Tag Archives: Deuteronomy

A Voice for the Voiceless

One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In Biblical times, orphans and widows were the voiceless victims of society. Unless someone spoke up for them and looked after them, they had no recourse for their helpless plight.

God has always been concerned about the voiceless and needy. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV). He calls His people to do the same.

There have long been those who would take advantage of the voiceless, who seek to crush the orphan and the widow. The Psalmist reminds us of what such people do:

They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
Psalm 94:6-7 (NIV).

In our society today there are many who defend the cause of the widow and the orphan. Our laws protect these citizens who historically have been voiceless. Our churches have risen up to provide food and clothing to those in need. We have a long way to go to reach the point when the cause of all has been defended, but we have as a people heeded this call of our God and do our best.

Still, there is another voiceless segment of our society that does not enjoy the protection of our laws. There are even some groups within the church who do not defend their cause. They need someone to be their voice, to defend their right to live.

Today’s voiceless are the unborn who have no legal right to life. Even though an unborn child has her own heartbeat, her own internal organs, and can even have a different blood type than her mother, she has not been given the legal right to live if her mother decides to have an abortion before she is born.

I understand the right of a pregnant mother to choose. As I mentioned in a recent post, I used to be strongly pro-choice. I also understand that there are circumstances when the rights of a pregnant woman to not have to carry the child of her rapist to term or to not have to carry a child to term when her health is at risk might outweigh the right of the unborn child to life. The decision of whether to have an abortion is not an easy one, and it shouldn’t be. It is a balancing of the rights of two individuals who are connected by a bond the human mind cannot fully understand.

What bothers me about the pro-choice stance is that it claims that there is only one person with rights to be considered. I agree that a pregnant woman has and should have rights, but those who are zealously pro-choice cannot pretend that they have not made a moral decision that her rights are greater than that of her unborn child. Her child is not just a lump of tissue, like a cancerous tumor, that should have no rights and can simply be discarded without consequence.

Each unborn child is a voiceless human being. God has called us to defend their cause. If we are going to make a choice, let’s be honest about what that choice is.

Note: I wasn’t going to write this post. My post about abortion last week was going to be my first and last. I’d said my peace and thought I was done. But then I kept seeing cartoon posts on Facebook suggesting that if Mitt Romney were elected we would be setting back the rights of women by 50 years because of his pro-life beliefs. I was particularly surprised because a number of these posts were by friends who are Christians. I couldn’t seem to set aside my frustration that anyone would reduce this difficult topic to a one-liner cartoon. It is an issue that deserves more.

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Resisting Temptation: The Chainsaw Method

Human beings all face temptations to sin, many of us on a daily basis. It may be a temptation to commit just a “small” sin or it may be the temptation to do something much more egregious. But why is this, where do these temptations come from?

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. James 1:13-14.

In addition to our own sinful nature, temptation can come from Satan who would like nothing more than to pull us away from God. See 1 Corinthians 7:5. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan, so we should not be surprised if we are, too. See Luke 4:1-13.

More importantly, how do we resist temptation? The temptation itself is not sin and is something everyone must face. It is only when we give into the temptation that we sin. So how do we not give in?

A common tool that people use, including many Christians, is good old willpower. “If I just try hard enough,” we say to ourselves, “I can resist the temptation to . . .” But this tool is a bit like trying to cut a log with a butter knife. Some have grown quite skilled at this method and have managed to “be very good” but the effort is exhausting and does not result in a fruitful life. All energy is funneled into simply resisting temptation. As Paul said in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

God has given us better tools to resist temptation, tools that are more along the lines of a huge chain saw for cutting a log. They are tools that are available to anyone who chooses to pick them up and use them.

The first tool is the Word of God. This is what Jesus used to resist Satan when He was tempted in the desert for 40 days. Three times Satan tempted Jesus, and each time He replied with a scriptural response: 

  • Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:4, quoting Deut. 8:3.
  • Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Luke 4:8, quoting Deut. 6:13.
  • Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Luke 4:12, quoting Deut. 6:16.

There are wonderful passages of scripture that, if memorized, can help in the face of temptation. When I am tempted to worry, I remember the words of Paul: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6. When I become angry with someone, I remember what James wrote: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20. There is a verse to help with any temptation, and if you can’t find one to help you with your specific temptation, you can always turn to 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The second tool that God provides is prayer. This is another tool modeled by Jesus and one He recommended highly to His disciples. When He knew that His arrest and crucifixion was at hand, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He knew He would be tempted to give up on the plan He and the Father had set in motion, and He knew the disciples would face temptations also. The tool He chose to resist that temptation was prayer.

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46.

The third tool that God has provided is, as suggested by Galatians 3:3 (above), the power of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit. If we take hold of the power of the Holy Spirit and turn control of our lives over to Him, then we will exhibit this fruit. Each characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is the antithesis of sin. If we exhibit patience through the Spirit, then we will overcome the temptation to be rude, impolite, and impatient, or to steal something because we cannot wait until we can afford to buy it. If we exhibit love through the Spirit, then we will overcome the temptation to say hateful things to others or commit violent acts. If we exhibit self-control through the Spirit, then we will overcome a myriad of sins including gluttony, adultery, jealousy, drunkenness, and more.

Finally, the fourth tool that God has provided is each other. Accountability to a fellow believer or a Bible study group can provide that extra boost we need to resist temptations that come our way. The author of Hebrews wrote: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25. One Christian alone can withstand temptation by relying on the first three tools that God has provided. But together we can resist with even less effort because we can encourage one another and remind one another of what is right. We can pray for each other and help each other better use the first three tools. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.

So the next time your are tempted (it might be later today), put down that butter knife. Pick up the chain saw God has provided. Turn to the Word of God; seek the Lord in prayer; call on the power of the Holy Spirit living in you; and pick up the phone to share your struggle with a trusted Christian friend. Then you will be able to resist the temptation and still have the energy to live a fruitful life for the Kingdom of God.

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Comprehending the Trinity

According to the liturgical calendar used by many Christian churches, last Sunday was Trinity Sunday. This is the day that the Church celebrates the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It falls on the Sunday following Pentecost, which is when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one that causes concern for many people, and some churches that consider themselves Christian refuse to adopt this doctrine because they believe it involves the worship of three gods instead of the One True God. This is because of how the doctrine is typically explained. It is said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the three persons of the Triune God. But how can three distinct persons be one? Christians are monotheists; we believe in one God, not three.

The problem with rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity is that to do so one must say that Jesus is not God. And yet that is exactly who He claimed to be. Jesus said to the people, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24. Later in this same conversation, as the discussion turned to Abraham and how the people claimed Abraham to be their father, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58. The Jews of His day clearly understood this statement by Jesus to be His claim that He was God. As they plotted against Him and threatened to stone Him, they said, “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:33.

But why did this statement by Jesus — “before Abraham was born, I am” — lead the Jews to the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be God? To understand this, we must return to the Old Testament and the stories the Jews were intimately familiar with. When God sent Moses to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, Moses was afraid to go.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Exodus 3:13-14.

When Jesus said His name was “I am,” the Jews understood this to be His claim that He was God. Jesus went on to make six other “I am” statements as recorded in the book of John, and to also claim that He and the Father are One.

Despite this and other scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity, many have trouble with the concept because scripture also says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. This past Sunday the guest pastor at my church spoke of the Trinity in a way that made this apparent problem or inconsistency a non-issue. It was a way of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity that I had not heard before.

The word “personae” that is translated “person” in most explanations of the Trinity is a Greek word that does not actually mean person. This is an incorrect translation of the Greek word. The word “personae” actually means “face,” “mask,” “role,” or “appearance.” One American Heritage Dictionary definition of the word is “The role that one assumes or displays in public or society; one’s public image or personality, as distinguished from the inner self.”

Used in this way, one can understand Jesus as the role God assumes or the mask He displays to humans who are not able to stand in the presence of God the Father. The Holy Spirit can be understood as the role God plays or the face He displays within the hearts of believers to guide them in their daily living. Each “personae” of the Trinity serves a different purpose or role, but He is only One God. God’s appearance as Jesus here on earth served a specific purpose, and His indwelling in the hearts of believers as the Holy Spirit serves another purpose. But always He sits on His heavenly throne in all His glory and splendor as the Father.

The Christian band Third Day sings a song called “You Are So Good To Me” that is a song to the three personae of the Trinity. Whenever I hear the closing reprise, I better understand this complex but simple way in which God reveals Himself to us:

You are my Father in Heaven
You are the Spirit inside me
You are my Jesus who loves me

When I sing along with this song, I know that the “You” I sing to is One God, and He is all three of these wonderful things to me.

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