Moral Standards? What moral standards, we don’t need no stinking moral standards! Enter assisted suicide!

In 1976 I was introduced to the teachings of a Philosopher/Teacher by the name of Francis Schaeffer. He and his wife Edith began a work in Switzerland, the “L’Abri Fellowship.” “L’Abri is the French word for “shelter” and this word was adopted because the Schaeffer’s essentially opened their home as a shelter to mainly christian students from the concerns and interruptions of the secular world.

I remember well in those days the issue of abortion was a hot topic and was surrounded by much opinion and controversy. Now, it’s so much a part of our American culture it’s just accepted as normal and to speak against it brings the disgust, the ire and wrath of many people. I will never forget the words of Francis Schaeffer back then, “If we accept and legalize abortion, the next step will be euthanasia, first among the elderly and eventually assisted suicide for anyone wishing to die whenever they decide to die, then spreading to the mentally handicapped and those living any kind of what might be deemed as a “lesser life!” I think Adolf Hitler had this in mind during his campaigns to bring his philosophies to the nations….by force!

Francis Schaeffer wrote these words; “If there is no absolute moral standard, then one cannot say in a final sense that anything is right or wrong. By absolute we mean that which always applies, that which provides a final or ultimate standard. There must be an absolute if there are to be morals, and there must be an absolute if there are to be real values. If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judge between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. We are merely left with conflicting opinions.”

As some folks I have talked to are exploring the possibilities of life however one might like to have it, I have been dropping the word, “standard” and the response is quite interesting. The word “standard” is kind of like the word “principle” or God forbid, “law!” The words “morals and ethics” also draw responses of anger as well as defensiveness and the guarding of newly formed boundaries in the acceptance and lessening of moral standards or moral principles, moral laws as it were. Of course for many this means disqualifying major portions of biblical scripture and principles deemed to be untrue or no longer pertinent to our society. This inspires me to perhaps write my own book someday entitled, “Things I made up about it!”

The words of Francis Schaeffer gently wafted through my  memory this morning as I read this headline in the paper, “Assisted suicide for healthy may be legalized!”It read, “In the Netherlands, a country vaunted for its liberalism, a proposal to legalize assisted suicide for older people who are generally healthy but feel they have led a full life has stirred up an ethical storm in some quarters.”  So, would there need to be a standard?” Oops, there is that word again. What would it be, how would one define, “older?” I am 74 years old, that is really getting up there, would I qualify to take myself out because I have decided I have lived a full life and there is no more life needed? But of course there would be a standard. Let’s see, I think we will pass a law that no one under…… let’s say, the age of 70 may be assisted in their suicide, they will just have to do it without assistance. Wow, now there is a standard that we create for ourselves and now we feel really good about the whole thing. What if I blow my brains all over my backyard one day and I still exist, looking down at my torn body realizing that the best years were yet to come. The presuppositions in our culture  about life and death are just that, “presuppositions!” What if we are dead wrong?

The bible has a lot to say regarding the blessings of God over the elderly. Maybe we just need to throw those scriptures up as irrelevant also. Wow, pretty soon we will have a whole new bible. I know, let’s call it something like “Watchman” or how about “The Watchtower?”

 

The Watered Down Gospel Of Jesus

Sounds like heresy to me, how about you? I have been accused at times of preaching a “watered down gospel” and I have accused others of doing the same. The times I have accused others of watering down the gospel it has been out of my  insecurities regarding what I think I believe. In order to be more right than someone, I must first make them wrong. Rule of thumb…..don’t believe everything you think.

One might say Jesus preached a “watered down” gospel when he met the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob as conveyed in the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. Of course I am using  a hyperbolic illustration here to make a point.  A hyperbole is an exaggeration for effect, not meant to be taken literally for example, when Jesus said, “If your right eye offends, pluck it out!” I did hear of a man who took this literally and actually tore his eye from the socket. Now that’s radical!

As the story goes, Jesus was traveling from Judea back to Galilee and he had to travel through Samaria. As history  reveals, we see after the northern kingdom with its capital at Samaria, fell to the Assyrians, many Jews were deported to Assyria, and foreigners and the remaining Jews resulted in a mixed race, impure in the opinion of Jews who lived in the southern kingdom. Thus the pure Jews hated this mixed race called Samaritans because they felt that their fellow Jews who had intermarried had betrayed their people and nation.

Now, let me explain how many religious folks today might think Jesus preached a “watered down gospel.” First, for a Jewish man to speak to a Samaritan woman was unheard of, it just didn’t happen. As the story goes, Jesus was thirsty, it was around noon, it was hot and it was dusty. As providence would have it, this Samaritan woman and Jesus arrived at the well about the same time. Now this woman had five marriages and was currently living with a man, unmarried. If she were to visit some of our churches today she would be asked to repent, to separate from this man so she could be worthy for membership to the church. Or, she may just be asked to leave.  It is interesting to notice what Jesus did not say to her. He did not say, “You are sinful, living a lie,” he did not say, “If you repent I will save you!” There are many things he could have said but he didn’t.

First, he made himself dependent upon her for his thirst to be quenched when he said,  “Will you give me a drink” as he had nothing to draw water from the well.  She must have been shocked that he even spoke to her as she said, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink, for Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Then he says something most interesting, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Wow, all she had to do was ask?  He did not say, “Repent of your sin!”or, “You are living an adulterous lie!” He then asked her to call her husband and come back to the well, she replied, “I have no husband!” He said to her, You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Do you see how he set her up to be right, not wrong. It worked so well because she was honest with him. He did not say anything condemnatory to her, it was purely an offer of life, of living water. If she would partake of the living water from his life, the other aspects of her life would naturally work out.

Religion in the negative sense says, “You must get cleaned up to come to the banquet.’ “Jesus says, “Come to my banquet as you are, there is no other way to come, but as you are!” Watered down? Oh yes, a living waterfall of grace, pouring, gushing, free without cost, we may come as we are and drink! It will change the way we live. Religion says, “Get cleaned up and you may come to the well.” Jesus says simply, “Come to me and I will give you living water.” That would be for all who thirst!

 

 

 

 

 

WEAKNESS

I was gazing into the eyes of a beautiful infant baby girl yesterday recently birthed by a good friend. As I was gazing into the countenance of this precious little soul, I was awe struck by the innocence, the vulnerability of this little one but especially in awe of her weakness and total dependance on her mom and dad for life.

As the corporate voice of our culture encourages us to be strong, I think often of the issues of strength and weakness as I think we all tend to hope for the kind of strength that will bring success and at the same time build character in our lives. I once attended a Dale Carnegie sales course that was all about  increasing the strength of human determination and commitment. Of course it was all about being a successful sales person in order to make money and have all the things we wanted to have. The principles worked…..for a little while.

I want to be a strong man, I want to have strong character, I want my inner self to match my own words of encouragement to others and to match the outward man I project to others. But, I have learned through experience and especially by my failures I am unable to be the kind of strong person I want to be by merely making more promises and commitments.

I think the Apostle Paul got in touch with his own weakness and vulnerability when he was taken up into the very presence of God and heard things not permitted for man to express. What an  incredible experience that must have been. Don’t we all pray for a closer walk with God. Don’t we deeply desire an intimacy with our creator that somehow will keep us in a state of permanent , blissful life during our years here on this earth? Do we really know the cost of what we ask for?

We must understand the human predicament and the nature of what is referred to in the Scriptures as “The Flesh!” Paul found himself in this predicament as he wrote in Romans 7, “The good I want to do, I don’t do. But That which I don’t want to do, I do!” He states this three times in this chapter before he comes to the end of himself and cries, “Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death!” The words that do not come at the end of his exclamation are, “Just try harder, make stronger commitments and promises!”He goes on to proclaim his victory is not sourced by him or his efforts in self help but sourced in Jesus Christ.

Now back to Paul’s experience in what is described as “the third heaven” where he was introduced to pure ecstasy. The account is found in II Corinthians, Chapter 12, verse 7-10, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

My whole point in this blog is to point to the fact that there is only one way to be strong and that is to realize our weaknesses, be willing to embrace weakness and trust God as He truly is the source of all our strength. When we try to be strong any other way, it fails. Weakness is our departure point that propels us into the integrity and character building that God is interested in. Character must not be like mere ink on a poster board. It must bleed all the way through so that our inner man matches what others see on the outside. It all starts with weakness and embracing our limitations.

 

The Trinity and Marriage

The Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit is difficult enough to understand from merely human perspective but a good  question would be, “Why three?” why not just two?  In marriage a man loves his wife, his wife loves him, isn’t that what it is all about? Well, I found an interesting fellow in one of my many readings named Richard of St. Victor, who died in 1173. Richard said, “For God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two because love is always a relationship.” But his real breakthrough was saying, “For God to be supreme joy and happiness, God has to be three.” Father, Son loving Holy Spirit, Son and Spirit loving Father, Father, Spirit loving Son. Lovers do not know full happiness until they both delight in the same thing, like new parents with the ecstasy of their first child.

When I read this the light went on for me. My wife and I just celebrated 50 years of a rough, tumultuous marriage filled with difficulties, trials and desperation. My question is; “Why are we so at peace with our marriage now as opposed to 20 years ago?” The answer came with the thoughts of Richard of St. Victor, so many hundreds of years ago. We finally delight in the same thing, caring for, helping and loving others. We stand hand in hand not so much gazing into one anthers eyes looking for refreshing in our romantic feelings, but we have a larger focus, the needs of others. Maybe this is the key to a successful marriage, just maybe…………….so simple!

WOMB LOVE

There is a wonderful expression of God’s love found in Isaiah, Chapt. 46 and again in Chapt. 49. It goes like this, 46:3-4, “It is you, not I, who have been carried from before you were born. Indeed, when you were still in the womb, I was taking care of you. And when you are old, I will still be there, carrying you. when your limbs grow tired, your eyes are weak and your hair a silvery gray, I will carry you as I always have. I will carry you and save you.” [The Voice]

Then in Chapt. 49:1, “The Eternal One singled me out, even before I was born. He called me and named me when I was still in my mother’s womb.” Then in verses 15-16, these words, “Is it possible for a mother, however disappointed, however hurt, to forget her nursing child? Can she feel nothing for the baby she carried and birthed? Even if she could, I, God, will never forget you. Look here, I have made you a part of me, written you on the palms of My hands.” Some translations say, “Engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

There are many kinds of love yet not enough words to describe the differences adequately. Hebrew has a word for “love” that also means, “womb”. English has no such word. The word in Hebrew is, “Rakham” and the meaning is, “Womb, tender love, compassion, pity, and mercy.” The word, “Rakham” means basically, “womb” interchangeable with “love”  , or “Womb love!”

Womb love is the birthing and bearing love of a mother, the kind of love that the Lord has for His people who know Him and have placed their trust in Him. But it is also like the love of a mother for her unborn or newborn infant who has no ability to respond back in love other than to show dependence upon the mother for affection and food.

Have you ever considered God’s love for you in the same way a mother loves the child growing in her womb? This kind of love is so deep it cannot adequately be expressed by merely the word, “Love.” However in these scriptures it is adequately expressed perhaps as the most intimate , caring affection known to mankind, “Womb love”. It is completely unconditional!

LIVING ETERNALLY IN A TEMPORAL WORLD

I find life to be a matter of seasons and themes, finding creative new ways of thinking and being that help in exploring the mysteries of God’s nature, design and desires. A current theme came to me recently and I call it, “Living eternally in a temporal world.” I have spent so much of my life  living in the temporal, I often forget there is a better, more meaningful way. I would define “temporal” as a matter of secondary things. The “eternal” is a matter of first things, or that which is most important. That which is most important remains beyond this life and sustains us as we live temporarily in this present condition surrounded by temporal situations. When I live in the temporal and not the eternal I find that stress, anxiety, fear and worry control my life.

I think this dynamic is best described in II Corinthians 5:16-18 [The Voice Translation], “We have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on. Let me repeat this last sentence, “We focus on the things we cannot see, which live on an on. In chapter 5;12 we read these words, “When you are approached by others (who may value appearances more than the heart,)  asking questions about us, you will be able to offer an answer for them.”

 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has a wonderful definition for “Eternity!” It is this; “Life at its best, having infinite duration characterized by abiding fellowship with God.” Wow, “Life at its best, present tense!” This does not mean free from our suffering as we all suffer in many ways but most of our suffering is out of temporary loss. We lose friends, family, those we love, we are gradually losing our present bodies, we experience illnesses, auto accidents, financial difficulties, plans often fall through and a myriad of other dilemmas but we do not lose heart, we keep pressing for the eternal duration and to strengthen the things that remain. I am speaking of things like love, service, justice and obedience to the leading of The Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ, as He lived His life from the manger to the tomb and on to His resurrection is the greatest example of a man living eternally in a temporal world and He gives us the grace to do the same. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are biographies of Jesus life while walking the earth. And more than mere biographies they offer the story of the fulfillment of the promise of the prophets of a savior.  However, Just as Jesus acknowledged Himself in this way, “Before Abraham, I Am,’ [John 8:56-58] He was admitting that He pre-existed his present life. That is astounding to say the least. Author Leonard Sweet and co-author, Frank Viola in their book entitled simply, “Jesus,” calls this eternal life of Jesus a”Theography.” His Theography is His life with no beginning and no end, having entered into the realm of space/time to live physically as one of us for such a short time, yet it was all the time needed to do the work that would include all who would come to Him for life. The theography of Jesus life includes His pre-existance and His post-resurrection existance, life with no beginning and no end. The Old Testament is a facinating study of Jesus who was always the one dealing with man from the beginning of the creation of the earth. I Corinthians 10:4 is an excellent example of evidence that it was always Jesus with man, as the story of Israel being sustained by Him in the wildneress, “They were sustained, supernaturally, they all ate the same spiritual food, manna, and they all drank the same spiritual water, flowing from a spiritual rock that was always with them, for the rock was the Anointed One, our Liberating King, Jesus!”

Psalm 139:13 speaks of how we were conceived in our mother’s womb, but wait, there’s more to it! It says this in Eph. 1:4,  “God chose us to be in a relationship with Him even before He laid out plans for this world, our lives are characterized by love.” I would not be so bold as to say I understand this but I know we were in His heart all along and in that sense we were not only conceived in our mother’s womb we were pre-conceived in God’s heart before we were ever born. He knew all along how He would save us from destruction by man’s disobedience but this great salvation begins in this life. Jesus Himself said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that you may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” To know Him is to love Him and we love Him because He first loved us, not only after our earthy conception but He has always loved us. The word, “Salvation!” which has been shop worn from abuse is actually present tense in meaning. As used in the scriptures, it means this: “The biblical idea of salvation involves three notions. First is the rescue from danger, harm, or even death of an individual, group, or nation. Most specifically salvation is the rescue from sin and death. Second is the renewing of the spirit. Third is restoration of a right relationship with God.” These are all for the present, for now. And I was taught the meaning of salvation was, “If I was good enough (meaning, keeping the law) I might make it into a future heaven and avoid hell!”

To live eternally here and now in this present life is His will. One could safely say we enter eternal life, heaven in this earthly life. What we do with this has everything to do with our future and that has been taken care of also. Rev. 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, there will no longer be any death, there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain, the first things have passed away.” The temporal will be completely swallowed by the eternal, but my encouragement to you in writing this message is that you would believe and know it all begins now. May we all find eternal life in this temporal world and may this eternal life shine for others.

THE LAST WORD

The writer of the Old Testament book, Ecclestiastes, is thought to be King Solomon. The reason being, the book begins with this, “These are the words of the teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.”  The writer of this book seems to have had the best of life one could ever imagine, as he writes, “I made my works great! I built myself houses, and planted gardens and orchards and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. So, I became great and excelled more than all who were before me, also my wisdom remained with me. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure.” Wow, must have been nice! What is so amazing regarding his conclusions about all this is; he found it all void of meaning in the end.

The teacher continues with this story, “There was a little city with few men in it, and a great King came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. Then I said: ‘Wisdom is better than strength, nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one prideful man destroys much good.’

During this season of politics and elections we are bombarded with many, many ideas, words, opinions, facts (supposed). Facebook as well as other public sites are bombarded with opinions and views. While I appreciate our freedoms and right to vote, I am sometimes overwhelmed with my limited understanding regarding what to actually believe. The views of all parties involved are mostly opposing views and both sides believe they are right. I have decided to stay clear of the fray but engaged in the search to find threads of wisdom through all the rhetoric. I am registered as a member of a specific party but I stay open to hear the message of all involved in this election.  My identity is not as a partisan but as a seeker of wisdom.

The writer of Ecclesiastes summarizes his frustration with many treasures and many words when he writes this last portion of his book, “So be warned, my child, of anything else that might be said! There is no end to writing books, and excessive study only exhausts the body. And when all is said and done!” I’ll stop here for a moment to comment on this statement, “When all is said and done!” What this means to me is he is speaking of a final word, a first thing of importance that rises above all other things. This would highlight ” the last word” giving it first place, all else must be 2nd, 3rd and 4th. When all is said and done,” after everything is considered, the most important thing is this, “Worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands, for this is what God expects of every person.” This is “The Last Word.”

I would encourage every American to be involved in the issues of our nation and to exercise the freedom to vote but I would hope we would cease from our accusations and pursue the issues intelligently and quietly. Is my life about what I am for or what I am against? While both have validity, one has first place and that is;” What I am for, and am I loving those who may disagree?”  I close with the previous quote; “Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war!”