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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.

A Christmas Baby

22 Dec

Babies have a way of finding ways into the alcoves of our souls, the very places where things are known only to God.  They crawl right up into those hidden areas and something quite miraculous happens.  Those little ones open us wide to the world, while teaching us a little more each day about God.  Think about it. Who touches us more deeply than a baby?

One baby in a room of adults reduces most of us to mere functional illiterates–and by choice!  We become entranced by the bald-headed, toothless, drooling squirmers, mesmerized by their attempts to make sense of the insensible.

I remember talking to my own children:  “You wan Dada to bwing your baba or bankie?”

I won’t go into all the baby-talk, or nicknames my wife and I had for our children.  Some of them are hilarious, to be sure.  If you are like we are, you might still find the urge to pop open one of these phrases from time-to-time, just for the sake of reaction.

There aren’t too many of us that are able to hold back baby-talk when face-to-face with a little life in our presence.  It is almost expected.  I often wonder if grown adults talk to the aged the same way.  After all, both ends of life’s continuum quite resemble each other.  But that discussion is for another time.

In the presence of babies, we sing and tell stories.  For some, these practices begin while the baby is in utero.  Regardless, we talk to them, and we pray for them.  We teach them nursery rhymes as they grow into toddlers, tell them stories of our childhood (and maybe just a bit embellished), and instruct them in right and wrong, as well as share in affection and closing prayers at bedtime.

Remember those fun days?  I am referring to the fun days before they sat on the sides of their beds and cried for no reasons at all, or got quiet when they realize as teenagers they are held accountable.  Recall the moments when we asked them, “What’s wrong,” only to hear in return, “Nothin”?  I surely remember them!  In fact, there are times I’d like to sit on the side of my own bed and cry a little for myself, these days.  It is sometimes a good thing to feel sorry for ourselves, as adults, at least for fifteen minutes, before someone asks for money, or the cell phone rings.

However, I am left to wonder: Why is it that babies bring out the best in us?

I remember their giggles, tiny dimples, gummy smiles, flailing hands and stubby toes, their splashing arms and legs during baths–capped off by their pudgy, solid, yet wrinkly feet.  All of this serves to remind us of life’s simplicities and basic human needs.  Babies also remind us of the necessity of the protection they need, their fragile states, and complete dependency.  The trust they place in adults is astounding. But they learn quickly.  Once they figure out that we are not really perfect, all things begin to change.

If you are like I am, you are torn by those early years, sometimes longing for them again–but happy also not to have to repeat those long nights, illnesses, doctors’ visits, and the like.  Have you ever wished for your children to stay little forever.  Have you ever wanted that?  Nah!  There are grandchildren for those reasons.  Right?  Babies are signals of life.  Life must move forward.  

Babies are reminders that the future is already in the “present”–and the word-play is intended.  Babies comprise the past through one’s DNA and heritage. They consume the present and they portend the future.  Babies are the miracles that are united from one sperm and one egg–gestating over time–to become the “other” us. With each birth of our children we are reminded that “WE” are with us.  We are connected and that’s that.  Here in this sophisticated new millennium we tend to place things which have the sense of the miraculous, such as child birth, into the realm of the ordinary.  Each conception brings into existence an absolutely unique entity, a person of the most distinct, individual “being.”  The truth is we are all unique and the mold is broken with each one of us. However, we have this little nature thing, with which to contend.  And therein lies the problem!

Imagine for a moment that your teenage daughter comes home one day and tells you that she is impressed in her spirit about something incredibly unique.  What if she tells you that an angel of God had told her that she was specially favored among all other young teenagers of the day?  Assume, then, that sometime later she informs you that she is pregnant, yet maintains that she was still a virgin–untouched by any man sexually.  To make matters more concerning, imagine your single, teenage daughter had been engaged to a man more than twice her age–and that the engagement was going to be broken by the man, once he discovers your daughter is pregnant.  I know, I know . . . I see your faces now.  Yet, I do think you know where I am going with this.

Philosopher Paul C. Vitz asks us to “Consider that Mary was pregnant with Jesus today.” I also ask us to do the same.  What are the chances that some of the parents of this pregnant teenage girl would shuffle her off to the local Planned Parenthood clinic?  What would her friends and contemporaries say?  Speaking as one who was conceived prior to marriage, I kind of identify with that last statement, in terms of its implications.  Know that I mean?  No, I am not claiming divinity, personally–but divinity as a delicacy–that stuff it freakin’ awesome!  (It is approaching Christmas, after all)

The prophet Isaiah (ca 800 BC) stated: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

A miracle baby son, a virgin, and the name translated to mean “God with us” (Immanuel) Hmmmm.

Most interesting.  The disciple Matthew Levi (1st century AD), the tax gatherer wrote:

“And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.  But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’  Now all this took place that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet shall be fulfilled . . .” (Matthew 1:19-24)

The Christmas holiday (derived from “holy-day”) is about the advent of Jesus, the baby, and the beginning of His earthly pilgrimage.  The birth occurred more than likely during the summer months and there was no snow.  That reminds me, what happens in Australia and Africa, during December in the Southern Hemisphere? I hope Santa’s varicosities aren’t too apparent with those pasty legs of his, filling out those speedo-like shorts.

John 1 speaks also to this event:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1; 1, 14).

This baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on reminding us of our flesh and mortality.  The baby reminds us of our beginning and the blessings we are to others.  But why do we keep Him in a manger?  Why is Christmas about Jesus as a baby only?  Is it because there is no room in the “inn of our hearts?” Maybe it reflects the reality that babies are no threat.  Babies do not challenge the way we live.

Babies are the miracle gifts in-and-of-themselves. But babies do grow up into young adults and then enter mature adulthood.  Apparently King Herod had serious fears of the baby Jesus, for he had all male children slaughtered, age-two and under.  This infanticide occurred in Bethlehem and its surrounding environs (Matthew 2:16). Herod feared all of this talk about the birth of a king, a Messiah, would diminish his sovereignty over the land. So the child Jesus and His parents went to Egypt until King Herod had died. Afterwards, they returned to their homeland.  One interesting piece of trivia from the Hebrew language is quite telling. The name “Beth-lehem,” actually means “House of Bread.” Later Jesus was given the title “Bread of life,” and communion would be taken at “the Last Supper,” to symbolize His crucified and broken body.

Part of the communion remembrance today using crackers or bread illustrates the “broken bread” of life. Who would have ever thought that the bread of life would have been born in a house of bread?  All of this is derived from the Christmas story?  Yes indeed! Another point of interest was that when the wise men came to visit Jesus, He was already a toddler. The Magi were the ones who tipped off Herod, and this was the reason for the age-2 on down slaughter of the innocents.

So, yes we celebrate the baby Jesus. But we really should be celebrating the toddler, at least in my mind.  But no toddler I know would stay in a crib.  I know my own kids did not. As far as my kids were concerned, they kept jumping out, falling on their heads, or something along those lines.  Come to think of it, that might explain a few things. Now my father’s statements to me in my youth ring more clearly.  He would ask rhetorically, “What is the matter with you?  Did you play too many football games without a helmet?” I never figured out “how many” was too many. But back to Jesus.

Some 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, his infancy still impacts the world.  While some wanted to make Him an Earthly Excellency, believers see Him as their All-Sufficiency, beginning with infancy.  The commemoration of Jesus’ birth is the real reason we celebrate the giving of “gifts” to each other.  Jesus is the ultimate gift to the world.  The reason for the season is ultimately for His pleasin’.

A second gift was given to us by the resurrected Jesus, just prior to His ascension.  Luke, the physician, records in Acts 1:3:

“. . . He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things to come . . .

He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised . . .

” Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).

The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.

During this festive season of holidays, may we Christians celebrate like never before.  We live and love like never before.  The baby has grown, lived, and He has changed the world through his death, resurrection and ascension.  Don’t you think it is time to be Christ-like in ways that show we also have left our own “Christian cribs?” My apologies to the hip-hop community.

Dear believer, let us celebrate the holiday as He is NOW in our lives. May we look back to the past, while living in the present–knowing that we have a future with Him.  May our baby-talk grow into a mature, contagious conversation, coupled with a powerful Christian walk.  May this walk evidence movement in the right direction, joined by the fruit of the Spirit.  No, I did not say fruitcake.  Unlike divinity, THAT stuff is so nasty, and is the evil twin of the yule log.

Thank you for reading! OK, where’s my egg-nog?

Feliz Navidad!

Rozhdyestvom Christovom

Buon Natale

Merry Christmas

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!

The Illegal, Criminal Trial of Jesus

28 Mar

Criminal Attorney, J. E. Ingram (1924), wrote a wonderful book analyzing the trial of Jesus Christ. The title of this book: Criminal and Illegal Trial of the Nazarene Peasant. Ingram was a criminal lawyer, practiced in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas, over 90 years ago.

Ingram’s work brings the charges against those who brought the charges against Jesus–everything from His arrest, to His questioning, and the times at which the trial proceedings occurred. I will summarize Ingram’s points in this blog, and include the laws broken by the authorities at the time. These laws will be placed in quotes, followed by their references, and a conclusion. I will begin with the initial charge levied against Jesus of Nazareth.

THE INITIAL CHARGE
The charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish authorities was that He broke Mosaic Law, and committed blasphemy against Jehovah. Furthermore, as Ingram puts it, “The criminal indictment brought against the defendant before the highest court of Roman justice, Pilate and Herod, was treason against the government of Rome and Caesar.”

I. THE ILLEGAL ARREST OF OUR SAVIOR

A. The Jewish law prohibited all proceedings by night.
B. “The testimony of an accomplice is not permissible by Rabbinic law propter affectum and propter delictum, and no man’s life, nor liberty, nor his reputation can be endangered by the malice of one who has confessed himself a criminal.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 274)
C. “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:17-18)

II. JESUS BEFORE ANNAS (CAIAPHAS) WAS ILLEGAL

A. The Jewish law prohibited all proceedings by night.
B. “Be not sole judge, for there is no sole judge but One.” (Mishna, Pirke Aboth 4:8)
C. “A principle perpetually reproduced in the Hebrew scriptures relates to the two conditions of publicity and liberty. An accused man was never subjected to private or secret examination, lest, in his perplexity, he furnish damaging testimony against himself.” (Salvador, Institutions de Moise, pp. 365-366)

III. THE INDICTMENT AGAINST JESUS WAS ILLEGAL
A. “The entire criminal procedure of the Mosaic Code rests upon four rules: certainty in the indictment; publicity in the discussion; full freedom granted to the accused; and assurance against all dangers or errors of testimony.” (Salvador, Institutions de Moise, p. 365)
B. “The Sanhedrin did not and could not originate charges; it only investigated those brought before it.” (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol 1, p. 309)
C. “The evidence of the leading witnesses constituted the charge. There was no other charge; no more formal indictment.” (Innes, The Trial of Jesus Christ, p. 41)
D. “The only prosecutors known to Talmudic criminal jurisprudence are the witnesses to the crime. Their duty is to bring the matter to the cognizance of the court, and to bear witness against the criminal. In capital cases, they are the legal executioners, as well.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 110)

IV. THE SANHEDRIN COURT PROCEEDINGS WERE ILLEGAL BECAUSE THEY WERE HELD AT NIGHT
A. “Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspend it at night.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4:1)
B. “Criminal cases can be acted upon by the various courts during the day time only.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 112)
C. The reason why a capital offense trial was not held at night because oral tradition says, “the examination of such a charge is like the diagnosing of a wound–in either case a more thorough and searching investigation can be made by daylight.” ((Maimonides, Sanhedrin III)

V. SANHEDRIN CONVENED BEFORE THE OFFERING OF THE MORNING SACRIFICE, WHICH MADE THE SANHEDRIN’S ACTIONS ILLEGAL
A. “The Sanhedrin sat from the close of the morning sacrifice to the time of the evening sacrifice.” (Talmud, Jerus, Sanhedrin I:19)
B. “No session of the court could take place before the offering of the morning sacrifice.” (Lemann, Jesus Before the Sanhedrin, p. 109)
C. “Since the morning sacrifice was offered at the dawn of the day, it was hardly possible for the Sanhedrin to assemble until the hour after that time.” (Mishna, Tamid, The Perpetual Sacrifice, 50:3)

VI. THE PROCEEDINGS WERE CONDUCTED ON THE DAY PRECEDING A JEWISH SABBATH; ALSO ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD AND THE EVE OF PASSOVER. THESE PROCEEDINGS WERE ILLEGAL.
A. “Court must not be held on the Sabbath, or any holy day.” (Betza, Chapter 5:2)
B. “They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath, nor on that of any festival.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin IV:1)
C. “No court of justice in Israel was permitted to hold sessions on the Sabbath or any of the seven biblical holidays. In cases of capital crime, no trial could be commenced on Friday or the day previous to any holiday, because it was not lawful either to adjourn such cases longer than over night, or to continue them on the Sabbath or holiday.” (Rabbi Wise, Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 67)

VII. THE TRIAL OF JESUS WAS ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT WAS CONCLUDED WITHIN ONE DAY
A. “A criminal case resulting in the acquittal of the accused may terminate the same day on which the trial began.”
B. “But if a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it can not be concluded before the following day.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4:1)

VIII. THE CONDEMNATION SENTENCE WAS PRONOUNCED AGAINST JESUS BY THE SANHEDRIN AND WAS FOUNDED UPON HIS UNCORROBORATED CONFESSION
A. “We have it as a fundamental principle of our jurisprudence that no one can bring an accusation against himself. Should a man make a confession of guilt before a legally constitutional tribunal, such confession is not to be used against him, unless properly attested by two other witnesses.” (Maimonides, Sanhedrin 4:2)
B. “Not only is self-condemnation never extorted from the defendant by means of torture, but not attempt is ever made to lead a man on to self-incrimination.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 133)

IX. THE CONDEMNATION OF JESUS WAS ILLEGAL BECAUSE THE VERDICT OF THE SANHEDRIN WAS UNANIMOUS
A. “A simultaneous and unanimous verdict of guilt rendered on the day of the trial has the effect of an acquittal.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 141)
B. “If none of the judges defend the culprit, and all pronounce him guilty, and having no defender in the court, the guilty verdict was invalid and the sentence of death could not be executed.” (Rabbi Wise, Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 74)

X. THE SENTENCE OF CONDEMNATION WAS PRONOUNCED IN A PLACE FORBIDDEN BY LAW; THE HIGH PRIEST TORE HIS CLOTHES; AND THE BALLOTING WAS IRREGULAR
A. “After leaving the hall (Gazith) no sentence of dath can be passed upon anyone soever.” (Talmud, Bab., Abodah, Tarath (Idolatry), Chapter 1:8)
B. “A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place.” (Maimonides, Sanhedrin 14)
C. “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrates to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes.” (Leviticus 21:10)
D. “And Moses aid unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar, and unto Ithamar, his sons, ‘uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people.'” (Leviticus 10:6)
E. “In ordinary cases the judges votes according to seniority, the oldest commencing; in a capital trial, the reverse order was followed. That the younger members of the Sanhedrin should not be influenced by the views or arguments of their more mature, more experienced colleagues, the junior was in these cases always the first to pronounce for or against a conviction.” (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, pp. 73-74)

XI. THE GREAT SANHEDRIN MEMBERS WERE LEGALLY DISQUALIFIED TO TRY JESUS
A. “The robe of the unfairly elected judge is to be respected not more than the blanket of the ass.” (Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims and Rules, p. 182)
B. “As Moses sat in judgment without the expectation of material reward, so also must every judge act from a sense of duty only.” (Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims and Rules, p. 177)
C. “Nor must there be on the judicial bench either a relation, or a particular friend, or an enemy of either the accused or the accuser.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 108)
D. “Nor under any circumstances was a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to occupy a position among his judges.” (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, p. 37)

XII. THE CONDEMNATION OF JESUS WAS ILLEGAL BECAUSE THE MERITS OF THE DEFENSE WERE NOT CONSIDERED
A. “Then shalt thou inquire and make search, and ask diligently.” (Deuteronomy 13:14)
B. “The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5)
C. “The primary object of the Hebrew judicial system was the render the conviction of an innocent person impossible. All the ingenuity of the Jewish legists was directed to the attainment of this end.” (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, p. 56)

CONCLUSION
Due to the enormity of this case, and the facts that are presented, the Jews broke the law down the line, in making certain to execute the Messiah. However, this was appointed from the foundations of time, that the Son of Man would be lifted up. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but Thine, Father.” The result? “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to laughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32)

Interesting Times: 2013

17 Feb

These are interesting times.  Two-thousand-thirteen has been quite eventful, thus far.  Somewhere between the words “interesting” and “eventful” lies the reality that affects us all:  Nothing in this world stays the same.

Friends retire from their lifelong vocations and press into their permanent vacations.  Others have medical issues arise and leave work, and full-time ministry.  Personal and moral issues drive a certain number into involuntary retirement way too soon.  Still others switch jobs and look for additional excitement.  Whether work or ministry, such revelations seem the pointers that guide each sunrise during the early days of this current year.

The possibility exists that many of the changes I write about are age-related, and that this is the season for change for those in question.  However, most are changing by choice, and doing so for a variety of reasons.  For example, I have lost colleagues and co-workers, pastors and friends, and sports buddies to change.  Some of these changes are conscious and weighed, others compelled by circumstances.  Even sickness and death have reared their ugly heads in 2013.  In fact, far too many of my family and friends are now ill and battling with one dreadful thing, or another.

In the midst of all of this change, so many wonderful opportunities have emerged for so many–even for many of those I reference above.  We could easily find ourselves mired in the negative aspects of life’s shortcomings.  That would be understandable.  However, in so doing, we would miss the blessings of each moment we are granted.  I use the word “granted,” for none of us are guaranteed any breaths or heartbeats.

Focusing on despair means sometimes missing out on the joys emerging, from within whatever struggles we face.  We will have them, and most of us will endure.  Those of us who are older are realizing the blessings of new family members, grandchildren, job-changes, ministry opportunities, writing ventures, and the  joy of realizing we have affected many lives for good, along the way.  I thank God for the people in my life.  Specifically, for example, I am grateful for people who decide to overlook what I do, in favor of whom I am.  Aligning these two, indeed, takes more than a life time, and is accomplished best by the Almighty.  This year the losses might be great, but we are all dispensable in this world.

I was reflecting on this very truth this past week.  My wife and I arrive at work very early each morning.  One day this week I commented, “imagine putting a sign up on your classroom door that read, ‘Mrs. Z’s classes will not meet this week.  See you next week.'”  She smiled and then laughed.  We both understand that laugh.  I then said, “You know, within 24 hours of your last day on this job, the system will continue like you never existed.  Things will change and the new students and teachers will have no idea of your life’s work.”  In her wisdom, my wife replied, “I know.  But hopefully what I do will live on in the lives  I affected.”  She is absolutely correct!

I share this brief conversation to say that we are products of the many people who left us long ago.  We are also living proof of those who left us recently, as well as emerging souls by the efforts of our contemporaries, including family and friends.  In change, and in God, there are always remnants–seeds planted–that germinate and flower through the efforts of others, later in life.  We owe much to those who gave their lives–only to be left along the trail of dusty memories.  Soon we will all be in that class, as we are mere passengers on this planet, transients, and this is not our home.  

At the sunset of one phase of our lives, where will we stand?  In the words of John the Baptist, when asked about his followers, directed all of his affection toward the Lord:  “He must increase, I must decrease.”  Therein lies the beauty of a life-in-focus, and priorities-in-line.  Life is not about my presence.  Life is about His presence in me.

The tabulation of the bottom-line for 2013 has begun.  No one knows what lies out there for any one of us.  However, I can assure you that making choices to thwart the status quo, and comfort, is what drives my passion for life.  Care to join me in the possibilities?

Open the door, God, if only for a moment . . . Walking by faith and not by sight, should get easier with age and diminished eye sight.  [smile]

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 . . .

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