Articles


Here are some articles that I hope you find helpful.
 

Articles

  1. What does the Bible say about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

    Proverbs 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

    Infertility is a growing problem. Data from the 2004 US Census Bureau estimates that 2.23% of the population or 6,585,654 people are infertile. Perhaps a more realistic view is a 7% prevalence rate of infertility for couples trying to conceive for two years. This grows to 8.5% if measured after one year1. The infertility rate seems to be increasing.

    The choices range from giving up to trying a procedure such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in which sperm and eggs are combined outside the womb with the hope that fertilization will occur and then these embryos will be inserted into a womb where they will grow to a normal, healthy birth. Due to infertility in one of the spouses sometimes the sperm or the eggs must be donated.

    So what should a Christian couple who is struggling to have a child do? In several instances I have been consulted by Christian couples who were having problems conceiving. These couples can easily find themselves conflicted, depressed, humiliated, angry, and withdrawn. Unfortunately most Christians that are offering advice to these couples are woefully unstudied on the subject and often offer nothing more than their own overbearing opinions. The emotions on both sides can be intense, dogmatic, and hypercritical. I have seen friendships destroyed because of this subject.

    Obviously, the Bible does not directly address IVF since the technology did not exist when it was written. Therefore, to determine if IVF is considered moral (i.e., right, Biblical, in God’s will) or immoral (wrong, un-Biblical, out of God’s will) we must examine what might be close examples or principals. However, because of the lack of a direct command or passage addressing this issue we must be careful not to go beyond the bounds of what the Bible does say especially by pre-biasing with our own opinions.

    To be honest up front, this article takes the stand that IVF is a viable option that does not violate Biblical principles.

    Let us first examine arguments against IVF.

    Arguments against IVF and responses

    “The embryos which are created will be destroyed and so that is murder.”

    ChristiaNet.com found that 88% of its members believe that life begins at conception2. Another poll3 reported that 59% of all people believe that life begins at conception. Therefore most people believe that embryos which are destroyed are murdered. However, if the embryos are not destroyed but are donated so that they can help another infertile couple then this argument is not valid. Just because some embryos are destroyed does not mean that; therefore, all embryos not used immediately will be destroyed. To argue this is wrong simply because this is not true. There are a number of organizations that make unused embryos available for other couples. One is Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program.

    Nor is it valid to argue that because some people and clinics destroy their unused embryos that it; therefore, wrong to create any embryos through IVF. Because some music is wrong should we, therefore, ban all music? Because some people drive recklessly and kill people should all driving be deemed immoral? If we banned everything that has been abused then there would not be much left. The solution to abuses of IVF is not an extreme, unbending dogma but rather to work to ensure that such abuses are avoided.

    Also, if some embryos that are implanted do not ultimately produce children then it does not mean that they were murdered. It is estimated that around 25% of all natural pregnancies end in miscarriage. So whether conceived naturally or through IVF some embryos do not survive. “Having a child through IVF is selfish” There is nothing unbiblical about desiring to have a child. Rather, throughout the Bible there is the indication that God wants women to bear children.

    “There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.” – Exodus 22:26

    “You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle.” – Deuteronomy 7:14

    “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!” – Psalm 113:9

    “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman," says the LORD.” – Isaiah 54:1, Galatians 4:27

    What is the evidence that people who have children naturally are selfless but people who have children through IVF are selfish? This is an artificial and judgmental argument with no evidence. What about poor people who naturally have many children just so that when the children are old enough they can be sent out to work to bring money into the family? Is that not selfish? What about people who have children just so that they can be like everyone else? Or people who have children just so that they can pass on the family name or so that they can get more money from the government?

    Selfishness is an attitude, not a method.

    “Having a child through IVF can be idolatrous”

    This argument is stated on the internet4 by the following:

    "And for the Christian there is an even deeper challenge to face. If your desire for a child is so great that nothing is allowed to stand in the way of it, then you have exalted that desire above God. ‘Give me a child or I die’ is a fundamentally godless attitude. It is the same as to say, ‘My whole good is wrapped up in my having a child. My life has no meaning, and there can be for me no happiness without one.’ But when we say that, we have exalted the wanted child to the place in our affections only God may rightly enjoy. Our whole good is wrapped up in God and His will for us, not in our own notions of what is good for us.”

    This argument has clearly created a straw man. It is assuming these extreme attitudes are prevalent in all infertile couples who use IVF. Most infertile Christian couples would not say any of the following:

  2. “I want a child so badly that nothing will stand in the way of it, even God” For example, the overwhelming majority of Christian men will not hire another man to have sex with his wife if that is what it takes for her to get pregnant.
  3. “Give me a child or I die.” This is quoted from Genesis 30:1, yet how many women today actually say or believe this? If all avenues fail then there is grief but not suicide.
  4. “My whole good is wrapped up in having a child.” More likely the attitude is, “A child would bring me much joy and be a recipient of my love, but he/she is not the end-all of my happiness. Yes, I might feel emptier without a child but there are a lot of other things in life.” It is rarely, if ever, an all or nothing attitude.
  5. “My life has no meaning… without one.” How many Christians actually believe that without a child their lives are meaningless?

  6. It is easy to see how this writer created the most extreme attitudes possible, attributed them to all couples who are considering IVF, and then proceeded to show how sinful they are so that we should conclude that IVF is wrong.

    Why does a couple who buys lots of ovulation kits and thermometers and has sex at all hours and times to try to hit maximum ovulation not fall into the same category as being idolatrous because they are doing everything that they can to have a child? It is because the real argument that is being presented is claiming that these attitudes will only exist in a couple attempting IVF? Why this argument is false is because the problem is not method but attitude and that can be good or bad regardless of method. It can easily be argued that many couples who want to have a child through IVF are more selfless, humble, and righteous than many couples who have children naturally. ‘Those who use IVF are not trusting God” Those who advocate this argument should then look someone with malignant cancer in the eyes and tell them to forego treatment and “trust God.” Do the people who advocate this argument always trust God for their finances or do they seek better jobs? Do they throw away their clocks and watches and trust God to guide them throughout the day or do they keep track of time?

    Is there any verse in the Bible that states that infertile women should simply trust God and do nothing else about it?

    Actually God in the Bible from beginning to end tells people to do something to accomplish a purpose rather than to simply pray and do nothing or very little. When Moses stood at the Red Sea with the Israelites when the Egyptians were pursuing them he said, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14) What was God’s response in the very next verse? Did God approve of this seemingly great show of faith? No. God rebuked Moses and said, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” God wanted them to take action; He wanted them to move and to go forward.

    There are many instances in the Bible where God had people do something unconventional in order to accomplish something supernatural. To retrieve the axe head that fell into the water Elisha had to first throw in a stick (2 Kings 6:1-7). Naaman had to dip seven times in the Jordan River to cleanse himself of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). To get the stronger goats and sheep to be striped, speckled, and spotted, Jacob put fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees out (Genesis 30:25-43). Elijah divided the waters of the Jordan by striking the river with his mantle (2 Kings 2:8). And the list goes on. It is likely that nothing miraculous would have occurred in any of these situations if the people merely sat around and prayed. It was only when they took action, no matter how seemingly incongruous, did God then work. Trusting God is not synonymous with doing nothing, but rather with taking action.

    James 1:27

    Somewhat incredibility even James 1:27 has been presented as a verse against IVF: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

    This verse categorically has nothing to do with issue of surrogacy, IVF, or conception. It is merely stating that we should especially help those who have nothing to give back to us and two clear examples of these types of people are orphans and widows. This is similar to Matthew 25: 36, 43 where Jesus instructs us to help the helpless. In neither of these passages is conception in mind and to force it into these Scriptures is to do injustice to the context.

    This verse in the original Greek literally reads, “religion Clean and undefiled before God and Father this is, visit orphans and widows in the affliction of them, unspotted himself to keep from the world.” – The Interlinear Bible.

    Is this verse addressing priorities?

    Nowhere in the Greek does this verse indicate any sense of priority. It does not say, “first visit orphans and widows.” It is merely stating that we should visit orphans and widows but not necessarily before anyone else. Matthew 25:43 states, “I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'” No one claims that this verse commands that we should consider strangers, the naked, the sick, and prisoners before any other group of people (including perhaps orphans and widows?) so why should we apply the same logic to James 1:27?

    Furthermore, to present the argument that James 1:27 is stating that we should give our attention first to orphans and widows rather than to conceiving children through IVF also allows that exact same argument to apply to children born through sex. If we should not have children born through IVF because we need to take care of orphans first then we should, likewise, not have children born through sex until we have first taken care of orphans and widows. The contention that we should take care of orphans first and not have children through IVF is arguing priority and not method of conception, neither of which this verse addresses.

    Does this verse have any sense of negation?

    For this verse to have a sense of negation it would read something like “visit orphans and widows instead of…” The Greek contains no sense of this.

    Therefore, this Scripture does not place one group of people (orphans and widows) over any other group (such as children conceived through IVF).

    “Those who are infertile should accept it as God’s will”

    Do we condemn the person who has cancer to accept it as God’s will and not seek treatment? Do we quote Hebrews 9:27, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” at these cancer patients and tell them that it is God’s will for them to die and cancer is His method to end their lives? Why is it morally ethical for a Christian to seek the best and most modern treatments to cure a disease such as cancer but is forbidden to do the same when the disease is infertility? Both are physical or physiological based problems. Unless the cause of either is obvious (smoking causing cancer or an abortion causing infertility) I would be very hesitant to attribute either condition to sin.

    Christians like everyone else do things to better their lives. They move into better neighborhoods, buy better houses, get better jobs, go on better vacations, etc. So why when someone who is infertile wants to have a child and better herself she is forbidden to do so? Is this not hypocritical?

    It is presumptuous to assume that because someone is infertile that therefore it is God’s will for them to never have children. Where does the Bible ever state this? Should we never use life-saving methods on someone who is dying because that is artificially keeping them alive? If someone breaks their leg then should we assume that God wants them to limp for the rest of their life? If someone’s house is destroyed then should we assume that God wants them to live monastically and never own a house again? So why is infertility different? Does the Bible classify it as different or is that merely man’s opinion?

    In fact, God warns against classifying things as wrong that are not stated as such in the Bible. “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” – Colossians 2:21-23. In this passage God warns against setting up decrees that negate actions outside of what the Bible states. They may appear wise but really are the man-made. Does teaching against IVF possibly fall into this category?

    Another Scripture along these same lines is Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

    We tread on hypocrisy and presumption when we use circumstances to emphatically state God’s will especially when applying it to the lives of others. Many times in the Bible God put an obstacle in the path of someone and only when they kept going did He bless them (see Israel and the Red Sea, the paralytic who was lowered through the roof, the Shunammite woman’s dead son, etc). Why must we accept infertility as God’s will and just give up? If the paralytic, blind men, lepers all just presumed that their condition was God’s will to accept and did nothing about it then we would not have the miracle stories in the Bible and they would have died paralyzed, blind, and leprous.

    Arguments for IVF

    Surrogacy and Israel (Jacob), Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, and Rachel

    Israel (Jacob) had two wives and each of those wives had a handmaiden. All four of them had children by Israel as follows:

  7. Leah (elder wife): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun
  8. Bilhah (Rachel’s slave): Dan, Naphtali
  9. Zilpah (Leah’s slave): Gad, Asher
  10. Rachel (younger wife): Joseph, Benjamin

  11. From Israel’s children came the twelve tribes of Israel.

    Of the twelve children born to Israel four were by surrogates. That leaves eight children born to his two wives. It is important to note that there are not eight tribes of Israel; there are twelve. God included the four from the surrogates just as equally as the eight from the wives. God did not consider them to be illegitimate and sinful and cast them aside. Instead, He blessed them equally. In fact, in Genesis 49 Israel blesses three of the four children born to the surrogates (Naphtali, Gad, and Asher) so they were included equally in the blessings.

    There are many lists of the Twelve Tribes in the Bible and there are some differences. For example, some versions add Ephraim and Manasseh while eliminating two of the originals. However, every list in the Bible contains Simeon, Judah, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin. Notice of the eight that are in every list three of them are the child born to the surrogates.

    Two Bible passages help illustrate the equality of the twelve sons. Genesis 48:4 states, “and He said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.'” Since each of twelve tribes inherited the land they were all equally considered Israel’s descendants; there was no distinction between those from his wives and those from the surrogates.

    The second passage is Genesis 33:5. “He [Esau] lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, ‘Who are these with you?’ So he [Jacob] said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’” Esau saw all of Jacob’s (Israel’s) children and asked who they were. Jacob’s response was that they were “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Jacob made no distinction between the children born from his wives versus those born from the surrogates; they were all from God.

    The conclusion is that of the twelve children of Israel the four from surrogates were treated as equally as the children from the wives in blessings and as being the heads of the tribes.

    Psalm 127:3

    “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”

    This Scripture tells us that God considers all children to be a gift (some translations read “blessing”) from Him. Reading this verse carefully, the only two prerequisites to qualify as this gift is that the child is human and was born from a womb. IVF meets both of these prerequisites.

    Should you want to argue that the word “fruit” is referring to eggs rather than the result of the womb (birth) and so disqualifies IVF then examine other similar verses that use the word “fruit” in this same manner.

    Deuteronomy 7:13, “"He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.” Ground does not produce eggs, plants produce seeds that are buried in the ground and then sprout forth out of the ground. The “fruit of your ground” is what comes forth from the ground even though the seed is produced elsewhere.

    Deuteronomy 28:4, “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.” This follows the same reasoning as for Deuteronomy 7:13.

    Jesus’ birth

    Technically, Jesus was not genetically related to his father.

    Psalm 113:9

    “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!”

    This Scripture does not say that this woman was barren because of sin. Nor does it say that she should have accepted her condition and remained barren. It does not hint at condemnation or judgment. But it does give us a command. Lest we forget, when God gives children to those who are struggling to have children our response, as God commands, should be to “Praise the LORD!”

    Conclusion

    I believe that based on Scripture no one can definitely claim that the Bible commands against IVF nor do I believe that it even implies that IVF is wrong.

    I believe that the Bible indicates that God approves of it as a means to overcome a tragic situation and to bless a couple with children. IVF does not usurp God since it is still in His sovereign providence whether or not a woman becomes pregnant. When a couple is given the gift of a child by God I believe that our response should not be to judge based on man’s opinions but to agree with the psalmist and “Praise the LORD!”

    A Final Question

    Should an unmarried woman use IVF to get pregnant?


    Obviously the best situation for a child to be born into is a married couple with a solid, loving foundation. However, “best” does not preclude everything else and make everything else wrong.

    The only Scriptural situation that possibly touches on this is Mary. She was impregnated by a method that was apart from normal sex (she was still a virgin after the act was completed) and the father of her baby was someone other than her (soon to be) husband. There are two interesting aspects of this.

    First, she was not married when this occurred. God impregnated an unmarried woman. You may try to argue that in those times engagement was more than engagement is now and was actually closer to a marriage commitment. But even if that is true the actual fact remains that she was unmarried. Whether she was close to married is not relevant; the fact is that when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary she was not married. Of course since God is omniscient (all knowing), He knew that she was going to marry Joseph and so would not be a single mother, but once again that does not alter the fact that while she was unmarried she was impregnated. Therefore, no one can say that an unmarried woman being impregnated apart from sex is wrong; otherwise, God would have sinned.

    Second, though the Bible does not address what eventually happened to Joseph most commentators believe that he died sometime between Jesus’ teen years and when He was crucified. God knew this. If, and we do not know this, Joseph died when Jesus was still a teen then God knew that Mary would have to raise Him as a single parent and He had no problem with that.

    This situation does not, of course, give full endorsement of unmarried women becoming pregnant using IVF, but it does indicate that it is not necessarily wrong.

    References:

    1 “Reproductive Infertility: Prevalence, Causes, Trends and Treatments”, Parliamentary Research Branch, Library of Parliament, PRB 00-32B, http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/EB-e/prb0032-e.pdf.
    2 http://www.lifenews.com/nat2870.html
    3 WND/Zogby - http://www.zogby.com/soundbites/ReadClips.cfm?ID=18208
    4 http://eis.net.au/~paulh/ei3hp.htm


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  12. Participating in the Bible


        Why does the Bible contain so many stories and why are they so powerful? One reason is because they call us to participate. They ask us either to walk in the shoes of one of the characters or at least to engage in some aspect of what is occurring.

        Very few of us can completely relate to the paralytic who is carried around on a makeshift stretcher in Mark 2. But probably all of us can connect to some element such as his fear, his sense of hopelessness, his coming to Jesus with hesitant expectations, or his unforgiveness. Instead, we may be one of his friends: we are those who are always bringing the afflicted to Jesus for spiritual or emotional strength. We are someone whom others often rely on. Or we see ourselves in the crowd watching God doing something great.

        Rules tell us to obey; stories ask us to participate. When we read a story we do more than intellectually comprehend the events; we involve our emotions and our spirit. This is why the Bible is not merely a book of lists or commandments. God does not simply want us to obey Him (although that is certainly true) but He also wants us to participate with Him in righteousness and in glorifying Himself. Matthew 28:19-20 starts with a command, “"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,” but ends with participation, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

        God does not merely tell us that we have a sin nature; He gives us the story of Adam and Eve and says, “Do you see yourself there?” He does not just tell us that He died for our sins; He vividly relates the crown of thorns, the mockings, and the nails being driven in His hands and asks, “Do you realize that it was just as much your hand that held that hammer?” And instead of simply saying, “And Jesus rose bodily from the dead and is alive forevermore,” He cooks fish on a beach (John 21) and asks us to sit on the driftwood and eat that fish and know that it is real. We see the nail holes with Thomas; we rejoice with the widow whose son Elijah raised from the dead.

        God wants more than church members. This is why He refers to us as brothers and sisters and as sons and daughters. We are the bride of Christ. And what does He ask us to call Him? Is it King, Most Sovereign Creator, Most High and Holy One? He is all of these things, but what He asks us to call Him is “Abba! Father!”

        The Bible is not a book of rules; it is a book about relationships. Reading about Joseph we can say, “Yes, I too have been treated badly by family. But God is faithful.” In Paul we might relate to his persecution but, again, God is always there. We might see ourselves in impetuous Peter or confused Ruth or frustrated Moses. We know that these were not cardboard characters. They were not sketches. They were real people, in real situation, with a real God. And we can participate with them and ultimately know that God is with us also and always.

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  13. The Mulberry Tree

       
    Published in Alive Now, (November – December 2005), pages 6-9

        For several years I struggled with anger and bitterness. Someone whom I had considered to be a close friend had betrayed me and did not even care about the effect that it had on me. I fumed about what had happened, played it over and over until that spot in my mind almost wore out, and finally concluded that his being swallowed by an earthquake (a not unbiblical concept) was far too quick for my satisfaction. I knew that this was not good for me, but I could not let it go. That is, until I realized that more truthfully it was that I did not want to let it go. He had sinned against me but the bigger problem now was my sin of unforgiveness. I needed to release myself from this sin. But how? – How could I forgive?

        There is a large tree in my backyard and I built a bench that encircles it. Oftentimes I take my Bible and books out there and study God’s word. I turned to Luke 17 where the disciples cried out in verse 5, “Increase our faith!” What did they feel was so impossible to do? In verses 1 – 4 Jesus told them that they need to always forgive—even the multiple offender. “Increase my faith!” 

        His response is in verse 6, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” The tree that is mentioned here is probably the black mulberry. The rabbis thought that its roots could remain in the ground for 600 years. Clearly, this was something that had dug itself down deep and would be hard to move. That seemed very familiar. But what did Jesus say that was needed to move it? A hundred men with ropes? A giant bulldozer? A sharp axe, a shovel and about 100 years? No, I just needed something as small as a mustard seed. What Jesus is emphasizing here is that in order to forgive, my faith does not have to be great; it just has to be genuine and to have its foundation in a great God.

        This was not a case of “Let go and let God” but rather was quite the opposite. I had to decide that I needed and wanted to do what was right. I first had to want to forgive (not see him suffer, not want him to feel the same hurt as me, not that he better think twice about hurting me again) and also I needed to fervently pray for the power of God to forgive. The first was a matter of repentance; the second was believing a promise.

        2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” Notice how many words denoting completeness or fulfillment Paul uses in this one verse: “all grace,” “abound,” “always having,” “all sufficiency,” “in everything,” “an abundance,” “every good deed.” And, of course, it starts with the one ultimate word for completeness—“God.” So for any righteous act, because God did it first He provides me with an example and because of grace I am equipped to do it.

        As I was sitting under that large tree I was thinking how hurt can dig its roots deep into my life and it may even feel like its been there for 600 years. And it may feel as though there is nothing that I can do to extract those roots from out of my heart and my thoughts. But Jesus says that it only takes the smallest amount of faith to do this. And you know what? This gives hope. I can, by the grace of God, forgive anyone; no matter how deep, no matter how long it has been there. I need to pray, “God, give me the desire to forgive. Give me the power to forgive.” I can forgive others the way that God forgives me. And when I do this my life turns from bondage to freedom.

        Finally after I closed up all of my books I thought about how Jesus said that the mulberry tree is cast into the sea and I pictured this drama. And then the verse in Micah 7:19 came to mind, “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

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  14. Seeing Jesus Christ through the Dust


        God used two intertwined opposites to draw me to Himself. One was a real situation: I asked a woman out for a date and she turned me down. The other was imagined consequences: no woman will ever want to go out with me, my friends will snicker behind my back, I’ll always be a loser. Because of what “could be” I got depressed and asked my college roommate, who was a Christian, if I could go to church with him that coming Sunday. The rejection was the trigger but the driving force that pushed me to God was what I thought might happen.

        How we respond to our anticipations and possibilities is oftentimes more visceral than the realities that surround us. They can elbow their way past what actually occurred and fill the room with their conceived scenarios and stories.

        God wired us to respond more deeply and broadly to stories than to naked facts. Yes, a fact can change our lives: Jesus Christ died to pay for my sins. But a vivid story wraps itself around us and does not let go for days, sometimes even for a lifetime. “My time is near… One of you will betray Me… My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me… Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy… Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists… Crucify Him!... They came to a place called Golgotha… It was the third hour when they crucified Him… The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing… And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” This story draws us to a Person. We can see Jesus with blood and dirt caked on His lips as He stumbles while carrying the cross, we reach out and grab His arm, we feel His flesh in our trembling hand, and we look into His watery eyes when He turns His head to see who touched Him. In the comfort of our room we shudder and breathe heavily. We are more than convicted, we are affected. This is what stories can do. Our minds lift us beyond rock hard facts and plunge us into swirling waters of creation and then demands that we respond.

        Who, Christian and non-Christian, does not recognize “The Good Samaritan” or “The Prodigal Son”? Both fictitious and yet so powerful that they have permeated the world.

        God gives us Jesus Christ through the Gospels. He does not want us to see these stories from the top of a building but from the dust of its streets.

        As we share the Good News we should do more than introduce facts in a multi-step presentation. We should introduce the person of Jesus Christ through story and how He changed our own lives. We need more than words that will fall dull and empty; we want to create pictures that will penetrate and spark recognition both with self and with God.

        Eventually I did marry and now have two daughters and I learned that no one in God is a loser. But what God used most to bring me to Himself was contrasting my own created despair with the vivid reality of the One who walked and died and rose alive.

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  15. God's Preparation

     

    Everything was about to take off in my life. I started going to a good church. I had an interview for a dream job the next week and over the weekend I was going to propose marriage. I could easily envision the next ten years of my life.

    I did not get the job and my proposal was turned down.

    Many times throughout our lives we have good and godly desires. They may be to have a spouse and children, to run a useful ministry, to utilize some talent of ours for God’s glory, or maybe something else. But then we hit some terrible obstacle and our hopes are crushed and our emotions are slammed to the ground and shattered.

                The first half of Proverbs 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” That word “sick” in the Hebrew means, “to severely wound,” “ to afflict,” “to become weak.” So you can say that “hope deferred severely wounds me and makes me weak.”

    This is where I was. I felt lost. Have we all not been there—maybe even now?

    A well known scripture is John 12:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This verse illustrates a Biblical principle; that of “Birth of a godly desire,” “Death of that desire,” and “Supernatural fulfillment and great outpouring.” We can see several examples in the Bible.

     

     

    Birth of a vision

    Death of a vision

    Supernatural fulfillment

    Time of Waiting

    Abraham was given a vision of being the father of a great nation.

    Sarah, his wife, was barren and became too old to have children.

    God gave Abraham and Sarah a son, who was Isaac, in their old age who became the father of a great nation.

    25 years

    Joseph had a vision that he would be a great leader and that many would bow down to him.

    Joseph’s brothers sold him to merchants, then he became a slave, and finally a prisoner in a dungeon.

    God allowed Joseph to interpret the dreams of two fellow prisoners and the king. He was ultimately made a ruler in the land.

    13 years

    Moses had a vision of leading his people out of the bondage of Egypt.

    Moses was driven out of Egypt and away from his people.

    God gave Moses great signs that forced Pharaoh to let Moses take the Israelites out of Egypt and eventually to Canaan.

    40 years

    The disciples of Jesus had a vision of the Romans being overthrown and the kingdom of God set up.

    Jesus was killed.

    God raised Jesus from the dead and the Holy Spirit came and the Gospel went out into the world.

    3 days

    A grain of wheat has a “vision” of growing up and bearing much fruit.

    The grain dies in the ground.

    A harvest springs up from this process of death.

    Weeks or months

     

    God wants us to persevere during these times of death and discouragement. But why is there even a need for this death of hope?

    One important reason is to prepare us for God blessings. But this is not so much to prepare us to be able to receive it, but to prepare us so that we will be able to give even more after we receive it.

    God wants us to be a giving people. He gives us an ocean of blessings so that we might be a river of blessings to others.

    James 4:3 reads, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” And what is that wrong motive?

    ·        Is it because you want to show off how much you have? No.

    ·        Is it because you already have some and you want to hoard? No.

    The wrong motive is “so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” You want to keep and not to give; you are focused on what you want and not on what other people need.

    There is an interesting verse in 2 Chronicles 32:25. The context is that Hezekiah was sick and he asked God to be healed and God answered his prayer. It says, “But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.”

    Hezekiah’s pride was the cause of God’s wrath and the symptom was that he kept for himself all of the blessings that he received.

    God wants to fill our lives with a tremendous abundance. Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.” But what is the condition here? Give.

    If you give, you will have so much blessing that it will pour out of your heart and into your lap.

                That valley in my life opened my eyes to see the struggles of others. I started a Christian Singles ministry, became involved in outreach, and learned to seek out and fulfill the needs of others. Twenty years later I married a wonderful woman and four years after that we were blessed with twin daughters.

    Sometimes, when that godly desire has been crushed, it may be so that we can become more like Christ, who gave Himself completely. It may be to teach us to consider others as more important than ourselves.

    Give. Then your light will shine out of the darkness and your gloom will become like midday.


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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: bob@disciplescorner.com