2011 And Counting…


 
Keith Green – “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice”
I was watching this Keith Green song on YouTube tonight, about 30 years after I would have first heard it played on vinyl as a teenager in the early ’80’s. The title of the song comes from a verse in the Bible, from 1st Samuel 15 in fact. Keith refers to the story in his intro to the song. What actually happened is that King Saul of ancient Israel went to war to fight the Israelites’  arch-enemies the Amalekites.  The Bible takes up the story here:
 
1. Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”
 
But of course Saul knew better than God; the story continues in verse 9:
9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

So what was all this about? Surely God would be happy that Saul and his men showed some mercy and gained some spoils for themselves and also fulfilled a sacrificial religious obligation at the same time?
 
Not according to the prophet Samuel:
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
 
What I get from this story, and I think that it’s pretty clear to anyone who considers the actions of Saul, is that materialism got in the way of literal obedience to God for this ancient king. And of course, being the king of Israel he took his whole nation down the same path. If he was going to go to war and kill X number of people (it hardly makes a difference how many), he should have realized that the reason why God commanded him to kill in this situation was to bring an end to the hostilities once and for all. He wasn’t being a nice guy by choosing to kill Y number of people instead, while enriching himself and ensuring that the blood feud between Israel and the descendants of the Amalekites would continue into the future. God actually knew better, and Saul stuffed up. And Saul set the spiritual tone for Israel by making the decision to be half-hearted in his obedience, which in effect became disobedience.
 
So what does this have to do with us in 2011? Well, 3000 or so years later, not much has changed. Materialism still clouds our judgement when it comes to a lot of things. After another of the Keith Green songs I listened to tonight, in wrapping up the concert he challenged the audience to “Make it easier for Jesus to come back this next year, by living the life he asked you to live so that others don’t have to make excuses for the reason why Christians don’t live the way Jesus asked them to”.
 
That song, “Make My Life A Prayer To You”, answers a lot of the questions posed by the first song. A lot of Christians who listen to the words of “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice” feel demoralized and condemned by the seeming legalism behind it. And yet it was Saul’s semi-obedience/disobedience, and his justification for it, that is really legalistic.
 
And we are often like that too. We stuff up and then defend our actions in religious terms as if God can’t see through our childish excuses for the reasons why we don’t listen to what He has told us, and do it. I often find this same scenario playing out even in my relationship with my wife. She tells me carefully how I should carry out a particular task around the home that I am not familiar with, and I half listen but end up doing it my own way, and then when it doesn’t turn out all that well, I give Leanne my reasons as to why I did it the way I did it. Usually, she isn’t all that impressed, and just asks me why I didn’t listen to her because she told me the way to do it in the first place.
 
Listening is what obedience is all about, in fact some versions of that scripture use the word “hearken” in place of “obey”. And “hearken” is just another word for “listen”. If you think about it too, making your life a prayer involves both talking to and listening to God. The only thing holding God back from having the gospel preached to all nations, so that he can return,  is our obedience. Food for thought in 2011, as the world we live in digs itself deeper into debt, geo-political turmoil, and rebellion against God’s purposes for peace and prosperity on this planet.
 
When will we start preaching (and living) the good news of the Kingdom of God? Jesus Christ set the spiritual tone 2000 years ago, for His Kingdom, by being fully obedient to the Father in everything He did. All He asks of us is that we spread the good news that He is coming back to inherit his Kingdom, which he will rule with an iron rod, ensuring peace and prosperity for 1000 years. And for those who are obedient in 2011 we can experience a little taste of that peace and prosperity now – not by being greedy as Saul was, but by simply giving up our right to do things our own way, and accepting that God knows better…


Keith Green – “Make My Life A Prayer”

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  I’m Greg Annett, and the reason for this site is? Well there’s a story behind it…

Hey, I reserved the domain name of my name (as you do, just so no one else gets it) and didn’t really think much about what I was going to put on it. I got my wife Leanne to run a program called Fantastico which installs WordPress on the domain, and as I couldn’t think of anything at the time, to put as the subtitle of the blog, she just put “Stop Human Trafficking” which is also the subtitle of her blog at LeanneAnnett.com.

I didn’t think much about it at the time, just thought, OK I’ll change that later when I get around to actually putting some content on the site. Leanne’s blog relates to the efforts made by a Christian organisation in Thailand and Uganda among other places, to do something about the trafficking of young children in the sex trade. That in itself is bad enough, and should be dealt with by governments worldwide but for some reason it gets left to people who actually care about the individuals concerned to do something about it. I’ll let you read Leanne’s blog if you want to know more about that issue.

Anyway, back to my story. Somehow in my travels on the web I came across a blog by a Christian fellow by the name of Bill Muehlenberg. He writes about issues like creation/evolution, euthanasia and abortion, and others post their responses on the blog. As I have been aware of the issues for a couple of decades now, most of what I read was not new to me – even this post on late term baby killing, shocking though it is. Then I started reading down through the comments on this post and came across one which had a link to a site called http://LifeSiteNews.com and referred readers to an article entitled “Commercial Markets Created by Abortion: Profiting from the Fetal Distribution Chain” by a student named Victoria Evans, it was her Dissertation for the Licentiate at the Faculty of Bioethics, Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum, presumably a Catholic university.

To cut a long story short, I located the article, downloaded it, and was shocked by what I read. If you think exposing young children to the sex trade is bad, have a read of some of the more shocking excerpts from the article which I have posted below (you may read the full article by clicking on the link above).

“According to logs detailing tissue shipments, 155 specimens were shipped in a representative month. These specimens included 47 livers, 11 liver fragments, 7 brains, 21 eyes, 8 thymuses, 23 legs, 14 pancreases, 14 lungs, 6 arms, 1 kidney/adrenal gland and 3 intact specimens for purposes of securing the blood. When priced out according to the “Fee for Service Schedule,”  the shipment of parts for the month generated gross revenues of between $18,700 and $24,700, depending upon whether the parts were shipped fresh or frozen. Some sample prices for individual body parts from the above-referenced schedule are as follows: liver $150, pancreas $100, thymus $100, kidney $125, lungs and heart block $150, brain $999, spinal cord $325, bone marrow $350, eyes $75, gonads $550, intact cadaver $400, intact trunk with/without limbs $500, limbs (at least 2) $150.”

And that’s only the money being made from medical research. How about this excerpt, about foetal cosmetic treatments?

“At the “high” end, exclusive clinics in various worldwide tourist locations are offering face lifts and cosmetic procedures using tissues from aborted foetuses and stem cells from human embryos. The cells are said to rejuvenate the skin. Wealthy American and British women, who cannot avail themselves of these treatments at home due to regulatory restraints, travel to a particular tourist destination in Barbados. Here they spend $25,000 per session on a “treatment consisting of having liquefied foetal tissues injected into their bodies so they can feel refreshed.”
The CEO of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Barbados, where this transpires, promises improvement in appearance, quality of life and libido. These clinics are not regulated by any local or national government body, nor do they have any form of outside medical supervision. They have all refused membership in the International Stem Cell Forum, the only recognized international board regulating ethical stem-cell research.
Until recently, the raw materials for producing these liquefied foetal serums for injection were imported to Barbados from the Ukraine. “Women were paid $200-$300 (three months salary) to carry their pregnancies to a very late stage and then deliver the babies alive in a kind of forced premature birth. The procedure allows the living baby’s organs to be harvested while they are still as fresh as possible.”
The parts are passed on to buyers, who screen the material and sell it at a huge mark-up to a worldwide network of clinics like the one in Barbados. In Moscow alone, there are more than fifty beauty parlors and cellulite clinics offering fetal injections. These establishments attract rich Russian and Western women for fetal injections to “eliminate cellulite from their buttocks, thighs and arms.” Treatments cost up to $20,000.
The foetal and newborn tissue machinery is driven by an enormous and increasing demand for fetal cells and organs for this purpose. Brian Clowes, the investigative reporter who uncovered this story for Human Life International, questions why the Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Barbados would “bother to import babies from 5,000 miles away [in the Ukraine] when you can get them locally?” He answers his own question below.
“Barbados news sources are now reporting that women are having their newborn babies stolen at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. They are told their babies are “gone” or have died, and they never see them again. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the members of the Board of Directors of Queen Elizabeth Hospital is George Griffith, who is the director of the Barbados Family Planning Association, the island’s largest abortion provider and an affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.”

Just to put all this stuff in perspective, most people think of stem cell research as being some scientific process carried out in a lab, on cells which have been grown in culture, so that they can find cures for different diseases. Which is all true. Except for a few little details. Firstly, these are human cells we are talking about, and they originate from human beings. Now there are labs which use adult stem cells, ie cells donated by adult human beings who consented for their cells to be used for this research. And in fact adult stem cell research has shown a lot more promise than foetal stem cell research, when it comes to finding cures. Foetal stem cell research has so far resulted in no cures at all.

But foetal stem cells come from babies whose mothers had abortions and signed consent forms which they probably didn’t even read, so they probably don’t even know that a lot of money is being made out of the body parts taken from the baby whose life they decided was not going to happen for whatever reason. And as for those mothers who gave up their children for a few hundred dollars so that another, far wealthier woman could have a “rejuvenating treatment made up of liquefied baby cells”, what better demonstration of the worship of mammon could we find than this? What kind of society allows a situation to develop where one woman is so poor that she has to sell the fruit of her womb just to survive, and another woman is so rich that she thinks it is OK to do whatever she wants with her money, even if it means injecting cells from another woman’s aborted baby into her body for some unproven therapeutic benefit?

This is the kind of human trafficking that has to be stopped, along with the equally sinister child sex trade. What do you think? What kind of world are we living in? Is it a world we even want children to be born into? Feel free to comment.

How do we stop the unseen massacre of abortion? On the lighter side of what can be a very heavy subject, here’s Steve Taylor’s take on how not to:

How to? Well for starters, if you live in a democracy you always have the option of voting for whichever party or candidate is taking a stand against abortion. If you want to go further and take action to change public opinion, there are pro-life  action groups like the website I mentioned above.

On the subject of political parties, I find it a curious thing that the left-wing parties eg the Labour Party in Australia, or the Democrats in the US, which are purportedly the parties looking after the interests of the “little guys” in society, generally fail to take any interest in protecting the rights of the littlest people there are, the unborn children who are the most dependent human beings on the planet. Strangely enough, it falls to the right wing conservative parties who we are led to believe are only protecting the rights of the rich and powerful, to take a stand against abortion.

Perhaps, like the ice cream vendor in Steve’s song, who reasons “if we run out of youngsters I’ll be out of a job”,  business-oriented political leaders are aware of the negative economic impact of a falling population, which can only be bad for business. Whereas the left-wingers can only see the self-interest of the pro-choice argument which basically reasons “This child is going to cost me time and money and is going to mean changes in my life which I can’t accept” rather than looking at the big picture. But of course that’s politics.

As a Christian, I believe that the biggest picture of all is to get God’s take on the abortion issue. After all He created that child in the womb, and welcomes that child into Heaven when his or her life is prematurely terminated. But I’m sure that He would much rather that child had fulfilled his or her purpose in life, but that means that child has to grow up in a family and be brought up by his or her parents in a loving environment.

And that of course is the flip side of the abortion issue. If we allow these children to live, how do we put in place the support which they need, so that not only the child, but also the parents, are able to live as God calls them to? These are questions which have a broad basis to them, not only political but also social, intellectual and spiritual. At the end of the day, I believe that only with Jesus Christ can the poorest of the poor cope with all the challenges that come with an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. And of course that is also a challenge to the disciples of Jesus everywhere. How do I love my neighbour as I love myself? What can I do to reach out to those parents and would-be parents in our society who need our help? Just a thought.