Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In Memoriam of a Calvarium

         I was sliding through my Twitter feed yesterday morning - occasionally braking, but mostly rolling with the momentum. As all the updates from the sports pundits and the theologians and the news folk slid by, one post caused me to slam my left foot to the floorboard.

         WND News - BREAKING NEWS!! Planned Parenthood uses partial-birth abortions to sell baby parts!

         There was a link attached. I hesitated to click it, because WorldNetDaily tends to sensationalize and I’ve been drawn in by overblown headlines before. But this one seemed so outrageous that I had to check it out. In the linked undercover video interview with a Planned Parenthood doctor, I discovered that, if anything, WND had underplayed the story.
         The interview was set up by The Center for Medical Progress. They sent two people posing as tissue buyers to meet with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood (PP’s motto - “Care. No Matter What” - you know, some shots are too easy, so I’ll just let that one go). - the full 2 hour 42 minute raw footage for the news weasels who said that they doctored the edit

Understandably, they went vegetarian.
         As they dined over a nice salad and a fine Chianti, they talked body parts. “A lot of people like liver,” Nucatola said, sliding a fork full of lettuce into her mouth. She has to chew a little bit before she can continue, describing how the doctors performing the abortions often will do so under ultrasound guidance. That way they can “intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not going to crush that part, I’m going to crush below, I’m going to crush above, and I’m going to see if I can get it all intact.”

         All this so they can get $30-100 per “specimen”.

         Take a moment with me and breathe…

         The biggest struggle they face is harvesting a calvarium (a skull cap - heretofore known for our purposes as a baby head). Typically, the baby head needs to be sacrificed, because there is not enough dilation in a normal abortion. Not to worry, though. It is possible if the procedure goes long enough for greater dilation to occur. Then the doc can manipulate the baby (sorry, “specimen”) into breech position, deliver the baby’s body (sorry, “thorax and extremities”), kill the baby (sorry, “terminate the pregnancy”), then deliver an in tact baby head (and they all rejoiced).

         If this sounds like illegal partial birth abortion to you, you’d be right. It sounds like that to Doc Nucatola, too. But don’t worry, according to our doc, “laws are up to interpretation.” She says, “So, if I say on day one, I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter.” Funny, I think that’s why James Holmes’s defense team rejected his “Oops, I just meant to shoot over their heads” defense.

         Sorry, I know that I sound angry and I’m sure I’ve offended some. But if this isn’t a time to be angry, I don’t know what is. We’ve got this publicly funded organization with their army of Mengeles killing babies in the name of medical research. The only differences between Planned Parenthood and Uncle Josef’s Medical Emporium are that the Nazis had to forcibly take the children, and they never found a way to make the same kind of scratch off the process that PP has.

         One of the saddest parts of all this is that Planned Parenthood still seems to be safely tucked within the confines of the law. Yes, my fellow Americans, not only does your government allow the harvesting and "non-profit" sale of aborted body parts, but your tax money is going to support it (cue Lee Greenwood). It’s true that Doc Nucatola might be stretching the law a wee bit wider than its original intent - but, in our nation, “laws are up to interpretation” (Doc Nucatola meet Justice Roberts; Justice Roberts, Doc Nucatola).

         So, what do we do about it? Two things:

         First, we pray. We pray for God to intervene. We pray for Him to change the laws in our nation. We pray for Him to change the leadership in our nation. We pray for Him to work in our hearts to show us what our involvement should be. We pray for the commitment and the guts and the sacrifice to step in to make a difference.

         Second, we love. We love the women who make this destructive choice to sacrifice their children. We come alongside them and strive to show them a better way. We show them through our actions that God still loves them and offers forgiveness to them. In the midst of our anger and disgust, we love Doc Nucatola and others like her. They are sinners following their master. They desperately need a Savior. Rather than condemning them to hell for their sins (that’s a higher pay grade than we’re at), we offer them love and mercy and grace because of our own sins.

         In the undercover interview, I heard the words “specimen”, “thorax”, and “calvarium”. I heard references to all sorts of body parts (by the way, arms and legs are a dime a dozen, confirms Doc Nucatola, although she can’t figure out why folks would need them - “I guess they want muscle,” she speculates). Never once did I hear the word baby - not even fetus. And I certainly never heard the word human.

            No matter what laws are passed in the future, no matter how our Constitution may “evolve” though an activist Court, let us determine here and now that we will never call the unborn anything other than a human baby. We will not mentally (or physically) break a child down to his or her usable and unusable parts. We will not use soft euphemisms to ease our consciences. As has been and always will be, the only difference between an unborn baby and a born baby is location and support systems. Let the words of the great theologian, Horton, guide us, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Inside the womb or outside the womb, life is life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Truth and the Little Pink Bear

         Confession time - I grew up loving a bear named “Pinky”. There, it’s out. While my brother had “Yellow Bear” (a healthy, reasonably boyish color), my constant childhood companion - the one who slept right next to me every night - was a small stuffed oso of the rosa hue (a majority of the female readers are saying, “Oh, isn’t that sweet,” while most of the males are saying, “Yeah, that explains a lot”). Like Linus with his blanket, as long as Pinky was around, I knew that things would be okay. Pinky was my buddy. Pinky was my security.

Alas! Pinky has seen better days.
         Security is a wonderful thing. It stabilizes you when life gets choppy. It gives you hope when the forces seem drawn up against you. It lets you see the big picture when it seems like evil is winning. It lets you know that you are never alone even when it feels like you are the one voice calling out in the wilderness. Security can be incredibly powerful - but it is only as powerful as the source from which it is derived.

         Seeing the way Pinky has fared over time, I realize that the sense of security that I drew from this bear may have been somewhat misplaced. But misplaced security is okay when you’re a kid and you’ve got parents gatekeeping your every move. However, if I continued to trust Pinky for my security today, it would be quite weird and kinda sad. Why? Because in the grand scheme of life, Pinky can’t help me. Pinky is an empty belief, a childish hope, a powerless plaything. There is no inherent strength in Pinky; there is only the pretend strength that comes as a product of a child’s fertile imagination.

         In our culture, people are desperate for security - for the peace that lets them know that everything will all be alright. So they go searching for security in numbers, in causes, in peers, in accomplishments, in freedom, in bandwagons, in government, in rebellion. When that doesn’t succeed, they seek to block out the insecurities of life and the uncertainties of death by pursuing dreams and love and change and money and fame and followers and happiness. People pour so much worth into so many worthless things.

         The Teacher of Ecclesiastes says, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 2:26). In other words, “It’s all just so Pinky-esque.”

         Genuine security is found in Truth. If something is true, then it will bear up under the greatest of weights. If something is false, it will eventually collapse under the pressures of reality. Truth’s security is derived from two aspects - its source and its consistency.

         There are two places where you can find the source of security - first, we find it in Christ. Jesus told us outright in John 14:6, “I am…the Truth.” As God Himself, Jesus is both the Source of and the model for Truth. The second origin is in the Word of God. Again, Jesus is praying to the Father and He says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). All the truth we need to know about who God is and how we should live is found in the Bible.

The "Twofer" of Truth
         Since all we objectively know about Jesus comes from Scripture, the Bible is a bit of a twofer when it comes to truth’s source. Thus, it must be our life guide. If it says something is right, then it is right. If it says something is wrong, then it is wrong. If it says to do this, we do this. If it says to not do that, we don’t do that.

         When we follow the biblical standards, we will know that we are safe and secure because we will be living in obedience to God - something that He always blesses. Now, understand that I am speaking from an eternal perspective. A Syrian Christian may be following God’s Word to a “t”, then find himself at the end of an Islamic militant’s knife. While from an earthly perspective we say, “What a horrific tragedy”, from an eternal perspective we see that he is safe and secure in heaven chowing down shawarma with John the Baptist.

         Our problem comes when we Christians start treating the Bible the way the Supreme Court is treating the Constitution - as an evolving document that must have current trends and culture read into it. That will not work specifically because of the nature of Truth’s Source - God is an unchanging God (Malachi 3:6). What was once sin is always sin. What was once righteousness is always righteousness.

         And before someone comes at me with the “Do you eat shellfish, huh? Do you stone rebellious children, huh, because the Bible says you should? Do you make your wife keep silent in church, huh?” argument, please take a little time to read a book on proper biblical hermeneutics which will save both my time and your pride.

         This consistency of truth is the second source of its inherent security. The "was-is-and-always-will-be" character of God and His Word allows us to take what we read at face value without having to filter it through current culture or personal experience or emotional whims. So, when our nation’s laws move away from biblical truth, we don’t need to reevaluate our standards. When our churches begin to soften their stands, we can remain rock solid in ours. When our Christian friends begin to put rainbow screens over their Facebook icons, we shouldn’t feel compelled to follow suit so that #lovewins.

I guess it all depends on your definition of "winning"
(Which, by the way, is such a bogus, selfish sentiment - if sin is truly sin, and if sin is what separates us from God (Romans 6:23), then the least #lovewins thing we can do is give a Christian stamp of approval on any activity that hinders someone from establishing an eternal relationship with Christ. It is childish-minded, short-term, world-perspective, I-want-to-feel-good-about-myself-no-matter-what-God’s-Word-says-and-no-matter-the-eternal-consequences-to-the-person-to-whom-I-am-giving-this-morally-empty-atta-boy selfishness. Seriously, when Christians give an approving thumbs up to sin, it isn’t love that’s winning.)

         All that being said, I do think this is a perfect time for prayerful attitudinal reevaluation. Because of the consistency of God and His Word, our attitude toward sin should not be the focus of this second look. Instead, we should take this time to do some soul-searching regarding our own attitude toward sinners.

         It’s times like this that it’s easy to circle the them-vs-us wagons. It’s easy to feel attacked - probably because we truly are being attacked (just see the growing movement to take away the tax exempt status of churches so that the government is in no way supplementing bigoted hate groups like us). It’s easy to feel defensive. It’s easy to want to strike back (which is what way too many Christians did on Friday judging by the plethora of cringe-worthy Facebook postings and resulting comments, and the fact that the word “abomination” was one of the highest used search terms following the Supreme Court decision).
Quite the accomplishment - they are now
two of our three branches of government

         Now, I’m not saying we just take it. This was Supreme Court judicial activism at its worst. We Christians should fight back, but we do it in the proper venues. We do it in the courtroom, we do it in the voting booth, and we do it on our knees. We battle the system; we don’t battle the people.

         What is one of the overarching truths that we find throughout Scripture? Hate sin, love people. I don’t want to hash this all out again here. If you want to read more about it, check out my posting from a few weeks ago entitled “Yes, Chef”. Suffice it to say that “Hate the sin, Love the sinner” is not just a cliché. It’s our mission. It’s our calling. It’s Truth.

         It’s truth like this that balances heart and spirit - emotions and rational mind - the part of us that wants to shake the person caught up in sin and scream “What are you thinking?” and the part of us that wants to wrap them up in a huge loving hug. It’s truth like this that gives us a great sense of security that we can continue to be right with God while still desperately loving the people around us.

            This is great truth - God’s truth. And with great truth comes great security - possibly more security than you can even get from a little pink bear.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Some Family Prayer

         We had a special time in our services this past Sunday - a mini solemn assembly as we led into our sermon time. With the faces displayed on our screen of the nine men and women who were killed last Wednesday night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, we read their names and then opened up to prayer. As, one-by-one, members of the congregation stood and prayed for the families of these victims, for the church, for the perpetrator, and for our nation, tears were shed and hearts were broken.

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston
         It was a powerful time, a growing time - a real moment for our local church family. We were encouraged as we heard about the openness of this African-American church welcoming a troubled young white man into their Bible study. We were in awe as I read out loud a couple of the bond hearing quotes from the victims’ family members offering their forgiveness and praying for the salvation of the man who had just slaughtered their loved ones. Through God's perfect grace and those grieving people's amazing faith, this evil act has led to a time for the world to see our Family - the extended, global Family of God - at its absolute best.

         I read a quote from Michael Daly at The Daily Beast (a website not necessarily known for its conservatism nor its love of Christianity) giving his take on the bond hearing - “Even the most cynical atheist had to have been in awe as the family members of the murdered faithful rose one after another in the Charleston courtroom and proved the power of their own faith in the face of crushing loss.”

         That’s Christianity. That’s being a true light.

         Here’s where this blog is at - I had a whole post mapped out talking about race and the church. Honestly, I can’t bring myself to write it today. It would distract us away from the main issue facing us right here, right this moment, and that is that we have brothers and sisters who are in pain today and they need our prayers. Analyzing and pontificating can wait for another day.

            So, this is my challenge to you. Take the time you would have spent reading the rest of this blog if it had been full length (maybe another five minutes) and pray. Pray for the family members of Cynthia Hurd, Pastor Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, and Susie Jackson. Pray for our dear brothers and sisters at Emanuel AME Church. Pray for the salvation of Dylann Roof. Pray that God takes this tragedy in our Family and uses it to show our me-first culture who the true Jesus really is. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Steamroller Blues

         Early this morning, I was reminded that there are two four o’clocks in a day. I’m not sure what woke me up - a creak of the house, a shift of the Schnauzer. Typically, when I have those early morning wake-ups, I’m able to shut back down. But this morning wasn’t typical.

The first of the two four o'clocks
         As soon as I woke up, I started stressing. I had gone to bed with a fairly big issue on my mind. After some prayer, God finally helped my brain to shut down and I got some sleep. A few hours later, though, I was wide-awake and picking up right where I had left off. This time, however, I had the added benefits of pumping adrenaline and a heavy dose of early morning lack of rationality (it has been scientifically proven that there are absolutely no good decisions made before 6:00am).

         I processed, I analyzed, I schemed, I repented, I tried to distract myself with a book, I tried to distract myself with FoxNews (that backfired when the use of the word “transracial” almost made my head explode). It wasn’t until the light started peeking through the blinds around 5:30am that my mind finally started to settle.

         The frustrating thing is that I had prayed about this. I had given it over to God. I had complete faith that God would walk us through this wilderness. There was no doubt.

         Well, not until 4:00am.

         Faith is a funny thing. Rather than a perpetual constant, faith seems to be more of a lather-rinse-repeat. Later in the morning, as I was driving up to church and feeling the peace that is much more readily available in the daytime hours, I asked God what that stress explosion was all about. The words that came to my mind were something along the lines of “Remember, it’s blog day. You needed a topic. Start writing.”

         I believe there are 4 P’s when it comes to the process of faith - to finally trusting God in the midst of our problems and crises.

         The first is Panic. When the diagnosis is given or the job is lost or the spouse leaves - it’s like a punch in the gut, it’s like the air is sucked out of the room, it’s like Wile E. Coyote that moment he realizes that he’s run himself off a cliff and there’s nowhere to go but down. This panic might be immediate, or it might initially be numbed by the shock. But it will come - in the quiet moments, in the alone moments - when there is nothing standing between you and the future. It’s those moments when inevitability and impossibility meet head on. You’re watching the steamroller slowly coming toward you, and your cement shoes are ensuring that future flatness is a forgone conclusion.

         It’s in those steamroller moments that the second P comes into play - Prayer. David says, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears” (Psalm 18:6). We pray - God hears. A simple formula, yet one that changes everything.

         Suddenly, we are not alone in our problem. We have an ally, and not just any ally. We’ve got the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Creator God of the Universe standing with
"I'm a steamroller, baby, I'm bound to roll all over you"
us. We cry out, “Stop the steamroller!” to the only One who has the ability to truly stop the steamroller every time, and the Great Steamroller-Stopper actually hears our cry - and cares!

         But here is the toughest part about faith - believing, deep down, that the Great Steamroller-Stopper actually does care enough to stop the steamroller. And, quite frankly, there’s a reason for our doubt, because there are times when the Great Steamroller-Stopper doesn’t stop the steamroller and we get pancaked down into the asphalt.

         That’s why the third P is so desperately needed - Perspective. This is the ability to see our lives through God’s eyes. Paul puts his suffering and struggles this way - Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul throws all of our crises - the foreclosed house, the cancer diagnosis, the wayward child, the bipolar struggle - into one big basket and slaps a label on that says “Light and Momentary Troubles”.

"That's a bull shark - scraped me when I was taking samples."
         Now, before you get angry with him or start formulating any Yeah-buts, remember who’s writing. It’s Paul - and if there is anyone you don’t want to get into a Jaws-esque scar comparison battle with, it’s him. Yet, despite his tendency to get beaten, imprisoned, dragged out of cities and stoned, shipwrecked, and thorn-sided, he’s still able to say, “You know, guys, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter all that much.” The reason he’s able to say that is because his perspective of the grand scheme of things is really, really grand - it’s God-sized grand.

         We see pain, God sees progress. We see struggle, God sees growth. We see hopelessness, God sees opportunity. We feel despair, God feels sorrow. We feel alone, God feels love. We scream “Stop!”, God says, “Not yet”. We ask “When?”, God says, “When it’s time.” We plead “Why?”, God remains silent. We beg “Please…”, God says, “Trust Me. I’ve got something amazing planned for you. In the meantime, my power is made perfect in your weakness.”

         If we can lift our eyes to see our pain through God’s eternal perspective, then that will grant to us our fourth P - Peace. Jesus promised us an amazing heaven-sent peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is the peace that eases the adrenaline, that changes the focus, that rekindles hope, that allows us to take our eyes off of ourselves so that we can put them back on God and on others. This is the peace that assures us that we are smack-dab in the middle of God's perfect plan for our lives. This is the peace that reminds us that this life is just a blink of an eye compared with the eternity that is awaiting us with our Lord. This peace is a myopia-killer. This peace is a purpose-restorer.

            As I sit here typing, that 4:00am issue is still making noise in my head. But the sound is much fainter. Rather than it blaring in my ears and taking my whole focus, it’s just rattling its tin cup against the cell bars down in the dungeon where I have it locked away. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get some power tools smuggled to it so that it can break out and attack me again bright and early tomorrow morning. That’s just part of the obnoxious cycle of faith we experience living as eternal souls in temporal meat suits. But as long as we push past the panic and pray seeking God’s perspective, His perfect peace which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Him.