit in the balcony.

The first thing I saw – five leaders who I love:  Pastor John, Pastor Sam, Pastor David standing together; Pastor Kempton across the aisle with his bride, Caryn; and Pastor Chuck leading worship in song.

There is a reason why we were so well served in Paul’s class: God’s continued supply of God-centered, service-oriented leadership.  Every one of those five men have been required to do hard things in their service to the church.  Yet that constancy of clinging to God permeates the place, and results in volunteers who do hard things to love on families like ours.

Earlier in the week I had lunch with one of our younger pastors – who is attempting to do hard things with the strength and wisdom God provides.  And I had lunch with two pastors of a different church who had just come through a very difficult set of circumstances.  And God provided help in some spectacular ways.

Those of us parenting children with disabilities are trained by all the systems we combat to be advocates – and sometimes our advocacy behavior spills over into the church in ways that aren’t very pretty.

But on Sunday as I looked at those five men, I could testify to their steadfastness in clinging to Jesus and pursuing the good of their people.

So, just a reminder – pray for your pastor.  We ask a great deal from them.

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Pastor John started his sermon on John 8 this past Sunday by talking about the evangelical bubble we can find ourselves in.  It isn’t a bad place to be – it includes all the people who believe what we believe, and love what we love and talk about things we like to talk about.

Frankly, that’s one of the reasons I like my church so much.

He went on to say that there are people out there, hundreds and hundreds of leaders in churches and universities, who don’t believe what we believe.  And they make statements about God’s word that are shocking to those of us who live in this bubble.  Pastor John offered a couple of examples, including quoting a professor from Duke University.

He was right. His examples were shocking.

But they weren’t surprising to me.

Disability has forced me to engage certain ‘religious’ sectors that I never would have known existed.  For example, more than a decade ago I attended a conference on disability and the church and heard a Jewish Rabbi respond to a question about how to deal with the ‘hard’ passages in the Bible on disability.  This Rabbi assumed Leviticus 21 was being referenced in the question.  He very seriously responded that “we just ignore those passages; we know better now.”

I had NEVER heard anything like that before. Yet the general response in that crowd wasn’t the confusion and disappointment I was feeling, but a general sense that he was right.

But it didn’t have the effect I think that Rabbi was intending.  Rather than settle the question, or make me retreat into the bubble, God gave me a very keen interest in the subject of disability and the Bible.  Since that conference, I have read hundreds of journal articles on the Bible and disability.  Most shock me in how breezily they dismiss aspects of God’s word, his character or his authority.  Some of the arguments are just silly, but because they are ‘novel’ or ‘cutting edge’ they get a serious reading in otherwise serious journals.

It has had the impact of making me read the Bible much more carefully, and to ask, regularly, for the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding what I am reading.

I count that as a good thing.

If we have an interest in disability and the Bible, we will run into horrible arguments.  We’ve dealt with those issues a few times in this forum:

So, I’m glad for that evangelical bubble.  I like reading books from my ‘tribe’ and I like going to church and I like reading blogs by men like Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung and Tim Challies.

But it isn’t for the purpose of living in that bubble, but to get ready for what I know is out there.  And that’s where Jesus is, outside the camp (Hebrews 13:13).

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