The Value of Life

Psalm 139:13-15 (New Living Translation)

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

By Chuck Griffin

The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, sending the regulation of abortion back to the states, has generated plenty of news the past few days.

For me, it seems like the news has come full circle. In the late 1980s, I spent some of my earliest days as a reporter covering Operation Rescue blockades of abortion clinics. These events seldom became violent, but they certainly were tense and sometimes loud, with a heavy police presence always nearby.

Even then, it wasn’t hard to grasp that the two sides were at an impasse. One group passionately argued for women’s rights, while the other group, equally passionate, argued for the rights of the unborn child. Two opposing worldviews were present, each with a very different emphasis on which life to value, the mother or the infant inside of her.

As Christians, we do not have Scripture overtly telling us, “Thou shall not abort babies.” Those of us who see life as being present and worthy of protection from the moment of conception have to rely on a broader view of what God has revealed about life.

The above verses from Psalm 139 are clearly poetic, but Scripture in all of its forms reveals truth, and these words reveal something important about God’s love for life. The God who knows when a sparrow falls also is aware of even deeper, tinier matters—the complex, rapid division of cells that align to make reality from a unique, microscopic DNA blueprint.

Even in our brokenness, with our bodies and souls damaged by sin from the start, God sees enormous potential in us as we are being made. I am glad Roe v. Wade was overturned simply because there now are new conversations to be had about the power of what is happening in those wombs.

I also need to remind myself, however, that a court cannot resolve the real problem of abortion, and state legislatures will not resolve it either, regardless of the direction they go in their lawmaking. Women mostly seek abortions because they perceive their circumstances as being  desperate. Right or wrong, they fear the future, believing the birth of the babies they carry within will irreparably harm their lives, or that the children’s lives will not be worth living.

As we go about properly fulfilling the mission of the church, we promote hope over fear. When we are effective, we move beyond words to actions very quickly. More churches need to do a better job of offering desperate women both the spiritual guidance and the resources they need, helping them to incorporate their children’s existence into a bright vision of the future.

Abortions will not end in our lifetimes. Sadly, some occur as part of a culture of callous convenience, and the hearts of those women will be much harder to reach.

We can prevent many abortions, however, simply by being the people who look at the frightened woman and the child inside her and say, “You both count. You both are valuable—you both are children of God.” And then we take action to prove what we say.

Lord, there’s so much to do in regard to abortion and many other difficult matters troubling our society. May every living Christian find his or her niche in the kingdom, going to work on your behalf. Amen.

Taking Sides

Psalm 124 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

How can we get the Lord on our side?  Is it through rigorous campaigning? Is it through generous giving?  Or could we get God on our side by belittling the other side?  These questions seem to be missing the mark.

It would be better for us to consider if we are on the Lord’s side!  Then, we would know that God is on our side.  For when we are trusting Jesus, obeying God, and following the lead of the Holy Spirit, then we are on the Lord’s side. 

Being on the Lord’s side is not always easy.  We many times will escape our enemies like a bird from the snare of the fowlers.

Enemies will attack us.  Our pasts will be brought up.  Our inconsistencies will be brought to light.  Our stumbling in the faith will be used as a weapon against us.  Thankfully, we do not need to depend upon ourselves to escape from our enemies.

The Lord’s name is our help.  The one who made heaven and earth is with us when we are attacked.  Our responsibility is to be on the Lord’s side before, during and after any attack we face.  Will we be found on the side of the Lord?

Lord, thank you for delivering us from past attacks.  It was not because of our merit that you did such work.  We have trusted you.  You have delivered us.  Thank you for being with us as we escaped.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Love, Peace, Compassion

 Isaiah 54:9-10 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

God keeps his promises.  The rainbow is still seen in the sky as a guarantee of God’s promise to not destroy life on earth by flooding the entire world.  In the days of Isaiah, that same promise was being realized.  Even though God corrected Israel and Judah, he did not wipe them off the face of the planet. 

We have times that we feel God would be justified in destroying us.  We have wronged ourselves and others, and we are confident that we have overthrown any good God has for us.  God will chastise us, for he loves us.  God the Holy Spirit makes sure we know that we have gone against the will of God.  Since we are still here on earth, we realize that we have not done the unpardonable sin.  It is by correcting us that we find God still loves us!

This world may change.  In fact, how we have lived on this planet has changed.  We do not have the same practices of living that we did hundreds of years ago.  The only constant amidst the changes of life is God.  God has steadfast love for us, no matter the style of the day.  God keeps his covenant of peace with us, even when the others of this world (political party, nations, rivals, etc.), have turned against us.  God has compassion for us through the times we feel abandoned, depressed and ready to give up.

Lord God, we sometimes feel that our situations are too much for even you!  Forgive us for confusing your ability with our ability.  Being reassured of your love, peace and compassion gets us through the changes we see in the world around us.  Because we trust you through Jesus Christ, we can live through even these days.  May our family and friends find that they too can trust you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Burnt Sacrifice

Psalm 20 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

The best cattle, sheep, and turtle doves were the material for a burnt offering (Leviticus 1).  The unblemished and best male was to be offered by the priests.  The whole of the beast was to be burned, except for the entrails.  Performing this sacrifice was a means of atonement with God.  Nothing of the animal was eaten by the one who offered the burnt sacrifice.  The aroma was said to be pleasing to the Lord.

We now know that Jesus Christ is the one by whom we have atonement.  Jesus sets things right between us and God.  We can only get to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are thankful that bulls, rams, and turtle doves are no longer necessary to please God. 

Yet we Christians call upon the Lord and say we have not heard from God.  What are we keeping back in our faith?  Are we keeping the best of who we are from God?  Do we clamp onto our best and rely on our best to get us through troubles in this life?  We may do such activities because we do not want to see our best completely burnt.

Trusting in chariots, horses, stock portfolios, trucks, job titles, or anything else, keeps us from placing our pride in the name of the Lord.  It might be time to give up the things we trust.  As we continue through Lent, our time is being spent learning to trust God.  Maybe all we can do is trust God to protect us.  Then we can be focused on God alone and trusting him.

God, we are still learning that we can trust you.  It is not our belongings, no matter how wonderful they are, that can save us.  It is by trusting Jesus that we rise and stand. May our possessions be as burnt sacrifices as we learn to depend upon you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Deliverance

Psalm 32:6-11

By John Grimm

It may be that the enticing aspect of the rapture is that we will be taken out of terrible situations.  However, God does not pick us up, sweep away the trouble, and then place us down again in the same place we had been.  It is true to say that God is our hiding place.  It is true that God keeps us while trouble is going on around us.

While God is keeping us during trouble, we hear cries of deliverance.  Other people, who also trust God, are gladly shouting praise to God.  It is possible to exult God during trouble.  We find that as God is faithful to us, we also can be faithful to him.

Can we continue to learn from the Lord the way we should go?  Can we heed his counsel, knowing God knows the very situation we are in?  As we give affirmative answers to these questions, we realize God’s steadfast love surrounds us.  Our hearts become upright as we trust God.  Then, we rejoice greatly!

Lord God, you are with us in our troubles.  You hide and preserve us.  We know that we can get through the trouble.  We praise you for enveloping us with your steadfast love as we trust in you.  You make us glad.  Thank you!  We praise you in the name of Jesus Christ for the deliverance you are giving us.  Amen.

Recognizing the Resurrection

By Chuck Griffin

Once again, I so need Easter. I remember saying something along those lines last year and rejoicing in Easter’s arrival, and I’m doubling down this year.

It’s easy to let the world distract us from our core beliefs. Fear often is the driver behind the distractions. Fear for our health, fear for our financial futures, fear that our lives, or even our churches, won’t be exactly the way we’ve spent years imagining them. So we spend our time working, saving and planning, hoping to manipulate circumstances as best we can. What little time we have to spare we devote to “recreation,” except we seldom spend that time actually re-creating our frantic selves.

The resurrection is the cure. The resurrected Jesus was able to say “fear not” repeatedly for a reason.

Blessedly, April arrives tomorrow, and Easter Sunday is April 17, starting a season of celebration built around the resurrection. Here’s a basic challenge for us all: Let’s once again recognize the resurrection as a very real and powerful event, one that changes everything else.

Try this each morning until we reach April 17. When you first arise, say out loud, “Easter is coming, and I have hope.”

Not all in church have fully absorbed the reality of the resurrection. In a prior appointment, I once had a woman enter my office to tell me she and her husband were resigning their memberships. Naturally, I asked why.

“It’s because of the way you preach about the resurrection,” she said. I pressed further, and she went on to say that they saw the resurrection as a sort of fable (my word, not hers), one designed to help people understand they have hope. “You talk about it as if it really happened!”

All I could say was, “Well, yeah! Christ’s resurrection is the foundation for what we believe. If Jesus Christ didn’t defeat death and come out of the tomb remade, our faith is meaningless.” Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 15:14.

They didn’t stay in that local church, but a sound definition of the resurrection remained, and people who joined after the couple’s departure said they appreciated clear words about this key event impacting our lives.

This year, let’s recommit ourselves to a solid understanding of the transformative power of a very real resurrection. Now, I’m not saying we should rush early into Easter. First, we need to experience the remainder of Lent, Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, so we appreciate the sacrifice that makes Christ’s resurrection, and our own, possible.

Let’s be sure, however, that we all play a part in making Easter 2022 very real and very glorious, celebrating like a people full of hope and eternal life.

Lord, lead us through the dark and somber days remaining in Lent, and show us the great light of Easter.

A Widow’s Trust

2 Kings 4:1-7 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

Can we trust one another?  Can we trust God when times are lean? 

These questions come to mind when we read about a prophet’s widow and her two children.  Yes, there are times that husbands die and the family cannot pay a creditor.  Yes, there are creditors who do not care about the situation. 

It is the prophet Elisha who conveys the trust for the widow.  She trusted him to find a way forward for her and her children.  This miracle of the oil could come only from God.  By speaking what could only come from God, Elisha shows the amount of trust the widow could have.  We need not know how much olive oil that was poured into the borrowed vessels.  We need only to know that all the debts were paid and the widow, with her children, could live on the rest.

We can trust God for our lives.  It is by depending upon the Lord that we can live.  When we believe in Jesus Christ, our life becomes an abundant life.  Maybe our situations are not like this widow’s situation.  Are we willing to trust a prophet today?  Are we willing to trust God when we are deep in debt?  Are we willing to trust God when a loved one dies? 

It could be that we learn to fear the Lord, like the deceased prophet had done. 

God, our lives can end unexpectedly.  Our families can be left owing much to creditors.  Increase our faith now so we can trust you like the widow did.  May our fearing of you strengthen as we see how trustworthy you are.  In the name of Jesus Christ, may we find the abundant life you have for us.  Amen.

A Prayer of Faith

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer's;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

By Chuck Griffin

Monday, we looked at how the prophet Habakkuk wrestled with his era’s version of the problem of evil, the questions that arise about God when bad people seem to prosper. The context was very different from our own—God’s chosen people were overrun by brutal conquerors—but the frustration and confusion expressed by the prophet were similar to what we might experience today.

We stopped at Habakkuk 2:1, the point where the prophet took a stand, seemingly demanding answers.

And God answered. Rooting the vision he offered Habakkuk in a seemingly distant but certain end to the divine plan, God asserted that the “righteous shall live by faithfulness.” He also assured Habakkuk that our perception of right and wrong is correct. Those who build wealth out of their own strength and corruption, making idols of objects in this world, will fail, although the patience of the righteous will be required.

It was enough to launch Habakkuk into prayer. We might even say song, as the third chapter has embedded in it instructions that there be musical accompaniment.

Habakkuk shows us the right attitude to maintain, even when the answers aren’t at first satisfying. He declared the greatness of God, poetically recounting the actions of the one who is clearly over all creation.

And even in pain, with all around him seeming lost, the prophet made it clear that God would continue to be worthy of honor and worship. “I will take joy in the God of my salvation,” he said (3:18).

How blessed are we that we have seen so much of God’s great plan play out! With the coming of Christ, we see how the cross marks the end of sin and death, even if we must wait patiently for Christ’s work to come to full fruition.

We will tread the high places.

Dear Lord, when we experience our own times of woe, help us to have the faith and perseverance of Habakkuk, trusting in the end of your plan to come. Amen.

Surely, Surely

Isaiah 12:2 (NRSV)
Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.

By Chuck Griffin

I often default toward using longer texts in these devotions, especially if I can chase meaning in a well-developed Bible story. But sometimes a single verse offers us so much, drawing us into a more meditative place.

The first word is enough to dwell on for a while. “Surely.” Other translations go with “behold,” as if the certainty of the salvation being declared is visibly before the prophet, or another positive affirmation like “indeed.” Did Isaiah have a full vision of Jesus Christ?

How powerfully can I affirm that salvation is mine? Does my conviction rise and fall with my circumstances? Do I stand like an oak or bend like a reed?

How often does fear creep in?

Our faith is strongest, of course, when a being untainted by sin places it in us. The power to do anything, even believe, flows first from God. Faith should never involve a struggle; instead, it is an ongoing surrender.

Take time today to settle into this one verse, and see what it says to you.

Lord, wash over us so our faith never fails. Amen.