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Archive for July, 2011

There are things we know are good for us, but it can be hard to persevere (or even to start).

Reading through the Bible is one of those things – it really is helpful!

It can also be exciting.  God continues to reveal things I hadn’t seen or understood before, even in passages I’ve read many times.

No, there aren’t fireworks of new insight every day, and some days I approach it with a less-than-expectant attitude.  Frequently, God reminds me on those days that he is the source of joy, he is the provider of faith, and he will never leave us.  Sins get revealed and dealt with, and I experience the freedom that Jesus promises.

I pray you’ll find the same.

So this is one of my regular encouragements to do yourself some good and read through the entire Bible.

I can recommend the One-Year Tract Bible Reading Plan provided for free by Crossway.  They also offer several other plans.

Who cares that you’re starting on August 1 rather than January 1!  Next July 31, you’ll have read all of God’s inspired word!

And if you started earlier in the year and just fell too far behind to catch up – so what!  Start again.

If the first plan you choose just doesn’t seem to work, choose another.  By the start of 2012 you’ll already have momentum to keep going.

And thank you to my friend, Chris Nelson, who suggested this reminder.

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Very shortly after my son was born and diagnosed with the first of his multiple disabilities I learned I would need to be an ‘advocate’ for him.  To summarize, that meant I needed to learn how to deal with very complicated medical, educational, social work and legal systems if I hoped to get him services that might help him.

Being an advocate means being ready for conflict, and a commitment to winning.  Think lawyers, without the credentials (usually) but with an unparalleled passion to protect their loved ones.

Once I attended an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting that included eight professionals in various educational areas and me talking about my oldest son.  Seven of them did as they were legally obligated and sent me their assessments and recommendations ahead of the meeting.  One did not, and she also did not come to the meeting on time.  So, in addition to breaking the law, I was irritated.

The meeting was going really well – no issues, and the recommendations were appropriate.  Then the last professional showed up, near the completion of the meeting, and dropped the bomb of a whole new diagnosis.

Two of the other professionals in the room told me later that the room became physically colder as they watched me consider her words.

Then the ‘go’ switch went on in my head.  She didn’t stand a chance as I went over school processes and legal requirements and her methodology of assessment and lack of insight into current research.

The principal made a half-hearted attempt to protect her employee but quit when I turned my attention on the principal – this wasn’t a fight she knew she could win.  And then each of the other six professionals in the room was grilled on their assessment of their colleague’s diagnosis of my son.

At heart that wasn’t advocacy.  I wasn’t really looking for answers and I knew how to keep the pressure on that one person under the guise of wanting to find the best educational outcome for my son.

In other words, I was a trained and experienced character assassin using the tools of my trade.

Some of you are thinking, ‘I’ve experienced that sort of bad behavior from professionals; she deserved it.”  But I’m not proud of that moment as I think about it today:

  • She was doing her job in providing her assessment; I made it personal and looked for ways to personally humiliate her.
  • I didn’t want to believe her evidence, but three years later she proved to be correct.
  • Her assessment methodologies were flawed, and her delivery wasn’t appropriate, but my response didn’t give her an opportunity to learn anything useful.  I was just another angry, confused father rather than someone who could share some valuable insights.
  • I did not make Jesus look like greatest treasure.

I am not saying as parents we should just roll over and let school or medical professionals do anything they want with regards to our children.  The Apostle Paul would use the laws of the day when it was appropriate, like after he had been publicly beaten and jailed and then told they could leave:

But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”  Acts 16:37

We can use the protections granted us.  But even more than that, I want educators and government officials and medical professionals to run into a mountain of unmovable conviction about the God-granted worth and dignity and value of our loved ones with disabilities.

It is that very conviction that allows us to engage with grace and reasonableness.  God is our ultimate advocate, but unlike me he always brings perfect measures of grace and wrath, with perfect regard for our family members as well as those who are (or supposed to be) serving them, with perfect knowledge about what will ultimately bring him the greatest glory.

That allows us to say things like, “I disagree” and keep it on the subject at hand rather than making it personal by focusing on the skill, experience, competency or feelings of another.  If that person lacks skill or competency to get what we need, we keep pressing on, without rancor or anger, seeking the best outcome.

That is much easier said than done, in my experience.  I can’t prove it, but I think some people have baited me, trying to goad an emotional, angry response out of me so that they could put the ‘unreasonable, irrational’ father tag on me.

Today I try to remember that Jesus’ blood can cover the sins of that person across the table from me, or on the other end of the telephone, or who just sent the email or letter – they could be brothers or sisters in Christ!  If not today, then maybe someday in the future, and maybe God will use our persistent yet hopeful engagement on behalf of our children to reveal himself in all his glory.

Persevering is generally most of the battle anyway, even with insurance companies!  (Though I haven’t won all of those battles, either – and God is still good.)

People in positions of authority have lied to me about what can and cannot be provided to my son.  Some of them have also treated their subordinates very badly, not equipping them (and lying about it) to do the job they are being paid to do for my son. Those people should be afraid as we advocate for our children (just like in Acts 16:35-40).

Even more so, they should fear the God who made and has deep regard for our children with disabilities:

You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:14

Getting the right services and treatments – ones that could make a real difference – isn’t a hypothetical issue in our family, or yours.

But God is greater, and trusting him lets us behave in ways that make him look glorious, encourages us to persevere when all seems hopeless, helps us serve our families better, and doesn’t let the roots of pride or bitterness – which could destroy us – take hold in the midst of our complicated lives.

Yes, even when it appears we are losing and our own emotions are crying out for vengeance.  The Lord of the universe will judge rightly on our behalf:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:30-31

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Tim Challies pointed to an excellent blog posting by Mike Pohlman, who was writing about watching his wife battle her Stage IV cancer and persist in the fight of faith.  It is a short read, full of Bible and wisdom, and I recommend it.

My own Dianne also wanders off to see her oncologist every six weeks or so.  At every visit they take a sample of her blood to see if her Stage IV cancer is causing havoc again.

For six years she and I have lived with this regular reminder that the disease could return.  Statistically, it will return.  Actually, statistically, it should have killed her already.

So, like Mike with his Julia, I am humbled by this example in my home of faithful persistence.  God does not allow the specter of her disease to crush her or make her morose, but rather uses it to remind her that he is good and faithful and very, very strong and kind.  It has increased her affections for her children and her patience with me.  It has made God look very precious.

And someday, because of the One, we’ll never think about the numbers related to cancer markers again:

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:8-9

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Amazing testimony.

The video and audio are a little rough, but it is worth the 7 minutes.

You can also see it by clicking here.

Thank you to Jan Lacher for sending it to me.

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Nancy Guthrie has experienced deep suffering – and found Christ enough!

You can watch some of Nancy and David’s story here, created by Joni and Friends.  It is a remarkable, personal, intimate look into a number of issues – the sovereignty of God, the response from the church, living in a fishbowl, the need for Christian friends, the unexpected pains and joys, trusting all the promises of God.

I’m looking forward to her live interview at Desiring God on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. (central).  I invite you to watch.

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Pastor Bud Burk shepherds the children’s program at the downtown and south campuses and has been a great proponent for including all the children, including our ‘different’ children.  From the first time I met this man, before he was hired at Bethlehem, I knew I could learn a great deal from him about trusting in the sovereignty of God in all things.

On Sunday he prayed so beautifully and powerfully before Pastor Kempton’s sermon that I asked him if I could have it and post it. His response (with his trademark earnestness and humility): “it wasn’t me; it was all scripture!”  But he allowed that if it would help the body, he would share it.

Here it is.  May we all learn to pray like this!

Bud Burk, Prayer of Praise: July 24, 2011

Previous Song: “Hallelujah What a Savior”

Following Song: “Wonderful Merciful Savior”

“Savior, You showed Your love – Defeated our sin, poured out Your blood

So we praise You, Lamb that was slain – We offer our lives to proclaim – What a Savior!”

(Drawn from Isaiah 53)

You were despised and rejected by men

You were a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief

As one from whom men hide their faces

You were despised and we did not esteem You

Surely You have born our griefs and carried our sorrows

Yet we esteemed You stricken, smitten of God and afflicted

But You were wounded for our transgressions

But You were crushed for our iniquities

But You received chastisement that brought our peace

But You healed us by the stripes You received

What a Savior!

You are supreme in kindness

You are supreme in goodness

You are supreme in compassion

You are supreme in mercy

You are supreme in grace

You are supreme in wrath without sin

You are supreme in wisdom

(Drawn from Philippians 4:8)

You are supreme in all that is true

You are supreme in all that is honorable

You are supreme in all that is just

You are supreme in all that is pure

You are supreme in all that is lovely

You are supreme in all that is commendable

You are supreme in all that is excellent

You are supreme in all that is worthy of praise

What a Savior – We praise You

“When He comes, our glorious King – All His ransomed home to bring

Then anew this song we’ll sing – Hallelujah, hallelujah”

(Drawn from Revelation 5:9, 13)

Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals

For by Your blood You ransomed people for God

From every tribe and language and people and nation

To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be

Blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever

We pray in Your name Jesus

Our wonderful, merciful Savior; our precious Redeemer and Friend

Amen

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Gendercide and disability

Many of the comments and opinion articles on the issue of abortion based on the sex of a child are quick to point to misogyny in various Asian cultures as the reason behind what Pastor John wrote about on Saturday.

The sneer that we know better and are better than those cultures is barely veiled.

So what do we do when we find it in our own country and culture?  The Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles, New York and Mexico will “virtually guarantee your next child will be the sex of your choice.”

And they also routinely screen for many different types of genetic abnormalities.  It is self-evident that those eight cell embryos that fail to pass these two screenings – right sex, right genetic makeup – won’t be implanted in his or her mother.

Our unborn children with disabilities have no chance in any culture when even the sex of a child is perceived as a problem.

Except for this:  God calling his people and his church to stand when every other protection for those babies and their families is crumbling.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Ephesians 6:13

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The horrors of 163,000,000 girls being aborted, as Pastor John reported yesterday, are beyond human comprehension.

At least beyond my comprehension – I can’t begin to understand a number that large.

But God does.  He has perfect knowledge of more than 6.9 billion people.  And he knows every one of us more intimately than we even know ourselves.

I had four thoughts immediately after reading Pastor John’s post:

  1. I am very grateful that Pastor John described the destruction of babies with disabilities as ‘monstrous.’  May it be that the killing of female babies truly awakens the entire world to the exceeding evil that is abortion.
  2. God is sovereign over all things, and the blood of Jesus can cover even the destruction of 163,000,000 little girls.
  3. Individually, we cannot begin to put a dent into a number like that.  But we can tell our stories, and maybe God would be pleased to use my story or your story to save one baby, and then another and another.  We don’t need to tell it the same way, but as God leads us to do so.  For example, a couple of weeks ago Justin Taylor pointed to “a letter to a mother thinking about terminating a baby with a genetic disorder.”
  4. I don’t pray nearly enough.

If you would, please also pray for me about a new opportunity to bring attention to disability, the Bible, and the church.

You may have noticed on the Desiring God blog that a new series, The Works of God, is posted on Tuesdays.  I have felt a growing burden to bring more focus and planning around this opportunity, and will be meeting with the web content manager on Monday to discuss some thoughts I have going forward.  Ironically to me, but of course under God’s planning, I had written just last Friday to the web content manager, asking for help in thinking through such ‘hot’ issues as abortion, infanticide and euthanasia for this series.  I’m grateful for your prayers as more than anything I want people to see Jesus as of greater worth than anything – and the very foundation of joy in the midst of every circumstance.

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Nancy and David Guthrie’s story is incredibly hard – the loss of two children to a fatal genetic syndrome.

And God has turned it into a speaking and writing ministry that I find incredibly helpful:

When the winds of sorrow and doubt and questions and pain were blowing the hardest in my life, there were a couple of solid things I grabbed hold of that kept me from being swept away into alienation from God.

Certainly the most significant truth I held on to was a solid belief that Romans 8:28 is really true – that God can and will use everything, no matter how dark, for my ultimate good, because I am his.

That doesn’t mean I’m a Pollyanna about the sufferings of life or that I diminish the evil and pain associated with the hurts of this life. I’m saying that when we grab hold of the confidence that God is using the worst things we can imagine for our ultimate good, we can see the light beyond the darkness.

The second thing I’ve held on to is my firm belief that God loves me.  It is his love that enables me to accept his sovereignty.

Nancy Guthrie, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, p. 84.

If you aren’t familiar with Nancy Guthrie or their family’s story, you can be introduced this week as she is speaking on DG Live on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. (Central).  I strongly encourage you to tune in and be blessed.

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Eugenics didn’t begin with Hitler or government agencies or Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood.

It began in the universities of Britain, Germany and the United States.

Long before infanticide of babies with disabilities became a government-sanctioned reality in the Netherlands, faculty at prestigious universities in the United States and Europe were arguing for it.

So I’m grateful when organizations invite discussion around important issues, bringing such issues into the light of day rather than letting discussions that could shape future public policy and culture hide behind the doors of the academy or through inaccessible academic journals.

And one of the important issues of our day that impacts all people, but probably most directly people living with cognitive disabilities of all kinds, is the definition of a person.

On August 2 from 7:00 a.m. to noon, The MaLaurin Institute is hosting a free event for pastors, lay church leaders and university faculty:

The Problem of the Modern Self: Imagining Personhood in Light of Limitations, Disability, and Suffering

RSVP Required | Breakfast Provided

Contact : 612-378-1935 or maclaurin@maclaurin.org

Location: The Campus Club, Coffman Memorial Union

The main speakers are Dr. Joseph Davis of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia and Dr. Elizabeth Schiltz (who happens to be the mother of a child with disabilities) of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy.

I’m trying to arrange my schedule to attend, and I expect it will be a very challenging, sobering morning.  But I also expect that God will use discussions like this to prepare us to defend and promote those who cannot speak for themselves, and to bring greater glory to his name!

You can read the flyer for the event here.

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