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Thursday, February 23, 2012
Stark words. Sobering words. Penetrating words. Helpful words.
The ashes remind us of the shortness of life. "What is your life but a vapor? It appears for a little while and then vanishes away" remarks St. James (4.14). If life is so brief, what is truly important? The ashes make us prioritize.
The ashes remind us of our humble origins. From the dust of the earth the Lord God made man. For all our mighty deeds and wondrous accomplishments, we are still dust - and our God knows it (Psalm 103.14). The ashes keep us humble.
The ashes remind us of our uncleanness. Like the prophet, we remember that we are unclean among an unclean people (Isaiah 6.5). All our best deeds amount to filthy rags (Isaiah 64.6). The soot on the face is only indicative of the filth that so often lurks beneath the surface. The ashes keep us penitent.
The ashes remind us of God's mercy and the incredible possibility. Though we are but a vapor, though our lives are no stronger than dust, and though we walk among uncleanness, our God is gracious. He offers the hope of eternal life. He strengthens our frame by His Holy Spirit. He cleanses us through the blood of Jesus. We can be renewed, and our repentance is the beginning of that renewal. The ashes give us hope.
May God's grace be with us all during this Lent - may our homes and hearts be cleansed and made fit for the presence of the risen Lord Jesus!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Recently on a Sunday morning talk show in the United Kingdom, a shockingly horrific statement was made by so-called “advice columnist,” Virginia Ironside. The topic was covering a question about whether or not abortion could be considered a “kindness”. Other than apparently having some kind of advice following, I do not know the credentials of Ms. Ironside to speak on ethical issues. Nevertheless, she certainly considered herself authoritative and dived into the discussion with this argument:
“If a baby’s going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother… If I were the mother of a suffering child – I mean a deeply suffering child – I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face… My feeling of horror at suffering is much greater than my feeling of getting rid of a couple of cells because suffering can go on for years… If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would.” (You can see the whole thing here.)
We can be thankful that with that kind of horrific ambiguity, Ms. Ironside is not writing laws or determining cases before the court. One is left wondering exactly what kind of suffering Ms. Ironside would think worthy of murder. (Is she speaking only of abortion or post-natal existence as well? Should we limit it to a physical pain scale? How about the emotional distress of a teenager who had a bad prom date?)
Much of Virginia Ironside’s thinking on this subject should be attacked and dismantled. For the sake of brevity, I will address what is the foundational problem. Ms. Ironside’s argument is a logical outworking of a world-view in which God has been removed. Without the presence of a loving Creator, humans are left to determine life and death issues according to their own personal preference and whim. The sacredness of human life is swept aside in favor of a human nature that is essentially, “a couple of cells.”
In this worldview without God, the question of authority becomes one of power. Who makes these decisions for suffering children? The mother. Why? Because she is the only one with enough “might” in the situation to determine the course of action. Consequently what is exposed is that as a mother, Ms. Ironside would murder her suffering child not for the sake of the child, but because of her own “feeling of horror at suffering.” To put it another frightful way: “Your suffering severely distresses me. Since I am stronger, I will put a murderous end to that distress.”
We could go on, but the point is clear: without the presence of a loving, life-giving, governing Creator, humans are left without direction in the matters of greatest importance. Confusion on the very nature of life and authority ensues. Darkness shrouds the human existence making human purpose nothing more than to comfortably pass through life – and woe to you if you cannot comfortably pass through life for we will put a stop to your life!
As sickened as we might by Virginia Ironside, we must admit that she does not stand alone. Many others share her view – even some with governmental and social influence. Their ideas are the logical results of a worldview cut loose from the moorings of a Triune God. Ms. Ironside’s horror is a small taste of the challenges we face in our work of ministry in this world today.
Part of our purpose at Messenger College is to develop strong Christian minds who can engage these issues. We are called by God to shape Christian leaders who in spiritual maturity and power will grapple with the poisonous deception of our age and proclaim the truth revealed in Jesus Christ. This is and always has been God’s answer to a world gone mad. Pray with us that we will succeed in shaping the leaders who will carry God’s redemption into this mess, for with His power even this chaos can arise in new creation!