Forgiveness for abortion

According to the Catholic church, abortion is such an awful sin that it can result in a woman who gets one being excommunicated from the Church.

Pope Francis, widely being hailed as a pope who is far more inclusive and tolerant than former popes, has allowed priests to forgive women who have had abortions during the Roman Catholic Church’s upcoming Holy Year or “Jubilee” which runs from December 8, 2015 to November 26, 2016.

Pope to allow all priests to forgive abortion

Sounds like good news, right??

I have even better news… You don’t need the forgiveness of any of these priests or even the Pope.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this Pope. I respect him. But I have always questioned some of the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially when it comes to the whole concept of priests and the power they have. I don’t believe we have to ask for forgiveness for our sins from a priest. We don’t need the middle man, that is what Jesus is for. We confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and no, we are not excommunicated in return–God forgives us when we approach him honestly and humbly. It is more important that we acknowledge that we have sinned against God first, and whatever person, if applicable, second. There are passages of Scripture related to church discipline of members who are willfully, openly sinning, but even then, that is to bring the person back into fellowship with God, THEN his people.

Once we have accepted Jesus there is nothing we can do to relinquish our saved status. If that were the case, most of us wouldn’t be saved for long, because we sin constantly. Can you imagine going to a priest every time you sinned? So basically you’d be sitting up under a priest for the vast majority of your day. Forget having a day job. When you think of the things that are considered sinful–even sinful thoughts–you’d be spending a ton of time with your priest.

Instead, you can take all of that to our Priest, Jesus, our Intercessor and Advocate.

I was also confused about the whole Jubilee year, because last I checked this was something given to the Jews. And the forgiveness of abortion, unless extended, is only for this particular year. Nah. You don’t have to wait until a special time of year to get forgiveness. As soon as you commit the sin, you can tell God about it and request his forgiveness right away.

As we can see in chapter twelve of Numbers soon Miriam and Aaron are going to have to request some forgiveness. For whatever reasons, after all this time, now they decide to grow jealous of Moses’s position. It is always easy for someone to think the grass is always greener when they don’t have to deal with what the person they idolize is dealing with. Recall in the previous post, Moses basically petitioned for God to let him die rather than continue dealing with the people. Miriam and Aaron apparently haven’t seen exactly how difficult and burdensome the job is that Moses had. And they did not appreciate their own jobs. Miriam played an integral role in the lives of the prophets, and Aaron, of course, was the High Priest. They should have just been happy with their own standing in God’s plan, but they weren’t. They became jealous and sinned. (Is it possible to become jealous and not sin? I don’t know. I can’t think of a time when I had a jealous thought that was not immediately followed by another negative thought).

They begin their assault by whispering back and forth about Moses’s Cushite (Ethiopian) wife. Recall that Moses had a wife named Zipporah. This Cushite wife was a different woman, because the Bible refers to Zipporah as being a Midianite. They ask what appears to me to be two preposterous questions:

“‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’ And the Lord heard this” (v. 2).

OF COURSE the Lord heard that. If God can hear our thoughts, it is only natural that he can hear our evil thoughts when verbalized. But let’s acknowledge these questions. It seems like it should have been obvious by that point that Moses had been appointed by God to be the head dude in charge. Everything that has happened has been because God has been using MOSES. Not Miriam, not Aaron, not anyone. God has spoken to Moses face-to-face, not Miriam, not Aaron. I wonder if their question was rhetorical or had their jealousy really clogged their minds that bad. God is not pleased. This is Moses’s brother and sister, and if anyone should have had his back, it should have been them. Why couldn’t they just be proud? The Bible says that “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth)” (v. 3). If Miriam and Aaron had been thinking, perhaps they would realize that perhaps their lack of humility was why they were second-fiddle. And again, what is wrong with being second-fiddle? In the grand scheme of things, no matter what our role is in advancing the kingdom of God, we will be rewarded for it. There isn’t one role in building the Church that is more important than another in God’s eyes. God knows who he has equipped for which task, and he is happy as long as we do what he has equipped us to do. He had fully equipped Moses to lead the nation. He had equipped Miriam to be a prophetess, and he had allowed her to be a part of saving Moses’s life and bringing him back to his mother! He had equipped Aaron to be a priest and gave him a position of very high standing as well. There was no reason for these people to be discontented, but they were. So God has Moses, Aaron and Miriam come out to the tent of the meeting, where he comes down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance to the tent and beckons Aaron and Miriam to come forward. (I wonder if they knew they were about to get it). I love what the Lord says, so I am going to post it:

“….he said, “‘Listen to my words: When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions. I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?'” (vv. 6-8).

God is angry. He speaks his piece and leaves, but that is not the end of it. When the cloud lifts from the tent, it is discovered that Miriam’s skin has become white as snow with leprosy. Aaron’s had not–I assume because since he was the priest, he could not be expelled from the camp due to uncleanness. Interestingly enough, when Aaron sees that Miriam is leprous, he turns right to the brother they had just been talking about and addresses him as “my Lord” (v. 11). Aaron asks for Moses not to hold against them the sin they had just foolishly committed. Moses loves his sister. He cries out to the Lord for her to be healed.

However, the issue of her uncleanness must be dealt with. He asks Moses what her punishment would have been if her father had spat in her face. Spitting in one’s face was a major insult (and still is, in my opinion–I’d rather be punched with a closed fist than spit on)–Jesus was spit on by the religious leaders. Someone whose father spat on them would have been excluded from the camp for about a week (I am going to have to look this up, because why isn’t the offender (the one who does the spitting) punished for such disgusting behavior? Are we to assume that a daughter has to do something awful for the father to spit on her? I know as a girl, I was upset if my father even raised his voice to me. I can’t imagine doing anything so egregious that he would spit on me. But I also can’t see a father getting angry enough to spit on his daughter. I just don’t get it).

Either way it goes, Miriam is to be confined outside the camp for seven days, and then brought back in. And so it goes. After her period of exclusion is over, the people left Hazeroth and camped in the Desert of Paran.

Chapter thirteen involves a major failure on the part of the people of Israel, save two, Caleb and Joshua. This spills over into the next chapter. It is time to check out the new land and see what enemies are there. Knowing what I know about God, I tend to think this is just a test of the people’s faith, because once again, let’s recount what they have seen–The Plagues. The parting of the Red Sea. Manna and quail. They have seen countless demonstrations of God’s power and ability. There should have been no question as to whether or not they could rid the Promised Land of its current inhabitants, if only they had been thinking in terms of God instead of their own limited abilities.

The Lord instructs Moses to send some men to explore the land of Canaan, that he is giving them. One man is selected from each tribe. (Verse 16 tells us that Moses refers to Hoshea, son of Nun as Joshua, so there is no confusion). Moses instructs them as to how they are to go about their journey and what they should pay special attention to:

“…Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land. (It was the season for the first ripe grapes)” (vv. 17-20).

The explorers spend forty days exploring the land. When they came back, they bring a report to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community and show them the fruit. This is the account they gave:

“….We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there” (vv. 27-28).

(The Anaks were supposedly giants).

I wonder if the explorers had any conversation before they talked? Perhaps they shouldn’t have influenced the entire community with such a negative first report. Imagine how the community reacted when they heard this, particularly when they heard of the Anaks. People are influenced by their leaders. These twelve explorers were definitely in a role of considerable influence. Had they given a glowing report of the land, the people would have moved forth boldly. But that is not what the twelve explorers, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, do. Caleb “silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (v. 30).

He said certainly. Caleb had faith. He was certain that God would be the same protective God he had been the entire journey, and that God would help them be victorious in the new land. But the men of little faith continue to protest. Not only that, they take their protest to the people and frighten them. I’ll bet they even exaggerated a little: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are”. (This comment here makes it clear–these men had absolutely no faith at all. It’s like they had completely forgotten who was on their side). It continues: “And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw were of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (vv. 31-33).

Need we run down the list of miracles the Israelites have seen again???????

Of course, after having listening to the frightening report given by the ten faithless explorers, the people begin to rebel in chapter fourteen. That night they cry and complain and moan about how they should have died in Egypt or in the wilderness. They concluded that God was trying to set them up to be cut down by their enemies in the Promised Land.  They even go so far as to discuss electing a new leader to lead them back to Egypt.

This amazes me. God has done everything these people have asked him to do. They asked for deliverance from slavery, he did that. Every need they have had, he has taken care of. And not because they have done anything to deserve it. Go back to Exodus and do some skimming–you can see for yourself that God has done marvelous things for Israel, and this is the thanks he gets. When the going appears tough–not when the going is tough, because the going for the Israelites would never have gotten tough if they had just trusted their Lord–they forget all about him.

It is something we often discuss in church–how it is easy to trust the Lord and give him praises when things are going well. Then when a test of faith comes up, people can fail miserably. It reminds me of a story I read a long time ago where a young lady had been raised Catholic but became an atheist, no longer believing in God, after her dad died. Even now, dealing with the loss of my own Dad, I do not understand how someone can claim to be Catholic and believe in God and go that far left when a tragedy hits. That is when you ought to pull closer to the Lord, because who else can comfort you? Who else can answer your questions? Who else can reunite you with the loved one, if they were a saved person? I question as to whether or not the young lady ever believed in the first place, or was she just accustomed to Catholic teachings because her parents dragged her to Mass. This young lady went so far as to protest prayer in her school and the presence of some religious symbols (such as the 10 Commandments). Then I remember being told that Catholics aren’t allowed to read the Bible. If the young lady had read the Bible she would know that the one who created her dad had every right to take him when he determined his time was over. The same goes for my own Dad. Who am I to get upset with God when he is the one who made my Dad? Yes, I am upset that he is GONE from this earth and I miss him terribly. Yes, I wonder why his life couldn’t have been extended, because I know that God has all power and could have healed my Dad’s failing heart and lungs. But I also know that just like Dad did not live to be 90, I might not live to be 90… None of us are guaranteed to live a long life.

That was an example of a young lady who failed God. God never fails us. God never breaks a promise, not back then with the Israelites and not now. And look at where this world is. It is in the same situation it was way back then. People like to believe God when it is convenient for them, and in ways that are convenient for them. Some of us will go to church, but get upset if the pastor really gets into his message and “runs late”, without even bothering to consider that perhaps God has told the pastor to keep preaching because he is reaching that unsaved person cowering in the back row. Some of us choose our churches based on their prominence or the hype around the preacher and will willfully accept a watered-down Gospel message. When everything is going our way, we’ll praise God all day. But as soon as something goes differently from what we had planned, we forget that God is in control and if our plans do not align with his, he is going to reign supreme, and ultimately it is all done for the good!

Moses and Aaron are absolutely distraught by what they are hearing. They fall facedown in front of the whole Israelite community. Our two heroes of the story, Joshua and Caleb, join them in their mourning by tearing their clothes. They reiterate their good report, saying that the land they explored is “exceedingly good”. They further beseech their brethren: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (vv. 8-9).

Notice the sequence of a couple phrases here. First Caleb and Joshua tell the Israelites not to rebel against the Lord, then they tell them not to be afraid of the people. This is acknowledging that the Israelites first sin here is in relation their lack of faith. They have sinned against the Lord. Only after first reminding the people that their fear is a form of rebellion against the Lord, they tell them not to be afraid, because while they have God with them, victory is guaranteed. Caleb and Joshua are wise–they know that those nations in the Promised Land have no protection, because they do not have God. God is with them, and there is no need to be afraid.

So is the case today. The world may seem to be a very scary place. Sometimes it is easier to compromise our faith than stand firm. But those who do not believe in God, although they seem to abound and sometimes even prosper, ultimately will not see the victory we will see. There is no need for those in Christ to be afraid. We are already victorious.

But look at what the Israelites do after Caleb and Joshua’s impassioned plea: They discuss stoning them!!!! The two men had said nothing offensive, but it wasn’t what the people wanted to hear. Look at the example of bravery shown by these two young men here. Remember how big the Israelite community was. These two were standing before the entire Israelite assembly, boldly proclaiming their faith in God. We can aspire to be so confident in the Lord.

Of course God intercedes for the faithful few. The glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting. (I wonder if the people knew what they were in store for? I wonder if they thought about the incident with the quail, or the fires that had consumed numerous brethren??). God addresses Moses: “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they” (vv.11-12).

So basically we see that God has had enough, and has resolved to wipe out the Israelites and build a new nation through Moses. Remember just a post ago when Moses was ready to be done with the Israelites himself? Now he is looking out for the reputation of his loving holy God instead of himself. He could have gone along with God, and been relieved to finally be done with such stiff-necked people. He could have thought in worldly standards about how cool it would be to have a nation built solely with him. But he didn’t. Instead, he reminded God how things would look to Israel’s enemies if they were destroyed: “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it.They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness” (vv. 13-16).

Again, we see how much Moses has grown. Think about all that Moses has dealt with. What would you have done? The other thing I like about this exchange between Moses and God is how close of a friendship these two had. Look at the conversations between the two of them. God speaks to Moses face to face, and look how Moses talks God down from his anger. What a blessing to have that kind of connection to God! Now, Moses understands that the people should be punished. He says that God should display his strength, but he also reminds God that he is “slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion” (v. 18). Yet God also has a just obligation to punish those who sin against him, even punishing the children for the sins of their parents, down through three and four generations. Moses asks for the Lord to forgive the people, as he has done all throughout their journey.

God responds that he has forgiven the people, but the punishment, although seemingly harsh, makes sense: “Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times–not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (vv. 21-24).

There it is. The Lord continues speaking with Moses and Aaron, again wondering how long the wicked community of Israelites will continue to grumble against him. He reminds the men that he has heard every single complaint. Now the Lord tells Moses and Aaron to relay a message to the Israelites: Since they have grumbled so hard about dying in the wilderness, God is going to allow the very thing they have been complaining about to happen. Everyone who is twenty years of age or older at the time of the census will die in the wilderness–they will not enter the Promised Land. The exceptions, of course, are Caleb and Joshua. The Israelites had complained earlier that the feared inhabitants of the Promised Land would take their children as plunder, but now God tells them that those same children they were so concerned about would be brought into the Land, but not before being shepherds in the wilderness for forty years–one year for each day that the explorers were in the Land. God says that their kids will “suffer for their unfaithfulness” (v. 33).

There is a lot I can infer from this entire situation. I can’t help but think about how the Israelite’s journey mirrors the Christian journey. Before we accept Jesus we live as slaves to the bondage that comes along with a sinful, unsaved life. When we accept Jesus, sometimes as spiritual babes we mess up and think that maybe things were easier before. Just like the Israelites, we get accustomed to living in the world. We get so tied up in it that we can’t even see a way out. That is because our faith is new, and we’re still trying to lean on our own strength instead of relying on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe we get discouraged because those old vices and temptations don’t go away as soon as we accept our Lord and Savior. We get impatient. In church and in Moody classes we often talk about our society being an “instant” society, where people expect results and gratification right now. Sometimes as spiritual babes we fail to acknowledge that our will does not always align with the will of God, and we get upset when things don’t go our way. We’ve all known backsliding Christians who dip back into their former ways, if only for a short while, in a moment of spiritual weakness. I’ve done it too. Our faith in God is supposed to mature as we deepen our relationship with the Lord through prayer and reading his Word. We see that the Israelites have been so programmed by their time in Egypt that they are blinded the power and goodness of God.

I also think about how children today are suffering due to the unfaithfulness of their parents. Look at how many parents are not even bothering to teach their children about God. So many “modern” parents think their children should determine whatever religion works for them. I’m confused as to how children are expected to process such complex information without the guidance of their parents. I’m also confused because Christianity is not just a religion, it is a lifestyle, and its major doctrine is that of salvation. Why do I teach my kids my beliefs? Not only because I want them to be good, loving people, and because I know that Jesus is love. Nope. The main reason is because I believe that those of us who accepted Jesus will have eternal life, and when I get to heaven I want to see Jayden and Layla there.

Where has this gotten us, where parents want to be friends with their kids instead of their guide? Where parents are afraid to discipline their kids and tell them “no”? It seems like everyday now we are hearing a story of some young person who has committed a heinous crime that, in days of old, no one would expect for a child to have the capacity to commit. This one comes to mind for me–Girls in Slenderman killing to be tried as adults. What would compel thirteen-year-old girls to offer one of their friends as a ritual sacrifice to a fictional online character named Slenderman??? Now, I am not pretending to know the parents or to know how they raised these girls. I am just using this case as an example. These parents could very well have taken these girls to church and tried to raise them right. Sometimes kids just go astray. There are plenty of other examples I could post of young kids gone amok, and I guess I just wonder that if our society as a whole did what schools did back in the seventies and before then–with prayer in schools, allowing kids to focus on God for a few minutes as a community with their peers, undeniably building relationships with each other and God–and educated our children morally as well as academically, how much we could cut down on that kind of stuff.

The ten men who explored the land and came back with the negative report were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Joshua and Caleb, of course, survive. I imagine the Israelites felt pretty dumb after seeing those men struck down. Finally they acknowledge they have sinned (although it shouldn’t have taken all of that for them to realize they were wrong, right??). Upon finding out that the ten have perished, they mourn the dead. In the morning they have a new attitude, setting out for the highest point in the hill country. Now they are ready to go up into the land, but it is too little, too late, as Moses says: “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword” (vv. 41-43).

I don’t know about you, but to me this seems to be a pretty clear warning, and Moses appears to be a pretty reputable guy, don’t you think? Apparently the Israelites thought they could prove themselves?? I have question marks there because I don’t understand their next actions: “Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah” (vv. 44-45).

So apparently their admission of guilt was all lip action because they wasted no time disobeying God yet again, and paid a humiliating and much-deserved price. In my curiosity, I wonder whose idea it was to do this, and how humiliated he must have been to have led the community right into a ridiculous defeat. This also shows me that the people still do not understand God–not only had they disobeyed him, they hadn’t bothered to realize that the reason for their privileged status was because of God’s presence. When they moved without the presence of God, they failed.

That mirrors our lives today. We have to invite God to be a part of every aspect of our lives, lest we fail. One of my favorite billboard sayings is this one below:

Involve God in EVERYTHING, especially our marriages and families. If God is not a part of our family life–and our family life is usually what defines us, other than our relationship with the Lord–it is destined to be a hard road. I slack sometimes, but I am trying to get better at consulting with God about everything–what preschool to send my daughter to? Is this job good for me? What should I do about my health? Everything. Nothing is too big or too small for God.

If we as Christians make a conscious decision to continue on in a sinful lifestyle or pattern, we are quenching the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).  If we continue for so long, the Holy Spirit will get quieter and quieter until we can’t even hear Him anymore. He’ll leave us to our own devices and let us wander in our wilderness until hopefully we turn back to the Lord.

The plot thickens. Now that God has meted out his punishment for Israel’s disobedience and lack of faith, the wilderness wandering begins. That’s where we will be next.

me and dad

Always missing you Dad. Thanks for everything. You deserve your rest.

Stevie Smith, 8/29/1956-8/11/2015

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