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a monthly devotional journal by David S. Lampel - Issue #85 / December, 1997
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Col. 2:6-9
Outside chopping wood on the afternoon of November 19th, I listened with interest to the radio, and the first news conference. As I swung the axe and stacked the wood that would later be burned in the fireplace during the approaching winter evenings, I marveled and wept with joy over what I was hearing.
As most everyone who has been paying attention knows by now, on November 19, after 30 weeks of pregnancy Bobbi McCaughey, from Carlisle, Iowa, gave birth to seven premature but vigorous babies. At this writing children and parents are doing well.
Present at that first news conference were the principal doctors who attended the Caesarean births. I was immediately impressed with their calm, comfortable demeanor. The two Iowa women Paula Renee Mahone, M.D., and Karen Lynn Drake, M.D., both perinatologists described with quiet good-natured confidence the events of the birth, and fielded the many questions tossed their way by members of the media.
This news conference with the attending physicians continued a pattern not always apparent to those getting their news from the national media, such as the broadcast and cable television networks. The general public in Iowa, following the story via the local television, radio and newspaper sources, knows very well that the entire event has been literally drenched in the words and behavior of Christian faith.
Bobbi, still groggy [after the delivery], still on the bed, was wheeled to the babies' room. She raised her head and reached out and touched each one and spoke softly. Her babies looked fine, the best.
As I stacked the pieces of wood and hauled them inside to restack them against the workshop wall, I marveled at the moving testimony of Christian faith being expounded from the lips of the doctors; the townsfolk of Carlisle; the few family members who spoke publicly (including the grandfather fairly bursting with understandable pride over his seven new grandchildren); the proud, happy father Kenny McCaughey (McCoy); and the members of the family's local Baptist church.
They spoke unabashedly to the reporters of prayer, of outbursts of praise and rejoicing in the delivery room, of glory raised to God, of dependency and trust, of quiet hope and unselfish devotion. These were not the standard, tired clichés of religion typically bandied about in the press; these were not the bland, meaningless mutterings inserted into entertainment programs. These were the real thing, spoken by people who lived their faith, and were happy to give credit where it was due: to God.
With my arms sufficiently sore and my back equally stiff, I returned the axe to its place in the workshop and got cleaned up. It would soon be time for the evening network news and though I do not normally watch what the networks call the news on this occasion I wanted to observe their spin on the event. Specifically I wished to confirm my suspicion that the networks would stand on their heads in an attempt to scour away every last vestige of religion and faith from the story. To their credit, the local media had done a pretty good job of reporting this aspect of the story. But I doubted that the network news would continue in kind. I expected they would remove any mention of God from the story, and with this one, I thought, they'd have a real challenge on their hands because faith in God was the story.
"Their throats are open graves;
The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather led with the story and, just as I imagined, there was not one word about God or the almost staggering faith held by just about everyone involved. About that I was saddened not surprised, but saddened.
What did surprise me, however, was the shameful, deplorably dark twist they gave to the story from the beginning, referring to the births as "controversial," and emphasizing the fact that although the mother was given the option to abort a few of the fetuses to raise the odds for those remaining, she had (implied: ignorantly or selfishly) refused. The clear implication from the report was that this would have been the sensible thing for her to do.
From the opening moments of the newscast through the on-site reports from Des Moines, the anchor and reporters were grim-faced and dour, as if this were some dark tragedy that must be endured. There was none of the joy! Where was the reportage of the actual events taking place at the hospital? Where were the faces of the people from the beaming father to the doctors, to the local people literally on their knees in prayer for the health of the little ones? Never has there been a better demonstration of the media's detachment from reality.
This sour-faced tone was also present on ABC November 11th, prior to the births, with the headline: "As Town Awaits Births, Questions Arise: Is Having Septuplets Immoral?" That night, on the same network's Nightline program, the question was put: "Are Multiple Births of More Than Four Too Many?"
Going in Amongst Them
The people of Israel were at last ready to take possession of the land promised them by Jehovah. For over a year the Lord had taken them from Egypt to Mount Sinai to receive His laws, and had patiently instructed them in His ways. God through Moses had made clear what He considered wrong, and what He considered right; He handed down His expectations for His people.
What God expected, most of all, was trust trust in Him to meet their needs. The people of Israel were a helpless band of vagrants, whether they realized it or not, and they were dependent on a gracious, forgiving God. He would supply them a new home; He would guide battles to their favor; and He would supply their physical needs. All He asked in return was for them to obey His laws and trust in Him.
" 'If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.
Prepared by God to take the land promised to them, the people of Israel journeyed north from Mt. Sinai in the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, toward Kadesh-barnea, in the wilderness of Paran. There Moses selected one leader from each of the twelve tribes, including Caleb and Hoshea, Moses' right-hand man, who would have his name changed to "Joshua" by his mentor.2
Trust placed in something higher than oneself is a frightening prospect for much of a world steeped in the religion of self-determination. Even many who claim membership in one faith or another still place more trust in their own abilities than those of an invisible God.
Moving into the alien land of Canaan to spy out their future enemy, each of the twelve Israelites had to trust in something either themselves, blind fate, or a higher being. Their marching orders were fairly simple; Moses told them 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 on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." Numbers 13:17b-20a
It's not hard to imagine the twelve furtively moving into the land under cover of darkness, moving silently north, and carefully insinuating themselves into the Canaanite culture. It's also not hard to imagine based on their subsequent reports that ten of the spies proceeded with bellies filled with trepidation, while two marched ahead with confidence.
Like the two more confident Israelites Joshua and Caleb moving into an alien land, the McCaugheys and their doctors looked into the face of the unknown and trusted in God to work His will. The Israelites had no idea what they would encounter beyond the border, and the McCaugheys had no idea how their Lord would use people and medicine, skills and circumstances to bring glory to His name. The band of spies approaching Canaan consisted of ten men trusting in themselves and two men trusting in God alone.
He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
Sometimes 'mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine,
And when my task on earth is done,
Impressed with the Wrong Thing
"He that follows the world with all his heart and thinks that the best, is a reasonable man in following it. But he who thinks the world to come the best, and yet follows this present evil world why, what a fool is he, and who shall plead for him? When he stands before God, his prayers will damn him, if nothing else will, for his prayers will be swift witnesses against him that he did know, did feel, and yet he would not act on his knowledge." Charles H. Spurgeon
So the spies spent forty days searching out the new land, taking stock of its inhabitants and sizing up their weaknesses and strengths. They helped themselves to the best of the produce, and forty days later they returned to deliver their report.
They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: "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. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan." Numbers 13:26-29
All twelve of the spies pretty much agreed that the land spread before them was everything God had promised: fertile, beautiful, and "flowing with milk and honey." They also agreed that the present inhabitants were formidable: large, strong people with cities heavily fortified. They all agreed on the basic facts.
Ten of the spies, however, came back very impressed by what they had seen. In their opinion the people of Canaan were, apparently, no match for the God who had conducted them safely thus far. Their perspective was that the land was filled with giants who could not be overcome. But two of the spies viewed the land and its people with God's perspective, and they knew that the formidable obstacles to their taking the land meant only a bigger victory for the Lord.
The larger story of the McCaughey septuplets is the story of a small town's quiet faith in God and His ways, amidst the self-important arrogance of news media and various "experts."
The inevitable clash in values was caught in a brief exchange between reporter and doctor during that first press conference:
In a similar exchange, a reporter was interviewing a citizen of Carlisle, the small town in which the McCaugheys live. The reporter was verifying the story that the entire town had actively kept secret Bobbi McCaughey's remarkable pregnancy for months, in an effort to afford the family some measure of privacy and normalcy. The citizen confirmed that for the longest time no one outside the small town knew anything about it that the citizens had voluntarily kept the secret for their neighbors.
Her voice heavy with incredulity, the reporter inquired, "But . . . why?!" The citizen answered politely, but also with a measure of pity for the big-city reporter explaining what they had done and why, but the explanation boiled down to one simple fact: It had been the right thing to do.
The out-of-town reporter had a difficult time understanding that an entire town would pass up the chance for notoriety and potential profit for the sake of simple Christian goodness.
Satan once tried the very same thing with Jesus, and it didn't work that time, either.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I am trusting Thee to guide me;
I am trusting Thee for power:
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus;
God is Great
Let us pause for a moment to consider the two views: One, the temporal, soil-bound view of the unregenerate world and its minions and, Two, the eternal, Spirit-winged view of heaven and its creator. Over the past few weeks we've been hearing from both.
Hear the voices of the world:
"Humans weren't meant to have litters."
Now hear the voice of heaven:
At 12:48 p.m., "Baby A" was lifted from his mother's uterus, held briefly, his mouth cleared of mucus.
"The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveler in an inn, perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his home." Spurgeon
Two different reports were delivered after the Israelite spies returned to their camp in Kadesh-barnea one based on the temporal view, and one based on the eternal. The ten spies who placed their trust in man, said"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.
"Faith is self-surrender to the great Physician, a leaving of our case in His hands. But it is also the taking of His prescriptions and the active following of His directions." Augustus H. Strong
In a practical sense, the inhabitants of Canaan were practicing deceit, unwittingly saying through their actions, "We're more powerful than any god. Don't mess with us." The Canaanites can't be faulted for this. Being adherents to the world's system, it was the best they could do just their form of defense against invaders.
But ten of the Israelites believed the lie even when they knew better. They had, supposedly, placed their trust in Jehovah; where was that trust when things began to look bad? What good is trust that evaporates at the slightest challenge?
How do we acquire the sort of trust in God demonstrated by Caleb and Joshua and the McCaugheys? Where does it come from, and where is it nurtured? And how is it sustained against the many deceitful giants that come our way?
You don't really know someone until you've lived with them awhile.
Back in the winter of 1971 there were quality traits of Miss Linda Nott I could have guessed at with a moderate degree of accuracy. She possessed a high scholastic aptitude, so I knew she could balance a checkbook; she participated in synchronized swimming in high school, so I knew I would probably never be called upon to rescue her from the deep end of a pool; she was a good cook, so I knew I would be battling my waistline for a good many years to come; and she was pretty, so I knew I had to be the most fortunate guy around to have successfully convinced her to be my wife.
There were a good many things I learned about Miss Nott over the course of our dating, and corresponding in scribbled letters between Vietnam and Marshalltown, Iowa. But I never really knew her knew her to the point of absolute trust until she became Linda Lampel and I had lived with her awhile.
Now, after close to twenty-seven years together, I know her inside and out. I know her because I have lived with her day in and day out, learned from her, accepted as a gift some of her better qualities and added them to my own few.
I do not trust Linda because someone told me that I should. I do not trust her because it is fashionable, or because it is in my nature to be trusting of others. I trust her because she is deserving of my trust and I know this because I have lived with her and invested my life into hers.
But even with all of this, I cannot trust Linda as I can trust my Lord Jesus.
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
Select whichever word is the most descriptive for you, but they all begin at the cross. Only there will you find someone deserving of your absolute trust.
All men and women will eventually disappoint. All will eventually do something that, at least, shatters their facade of trustworthiness. Everyone.
But there is one and only one in whom we can dependably place our trust and faith. He is the one called Jesus Christ. Jesus will not disappoint, He will not lie, He will not do anything that is against the better interests of His followers.
Put plainly, Jesus is who He says He is. Jesus the man is also the Son of God and as such, the only Savior; He has a personal, compassionate relationship with everyone by name who has placed their faith in Him; and He consistently wants only what is best for those who follow Him.
Only in this person can we dependably place our trust. Only Him.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands. Psalm 31:14-15
"During an earthquake, the inhabitants of a small village were very much alarmed, but they were at the same time surprised at the calmness and apparent joy of an old lady whom they all knew.
In Jesus Christ we have gained access to the eternity of heaven. We are not owed this; it is not a return to that place from whence we came, but a permanent change of address to a place where we only now belong.
But for us that change of address has yet to take place. What about now? What difference does this make right now? How might this change our perspective?
Watching the news reports, it's easy to spot those who have this more eternal perspective, and those who do not. It's easy to spot those who are leaning on Christ, and those who are leaning on themselves.
Those who are trusting in Christ have about them an almost supernatural calm. When everyone around is prodding them toward anxiety, they display a peace that is seen as inexplicable and is often mocked by those without Christ. In their uncomfortable ignorance, they struggle to discount such grounded trust as simple-minded.
Those who know Christ needn't fear the uncertainty of tomorrow, or even the calamity of today. Those who rest in the Lord carry around with them peace and a confidence that baffles those who do not know Him.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Mark 4:37-40
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
"You who truly love God have felt His presence through affliction and your faith has been strengthened. You have linked yourself with the Almighty and you and He are in league together. You're walking together. And nothing breaks that fellowship. That's the way it is with God. He's on that basis with His children. God wants our arms around Him. God wants to hear us say, 'I love You, Father. I trust You. Whatever You want to give me I accept. I need You. I cling to You. I walk with You. I adore You.'
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:24-27
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