Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's My Body; It's My Right!


When we discuss the issue of rights, we need to first distinguish between the natural rights of the individual and legal rights granted by a government.

A natural right
is inherent--existing in someone as a permanent and inseparable element or quality. Natural rights are universal (exist in all human beings at all times) and are self-evident (requiring no proof or explanation to be true). They are inalienable--incapable of being withdrawn, surrendered, or transferred.

A legal right
(also called an artificial, statutory, or positive right) is one bestowed by a government to its people. It is specific to a culture, time and sitting government; thus, it is subject to change.

Human beings precede governments. Man is social, however, and must interact and contract with other humans within community for sustenance and gain. In doing so, governing structures arise from within a cooperating populace with the intent to protect people's rights as they socialize.

Therefore, the only function of a legitimate civil government should be to protect the already-existing inborn rights of citizens when disputes or threats against these rights occur. But as we know, governments formed by flawed men become centralized centers of expanding greed, deceit, and oppression.

Rather than take full responsibility for self-rule, most people want others to assume that responsibility for them and cover any resulting consequences. Governments become parental, indulging the co-dependent and keeping them dependent on the federal tit.

To keep society's creative individuals and freethinkers dwarfed, the State's parental focus shifts to that of a strict disciplinarian, using stifling rules and regulations to reward compliance and punish self-reliance.

In a society where an individual's inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property) are protected, there is no need for a complex web of legal rights.

Only the sovereign individual has true rights. Any legal considerations granted to descriptions--race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, creed, ethnicity, handicaps, etc.--are privileges that create ill will, artificial classifications, and more problems than they solve.

People with similar distinctions and interests normally associate together. These collectives, recognizing power in numbers, then petition their government for certain rights (privileges and societal powers) because of these shared distinctions.

Inevitably, when a government grants a legal "right" to one group, another collective's place in society suffers, as in the case of affirmative action. Ultimately, the preeminence of individual liberties are diminished and threatened.

The answer does not lie in trying to please everybody with artificially created equality, but in going back to the fundamental, inalienable rights of the INDIVIDUAL as sufficient. A government should refuse to grant legal rights to ANY collective or union of people.

Similarly, we don't have to pass special "hate crime" laws to protect the LGBT community. Our society should recognize that all crimes stem from various forms of hatred. Hate is hate and crime is crime.

Don't single out the LGBT community for special considerations if you're not going to do the same for the elderly who are mugged because they're easy targets or for Down's syndrome girls who are raped. Do you not see the Pandora's Box?

Punish the criminal according to the actual damage inflicted upon the individual and/or his property...not how he thinks.

"A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights that he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations. Any group that does not recognize this principle is not an association, but a gang or a mob . . .

The notion of “collective rights” (the notion that rights belong to groups, not to individuals) means that “rights” belong to some men, but not to others—that some men have the “right” to dispose of others in any manner they please—and that the criterion of such privileged position consists of numerical superiority." --Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness

That's why inalienable rights are often called negative rights, while legal "rights" are deemed positive. Positive rights permit or oblige action, whereas Negative rights permit or oblige inaction.

In other words, in order for me to exercise my inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property), no one has to permit or enable me to do so. In fact, they stay out of my way! (The whole purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is to state what the government CANNOT do as I exercise my natural rights.)

Positive rights, on the other hand, do not exist prior to some sort of contract. They must be initiated and implemented from an outside source for people to take advantage of them; hence, a law and the taxpayer’s money to enforce it. Those wanting legal rights require powerful people in civil authority to grant them. Individuals, however, inherently possess--from the beginning of their human condition--the superior, resident authority to:

  • Life: Everyone is entitled to live.
  • Liberty: Everyone is entitled to do anything he or she desires, as long as it doesn't conflict with the first right.
  • Estate: Everyone is entitled to own all he or she creates or gain through gift or trade, as long as it doesn't conflict with the first two rights.

Against this backdrop of inborn rights, I remain convinced that in the face of the biological evidence, we have no civilized choice but to acknowledge that the single-cell zygote is already a human being; and therefore, a growing person with inherent rights that should not be denied due to the bearer's location, size, or functional abilities.

The person in the womb has a root capacity for functioning (an already existing nature, which is there from the beginning) that enables active capacity--(actual functioning; a right-now demonstration of the root capacity).

For example, you buy a computer because of certain functions it can perform for you; still, once turned on, the computer must go through a series of progressive steps to reach full capacity to execute those tasks. When did the piece of hardware become a real computer...before or after performing its program?

Biological evidence also proves that the single-cell zygote is pre-programmed and self-contained, taking no tissue or blood from the host. He or she needs no outside permission, direction, or intervention to develop fully in the womb. He simply needs to be left alone. The only thing the embryo needs is room (along the uterine wall) and board (shared nourishment).

Which brings us to our next question: What about the inherent rights of the host (mother)?

Many pregnant women say that carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term is tantamount to slavery. Some also claim the right to self-defense against an intruder, thereby justifying aggression against the fetus. Others claim the unwelcome fetus is parasitical, stealing life from the mother.

These claims are serious to the libertarian, whose philosophy centers on non-aggression and freedom from coercion. One person's inalienable right will never conflict with a true, inalienable right of someone else. Although at first a dispute appears to exist, the simple gathering of facts, clarifying boundaries, and the application of sound reasoning will resolve the matter.

Libertarianism does not address morality in general. It addresses only one category of good versus evil: justice versus injustice, non-aggression versus aggression. To violate another's rights is to be unjust.

Libertarianism's basic principle is the obligation not to violate rights. This non-aggression principle is the foundation, the sine qua non, of a moral society. We owe others non-aggression. People who commit murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, fraud, or fail to pay their just debts are aggressors.

Implicit in the non-aggression principle is the right of defense. We have no obligation to allow others to succeed in attacking us before we react. There is a related principle: no one has a right to negligently or intentionally endanger the innocent and then allow the harm to happen.

If we endanger others without their consent, we incur a positive obligation to prevent the harm. This might be called the non-endangerment principle: you endanger them — you protect them from the harm.

Non-aggression is an ongoing obligation: it is never optional for anyone, even pregnant women. If the non-aggression obligation did not apply, then earning money versus stealing it and consensual sex versus rape would be morally indifferent behaviors.

The obligation not to aggress is pre-political and pre-legal. It does not arise out of contract, agreement, or the law; rather, such devices presuppose this obligation. The obligation would exist even in a state of nature. This is because the obligation comes with our human nature, and we acquire this nature at conception.

Each of us has this obligation regardless of contrary personal opinions, consensus, or laws. We have it whether we wish to obey it or not. We have it even when others are not able to defend themselves. This obligation can neither be created nor destroyed. It is logically necessary to the concepts of liberty and property. (Doris Gordon, "Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly" )

Let's look closely at the argument of fetal aggression using the two exceptions to taking another person's life: self-defense and self-preservation:

I. Abortion is not an exercise of the privilege of self-defense, since the unborn child is not an aggressor.

A. Aggression involves an act of will or an act of negligence. It can never arise from an act that is caused by existential forces beyond an individual's control. i.e., there cannot be aggression if human action, in the sense of purposeful behavior, is not involved at all.

B. The creation of the fertilized egg and its attachment to the uterine wall are not "acts" of the unborn child in the sense of being purposeful. They are the result of existential biological forces independent and beyond the control of the child and brought into play by the combined acts of the father and mother.

C. Since the unborn child cannot rationally be held responsible for its own creation, it cannot rationally be held to have committed aggression by coming into -- indeed, being brought into existence. Aggression implies responsibility; and no human being is responsible for his own creation.

D. Since the unborn child is not and cannot be an aggressor, the mother cannot invoke the privilege of self-defense against its continued existence in the one place in which, at that stage in its development as a human being, it is both logically and biologically appropriate for it to be. (Note: Whether the father in a rape situation is guilty of aggression is another matter. In any event, his guilt cannot rationally be imputed to the child.)

II. Abortion is not an exercise of the privilege of self-preservation, since, in the usual case, the mother's life is not endangered by the pregnancy.

A. A privilege of self-preservation arises only in those situations in which the lives of two or more equally innocent persons are in jeopardy, and not all of them can be saved.

B. Pregnancy is not such a situation in the normal case. Were it so in extraordinary cases, the mother would have a privilege to defend her own life through abortion, or to choose to give up her life to save the child (assuming this could be done medically). In such a situation, neither the state nor even the father of the child would have any right or privilege to interfere with the mother's decision.

(Note: Pregnancy complications that threaten the mother's life are extremely rare and continue to decrease with medical advances. The statistics often reported by various organizations in this category primarily reflect such mental health "issues" of the mother as depression, anxiety, and stress--all permissible reasons in the United States for late--term abortions.)

III. In sum, since abortion does not come within the two recognized exceptions to the right to life, and is inconsistent with the right as far as the unborn child is concerned, abortion must itself be a form of aggression repugnant to libertarian principles. (Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., "If the Unborn Child is a Person Entitled to Rights, Abortion is Aggression”)

Unwanted, prenatal children have been compared to burglars climbing into windows. Who can possibly believe that the mother is the innocent victim of a crime?

As much as truth rains on our parades, vaginal sex always carries a risk for conception and pregnancy--even among the most careful participants.  NO contraceptive is 100% effective 100% of the time--even when consistently used.

Even the birth control pill’s high rate of effectiveness (but not absolute) can be compromised by the use of antibiotics, anti-seizure and anti-fungal medications, as well as  OTC herbal supplement St. John's Wort. (Source)

The Guttmacher Institute reports that nine out of ten women having abortions claim to use birth control, but confess they do not use it as prescribed.

Overall, 58% of the women having abortions claim a contraceptive failure; 31% had used a method in the past but were not using one during the month in which they conceived, and 11% had never used any method.

The majority of the women among the 42% who were not using a contraceptive method when they became pregnant had most recently relied on either the pill or the condom. Fifty-three percent of prior pill users and 76% of prior condom users became pregnant within three months of stopping use.

By the way, we're not talking about the contraceptive bungling of naive teens. Most women (56%) having abortions are between the ages of 20-24. They are legal adults in an information-saturated country whose government has poured billions of dollars into comprehensive sex education in public schools for years--along with free condom, pills, and instructions--all surrounded by a sexually driven culture whose exploits can be accessed with ease 24/7. In other words, there is no excuse for negligence.

But let's get back to the uterine burglar analogy:

Trespass implies an unjustified interference with the rights of another. It implies some volition on the part of the accused: the "invader" acted intentionally, recklessly, or negligently, and could have avoided the "invasion." Mere presence on another's property, absent more supporting evidence, is insufficient to prove volition.

Who among us could have chosen not to begin life or not to inhabit our mother's body when conceived?

Inhabiting the mother's body is a byproduct of the parents' volitional act, not the child's.
What the prenatal child does, she does by necessity. This necessity is also a byproduct of the parents' volitional act.

Conception and pregnancy are foreseeable consequences of even careful sex. By causing children to be, parents also cause them to need support--it's a package deal. When parents mutually enable their sperm and ova to join, the parents are not enslaved -- they've volunteered.

This may put the needs of a parent and child in conflict, but it creates no clash of rights between them. This is because parents owe children support.

Feeding our own children is not merely something we ought to do under morality; it's what we owe them under justice. Parental obligation is not a special obligation, in that acting justly towards everyone else is a universal obligation. Parental obligation does not arise out of contract or because a tort or other injustice was committed. The obligation is, basically, the obligation to avoid injustice in the first place.

Our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, can be boiled down to one central unalienable right: to be free from aggression, the initiation of force or fraud. With this right comes the unalienable (i.e., non-optional) obligation not to aggress.

Non-aggression is a negative obligation -- do not hit first. Yet because of it, we can incur positive obligations. For example, we don't aggress by entering contracts; yet, by doing so, we can incur debts. We also can incur debts apart from contract or harming others.

We do this by threatening harm, by endangering others without their consent. If harm results, we not only caused the danger, we caused the harm and initiated force. Since we have no right to initiate force, we have no right to endanger others and then let harm befall them. The principle is: If you endanger them, you owe them protection from harm.

The kind and degree of preventative care we must take depends upon the kind and degree of the risk we've imposed on others. For example, when we drive a car, at the minimum, we must stay alert and drive carefully. Our right of defense gives us the right to prevent drunk drivers from using the road.

Causing a child to be is not, in itself, endangerment (it's a normal, natural fact of life), because the very fact of pregnancy automatically protects the child against the possible dangers of an unsupportive environment. But by conceiving a child, parents give themselves a life-or-death power over her, and they do this without her consent.

If parents intentionally or negligently use their power to put her in harm's way (let her starve, say), they cause the danger. If the child gets harmed, they caused the harm. They initiated force and violated the child's rights. (Doris Gordon, "Comments on Why the Prenatal Child Has the Right under Individual liberty to be in the Mother's Womb")

I would suggest that the general libertarian principle is that when you impose something on someone else without his or her consent, and at your free will, then, yes, you are obligated.

You do incur particular obligations to that particular individual, whether it's somebody that you ran down with your car or whether it's a kid that you brought into the world without their consent.
(John Walker, "Why Parental Obligation?")

Again, if the rights of the fetus are inalienable, they will not transgress the true rights of the mother. Inherent rights may interfere with preferences, but never another's rights. Is the fetus legally the property of the mother?

It is a biological fact that the embryo is a human being with 46 chromosomes. Attaching at a suitable place along the uterine wall of his host, the embryo simply grows. There is an exchange of oxygen, nourishment, gases, hormones, and fetal wastes between the separate blood vessels of the mother and fetus. This is accomplished through a remarkable filter that allows for transfers without any mingling of blood.

Remember our premise that two natural rights cannot conflict:

In the early stages of a woman's pregnancy, her body emits a hormone that prevents her immune system from attacking the zygote as a foreign body before he can further develop and build his own protective barrier (placenta).

Her immune system is also proactive in preparing the uterine lining to cope with the inflammation associated with implantation. Interestingly, this hormone, cortocotrophin, is the "master" hormone that commands the body's response to stress. (Source: "Stress Hormone Prevents Mother from Rejecting Embryo" )

Any other foreign body in the host would trip alarms that would rush white blood cells from the immune system to devour the invading organism. But the fetus also emits the same hormone in his distinct immune system to keep Him from rejecting the host and his own developing organs!

Until now, the fetal and infant immune system had been thought to be simply an immature form of the adult system, one that responds differently because of a lack of exposure to immune threats from the environment. The new research has unveiled an entirely different immune system in the fetus at mid-term that is derived from a completely different set of stem cells than the adult system.

"In the fetus, we found that there is an immune system whose job it is to teach the fetus to be tolerant of everything it sees, including its mother and its own organs," said Joseph M. McCune, MD, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Division of Experimental Medicine who is a co-senior author on the paper. "After birth, a new immune system arises from a different stem cell that instead has the job of fighting everything foreign."

The team previously had discovered that fetal immune systems are highly tolerant of cells foreign to their own bodies and hypothesized that this prevented fetuses from rejecting their mothers' cells during pregnancy and from rejecting their own organs as they develop.

The adult immune system, by contrast, is programmed to attack anything it considers "other," which allows the body to fight off infection, but also causes it to reject transplanted organs.

"The adult immune system's typical role is to see something foreign and to respond by attacking and getting rid of it. The fetal system was thought in the past to fail to 'see' those threats, because it didn't respond to them," said Jeff E. Mold, first author on the paper and a postdoctoral fellow in the McCune laboratory.

"What we found is that these fetal immune cells are highly prone to 'seeing' something foreign, but instead of attacking it, they allow the fetus to tolerate it."

The previous studies attributed this tolerance at least in part to the extremely high percentage of "regulatory T cells"- those cells that provoke a tolerant response -- in the fetal immune system. At mid-term, fetuses have roughly three times the frequency of regulatory T cells as newborns or adults, the research found. (Source: "Human Fetal Immune System Arises from Entirely Different Source than Adult Immune System" )

If the embryo is indeed a "burglar", then the mother's body immediately opens all doors and windows as he approaches!

In addition, unlike a tumor, the embryo is not just a growing mass of his mother's cells.  His DNA is unique. He builds himself and his habitat with his own cells.

Therefore, his body, as well as the placenta, is HIS property. The fetus and his belongings are lodging temporarily within a womb that not only prepared itself for his arrival, but offers room and board for nine months.

Let us honestly acknowledge the biological facts, and reason correctly in regards to the personhood of the fetus and the weight this truth must carry in society. How we treat other human beings--regardless of their size, location, appearance, and current functionality--defines the quality of our humanity and the legacy we'll leave to future generations.

Although we do not live for others, responsible members of a healthy society live in consideration of their neighbors. At times, this respect will surely conflict with our preferences and plans, but never our true rights and those of another. And this is the distinction of a great people.

I don't have to like you to uphold your rights as a human being. I don't have to agree with you to defend your right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Despite expected deviations among imperfect humans, most people embrace the Golden Rule (the ethic of reciprocity) as the maxim of a healthy, flourishing society. Whereas the principle of the Golden Rule predates New Testament, times, most people recognize it as a teaching of Jesus:

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

This rule of life embodies two forms:

A person should treat others in a manner he or she wants to be treated.
A person should
not treat others in ways he or she would not like to be treated (
also called the Silver Rule)

We look at failing economies and crime rates as evidence of a declining society, but these are  just two cascading effects from a singular cause--how people in that society treated each other as members of the larger, human community--particularly the most vulnerable among them.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said,
"I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."
It was a fun way of complaining about having to drag one's body
to work in order to make the car payments.

And it also taught a fundamental truth:

The right to control one's own body doesn't justify
the failure to pay one's debts.

Doris Gordon, "Abortion, Choice, and Libertarian Principles"

I encourage you to visit the following sites for pro-life voices that are being heard in diverse communities. You may not be aware of these organizations.

Feminists for Life

Secular Pro Life

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Of Heaven and Earth, Life and Death,
Sickness and Health in the Kingdom of God

On Friday evening, October 5, George and I sat quietly in my hospital room after an emotional afternoon filled with biopsy reports and tears. We were exhausted.

After everyone left, all we knew to do was turn our faces to the wall, as terminally ill Hezekiah did in the Bible account, and ask, "What must we do?"

The next morning we had our answer. George called our priest, Fr. Sergio Leal, and asked him to drive down to anoint me with oil before my surgery on Tuesday.

Fr. Sergio pastors at St. Clement's, a Spirit-filled Anglican Church, in the delightful little town of Mule Shoe, Texas. We began attending the church when we lived in Lubbock. Although we have moved twice since that time, we still consider Fr. Sergio our covering elder.

We reached out to him based on the instructions in James 5:14-16:

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Before Fr. Leal's visit, I studied these verses once again. Looking at the word let in verse fourteen, I found that in Greek, both verbs are in the Aorist Imperative and are strong commands.

I was struck by the fact that many pastors and churches across America are not even aware that anointing with oil is a commandment. If it received just as much attention and reverence as Baptism and Communion, wouldn't we see more healings?

Even in the Old Testament, healing for those in covenant with God was not an occasional blessing. He actually presented His willingness to make His earthly family well in a legal declaration using two interesting words--statute and ordinance.

Statute:  A law etched in stone

Ordinance: A judicial degree regarding that law

It is the role of a judge to interpret an existing law and then make a decree toward a person regarding it.

Exodus 15:25-26:

"And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

"And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee."

God's first covenant with His people in the wilderness was one regarding physical healing. At the waters of Mara, He gave them privileged access to one of His redemptive names as surety: Jehovah Rophe: Jehovah--God's personal name. Rophe--one of His eternal, unchanging attributes. Put together, God invites us to know Him on a first name basis, and shows us just one of the many redeeming qualities He brings to the relationship. Here, He is a healer.

Using the complete Hebrew meaning of Rophe, the last sentence in the Scripture above reads: "I am God, your physician, who mends, repairs, cures you thoroughly, and makes you whole."
Exodus 23: 25-26:
"And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

"There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.

Believers are told in the NT book of Hebrews that the New Covenant in Christ is far superior to the Old. Therefore, if the natural children of Abraham had such an ordinance from God for their sick and diseased bodies, how much more should we, the spiritual children of God, take hold of the promise of divine healing?

As Christians, we often lose focus on why God wants us well. Yes,
God is moved with compassion when His children suffer, and He desires to see them well again. But being healthy also assists me in fulfilling my mission on earth--my reason for being here.

Remember the Israelites who left Egypt after partaking of the Passover Lamb? The Bible records "He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes." (Psalm 105:37)

Amazing! Not even one of the thousands of former slaves with broken backs and worn-out bodies remained in their former condition. Their assignment to the Promised Land required physical strength and endurance; and they needed the resources to build the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.

In addition, God's faithfulness to provide for His children was to be (and remains) a testimony to unbelievers of the reality of a loving deity that relates personally to His worshipers--a stark contrast to the unresponsive, pagan gods around them.

God heals us in three ways:

Spontaneous: the human body was created to clot upon injury, fight invading germs, and repair itself. Healing was built into our systems from the beginning, because we are created in the image and likeness of our Healer.

Stimulated: Our bodies often respond quickly to the addition of needed nutrients, medicine, and changes in diet and lifestyle. (This path is just as much of God as any other method.) We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the body, which is programmed to fight to "right" itself, only needs our cooperation.

Supernatural: When the damage is too extensive or the disease advanced, we can still pray for a divine intervention.

Nevertheless, I admit. After thirty -plus years in ministry, I still don't know why some get healed and some don't--even after prayer and anointing with oil. But that's as futile as wondering after an altar call: "I know many unbelievers were in the congregation tonight. Why didn't they all get saved?"

We can have everything in place. We follow every instruction as best we can and yet--some aren't saved, some aren't healed. It is as mysterious as the human heart, which only God knows. Complex issues prevail in each situation; therefore, we should not pretend to be experts or judges in such matters.

However, I will tell you what I personally experienced that weekend while reading the healing ordinance in James. I believe it is where many Christians find themselves when confronted with a devastating medical report. I am also convinced that what a believer chooses to do beyond that point will make a difference in the quality and quantity of their days.

First, God dramatically shifted my focus from simply feeling better to finishing well. He said it would make all the difference in how I live from here on out...in how I understand and walk in the ways of His Kingdom. At that point, my ears were open like never before. My heart was thirsty for His instructions!

This is where we began: God views life as seamless between earth and our final destination. Christian or not, all humans are eternal beings.

All sick Christians eventually become well; all believers with life-long injuries become whole the moment they arrive in God's presence. Healing is a done deal whether it is realized on earth or in Heaven. That explains why it often seems like a struggle when we ask God for certain things...things that even appear to be life and death issues. He wants to first deal with what He considers more important matters. If we embrace His guidance, it will better prepare us to receive and keep our wellness.

Everyone--even Christians--have a tendency to view the transition between Heaven and Earth as a divide, while God has always viewed the two as seamless. Heaven is simply a step away. Adam and Eve once lived in the physical reality of that seamlessness. We will see it again when Christ returns to set up His Kingdom on earth and that "step" will no longer exist.

For now, Heaven is a "holding place" for the saints until that day; Still, I believe it is a vibrant, productive community where saints are schooled, mentored, and equipped--perhaps catching up on whatever they did not, could not grasp about the Kingdom of God on earth.

We all fall short due to the Fall. Heaven is a place to correct all of that. I often think of the joy of seeing some of my friends and relatives who have gone on before me--some crippled and bound on earth by alcohol, drugs, or mental illness. Others are contrary and bitter due to living in a fallen world where no one is immune to sin's fallout. There, I will see them free from the Fall's effects and at their best--the way God intended. They, too, will see me at my very best!

Regardless of how long we live on earth, everyone's time is profoundly short compared to eternity. We must never forget the fact that our lives on earth are designed to prepare us for and influence others toward that eternity. Whatever else we lack is in Heaven's "Finishing School".

In other words, my life on earth is not the end; it's a means to the end. I was given gifts and talents to help me grow in grace and serve others, and these graces will continue in Heaven and ultimately reach their zenith when Christ reigns on earth. (According to Romans 11:29, God's gifts and callings are irrevocable. I am convinced that is true even at death.)

I fully expect to continue broadcasting (in some higher sense, I suppose), writing, teaching, singing, playing the guitar, and acting. Those things that God called and equipped me to do well on earth will not cease because I won't cease being me!

His call is to an eternal Kingdom, not just to a Christian life on earth. A kingdom economy that encompasses the universe needs working citizens. Seeing how God created the earth and then delegated Adam the task of tending it (even naming all the creatures), clues me in on how Christ's visible Kingdom will look on earth: God will allow us the joy of discovery, invention, and productivity beyond our wildest dreams--free from the hindrances and limitations of the Fall. Our brains will function at full capacity to harness and govern the universe and all it contains! (You don't think all those planets and solar systems are out there for us to just admire through telescopes, do you!)

I'll remain fully intact and recognizable--spirit and soul, personality and purpose--just temporarily without the unique earthbound vessel that I used for expression while there. When Christ brings me back to earth, I will once again be reunited with that body, but it will be glorified (perfected) to sustain me forever.

I began to see that what may appear to us to be a senseless death of a Christian or the life of a child cut short is seen quite differently from God's point of view. It is not an interrupted life, but simply one that is received on a higher plane...and there to thrive.

Although God does NOT cause or participate in the evil that's in the world today, He does redeem His own in the fleeting moments and does NOT allow it to have the final say. The body may be destroyed, but the person remains safe and whole in God, and continues his or her unique existence--more alive than ever before. Even the ravaged, decaying body will not persist as a testimony to evil. It, too, will be resurrected and raised unto unblemished glory.

So, there you have it. I wanted to get on with talking to God about healing me; He wanted me to see life and death, Heaven and beyond through a Kingdom perspective, and challenge me to believe for something more than just a well body.

Consequently, the Lord instructed me to redirect my prayers.  He told me to lay aside the prognoses of the doctors and the plethora of statistics I was given, as well as any times frames I was personally hoping for. Lifestyle changes, as important as they are, had to be properly prioritized.

He reminded me of Acts 13: 36, and what it said of King David:

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed."

David did not leave the earth until he had served his generation with his purpose--his reason for being alive in the first place. Although he lead men into battle, faced assassins, and sinned grievously, David finished his assignments; only then did he draw his last breath.

I asked what I had to do beyond a mere profession of Scripture in order to turn Acts 13:36 into my legacy.

We all want our lives to count, regardless of the days we have or the obstacles we face. We want to leave positive legacies in the earth--some sort of memorial that points to how we affected people with lasting virtues and godly, generous hearts.

The Lord took me back to the times I played outdoors during hot summers in South Carolina. Not wanting to interrupt too much playtime, I'd run to the outside spicket to get a quick drink of water. (Yes, I'm a Southerner through and through!)

First, I had to turn on the faucet, then crouch down under it to catch the cool stream in my mouth. God showed me it was all about getting in the right position to receive. In my childhood, it was the right bend of my body that helped me get the water. Now, I had to get in the right spiritual position.

While waiting for my church elder to arrive, I had several days to posture myself. First, I repented before the Father for allowing the cares and trials of life to act like a wax that slowly dulled my ability to hear Him often and clearly. I had become callous to the Holy Spirit's gentle urges and what we Christians often refer to as "a check in my spirit". God's primary method of speaking to His children is not in the spectacular (1 Kings 19: 10-13)

The Bible says God prefers obedience to sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Although I know this Scripture is referring to the futility of trying to please God through religious activities rather than stemming from a loving relationship, I think it also applies to times, due to plain stubbornness, irrational fears, or prolonged excuses, we have to walk a painful path that is certainly not God's best for us--a path that requires sacrifices. Nevertheless, our Father unbegrudgingly redeems our steps and turns the situation around for good.

So, instead of asking flatly to be healed of cancer, I asked God to give me what I needed to fulfill the number of my days and serve my generation. Let me give gifts to the world until I'm empty.

I was surprised at what happened next. The Holy Spirit directed me to go ahead and believe for the healing I needed in order to do just that--fulfill my days--along with the soundness of mind, strength, provision, favor, and open doors!

I began to grasp that receiving from God was never intended to be a "one size fits all", "name it and claim it" formula. It is to stem out of a personal, abiding relationship. Therefore, we cannot compare what God grants to each of us among ourselves. We are individually given the measure of what we need to run the race and finish our course.

Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus as part of his purpose on earth. His resurrection from the dead caused many Jews to finally believe in their Messiah. Yet, the day came when he died and went to Heaven. Period. That was included in his purpose, too.

Elisha was a prophet who performed many miracles, yet the Bible says one day he got sick and died. He rescued many people from disaster, yet couldn't save himself. But it was not in his purpose to do so. Interestingly, some men who were burying a friend's body near the tomb of Elisha saw a band of raiders off in the distance, so they hastily threw the body on top of Elisha's bones. The man sprang back to life! (2 Kings 13:21)

David wanted to build God a temple, but the Lord corrected him and said his purpose in the latter years was to make sure his son Solomon had the resources needed to do the job. David's cup was nearly empty; he had served his generation.

Thank God, though, for empty cups! How many people go to their graves full of good intentions, God-inspired creative ideas and plans? Unless we stay focused on our purpose, and believe in faith for God to fulfill the number of our days, we will flounder around in wishful thinking and ultimate regret.

However, we must also keep in mind that the complexities of one's purpose and God's overall Cosmic Purpose can never be fully understood now. The impact of our lives --how we lived, what we gave, how we loved--continues long after we're gone. What we hastily gauge as a short or insignificant life may have a greater effect than anyone could imagine.

That's why I do not question God over the death of children. While such things sadden me deeply, I realize that He alone sees what will emerge out of the grief. I know on that Day of Days, we will be stunned at how these lives were not wasted after all. We will stand speechless at the intelligence, beauty, and creativity that found unhindered expressions in the presence of God.

We must also remember that not everyone is a Billy Graham or Mother Theresa. 99.9% of Christians raise families, work hard, serve in their local communities and churches, and then go to Heaven. These saints are just as gifted and called as their brethren who make global impacts for Christ.

At the end of human history, God will not reward us based on how many people we were able to influence for Jesus on earth. We will be judged on what we did with the measure we had been given within our particular sphere of influence. Since most of us aren't famous and in a full-time, world-wide ministry, it's evident that God really focuses on the ordinaries in our everyday lives--right where we are with what we have.

Do we see our marriage, as well as parenting, as a call--a ministry unto God? Do we consider a kind and encouraging word to the tired girl at the grocery checkout a God-arranged assignment? What about an elderly neighbor in need of companionship or giving to our church's food pantry? Each act is a thread that composes the larger tapestry of our purpose, which one day will be completed and placed at the feet of Jesus.

Our priest, Fr. Sergio Leal, St. Clement's Anglican

But let's get back to Fr. Sergio's visit. By the time he arrived, all fear was gone--of death, the process of dying, cancer, the surgery and what may follow...of the future, of not having enough time, of leaving my family. I was at peace. He anointed me with oil. Together we prayed, asking the Lord to save me from cancer and raise me up.

We did our part. We called for the elders and prayed the prayer of faith--a prayer that was birthed out of a personal trust in the Lord--a faith tailor-made for me and why I was created. I confessed my sins accountably before others, thereby positioning myself before the Lord to receive my healing.

We also had a renewed understanding of the need to
trust the "raising"--the how's and when's--to God's sovereignty, knowing that He loves us and will grant us the best way toward wellness based on our individual makeup and purpose.

I say "makeup" because I've thought long and hard about why God just didn't zap away my cancer with an instant miracle, which I've seen him do on occasions for others. Would I have continued to press in as hard to Him or would I have reverted to leaning on my own understanding?  Would I have received the revelation of fulfilling my days and the importance of serving my purpose in the earth? Probably not. I know me. And He knows me even better! The way He allowed is a life-long path of monthly checkups and an active faith to stay completely His and completely trusting.

After that Monday afternoon prayer, the surgeon successfully removed a T4 tumor and part of my ascending colon. The cancerous mass had not metastasized into any other organs, but cancer was found in half of the surrounding lymph nodes and up to the abdominal wall. I  am now midway through a systemic chemotherapy schedule that requires a three-day stay in the hospital twice a month.

I want to live to be eighty-years-old and then some. I intend to watch all three of my grandchildren grow up, serve God, marry, and provide Nanny D with great-grandchildren to bounce on her knees. I fully expect one or more of the grandchildren to take up my mantle of writing, broadcasting, and teaching; and I will have time to train and mentor them in the crafts)

I am confident He will fulfill the number of my days. As the Exodus 23 passage above says: I will not be barren or unfruitful (in my purpose). Cancer does not determine the number of my days. On the other hand, neither does my chemotherapy. As wonderful as my sister-in-law chef is in her research and preparation of cancer-fighting foods, plates full of cabbage and broccoli do not determine how long I live. Excellent aids? Yes. Deciding factors? No.

A dear friend of mine who is an atheist was genuinely concerned with my display of confidence."What if you pass within three months of such boasting? It will make you look like a lunatic!"

I laughed and told my friend that while I wouldn't be able to control how people would judge the time of my passing, this I knew for sure: if I were to shortly pass, then there were obviously just a few things I needed to tidy up before I continued in Heaven--maybe one more article or perhaps a few more days with the grandchildren to express things deep in my heart.

God knows my desires. I want to age gracefully with George and "see the sights" upon retirement. What's at the top of my list? To see the Northern Lights from Norway!

I have a journal full of future themes for books and teaching series--even a few business ideas that I feel are tied to my purpose. The Bible speaks many times of God's will and delight to grant us long life. After all, He designed us to live forever. That's why we fight death so hard and it fights back--we weren't created to die.

Regardless of what I want, there will come a day when my cup will be full and I am no longer needed here. I will have said and done those things I had been gifted to release in the earth. Done...not perfectly and not always faithfully, but done, nevertheless.

If I don't get to do all that I wanted to in this life, I will disappointed--just like David. Nevertheless, I'll have to leave it where it is and trust God to lead and empower my family and friends to finish what I started.

So, when I go, be assured I didn't wander through the remainder of my days hoping for good things and opportunities to come my way; I expected them as part of my purpose...everything I needed--including physical wellness--to empty my cup on a world of seekers.

"But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides." (Matthew 6:33 Amplified)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Understanding the Significance of Jesus' Baptism...And Yours!

 This past Sunday, many churches around the world observed "The Baptism of the Lord Jesus".

The Christmas season began by us celebrating the birth of a babe in a manger.

The Season of Epiphany focuses on the growing child who was worshiped by the Magi and revealed in His adult baptism to be God, the Son.

The Godhead manifested at the Baptism: God, the Holy Spirit alighted on Jesus as a mantle and God, the Father spoke from Heaven--the first time the distinct Persons of the one essence of the Trinity were made visible to humankind:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from Heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3: 13-17)
Ritual cleansing with water was well known to the Jews. Even today, Orthodox men immerse themselves before the Sabbath and holidays. Scribes do so before writing a Torah scroll. Jewish women often follow the Mikvah prior to marriage. Ritual immersion symbolized a renewed commitment to purity and devotion to God. People considered it very important during major transitions of life such as ministry (age 30) and marriage.

John began to preach during human history's greatest transition--from shadow to substance, promise to fulfillment, from works to grace.
"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, .Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!' For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'"

"Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matthew 3:1-6)
As the 400 years of prophetic silence were drawing to a close, John preached repentance and its accompanying fruits in order to prepare people for Christ's arrival. Obviously, those who had been baptized by John were made ready for the message of the Kingdom. It enabled them to better recognize and respond to their Messiah. That’s what real repentance does. It makes you a ready vessel for God; its corresponding fruit is an amended life.

When John saw Jesus, he questioned why the Sinless One was coming to be baptized. Note Jesus' answer: "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness".

Jesus already possessed righteousness, but it was important to publicly demonstrate that right standing. In doing so, He established a standard for those who were to follow Him.

"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." (1 Peter 2:21)
Prior to this event, the locals knew Jesus only as an ordinary man, the carpenter, son of Joseph and Mary--perhaps wise beyond his years--even a prophet. But when He emerged from the water, Jesus' full identity and purpose was revealed to those who had readied ears to hear and eyes to see--God in human flesh!

John had been instructed ahead of time to watch for this sign as confirmation:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for HE WAS BEFORE ME.' I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water."

And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and testified that THIS IS THE SON OF GOD." (John 1:29-34)
The Ceremonial Law was meant to be a lesson in the futility of man's own efforts to become righteous. When he inevitably failed, God's mercy allowed the innocent blood of animals to stand in humanity's stead for judgment. The sights, sounds, and smells of the animals being sacrificed all added to the compounding pain of of man's estrangement from God. But the coming of Jesus changed all of that!
"I (John) indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:11, 12)
John’s baptism unto repentance didn’t save those who went into the water. It just made them ready for what was to come. John clearly proclaimed that those who were baptized into the coming Christ would be saved—cleansed to the deepest levels of the heart—by the fiery, transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus is our pattern, then let's look at our own baptisms to get a better understanding and appreciation for what God has done for us.

Upon genuine repentance* (conversion), God forgives you for your personal sins.

By the "fire" of the Holy Spirit, you are regenerated into a new creature in Christ--out of obligation to Adam's deficiencies and dysfunctions and into Christ-- thereby removing you from the damning indictment of
Original Sin. This is being "born again".

Then you are instantly justified--having Christ's righteousness credited totally, permanently as yours.

Next, because of belonging to Christ, you are adopted by God as His son or daughter with full benefits and privileges as an heir and joint heir with Christ. All of this is accomplished from start to finish by grace as you place your active faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Finally, with Jesus as your pattern, you follow through and also make your 'appearing' to the world and validate who you are by baptism. Folks may have known you for years as the sad drunk, wayward son, abusive father, or drug addict, but now the Godhead declares you to be brand new and devotedly THEIRS!

Our baptism is meant to be earthly evidence of our Heavenly status, where our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Adoptees on earth have legal proof of their new identity and home and so do we. Earthly adoptions cannot be formalized in solitude; neither can Heavenly ones. BOTH must be public.

Some people say baptism is not necessary for Salvation; they are right. But it IS necessary to fulfill all righteousness! Jesus was sinless, yet went into the water to demonstrate the importance of baptism.

A genuine convert already has imputed righteousness, but still must follow through in baptism in order to not complete the righteousness, but 'fill" it (Greek-Pleroo..."to fill, as a house with perfume or a net with fish."

Both vivid examples of perfume and fish indicate evidence that can be weighed with one or more of our five earthly senses. The house or net is already yours--now fill it!

Did you know that the Father spoke over you at your baptism? What did He declare? If Christ is our pattern, then here it is:

"This is my beloved son (daughter), in whom I am well pleased."

God's acceptance of you is not based on your performance. He loved you from the foundation of the world. Now that you are restored to right standing, there is nothing that remains in the way of you walking in that love as His adopted child. What you could not become by human nature, He made you by divine grace.

In fact, you are as righteous now as you ever will be! As you grow in Christ, the reality of what you have been given will manifest more and more here on earth, but your standing with God cannot increase through good works or decrease through faith's struggles.

The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus, launching Him into His public ministry:
"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38)
At your baptism, you were also anointed to go about doing good and continue the earthly ministry of Jesus with particular gifts and callings. Some abilities may have already been evident or in use. However, following your obedience into baptism, the Holy Spirit anoints all your gifts (even the dormant ones that will surface as needs arise),  placing a special grace of favor and effectiveness upon them that you cannot achieve on your own. God’s purpose for your life becomes clearer!

In summary, at your baptism:

God, the Son affirms you have been legally redeemed out of corrupt Adam and safely into Him.

God, the Father officially receives you into the family and places you under an “Open Heaven” whereby “His Kingdom can come and His will be done” in your earthly life. He identifies you as His beloved child.

God, the Holy Spirit begins to equip and prepare you unto service in the world and unto sanctification for Heaven.

Did you realize all of this?

Growing up as an evangelical, I recall that the act of baptism seemed to center around what the people were doing. Very little thought was given to God’s perspective. Some of my friends have been re-baptized in order for the experience to be more 'meaningful'--even traveling to the Holy Land’s Jordan River--as if the setting or their later maturity in Christ makes it really count.

I say, God got it right the first time!
"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit." ( 2 Corinthians 1:21) 

"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel  of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."  (Ephesians 1:13)
Proof of this sealing is baptism. You do not seal the commitment--God does! What do repeated baptisms say of the integrity of God's sealing power? Can it be eroded through the ups and downs of the Christian life or stolen by the devil? No!

Consequently, we must be careful to faithfully represent God and His intents to a watching world. Is the focus more on what we want, think, or feel, rather than on what God has said and done through our baptism?

Hank Hanegraaff, in his excellent article on baptism, notes that Charles Hadden Spurgeon, often referred to as the Prince of Preachers, said that he was afraid to confess Christ before his baptism.

Thereafter, he lost all fear of man and never hesitated to boldly profess his faith. He likened his baptism to "burning the boats". "No retreat was possible after that,” he said, "nor have I ever wanted to go back to the world from which I then came out." (Spurgeon at His Best, Baker Book House)

Hanagraaff reminds us that while baptism is not essential to salvation (nor its modes), the mandate of baptism is essential to obedience. Although it is not the means by which we are saved, it is the means by which we are set apart. Read the entire article

Are you a believer who has yet to be baptized? Fulfill all righteousness, make the path straight, and be baptized. Show yourself publicly to be set apart from the world and unto Christ. Show your “legal papers”, so to speak, of being adopted out of doomed Adam and into the abundant life in Christ. Baptism, if properly understood, can become the anchor that steadies us.

Are you a baptized believer? Seek to understand and appreciate your outward sign of an inward grace. The next time you’re tempted to doubt your salvation, be reminded of your baptism and what reverberated through the Heavenlies as you came up out of the water: “This is my beloved!”

A few notes on true repentance, and the problem with altar calls for salvation:

Repentance differs from mere regret or remorse. We are normally regretful when our behavior brings difficulties upon others or ourselves. We might experience profound remorse when the consequences of our actions result in horrible pain or loss.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation..." (2 Corinthians 7:10a)
Being exposed, getting caught, or coming to an end of one's means or wits produces only worldly sorrow. The focus is entirely on how the uncomfortable consequences are disrupting our lives and pleasures.

Godly sorrow is experienced when we have come face to face with the goodness and love of God, and we break for breaking the heart of God. The focus has now shifted to how God sees the sin and resulting estrangement.

A crisis can certainly lead us to the place of true repentance, but we often confuse regret or remorse for repentance. We cut short the conviction process when we ask others to pray for us so we can simply feel better. There's nothing wrong with lingering conviction that's allowed to work its way down into the deepest motives of our hearts.

Don’t be so quick to always end pain in your life or in the lives of others. Pray first, and see if God desires to use it for a greater, redeeming purpose!

**The first altar calls and "sinners' prayers" in the Church were introduced by Evangelist Charles Finney in the 1800s. Prior to Finney, a person under conviction would come into the church through the witness and prayers of others, and arrange for instruction and baptism. It became a relational journey of prolonged conviction (letting the Holy Spirit do a thorough job), learning, and readiness to enter the Kingdom.

For over 1,800 years in the Church, baptism itself was the public renouncement of the old life, accompanied by the convert's first public profession of faith.

His new church family participated from start to finish--much as midwives--in bringing the new convert along to a successful birth. Baptism was the proof, not an afterthought. It was not an empty ritual or ceremony; baptism was (and is) the public signing and sealing of the covenant of redemption between God and the new believer.

How different from most of our modern altar calls and baptismal services, where the congregants are mere spectators who often remain relationally detached from the convert before and after his "decision".

"Church wide, there's an 84% to 97% "fall-away" rate among those who make decisions for Christ at the altar. The most logical inference is the 20th century evangelism practice of telling everyone they are saved at the altar without regard for their true condition is producing a staggering number of stillborn--not born again Christians." (Society for Effective Evangelism)

The Society for Effective Evangelism also reports that 90% of those who come to crusades and evangelistic meetings for conversions do not join themselves to a church afterward. (It also stands to reason that most people within this 90 percent have not been baptized.)

Also disturbing is the organization’s revelation that 74% of Americans who once walked an aisle and shook a pastor's hand claim they are born again and have been told they are secure for eternity!

At least Finney (and later D.L. Moody) had inquirers' rooms where counselors would spend time with seekers to determine true conviction BEFORE leading them in the sinner’s prayer. A prayer of commitment was never spoken at the altar, and both Finney and Moody believed that only a few of the people who filled the rooms were actually ready to be saved (10% or less).

Those who did make a decision for Christ were assigned a local pastor who personally followed up with the new convert in discipleship for several years to make sure the “birthing” process into the Kingdom of God was authentic and complete.

All of this changed with Billy Sunday’s meetings in the first half of the twentieth century. He was frustrated with the labor-intensive inquirers’ rooms and developed the “prayer at the altar” shortcut without prior assessment of the seeker’s heart. Everyone who came forward to shake Sunday’s hands at the altar was considered saved by an act of faith.

“What I want and preach,” said Sunday, “is that a man can be converted without any fuss.” He later boasted that he had so streamlined the salvation process that he could make converts for two dollars a soul.

At first, Billy Graham brought back the private inquirers’ room prior to the sinner’s prayer and attempted to strengthen follow-up with local churches. However, as the crowds attending his crusades grew, Graham, like Sunday, streamlined by leading those who came forward in a corporate, open sinner’s prayer before ushering people to the rooms.

The number of counselors available in Graham’s crusades has often been woefully inadequate, and many volunteers publicly bemoaned the fact that they’ve watched as people grew tired of waiting in line and walked away. Yet, those who left had been assured by the famous evangelist that they were saved and headed for Heaven!

Having worked in many follow-up rooms myself, I can personally attest to restless seekers walking out of the room and the pressure on us as counselors to “hurry up". I also know how easy it is for names on a card to get lost or carelessly neglected.

I am convinced relational evangelism within a community of believers is the best way to bring someone authentically into the Kingdom of God. It is neither easy nor convenient. It requires commitment to attend to the convert from conception to gestation, then on to birth and into a healthy spiritual childhood.