Look at What is Coming

euthanasiaIn 2011 Mariette Buntjens was a patient suffering from metastatic cancer at a Roman Catholic nursing home in Diest, Belgium. Buntjens requested euthanasia but the nursing home refused on obvious religious grounds. Her family brought her home where she said her good-byes and she was then given a lethal cocktail of drugs to end her life. In January of this year her daughter filed a lawsuit against the nursing home for failing to permit the killing at the facility.

Earlier this month a judgment was reached. The nursing home was ordered to pay 1,000 euros (about $1,100) to each of the three children and 3,000 euros as a fine for failing to permit the killing.

Since the earliest efforts to legalize euthanasia in America we have expressed concern that Christians will be forced to participate in these killings. Advocates for the legalization of assisted suicide have dismissed those concerns as exaggerations. Really?

Take a look just in America and what has been happening with the binding of religious consciences for pharmacists and some forms of birth control or businesses and , medical professionals and the performance of abortions, and participation in gay marriages.

Despite the surface logic for autonomy we must realize that the tentacles that permit sin run deep and are pervasive. It is simplistic to think a “my body, my choice” mentality stops there.

Society is in full rebellion against the Biblical truth that some things are wrong, or in religious parlance, sin. In a post-modern society nobody likes to talk about right and wrong but muting the reality does not change the reality. Surrendering to some sin surrenders to sin’s ultimate agenda – total rebellion against God. It is a slippery slope, indeed.

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Subtle Verbal Splicing

Did you see the July 4, 2016 issue of Time magazine? In her lead story on the potentials and pitfalls of CRISPR (the process for DNA splicing) Alice Park overlooks the first ethical problem with her own splice of illogic:

Sometime soon, [Kathy] Niakan will place a human embryo on the platform of her microscope. With one hand, she will steady the embryo – an egg that has been fertilized by a sperm but hasn’t yet begun the cell division that eventually leads to a person.

Did you catch it? “That eventually leads to a person.” When would that be?

Park does what others easily do – they ignore the biological fact that life begins at fertilization. What is going on here is the “slight of hand” that we see more and more of these days. No one wants to talk about life. That would be too revealing. Rather, the emphasis is on some nebulous concept of personhood which, by Park’s reasoning, must come at some point down the line.

Life is defined objectively. It is the biological joining of sperm and egg and a maturing process that continues from the point of fertilization to death. Ascribing “personhood” is the smoke-and-mirrors attempt to disguise the reality that with each dissection, slicing and dicing scientists terminate a life in its embryonic stage.

This degradation of human life is permeating society. Advocates for abortion finally admit that in an abortion a life is ended. They simply qualify it a life subordinate to the mother’s life and therefore expendable. Newborn life that is unwanted because of physical and/or mental challenges is increasingly becoming expendable (read up on the Groningen Protocol). With increased interest in assisted-suicide laws any life can fall under the precarious definition of “unwanted” or “useless” and therefore expendable (read up on what is happening in the Netherlands and Belgium).

There is a lot of concern that CRISPR technology is one step closer towards building a new hybrid of humans with unknown and potentially horrific repercussions down the genetic line. I suggest we deal with this first ethical problem – a life is lost in each experiment. That callousness does not bode well for the ethical decision-making anticipate down the line. When one ignores “life” and focuses rather on “personhood” the door is open to easily transition from healing maladies, to improving the species, to eliminating the unwanted.

I share in the excitement about all of the potential cures that may come from CRISPR technology. Unfortunately, Park does her own linguistic gene splicing of the first ethical quandary that is faced right now – sacrificing life in the hopes of bettering life. To dissect out “life” and to replace it with “person” in the ethical debate is bad science and bad ethics. It further opens the Pandora’s box of cheapening God’s gift of life.

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Did Our Zeal Overshadow Judgment?

Some of the most devoted and loving people I know are in the pro-life movement.  They don’t simply have an opinion but they are on the front lines, helping, lobbying, writing, feeding, counseling and caring.  Sometimes, however, we have allowed our passion to overshadow our reason.

Anyone who did not see a Supreme Court rejection coming for the Texas abortion clinic laws has been ignoring precedent.  Despite calmer (and more reasoned) voices, the passion of some in our movement gets the best of them.

The strategy has been transparent – pass incredibly and morally correct pro-life laws with the intent of forcing a Supreme Court rehashing of the merits of Roe v. Wade.

Well, it happened and it failed.

In private conversations and in more than a few presentations, I warned that this strategy was too apparent and too optimistic.  Proponents of pressing the Supreme Court now on abortion issues have argued “we think we can win.”  Really?  Did anyone take even a moment to read what else Anthony Kennedy has written on this topic.  Calling him some sort of “swing vote” was idealistic at best.

The 5-3 decision further entrenches the Court in establishing case law protecting privacy rights to include the abortion decision.

I advocate that we do what we do best – we demonstrate with action not only our ideological rejection of abortion but our personal commitment to make abortion the least desirable of all options when facing a pregnancy.

As Christians it is especially important for us to keep our priorities straight.  Goal # 1 is the proclamation of God’s Word and his message of salvation through Christ.  Our ultimate goal is to have a nation of Christians who are so faithful to their Savior that they would not dream of walking into an abortion clinic.  It should be an enterprise that dies for lack of customers.

Yes, we want pro-life laws.  We want laws that protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us.  But until we learn the shrewdness of a snake while clinging to the innocence of a dove (Matthew 10:16) we will falter in our passions.  The legal steps to protect unborn children must be smaller and more deliberate.

I commend the zeal of those who want to make this a pro-life nation.  There are much wiser voices than mine who have cautioned against permitting that zeal to get the best of us.  They have cautioned that such full frontal assaults designed to provoke a challenge in the highest court would not work and might even harm future efforts.  We shall see.

Let us heed those voices and place a greater focus on a grassroots strategy of education.  When it comes to laws and court cases, let us consider the place of “baby steps” in that strategy. If abortion clinics cannot be legislated or adjudicated out of business maybe we should pay closer attention to better educating the potential clientele while there still are those who abhor the thought of taking a human life for any reason.

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The Real Solution

On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that a woman has a right to abort her child at any point in a pregnancy – even to the time of delivery. More than 700,000 women decided to do just that in 1973. The number of abortions rose each year until in 1990, it reached its peak of 1.6 million for that year.

Today abortion continues as a “common” procedure — about one million are performed annually in the United States. Since January 22, 1973, more than 58 million unborn children have died in abortion. The number nearly exceeds comprehension.

The Scriptures are clear on the matter. While the word “abortion” is not used, life is described in the womb (Psalm 51:5; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41,44), and God’s Word forbids life to be taken without God’s authority (Exodus 20:13). Nevertheless, some church bodies support abortion rights. Every one of them rejects the Bible as being entirely the word of God. Passages that would be used to speak against abortion are summarily rejected as “part of the Bible but not part of God’s word.”

And so it goes. For centuries mankind invokes God when needed and ignores God when he wishes to walk another path.

Admittedly, opposing abortion is easy, though not always popular. The scientific facts about the development of life in the womb are clear – even abortion advocates admit that in an abortion a life is lost. The tough part is knowing what to do.

Activism to correct this wrong, for the most part, has been political or legislative. That is not, however, how we got into this mess.

God observed, both before and after the flood, that “the inclination of man’s heart is evil.” It just is! Given the choice to do right or to do wrong, mankind in its nature is hostile to God. We see it in every facet of life. At its core, the problem is the heart. The problem is a mindset that opposes God. Left to itself we are told that the love of most will grow cold.

As with most sins the political and legislative solutions seem the obvious choice – legislate it out of existence. The problem is, however, one cannot legislate or decree the nature of the heart. While we favor laws and leaders who want to protect life we would, at best, be left with hearts frustrated by laws but still disposed to want to take the life of an unborn child.

The solution is what it always has been – the heart needs to be changed. Convincing someone who is facing an unwanted pregnancy to complete the pregnancy is ultimately not an act of logic but an act of faith. While pro-life forces like to skirt the issues of abortion in the cases of rape and incest, those particular issues highlight what is the real issue. Facing the cruel and evil violation of rape and incest has no comfort or solution in any other way than with a heart disposed to faith in God’s providence through it all. Aborting the child cures nothing and is fatal to the child. The memory lingers. The perpetrator often retains both his life and his freedom. On the surface it is one of the highest injustices. Since the memory cannot obliterated, the solution for many is to kill an innocent party in the hopes that healing comes faster.

Faith in God who has demonstrated that he can use the worst of circumstances to bring about the best of results ultimately is where healing begins.

Christians should want laws that are consistent with God’s will. Laws, however, never replace the mission assigned to every Christian and that is to share the message of salvation. We are happy for lives saved through laws, through protests and through pregnancy centers. But if all we do is save lives and neglect them spiritually, we fail.

Christians are, by name, committed to Christ. Superficially that commitment is characterized as kindness and love. In fact the commitment to Christ is a commitment to his mission which is to spread the news of sin, salvation and life that lasts forever. Yes, we work to protect lives, but we especially work to share the life we have eternally because of Christ’s own sacrifice for our sins.

The solution to this terrible scourge in our land begins with prayer. Simplistically we can pray for an end to abortion. More specifically, we should pray for changed hearts. Especially we should pray that the hearts of Christians are moved to act their faith. Our prayers should include the request that Christians recognize the burden of an unplanned pregnancy and that they are moved to help carry that burden. Our prayers should be that Christians are moved to do their mission to spread the Gospel of salvation through Christ and become Christ-like imitators in demonstrating love to all people.

In the end we cannot control what other people do or want – not even by laws. We can, however, control what we do and don’t do. A decision by one million women to take the life of their unborn child is either an act of pure evil, of ignorance or of desperation. A woman will either decide that God’s will is wrong and the child must die (pure evil), or she does not understand that life exists already at conception (ignorance) or she feels alone, hopeless and helpless (desperation). We fight evil with the proclamation of the truth of God’s word, understanding some will resist and reject it. We fight ignorance with proclaiming truth and information. We fight desperation by sharing the burdens of others.

On this 43rd anniversary of legalized abortion, I ask that you soul-search. Do not simply wring your hands of the terrible mess we have with abortion. Do not just pray that abortion would end and then go about your business. Pray that you might be God’s servant in solving this problem. Pray that you might find the strength, the courage and the means to share the Christian message of forgiveness and salvation through Christ. In that way we become a force of good and not merely a force of criticism because we bring hope and demonstrate hope with our actions.

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January Preaching and Presentation Engagements

I will be at Hope Ev. Lutheran Church in Louisville, KY on Sunday, January 17, to preach during the 10:30am worship service. The congregation is observing its “Celebration of Life Sunday” and I will also conduct the Bible Class before the service beginning at 9:30am. The church is located at: 4200 Shenandoah Drive, Louisville, KY. [Click here for map]

Then on the afternoon of Monday, January 18, I will present a paper to the SEW Chicago Pastors’ Conference at Light of Life Lutheran Church, 2234 Sheek Road, Greenwood, IN, [see map] on the topic: “End-of-Life Issues: Euthanasia – Ethical Issues Involving Death and Dying.”

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Precious Life

In the January 2016 issue of the Forward in Christ publication, I wrote an article entitled, “Precious Life,” Since conception, at every stage, each baby is a precious life who needs a Savior and for whom our Savior has died.

You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

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Bacon, Bologna and Your Health

In a statement released on October 26, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” According to the health page of the BBC website, processed meat includes “bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.”

The statement also included the classification of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)” based on “limited” evidence.

For those of us who love hamburgers, this is concerning. For those who love BLTs, bologna sandwiches and bacon with their eggs every morning this is alarming.

This also isn’t the first time such a connection has been drawn between certain meat consumption and cancer.1 The American Cancer Society has been encouraging less consumption of red meat and processed meat for years.2 The WHO announcement, however, puts “teeth” behind the advice.

To put this in perspective, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men and women in the United States (behind prostate and lung cancer for men; behind breast and lung cancer for women). More than 50,000 men and women die each year from colorectal cancer in the U.S.3

The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 5% (5 out of every 100 people). According to the WHO study, the consumption of 1.75 ounces of processed meat and/or bacon every day raises that figure 18% to about 6% (6 out of every 100 people). Not a huge increase unless you are that sixth person!

Look at it on a national scale. The consumption of 1.75 ounces of processed meat and/or bacon daily adds an additional 30,000 people who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Admittedly, the 1% increase looks small, but the resulting 30,000 people is significant.

WebMD has an interesting “moderation” article on bacon in the diet. Check it out at: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/can-bacon-be-part-of-a-healthy-diet

Stay informed!

1 Link: http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf (accessed on October 27, 2015)
2 Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34620617 (accessed on October 27, 2015)
3 Link: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics (accessed on October 27, 2015)


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