I read an interesting quote in a good friend’s blog earlier today:
Have you ever wondered why people will say they’re having a baby when they’ve been trying to fall pregnant and the pregnancy test comes back positive but when they’re having an abortion, it’s just a foetus? ~ Dermot Cottuli – “The Question No Pro-Choicer Will Answer”
Unlike the marriage debate, I haven’t probably been as vocal on the discussion raging around Tasmania recently since Michelle O’Byrne tried to introduce new abortion legislation. That’s not because I don’t have a view on it, but rather because it’s so much harder for me to tackle this issue from a purely intellectual point of view, which is where I like to take my perspective from as much as possible, especially when publicly vocalising it like I do in writing here.
But here I am, getting involved and putting forward my thoughts on this.
I know that I’m not a woman – I think that’s pretty clear, but just in case anyone needed clarification, I’m not. Therefore I’m not entitled to an opinion, right? Wrong. This is also my country. This is also my state. I plan on having children one day and what we do with our society now is going to be what impacts on them as they grow up. The world that I help to create is the world that my children, my nieces and nephews, your children will grow up in.
This is why I stand against it, because it’s not just about me – it’s about everyone. It’s about the world we create, the society we form and the legacy we leave for our children.
I don’t like, though, to say I’m standing against abortion. What I’m doing is standing for life. I loved a meme that I saw going around Facebook over the past few weeks, saying that we define the end of life being when the heart stops beating, then why do we not define the start of life as being when it starts beating?
As a part of writing this, I’ve just done some reading about the early stages of pregnancy. The baby’s heart starts beating at around 6 weeks – which is actually, apparently, only the four week mark after actual conception. The child is, at this stage, not even the size of the eraser on the end of a pencil, but it has a heartbeat, a brain, a nervous system and even the beginnings of facial features developing. This is four weeks after the conception.
Reading this just makes me realize how miraculous it is.
This is a life.
A friend and I were speaking recently, and she made the comment to me that when her parents realized she was sexually active, they simply confronted her with the question of, was she ready to have a baby?
Another friend commented on my Facebook post about how 12 year olds shouldn’t be protesting at anti-abortion rallies, because they are too young. Yet that same friend commented only minutes later that they would be providing information to children the same age on how to put on a condom to help curtail the potential spread of STIs. Nothing to do with the most important consequence of unprotected sex: the child.
This is such a deep topic, but ultimately it’s simple. A baby is a baby. I’ll say that again: A baby is a baby. That heart starts beating only four weeks after conception. At the moment of conception, that zygote has 46 chromosomes – it is a blending of the mother and father’s genes.
It is not an inconvenience. It is not a medical procedure. It is a responsibility.
We have a responsibility to our children, both now and in the future, to provide them with life, love, liberty and a legacy.
Wrong is wrong. As adults we like to muddy the waters, we like to create grey areas.
And just to conclude, I want to share one final thing. I have a very good friend who, several years ago, was the victim of rape. She fell pregnant; she carried the baby to term, birthed her and has raised her to be one of the most entertaining, beautiful children I know. When I asked her if I could share this story, she told me that, “I honestly feel God gave her to me as a testimony.”
The testimony of that great friend, and her amazing daughter, speaks so many more volumes to me on this topic than anything else.
A child is a gift, people. It is the most beautiful blessing that we can hope to receive. It’s not something to be taken lightly; it’s not something to be considered an inconvenience or an unfortunate consequence.
If you don’t want a child, don’t get pregnant. If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. It’s actually really simple.
An open letter to Education Minister Nick McKim regarding the intended implementation of a Relationships and Sexuality Education in Tasmanian schools curriculum.
Dear Mr McKim;
I read with both interest and some trepidation your brochure regarding the formation of this Relationships and Sexuality in Tasmanian Schools curriculum that appears on the Department of Education website.
I’m curious, first of all, who are these ‘stakeholders’ you refer to on the back of the brochure?
“The Department of Education is working with the Department of Health and Human Services and other key relationships and sexuality education stakeholders to carry out this important work.”
One would think that the most important stakeholder in any and all education system are the parents of the children. Are parents being completely engaged in this ‘important work’ and will their input be given the significant weight on the topic that is deserved?
I would also ask, if you’re interested in pushing forward this agenda, which, according to this morning’s Mercury will allow for the entitlement of parents to remove their children from these classes, why should Christianity and even other religions not also be brought back into the public school curriculum? After all, if the onus and right is on the parents to remove their child from certain classes and curriculum, rather than their enrollment, should this not therefore justify the inclusion of such other studies?
Will you be pushing for a new curriculum on cultural tolerance? What about racial or ethnic tolerance? It would appear to me that in ‘educating’ our children in the tolerance of people based on their sexuality and sexual identity, it is discriminating against all of those children and people who suffer bullying, abuse and even violence based on their racial, ethnic, cultural, religious or other identities.
Could you please answer these questions for me? I would welcome your time in a phone conversation on the number below, or an email response.
Thanks in advance.
I never would have thought that I’d be making 7AM appointments for coffee. Welcome to the world of the working man, hmm?
Anyway, this morning I’m having coffee with a friend when, after the generic pleasantries are out of the way, the conversation steered towards the love life direction.
I find it amusing, actually. When you’re single, this is one of the most important questions that people have to ask you. My grandmother’s been asking me every time she sees me for years now, “Have you got a girlfriend yet?” Or something along those lines.
Not to say that over those times I haven’t had girlfriends at different stages (just to clarify), and I understand her perspective – she wants more grandchildren on her knee while she has the chance, so I should hurry up for her sake!
It amazes me, though, that it is so important to so many people – perhaps even more important to many of them than it is to me!
However; there was a long period of time where it was vital to my own existence – and I can’t help but ask the question now: Was it so important to me because it was so important to everyone else?
Is there peer pressure to be in a relationship?
When one of the first questions that almost everyone asks you is reinforcing the fact that you’re single, then does that actually serve to produce the feeling that you need to be in a relationship in order to be on the same level as your already-involved friends?
It becomes a pressure. While it’s probably not the conscious message that people are trying to send when they ask you about your love life, the fact is that there becomes this impression that you aren’t complete if you don’t have a partner. It’s as though we’re meant to be defined by who we are in a couple, not who we are individually.
And that’s wrong.
When it comes down to it, I’m actually happy where I am at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have someone to share my life with, but it’s not anything I have to rush. The fact is, I don’t want to be defined by my relationship. I’d much rather the two of us being defined as individuals who complement one another and enhance what are individual and independent qualities.
Second, I accept that right now I’m probably better off not in a relationship. There are other things I want to focus on, build and grow in my life so that I am the best person I can be when that wonderful lady comes along.
I hope you’ll hear my heart here. I’m not saying by any means that this isn’t the case for other couples. I do think it’s a fair statement to say that some couples are together out of a need to be with someone rather than the right one, but that’s not for me to judge, and if it works for those people, then great. For me, though, I’m happy to be single until the right one shows up.
So my statement is this: Singles, Unite! (See what I did there?) Don’t feel a need to be defined by who you are as half a couple, but be defined by who you are as a person – and find someone else who is defined by who they are as a person too!
And when that friend asks you if you’ve thought about internet dating? Well, you never know – I know it’s worked for friends of mine, and it might work for you too. You never know where you’ll meet someone these days, and in a world of online communication, maybe that’s where the best options are. To quote the friend who asked me about internet dating: “You’ve got to drop your hook in where the fish are!”
Imagine if they wrote songs this long all the time today – the music industry would die because our short-attention-span society can’t focus on anything that lasts more than about four minutes.
But social commentary is not the aim here.
So last chapter I didn’t actually get to the story, so here it is. With the Israelites being oppressed and beaten down by Sisera, the prophetess Deborah was leading Israel and she sends this bloke, Barak, son of Abinoam to send Sisera and his armies packing. Barak’s not convinced, and he tells Deborah that he’s not going unless she comes too.
And so begins a feminist’s favourite bible story!
Deborah says sure, she’ll go with him, but because he’s asking her to come with, he won’t get to be the hero. The villain of the piece, Sisera, will instead be handed over to a woman – and that woman’s name is Jael. Sisera’s on the run from the Israelites and decides to pull in for a pit stop at Jael’s tent. With refreshments provided, he decides to have a nap, and while he’s napping, Jael takes a tent peg and hammer and pins his head to the ground.
Anyway, in chapter 5, Deborah sings about it. There’s actually not a real lot to say here, because a lot of the song is retelling the story that we just went through, but in lyrical format. What I will say, though, is that song is powerful.
I love the first couple of verses, especially.
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves -
praise the LORD!” ~ Judges 5:2
My relationship with God is one where he is constantly reminding me of the heritage he adopted me into, not to boost my own ego (believe me, it doesn’t really help there), but to remind me of just how powerful He is. He’s a king, not just any king but the king over Heaven, Earth and everything created, and the thing is that he brought me into his family as his son and heir to that kingdom.
Just like he did for you.
We are all princes and princesses, and what we can take from this chapter is a mission to lead.
God hasn’t called us as his children, as his heirs and as his soldiers to hide behind others. He hasn’t called us to hide behind the walls of the kingdom where it’s safe and protected. He calls us to lead. Read that verse again:
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves -
praise the LORD!”
When we take the lead, he is to be praised. He is to be glorified. When we lead, God’s light is shone into the darkness.
God’s calling you to be a leader – that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re meant to run a church or build a ministry, but it does mean that you are called to be the example to those people around you. God hasn’t called you to himself to hide in the shadows. He hasn’t called you to sit quietly and acquiesce when others around you are going down the wrong path. He’s called you to lead. To stand up and show them that there’s a better way, God’s way.
In which situation in your life can you lead and be an example for your King and Father?
First of all in this chapter… Wow.
There’s so much here, I was reading it wondering just where to start – and how I could even begin to write a blog entry on it. To be honest, I could almost go close to writing one entry for each verse in this chapter; there’s just so much to pay attention to and to draw out of it.
But like happens, at times, there’s one verse that absolutely stood out to me.
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. ~ Deuteronomy 24:16
I remember once wondering whether I could ask God to let someone else go to heaven instead of me. I didn’t really know what I was asking, obviously, but the question was there. The thing is, though, that the answer is no.
I don’t really know the details, but I’m aware of the debate raging recently about whether hell exists or not, and to be honest, I’ve been at that place of denying that it exists; and thinking that it’s just not possible that it’s there. That isn’t, though, what the bible says. There’s more than the fair share of scripture that gives us a little bit of insight into the place; and it’s certainly not like some people prefer to believe.
The thing is, if there wasn’t a hell, then there would have been no need for Jesus to stand in the place of us and take the punishment for sin.
If there was no place bad. If everyone was just going to go to heaven anyway, then Jesus didn’t have to do what he did.
Hell is real, and it is justice for us to be in that place of eternal separation from God. I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like, and frankly, I don’t ever want to have any more idea of what it’s like beyond those verses that allude or picture it throughout the bible. Justice says that each man is to die for his own sins; we can’t pass that on from one person to another.
Only Jesus could.
How? By being God.
Jesus cannot have been ‘just a man’ and still been the sacrificial lamb. If he was just a man, with no divinity to him, then he could not have taken the place for even one person. The law, justice prevented it. It was only through his being divine, in being God, that he could actually stand in that place and say, “My love is greater.”
Wow, I’m exhausted – and the logical thing would be for me to go to sleep, but once again I’m committing myself to actually doing this study of the word.
To some people it might sound like I’m not doing much – only reading a chapter a day, it’ll take three and a half years to get through the bible, all that kind of stuff. However, for my perspective, I’m actually absorbing what I’m reading because I’m actually doing these little commentaries on it. I know that it’s bringing me closer to God, and I actually feel the connection through really absorbing what he’s said, moreso than I ever did in my previous life of just reading – usually late at night – and then falling asleep.
Tonight was great. Helped out with Energizer Youth who brought the One50 Dance Team from Adelaide to perform at YouthArc in Hobart. They were fantastic.
I’m not a dancer, so to be honest, perhaps that’s why I’m so amazed whenever I watch it – because it’s just not something that I can do! I do really enjoy watching it though, even if I can’t necessarily interpret what it actually means, and can only dream of actually being able to do it. We all have our own gifts, and I had the realisation last night, that that’s a good thing. We admire the gifts in others, but at the same time, we need to recognise that we have our own gifts too.
And if it wasn’t for the variety of gifts and talents that God created us with, well, how would we actually be able to appreciate other people? I’m a writer, and therefore I find that I’m a lot more critical of other writers, and to be honest, sometimes find it difficult to enjoy books that other people really love! However, I could watch someone who is a below average dancer, and all I see is “Wow, I can’t move like that – that’s awesome.”
One50 were far from below average, so I was just even more impressed!
Quite often, it seems, God points two main things out to me as I read a chapter in this Bible Journey. Tonight, again, is two things.
The main thing that I just found as I was reading this chapter, was how arduous and long and detailed the process of atonement was! I mean, seriously, it was a week of sacrificing a variety of different animals. You really wouldn’t want to be a vegetarian Israelite, that’s for sure.
What really stands out to me though is the difference between then and now. I mentioned not too long ago (maybe last night?) about the fact that we can now come into God’s presence without fear. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, God opened up the door back to us, so that we could enter his throne room as the children that he created us to be. We’re not snivelling peasants crawling on hands and knees in terror that if we say the wrong thing, or bow the wrong way, or look at the wrong person then the king will have our heads removed. No, we’re sons and daughters of God, the King of Kings, and we can enter his presence just like that, as children approaching a loving father.
It wasn’t the case for Aaron. Without the perfect sacrifice that was Jesus, they had to do what they could with the blood of bulls and rams and other animals to be atoned and cleansed enough to enter God’s presence.
Which brings me to the next point. The meal.
“At the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred.” ~ Exodus 29:32-33
Parallel much? Perhaps with the Last Supper, or communion that we now celebrate.
There are – in this second point – two things that stand out to me again!
First, the power of blood. Aaron and his sons had to be sprinkled with blood to be consecrated and able to present themselves to God. Jesus’ blood, the perfect sacrifice, is enough to consecrate us to present ourselves to God. Blood, the very essence of life – giving up life is the only way to cover the price of sin; which is death.
Second, consumption. This sounds a little weird, but Aaron and his sons ate the sacrifice of the ram and the bread for their ordination and consecration. In consuming the symbols of our redemption and consecration, we are accepting them into our very being. We allow them to become part of us, so that we then can be filled with that consecration and atonement.
The parallel of Jesus and communion alongside this meal that was eaten by the priests really stands out to me.
Perhaps a little heavy on the theology tonight, I apologise. Not bad given that an hour ago I was ready to pass out!
A friend of mine gave me a word today, and I really want to remember it so I’m just going to repeat what I recall of him saying, here.
He talked to me about Kazakhstan, and said straight out, “You’re going brother.” But at the same time, he told me about some images he saw, of me kicking a soccer ball around with young kids over there, kids who come from broken homes, whose parents have addictions, and talked about just building such close relationships with them, and that they’d start to call me “Uncle Josh.”
It was so encouraging, and so heartwarming. It really rejuvenates the excitement I have to go over there. I just look forward to it so much. It’s so exciting, not only that God’s actually trusting me and willing to use me to touch the lives of others, but it’s so exciting for the growth and life lessons that he actually has for me as well. Wow.
This chapter has a real lot in it: Laws of Justice and Mercy; Sabbath Laws; The Three Annual Festivals and God’s Angel to Prepare the Way. There’s a lot to go through; but I have a tendency to skip over bits and focus on what stands out to me with each chapter.
Just a quick note as I read through the sabbath laws. I’ve discussed the topic of the sabbath with a friend a couple of times over the past month or two, and we each have differing thoughts on the topic as to whether the sabbath is specifically Saturday, or whether it is more generic, and simply means that we should always at least have a day of rest, and a day dedicated to God.
I read verses 10 to 13 in this chapter, though, and each time it talks about a sabbath (and it implies a sabbath ‘year’ as well as the sabbath as a day), the reference here doesn’t specifically mention a particular day.
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. ~ Exodus 23:12
Now, I’m not reading into this any claim of being right, I think there’s a lot of validity to the perspective that says Saturday, specifically, is the holy day and should be our day of rest and dedication to God. Personally, I intend on making this a higher priority in my life, partially through the discussions that have been held, and moreso through God laying it on my heart as well.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and had people grumble about him. His disciples gathered food on the sabbath, and again, there was a bit of a stir created by it.
The Ten Commandments tell us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy; now I guess it comes down to what God meant by remembering it and keeping it holy. Does that mean, no work? Does that mean that we should have church on a Saturday? Or is it something a little less stringent? I don’t know, but the question’s out there.
The second part of this chapter that stuck out to me was the end: verses 31 to 33.
God lays out a massively expansive region that will be the borders of the nation of Israel, should they follow God and follow the directions of the Angel that God’s sending in front of them. As far as I know (and I’m happy to be corrected on this) Israel’s borders never actually covered the entire expanse that God promised them here.
This is interesting, I think. I read this and I think that yes, God gave the Israelites their own nation, he helped them defeat the Canaanites and everyone else in the area, but they didn’t walk into the complete fullness of his promise.
That, I think, is a part of God’s character too. Even if we don’t walk completely with him, we may not necessarily follow his plans completely, but he still maintains his destiny for us and still encourages us, still blesses us. He still loves us enough, that even when we don’t follow him all the time, he’ll do what he can to guide us back onto the path that he has for us.
I see it like a series of steps, lessons and even skill developments. Basically, the image I’m getting is like playing a computer game. Starting as a novice, to reach the end of the game, we have to go through, say, ten steps – or cross ten different checkpoints. Now if we miss a checkpoint or two, we’ll still be able to get to the final destination, but it won’t be with the same level of fulfillment or success as we could have done.
I hope that makes sense, because it does to me. God still blesses us, even if we don’t completely walk in his will, but through our own actions, inaction, disobedience or just distraction, we might sometimes miss out on the whole destiny that he had planned for us. He’s not going to harm us, so why not follow his guidance completely?
It’s been one of those days.
You know, those days where you just can’t seem to really catch a break? Nothing’s happened to frustrate, upset or anger me, but it’s just been a day where a few things have gone wrong, and that’s made it harder to get through than I’d really have liked to. So it just hasn’t been easy.
Which is okay – a tough day is good, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate the days that do go well.
But it affects you. I’ve spent the evening feeling just a touch down, nothing major, but just melancholy.
So I’m going to write this blog, and then curl up in bed and have a fairly early night. It’s good to have an early night every so often, or so I’ve heard.
Jacob and Rachel’s a pretty romantic story, really, especially in comparison to the way most of the couples have met to this point. He’s found his way to Haran, and meets some shepherds, and then along comes this shepherdess, who just happens to be from the family he’s trying to find in order to find himself a bride. Jacob waters her sheep, he weeps, he kisses her, and then she goes running home to tell her father.
It really has all the makings of a good Hollywood romance, doesn’t it? Right down to the conflict and that terrible bit in the middle where things nearly fall apart. Laban marries Jacob to his older daughter, Leah, first.
You know, if you really love something, or someone, you’ll give up all sorts of things. Jacob worked seven years, on the agreement that he could marry Rachel, and Laban – well, Laban betrayed him, it’s as simple as that. Yet, instead of spitting the dummy, Jacob confronts his now father-in-law, and when he’s told it will cost him another seven years labour, Jacob goes for it. Love makes us work harder, it makes us give up more.
And that’s one thing about the story of Jacob and Rachel, it really is a love story. The Isaac/Rebekah story says that Isaac loved Rebekah, yes, but it’s not a love story, not like Jacob and Rachel.
So what would you give up for the person you love? Would fourteen years unpaid labour be worth it to you?
I do feel sorry for Leah, but at the same time, she probably had a pretty good idea that she wasn’t going to be the favourite wife. I’m doubting that she had no idea what was going on for the whole seven years that Jacob was working for Laban.
But she got the first children. Along comes Reuben, born out of her misery, God blessed her – it wasn’t, after all, her fault that she was in this predicament. Then Simeon, named such because the Lord heard tha she was not loved. Third was Levi, with whom she hoped Jacob would finally become attached to her – then finally Judah – and here’s a key point. With Judah, she stopped focussing on her misery, on her loneliness, on her disappointment and negativity. With Judah, she praised God – and promptly stopped having children.
It took four children, but her focus eventually came to the important bit: God.