Pro Life—But Not Really


I don’t normally talk politics here, but an issue facing Ohio voters illustrates for me what is most hypocritical about a wide swath of American Evangelicalism. And it’s a stupid, mindless hypocrisy at that.

Stick with me for what seems like a political tangent at the beginning of this post, because it ultimately leads into a skewering of that hypocrisy.

Ohio Issue 2 affects farmers who own animals, pushing for the creation of a state animal husbandry oversight commission comprised of in-state farming reps to ensure the humane care of farm animals. Beyond the “fox guarding the henhouse” nature of the bill, many supporters are claiming it’s a first strike to keep such control in-state, preempting similar (and possibly more draconian) measures by PETA, HSUS, or the feds.

I live in a farming area and would like to own animals some day. I have yet to see a “Vote NO on Issue 2” sign anywhere in my area, and I would suppose that’s largely because farmers around here are scared to death of anything that smacks of commie pinko environmentalists.

Sadly, Issue 2 is akin to being given a choice of which of your feet you would prefer to be shotgunned. Adding more bureaucracy, whether it comes from the state, feds, PETA, or HSUS, is really no choice at all. My choice is that all the bureaucrats would make like lemmings and find a high, oceanside cliff from which to pierce the veil. (Okay, so I’m a wee bit libertarian in that regard.)

I can easily see a future under a YES vote on Issue 2 where it would cost me thousands of state-induced “convenience fees” and a hundred pages of yearly paperwork just to own a couple goats and a half dozen chickens. Let’s be honest: Government loves getting its cut. Problem is, for small farmers like me, it’s death by a thousand cuts. The monstrosity known as agribusiness can absorb this without a blink, but I can’t—and neither can a bunch of my neighbors who have “YES on 2” signs in their front yards.

Which leads me to the question of why we need Issue 2 in the first place.

Obviously, some farmers in this state did NOT treat their animals humanely. And given that I have yet to meet an Ohio farmer who doesn’t swear some sort of allegiance to Jesus, I’ve got to believe that many of the same people who are upstanding members of their churches are also taking a blasé approach to caring for their farm animals. This holds true for nonfarmers, as a friend sent me a link to a missive circulating on Facebook wherein the conservative, homeschooling, nonfarming author talked about “dumb animals” and the stupidity of caring about their “emotional well-being.”

I am not a vegetarian. I have no ethical problems consuming food animals. I also believe that human beings, who are made in the image of God, are of infinitely more value than animals or plants. That anyone should blur those lines of value is anathema to me.

But I also get a little sick of folks, especially Christians (who should know better), who turn beet red over the issue of killing the unborn yet who seem to have no qualms despoiling Creation. Live, squished chickensHow can a person claim to be pro-life yet show so little care for nonhuman life? I mean, it makes little sense to me to sob over the killing of babies then turn around and hack to pieces a black rat snake in one’s garden for no reason other than not liking snakes. Yet I see such disregard all the time.

Maybe it’s the prevalence of hyperdispensationalism, which fosters a mentality that “it’s all gonna burn some day” and turns some Christians into abusers of Creation. “Tear down the forest and fill in the wetlands so we can make way for the Christian amusement park. Animals don’t have souls anyway, so if we kill ’em, even indiscriminately, what difference does it make? Why are all those environmental wackos up in arms about another extinct species? And who needs a rainforest anyway if Jesus is coming back to tomorrow? I mean, I just L-O-V-E the rosewood flooring on my 5,500 square foot home I share with my wife and daughter!”

Issue 2 in Ohio would have no reason to be if all “Christian” farmers treated their animals—even those destined for the dinner table—with the respect we should afford living creatures. That many didn’t pretty much ensured that someone with a more holistic view on life was going to step in sooner or later to clean up the mess. In other words, we pooped in our own sandbox and someone finally noticed. Now we’re all in trouble.

It saddens me to no end that we Christians, the ones who more than others should understand our charge to steward the Earth, are often the people who relentlessly abuse Creation. Most of us show little respect for the land, for the plants and animals that live on it. They seem to be a means to an end only, lacking any greater meaning than to fill our guts.

That’s a sad, expedient way of looking at life. All life. And it says something about how little care and the lack of thought we give to the life placed on this small globe by a loving Lord, who said:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
—Luke 12:6

If we say we are pro-life, then let us respect all life, for all life comes from God and has meaning—even if we are too self-centered to see it.

A Place for My Stuff


That’s all I want, that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody’s got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that’s your stuff, that’ll be his stuff over there. That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff!
—George Carlin

It’s been probably 25 years since I saw George Carlin on The Tonight Show do his “A Place for My Stuff” routine. And when your stuff goes bad, you find another place for it...Carson’s audience laughed hysterically, but I don’t think I laughed once. Anyone who knows me know that I spend a lot of time yucking it up, but I didn’t that night because I realized that not only was Carlin right, but he was devastatingly so. The whole routine (only a tiny portion reproduced here) cut me to the quick.

Last week, a reader surmised that I lived modestly. I don’t. I live in America. Every American reading this is in the top two or three percent of wealthiest people in the world. None of us can say we live modestly.

Okay, modestly in relation to other Americans, perhaps. But even that doesn’t mean all that much when you live in a nation geared to consumption.

The Bible has something to say about that:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
—Luke 12:16-21

I don’t know about you, but a considerable amount of my daily routine centers around my stuff. Our washing machine broke down Thursday, and it took me the better part of four hours to deal with my hopeless attempts at fixing it, followed by the inevitable call to the service center to place a service call that will cost nearly half what I paid for the washer. Some people out there would throw the seven-year-old appliance away, but I don’t want to play into that consumer game. Call me a fool, but part of being a good steward of both the things God has given me and the earth that He told me to care for is to resist leaving a trail of refuse behind me.

I tend to use things until they fall to pieces. My newest pair of casual or dress shoes is seven years old. As I type, I’m wearing the clothes I wore to church Sunday morning: eight-year-old shirt, twelve-year-old pants, fifteen-year-old socks, and eleven-year-old shoes and sweater. Needless to say, I don’t keep up with the fashion trends.

My wife’s car pushes eight, while my truck verges on fifteen. My truck had to go in the shop because a sensor said the fuel mixture was off; the drop-off in mileage proves it. The mechanic hasn’t had much luck getting the part, so the handwriting may be on the wall. I don’t know. The rest of the truck is as solid as the day I bought it.

We don’t go on vacations. My wife and I bought four oak chairs for our dining room—that accounts for all the furniture we’ve purchased as a married couple. And while our sleeper sofa needs reupholstering, we don’t lack for furniture.

In fact, we don’t lack for anything when it comes down to it. We have more in one room of our house than most of the rest of the world has in the entirety of whatever dwelling it is they live in.

And for all that stuff, we spend countless hours and dollars maintaining, insuring, and protecting. Sometimes I think there has to be a better way to live.

I think God has us in a time of pruning. I don’t know why I need all the things we have. Yet I also know many people would look at us and turn up their noses at how little we have comparatively. I know I see the newspaper ads and hear people talking about this expensive bauble and that, but little of that stuff holds any fascination for me.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article last week comparing a $100 sweater to one costing ten times as much. Despite the fact that almost everyone thought the $1000 sweater more chic, the Journal still asked the realistic question, “But is it worth $900 more?”

Meanwhile, I’m asking the even crazier question: “Who buys sweaters that cost a hundred dollars?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for buying quality. The appliances in my house are all Kenmore Elite (including the failed washer, sad to say) because at one time the extra money was worth it in terms of quality and longevity. My mother’s high-end Kenmore washer lasted thirty years. Something tells me I won’t get that from these appliances. (I’ll try to stay positive.)

Still, even when we spend more on quality, we still spend too much. We duplicate what our neighbors have instead of sharing with them. We don’t look out for our neighbor in need because it means we would have less money to buy more stuff for ourselves. We expect people to take care of their own because they have their own stuff and we have ours and never the twain shall meet, as they say.

But what if we Christians stopped with all the crazed consumption? Perhaps instead of twenty polo shirts, what if we had two? We could spend a little bit more for better quality and perhaps even buy American once in awhile. But most of all, we could learn to live on less, not because the economy stinks, but because Jesus gave everything, even His own life, so that we could get the focus off ourselves and onto others.

I guarantee you, right now, you know a family that had a medical emergency they cannot pay for and that emergency is crippling them, and not just in the pocketbook. I guarantee you, right now, there’s a family in your church with parents wondering where the next meal’s coming from. I guarantee you, right now, you know a bright kid who may never make it to college because they simply can’t afford to go. I guarantee you, right now, you know a family ready to lose their modest home because of job loss.

I can’t help but think that, for many of us, the enveloping spiritual malaise we feel may have a direct connection to being overwhelmed by all our stuff. Perhaps if we did a better job living with less, giving away our excess, and considering others better than ourselves, then maybe, just maybe, we’d feel that spiritual fire in the belly again.

We can’t take it with us. Better to give it away or forgo it altogether than have our souls crushed beneath a pile of stuff. I suspect that in saying no to accumulation, we can say yes more often to those real needs we encounter every day in the lives of the people we meet.

Maybe then we’ll find our coffers here pleasantly small and our treasure in heaven immense.


A sidenote: From time to time, I receive e-mails from people who wish to send me money as a token of gratitude for what gets posted here at Cerulean Sanctum. I appreciate those gestures and the kindness of the people involved. This blog doesn’t exist to generate money, nor do I wish to sell out to corporate interests that would alter the kind of posts you might read here. All that is by plan.

While I do appreciate that some folks would like to support me monetarily, I have two much better ways you can help:

Take whatever money you designated to send and instead spend it on a needy person you know. My wife and I know many people who have no health insurance, who are either burdened by outstanding medical debt or who cannot afford the basic medical care they need. We know people like that, so we’re sure you know someone, too. They need that money desperately. Find their address and send it to them anonymously, if possible.

On that note, just this weekend, the son of dear friends of ours was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes after a harrowing weekend in which he came close to dying. The family works with the Hispanic community in our area and operates a small ministry. An emergency room visit, intensive care, and a lengthy stay in the hospital will no doubt tap out the entirety of funds this uninsured family receives in ministry support. Obviously, this is a desperate need. If you would like to help this family defray the costs of medical care for their eleven-year-old son, e-mail me and I’ll send you their info. Donations to their ministry are tax deductible.

If a reader would like to bless me, the best way to do so would be to refer freelance writing and editing work to me. That simple act costs you nothing but allows me to help someone else with the skills God gave me and earn my keep as a workman. I can also offer a blessing in return for being blessed. Because I do quality of work, I generate repeat business and good word of mouth—a gift that keeps giving. In that, one freelancing project can grow into a great tree that produces abundant fruit.

Thank you. Have a blessed week.

100 Truths in 30 Years with Christ


'The Thinker' by Auguste RodinThis year (2007) marks my 30-year anniversary of coming to Christ. I met Him at a Lutheran camp on a confirmation retreat weekend. Even to this day, I can remember much of that evening.

I’ve kept my eyes, ears, and spirit open over that time, storing away what I’ve learned. Obviously, what I share here isn’t the sum total of all I’ve learned, just some basic truths God taught me that inform my every day.

I hope these observation get you thinking and praying. Most of all, I pray that they are a blessing that brings lasting fruit for the Kingdom. Thanks for being a reader.

In no particular order…

  1. Love God. Love people. It’s that simple.
  2. Anytime we interact with another person, we should ask the Lord, In what ways can I help this person grow closer to You?
  3. Christians who take time to observe the world around them see God and gain wisdom.
  4. The most worthy lessons of the Kingdom take the entirety of one’s life to fully learn.
  5. You are never more alone than in an unfriendly church.
  6. God could directly feed the widows and the orphans with manna from heaven, but He instead chose us in the Church to bake the bread through the resources He’s already given us and then distribute it.
  7. The world is tired of hearing Christians talk about the Gospel; they want to see it actually lived.
  8. In the end, nothing in life satisfies but Jesus.
  9. It’s a terrible indictment against men and young people in the American Church that old women are praying most of the intercessory prayers.
  10. Always lead with love. Love should precede every act we perform in the name of Christ and love should be the finale.
  11. Small home groups are fantastic for relationship-building, prayer, and sharing, but usually not the best venue for serious Bible study (especially if they’re co-ed).
  12. Admonish an adult once, perhaps twice, then turn the issue over to the Lord in prayer. Never hound people.
  13. We won’t find ourselves transformed, much less change the world, if we pray less than an hour a day.
  14. Most Evangelicals have little or no understanding of the Holy Spirit.
  15. The American Church needs to learn a truth Ben Franklin uttered at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “We must all hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
  16. Too many Evangelicals long to see Jesus thrash those they view as heretics rather than help them come to a better understanding of truth.
  17. One of the most easily seen fruits in mature Christians is that they pray for people who oppose them rather than complain about them.
  18. A simple truth we constantly forget: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
  19. If all other aspects of Sunday meetings were removed, prayer would be the one untouchable, yet we spend less time doing it in our meetings than anything else.
  20. The mature Christian is more concerned with being loving all the time than being correct all the time.
  21. Each of use should know our neighbors’ names and the names of their children. We should also know their birthdays, if possible, because the card we send might be the only one they receive. And that’s a powerful witness.
  22. It is a sign of our trustworthiness as Christians that other people seek us out when they need help. If that’s not the case, then something is wrong with our witness.
  23. There is no shame in confessing a need, especially before fellow believers. That’s one reason why the Church exists.
  24. Many of Evangelicalism’s most intractable problems would vanish if we adopted the confessional booth.
  25. We must start seeing discipleship in terms of an entire lifespan and not what we can accomplish in the moment.
  26. Preaching is most effective when it’s lived by the preacher.
  27. We do a great disservice to families in our churches when we split them up the second they hit the lobby.
  28. If we wish to see the American Church be all She can be, then let’s welcome persecution.
  29. A youth minister’s primary responsibility isn’t to teens directly but to their parents. A good youth minister teaches parents how to teach their own teens, leaving the bulk of the responsibility to them.
  30. The way we so easily judge people offends the One who said, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
  31. We are too obsessed with heretics and not concerned enough with understanding what their heresy says about our own shortcomings and failures.
  32. It costs us nothing to judge others, but an enormous amount to walk beside them and help them grow.
  33. Bible study works best when led by highly-trained, Scripturally-knowledgeable people who have lived what they believe.
  34. Busyness is crippling the effectiveness of the American Church, but no one wants to fix the root causes because doing so would call into question the very nature of our modern society.
  35. True love is laying down our plans and schedules to help a person in need.
  36. One of the worst things a Christian can be is unteachable.
  37. God never rescinded His first command to Man: Steward the Earth.
  38. The man who recognizes the goodness of God in nature and sees Christ in the stranger has the more complete theology.
  39. A man is only as deep as his prayer life.
  40. A message every church in America should learn: You never have to advertise a fire.
  41. The more we restrict God in what He can and will do, the more He’ll honor that restriction.
  42. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He only shows up where He’s gratefully invited.
  43. Our neighbors should know that our houses are always open to them.
  44. Love truly does cover a multitude of sins.
  45. If we haven’t died at the cross, we’re worthless to the Kingdom.
  46. Who we are in secret is a better gauge of our spiritual maturity than who we are in public.
  47. Not seeng results in prayer? Better check how grateful we are to God for the little things He gives us.
  48. We never know enough of someone else’s story to judge them perfectly. Better to listen carefully, then admonish…carefully.
  49. No great, wise saint of God started out that way. We never know at what stage we meet one of those future saints, so we must always be gracious when interacting with others.
  50. The perfect recipe for helping someone grow in Christ: Six parts love to every one part admonition.
  51. God makes all things beautiful in His time, not ours.
  52. If there were no people, there would be no reason for the Gospel.
  53. If we are unwilling to help others work through the admonitions we give them, we should instead remain silent.
  54. On Judgment Day, God will be far less concerned with how well we knew the Scriptures than how we practiced what we knew.
  55. Too much of what we supposedly do for the Kingdom comes from the arm of flesh, not from the power of the Spirit.
  56. There’s no reason each of us can’t lead at least one person a year to Christ.
  57. Most churches never once consider what it feels like to be an outsider, which is why so few visitors take root.
  58. Most of the West has heard about Jesus (even if they’ve heard incorrectly), which is why our practice of our message is as vital as our pronouncement of it.
  59. A person may have perfect doctrine and a form of religion, but if he doesn’t care about his neighbor, it’s all for naught.
  60. The reason we learn the Scriptures is to be equipped for every good work.
  61. The more tender my heart is toward the least of these, the more tender it is toward God—and vice versa.
  62. We minister best from the overflow of our Spirit-filled hearts, not from being poured out until empty.
  63. For some reason, we stopped making heaven the ultimate destination.
  64. Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain.
  65. We make an idol of the nuclear family if we raise it above the needs of the household of Faith.
  66. If a fellow Christian has a financial need, forget about buying that plasma TV. And remember this: someone is always in need.
  67. The first thing the new Church did after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to see that no one among them lacked for anything.
  68. Fear drives almost all human failings. The opposite of fear is love.
  69. You can tell the effectiveness of a church’s discipling program by noting how many of the leadership staff came from within.
  70. A king’s ambassador, when sojourning in a foreign land, is the full representative of the king and wields his complete power and authority. Never forget that we are Christ’s ambassadors.
  71. We perpetually underestimate Satan’s wiles; at the same time, we underestimate our authority over him in Christ.
  72. Most lost people aren’t consciously looking for ways to sin; they’re only trying to get by.
  73. You and I have benefitted greatly from the prayers of others, but most people have never had someone pray for them.
  74. Because our God is a God of beauty and truth, we Christians need to honor our artists and intellectuals as much as our pastors and preachers.
  75. Most of the Lord’s finest servants labor in obscurity.
  76. We Christians should spend every day working to depopulate hell.
  77. We may know what it means to be a sinner, but few of us have appropriated what it means to be a saint.
  78. Our communion meals should be feasts as big as we eat on Thanksgiving Day.
  79. Wine is the drink of celebration, not Welch’s.
  80. A church-hopper is a carrier of dissension.
  81. We need to treat our pastors as imperfect fellow laborers, not as Grand Exalted Poobahs.
  82. Without the Lord, we can do nothing.
  83. If we Christians stopped worrying about what others think of us, the Church would be transformed and the world along with us.
  84. We spend too much time trying to keep our youth from sleeping with each other and not enough time teaching them to be husbands and wives.
  85. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
  86. We were all born to serve.
  87. American Christians are more concerned about what’s in their bank accounts than in their treasure chests in heaven.
  88. Joy can only well up in a grateful heart.
  89. Gossip destroys anyone it touches.
  90. In Christ, there is no shame or guilt.
  91. Christians who pray prayers with enormous faith get enormous results.
  92. If we don’t reach people with the Gospel before they are 21, most will never come to Christ.
  93. We have not because we ask not.
  94. It is best to think of the Scriptures not as what we can read through in a year, but as what we can read through in an entire lifetime.
  95. We come to Christ full of holes. Whatever hole we forbid Christ to fill will instead be filled by the world.
  96. If we’re discipling correctly, no Christian in a church should be irreplaceable.
  97. A community of Christians is only as strong as its weakest members.
  98. If our lives are filled with everything but Christ, then we are impoverished indeed.
  99. We are all dust.
  100. God is always nearer to us than we believe Him to be.

Blessings! Have a great day.