Tag Archives: Jesus

Life

In a place where new souls see the world for the first time, I expected a more positive attitude towards life.

I did not expect the first question upon admitting a laboring woman to be, “What kind of birth control do you want after you deliver?”

I did not expect the doctor to sweetly and gently suggest, “Well, the IUD lasts longer and you don’t have to keep coming back for a shot.”

I did not expect the nurse to condemn women for getting pregnant after a C-section.

I did not expect the mom who was about to lose the baby conceived with an IUD in place to request another IUD.

I did not expect to hear a labor nurse say disdainfully, “I don’t understand why these women with young kids get pregnant again.”

(I had similar musings last time I was working here.)

While I think many of these attitudes are common across the country, I can’t help but wonder if part of the attitudes are due to the fact that I’m working at a public hospital, largely serving low income populations.  The notion that we can “solve poverty” by stopping the procreation of poor people is an old one – certainly dating to Margaret Sanger and the founding of Planned Parenthood, continuing through Nazi Germany, and now showing up in even the most respectable Melinda Gates*.  I think the devil would like nothing more than for this horrible notion – killing people we perceive as problems – to become normal, sanitized, and out-of-sight.  How can something be bad when our doctors or our cultural heroes recommend it to us as normal?

Walking through the US Holocaust Memorial Museum recently, I was stunned by how familiar so much of Hitler’s pre-war propaganda sounded.  Like the evil Dr. Zola stated in Captain America: Winter Soldier, “HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom.  What we did not realize was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist.   The war taught us much.  Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.”  The things Hitler forced on people – sterilization, death to those who are disabled – we in America ask for now!  “Please give me a vasectomy.”  “You must give me free birth control.”  “My fetus might have Down’s syndrome – kill it.”

Killing the disabled or the people of the wrong race is (rightly) abhorrent to us when they are adults; we all reject what was done in the Nazi concentration camps.  However, when we kill them young or prevent their birth entirely, using “nice,” distancing words like terminate, or abort, or contracept, we don’t have to see what we’re doing.  Their tiny bodies get whisked away by the doctor and we don’t have to stare at the piles of bodies we’ve accumulated.  In the U.S., the babies killed since Roe v. Wade number over 57 million, and the number prevented from being born due to sterilization or birth control is uncountable.  The people killed by Hitler number “just” 11 million.  I think the devil fights for the holocaust of abortion to stay hidden, forgettable.

I recently watched this stellar speech by Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor.  Her testimony – her life! – brings the ugliness and injustice of abortion into the light.  Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service responded to this shocking tale by stating that there are now laws in place to prevent such a sad story, referring to the replacement of saline abortions with other abortion procedures that are more difficult to survive. She seems to be saying, “This was a terribly uncomfortable speech.  Thankfully, we have laws now that will ensure we kill all people who could grow up and give similar speeches in the future.”

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the US, and the 41st March for Life.  Remember.

If you label yourself pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-sterilization, or pro-artificial birth control, please continue to read, research, listen, and learn.  If you are a Christian, pray that God would open your heart to the truth, no matter how uncomfortable (I do the same).

As I sit here in Obstetrics, I’m reminded that the solution is not simply, “Love babies more” or “Make abortion illegal.”  The solution to this problem, as with all problems, is Jesus.  Everything is broken; He is the remedy.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

* To be clear, limiting family size due to health concerns, financial concerns, etc. is totally acceptable and sometimes good – but the God-honoring and spouse-honoring way to do so is to abstain from that-which-leads-to-children, not to kill the children.  The recent much-taken-out-of-context comments by Pope Francis explain this.

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Everything is Broken

Everything is Broken.  The Gospel is the Remedy.

I saw that phrase a while back in an ad in Christianity Today.  I know nothing about the book it’s advertising, but I can’t get the phrase out of my head.  There are a lot of issues in the world right now that I have opinions about, and the temptation is to join the Facebook or blogging fray and say, “I know how to fix it.”

I want to say that marital love and Natural Family Planning is the answer to the abortion epidemic (actually, I think this is an answer to a lot of problems).

I want to say that voting the right person into office is the solution to our political problems.

I want to say that an affordable complete blood count and a steady supply of gloves is the solution to the Ebola outbreak.

The list goes on.  Syria.  IraqDown’s Syndrome.  Same-sex marriage.  The hook-up culture.  A culture* of death.

I still think that NFP, good leadership, affordable technologies, etc. will help solve these problems.  However, I am more and more and more reminded that they are not the answer.

The Bible and the news teach us that the world is broken.  I’m not convinced that it’s getting more broken recently (the Corinthians, for example, struggled with quite a bit…), but it sure feels like it sometimes.

However, the Bible also tells us two things:

1) Jesus is the world’s remedy.

The Creator God saw that the people He loved had broken His world.  Instead of leaving us to it, He entered it as one of us and took the punishment – death – to redeem each of us and the world He gave us.  Jesus’s sacrifice is for everything.

2) Jesus is the world’s only remedy.

God’s Word teaches us that there are laws that, if followed, make life better.  However, they don’t touch the root problem: sin leading to death.  Obeying those laws, voting the “right” person into office, opening ourselves to life, or donating money to disease research or refugee relief treats the symptoms but not the cause of the world’s brokenness.  It’s like putting cortizone cream on chicken pox or taking NyQuill for a cold or taking Tylenol for malaria – the treatment might stop the itching, the sniffling, or the fever, but the illness remains.  So with our worldly problems.  We can help – and we should help – by doing things mentioned above.  But they’re not the answer.  Jesus is the only remedy that solves the problem.

His death on the cross takes the punishment for the whole world, rescuing us from the death we deserve and allowing creation to return to a right relationship to God.  His way is the only way.

We’re in an “already and not yet” state right now – the debt has already been paid and the world redeemed, but Jesus has not yet returned to bring everything to completion.  There’s still time for us poor sinners to recognize that He is the only remedy to our deepest problem.

Everything is broken.  But, take heart!  The Gospel is the remedy.

*Note – I link to this video to show an example of the underlying culture of death and how quietly it can slip in, not to say I agree with the right to self-murder.  (The other links are responses against the brokenness of the world.)

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Scattered Thoughts: West Nile, Already and Not Yet, and Death

Two of my favorite lectures ever have concerned the idea of already/not yet or the “overlapping of the ages.”  Basically, before Jesus, the Jews conceived of two ages: the Present Age and the Age to Come, which were two distinct ages separated by the resurrection of the dead.

Once Christ came, died, and was raised, things got confusing.  He had brought the Age to Come (characterized by Life, Glory, Power, etc) into the Present Age, where things like sickness and sin were still happening.  And, he promised that he was the “first fruits” of the resurrection of the dead – that we would follow him.  He had Already brought his kingdom to earth (“The kingdom of heaven is at hand”), but it is Not Yet fully realized (“Thy kingdom come”).  It will be realized when he returns. We live in that in between time – the overlap of the present age and the age to come, where we face sickness, sin, and death, but live with the kingdom power of God, too.

Here’s a diagram:

(This is a woefully inadequate description of a beautiful idea.  If you know of good resources where this is explained better, please list them in the comments.)

Assorted thoughts from the most recent lecture I heard on this topic:

  • This is a good framework for understanding my body’s tension with West Nile: already healed (no antibodies, which means I’m not fighting the virus anymore) and not yet healed (fatigued and in pain).  I can see the grander cosmic already/not yet tension through the smaller lens of my body’s already/not yet tension with West Nile.
  • This lecture was discussing already/not yet to get to an idea that Paul might be read as an apocalyptic author.  The strange thing about reading a New Testament author as compared to a traditional Jewish apocalypse (apocalypse means revelation) is that now God’s apocalypse has come – His revelation is Jesus.
  • The NT often talks about the end being near, and we sometimes struggle with how to interpret that.  Possibly, they were looking at previous history.  All these hundreds and thousands of years, the Jews had been waiting for prophecies to be fulfilled.  With the coming of Jesus, all the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled.  So, there was nothing left to wait for!  And if there’s nothing left to wait for, you must be at the end.
  • The Corinthians seem to have expected Paul to be a strong, powerful ambassador of the age to come.  But, he says

    But we [we apostles?] have this treasure [the gifts and power that go with the Age to Come, like healing] in jars of clay [our weak selves], to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 [brackets mine]

    He’s essentially saying, “No no no, that’s not the point. It’s better for us to show you that our weak selves, products of the present age, are receiving God’s gifts from the Age to Come.  It’s not our power – it’s all God’s.

  • Let me paste that quote again:

    10 …always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, SO THAT the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, SO THAT the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

James Dunn wrote, “…Only when believers are fully one with Christ in his death will it be possible for them to be fully one with Christ in his resurrection.”

I’m not really sure how to write why those two quotes struck me so.  I’d also just read the passage in Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian passes through the river (death) and emerges, shedding his mortal stuff so that he will be able to enter the Celestial City.  Something about how death is a thing that God uses to sanctify us.  It’s not just that you’ve reached the end of your life and it’s over so we call it Death; it’s a thing.  And, for the Christian, it’s a powerful thing that God uses to make us holy and draw us to him.

And, Paul says he’s always carrying Jesus’s death in his body SO THAT the life of Jesus may be manifested.  I understand this to mean that, because Paul is weak, whatever strength Christ gives him shines forth.  
Later in 2 Corinthians he writes that God said, “…my power is made perfect in weakness.”  That’s a good reminder for me (and others) as I live in the “not yet” reality of weakness and sickness.

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Paradox

Merry, merry Christmas.
Do you realize what a bizarre thing we celebrate?

God is born.
The Eternal has entered time.
The Immortal is now mortal.

The Creator of the known universe and beyond now rests in a stable on a tiny planet.
The Author of language and meaning itself can now only cry.
The Entity that requires nothing now lives off of a virgin’s milk.
The King of Kings now sleeps where cows eat.
The One who can cross universes with a step now must be carried.
The God without form now has a circulatory system.

And He does it for us: the only Sinless One will soon become sin itself to save the poor creatures He loves. God’s incarnation gives us a God who has known everything we know and a God who has defeated every trouble we face.

What a beautiful, wonderful paradox:
God is born!

Jesus, even though you come as a tiny baby, our entire world rests on Your shoulders. I still marvel that it pleases you to wish you a happy birthday, but without it we have nothing. Thank you. Happy birthday, Jesus.

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Jesus is Everything

I’m new to a group of graduate Christians.  The whole group (of about 15) meets once a week for worship, study, and prayer. It’s so very different from what I’m used to, but God is using it to teach me so much more than the stated goals of our study. Here’s one lesson.

A sweet girl named Aarti shared part of her story the first week I attended. She met the Lord (I love her phrasing) when she came over to America for college. Her Indian family remains Hindu. She has the sweetest heart and the most fervent prayers.

Last week, Jizhou shared part of his story. He also became a Christian when he came to America. His parents, as late as last week, did not approve. He has such faith and knowledge about the Word.

I heard tell recently of a girl who became Christian while at a Vacation Bible School. Her new-found faith kept her strong during her parents’ divorce and inspired her younger sister.

While sitting in the group meeting, I was astonished. I mean, the Bible study was on the order of, “What struck you about this passage?” The worship songs were fine, but our 15 weakly voices weren’t full of fervor. I started to think about my experience of church, and I became sort of incredulous that these foreigners held so strongly to their faith. I mean, what pulled them toward it? What did they see in an awkward Bible study, in people wearing Christian T-shirts, in attending a sweet church but having no one to sit with? How did they learn about the Bible? What deep theological truths could they possibly have gained from, “What struck you about this passage?” other than the typical answers of , “Pray more,” “Be nice to people”? What could they have seen in Christian culture?

Then, thankfully, Jesus struck me upside the head.

They saw HIM.

Somehow, through God’s incredible grace, feeble and awkward attempts at worshiping and teaching about Him point to this person. When they truly, finally, met Him, the mediocre Bible studies didn’t matter. Everything pointed to the supreme worth of Jesus Christ. It gave these people courage to defy everything they’d been raised to believe and to stand strong when their family (sometimes violently) opposed them. It gave that young girl a Rock to stand on as her world crumbled. Excuse me, not it: I mean He.

Jesus is everything.

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Proclaiming and Healing

This should have gone in my personal statement.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
– Matthew 9:35

What do I want to do with my life? Why do I want this PhD in biomedical engineering? To follow in the footsteps of Jesus: proclaiming the gospel and healing diseases and afflictions by the power of God.

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Happy Birthday, Jesus

From last Christmas:

I was talking to God just now.
I wished Him a very happy birthday.

Then I thought, well, maybe that’s not what one says to God incarnate. I mean, He came from heaven, where all is Light and Love and Good and the angels worship Him ceaselessly. He is not bound by a body or time. Then He came down here, with animal poop and a human mom and dad. Here He faced tiredness, disease, weakness, frustration, temptation. People used Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. Then, praise the Lord, He conquered death to bring us Life. So, it seems appropriate to wish fellow humans, for whom His coming is a joyous miracle, a merry Christmas. But to tell God “Happy birthday” on the anniversary of His coming down to this, well, hell-hole? “Hey God, hope you’re having a great day-you-took-on-skin-and-muscle-to-save-the-poor-stinking-naked-critters-that-rebelled-against-you-and-disrupted-all-of-creation.” It seemed a bit odd.

But, as always, God shows me His beauty. It was a “happy” thing for Him to be born, from His perspective, too. Sure, life on earth was far from heaven, literally, but He came with Joy. He suffered with Love. He walked with Thanksgiving. It is completely wrapped up in who He is (Love) to come down as one of us poor creatures to save us all. He wanted to. He chose to. With Joy.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

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