Monday, July 25, 2005

Senate Bill Euthenized

The Joni and Friends website is reporting the termination of Senate Bill AB 654 and AB 651 - two attempts to help legalize Physician Assisted Suicide.

Sacramento - Physician assisted suicide bill AB 651 has died in the state Senate and will not be further pursued this year by its authors, Assembly Members Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine.

An article appearing in the Los Angeles Times today (7/12/05) stated that bill proponents were "still struggling against steady religious and cultural currents." This refers to those of you who responded to action alerts, got petitions signed, met with legislators and staffers in district offices, wrote letters to the news media, picketed, made calls, and in many other ways made it clear that most Californians do not want physician assisted suicide.

In the LA Times article, Berg and Levine state they will revive the issue in January. Ms. Berg continues to rely on a Field poll which earlier this year showed 70% support for physician assisted suicide.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mom's Story - Final Chapter

A special word of thanks to my mom for laboring over the writing of this story for many weeks. I pray that her work will not be in vain but that people who read her story will be encouraged to put their hope in a faithful, loving, soveriegn Great Physician. To God be the glory!

Click here to read Part One
Click here to read Part Two
Click here to read Part Three
Click here to read Part Four
Click here to read Part Five
Click here to read Part Six
Click here to read Part Seven
Click here to read Part Eight

Final Installment:

As the years have passed, new questions have filled my mind. When Vicki was first born, my questions had been: “Why is this happening to my family?” “Is this a punishment for bad things my husband or I have done?” “Or is this simply an unfortunate accident of nature?” As I searched the Bible, I found answers [see Part 4 of this blog story]. I became convinced that God is sovereign; He is in control of all things.

The belief that God is sovereign is more than understanding that God is in control of all things. It is an understanding that God does more than react to bad situations, turning what was meant for evil into what is good. God does not react; He acts.

It goes against our grain to equate anything bad with God. We feel the need to protect His image and make Him look good. But God doesn’t need us to guard His reputation. What He desires is that we trust Him, even when it looks as though His reputation will suffer. God is God. He doesn’t need our help. He wants our trust.

God knits each one of us in our mother’s womb. When a baby is born with disabilities, do we conclude that God made a mistake? If He does indeed knit us together in our mother’s womb, then we must conclude that He knits us in exactly the way He desires. He makes no mistakes.

But this is not bad news! In fact, it is very good news. God is sovereign. He is in charge of all things. He makes no mistakes. When a baby is born with a disability, it is God’s perfect plan!

This understanding led me to ask more questions. “If this is God’s plan for our family, how does He want us to respond?” I found my answer in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

My next question was, “Could I find peace and contentment in this situation?” The Bible told me, in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

I embraced these verses and found comfort and strength in them. But after awhile, new questions begged to be answered. “Was it possible to go beyond peace and contentment and actually feel joy in our situation?” Life with disabilities is a journey. The difficulties often cannot be remedied, and we must learn to live with them. Can we learn to live with them and actually be joyful in them? 1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.”

This led me to ask, “Is there joy beyond the pain, or is there actually joy in the pain?” Romans 5:3-5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

I believe that God chose this sorrow for our family. And surprisingly, what I at first felt was a sorrow, I see now as a joy. In all sincerity, if given such a chance, I would not change the journey our family has traveled. We have all learned, we have all grown, and we love the Lord and His sovereign direction in our lives.

When our daughter was born, we gave her the name Vicki Joy. The name was a deliberate choice. We wanted her to one day live out the attributes that her name implies. We wanted her to be “victorious,” and we wanted her to be “joyful.” In every way Vicki Joy lives up to her name.

I will praise the Lord who continually showers us with good things, with blessings everlasting. “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:25, 22-23).


Monday, July 11, 2005

Who Should We Take Pity Upon?

I had a very cool “moment” at Joni Camp. I was being interviewed and the question posed before me was one I have answered many times, “What do you tell people who say that they pity you?” (This is in specific reference to my having a deformed face). I had the pat answer all set up in the chute – “Why feel sorry for me? I have a great life…God has blessed me…I have so many things to be thankful for…I have a better life than a lot of pretty people do….yadda, yadda, yadda…”

And as I opened my mouth to speak, a train whistled and the cameras stopped rolling and the camera man told me to hold off my answer until the train went by. By the time they said, “Roll camera” I had one of those anesthesia moments – you know, you hear yourself talking from inside your head and you’re thinking, “Who is that talking?”

I found myself answering the question in a way I never have before and having now mulled my answer over for a couple of weeks, I am rather alarmed by what I said.

In short, I said something like, “No, I should not be pitied. The apostle Paul said that if we put our hope in Christ and in the end Christ is not the Son of God then our hope was for this life only and, therefore, we hoped in vain. Paul says of these people that they are ‘to be pitied more than all men.’ I have put my hope in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and Jesus Christ is the Son of God. My hope is not in vain. Therefore, I am not to be pitied, regardless of what my face might look like.”

The verse I quoted was from the passage of 1 Corinthians 15:19:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

I am still a little taken aback by that answer because it sobered me. I realized that I have participated in more than my fair share of self-pity in my lifetime – and pitied a lot of other people who I felt deserved it. And yet none of those feelings I had were based on Scriptural standards, but on earthly standards. The world says physical beauty is of utmost importance, so logic dictates that we empathize with those who have been robbed of it.

I want to be more biblically focused. I want to see people through biblical lenses. I don’t want to see as the world sees. Christ reserved his tears for eternal losses – unrepentant Israel (Luke 19:41), the death of loved ones.(John 11:35), and separation from God’s favor (Luke 22:44). In the interest of being Christ-like, I want to weep for the right things.

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Deliver Us From Evil?

I started reading a book last week entitled, How Can I Ask God for Physical Healing, by David J. Smith. I have only read two chapters so far, and while I do agree wholeheartedly with some of his sentiments, there are others that I am frustrated with.

On page 20 he writes, “A sick body is, therefore, not normal. A sick body is not the perfect expression of God’s presence in your life.”

Yet, John 9:1-3 says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

The author says that sickness is not the perfect expression of God’s presence, but Scripture says, in the case of the man blind from birth, that his blindness was, “the work of God being displayed.” My opinion is that if God’s handiwork is being seen in my illness, then certainly this equates with God’s presence in my life.

The writer goes on (page 21), “The Lord Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ My point is this, if you deny that you have a physical need, then you will not engage in a quest for a cure.”

But is the “evil” mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer meant to infer all suffering and tragedy, including physical sickness?

Dan Wallace writes, “Take the adjective ponhrouæ (“evil”) in Matthew 6:13, for example. The King James Version (as well as more than one modern translation) translates this as 'but deliver us from evil.' But the adjective has an article modifying it (tou), indicating that it is to be taken substantivally: “the evil one.”

And there is no little theological difference between the two. The Father does not always keep his children out of danger, disasters, or the ugliness of the world. In short, he does not always deliver us from evil. But he does deliver us from the evil one. The text is not teaching that God will make our life a rose garden, but that he will protect us from the evil one, the devil himself (cf. John 10:28-30; 17:15)."

This concept is backed up elsewhere in Scripture. For example:

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Peter 1:6, “...though now, for a little while, as is necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”

1 Peter 2:20-21, “For what credit is it if you when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you might follow in his steps.”

1 Peter 3:14, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.”

1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

1 Peter 4:12-13: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

1 Peter 4:16, “ Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

1 Peter 5:10. “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

James 1:2, 3, 12, “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.”

Matthew 5:45, “…He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

2 Timothy 3:12, “ In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

I am not making a case here that God doesn’t still heal people today.

He does!

Nor am I saying you shouldn’t pray to be delivered from your sicknesses.

You should!

In fact, the book of James exhorts the Church to do so. James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Verse 16 continues, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."

I myself have experienced miraculous healing from the Lord (many times). I have seen so much mercy and kindness from the Lord in my own life that I will be the first one to encourage someone to pray importunately to be healed. And I will be the first one to tell you that God can do it.

But I have also suffered enough to know that sickness should not be credited solely to Satan or God’s punishment for sin. When longsuffering (a Biblical concept) is thrust upon you and in the end it sanctifies you, purifies you, increases your faith, draws you deeper in love with Christ, gives you a humble dependence upon God, deepens your prayer life, allows you to turn your back on the promises of the world, gives you a genuine longing for heaven, and leads others to know Christ as their Savior – then we have no choice but to give God the glory for that work in our lives. Those are things that can only be accomplished by the grace of God and we do the Lord a grave disservice when we credit all of his sanctifying work of grace in our lives to his Archenemy. Give God glory where glory is due. Satan knows more than we do of the gold that comes out of the furnace of suffering.

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