When I mentioned to Anne that I had posted a bit of her story on my blog she responded with the following which I use with her permission: (it brought tears to my eyes)

“It was my pleasure to meet you too Michael. Yes, I stand to testify about the goodness of God even in the midst of hard trials and life difficulties. He is God and will always provide a way out. I believe God  expects us to do more than mourning about  our life circumstances some of which are beyond  human making and control like the  illness  that my father, the sole bread winner suffered from which led to a change of story in my family.
 
It is one thing to suffer from  poverty along with all the ills associated with it and give up in life, and   it is another thing  to say  “Yes I am in this right  now but, because I matter:  wonderfully and beautifully made in God’s own image, I can do something to make a difference in my life, family, community, and society despite the hurdles I have to overcome.”
Amen and let this be the attitude that springs forth from pulpits and churches. mike

Our friends at CCIH  have requested we post a piece written by Dr Paul Robinson, a physician and public health expert. As a previously practicing OB/GYN I find Paul’s piece excellent and fully agree with his scriptural interpretations. Family planning is not something the global Church should shy away from. And we must get past equating “Family Planning” with “Planned Parenthood” which is what many in the Church are guilty of. Thousands of women and children are dying each year because many in the Church are unwilling to openly and graciously talk about these issues.

What Does the Bible Say About Family Planning? 

At the heart of the controversy among Christians about family planning are the interpretations of a few passages from the Bible. For some Christians, these passages are non-negotiable divine commands to have as many children as God gives, and at whatever interval a mother can conceive them. To these Christians, determining the number of children or the interval between their births through contraception is against God’s intentions. 

The first reference in the Bible on human procreation is found in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God has given human beings the power and command for increasing our number in the world. However, it does not imply that God intended for this to be done without considering the need for food, space and education. In the next verse, God gave the command for man to eat the fruits of the trees, but does not command to continually eat without considering the effects of our actions. 

Another passage that is often misunderstood is Psalm 127, verses 3-5: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Some believe since God’s word says children are His gift, we should not prevent conception or plan birth intervals. But there are other gifts from God for which we do not follow this logic. God gives land that produces food, but much planning is involved to achieve the harvest. 

Some argue that God will provide all the resources that children need. I believe God expects us to make decisions according to what He has given us, and not presume upon Him to provide for our needs when we make unreasonable choices. 

Planning the number and interval of births allows couples to avoid having more children than they can support, and a mother’s health is protected when she avoids giving birth within short intervals. These considerations demonstrate care, respect and love for a wife and children. The Bible sternly warns Christians against neglecting the responsibility of taking care of family members: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Timothy 5:8) 

Global health practitioners have long observed that increasing the interval between pregnancies and reducing the number of childbirths dramatically decreases the death rates of women, newborns and children. In many low- and middle-income countries these rates are unacceptably high. Contraception enables women to prevent unintended or high-risk pregnancies and reduces the rate of abortions, which account for 13 percent of maternal deaths globally. http://www.ccih.org/FP-Reduces-Abortions.pdf 

Nowhere in the Bible is there explicit or implicit prohibition of contraception. Onan’s example is sometimes used to demonstrate God’s condemnation of contraception. The account of Er and Onan appears in Genesis Chapter 38. Er died leaving his wife without children. His brother Onan married Er’s wife, Tamar, in keeping with the law of that time. But Onan did not want to have children with Tamar because he knew by law the children born to Tamar would not be his, but would belong to his deceased brother. So when Onan had intercourse with Tamar, he practiced a form of contraception known as withdrawal. The passage ends with “What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.” 

Onan did not want to split his inheritance with a child, but he used Tamar for his own sexual pleasure. It was not the use of contraception that was wrong, but it was Onan’s selfishmotivation behind his action that God determined as sinful. 

A misconception among some is that contraceptives routinely work by destroying the life of a living embryo. Although the mechanisms of action of various methods differ and are not always well understood, contraceptives work primarily by preventing the fertilization of the egg by the sperm. Contraception is not the same as abortion and studies show contraception actually lowers abortion rates. 

Preparing to receive the gift of children and give them what they need is a loving and responsible act. By enabling couples to time and space pregnancies in a healthy way, contraception protects mothers and children and enables fathers to be prepared to accept the responsibility that comes with the gift of children.  

 

Dr. Paul Robinson, MPH, MTS, MBBS is a physician and public health professional and member of Christian Connections for International Health, www.ccih.org a network of individuals and organizations committed to promoting global health from a Christian perspective. He currently serves as Public Health Advisor with International Medical Corps (IMC). The author’s views in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of IMC.

This past Saturday I was volunteered (by someone whose name will remain anonymous) for duty at our USCWM/WCUI foodbank. We receive just about to expire and some unsellable food from some local Trader Joes (thanks to TJ) stores and the food is divided into categories and then we each pass through to pick out food we would like to take home. This day I was accompanied by my daughter, Leah, who was to help me see what I needed to do so that I could actually be of some use. Also helping out as a “setup” person (they get to go through the line after the drivers and before all the rest) was Anne who is from Africa. She was there with her 2 lovely daughters and has been involved in this Saturday AM event for some time. I heard her accent and struck up a conversation as we were waiting for the drivers to arrive with the goods.

Enthusiastically she shared her story. Anne had grown up in a central African country and her was family was so poor that their poor neighbors considered her family as poor! But through the messages delivered by her pastor in their home church Anne began to hear God speaking through her pastors teaching and what she heard transformed her mind and her life. My immediate thought when she mentioned the name of her church (the name is too long for me to remember) was that it was probably a “prosperity” gospel church. Oh no Anne replied. What the pastor shared was not the prosperity gospel as most people understand it but a gospel of hope and encouragement that God did not intend that His people sit idly by suffering with poverty and ill health. No, He was a God of true prosperity but prosperity as understood in the concept of shalom. He wants His people to live lives that are full of His peace, the peace that passes all human understanding. This pastor taught that his congregants were responsible for their own well being and that their lives could be made better with their own efforts in tune with the work of the Holy Spirit active and alive in our lives! WOW I wanted to shout thanks be to God that He would allow me to hear such a story. But what has this to do with Zeal and Knowledge?

Let me take us back to the purpose of this blog. It is primarily intended to assist those with a passion/zeal for doing good to acquire a deepening knowledge base for how to match their zeal with sufficient knowledge so as to maximize our efforts for kingdom transformation. This story gets to the heart of this purpose. This story illustrates that there are indeed some excellent churches globally whose pastors are preaching and teaching sound messages that have enough impact to transform thinking and thus lives. There may be more sound messages such as this being preached globally than in the church in the west. So for those in the western church who are involved in global missions activities remember one of the principles we think is foundational to effective involvement cross-culturally is working through local churches who have leadership that is preaching and teaching the truth about the overwhelming good news that not only did Jesus die for our sins that we might have eternal life but that He also, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, desire to see His people living lives of shalom and not lives of poverty and dis-ease. We must acknowledge that God is working through His Church all over the world and if we involve ourselves and our churches in cross-cultural global ministry without being connected to such churches and leaders as Anne describes then we are not practicing zeal with knowledge and we are probably causing more harm than good.