Hobby Lobby and the Abortion Debate

I ask that you read the entirety of this essay before passing judgement.

I have been closely following the Hobby Lobby debate regarding the demands of Obamacare and the idea that Hobby Lobby does not want to be forced to pay for abortions under the Obamacare mandate. I agree with Hobby Lobby’s stance on religious freedom. Losing liberties is a slippery slope, and history tells us that most people don’t realize what has been taken until the freedoms are long gone.

Before I continue, I need to state a few things. I am pro-life. I believe that life starts at conception and abortion is the murder of a life that if allowed to grow, would be a fully real human being. This does not mean I don’t support women. I have never understood why this argument seems to have these two sides – you are either pro life and anti-women or pro-choice and pro-women. I know not everyone is so narrow minded on the two sides of this issue, but far too many people are.  I realize that abortion is a tough decision, and I realize there are going to be exceptions to the rules, so to speak. But in general in this country, abortion is used as a convenience, and as a form of birth control, and that is what deeply saddens me. For the instances of rape or incest, I can hold a much better understanding to the reasoning of going through with an abortion, but I must also point out that I have heard several stories of people who decided to keep the baby in these types of situations (even if it was to give up the child for adoption after birth) and feel that they made the only right decision, because in the end, they did not kill an innocent life because of circumstances that were beyond the baby’s doing or control. But I’m not here to pass judgement on those who make the opposite decision in such cases, either. I can’t imagine being in similar circumstances, and I have no stones to throw. I will further say that if it were a choice between my wife or my child, I can only imagine that I would release my unborn child into God’s hands in order to save my wife.

Having said that, I need to point out a few things that I feel many in the Christian community think. It’s not that everyone thinks these things, but many do, and I believe false information may be the reason for these beliefs.

First: Many people see the “morning after pill” as nothing less than an abortion causing pill. This is a big part of the Hobby Lobby debate.

Second: When does conception occur? I have always held to the belief that conception occurs when the sperm fertilizes the egg. It was surprised to find out recently that this is not when textbooks, medical societies (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians), the National Institutes of Health and the federal government (FDA)  see pregnancy as occurring. Pregnancy is defined as the successful implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. As I continue to write out my thoughts, this difference in definition becomes important.

In regards to the first, I recently discovered the following video via  some related links on YouTube:

I was surprised by the video’s statement that the morning after pill  does not cause abortion, but instead prevents a pregnancy from occurring in the first place. I asked a trusted friend and medical doctor about the accuracy of the video and was told that the video is accurate and given some sources of research that backed up the claim. The truth of the matter is, that in most cases, the “morning after pill” in America (note there are true first trimester abortion pills used in a small number of other countries) works first to prevent an egg from being released, as well as to prevent sperm from reaching an egg that has previously been released. In rarer cases, some research states that these pills can also prevent a fertilized egg from successfully implanting, but this is the minority of cases. I was further told that in addition to the pills the video refers to, the Paraguard IUD form of after-sex birth control may stop a pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from being successfully implanted. However, in no cases are these forms of birth control used interfere with an egg that has already been successfully implanted in the uterine wall.

As to the rare cases regarding preventing implantation, I would have said, “Ah-Ha, while the pill doesn’t generally cause an abortion, it can in rare cases, because it prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium!”

And this is where it begins to get interesting. My “Ah-Ha!” statement is based on the assumption that pregnancy is defined as the successful fertilization of an egg, and no medical or government body accepts this definition. Pregnancy is defined as the successful implantation of the fertilized egg. But, I thought to myself, “what if everyone is wrong? What if God would say that life starts at fertilization, and in rare cases, by preventing that egg from implanting, we are causing abortions?”

Well, the truth is, the Bible does not specify the biological moment that would constitute a pregnancy. We only know that we were formed in the mother’s womb (see Psalm 139:13).

And now the truly interesting part. Breastfeeding. Many people know that breastfeeding, done on a regular day and night schedule, is a great form of birth control. But does everyone know why? Typically, breastfeeding prevents ovulation, so there is no egg present to fertilize. This is also the first method of prevention with the morning after medications. But, there is a short period of time as the woman is becoming fertile again when she may release an egg, but, because of breastfeeding and the hormones created with the act, is not preparing for that egg to be accepted. In these cases, an egg which is released could be fertilized, yet not find successful implantation. This is a rare case, but certainly possible, just as it is rare that a morning after pill stops a pregnancy by preventing successful implantation. The reality that hit me was this: If the morning after pill causes abortions, it does so rarely, because I believe in a non-medically sound definition of pregnancy – and, breastfeeding can also cause abortions in the exact same way.

This made me think. Did God design us to accidentally cause abortions simply because we breastfeed our children (which He also designed for us to do)? Or is our concept of what constitutes pregnancy based on a misconceived definition and is our belief about what a morning after pill actually does faulty? I came to realize that if I believed that the morning after pill caused abortion, I had to accept that breastfeeding did the same thing, and I can’t make this right in my mind because the Bible clearly never condemns breastfeeding one’s child.  I will leave you to decide for yourself the implications of the science on what you believe. I simply felt the facts needed to be stated, so that we can all make an informed choice based on the truth of the science and our faith, rather than on our faith and false medical assumptions. History has made it clear that combining faith and ignorance can lead to some fairly horrible situations.

One final thought. This essay is about abortion, and whether or not the morning after pill is really an abortion pill as seems so popular amongst Christians and other religious groups. This is not a commentary on medical rights, women’s rights, or what is acceptable sexually. Please do not assume I am condoning having all the sex you want and then popping a pill the next morning because that is not the statement or purpose of this writing. In my ideal world, the m0rning after form of contraception would be only used when a married couple realized they may have made a mistake and wanted to take appropriate precautions – a rarity, and not a rule of regular use. There are also the understandable uncontrollable circumstances of rape, molestation, etc. But this essay is not about that either.

Each Other

What if we had this attitude towards our brothers and sisters in the faith:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12 ESV)

Paul, in writing to the Colossians, says he prays this for them, without ceasing, and has done so ever since he heard of their faith. How different might our churches and friendships be if we ALL prayed this way, without ceasing, for each other. Imagine how much stronger we would be in battling our own vices and demons. Imagine how much better we might appear as a people to the world. Imagine how much less hypocrisy there might be in the Church if we all prayed earnestly for each other to walk in a manner worthy of The Lord, bearing good fruit.

After several months of being separated in an important Christian friendship, God has been gracious enough to work restoration and understanding. In the process of all of this, I have begun to see the importance of our prayerful attitude towards others, and the importance of being a solid support for those we know who share our faith.

Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, so one man is to sharpen another. But how often do we do this, and how often do we instead stab our siblings in the faith, with our iron swords of self-righteousness and bitterness. I know I have been guilty. And I know God is gracious with second chances. So I pray, for my friends, for myself, and for everyone who may read this, that we would earnestly pray for and support each other with the attitude Paul demonstrated in his letter to the Colossians.

Effective Prayer

James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Note the first sentence… If you are suffering, pray. If you are happy, sing psalms. No matter our state, our communication is to be with God.  With verse 14, we see that prayer isn’t always prayed alone, either. We can call for others (not always required to be elders, as exampled in this verse) to pray with us.  As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, ” For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  Ecclesiastes  4:12 says “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” However, we must remember that the power of the prayer is not ours, it is God’s. It is the Lord who raises him up (in this example of the sick man). Our only job is to pray, believing that He is, and that He rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

The requirement, we’ll note, is not the oil or the elders, but faith. It is the prayer of faith that will save (the sick). This prayer comes from the righteous man. Without a relationship with Jesus, we are not righteous, and while God will hear prayers for salvation, that is only the first step of surrender which is necessary for us to be righteous, and for us to have faith (which is given by God:  See Romans 12:3) for our prayers to be effectual. If we have sins which are “blocking” our prayers, those can be forgiven. Remember, we do not have to earn our own righteousness and be perfectly pure for our prayers to be effective. Jesus earned our righteousness for us at the Cross, and with that, the prayer of faith is of Him because of the righteousness He gives. James 5:17-18 speaks of Elijah, who was a man just like us, who because of the righteousness given him by God had effectual prayer to stop and again start rains upon the earth.  The Greek for the NKJV’s “prayer of faith” is “the prayer of the faith” – the faith that God gives. The depth of the faith that we need is simply to believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

However, for many, it often appears that prayers are not answered. It seems too simple to believe that with mere faith we can become warriors in prayer. In all cases, though, we must let God be true and every man a liar (see Romans 3:4). Some reasons for apparent unanswered prayers:

1: Wavering.  James 1:6-7 says that when we ask (in this example, for wisdom), we must ask in faith, without wavering. If we waver, we will not receive what we ask for. In all cases, we should ask for Wisdom to know God’s will. God’s will will always conform to His Word.

2: God is waiting on us (see A Midnight Friend and an Unjust Judge). He is waiting on us to address whatever it is in us that He is bearing long with before He can respond quickly to our prayers. He wants our hearts pure before He moves to action.

3: Asking amiss. See James 4:1-3. What is our heart’s attitude towards what we are asking for? Two people in the same circumstance could ask for the same thing, and because of differences in attitudes, one may receive, and one may wait, as God “bears long” waiting for the second person to come to a better attitude. Are we asking in desperation, simply wanting to be relieved of dire circumstances so that we can feel better? Maybe God is waiting for us to ask for the same deliverance, but with an attitude of basking in His love for us and protection of us in dire circumstances.

4: The prayer may simply “appear” unanswered. God, however, may have answered our prayer according to His wisdom, and we simply do not see it. We need to pray for His will. How that comes to affect in our world may not be how we think it will come to affect. God will ultimately answer prayers for His glory, even if that glory does reveal His love for us. See Jeremiah 33:3; John 14:13, John 15:7, James 4:3.

5: Not delighting in God. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” This verse is two-fold. First, in our delighting in the Lord, He will give us His desires, and then after we have received His desires into our heart, He will then give us those desires. If our delight is not in the Lord, but rather in ourselves, there is no promise that He will give us those desires.

Sleep

Sleep has always been an issue for me, but God’s Word gives promises regarding His children having restful sleep.

Psalm 3:5 says “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.”

Psalm 4:8 says “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 127:1-2 says “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

If we are not sleeping because we are focused on anything going on in our lives, it reveals our vanity – our attempting to figure things out on our own, and not trusting int he Lord who would give us rest. Remember Matthew 6:26-32, which shows us that God provides for our needs, and we need not worry about our day to day (or anything else).

Proverbs 3:24 says that when we seek the wisdom of the Lord, “when you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Ecclesiastes 5:12 says “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.”

Are we trying to make our own way? To gather riches? We need to be content with what we have, realizing that the more we have, the more we have to worry about.

It is interesting to note that when God made Eve, he put Adam to sleep. When God made the covenant with Abram, Abram was put in a deep sleep. We may be asleep, but God is awake, and is able to do needful things for us in our time of sleep (see Genesis 2:21 and 15:12).  God spoke to Jacob in his sleep (see Genesis 28:11-16). Daniel also often heard from the Lord while asleep.

Prosperity Part 4: New Testament Thoughts

In the last post, we looked at Jesus’ thoughts regarding material wealth. In this post, we will continue the theme by looking at other New Testament lessons on the subject of material riches and prosperity.

In the three previous posts looking at what the Bible says regarding prosperity, the overall consensus has been been that while God does state that He will always provide for His children, and while God does desire to bless us, His blessings are not always in the form of material riches as is often taught. His provision is for our daily need. His prosperity is more often in spiritual growth leading to the growth of His kingdom. In the New Testament, we will see that God is calling us to be Christlike, and being Christlike involves learning to develop simple peace regarding our circumstances (whether good or poor), and the giving of ourselves for others.

Philippians 4:12-13 says “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Here, Paul discusses the heart we should hold no matter our situation. We are to be like Christ in that we are to be content, trusting in the strength given to us by God (see Philippians 4:11 and Hebrews 5:8).

As a church, it would appear that God may bless some in material means, and not others. However, the call of God is for a fairness, in that those who have extra would give supply to those who have little, so that everyone would be without need. Look at 2 Corinthians 8: 13-15

For it is not [intended] that other people be eased and relieved [of their responsibility] and you be burdened and suffer [unfairly], But to have equality [share and share alike], your surplus over necessity at the present time going to meet their want and to equalize the difference created by it, so that [at some other time] their surplus in turn may be given to supply your want. Thus there may be equality, As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little did not lack.” (Paul quotes from Exodus 16:18)

However, we must be careful not to go too far in this. Neither party should be burdened. Also, before providing for others, we must make sure we are providing for ourselves and our families (See 1 Timothy 5:8). Far too often we hear stories of families which suffer because they are giving away their money without providing for their own needs as well. Usually there are wrong motives somewhere, whether it be someone who gives in an effort to “buy” personal holiness (maybe even without conscious awareness of the reason) or someone giving because it has been heard that God will “pay back” in greater dollars than what has been “sown as a seed.”

Occasionally, I’ve heard people who believe that they should not have to work, but instead should just trust God and have faith so that their needs will be (magically) met and they can enjoy life in abundance. As a younger man, I knew people who believed that because the Bible says that “the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous” (See Proverbs 13:22), that with faith, they could actually con sinners into giving them money, often through unscrupulous business schemes. However, none of these attitudes represent the Christlike nature we should attain to. 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-12 says

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

This is not to say that it is wrong to pay those who work full time in ministry, as everyone is worthy of their hire. Sin comes when someone wishes to live off of the gospel without truly working for that purpose (See 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

“God wants us to be rich so that others will see the blessings of God and get saved.”

There is a certain logic to the sentence above. The concept has been heard by many Christians and non-Christians alike. It appears to work for some. It doesn’t work for most others. In the Old Testament, it does appear that God often used material prosperity to show off His people. But what about now – is this still they way it works? If the physical symbols of the old often pointed to spiritual truths of the new, could it be that under the new and better covenant God wants to show off His people through their regenerated spirits, and Christlike attitude in all circumstances? What does the Bible really say?

In 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes to Timothy regarding attitudes. In the first two verses, Paul speaks about working with diligence for one’s boss, whether Christian or not. This alone shows that not every Christian can be the “boss.” Sometimes working for others will be the avenue through which God provides. Then 1 Timothy 6:5 says something very interesting. In speaking about people teaching false doctrines, Paul says, “people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” Despite the certain popularity of the idea, it is contrary to sound scripture to believe that godliness is a means of gain. True gain via godliness is stated in 1 Timothy 6:6-11.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Prosperity in the earthly sense can be deceptive. If we do well materially, it is easy to feel that we are doing well spiritually. To the Church in Laodicea, Jesus said

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:15-19).

As we look around in our world, we see that there are both rich and poor, and everyone in between. It is the same in the church. This is why James says in chapter 1, verses 9-12 (Amplified)

Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation [as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God], And the rich [person ought to glory] in being humbled [by being shown his human frailty], because like the flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun comes up with a scorching heat and parches the grass; its flower falls off and its beauty fades away. Even so will the rich man wither and die in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

And to those who are blessed with material wealth, there seems to be the stricter warnings, for it is far too easy to trust in those riches, and to trust in the future continuation of those riches. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Final thoughts.

Solomon was a wise man. As he observed in Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 ESV

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.

It takes a strong person to look into his heart and allow God to show him what is there. In western culture, it is far too easy to become deceived by goals which seem lofty and even altruistic. However, if not nestled in the goal of obtaining true self-sacrificing Christlikeness, our goals will often lead to our own folly and pain as we struggle to make God’s will (as we see it) come to pass in our lives.