The Quest for Affirmation and Power of Partnership with God
Here’s a headline you don’t see every day: “Dozens of camels barred from Saudi beauty contest over Botox.” Camel breeders compete in the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival for some $66 million in prize money. Botox injections, face lifts, and other cosmetic alterations are strictly prohibited, but over forty camels were disqualified this year for receiving such enhancements.
Camels are by no means unique in needing help to be more than they are. In Google’s summary, “Discover what the world was searching for this year,” we learn that the world searched online for “affirmations,” “soulmate,” and “how to maintain mental health” more than ever before in 2021.
We were made by God to value life and health innately. It is not surprising that New Zealand would take steps to ban smoking or that geopolitical commentators would express grave concerns about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. When a woman was pulled from a car
submerged in rushing water near the brink of Niagara Falls, the story made national headlines.
As thousands of people continue to “disappear” in Mexico due to “a maelstrom of gang and drug cartel conflict, as well as government and police corruption,” we grieve and seek justice. A Dallas man who beat two puppies to death earlier this year was sentenced to six years in prison, further evidence of our culture’s affirmation of life. As with the Nobel Prizes that were first awarded on this day in 1901, we value not only life itself but those who improve it on behalf of others as well.
California may fund abortion "tourism"
And yet ...
California is considering funding abortion “tourism” to enable out-of-state women to obtain an abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. And a New York Times guest essay disparages those who suggest adoption as an alternative to abortion by noting the pain mothers feel when they give away the children to whom they give birth.
The author is convinced that “abortion is a form of health care” and that “every woman should have access to it if she needs it.” And yet she notes that with adoption, “a woman has to relinquish not a lump of cells but a fully formed baby she has lived with for nine months.” How can she not see that the former, whatever she calls it, is only an earlier stage of the latter?
She writes that pregnant women “undergo the bonding with a child that happens by biological design as an embryo develops into a living, breathing, conscious human” and laments that “then that child will be taken away.” She also points to the “relinquishment trauma” some adopted children may experience. The fallacious and tragic assumption motivating her article is that abortion can thus be preferable to adoption for mothers who do not want to bear children and for such children as well.
Another New York Times article exposes a website that provides explicit directions on how to die and provides a forum on which some encourage others to choose suicide. The Times has identified forty-five website participants who later killed themselves and writes that “the trail of deaths is likely much longer.” As I read the stories of some of the victims, I thought of my children and grandchildren and of all the families who have lost children and grandchildren in such a horrific way.
"Through faith conquered kingdoms"
We have focused this week on the courage God’s people need to engage our broken culture in transforming ways. In a society that continues to reject biblical morality and suffer the consequences, Christians can become deeply discouraged about our ability to make a meaningful difference.
In response, let’s close with this note of encouragement: as we work, God works.
When we pay a price to serve Jesus faithfully, Jesus honors our commitment and uses us in ways we cannot fully imagine in this life. Hebrews 11 speaks of those who “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, [and] obtained promises” (v. 33). We can emulate them knowing that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Christmas proves once and for all that our God is “Immanuel,” a name which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The One born in Bethlehem now makes his manger in us by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and will partner with us whenever we choose “not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
"Love rather than fear was to inspire his worship"
St. Peter Chrysologus (“golden-worded”) was born in Italy in AD 380 and died in 450. He served as bishop in Ravenna, a town in northeast Italy, where he was noted for his exceptional oratorical eloquence. In his sermon titled “Love desires to see God,” he described God’s partnership with those he used to change the world.
Noah was his first example: “He called Noah to be the father of a new era, urged him with kind words, and showed that he trusted him; he gave him fatherly instruction about the present calamity, and through his grace consoled him with hope for the future. But God did not merely issue commands; rather with Noah sharing the work, he filled the ark with the future seed of the whole world.”
Abraham was his second: “God called Abraham out of the heathen world ... and made him the father of all believers. God walked with him on his journeys, protected him in foreign lands, enriched him with earthly possessions, and honored him with victories. He made a covenant with him, saved him from harm, accepted his hospitality, and astonished him by giving him the offspring he had despaired of. Favored with so many graces and drawn by such great sweetness of divine love, Abraham was to learn to love God rather than fear him, and love rather than fear was to inspire his worship.”
He continued: “God comforted Jacob by a dream during his flight, roused him to combat upon his return, and encircled him with a wrestler’s embrace to teach him not to be afraid of the author of the conflict, but to love him. God called Moses as a father would, and with fatherly affection invited him to become the liberator of his people.”
Now the God of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses is our God. What he did through them he stands ready to do through us.
Do you believe that this is true for you today?
If not, why not?
Publication date: December 10, 2021
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Lolostock
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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