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Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

Is Suicide Unpardonable?

6 Apr

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” Of course, the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, age 27, has spurred this post. Is suicide ever justified?

I am saddened about the death of Matthew Warren, and I am dedicated to praying for the family. I hope you are also.

Furthermore, let us make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, and making certain to state our love in words and by actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point.

The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddle with chemical imbalances, at time. We also live in a world that clamors for our lives. There is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose.

I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into suicidal thoughts. I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause destructive thoughts and irrational behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or clinical depression. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously. There is the reality that the brain is affected by biology and chemistry, and emotions and the brain are connected.

When these connections line up and negative emotions emerge from angry moods and language of destruction, we all must listen. However, what happens when we are all blindsided by irrational acts?

Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for conversational purposes.

First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such?

Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is sure death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide?

Third, is it possible for a person to be in such a state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? Alternatively, is suicide a cheap way out of problems, purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic?
We struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction. Yet, if we trace the family history, it seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on.

I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might fit as reasons. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not.

This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and eternality.

Additional issues for concern:

(1) How is killing others the same, or different from killing self?

(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?

(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot ask for forgiveness after the fact?

(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?

(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?

(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or allows one into heaven?

I do not pretend to know everything, and I am neither a medical doctor nor a psychiatrist. Nevertheless, I have opinions. I shared some of mine. Now, I would like to know yours!

Doubters, Dreamers, People of Faith

4 Jan

Dreamers think of the “wonders and excitement of the opportunity, yet rarely act.”

Doubters begin to mount a list of “Why I can’t,” quickly dashing the notion of things most often quite probable.

People of Faith weigh dreams and doubt, sometimes over-analyze, make a decision, and then thank God for the direction.

When situations arise that present those marvelous and unique opportunities in life, we have to take personal inventory.  We must consider whether we are stuck in the “I just can’t” mode.  We must also consider whether our past choices and disappointments speak too loudly for us to even consider a choice by faith?  Consider that we only go around once in this lifetime and it begs the question, “How many opportunities do I have left to seize those moments?  I am curious about the reader.  So, let me ask you:  What is YOUR first response to new opportunities that come your way?  And what is your ultimate response to the same opportunities?

I would like to go on record as saying we should never make decisions based in fear, or doubt.  Neither should decisions be made by faith only, without using the God-given reason and common-sense, with which we were born.  But there are those unconventional moments, when the world is screaming “No, don’t!”  Those moments aside for a bit, here are a few things I remind myself about decision-making:

  • Making a decision by faith is not accomplished by a strong feeling
  • Stepping out in faith is seldom blind
  • There are promptings, assurances, confirmations, and definite affirmations for us to take another step, then another, and so on.

COMMON SENSE

Never in my life has God said, “Go ahead jump off that cliff unprepared, and I’ll bail you out.”  He has bailed me out of some dumb decisions I have made, but He never encouraged me to make a dumb decision.  He has led to some unconventional decisions and, in retrospect, I see clearly the reasons why.  Jumping off a cliff with a parachute is a bold move, but it is also a move that incorporates the common sense with which God graced us.

The difference between dumb choice and unconventional opportunity is found in the overall purpose and outcomes.  Usually, the former is about the individual and long-term insight is lacking.  Whereas, with unconventional opportunities, the focus in the purpose, but the medium through which the accomplish the purpose might take some special kind of action.  Personally, I have been at the junctures of both.

When it comes to the really big decisions in life, the life or career-changing decisions, I have found that direction and leading had been underway in my life, long before the big decisions occurred.  The decision is just the mechanism to move things along–the “yes button” that, when pushed, sets God’s will and our will in alignment.  I do make state lightly that I believe God is an integral part of the decisions–both prior, in the midst of, and afterwards.

GRACED WITH CHOICES

God allows us to choose, and He is often gracious to allow us second and third opportunities if we make mistakes, “or jump the gun,” as it were.  He knows us well.  Yet, there comes a time when a window of opportunity closes.  It is at those times I ask myself whether I missed the opportunity, did something wrong to forfeit the opportunity, or whether it was simply not meant for me.  Here is where I take consolation in considering God has at least three answers to prayers:  “No, Yes, and Not Now!”

Have you ever sought God’s direction and came to the conclusion that He replied “No,” or “Not now!”  I have been there before.

BABY-BOOMERS

We Baby Boomers feel way too young to be sedentary and irrelevant.  We are just a bit old enough to think about retirement, but we still have lots of zest and vigor left to both work and play.  Yet, many of us have thought about those big life-altering dreams–the “WHAT-IFS!”  I wanted to play professional soccer in the worst way.  I asked God what He wanted for my life and then a knee injury took away the drive for professional sports, at least for a time.  My focus and passion became education after that.

ARE WE AFRAID?

Dare I say, many of us are stuck in the ruts of life’s routines and comforts.  Another issue is the economy, where most of us are settling for what we already have, versus the unknown and what we would give up.  So where does this leave us?  Where does the conclusion, already drawn in our minds, place us in the grander scheme of our lives?  We wouldn’t want to hurt our families just for a selfish dream, would we?

For some of us we are left with unfulfilled lifelong dreams and goals.  Some of these have been voided do to unexpected health and family concerns.  For others, it is just too late to start over.  Still, others, are fearful of branching out, and find all sorts of excuses to stay put.  Those of us in the latter camp make me wonder “What are you waiting for?”  Easier said than done, I understand.

LIKE OUR PARENTS?

There is some truth that we are becoming more like our parents everyday.  The really disappointing part is that they have regrets about life and so will we, it seems.  Maybe regrets are simply a realistic part of life.  Could it be that we humans dream things into reality in our thoughts, and are disappointed that our thoughts weren’t as powerful as we “imagined” them to be?  I think there is some truth to this.

WALKING BY FAITH

A few of us seem to escape ourselves and reach that pinnacle of life’s experiences by choosing faith.  Examples of these kinds of persons are found in the Bible.  Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and other Old Testament saints–including Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to walk by faith.

Our children have their futures ahead of them.  They look to us for guidance.  Where is it that “we” look?  And what do they see in us when they peer in our direction?  I am still working out these issues, and I am probably not alone.  Bit I am moving more toward faith than apathy.

When it is all said and done, I think most of our dreams are youthful and unrealistic desires–some even bordering on the lusty things of life, hence material and fleshly objects.  We all grow up and our dreams and goals change.  They also shift from “self” to “others,” which is definitely not a bad thing at all.  After all, love does change throughout the years, even if priorities do change.  Somehow, the word “vicarious” takes on entirely new dimensions and different meanings with the passage of time.

MAKING AN EFFORT

Instead of thinking, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do this or that,”  I have a novel idea.  Why not band together and state, “While I am still able, I will choose to do this, or that.”  Rather than live by “if statements,” let us make realistic plans and goals and strive for them.  Goals do not have to be life-changing.  They can be just as fun if they are routine-changing.

So, Boomers, what are we waiting for?  It has been said about our generation that we have given this nation a lot for which to be thankful.  It has also be said about us that we stumbled along in life, at times, seemingly aimless, self-absorbed, and fearful of getting old.

We have been accused of plowing through relationships, burying ourselves in work, and after the kids are raised we ask “What’s left for me?”  Honestly, what I have found is that it is quite difficult to stumble through life if we are spending time on our knees seeking direction.

Care to join me?  It might be time for that “Yes” answer from above!

People Come and People Go, But Persons Last Forever

31 Dec

The title of this blog might come across as redundant to some.  But it is not meant to be redundant.  I enjoy parsing words and drawing out certain distinctions.  Therefore, I draw a distinction between “people,” the actual humans that cross my path each and every day, and the impacts their actual “being” has upon my life.

Certainly, in some ways most everyone we come in contact with leaves an impression upon us.  Some are quick; some are lasting.  Others are fleeting.  But impressions, however memorable, usually do not mature into deep and lasting connections, or interpersonal legacies.  Allow me to elaborate.

Aside from the obvious eternal dimension, to which “remaining forever” often refers, there is something else to personhood in my mind.  It has been said that very few people cross our paths in life, with whom we find deep and soulful connections.  Whether it is the persons tone of voice, interests, passion, jovial nature, or spiritual depth, we find there is something quite deep that ties humans together.  In addition to the eternal realm, this is in the vicinity of what I mean when I say that “persons last forever.”

Hyperbole aside, no one lasts forever in the state in which we presently find ourselves.  However, not having gone on into eternity as of yet, and to exaggerate the point, we use our lives are the only forever we know.  This is just how we roll.  Therefore, someone who impacts my life is deep and meaningful ways remains “forever.”

Now, who exactly leaves such an impact in my life, and who does not?  You can relax.  There will be no specific names mentioned, with the exception of my wife, kids, and family–as well as my students, my church family, and my friends, both online and in the flesh.

Consistency and stability are hallmarks of deep relationships with loved ones.  Certainly, love takes many forms.  I think there is little disagreement that personhood is unique.  What I understand clearly is that close friends have a different depth with me, usually formed around an interest, or a passion about life or work, or some other area that complements my family.  People come into our lives for many reasons, and friends may be lifelong, or maybe last only in the short term.  I’d like to believe each had a divine appointment for just the right length of time.  What we do with the appointment is the “good stuff” and the stuff of human drama, at times.  But we take it and roll with it, don’t we?

People come and people go.  We all make choices and we all eventually realize the consequences of these choices.  Sometimes our choices are what make people go away.  Persons come into our lives to enable our growth.  They also come into our lives to knock us around and bring us down.  Whatever the case, we learn lessons from people.  But the real lessons that change lives are best learned from the “persons” in our lives.

Here is an example, so that the reader doesn’t think I have somehow lost my crackers.  Let’s say one of my students has an issue at home, and asks for assistance.  I do my best to assist.  The parents are thankful.  My student finds a solution and life goes on.  To the family and the student, I might have been the “person,” they needed at that moment.  But when the year is over, they and I move on.  The years roll on.

Students come and go, yet to some, what we teachers have done remains in their person, helping still to mold their character and their lives.  Unfortunately, there are some students who slip in for a year, remain under the radar, and whose lives simply move on into the future.  These are the people in life.

I guess what I am saying is that when people become “persons,” there is a connection beyond what is required.  This person-to-person connection is what remains.  It consists of more than an influence, or a few memories.  The connection is life-changing.  This is the same with God.  When there is a personal relationship with Him, “persons” last forever, eternally.

On a more personal note, the saddest part of all of this is when people exit my life.  Death is the worst.  But I am not referring to death.  Try as I might, I find it quite difficult to accept that people simply leave and are never heard from again.  I wonder if I messed up, or whether I offended someone, or whether there was no connection due to some sort of shortcoming in myself.  I have to admit that missing out on a connection cuts several ways.  But I ceased taking such wonderment beyond the cognitive realm.

We won’t connect with everyone in this life, certainly not everyone will desire such a “forever” connection with us.  To be honest, not every connection turns out to be a healthy one.  We are, after all, only human.

There are a couple of things I have learned over the years, and permit me to share these revelations with you.  First, I have found that connections that are based in negativity, abuse, or founded in a set of emotionally bad circumstances are probably not the healthiest of connections and will not last once a person finds his or her way out of the negativity.  Connections are meant to enhance, and not to subtract.

Second, try as we might, we simply have to allow the natural course of disconnection to occur.  Some people come into our lives for shorter periods than we would like.  So, allowing the presence of the people to dissipate, might just enhance the person’s legacy and lasting connection in our lives.  So, we need to learn to let go.  It is, after all, quite healthy for all parties.

There have been many people whose lives have crossed paths with mine.  I have had the privilege of working with thousands upon thousands, and my words both audibly and in print have touched a million or more.  Of this group, how many have I had deep connections with?  In addition to my family, there is probably a dozen, or two.  The number of people I have influenced is hopefully much greater.  But those who will remain forever . . . I am still wondering.  There is more life yet to live.

Yes, people come and people go.  God is good that way.  If we take the one as from Him, why not accept the other as within this same goodness package?  I am learning to do this better and better, with each passing year.  I suppose it will never be easy and the pain of letting go will be as real next year, as it is today.  But being open to the next set of deeper connections is one reason I exist.  That being said, I truly believe that connections last forever, because within the connections are “persons.”

May 2012 find us coming to terms with the differences between people in our lives and those who are there for deeper and lasting reasons?  May God help us to see those whom He has brought our way?  Finally, may we have the courage to let go of those negative and damaging people.  It is healthy for us and for them.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Here’s to Everyone’s Health . . .

November 22, 1963

26 Jan

“In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity.”  (C. S. Lewis, Answers to Questions on Christianity)

There are some dates in history that are so etched in human minds.  They are as imprinted as a front page.  They are etched as in stone.  They are each unforgettable in their own right.

November 22, 1963 is a date I will never forget.  As a 7-year old, I can still recall where I was on that fateful day.  I vividly recall my grandmother’s weeping and hysteria.  For some reason, I remember Walter Cronkite, CBS News, and all the images that poured forth from Dealy Plaza.  It was a terrible day for our nation.

The words of John F. Kennedy still resonate in our culture, some 47 years later.  “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  Kennedy also said, “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”  Rhetoric has a way of finding its niche amongst the quotations amassed across history.  Kennedy could surely turn a phrase.  One of my personal favorites is “Geography has made us neighbors.  History has made us friends.  Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.  Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

Another man who left us on November 22, 1963 was Clive Staples Lewis, philosopher, author, professor.  One man’s death occupied the front page of every newspaper in the world.  Another man’s death was a sidebar, tucked away newspapers’ later sections.  Memories about people and things are very important.  However, what lasts beyond people and things are legacies.  Legacies beyond elected office.  Legacies beyond politics and power.  Messages are embedded in legacies.  One need not be a world leader to have either a legacy or a message. 

There is no doubt that Kennedy and Lewis had timely messages for their generations.  However, as JFK has slipped into the distant memories of an era long-gone, it is Lewis whose message holds consistent.  From Narnia to Abolition of Man to Mere Christianity to the Four loves, Lewis’s writing are still touching generations.  One does not need to be front and center, as if larger in death than in life.  One just needs to “be.”  Lewis was AND is . . . There is a certain ubiquity to the works of this apologist.

Some of my favorite quotes of Lewis are: 

  • “100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.” (The Weight of Glory)
  • “This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”  (The Case for Christianity
  • “Who can endure a doctrine which would allow only dentists to say whether our teeth were aching, only cobblers to say whether our shoes hurt us, and only governments to tell us whether we were being well-governed?”  (A Preface to Paradise Lost
  • “Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment.”  (The Problem of Pain)
  • “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”  (Mere Christianity)

Sometimes words that are printed, or carved, seem immortal.  But what is truly immortal in these words are their meanings.  Truth has no originator and no finisher.  Truth just is.  The discrepancies are how truth is appropriated and applied.  Misapplication of truth does not invalidate truth, much like a bad driver does not invalidate transportation.  (EZ)

Two men, of equal humanity, of unequal destiny, made their marks on history.  One left the earth by violence and that event still haunts many today.  The other man left in a peaceful, quiet way.  Both left legacies . . . one political and temporal, the other philosophical and always contemporary. 

Yes, there are some dates in history that are so etched in human minds.  They are imprinted as a front page.  They are etched as in stone.  They are each unforgettable in their own right.  Life is a product, not a sum-game.  Legacies are exponential when grounded in truth. 

11-22-63

Mankind’s Greatest Achievement?

20 Jan

Here we are!  We have reached a new decade in the twenty-first century.  We humans are so accomplished.  Or are we?  The answer to this last question would depend upon whom we were listening to at the time.

Technologically, we have reached the moon, sent probes deep into space, mapped human and animal DNA, invented all sorts of things–including wireless audio and visual communications, and organ transplants.  Everywhere, we see medical advancements, scientific breakthroughs, and life’s longevity seems greater than it ever has been in the United States.  We are a nation of “haves” and we like it this way.

Whether communication, transportation, education, medicine, exploration, and data-information, the United States seems to have ownership of so very much of the world’s capabilities and resources.  We are now competing with China and other Asian nations for global economic and political status.  Yet, for all of this achievements, we still fall woefully short of the greatest human achievement of all.  But like good and productive humans, we plod along as if progress outweighs reality.

Matthew 16:26 offers us this query by Jesus, “For what will a man be profited if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?  or what will a man give in exchange for his own soul?” 

That is a great couple of questions.  The questions cause us to ponder the contrast of how far we humans are willing to go for ourselves, without even giving pause to the deepest part that comprises us all.  Again, we plod along as if the human soul is not the greatest of all concerns.

We live in an age of the ethic of retaliation and political correctness.  We promote individual over common good.  We have confused what it means to love, and the biblical moorings of this love in relationships and marriage.  All of us have fallen short and we will continue to do so, as long as we are alive.  But for all of our accomplishments, so-called, we have yet to achieve the very thing sought by most:  Immortality and Youth.

Despite the fact that immortality and youth are not ours for the keeping, we still try to achieve them.  How many products and spas can you name?  What about this treatment of the body, or that application to the flesh?  We strive to keep what we have, knowing that it is first-of-all, not ours for the keeping, and second, there is nothing we can do about it.  Still we strive.

Man’s greatest achievement is not in the body.  It is in the soul.  For if man’s greatest achievement is the body, then it might appear logical that death is the ultimate achievement, since it happens to us all, in its own way and own time.  Ironically, what is thought as mankind’s greatest achievement, immortality, is not achievable by mankind at all.  He needs the assistance of the One who conquered this whole issue.

I think you know where I am headed with this blog.  Religion is man’s attempt to find immortality on his own.  Relationship with God is the reality that God connected with us.  The two are very different, and the latter is quite exclusive.  It comes down to either man’s attempts, or God’s accomplishments.  Which one places our souls in good hands?

Realistically, we have learned to swim under water like fish, learned to fly through the air like birds, and we have explored the heavenlies like angels.  But we have yet learned to walk the earth as mankind should.  Essentially, we think accomplishments count as points in some sort of “Look at all I did,” system.  Put another way, “What would it profit a person if he scored the highest on every test imaginable, died with the highest intellect, and cured the most diseases, and owned the most toys?”  Isn’t he still dead?  What about the soul?  Since death is the great equalizer, where is the profit then?

There is a lot of truth in this, my friends.  Often, truth is bypassed in life by those who practice the philosophy that truth is made by mankind.  I would only offer this:  If something is “truth” then it will not change during life and after death.  That’s the kind of reliability I’d prefer to trust.

May we continue to learn to walk in relationship with the Almighty, and in the newness of the opportunities of each day.  The spiritual truth is this:  In losing ourselves to God, we find ourselves.

“He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake, shall find it.”  (Matthew 10:39)

Christian Ethics and Choices

30 Oct

The following survey questions were written with the Christian in mind, and are part of my larger lesson on “Christian Ethics and Choices.”  A fully informed choice is the responsibility of us all.  Ignorance can lead us into all sorts of choices that, at first, seem the only way to decide an issue.  However, the choice measured by “truth,” is the most informed choice.  But do we desire such choices?  Therein exists accountability morally, as well as spiritually and physically.  In a culture that seeks quick decisions and easy answers, I do not believe we always take the necessary time to find the best answers for our choices.  The question is out there . . . What is God’s role in our choices?

As Christians, we are called to live by different standards than those who are not believers.  Society glorifies individual “choice,” and the believer is called to glorify God.  There is serious biblical tension in trying to accomplish both. 

If truth is unchanging, and not subjective to relative changes in culture, then it is lasting beyond each generation, and serves as a measure for all generations.  There are “truths” that each of us live by.  But what are the ultimate principles that are unaffected by belief, or practice?  This remains to be seen.  Welcome to my lesson . . . [smiling].

Feel free to respond to any or all of the 13 questions that follow,  and let me know what you think.  I am not collecting data from this survey.  That is reserved for in-person activity.  Your answers are strictly for blog dialogue.

TRUE or FALSE

_____  1.  Life has value because society has added to its value.

_____  2.  It is morally wrong for a Christian to believe in abortion.

_____  3.  Human life begins at conception.

_____  4.  Being human implies personhood.

_____  5.  Human beings are eternal beings.

_____  6.  Abortion is always sin.

_____  7.  Personhood begins at conception.

_____  8.  There was a time when the Son was not God.

_____  9.  A Christian should have a choice over how he or she dies.

_____ 10.  If a Christian commits suicide he or she will still go to heaven.

_____ 11.  Physician-assisted aid in dying is sometimes the right thing to do.

_____ 12.  God has a plan for our lives and deaths.

_____ 13.  Abortion is murder.

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