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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pregnant & Afraid

Jill, a high school senior, took the emotional wrenching drive to the clinic. Nervously she sat, seeming unsure of herself. It felt like there was no other way to handle her unplanned pregnancy.   

There are millions who can identify with Jill. It might be a pregnant college girl and boyfriend who are not ready for the challenges of parenthood, a pregnant single mom who cannot afford another child or a couple who knows the baby they are carrying will likely have a life-long disability.

Hope is that intangible thing you need when you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances.  It is that gentle voice inside that in our moment of crisis, challenges us to believe in someone that is greater than our self. 

If you are pregnant, living in a very difficult set of circumstances and wondering what to do, let me say, “There is hope!”   

Have hope for your baby.  Any ultrasound or a simple hand on the belly will prove it is not just an “it” or blob of tissue.  You.  Are.  Carrying.  Life!  Let your mind dream of what your baby could grow up and become.  Imagine. Dream great dreams for that little one you are carrying.   

Have hope for yourself.  Choosing an abortion tosses those dreams away and will etch a tragic memory on the walls of your mind.  This baby can be a new beginning.  Like the start of a new year.  Determine to accept this child and be the very best father or mother your baby could ever have.  Another way is adoption.  Perhaps you could fulfill the wish of a couple out there.  Maybe there is a loving husband and wife who would welcome your baby into their home. 

Have hope through forgiveness.  Maybe you have already had an abortion and the sense of guilt and shame weighs heavy on your shoulders.  What can you do to find relief from this burden? 

Centuries ago, Jesus provided a way for complete forgiveness.  His sacrificial death on a cross atoned for all our sin.  His blood that was shed covered our sin, removed it and washed us clean.  The atoning work of Jesus and the relief it brings is waiting for you.  If you call out to Him, He stands ready to forgive.  God says, “I will be merciful toward their iniquities [sins], and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).  Imagine having your sins remembered no more.  The peace.  The joy.  May Jesus be your hope for today and in the choices you face.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Heart of Christmas

What is the heart of Christmas?  Is it the children, helping the less fortunate or being with family?  Also, what is the significance of the baby Jesus in a manger that we observe in holiday plays and hear about in Christmas carols?  Is it just a nice seasonal story or does it mean something? 

Words like the Incarnation, Virgin Birth and Immaculate Conception do not show up in most Christmas cards but these words contain the heart of the season.  World history uses them to describe only one person – the birth of Jesus. 

The Scriptures declare Jesus existed in heaven from eternity as God the Son.  Then one day, through a carefully crafted plan, God the Father sent His willing Son from heaven to earth.  He took the form of a seed that was implanted by His Holy Spirit into a specially chosen young woman – Mary.  She was pure having never lain with a man.  The news of her approaching pregnancy did not come from a doctor, but an angel.  He said “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (Luke 1:30-31).  Soon she conceived by the hand of God and months later, a host of angels announced the birth of this miracle baby to a lost world.     

This extraordinary historical account has its share of skeptics.  Some argue it is biologically impossible.  Others doubt, calling it a myth equal to the stories of Greek mythology.  God’s miracles have their critics because they cannot be explained in a classroom, under a microscope or on a calculator.  If they could, they would not be miracles.        

Why was this virgin birth necessary?  First, for the forgiveness of our sins.  We carry the weight of our guilt and shame every day.  It is a heavy load.  Yet, only one man is the vessel by which forgiveness can come – Jesus.  His Deity from conception made it possible. 

Second, in order to show us the way.  Jesus could have descended from heaven and bypassed a birth.  Instead, He chose to enter our world as a baby becoming one of us.  He took on our weaknesses and was subjected to our temptations.  Then through His eventual death and resurrection He showed us we can overcome through trust in Him.  He became our way to victory.     

The heart of Christmas is Jesus.  His miraculous virgin birth is our triumph.  May Jesus be your HOPE FOR TODAY during this Christmas season.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

God & Ebola

Human history has been subjected to constant bouts of infectious diseases.  Sometimes these have grown to pandemic proportions leaving death tolls in the millions worldwide.  The Black Death (the bubonic plague) dramatically affected European populations wiping out up to 50 million people in the mid-14th century.  During the early 20th century governments battled against the influenza pandemic which took up to 50 million lives including 675,000 in the United States.  Then small pox killed upwards of 300 million people across the globe throughout much of the 20th century.

Our modern world still battles infectious diseases and one receiving the most headlines is the Ebola virus which was first identified in the 1970s.  As I write, the virus has fortunately not reached pandemic levels yet.  How should we respond if we are faced with the genuine threat of a virulent disease going global?  Our generation has access to pictures, videos and real-time reports like never before.  As a result, it can lead to feelings of anxiousness or fear.  Let me pass along a few things we can do.      

Do research.  Let us educate ourselves making use of the Internet, our local library and our personal physician.   

Do common sense thinking.  Exercising old fashioned common sense goes a long way towards becoming and staying healthy.  

Do some filtering.  Use discernment in following news reports on Ebola.  Sometimes information conflicts, is not accurate or is taken out of context. 

Do pray.  We should do all we can in the areas of science, medicine and technology to tackle disease.  However, is that enough?  What about God? 

God speaks of Himself saying, “For I am the LORD, your healer” (Exodus 15:26).  He wants the world to know who He is.  He is the Healer.  Then He invites the world to seek Him by saying, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). 

God cannot be any clearer.  In the face of stopping a spreading disease our first action, not last, should be to seek God for His healing.  And though people of different religions and of no religion may be affected, there is only one God we must pray to and only one Who can heal.  He is the God who made the heavens and the earth and gave the world Jesus.  May He be your hope for today and peace in the face of uncertain times.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Roots of Radial Islam

The news of the brutality of the ISIS fighting force has made global headlines.  ISIS is a terrorist army that has amassed a force in the tens of thousands.  Their savage march across portions of the Middle East has captured the attention of world leaders and its citizens alike.  The unashamed imagery and how they glory in their barbarism is something the world has never seen.  What motivates these fighters to do such shameless evil?   

The first motivator is their religion.  Current Muslims stand on the shoulders of millions of followers of Islam dating back over 1,200 years to their founder, Prophet Muhammad, the Quran, and the stories of their faith that have been handed down to each generation. 

Historical accounts show Muhammad engaging in brutality comparable to modern radical groups.  Some experts say 15 to 25 percent of Muslims (180-300 million) would be considered extreme similar to ISIS or Al-Qaeda.  Portions of the Quran influence their deplorable tactics with passages like “I [Allah] will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: you smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them” (Quran 8:12).  When bloodshed is driven by a deeply held religious belief, groups like ISIS do not see their actions as reprehensible.  They consider it honorable.  

The second motivator is money and power.  What if the money, fame, expanding territory and growth of followers were all taken away?  Would ISIS still exist?  Sometimes people can use religion as a clever mask for a deeper motivation of personal gain.   

The genuine face of peace in our world of upheaval is Jesus.  He did not come for personal gain.  He came to show us the one-true God pulling back the curtain of mystery.  Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father [God]” (John 14:9).  Sometimes our religious leaders and institutions can fall short because they are built upon flawed people.  However, when we fix our eyes on Christ we will never be disappointed. 

Jesus reveals God is not a brutal dictator.  He owns and rules the universe.  Religion, money and power do not motivate Him.  Rather, His purpose is to give.  He showed this most by giving His Son to die on a cross and rise again.  If only we would believe and turn from our sinful ways.  Then peace will reign in our hearts through His gift of forgiveness.  May Jesus be your hope and peace for today.