Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Magnificat Challenge

Magnificat Challenge:
Why not take some time to memorize Mary's Song, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-56? As you memorize, meditate on all of the qualities of God that Mary mentions in this passage. Notice, too, that Mary focuses her  praise and her attention on God and what He was doing for her. We tend to focus on Mary and what she was thinking and going through at that time in her life. Mary's focus was Godward.

Mary was a great woman of faith. All generations have called her blessed, just as she prophesied in her song. At her young age - some say that she may have been as young as 13 years old - God revealed Himself to her in a spectacular way. Even though she was probably illiterate, she knew about God, and she knew God. That does not mean that Mary was a perfect woman, as some teach. She was also a sinner who rejoiced in God, her Savior. However, in spite of the fact that she shared in the same fallen nature as all mankind, God showed Himself to be correct in the choice He made of a mother for His Son. She is a wonderful example of faith for all believers. She was also a woman of great integrity.

Women in our society and in our time have a very different kind of life than the one Mary lived. It is now common for women to get a formal education even beyond the high school level. Many now go to university, when in times past, women were denied such opportunities. I am not against women going to university, though I believe that a college education is way over priced and over rated. Notice, though, that the most blessed of all women who have ever lived did not have any formal education.

Notice that I did not say she was uneducated. Obviously Mary had a deep knowledge of what was  most important. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and she feared God.

Proverbs 1:7

English Standard Version (ESV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

If a Christian woman does not fear the Lord, then all the education in the world will not give her true knowledge. Besides, if in the pursuit of knowledge on a college campus, a woman forgets who she is and what she was made for, then her time and her money have been wasted.  As women, we were created for a purpose.  If we forget that, and just serve the purposes of a secular society, we are in danger of losing ourselves.

Imagine what would have happened if Mary had told God that she was not interested in being the mother of His Son. What if Mary had thought that raising children was not enough of a challenge for women? What if she had decided that motherhood was not for her, and that she wanted to do something greater with her life, even thought God was calling her to be a special mother?

I know that not all women are called to get married, or even to have children of their own.  One of my spiritual mothers was a single woman who believed she was called by God to teach.  I wrote about Miss Harrison awhile back.  

So, God used this wise, yet uneducated young woman, as the mother of our Lord.  In that way she blessed all of us. In a day such as ours that downplays the child-bearing role, and gives a woman effective ways to avoid or curtail pregnancy, where would Mary have fit in? She would not have been elected to public office. She would not have been the CEO of a corporation. She would not have gotten into college, let alone grad school. She would not have been any of the things that post-modern women aspire to. She might be called a baby machine or trailer trash if she were alive today.

So, I think that it would be good for every Christian to memorize this short passage of Scripture. Her wisdom, knowledge of God, faith expressed in simple trust of the One she already knew so well, and her integrity speak to all of us. Take some time to meditate on the lessons learned from Mary's example, too.

I am not saying that a woman should not  get a formal education.  I am not saying that only mothers can be used of God. I am just pointing out that the woman most blessed by God did not have any of the opportunities that we women have in our day, yet she was greatly used by God.  I also think that we Christian women need to make sure that our values are informed by Scripture and the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Luke 1
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat (English Standard Version)
46And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
56And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

The organ at St. Mary's church, Rochester, NY.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thou Who Wast Rich -

I heard this Christmas hymn online on WKSU Holiday Classical.  Lately, I have been blogging about the heretical, charlatan Word of Faith teachings.  The "little god" doctrine of these teachers enables them to, without  a twinge of conscience it seems, take money even from poor people in order to live the lives of the rich and powerful.  It is shameful what they do.

Compare their lives of luxury to the life of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He really is God in flesh, but think about how He entered this world, and how He lived during the time of His humiliation.  What a difference!  Read the Gospels, and see for yourselves.

Listen to this hymn and think about the words.  It is based on part of 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, ..."

Notice that he did not start out poor and then make Himself rich by coming to earth. He is the Creator of everything, so everything is His by right.  However, He set all of that aside for our sake. He is the example of giving, not the example of how to make yourself rich at others' expense.  

There are wealthy people who spend great amounts of their fortunes helping those less fortunate.  They are rich, but they give so that others might also be cared for. There are many good charities that depend on the generosity of people, even wealthy ones.  It is best, though, to give to local charities or through your local church.  It is easier that way to see how people actually live and easier to track how the money is actually being used.  Do NOT send your money to the people on TV!  That goes for the Hollywood benefit productions, too, as well as the Red Cross, maybe.

It is not especially godly to be poor, or ungodly to be rich, but there are some obvious examples of people making themselves rich off the preaching of the Gospel, or off of other forms of charity work.

Anyway, here is the wonderful hymn Thou Who Wast Rich.:

Thou who was rich beyone all splendor
all for love’s sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire pave courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, 
all for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising,
heav’nward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.

Frank Houghton, 1894 - 1972

Here is an article that gives more background for the writing of this hymn.  It was written in 1934 in China. 

Here is the context of the 2 Corinthians 2:9 text.  Notice that the offering being taken was for needy Christians.  They were not being encouraged to give to wealthy preachers so that those preachers could become more wealthy and live like kings and queens.  They were not being coerced into giving by some stranger. It was probably the first organized Christian relief effort, and many in the church responded generously. It was a one time offering to help the Christians in need.  

They were not encouraged to give what they did not have, either, but to be as generous as they were able.  It was a freewill offering as well, much like the freewill offerings of the Old Testament, it seems to me.  The wealth they would receive in exchange seems to be spiritual wealth, not particularly material.  

Our values are totally messed up when we think that giving to wealthy con-men and women on TV will somehow bring us material wealth as well.  That is definitely not Biblical teaching!   I can't imagine that any religion teaches  it's okay to do that kind of thing.   

2 Corinthians 8

English Standard Version (ESV)

Encouragement to Give Generously

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you[c]see that you excel in this act of grace also.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Help and Healing after Abortion

I found a wonderful website called After  Check it out.  There are  many lies being told to women, and  much cover up of the real effects of abortion on women.  After is one place where women are telling the truth about abortion.  Abortion is not good for women at all.  On this website, women are given a number of helpful resources if they are struggling emotionally after having had an abortion.  There are articles written by women who had abortions at some time during their lives, but later had deep regret for what they had done.

The stories are sad, of course, but also hopeful.  The women who share have found help and are in the process of healing from the emotional scars they suffered because of their abortions.

Of course, pro abortion groups allege that Post Abortion Stress Syndrome does not exist.  I find that to be very odd.  Such a cold, callous attitude reminds me of  when doctors used to tell  women that pain during their periods was not real.  It didn't matter how many women said that they had pain - a lot of pain.  Doctors denied the existence of things like cramps.

I would suggest that the women who are suffering anxiety, sadness, guilt, and shame because of their abortions need to be listened to and helped.  Some health care professionals are telling them that  their pain is meaningless, or that they need to just get over it.  Abortion is just a normal part of life for many women, and they just have to accept it as normal.

Sure. Not all women will feel bad about their abortions.  For the sake of argument, let's say that only a small minority of women suffer from stress after their abortions.  Fine.  What does that have to do with those who are suffering, or even suicidal because of what they did or what was done to them?   Nothing at all.  How can those who deny the existence of the condition called Post Abortion Stress Syndrome justify their harsh treatment of women who are suffering emotional scars from the procedure called abortion?

This condition may not be  common, but it is certainly something that many women are haunted by.  I suspect, just by the women I have talked to, that PASS is very common. A growing number of women are finding the courage to write about what they have gone through.  The purpose of their sharing is to help other women who may be suffering the same kinds of symptoms  they are. Shouldn't the abortion proponents at least acknowledge that these women are real?  If Planned Parenthood and other organizations are really concerned about women's health, as they claim, then shouldn't they show some concern for the women who are suffering from PASS and other post abortion related conditions?  It is easy for PP to  say that PASS is a condition that was made up by the pro life community in an effort to undermine the good work that the pro abortion groups are doing.  PP's views on PASS are posted at their website.  They basically brush it off, since the American Psychiatric Assoc.  doesn't recognize PASS as a real condition.

Of course, the APA's reaction could be because they do not have enough cases to study at this time.  It may very well be something that women are just beginning to come to terms with.  Society has been telling women that abortion is legal, and that they have a right to make that choice.  It may  take time for most women to find the courage to talk about it.  Also, counselors may not be able to fully recognize the symptoms if they have been taught that women suffer no emotional damage because of their abortions.  Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates seem way too anxious to ignore the pleas for help.  Or, if they recognize that women can feel bad about their abortions, they are quick to tell women that what they did was the right decision at the time.  Somehow, though, the doubts and regret continue to haunt women who have bought into the pro abortion apologists' simplistic answers to their deep questions.  How do abortionists want women to handle their emotional responses?  Just accept that abortion is a normal part of life, it is legal, and don't let the anti choice people guilt trip you.

I don't think that kind of answer helps at all.  It is like telling women to ignore their mothering instincts - which is impossible.  We cannot ignore or change who we are.

The debate about when life begins.

I found this quote at The Survival Doctor's website.  I don't know much about this site, but I found the article When Does Life Beging?  to be very well done.

I think that the following conclusion is scientifically irrefutable.  

"The defining characteristic of mammalian life, including human life, is the continuous process of development, which starts at fertilization and ends at death."

Here is a quote that I think shows one of the most glaring errors in the thinking of pro choice proponents.

"“Pro-choice docs would say that it is not their business to determine for a patient when life begins,” says Diana Philip, interim executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers and its sister organization, the Abortion Conversation Project. “Ultimately each patient determines the value and definition of life and that definition lies within her own mind and heart.”

The pregnant woman is not the patient, as if she were ill and in need of a cure. Abortion cures nothing, since pregnancy is not a disease.

Then, to give mothers the power of life or death over their unborn child is extremely foolish. We can look back into history to a time when fathers were given the power of life or death over their children, as well as over their wives and slaves. This was the case with the paterfamilias of ancient Rome. Even Rome eventually saw that power to be too broad to give to one person, so they  put legal limitations on it. Why do we in our day find it wise to allow the mother to wield that same kind of  power over her own unborn children? Some would even go so far as to say that the mother of an infant should also be able to decide whether or not her child be allowed to continue to live. I am not talking about a very sick baby who has little chance of recovering.  That baby may even be on life support, with no hope of living. Yes, the mother may need to make a decision about when to turn off the life support systems.  That is not the kind of situation I am talking about.

I am talking about a mother deciding the her child that has been born healthy may be too much of a burden for her to care for.  At this point in time, that scenario is not an option.  I certainly hope that the few who are suggesting such a thing never get their way.

It seems like a huge step backwards for civilization to be giving that kind of power to human beings, whether that human being is unborn or newborn.

The one whose life is in danger is the unborn child in the womb of the mother who is considering ending the life of that child. Yes, there are rare cases when the life of the mother really is at stake. Of course that scenario is not the norm for women seeking abortions. Generally, both mother and baby are  healthy, with no problems seen that would justify ending the pregnancy.

Pro choice advocates always bring up the situation of rape or incest. Of course it is not the same at all as the situation where abortion is merely used as a means of birth control.

Also, all Christian communities teach that there is grace in Christ available to any woman suffering from the trauma of Post Abortion Syndrome. Any woman who has, in a moment of desperation sought out an abortion needs to know that there is complete and total forgiveness in Christ. She does not have to bear the guilt and shame of that decision her whole life. 

When does life begin?

I agree with the premise that life begins at conception. There are a number of reasons as to why I agree. Here are some.

1. The patient in question is not the mother of the unborn child, but rather the child him or herself. It is the viability of that life that is being questioned - not at this time the viability of healthy adult women of child-bearing age.

2. It is dangerous to ask a mother about when the child she carries or carried became a human being. She is not qualified to know the answer to that question. What if she decides that her child is not fully human until he or she turns 21 years of age? Can she terminate the life of any child she deems to be sub human or not human yet? A mother's answer may vary from one day to the next, depending on her emotional state if she is the one who is to look at her heart and decide whether or not her child is a viable human being.

3. The only safe definition for the beginning of life is that from the moment of conception, the human zygote is a human being. Why safe? First, it is the only theologically safe definition. if God has anything to say about it - and I believe He does - then we had better be careful not to offend Him. Until and unless He says otherwise, it is best to assume that the moment of conception is the moment when human life begins. All of us who are alive at this time can say that our lives began in our mothers' wombs. When did we begin to be formed if not at the moment of conception?

Second, it is the only safe definition for mothers to go by. What a terrible burden it is on women to be forced by society to decided when their child's life begins. I am sure that I am not the only one who has listened to women tell of the terrible burden of guilt and shame they have borne because someone convinced them that the baby they were carrying was not really human; or  someone coerced them into having an abortion. Post Abortion Stress Syndrome is very real, in spite of what many pro choice women say to the contrary. .

Last, it is the only safe legal definition to go by. Otherwise we end up making purely subjective, unscientific pronouncements about the beginning of life. It is certainly not scientific to say that only a woman can know. It is very bad public policy to leave the decision of life or death in the hands of one person, no matter if that person is the mother of the unborn child. So far we are talking only about unborn.  In the future, the discussion about when life begins may move into post birth territory.  

 We shall see how the murder case in Philadelphia plays out. Will the abortion doctor be acquitted, since there was no intention of letting the babies who survived his botched abortions live in the first place?

What about Sen. Boxer's strange statements about when a baby is to receive full constitutional rights? Here is part of what she said.:

"In the 1999 colloquy, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) said: Suppose during this procedure the baby slips entirely from the mother’s birth canal. “You agree, once a child is born, is separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that?” Boxer: “I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born … the baby belongs to your family and has all the rights.” Santorum persisted: “Obviously, you don’t mean they have to take the baby out of the hospital for it to be protected by the Constitution. Once the baby is separated from the mother, you would agree—completely separated from the mother—you would agree that the baby is entitled to constitutional protection?” She would not say “yes.” Instead, she said, understandably: “I don’t want to engage in this.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Sunday - Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection Sunday:

Luke 24
The Resurrection
Why do you seek the living among the dead? 
6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 
7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Week

The Sunday before Easter is traditionally called Palm Sunday - as you probably already know. Here is what happened in the life of Jesus on that first Palm Sunday.
The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey's colt!”
 — at John 12.

The Monday before Easter is called just that - the Monday before Easter. It is also called Holy Monday. This was when Jesus showed how He felt about what was happening in the Temple. It was supposed to be a place of prayer for everyone, not a place where people were taken advantage of. (see Isaiah 56:7)

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those whosold,
46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him,
48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
- Luke 19:45-48, ESV

Today is Holy Tuesday, the Tuesday before Easter. This was a very intense day for Jesus and His disciples, but as the week went on, things would get even worse. On this day in Jesus' earthly ministry, He went to the Mount of Olives, where He gave what is traditionally called The Olivet Discourse. Matthew 24 records this message. Here is a brief excerpt. Are we ready for this? :

37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,
39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Holy Wednesday is seen as the day when Jesus was anointed by a woman at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. It is also the day when Judas made arrangements to betray Jesus. So, here we see two diametrically opposed reactions to Jesus - selfless love vs. selfish betrayal. Both of these people who were close to Jesus are remembered to this day. 

Mark 14
7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.
9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Today is traditionally called Maundy*, or Covenant Thursday. On this day the New Covenant in Christ's blood was instituted. The first Lord's Supper was celebrated. Jesus also washed the feet of the 11. Judas left the supper early to go do what he was plotting to do - betray his Lord. 

Matthew 26
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Good Friday - It's not clear why Good Friday was first called "good", since it is the day when we remember Christ's crucifixion. Maybe the person, or group of people who first coined that term understood the innate goodness in this day. We can see this event as a horrible tragedy and a great injustice, or we can see it as it is meant to be. The inherent goodness has to do with the Son of God shedding His blood for the sins of the world, God's wrath is satisfied, thus clearing the way for those who believe in Him to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. That is the greatest good! As the great hymn, O Sacred Head, Now Wounded says, "What language can I borrow to thank thee, dearest Friend?"

John 19
The Crucifixion of Jesus

So they took Jesus;
17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.
18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,in Latin, and in Greek.
21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Holy Saturday - What was Jesus doing on the 7th day of what is traditionally called Holy Week while His body lay in the bonds of death in Joseph's tomb? Some Christians call this day "The Harrowing of Hell", believing that Jesus descended into the place of the dead, declaring victory over sin, Satan, and death to its inhabitants. Here is what the New Testament records about Jesus' descent into the grave - it was only temporary.

Ephesians 4:8-10
8 ...“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?
10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

(see also 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 1 Peter 4:6)

*  Here is what Wikkipedia says about the word "maundy". :
"Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as theantiphon sung during the "Mandatum" ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community."