Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gods incarnate

File this under "what if your god answers your prayers."

This morning, a 2-year-old girl had an extensive operation performed to remove the additional 4 limbs she was born with, due to an extremely rare condition known as isciopagus, basically a conjoined-twin type condition where one twin was never fully formed and remained attached to the sibling upside-down from the pelvis, leaving her, in this case, with an unusually symmetrical-looking set of 8 limbs.

This happened, in all places--in India.

For centuries, Hindus have worshiped various gods and goddesses of various things, and the characteristic trait of many of them, as commonly seen in beautiful Hindu art, is their multiple arms. As would be expected, most of the villagers from the girl's region worshiped her as a goddess incarnate.

The girl, named Lakshmi after the Hindu goddess of wealth, who is represented as having four arms, was not expected to live into adolescence. She had been plagued with various internal ailments from birth. The surgery took 27 hours and was done by a team of surgeons taking 8-hour shifts to not only remove the extra limbs but reconstruct her body, including transferring a kidney from her dead twin's body into hers, and completely reshaping her pelvis. The cost was $200,000, thankfully paid for by the hospital's foundation, since Lakshmi's parents are poor villagers from rural India and could not afford medical care.

As well as the obvious difficulties her parents faced in their daughter's many health issues (she had not seen a doctor until this) and simply caring for her, the family had to keep her away from people who wanted to buy her for a circus.

Satan is in the business of twisting all things beautifully designed by God and trying to make us not only believe that they are desirable but to make us worship them. But when the reality is revealed, these "gods" are shown to be as unhealthy, undesirable, dangerous, and--dare we say it--freakish as the one who mutilated them.

Take a look at your gods. If you were to really analyze their nature, what would they be? When the God of Abraham, the Creator of all things beautiful and perfect, was incarnated, what was His character?

Fortunately the girl Lakshmi is doing well after the surgery. I hope that she will be able to live a normal life from now on, learning to walk, play, grow up, and love.

And I hope that the testimony of a girl who was once a "goddess" will live to tell us what these unnatural gods are like when the cloak of mysticism is taken away.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Refiner's Fire

I've had the privilege of leading the Sabbath school lesson discussion group twice so far this quarter--I say privilege because whenever I teach, I learn so much. (If there's a topic you'd like to study in further detail, I'd strongly recommend you teach it, or at least work up a study as if you were going to teach it.) This quarter's topic is "The Refiner's Fire." Surely, the question of "if God is so good, why do humans have to suffer so much?" is the classic first objection to Christianity. The studies have been presenting this question in the context of the great controversy between Good and Evil, God and Satan--that God is like a Refiner, who subjects his work to extreme heat and fire in order to purge it from impurities. A beautiful illustration, and certainly one that clearly shows not only how bad sin is and how much is necessary to make us holy and fit for Heaven, but also the great lengths to which God will go to make His people holy and fit for Heaven.

The good news for us is "God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]." (1 Cor. 10:13) What a privilege to know that we have help from God Himself!

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions on our end. Certainly God's character and His ways are enough to study for the rest of our lives. We can't possibly think that we have all the answers to the questions, and as we attempt to answer some, more questions arise. This is part of the test, I think. Here's a good example, a story (which in all likelihood may have been true at some point):

A certain Brother X went to prayer meeting. During prayer and testimony time, Brother X stood up to share.

"Praise God! He has truly answered my prayer! Here is my testimony of praise. For three months now I have been searching for a good job which pays well with good benefits. I interviewed at Helen's Department Store downtown for the position of manager. The outlook looked almost impossible, as they had told me that the position had been filled for a long time now, but they said they'd see what they could do. I prayed and prayed, but I hadn't heard from them for weeks, until this past Monday, when they called and said that I got the job! Praise God!"

When all the Amens and Hallelujas died down, Brother Y stood up to speak.

"I have a prayer request for myself and my family. As you know, our little Tommy was diagnosed with diabetes last month--I thank all of you for your constant prayers and support during this difficult time. Fortunately, I have had a good job with excellent medical benefits which were able to cover all of our entire family's medical costs, including Tommy's supplies and medication. I was the manager of Helen's Department Store downtown for 15 years, but you see, on Monday I lost my job...."