In a previous essay, I discussed the necessary and important place women have in the Kingdom of God. Rather than utilizing unbiblical (secular) terms, I prefer to examine the role of women in light of what the Bible says about them. Sure, it is easy to blame Eve for the world’s problems, but it is noteworthy that the Scriptures refer to “the sin of Adam,” and gives Jesus the title of the “Second Adam.”
A survey through the Bible reveals that God is no respecter of persons, and equally calls men and women, boys and girls to service to the Kingdom. Yet, in some church circles, the pendulum swings from, on the one hand, women should always defer to men in all things, and on the other, women need to take their place as equals in all functions of church leadership.
Let me establish first and foremost, that our standards must only come from and be based on God’s Word. So, as a woman, I will never be able to say that I am the husband of one wife. Matter settled on whether or not I can be an elder. However, to say that women should never exhort, admonish, reprove, or instruct men is to add into Scripture a biased perspective.
Repeatedly in Scripture, God speaks to a wife instead of her husband. What’s more, it becomes obvious upon closer scrutiny that in many cases the husband should have paid closer attention with an eye toward obedience. It sometimes appears that a woman relating what God has told her is dismissed because God didn’t say it to a man.
A Case in Point
In Judges 13, there is the account of the Angel of the Lord appearing to the wife of Manoah, a woman who was barren. The message was that she would conceive a child. Unlike today, the absence of children felt like a curse to women and this woman would be very attentive to this message. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t give us her name, only identifies her as the wife of Manoah.
She is given instructions as to what her diet should be during her pregnancy. Abstaining from wine, strong drink and unclean foods are the guidelines. It is interesting that a soon-to-be expectant mother’s intake of food is coming straight from God. Also, she is given directives as to how the child shall be raised, and information and insight as to the purpose God has for her son in delivering the people from the Philistines (v. 3-5).
Immediately, the woman goes and shares all this with her husband. It would seem that Manoah believes her to a degree, but petitions God to send the messenger back again to tell him how their future son should be raised (v.8). Keep in mind, that the instructions had already been explicitly given (v. 5), but I guess Manoah wasn’t quite sure his wife remembered it all correctly.
God answers this prayer, but does so by, once again, appearing to the wife when her husband was elsewhere. She “made haste” to find him knowing that he wanted to speak with this messenger. Manoah again displays that he doesn’t find his wife’s testimony accurate enough, and asks the man if he is the one who originally appeared to his wife (v. 11). Manoah again asks for instructions as to how to raise the son, but the messenger repeats exactly what he told the wife at the outset (v. 14). Manoah then entreats the man to stay and asks a number of other questions that he doesn’t get answers for, yet witnesses a glorious manifestation of the Angel of the Lord upon his departure (v. 20).
Manoah then comments to his wife that they will surely die after having witnessed and experienced all this (v.22). Yet, it is his wife that reminds him that should God have wanted to kill them, He would have done so already. What’s more she points out that the message was that they would have a son, which would require them to remain alive (v.23).
Marriage is a partnership. In a very real sense, God can speak to either husband or wife to reveal His will for their lives, as the two are one flesh. I’m not suggesting that a husband should in every case do his wife’s bidding or fail to check the veracity of her account. That is not the point I am trying to make. Men should know that God often speaks to women first when it comes to important matters: (Mary when the angel Gabriel announced she would bear a child, Rebecca that she would have twins and the younger would rule over the elder, Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb as the first eye-witness that Jesus had risen, etc.) In these cases, the men involved all had a difficult time believing the account of the women. Maybe these examples were intended as a corrective against the marginalizing of women in the Kingdom of God. The unique and special role women have been assigned from the beginning had everything to do with men being incomplete without them. It bears repeating that a woman’s role is much more than just physical or sexual; she is a partner in every sense of the word. Men should relish the particular orientation of women and appreciate them as a “good thing” (Prov. 18:22).
Women are an essential part of creation and the dominion mandate, and need not try to be men or compete with them in order to gain status within the Body of Christ. They already have a God-given status and one that should be exercised to the fullest. Maybe it is time for the people of God to ask the important question: What Is a Woman? The answer should not come from a humanistic framework, but from a full-orbed biblical world-and-life view.
My friend Christine finished her race. She struggled on the final lap due to organs in her body failing. However, she kept running. Her major concern throughout her protracted illness was to be a good witness for her Lord and Savior.
I had the privilege of knowing her for over 25 years as our paths initially had crossed during our days of homeschooling. She was one of the few moms who would always refer to me as Mrs. Schwartz. When she said it, I felt the honor with which she conveyed it. It didn’t matter if we ran into each other at the grocery store or at a musical recital. It always made me smile. Christine also was my youngest daughter’s piano and organ teacher. She had such a passion for music and spent a good bit of her time encouraging others to love it as well.
When Christine was struggling with infection and the inability to eat, she kept asking the question, “Why hasn’t God taken me yet?” She would quickly answer it herself and state that maybe there was more for her to do. Even in her final weeks in the hospital, she welcomed visitors to pray with her and sing with her. She never expressed bitterness, only curiosity about how much longer she would be here. And, she wanted to be a good witness to the hospital and medical staff.
Christine wanted to die well. She wanted to remain faithful and struggled with the decision to remain on life support resources or just those meant to ease her terrible pain. After consultation, prayer, and a peace about the options, she went on comfort care. However, during a lucid moment prior to sedation, she went on and on about all the foods she loved that she had been unable to eat for three years, looking forward to the possibility of enjoying them again. Around her hospital bed, her family was gathered around her as she was describing what lied ahead in the life to come, including those she loved who had gone before her.
Many think that when life support is removed, the patient dies immediately. Not so. Christine went 5 days before she took her last breath. Many might also consider those days to be without purpose or function. I disagree. The way I look at it, the Lord was further preparing her for her eternal heavenly home. Much in the same way we here on earth prepare for important events, I picture something in that order of significance taking place.
It gives me great comfort when I think of these passages,
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15)
I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race. (2 Tim 4:7)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
The Bible does give us pictures of heaven. Most of the images are focused on the Ancient of Days and the Lamb who was slain for our sins. What we witness of those who are in the presence of God face-to-face includes praise, worship and eternal joy. For sure, we don’t understand this fully from our vantage point, but the images are sublime enough that we should anticipate the reality being far greater than we can imagine.
I will miss Christine, but I am not sad for her. Her family will now begin the earthly reality of living without her presence. But, she has been gathered to her people and leaves a legacy and a testimony that asserts,
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:57-58)
Years ago I studied martial arts in order to be ready for potential physical attacks. Also, I took out legal insurance while I was homeschooling my children just to be prepared in the event we ever were challenged, that we would have help. Likewise, I lock the doors to my house, regularly check the amount of gas I have in my car, and pay my bills on time. All of these are part of my life routine because I don’t want to be caught off-guard.
In today’s world, there is an onslaught of anti-Christian bias along with flagrant insanity that forces us to be ever more vigilant and providential in how we live our lives. However, unless we think out the implications of lockdowns, wokeness, and medical mandates, we may well be unprepared for what lies ahead.
What follows is an account of a recent occurrence a wife and mother had at a major airport when she was returning home. Her experience (relayed to me during a conversation) resulted in my asking her to write it up. What she experienced is most likely not unique to her, but is an excellent example of being caught off-guard. What follows is her personal account.
This is a summary of my recent experience at an airport and my first-hand interaction with what I will call the Big Bad Wolf Transgender movement.
I was flying home, and was stuck in the TSA line for over 30 minutes; the line never moved, other than the occasional TSA agent asking us to all step to the right or to the left. On one of these occasions, a large group of people went past us right to the TSA screening point, essentially “cutting” the line. Initially, I was sure the TSA agents had a good reason for letting them “cut” but, honestly now, who knows? I was starting to get a bit anxious as I was eager to be on time for my flight, even arriving at my gate before boarding began. That window was quickly closing for me, as it was for the people around me. Despite loud complaints and requests for “why is this taking so long?” there was no adequate nor satisfactory response.
Finally, we were allowed to move forward. I made it to the actual TSA screening point, where all are required to put all possessions in the bucket conveyor belt system and walk through the screening machines. As I am newly pregnant, I didn’t want to go through those machines. I knew that my preference was totally acceptable and that an agent would be provided to do a pat down and give a visual look over and get me through. So I requested that option, to avoid any potential harm to my unborn baby. The male TSA agent was very kind, even laughed and said, “Of course you can do that! This is AMERICA after all!”
He had me step aside and wait, again. This wait was shorter, but felt long as I watched everyone I had been in line with rush through security to make their flights. And, I must admit that it did feel awkward just standing there, waiting for the assistance that I was promised. It made me feel dirty, or as though I was guilty or suspected of something odious. Since the advent of TSA tyranny, it’s the odd person that actually makes eye contact and smiles at others. Instead, it seems like everyone is on this bizarre heightened alert –suspicious and annoyed, especially at TSA screening.
Eventually an older woman approached me, a grandmotherly type with another individual behind her. I was focused on her supposing that she would be the TSA agent to screen me. Behind her was a second “woman” who didn’t seem like a woman at all, despite clothing and a wig that might have suggested otherwise. Never in my wildest imagination did I consider that person would be doing the pat-down.
I was asked if I wanted a private room, which I declined. This already had escalated beyond what I was comfortable with. I have been patted down several times flying, always by a woman, just off to the side, no fuss. This was shaping up to be different. Why did I need a private room? I started to feel how I imagined Little Red Riding Hood felt once she realized the big bad wolf was not her granny.
We stepped aside and they carried my bucket of shoes, purse and phone and set it down nearby. Then, the man dressed as a woman approached me head on, and started going through the mandatory verbal explanations that the agents do on a routine basis. I was in shock. I looked at the grandmotherly TSA agent, quite sure that my face reflected my horror. I said, “Yes, I accept the pat down, but you need to do it so that I don’t miss my flight.”
The grandmotherly agent said “SHE (pointing to the man in female attire) has to verbally explain this to you.” The “SHE” threw me for a loop … was I wrong? Maybe the wig was because this person had cancer and had lost hair? Was I just being judgmental? I thought not.
So I complied and held out my arms. Listening to the man dressed as a woman explain how he was going to touch me, was disturbing, but that was nothing, compared to my disgust when he actually began doing so. He moved behind me so I couldn’t see him. This is the part of the screening where they run their hands along the inside of your waist band. But, he included my underwear in that, but thankfully never went below that. Since he was behind me, I was still asking myself if he was a man. Then he moved to my front. Looking at his hands, I was sure he was a man. They were huge. His jaw was large and square. His arms were beefy and he straight up towered over me. His feet, were in what appeared to me to be men’s’ shoes because of their size. He kept talking, trying to talk like a woman but his voice was so deep. And he was trying to talk like he thought a woman would. But it was a cheap, vile parody of a woman. He kept trying to pat my stomach area and said “Don’t want to wake the baby.” I did reach out and block that move and said, something to the effect of “You are not going to wake the baby; I am very early, and please, my flight is now boarding.”
After the pat down was complete, he then tested his gloved hands for residue and then tested all my stuff in my bucket for residue. I asked if I could put my shoes back on, and was told “no,” not until they were done, “Just in case.” Just in case of WHAT I thought?
Finally they determined that I was not a threat. I put on my shoes, and ran towards my gate. I stopped at the restroom to take a few deep breaths and collect myself.
I was one of the last to board the flight. I looked for the kindest looking older lady I could find and sat next to her. I am not usually one given to tears, even with pregnancy. But I thought I might actually burst into tears. I felt so dirty and ashamed. I should have done something. I should have said no to this man patting me down. But how? I couldn’t exactly prove he was a man. I knew if I had pushed back I would have missed my flight. That was not something I had thought through. In fact, getting patted down by a man dressed as a woman TSA agent is something that NEVER entered my thinking!
This all happened during the Bud Light drama. Literally, Kid Rock was shooting Bud Light cans and other manly men were bulldozing Bud Light cans while I was being felt up by a man. I do appreciate the protests, the shooting beer cans, the boycotting of Bud Light. But after what I experienced, I wonder if it is a sign of a legitimate change, or just vain pontificating. Men were walking by while I was being patted down by a man. I was looking at them, as they walked by. They usually kept their eyes on the ground. I get it, they had flights to make, too. And have any of us thought through and made a contingency plan for missing our flight because we got in a scrap with a Big Bad Transgender Wolf at the airport? But it would have helped, and I would have felt less like a piece of meat in a cat’s claws and more like a woman if just ONE man had stopped and stood there beside me, waiting till I was free to go to my gate.
Shoot beer cans, by all means. But where are these “real men” in the public square? But I hope the shooting beer cans is truly symbolic of a change occurring in culture. A symbol is only powerful though, if the thing it represents is powerful. History will tell if there really is a powerful change occurring.
I guess I’d have to admit that the Big Bad Transgender Wolves are here. As a Christian, I can not hide from it. But I can educate myself and my children about it. I did some research on TSA pat downs. Turns out they are only required to provide you with a TSA agent who PRESENTS as the gender you PRESENT. So what they did was within their guidelines. In fact, more of my research showed that the TSA has had a significant problem with transgender individuals.
The machines that screen people are programed male or female, no “non-binary” option. This has forced some TSA agents to take their best guess to press either the blue or pink button. If the person “fails” the screening and appears to be a woman, but something is flagged in their groin, some agents will just ask the person to step back in the machine and they will then select the “man” button, and then the individual usually passes. So, our machines know the difference; the machine knows male from female … but the humans who have rejected God have muddled the waters and created a nightmare.
There are a lot of articles about transgender individuals pushing back on TSA after they feel like they were violated. A man dressed as a woman required a pat down and, expressly asked for a woman. Since he was clearly a man, dressed as a woman, the female TSA agent refused to pat him down. He reported that this incident had caused him deep emotional pain. WHAT is going on!?
So, while I’d like to think filing a complaint would be helpful, I am not sure it would be. My story is just one in a million of the casualties of the transgender war on God. But we have a choice: remain ignorant casualties, or get educated, get equipped and resist.
For me that means I won’t fly again without a back up plan to rent a car. But what about education? We can fight these battles all day long, but our public schools have turned into Kevorkian genital mutilation factories. What about sports? Do you let you daughter or son compete against a team with transgender athletes? What about Grandma having a transgender CNA in her nursing home? Its time to get beyond, “Ew gross” or “It’s so sad” with the transgender war. It’s not going away. Don’t be caught with the Big Bad Transgender Wolf having his hands on your breasts, or your wife’s or your daughters’.
Many women expect a perfect world this side of heaven. Not only is this not going to happen, the very fact that it won’t challenges us to pursue God’s purposes and His right to place us in certain situations—pleasant or otherwise. Sometimes, Biblical perspective is best achieved with the help of a mentor.
What Is Mentoring?
Mentoring is helping another utilize God’s directives as solutions with their struggles. A common myth is that one who mentors needs to have a picture-perfect life. If that were true, no one would be qualified to mentor. Another myth is assuming that seeking out a mentor means one has failed and is a loser. The Titus 2 model refutes these misconceptions and encourages women to help and seek help.
A mentor does not charge for her services; rather, she is one who assumes a position of older woman (either by age or experience) to help another who needs to be reminded of the Truth of God’s Word.
With the women I have had the privilege to mentor, I am more than willing to share the ups and downs, the successes and failures, and the certainties and uncertainties I’ve faced in my life. Approaching the interaction this way serves to establish a friendship along with a mentorship while avoiding being raised upon a pedestal.
In the course of mentoring conversations, I find that I learn quite a bit from those who come to me for help. Thus, there is no hierarchy of relationship. We each remain not-fully-sanctified sinners walking the journey of life.
A Perfect World This Side of Heaven?
The expectation of a perfect world this side of heaven demonstrates a lack of faith in the veracity of God’s Word. In Scripture the word “perfect” denotes maturity, whereas we often look at it as the absence of sin, and expect we’ll achieve it. Only Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and we must desire the Kingdom to exist in earth as it does in heaven.
We are not called to make the world perfect; we are called to be obedient. An important aspect of mentoring involves making sure mentees understand the scope and purpose of the Kingdom of God.
“Fixing the Unfixable”
When I am approached for advice on serious matters, the first thing I do is listen. I often can discern the underlying issues, but it takes my listening to the person’s exposition of what is wrong to allow me to speak knowledgably.
A popular radio talk-show personality regularly takes calls, sometimes up to ten an hour. With insufficient time to adequately get to know the caller, not even looking face-to-face, she spouts off a solution.
How does this radio counsellor know if her callers are telling the truth? How can she know all the circumstances that led up to the call? She can’t. In any counseling/mentoring situation, it is vital that the person attempting to help doesn’t make matters worse by projecting her own assumptions. That is why taking on a mentoring role should not be casual. While experience is helpful to impart, the crux of the interaction is to impart Biblical wisdom and solutions.
When I point out that some things aren’t fixable, I often get a defeated response. I point out that if a problem exists that is not fixable, then we can proceed with how to properly act and react to it. It truly is a comfort to know that we are not sovereign, and that God has not lost track of us or the struggles we face.
Take, for example, Job. He had no clue that he was the subject of an intense discussion between God and Satan. It isn’t even clear that he ever knew. What was unhelpful from his “friends” was their arrogant assertions that they knew the source of his problems. The source was his righteousness, and the events that happened to his business, family, and his body were in place for more than just Job. Today we still read and talk about him, knowing a lot more about suffering for righteousness than we would have known otherwise.
Being compassionate and caring with mentees, and building up trust and respect, allows me to communicate the often surprising fact that life is not all about them. God may, indeed, have a bigger and greater purpose for our sufferings and pain.
Wishing People Were Different
The problems we have with others stem from the fact that others are not made in our image. Many struggles result from the reactions and preferences of another, because “that is not how I would do things.”
I remember a funny encounter with my two daughters, separated by 7 ½ years. One day the older one came to me frustrated and indignant that her younger sister was no longer complying with all she instructed her to do.
“She won’t do what I tell her to do,” came out as outrage. She believed that her dominance would always prevail. I informed her that her sister was an individual who had particular likes and dislikes. The look of shock on my older daughter’s face was quite revelatory.
This is not to imply that people shouldn’t change; merely a recognition that despite our best efforts, only the Holy Spirit is capable of changing another in significant ways. And, we might have to acknowledge that often, we are the one in need of changing.
There are those who are punctual to a fault. There are those who think church services, movie times, dinner invitations are all fluid suggestions rather than definite points in time. There are those who are always uncomfortably hot and those uncomfortably cold. These traits are often found within marriages and families. Is the solution for each to demand the other change? From personal experience I can assure you that these demands are never received with a grateful attitude.
Once again, it behooves the irritated person to either adjust her time schedule or make provisions for the inevitable delays that will occur. And for the person annoyed by the “time-keeper” or “temperature czar” it might prove helpful to anticipate those areas that produce irritation and find ways to avoid conflict.
Romans 12:10 (ESV) tells us to outdo each other in showing honor. This might just be the key to shifting one’s focus from wishing people were different to identifying how we can please and contribute to another.
Willingness to Be Wronged
Turning the other cheek is much easier in theory than in practice. Turning the cheek means that you have just received a slap and that you are opening yourself up to have it repeated. Many are familiar with the expression that it takes two parties to have a fight. Scripture posits it differently. One needs to determine if a fight is necessary or even preferable. Some will take this to mean that one should never resist evil or should put up with unsafe and sinful behavior from another. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
We are always under obligation to obey the commandments of God. We must remove ourselves from dangerous situations. However, this is not what I mean by the willingness to be wronged. When the situation at hand isn’t a matter of God’s Word being violated, but merely a personal affront or slight, by not harboring bitterness we are not condoning the behavior but merely not making it take center stage.
Suppose that you are blamed for something that someone else did. Suppose that you communicate that it wasn’t your doing. Suppose no one believes you or even cares about your feelings. Rather than devote your entire life to sharing with anyone and everyone your sorry plight, you must assure yourself that God knows the truth and that you are fully known by Him. He promises that vengeance is His.
Didn’t Jesus endure accusations and assertions that were blatantly false? Did He correct every false allegation, or did He know that His mission was foremost and that God’s vengeance would prevail? We must know the law-word of God well enough to discern those battles we fight and those we leave to God. After all, when all is said and done, when we stand before God in judgment, His opinion and verdict will be the only one that matters.
“Trusting your Faithful Prayers”
We hear stories of faithful mothers who prayed for the conversion of their children even if they were not openly rebellious. These women didn’t just want better superficial behaviors in their children but the remaking of their inner person by means of the Holy Spirit.
Too often mentees come to me dejected because, despite their prayers, their children or their husbands seem not to have changed much from when they started praying for them. In this regard, they miss the astounding reality that they are talking straight into the “ears” of our Lord, and the Spirit is voicing what they cannot put into words. Is there any better position one could assume? Speaking directly to Him who has all authority and power is no minor status. My task is to help them see that whatever draws them closer to their Savior and Lord is a benefit, not a cause of despair.
“Does it Really All Depend on Me?”
Many of the women I regularly mentor are exhausted because they have taken on the job of being God and judging themselves to the degree that their will is not done. This is especially true with homeschooling moms who seem to place a heavier load on themselves as if they are being judged by an anonymous jury who wants nothing better than to convict them.
I love to relate an image to them of a trap I regularly fell into during my homeschooling years. I had a vision that if I didn’t do something that needed to be done, then somehow it would not happen. I knew that it all depended on me. I would go out on a virtual limb getting farther and farther away from the trunk and begin to fall—gravity was taking me out. When I would demand help, asserting that those around me should, and were capable to assist, the response I got was often, “I never asked you to do that in the first place.” Apparently, none of them felt it really did all depend on me.
When we act in this way, we are not being still and knowing that God is God. Funny how we can play God under the most noble of circumstances and wish that others appreciated our magnanimity. Gaining the Biblical perspective of what our callings actually are can mitigate those circumstances where we go out on unnecessary limbs.
“I Need Fulfillment in My Marriage”
Maybe it is a result of all those Hallmark movies, but many women truly consider that marriage is all about their fulfillment. When the dominion mandate was given to Adam and Eve, satisfaction was never foremost in God’s directive. To be fruitful and to multiply would indeed bring satisfaction, but satisfaction was a by-product, not the main thing.
With a consumer mentality, we can focus on how satisficed or dissatisfied we are with what we have. That has never been the focus of seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. There are many times in the best of marriages where fulfillment is not at a peak. Part of depending on the Lord is to maneuver through life with the partner you are married to until death, despite how rewarding each day is.
Rather than focus on how to find fulfillment, I have my mentees consider how they might fulfill their calling as a living sacrifice unto the Lord. All one needs to do is examine the many great examples in Scripture to acknowledge that some of our most faithful forebears probably had a dearth of personal satisfaction. It was the grace of God, allowing them to persevere, that marked them as people to emulate.
How Not to Project Defeat
For women who hold the positions of wife and mother, it is important not to project a countenance of overwhelming defeat or failure. I’m not suggesting pretense, rather I am suggesting that they walk by faith rather than by sight.
If one is trying her best and is evaluating herself based on the standard of God’s Word, then there is no good reason to expect failure. In fact, as we face the “Goliaths” in our lives, we are given the genuine opportunity to proceed with the assurance that “greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world.”
I’m the sort of person who likes to make lists. Somedays my lists have fewer “cross outs” than others. I like to be very specific as to what I hope to accomplish and commit these projects to the Lord. Sometimes my only accomplishments include making the bed and taking a shower, leaving much else undone. Rather than deem myself a failure, I am able to reevaluate how I approached things and seek a remedy. When a recurring situation presented itself, and I couldn’t find a remedy, I went to older women for counsel and guidance. After all, even mentors need mentoring!
“Rethinking Our Practical Theology”
It is one thing to read through the Bible yearly and to involve oneself in Bible studies. If we are not endeavoring to put what we know and understand into daily practice, then we have just become armchair Christians. Study for study’s sake is not the fruit of one committed to serving the Lord.
If we ever get to a point that we are unable to “translate” the theory into practice, we need to find someone to help us do so. Of course, this won’t happen unless and until we recognize that we are in dereliction of duty. Carrying out our duty involves taking the knowledge acquired and using it in tangible, practical ways.
If you cannot discern how a portion of Scripture is relevant to your everyday life, then you need to re-examine your commitment to the two Great Commandments, the 10 Commandments, and the practical out workings of them. Imagine what the effect of God’s people would be in all areas of life and thought should all who profess Christ make this a number one priority!
Jesus’s practical theology amounted to His laying down His life for us. None of what He said or did would matter if the cross was not His foremost duty. With His resurrection and ascension, we can have confidence that our focused obedience will produce that which He has promised us.
We are called to bear one another’s burdens. That means we need to be ready to share our burdens so that others may serve God by helping us. The Body of Christ is the key to working out our salvation with fear and trembling. The health produced in this way furthers God’s Kingdom and ensures that His Word is not reviled.
One of the benefits and blessings of studying, internalizing, and applying the Word of God is that you tend to get wiser. After all, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. The progression then leads to knowledge, understanding, and discernment. This is a process, but one that enables a person to then serve others as a friend, mentor, or counselor.
Not-fully-sanctified humans have a tendency to take something good and mess it up. Having people come to you for help and then finding relief can cause them to place you on a pedestal rather than view you as an equal. And, who can’t appreciate the appeal to be considered important and valuable? While understandable, this is not a good thing for either party. Our eyes need to remain focused on Christ so that we keep ourselves on the narrow path that leads to life, and not detour ourselves to coveting and pursing the praise of men.
It follows that the best thing one can do is encourage a person less-versed in Scripture to develop the practice of going to God’s Word first, before seeking guidance from another. It is true, that the individual may not know where to look, but then the need is to teach them how to use Scripture to inform every area of life and thought. After all, no one knows how long God has ordained for any of us to be here on earth, so equipping oneself and others is vital to furthering the Kingdom of God.
Once a person has committed and submitted his/her life to the Lord, the next step is to become educated in God’s ways. This includes the law of God as well as filtering it through the narratives of Scripture to identify how well or how poorly our forebears carried it out. That is how a person goes from only being able to digest the milk of the Word to the strong meat it provides.
The more I grow in faith, and thus have people seek out my advice, I realize my greatest service to them is to help them get to the point that they no longer need me. That doesn’t mean our relationship ends. Rather, it means we are able to have a relationship that serves the Kingdom each from our own spheres and jurisdictions.
I’m convinced this is how we build the army of the Lord. Whether it’s with our children, grandchildren, those within the Body, or even those we work with or casually meet. The overall goal is not to elevate ourselves to the position of “guru”, but to equip ourselves first, and then the saints. We must decrease so that He (the Lord) is increased.
In 1968 in apartheid South Africa, a young black man named Clive Haupt suffered a brain bleed while picnicking with his family. He was admitted to a Cape Town hospital under the care of Dr. Raymond Hoffenberg. Later that night, Dr. Hoffenberg was approached by the transplant team and was asked to pronounce Haupt dead. Initially, Dr. Hoffenberg refused, as he was troubled at the thought of pronouncing someone with a beating heart dead. Reportedly, one of the transplant surgeons said, “God, Bill, what sort of heart are you going to give us?” This is because a heart from a biologically dead body very quickly begins to decompose and is unsuitable for transplantation. So, under considerable pressure, Dr. Hoffenberg pronounced Clive Haupt dead the following morning. Dr. Christiaan Barnard then harvested Haupt’s still beating heart and placed it in the chest of a retired white dentist, marking the world’s first successful heart transplant.
Surgeons around the world took notice. Whereas tissues (skin, bone, corneas) could be successfully transplanted from a corpse, successful organ transplants (heart, lung, liver, kidneys) would require that the organs involved come from people whose hearts were still beating and whose lungs were still oxygenating their blood: people still biologically alive. So, in August of 1968, an ad hoc committee of doctors at Harvard Medical School wrote a landmark paper that re-defined people in an irreversible coma as dead. They did this by the stroke of a pen: there were no tests, studies, or evidence that comatose people were dead. This was a utilitarian pronouncement, made to skirt the ethical and legal issues associated with harvesting organs from people who were still biologically alive.
In 1981, the ad hoc committee’s recommendations were codified into law as the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA). It states that in order to declare someone legally dead, there must be irreversible cessation of cardiopulmonary function or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem. These definitions have allowed the science of organ transplantation to provide life-saving organs for thousands of people. But are the people declared “legally” dead under the UDDA actually dead?
The historic teaching of the church is that we are a body-soul unity. We are not an embodied soul or an ensouled body as in Plato or Aristotle. The Christian view is also different from the Enlightenment view that we are our brains, brains who operate and direct our bodies like machines. According to Scripture, “the body without the spirit is dead,” (James 2:26). Abraham “gave up the ghost” and died at a good old age (Genesis 25:8). Historically, death was defined by the departure of the spirit and was marked by the disintegration of the body, which explains Lazarus’ sister’s alarm at having his tomb opened, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days,” (John 11:39).
Interestingly, the biological definition of death is “the loss of integration of the organism as a whole.” This definition also reflects the “dis-integration” of the body which begins when the spirit departs.
Clearly, people who have been pronounced legally dead under the brain death category of the UDDA, (who still have beating hearts) are not biologically dead and their spirits are still integrated in their bodies. There have been many cases of people who were declared “brain dead” awakening prior to their organ harvesting and going on to live normal lives. Zack Dunlap was declared brain dead in 2007, and recalls being extremely angry that he was unable to move or sign as he overheard doctors discussing harvesting his organs with his parents. Thankfully he managed to move before being taken to an operating room to be killed by organ harvesting.
The newer procedure of “donation after circulatory death” is equally problematic. In this technique, people who are not brain dead (but not expected to survive) have their care withdrawn in such a way as to harvest their organs before the loss of circulation makes them unviable. These people’s hearts are allowed to stop, and then doctors wait between seventy-five seconds to five minutes (depending on the transplant center) before starting the harvest surgery. Many medical professionals are uncomfortable with this because we know that people are routinely resuscitated after seventy-five seconds to five minutes of cardiac arrest. If you are capable of being resuscitated, your spirit has not departed and you are not yet dead. This is borne out by a recent case in Illinois, in which a young lady’s heart spontaneously resumed beating and she began gasping for breath during the removal of her kidneys. The county coroner determined that her ultimate cause of death was homicide.
Even worse, in a procedure called normothermic regional perfusion with controlled donation after circulatory death (NRP-cDCD), doctors are now taking people off life support, clamping off the blood flow to their brains to make them brain dead on purpose, and then resuscitating the rest of the body. According to the University of Nebraska protocol, “once blood flow to the heart is established, the heart will start beating”. This practice plays fast and loose with the “irreversibility” clauses of the UDDA, and has been banned in Australia, though centers in the US continue to pursue it.
Not every type of transplant is unethical. Living donation of a paired organ such as the kidney or a lobed organ like the liver are ethical because both the donor and the recipient remain alive after the procedure. Tissues such as corneas and heart valves can be donated after biological death, though there have been cases of organ procurement organizations harvesting tissues before the medical examiner could determine the cause of death. Thus, the families of these people were left without closure or justice, especially if the death was possibly the result of a crime.
Although the public is generally unaware that organ harvesting takes place before you are biologically dead, many doctors and bioethicists have been speaking and writing about these facts. Doctors Miller, Truog, and Brock wrote in the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy:
Nevertheless, scholars have argued cogently that donors of vital organs, including those diagnosed as ‘brain dead’ and those declared dead according to cardiopulmonary criteria, are not in fact dead at the time that vital organs are being procured(.) . . . This leaves the current practice of organ donation based on the ‘moral fiction’ that donors are dead when vital organs are procured.
Dr. Alan Shewmon, professor emeritus of pediatric neurology at UCLA medical school stated:
Just as cigarette ads are required to contain a footnote warning of health risks, ads promoting organ donation should contain a footnote along these lines: ‘Warning: It remains controversial whether you will actually be dead at the time of removal of your organs.’
Appealing to the good consequences of organ transplantation in an attempt to justify the lack of transparency, if not outright obfuscation on which the transplantation enterprise rests, is not a very compelling argument.
In light of all this, what should Christians do? First, refuse to be a registered organ donor. If you are a registered organ donor, your organs will be taken, regardless of the objections of your family or your healthcare power of attorney. Second, because the 2006 revision of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) allows even the hospital administrator to consent to donate an incapacitated person’s organs in absence of a specific refusal to donate, fill out a refusal to donate card. Some states have this on their drivers’ licenses, otherwise the HALO-voice healthcare advocacy organization has a life-affirming medical proxy kit and downloadable wallet card stating your refusal to donate.
Third, share this information with your pastor and your church. It has been over fifty years since the Harvard ad hoc committee changed the definition of death, and the silence from the church has been deafening. The only state with a religious exemption to the new definitions of death under the UDDA is New Jersey due to the strenuous efforts of the Jewish community. Recently, Catholic scholars have been addressing this issue, at least in scholarly journals.
Fourth, be aware that the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) is considering proposals to revise the UDDA in ways that will make it easier to declare someone brain dead, and more difficult for families to contest a brain death diagnosis.
The ULC is planning to release their model statute later this year, and is currently considering expert opinions and suggestions to assist them in this process. If you are a theologian, you are an expert on matters of life and death and should consider sharing them with a letter to the ULC.
Finally, be encouraged, our hope is in the Lord! I have found that most people just don’t know the facts on organ harvesting, but when they find out they care. Become an advocate of life from conception until natural death. Speak and pray against this injustice and together we will “deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain,” (Proverbs 24:11,12).
In 2013, my husband and I decided to get passports in case we wanted to travel outside the country, something we had never done before. As it turns out, between the two of us, circumstances were such (hip replacement for him and some health issues for me) that we didn’t think much about international travel. And then, of course, there was Covid. It dawned on me recently that the ten year lifespan of our passports was coming to an end. So, I decided to be pro-active and get it renewed before expiration.
I did my online research and discovered that there were post office passport offices I could go to for renewal. The USPS website gave the locations, days, and times of service. Today, I went to the nearest post office right when it was to open, only to find a couple waiting ahead of me. At first, they thought I was the person who was going to open the office. When they said they had been waiting and the office looked closed, I found someone in the back who was sorting mail to help us.
This slight, middle-aged man, with a heavy accent and wearing a mask, told us that we needed to go to the passport office on the other side. We told him that there was no one there. He said, he knew that because it is by appointment only. I let him know that the website doesn’t say that. He was firm. An appointment was the requirement. The couple told him that they had tried repeatedly to make an appointment. He kept saying that they needed to make an appointment. They repeated their claim. I then asked to speak to the person in charge of passports. That same postal worker told me that he was the Passport person. He offered to walk us to the computer terminal to make an appointment. The man who had been waiting said, “I tried but it wouldn’t let me.” Then the postal worker said, “That’s because there aren’t any appointments available and you can’t make one.”
Not sure I’ll ever get those brain cells back! But, not to be deterred, I travelled to a FedEx office because their website said you could renew there. When I arrived and requested it, they said I had to go online to fill out and forms and then come back for a photo to be taken. This was getting annoying.
Later on in the day, I found that the US government allows you (if you fulfill certain requirements) to renew online. I did so, and then my husband and I had to take digital photos of each other with very specific requirements. For the better part of an hour, we repeatedly kept uploading photos only to have them rejected for one reason or another. Finally, the photos proved acceptable and we were able to move on to the next step. (I really didn’t like any of the photos of me, but as soon as one of them proved successful, I decided that I loved it.)
The website then instructed me to pay for this service and I thought I would use the Visa Card that arrived the other day from the State of California called “California Middle Class Tax Refund Card,” meant to offset inflation under the banner of the Benefit for Families Act. Having researched that a bit, I discovered we were going to be taxed on this relief money, and I figured this was a good a place to spend it as anywhere. Guess what? The U.S. Government website wouldn’t accept that as payment! Truly, I am not making this up. Money from California doesn’t cut the mustard, apparently.
Persistence did pay off and finally our applications were accepted, but with a caveat. If our renewal is denied for some reason, they will not refund our money.
Is my passport saga over? I haven’t a clue. It will take 6-9 weeks for me to find out.
It would be a wonderful reality to never experience frustration. Think of it. Everything you endeavor to do turns out well, people run on schedule, things don’t break, etc. What exactly is frustration?
To me it is similar to the feeling of walking into a very strong wind, or a jar that refuses to open, or being unable to express to yourself what is bothering you. Another way of saying it is that we experience resistance.
A good procedure when experiencing frustration is to step back and identify who or what is stopping your forward progress in light of what you are attempting to do. Sometimes the correct conclusion is that your “endeavor” is faulty or problematic in some way. In this case, the resistance proves beneficial.
Another step is to identify if your stated goal is within your jurisdiction and ability to achieve. Can you really do anything about the war between Ukraine and Russia? Are you in a position single-handedly to stop the corruption in government schools? Quite possibly the frustration is a result of attempting to take too big a chunk of a task that goes beyond you. A more realistic approach is to see what is within your purview and how to move in the correct direction, but on a smaller scale.
A subsequent step would be to determine if you are bothered by something entirely different than what you think is at issue. Has someone disappointed you? Are you upset with a lack of achievement in your own life that makes you bitter? Possibly, you need a better diagnosis of the problem, keeping in mind that often our own sinfulness brings about frustration. You won’t fix the little things in other’s lives until you deal with the big ones in your own.
Prayer is the engine that will fuel all of these aforementioned steps. And in the process of communicating with God, along with the communication we receive back from Him with daily Bible reading, there can be relief in just being heard. Then the foundational doctrines of our faith (God’s sovereignty, His victory, His providential care) will “kick in” and help us patiently endure whatever is going on in the present.
Lastly, one thing I do in the midst of all these considerations is to go and tackle a project that has remained on the to-do list longer than it should. Whether it is cleaning out a drawer, closet, garage, or paperwork, as I focus on that particular task and see success, the frustration either is mitigated or disappears. And if nothing else, something has been removed from my to-do list.
What if frustration is one of the tools our Savior uses to draw us closer to Him and train ourselves to not rely on our own strength, but to rely on His? I guess you could call that a win-win.