Joseph of Nazareth
(A Righteous Man)

“Honey, you were right.”

I’ve had to say those words to my wife. Every time I do, her hearing suddenly goes weak so I have to repeat it. She threatens to write down the date but never does.

Every couple knows what I am talking about, including healthy ones that don’t keep score.

Long ago, before the first Noel, a Jewish carpenter named Joseph was famous for being right. The Bible introduced him as “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19). Righteousness basically refers to a right standing with God and there is no better way to be right than that.
Of course, that was before he was married.

Sometimes it hurts to be right, or at least to think we are. Joseph was pledged to a woman named Mary who turned up pregnant before they tied the knot. Heartbroken and probably angry, Joseph entertained no doubts about being right on how wrong she had treated him. And there was no way he could be wrong.

But he was wrong. God had chosen Mary, a young virgin, to play a unique role in His plan of salvation by giving birth to God’s Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Do you know any heartbroken husband-to-be who has heard such an unusual explanation for such an awkward situation? Neither did Joseph.

Nevertheless, Joseph was wrong. May was innocent. Her story checked out, and it took the angel Gabriel to drive that correction home to Joseph’s righteous mind. Gabriel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20).

It’s like everyone Gabriel met had to be told not to be afraid in one way or another. I wonder if Joseph actually said to Mary, “Honey, I was wrong.” In any case, he did marry Mary, after all—linking little Jesus in full measure to the royal line of David.
the Annunciation
When a national census was called, Joseph did his civic duty and traveled to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife to register. As a righteous and religious man, Joseph had his Son circumcised eight days after Jesus was born. Joseph and Mary dutifully consecrated their first born to the Lord and offered a sacrifice “in keeping with the law of the Lord.” (Luke 2:24). They could not afford a lamb so they offered two doves and a couple pigeons. As Luke narrated, “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.” (Luke 2;39).

Let’s back up. When Joseph was first called “a righteous man,” that description had little to do with being right all the time. There was much more to his righteousness than keeping regulations (which he did dutifully). Actually, his righteousness was given as the reason he did not want to disgrace the woman he thought betrayed him. Instead, he intended to privately call off their marriage. In other words, Joseph’s righteousness was a kind of kindness that prevented him from publically plastering Mary to the wall of justice to teach her a lesson. As heartbroken as Joseph was, a righteous kindness survived in his soft heart.

Two millennia later, I have seen couples on a mission to punish each other, even for sins long since confessed, repented of, and forgiven. No! Punishment and forgiveness do not run well together. Being righteous is not a formula for being unnecessarily mean to those who fail you. Real righteousness results in deeds of mercy and kindness. Jesus later told a parable about some sheep and goats in which he claimed it was “the righteous” who had seen the hungry and fed them, or the thirsty and gave them something to drink (Matthew 25:37).

No wonder Joseph’s boy grew up to preach things like, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” (Matthew 5:8).

Boaz of Bethlehem
(A tale of Romance and Redemption)

Boaz lived in the 12th century BC in Bethlehem, a town later known as “the city of David,” Boaz’ great-grandson. He is introduced in the book of Ruth as a relative of Elimelech. a man who died as a refugee in Moab. Boaz was a “man of great wealth,” though a better translation may be “a man of high standing.”

After a long absence, Elimelech’s widow (Naomi) returned to Bethlehem from Moab with a widowed daughter-in-law named Ruth. Naomi had lost everything, except the love and loyalty of her bereaved daughter-in-law. To survive, Ruth gleaned for grain along with the poor and destitute of Bethlehem. It was the duty of wealthy landowners to leave some gleanings for the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10) and Boaz was glad to comply.

One day, Boaz greeted the hungry gleaners in his field saying, “May the LORD be with you.” (Ruth 2:4). He addressed them with kindness and respect, though many, like Ruth, were strangers. They responded, “May the LORD bless you.”

“Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz),” 1853, by Jean-Francois Millet (French, 1814–1875).
“Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz),” 1853, by Jean-Francois Millet (French, 1814–1875).

Boaz noticed Ruth in his field and took a special interest in her. He generously made sure she went home with plenty of grain. Turns out, her reputation for kindness and selfless loyalty preceded her. He made sure she was not subjected to insults and rebukes and blessed her, saying, “May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” (Ruth 2:12). Boaz was generous with his blessings!

Naomi recognized God’s kindness in Boaz’ deeds and quickly assumed a crucial role as Ruth’s mentor through a match-making process. She revealed Boaz’ kinsman-redeemer status and the marital prospects this presented to Ruth who had precious little to offer Boaz. Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth makes a bold move letting Boaz know of his obligation to her (and Naomi) as a kinsman redeemer. The rules of Deuteronomy 25 must have gone through Boaz’ mind when Ruth revealed who she was. How romantic!

Boaz responded to Ruth with yet another blessing, invoking Yahweh: “May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.” (Ruth 3:10). Then Boaz declared his intention to do his duty as a kinsman redeemer, affirming Ruth as “a woman of noble character.” (3:11). He knew Ruth could have gone after younger choice males, but instead she obeyed her mentor and acted as much in Naomi’s interest as her own. Boaz wanted this marriage.

Nevertheless, he respected custom and convention enough to give Ruth up to another relative with first rights as a kinsman redeemer. Fortunately, this rival declined when he saw the inheritance risks and sacrifices involved in doing his duty. This cleared the way for Boaz to marry Ruth.

Ruth and Boaz were initially surprised to find favor in each other’s hearts. When expectations are low, the joy of finding love runs deep. When Boaz called Ruth a woman of “noble character” (3:11), he used the same Hebrew word [hayil] that was applied to him previously as “a man of standing” (2:1). This signals to the reader that she was Boaz’ moral equal and fully qualified to marry him. This same word was used to describe a wife whose worth surpassed jewels (Proverbs 31:10). That was Ruth.

Since Romeo and Juliet, a popular formula for love stories has been to pit romance against family and social obligations. Not in the book of Ruth! The romance between Ruth and Boaz flows richly through their duties, customs, and conventions. In this redemptive love story, social and religious obligations lead the way. It was pure kindness for Boaz to carry on the family line of a deceased relative and take care of his helpless widow and her in-law. As with the redemptive love of Jesus on the cross, the kinsman-redeemer role played by Boaz was no less loving for all the obligations involved. And the lineage of Elimelech endured all the way to the birth of the ultimate Redeemer; Jesus Christ.

Let’s sum up Boaz’ character qualities:

  • He was a man of standing in his community (Ruth 2:1).
  • He was gracious to poor and hungry workers (2:4).
  • He had sympathy for foreigners without prejudice (2:6 & 4:10).
  • He respected and protected the vulnerable (2:9).
  • He was kind, generous and hospitable (2:13-14).
  • He was a good judge of character, attracted to integrity (3:11).
  • He was a reliable man who finishes what he starts (3:18).
  • He responsibly honored his obligations (3:11 & 4:9-10).
  • He was a man of wisdom at the city gate (4:1-8).
  • Boaz was both blessed and a blessing (2:4,12 & 3:10).

Ruth and Boaz were ordinary people with extra-ordinary character and kindness.

Zip-Lock Spirituality

A backpack full of essentials is a burden most wilderness hikers will gladly bear. Okay, perhaps the word “bear” was poor choice.

When I pack a backpack, about one ounce of that forty-pound burden is likely to be zip-lock bags. As one sets out on the trail, these bags serve to separate breakfasts from lunches and dinners. Others contain lotions, pills, Band-Aids, plastic spoons, and tooth-care products. If a lotion container cracks or spills, the zip-lock bag contains the mess from the surrounding stuff.

After meals are enjoyed (and they often taste better on a wild untamed trail), those zippy bags are still useful. They separate trash, dirty socks and interesting items found on the trail from the rest of your gear. Yes, good hikers carry out their trash.

Warning: Plastic bags cannot always protect food from a bear’s keen nose, especially used and open bags. But used properly, they can help contain tempting aromas.

Zip-lock bags testify that a good trailblazer is also a good planner. He or she only brings what is necessary and protects the perishables so they can fulfill their intended functions. Packers must set priorities and make wise choices.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about distinguishing articles for noble and ignoble purposes. He said, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter [ignoble purposes], he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21).

It’s an apostolic analogy, asking the reader to identify with articles (or vessels) in a house. Our analogy here simply points to a backpack. As Christians, we aim to be useful to God for His noble purposes.

When you become and instrument for God, you take on His purposes. Being fit for God’s backpack means being distinguished from whatever is intended for dishonorable purposes. Paul was clear: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (vs. 22).

This is what it means to be holy (literally, set apart). Holiness calls for a purposeful separation from dishonorable “vessels” so we can be useful to God. God’s backpack is not a random mess. He is too good a planner for that. He has a purpose for each article, even you and me. Our task is to remain pure and prepared, set apart for His use.

In another letter, Paul put it this way: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1).

Thinking this through is sobering to the soul. If you remain devoted to dishonorable purposes, you may not make His backpack. His choices are eternally purposeful.
Paul Lockwood
On a wilderness trek I once made in California, one of my companions (whose name happened to be Paul) carried a small Bible in a zip-lock bag. It remained free of sweat, dust, and moisture, and it was always ready for use. Thanks to my friend Paul, we had some great campfire devotions and discussions. Like food, God’s Word always tastes better than expected on untamed mountain trails.

A City on a Hill

In the best Farwell Address by an American President since George Washington, on January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan admonished us to teach American history to our children, saying, “If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are.” Then he cast his enduring vision of America as that “shining city upon a hill,” a phrase first used by Jesus and first applied to America by John Winthrop in 1630.

The Man:

John Winthrop (1587-1649) was married at age seventeen. He and his wife Mary had six children and John studied hard to become a lawyer and wealthy landowner. After ten years together, Mary suddenly died. John remarried, but lost his second wife on their first anniversary. His third wife, Margaret, was famous for her great beauty, grace and faith. His love letters testify to a warm covenant of love that intertwined a mutual faith with passionate companionship.

At forty-two, Winthrop worried about the spiritual welfare of his children and country. From Puritan stock, he saw his life within a “covenant” framework. He felt his homeland had broken their covenant with God and it was time to start over. Like many Puritans, he saw America as an opportunity for a new start. Winthrop became one of 20,000 who came to America between 1620 and 1640.

The Sermon:

On April 7, 1630, Winthrop delivered his legacy sermon on board a ship full of adventurous Puritans prepared to sail from Old England to New England (or from darkness to light). Winthrop sold his lands and possessions to head west across the Atlantic. His heart’s vision was that of God’s children fleeing a repressive realm to cross the “Red Sea” and climb that proverbial hill, spoken of by Jesus, where God’s light could shine forth to call the world into a covenant of joy and justice.

His watershed 1630 sermon was titled, “A Model of Christian Charity.” His text: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14). Winthrop called for his hearers to lose their spiritual shackles and together escape the coming judgment on England. He wanted to help his fellow colonists forge a model community in the New World, a light at the end of the wicked tunnel in which he thought world was stuck. This called for an earnest sense of vocation and a willingness to work hard. After all, dirty hands and a clean heart made an ideal Puritan. Winthrop laid out the cause and commission of God’s covenant and warned of the wrath of God upon them should they breach that covenant. He preached:

    We have hereupon besought Him of favor and blessing. Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it.

John Winthrop 2
He was just warming up.

    For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work… and so cause Him to withdraw His present help, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.

Winthrop’s audience was previously unacquainted. Yet, they were about to launch into a life wherein their survival would swing on the strength of their bond of unity under God. Above all, his sermon was a clarion call to Christian unity:

    For this end, we must be knit together in this work as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

Winthrop understood Jesus’ conviction that the unity of God’s people is a powerful witness to the world. His “city on a hill” was no utopia–just a light. His audience knew that great hardships lie ahead. Christian unity was no more feasible then than it is today. Nevertheless, Winthrop issued the call, paid the price and set his sail.

A Blessing:

In one of Ronald Reagan’s last major addresses, he offered the following benediction to the nation he loved:

    [May] every dawn be a new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city on a hill. (Ronald Reagan, Speech to the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas, August 17, 1992).

Regan’s blessing may not be a reality today, but the prayer endures.

Stop Stereotyping!

Jesus is cool. Everybody likes Him, including pop-culture icons:

  • I don’t think there is anything wrong with the teachings of Jesus, but I am suspicious of organized religion. (Madonna, entertainer, b. 1958).
  • I’m a big fan of Jesus. But I’m not a big fan of those who work for him. (Bill Mahr, comedian and critic, b. 1956).

Evangelical Christian author Dan Kimball wrote a book on Millennials titled, They Like Jesus But Not the Church. Kimball likes Jesus too, but he added, “I probably would not like Christians if I weren’t one.”

How “cool.”

A self-proclaimed “rogue pastor” named John Pavlovitz joined in with the critical chorus when he blogged, “Dear Church… Your love doesn’t look like love.” He wants to be seen as pro-love but not pro-church. He added, “From what we know about Jesus, we think he looks like love. The unfortunate thing is, you don’t look much like him.”


Blogger Rachel Held Evens used the same tactic to stereotype Jesus’ church in an article titled “Why Millennials are leaving the Church.” She declared, “We are not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.”


As a church-goer for six decades, I have seen a few flawed Christians up close and personal. I have been one myself. I have been hurt by a few and I have hurt a few. Still, the harsh stereotypes of the cool critics above are profoundly unkind and unfair.

The most loving, kind, brave, intelligent, compassionate, graceful, humble, giving, and unbigoted people I know are church-loving Christians. All my life I have seen Jesus’ church bring the love of Christ to a hurting world and bring family to those who have none. She is the bride of Christ and nothing else on earth compares to her. But you must decide for yourself.

Surveys find that those who claim to be born-again have the same divorce rates as the larger population. However, surveys that go further and ask if respondents actually attend church regularly find that church attenders have much lower divorce rates. That’s a meaningful distinction. It puts church in a more positive light than her critics seem willing to consider.

Fair-minded people do not negatively stereotype groups of people based on race, class, history, or gender. Yet, many today are proud to stereotype Jesus’ church based on surveys, polls, presumptions, and past hurts. The more unkind the criticism, the more noble the basher feels—simply because they began with a claim to like Jesus.

I don’t think Jesus is amused.

Church loving Christians welcome honest constructive criticism from inside and out. We want all our flaws and problems identified and dealt with objectively in a climate of love. Yes, we do! It is the stereotyping that we oppose. Going public with a broad-brush to heap scorn on Jesus’ church or “organized religion” seems more abusive than constructive.

If you belong to Jesus, you belong to His family. Support her. Love her. Defend her. But don’t worship her. Worship God!

It’s Personal
(Christianity and Islam in Contrast)

Both Christianity and Islam believe sin is real and deadly, incurring the wrath of a deity who punishes it. Both demand repentance and look to a merciful deity for forgiveness.

Murder, theft, adultery, apostasy, and witchcraft are considered pernicious sins in Islam, but the worst sin is idolatry. Thus, “idolater” is the worst name you could call a Muslim. All the above are sins for Christians too, but considering Jesus’ teaching on love as God’s greatest commandment, the worst thing you could call a Christian is: “hater.” That’s why non-Christians with a sinful agenda often pull the label, “hater,” as a trump card to discredit serious Christians.

In his book, What Went Wrong?, Bernard Lewis wrote, “In the Muslim perception, there is no human legislative power, and there is only one law for believers—the Holy Law of God.” While various Islamic laws are subject to the interpretations of religious lawyers, the Muslim mindset remains theocratic. All legitimate laws are Allah’s laws. There are no separate standards of practice for the mosque and the state. In contrast, Jesus made a distinction between the things we render to God and to Caesar. Thus, Christians can distinguish between our eternal devotion to God (which comes first) and our temporal obligations to the state.

Polygamy and slavery are not against Islamic law, so they are not seen as sins. In contrast, Jesus negated polygamy with His definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 as two (male and female) becoming one. Of course, slavery violates Jesus’ golden rule in Matthew 7:12 and has been abolished in all major Christian cultures.

The Muslim Solution:

For Muslims, redemption comes to believers who wise up and follow Allah’s guidance in the Qur’an to distinguish good from evil. There is no blood sacrifice for sin in Islam. Rather, sincerity and good works bring salvation. The Qur’an says; “We shall set up just scales on the Day of Resurrection… Actions as small as a grain of mustard seed shall be weighed out. Our reckoning shall suffice.” (Sura 21:47). The idea of priestly mediation between Allah and man is foreign to Muslims.

According to one tradition, Muhammad personally took part in the stoning of Ghamdiyah, a confessed adulterer. He ordered that a waist-deep hole be dug in which she was buried to preserve decency during the stoning. Then he threw the first stone and she soon perished. (Source, Paul Fregosi, Jihad, 1998). Jesus had a similar opportunity to rule on an adulterous woman (John 8:1ff). His response sums up a big difference between Christianity and Islam. Jesus forgave her and let her live. He told her to go and “sin no more.” (John 8:11).

The Christian Solution:

cross and nail
Christians believe the only solution for sin is found in Jesus who laid down his life accepting the punishment for sin that we, like the adulterous woman, personally deserved. Muslims respect Jesus as one of 25 prophets of Allah, but they do not believe he really died at the crucifixion nor was He God’s son, much less God in the flesh.

Both Islam and Christianity call for repentance (a 180 turn) and obedience. But for Christians, all the repenting and obeying in our power is insufficient to gain forgiveness and salvation. For this, we needed Jesus to personally lay down His life as a sacrificial lamb once and for all on behalf of repentant sinners.

Adoption into God’s Family!

Christian salvation involves adoption into God’s family, beginning now and extending into eternity. Like Jesus, we call God our Father. It’s personal. In Islam, believers can be Allah’s servants–but not his children. A Qur’anic inscription at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reads, “Praise be to God, who begets no son… He does not beget, He is not begotten, and He has no peer.” The idea of God as a Father is denounced severely in Islam as the principle Christian error. Muslims cannot relate to a God with a son who suffers and is pierced for our transgressions.

So, Christians find salvation not in the “scales” of judgment but in the nails driven into the hands and feet of God’s Son who willingly died to reconcile us to His heavenly Father. The Qur’an often refers to Allah as merciful but the Bible speaks of God Himself demonstrating His mercy in the flesh, in our midst, and on our behalf to welcome us into His family. The difference is quite personal.

Freedom is Frightening!

“In the end, they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us:
‘Make us your slaves, but feed us.’”

Fydor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamozov (1880), book V, chapter 5.

A Brief Visitation:

According to the story-teller, the Lord appeared to a “tortured, suffering people, sunk in iniquity, but loving Him like children.” He arrived the day after a hundred heretics, for the glory of God, had been burned at the stake by the Grand Inquisitor (GI).

They flocked to Him as he silently radiated gentleness and compassion, blessing and healing people along the way. Some threw flowers. Others sang hosannas. He encountered a funeral procession and raised a little girl back to life. Amid the weeping and confusion, the old cardinal himself (the GI) approached this intruder and had Him arrested. The crowd watched in submissive silence.

I am describing a parable within a novel. The Brothers Karamozov (1880), by Russian author Fydor Dostoyevsky, is the greatest novel I have ever read. I just want to focus here on one chapter, titled: “The Grand Inquisitor” (book V, chapter 5). It’s a stand-alone parable about Jesus returning to Seville, Spain, in the 16th century during the Spanish Inquisition.

Ilya Repin

Back to the story: The GI visits Jesus in his cell to explain why the Church no longer needs Him. The GI said, “For fifteen centuries we have been wrestling with Thy freedom, but now it is ended and over for good… [The people] have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet.”

The GI frames his comments around the three temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11), namely, to turn stones into bread, to leap from the Temple and be saved by angels, and to rule the kingdoms of the world. Bottom line, the GI thinks Jesus was wrong to turn Satan down on each count.

Stones Into Bread!

The GI’s advice to Jesus matched the first temptation of Satan. He said, “Turn [stones] into bread and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though forever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread.” In other words, if only Jesus had altered His mission from providing heavenly bread to primarily giving out bread for bellies, far more men would have followed Him. After all, “Obedience is bought with bread. Power is purchased with bread. Every man has his price.” The GI added, “Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!”

But Jesus replied, man shall not live by bread alone.

Take a Flying Leap!

As for the second temptation, if Jesus had jumped off the high temple wall and been saved by angels, then the question of His divine sonship would have been an easy sell. Years later, He could have come down from the cross to victoriously prove Himself! After all, “man seeks not so much God, as the miraculous.”

But Jesus did not want faith that is purchased with spectacular miracles. He wants our faith to be our decision, freely made—not purchased with proof. Again, the GI scolds Jesus for promoting freedom rather than exerting greater control over the minds of men.

Rule the Kingdoms of the World!

In the third temptation, Jesus was offered earthly power as a tool for providing universal happiness and unity. Think of the good Jesus could have done with great political authority. With such potential at stake, what harm could it do to toss Satan a bone?

The GI rebuked Jesus: “Hast Thou taken the world and Caesar’s purple, Thou wouldst have founded the universal state and have given universal peace. For who can rule men if not he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands?” He added, “Had Thou accepted that last offer of the mighty spirit, Thou wouldst have accomplished all that man seeks on earth—that is, someone to worship, someone to keep his conscience.” The GI believed that planning the universal happiness of man is “real” love and Jesus should have known that. He thought that it is through compulsion, not freedom, that the people can be provided the tools to end human suffering and unite humanity under one banner. Isn’t it more loving to reduce the cost of discipleship and lighten the burden that comes with genuine freedom?

But Jesus had no bones for Satan and He resolved to serve the Lord God only. This would mean enduring severe rejection and humiliation from those in power, for a higher purpose than temporal happiness and peace.

Finally finished, the GI waited for the Prisoner to respond. Jesus silently approached the old man and kissed him on the forehead. The cardinal shuttered and told the Prisoner; “Go and come no more… never, never!”


To increase freedom is to increase both struggle and personal responsibility. Satan wanted Jesus to veer off of God’s plan and protect humanity from the hunger, guilt, and the pain that comes with true freedom. According to the GI, people prefer rules and bread over freedom and painful choices. We would rather worship those who provide us with bread, miracles and power than the One who came to set us free.

The Bible Vs Abortion

The creative hand of God was at work when you were formed in your mother’s womb. He was creating your inmost being as well as your body. Listen to the Psalmist:

    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14).

This not only affirms the sanctity of human life; it also declares high praise for our Creator! And the pronouns are personal!

According to the Bible, God “hates” hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17). Certainly, no human is more innocent than a baby in the womb. The equal value of pre-born life is affirmed in Exodus where the rule is set forth that if a fighting man hits a pregnant woman and the baby is harmed, “…you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:22-24).

God actually knew us before our formation in the womb. Speaking for God, the prophet Jeremiah wrote; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5). The gospel of Luke tells us that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15). God didn’t just “know” us, He “chose” us before creation itself. Listen to the apostle Paul: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4).

So God is “pro-choice” but not in the popular lethal sense. He is the chooser and the creator of human life and He made us “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). This means we are not accidents of nature and we are more significant than amoebas.

Can I say that?

Reversing God’s choices is enormously popular in America. In 1973, the legalization of abortion on demand was enforced upon every single state in the USA. Instead of a crime, exterminating the unborn is a “right.” The death toll since then totals some 60 million babies, many of whom were aborted at taxpayer expense.

How uncreative!

Infanticide was also common in the ancient world. When Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan into Canaan, the worship of an Ammonite god named Molech was common. Molech demanded human sacrifice. This practice persisted in Israel despite the strict law stipulating, “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:21).

The fatal exposure of newborns was also common in ancient Greece and Rome. Unwanted babies were simply left in a trash heap or an isolated place and it was not considered murder if the child died naturally. Slave traders and early Christians were known to rescue exposed babies, but for very different reasons.

Today, the Democrat Party platform aggressively and unequivocally promotes legal abortion at any time, including babies partially born or born alive. Adding insult to injury, it calls for the availability of abortion “regardless of ability to pay.” In other words, taxpayers should get the bill.

As a Christian, I oppose the Democrat platform. I refuse to conform to popular brutality. Extremely rare medical emergencies putting a mother’s life on the line may constitute an exception but the fact remains that the most vulnerable human beings—babies being knitted together by God in the mother’s womb—desperately need our protection.

Five Enriching Rewards for Those Who Visit the Elderly

“Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?”

(Job 12:12)

In this life, it takes time to get your head together. That’s why older people can be a goldmine of experience and wisdom. The problem is, once they get their head on straight, their body begins to unwind.

Nursing homes and assisted living residences are filled with heads and hearts of gold. It is worth your while to visit them. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The art work is uplifting.

I have taught art history and art appreciation at the university level. I once made a living as an artist and I am an art museum hound. So what could a common nursing home have to impress an art lover like me? Easy! The art work lining the hallways at most homes for seniors are typically more aesthetically inspiring than a visit to most any modern art museum. The framed works at such homes are usually just prints, but you can count on them being as lovely as they are sensible. One can enjoy peaceful pastoral scenes, enlightened interiors, gorgeous sunrises, mother and child compositions, boys fishing with their uncle, grandparents mentoring, ships on the high seas, outdoor scenes that inspire the soul, and much more. Nursing homes tend to find art that is not at war with beauty and truth.

2. Their Patriotism is humbling.

Signs of patriotism are everywhere at most nursing homes. The residents don’t have much but you’ll still see plenty of flags, eagle artifacts, and patriotic posters. Red, white and blue are the favorite colors. This is especially true at The Idaho State Veterans Home here in Lewiston, Idaho, where I have several friends. Grateful for our heritage and our country is apparent everywhere you go. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an aged veteran struggle to rise to his feet from his wheelchair at a ceremony in which the flag is honored or the National Anthem is sung. All hats come off and all the words to the Anthem are known by heart—and I mean by heart!

3. Their deep appreciation is unrestrained.

Who doesn’t need that? When I bring my guitar, I achieve rock star status! When I bring my wife, it’s even better. I see her embraced with unfettered love as well.

4. Your religious liberty is respected.

At nursing homes and senior centers, you can pray, sing, and worship privately and publicly almost at will without objection. This separates nursing homes from most public schools, museums, stores, libraries, sports events, political rallies, office buildings, shopping malls, restaurants, police stations, and college campuses. Of course, every place has its own legitimate purpose. But I especially enjoy the high level religious liberty and ministry freedoms I experience at senior centers and nursing homes.

5. Your visits can draw you closer to true religion.

Of all the benefits, this one is the best. I realize the word “religion” turns off many culture-savvy Americans who seek spirituality instead, but true religion is downright honorable and biblical. The apostle James explained,

    “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.” (James 1:27, NIV).

So, there are tremendous aesthetic, noble, rational, personal, praiseworthy and religious reasons to visit and love the elderly. Besides all that, it’s fun! Try it! Just think: you may be so blessed as to live long enough to need visitors yourself!

How About Both?

Hiking along the Power Line at Hell’s Gate State Park near Lewiston, Idaho, my wife and I encountered an interesting couple on the trail. Mary Ellen recognized the man as a masseuse at her chiropractor’s office. After introductions, he asked my wife, “How’s your body?”

In context, it was amusing. As the conversation continued, he made this claim: “Enlightenment comes through the body, not the mind.”

I had been rather agreeable thus far, but I could only half agree with his claim. I said that enlightenment can come through both.

He disagreed. “It comes only through the body,” he reaffirmed. I backed off. We affirmed our friendly greetings and resumed our respective hikes.

I was reminded of the time I heard a “prophet” named “Bob” in Nashville, Tennessee, tell a crowd of prominent Christian musicians to: “Lose your mind for Jesus.”

Jesus actually never asked anyone to be mindless for Him but that has not stopped many from trying. After all, thinking is hard while feeling is easy.

As for the masseuse on the trail, he used a false dichotomy to make an otherwise fine point. The pursuit of enlightenment should not ignore or dismiss the human body. Sad to say, false alternatives are an extremely popular way to stifle thinking. For example, consider the following statements I have heard recently:

  • Christianity is not about church but about Jesus.
  • Learning is not about books but about experience.
  • Christians don’t go to church, they are the church.
  • Faith is not about trying harder but loving deeper.
  • Salvation is not about good works but God’s grace.

These popular phrases are rarely questioned. So let me be unpopular and ask, what about the “both” option? Consider Paul’s ability to affirm both the role of believers and God working in the salvation process:

    “[Work] out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

In the next chapter, Paul is able to root salvation fully in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and still speak of his role in pressing on to “lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (vs. 12).

Don’t miss the word “also.” Paul can actively “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vs. 14) without signaling any notion of self-salvation.

In the same letter, Paul claimed citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20) without renouncing his Roman citizenship, which he once claimed to a centurion in Jerusalem (Acts 22:25-29).

How would you respond to the following dichotomous conclusions?

  • This team is not about practice but winning championships!
  • Christianity is not about service but about character.
  • This hospital is not about medicine but health!
  • The CD is not about music but inspiration.
  • Character is not about moral living but a pure heart.

Here’s my response: “How about both?”