Alport Syndrome (Follow-Up)

Thanks to everyone who left comments, phone calls and e-mail for us in response to my last post. Joshua is doing much better, and since then Katie’s also gotten that fever (and gotten over it).

I’m still pretty sure Joshua has Alport Syndrome, though. This fever was just a fever, but it seems to have caused some symptoms that pretty much only show up if the fever victim has a disease like AS. Prayers are still appreciated.

Thanks, everyone.

How the Seitler Family Spent Their Weekend

Nicole and I went to a cute little B&B in Lancaster County for our fifth anniversary, but we had to come home a bit early because Joshua was running a fever of 102°F and wasn’t sleeping. That was Friday, and he was still the same all day Saturday. Round about midnight, Nicole and I were talking over our options, and decided an emergency trip may be in order because his wet diapers left us with the impression that he might have something serious, like a urinary tract infection. However, there’s another reason for this sort of thing… one we didn’t really consider (nor did we want to):

The hallmark of Alport syndrome is blood in the urine (hematuria). In boys with X-linked Alport syndrome, hematuria first appears in early childhood and their urine always tests positive for blood. […] The hematuria of Alport syndrome is usually microscopic, meaning it can only be detected with a microscope or a urine dipstick. Sometimes children with Alport Syndrome have brown, pink or red urine (gross hematuria) for several days, associated with a cold or the flu. This gross hematuria eventually stops on its own. It can be frightening, but it is not harmful.

Source: Inheritance of Alport Syndrome & Your Child (Renalife)

If only we knew this before taking Joshua into the emergency room on Saturday night. It was especially stinging because:

  1. we were there till 5:30am Sunday morning,
  2. Joshua got a catheter so they could get a urine sample,
  3. they told us to come back Sunday afternoon for antibiotics only to tell us at 8:00pm (following a three-hour wait) that it was a 24-hour dosage and they wouldn’t be giving him any then,
  4. we had to follow up at the doctor’s office the next day,
  5. he needed a 10-day antibiotic prescription,
  6. the doctor wants a renal ultrasound this week, and best of all?
  7. We have no health insurance. (In a touch of irony, we just couldn’t afford it this year.)

So now we’re weighing our options—all of them. This was also a bit of a wake-up call for me personally, because I’ve been living in this sort of “we don’t know if he’s got Alport Syndrome or not” limbo of blissful ignorance. Now I’ve got to wake up and be the responsible daddy, because this is going to be a lifelong battle: the only options for an Alport Syndrome sufferer are dialysis and kidney transplants. There’s no cure (yet).

I’m going to be a sporadic blogger for a while (it’s already started, I guess, but this makes it official). We’ve got some things to take care of before I can focus on this blog the way I was for a while there. In particular, we need to secure prayers, health insurance and a good pediatric nephrologist (preferably nearby, like at Johns Hopkins).

Right now my greatest temptation is to pull back from everyone around me and just sit quietly in a little bubble of depression and fear. Feelings of inadequacy (a distortion of Phillipians 2:3’s “count others more significant than yourselves”) lead to my believing that people either don’t/wouldn’t care, or that they’d see this as petty compared to what they’re dealing with. Either way, I feel like I’m just whining if I talk about this and I’m honest about how much fear and doubt I’m living with right now. So I just don’t talk about it…and all that does is make things fester inside me.

And then I go to work and make comic books, and it all seems so surreal. It’s like amusements are the “important” part of my life (my career), while what are quite possibly life-and-death matters (searching out the latest AS research and good doctors) are relegated to hobby status.

We live in a screwed-up world, and some days it leaves me in the fetal position.

Faith To Be Strong

Don’t you love it when you listen to a song and it brilliantly captures exactly how you’re feeling at that particular moment? I just had that experience with a song from a new (to me) album I’ve wanted for years, but didn’t have a sufficient excuse to buy until I had money to burn on an iTunes gift card I got for Christmas.

This is not another song about the mountains, except about how hard they are to move. Have you ever stood before them like a mustard seed who’s waiting for some proof? I say faith is a burden: it’s a weight to bear; it’s brave and bittersweet, and hope is hard to hold to. Lord, I believe, only help my unbelief till there’s no more faith; no more hope. I’ll see your face and Lord, I’ll know—I’ll sing your praise and let them go—’cause only love remains.

— Andrew Peterson, No More Faith (Clear To Venus, 2001).

As wonderful as this life can be sometimes, nothing could possibly compare to the day that’s coming. More than anything, my heart cries out:

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait—the sky, not the grave, is our goal. Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul! And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend…

And sometimes, I want that Day so badly that I can’t sing the last line: “Even so, it is well with my soul.” Because sometimes it’s not well with my soul “even so” (that is, even if the Lord doesn’t “haste the day”). I want sin to be gone; I want to stand face-to-face with my lord and my God in that city he’s been preparing. I’m weary of the pain and disappointment and disease and death that sin has subjected this world to. I want to see everything finally brought into utter subjection to Jesus, the Christ.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:6-9 (ESV)

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, a day when we celebrate God’s triumph over Satan, Death, and Hell. His victory was total, but it is not yet utter. And so we praise and work and wait and hope, until “…the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death”1 Corinthians 15:24-26 (ESV). But until then…

Give us faith to be strong, give us strength to be faithful; this life is not long, but it’s hard. Give us grace to go on, make us willing and able; Lord, give us faith to be strong.

— Andrew Peterson, Faith To Be Strong (Carried Along, 2000).

Is Heaven Really Our Home?

Heaven is our home where we’ll reign forever
Shining like the sun with our King forever
Every sorrow gone we’ll rejoice forever
Heaven is our home

— Kathryn Scott, Heaven Is Our Home

It’s a catchy tune, but this just ain’t so. Heaven isn’t our home… at least, it’s not “our home where we’ll reign forever.”

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” — Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)

If we die before Christ returns, we will spend a time in Heaven with him… but our eternal home is on Earth. God will bring the celestial “City of Peace” down to earth, and make his home here with us. Isn’t that amazing?! He will pitch his tent among us, and never again take it down! Never again will ichabod (“the Spirit has departed”) be uttered! God has decreed that he will humble himself to live among us on Earth for eternity.

I hope that mind-blowing thought lets a little bit of Sunday spill into your Monday. 🙂

What Does the Bible Say About Tithing?

That’s a question I’ve been asking over the past year. I basically grew up with a “tithing is for today, and that means 10% of all gross income goes in the offering plate” understanding of Christian giving… but that changed about a year ago, when I began to study the topic in earnest.

For instance, one thing that constantly trips up modern-day Christians is that we fail to remember that the Law given to Moses did not merely outline a religious system… it was a constitution establishing a nation’s government. Thus, we need not only to discern which laws were sacrificial in nature (as Christians, we hold that Jesus Christ is our atonement and makes all other sacrifices—and thus all laws requiring sacrifices—moot), but also whether certain laws were governmental or sacramental in nature. While this may be a simple process with the laws of a “secular” nation, it can get difficult when you’re dealing with a theocracy.

My studies keep drawing me to the same conclusion: God’s eternal Law of Love compels us to serve the poor, but the tithing laws were a form of taxation, and served as the welfare system for Ancient Israel. Thus, these laws only apply to those under the Old Covenant living in geographical Israel.

Tithing: the Origin

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (which I wrote about recently) provides the framework for all God-glorifying giving, and serves as the “spirit of the law” regarding money, possessions and neighbors:

If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye [be evil toward] your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be [evil] when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Tithing, while a sacrifice to the LORD, was arranged in such a way as to serve as the particular fulfillment of this command with regards to the Levites (as God forbade them from owning land, cf. Deut. 18:1-8), as well as other poor in the Israelites’ midst (Deut. 14:22-29). Additionally, not only here but also in Nehemiah’s time (after two months of working daily with wood, stone, etc. to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem), the reinstated tithe consisted solely of agricultural produce (Neh. 10:35-39).

Now when you begin to question tithing, the knee-jerk response you often get is a quote from The Most Overused Tithe Verse In The Bible: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” Congratulations, you have now been labeled a God-robber! However, this is neither faithful exegesis nor Biblical correction. It’s simply propaganda and browbeating. To show you that this is the case, let me share the entire passage with you, and pay attention to what I emphasize:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:8-12, ESV)

Let me make it perfectly clear: the tithes were never about collecting money for the Temple. Tithing was the means by which a food bank was kept for the poor and needy in Israel.

“But tithes can be money, too!”

There is only one passage in all of Scripture which speaks of money in relation to tithing: Deuteronomy 14:22-29. However, the money is never actually given to the Levite. Rather, it is used only as a convenient form of transport for those who must travel a long distance. Once the tither arrives at Jerusalem, he is commanded to convert the money back into food, strong drink (beer), etc. and to consume these items with the Levite, sojourner, fatherless and widow (that is, those without such provision). And you know what? Jesus mentioned something much like this in Luke’s gospel:

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14, ESV)

Not once in Scripture is tithing used to pay building and maintenance expenses for a meeting-house. The tithe is food, and it’s used to feed people—period. Freewill offerings (and/or perhaps a modern-day equivalent to Nehemiah’s “temple tax”) are the only Biblically-approved source of income from which such things as Equipment Upgrades, Insurance, Janitorial Services, Payroll Expenses, Repairs and Maintenance, Utilities, Mortgages, etc. are to be paid.

“It’s entirely unreasonable to expect pastors to work for free.”

In contrast to the Old Covenant system, Paul set aside any pastoral “right” to live off the ministry and instead worked additional jobs to provide for his own expenses. He reasoned that he stood to gain no heavenly reward from “simply” preaching the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:15) and must go out of his way to make it a completely free gift if he were to receive anything from the Father for his work. And we commend him for this, and talk about what a brilliant example he sets of going above and beyond the call of duty… but hold on a moment. If Paul were simply a “New Covenant priest,” and the Old Testament regulations for tithing were still in effect and for the Church, then by refusing compensation in this way Paul would have been leading the churches into sin. Again, if God expects His people to obey in a certain area, and then someone comes along and tells them not to obey? That person is leading them into sin. So in light of this, it’s safe to say that at the very least Paul did not believe tithing laws were binding for Christians.

That being the case, a Christian pastor ought not presume to live off of the tithes of his people. If tithing is requested of the congregation, then Biblically it needs to be food, and it needs to be distributed to people who need food. (Which is to say, faithful application of the tithe laws requires the establishment of a congregational food bank.) Beyond that, there is no Biblical requirement to “lay [any] money at the [pastors’] feet.” (It is certainly encouraged as the decent thing to do for a chap who has given his whole lives to serving you and yours spiritually… but it’s not required.) In Acts 2 and 4, the money laid at the apostles’ feet was “distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35). Likewise, the money collected on Paul’s behalf from the Church in Macedonia, Achaia, and Corinth was going directly to feed the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering through a famine—not to line his personal “chariot fund.” And of course a meeting-house is nice, but depleting a collected tithe to fund it—or even to keep it lit and climate-controlled—is unbiblical.

“So then, all of my money is really mine?”

If I don’t think tithing applies to us today, does that mean I can get away with not giving anything to anyone? God forbid! On the contrary, I believe Christians are to “sell [their] possessions, and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33), but are not bound by a 10-33% annual tithe to modern-day Levites per se. The sacrificial system is no longer binding, but I am still bound by the perfect Law of Love: specifically, to “love [my] neighbor as [myself],” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, etc.) and thus to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10), “open wide [my] hand to [my] brother, to the needy and to the poor, in [my] land” (Deut. 15:11), “bear with the failings of the weak, and not… please [myself]” (Rom. 15:1-3, cf. vv. 25-27), and to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13) “that there may be fairness” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). Sometimes fairness means giving 1%, sometimes 99%.

But the most ironic thing about my tithe law studies is that since it’s about caring for the poor and needy, some Christians who are being commanded to “tithe” (give 10% of your gross income) to “the church” (really meaning “the pastors”) are actually poor enough that if Old Covenant tithing is still for today, the whole thing gets turned on its head and the pastors would be required by God’s Word to be tithing to them.

Conclusion

Christians are commanded to give to the poor and needy in our midst, but we are not bound by tithing laws. However, even if one were convinced that Christians must tithe, then according to the principles and rules found in the Bible the tithe must be used to care for the poor. It is wholly foreign to the Word of God to use a tithe on buildings, utilities, vacations, insurance or even clothing.

This may not win me any friends among the clergy, but the truth hurts, and sometimes it hurts the one who spoke it.

By what Kind of Death will You Glorify God?

in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them. — Psalm 139:16

A few weeks ago, a childhood friend died in a car accident on his way to work on a construction project for his church. Just this week, some other friends had a miscarriage. Meanwhile, my great-grandmother just celebrated her 100th birthday. All of them love Jesus, all of them seek to serve and honor him. At times it can seem like there’s no rhyme or reason to such things, but the Bible paints a different picture:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. — John 11:5-6

[Jesus said,] “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” — John 11:5-6

Few of us know by what death we will glorify God, but we can be assured of this: everything happens for God’s glory. No matter how tragic, no matter how seemingly untimely, every death brings glory to God in some way. We can catch glimpses of this now, but we may never know the full story until this chapter of life is over. For instance: the couple who miscarried? God is already using them to minister to the people around them. The faith and trust they exhibit as they walk through this trial is strengthening the faith of the believers in their midst. And that’s just this week—only God knows how much fruit will be harvested from this one event.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28

It’s enough to make a Christian look forward to the day of his death—the thought that my final act on this earth will bring God glory! What an encouragement! 🙂

The Proper Care and Feeding of the Poor

Within my care group, there’s been a sort of ongoing dialogue on this topic of benevolence toward the poor and struggling. On this past Monday night (the men of the group get together for a semimonthly Monday night accountability group/Bible study) we revisited the subject. There was some disagreement, and like all good disagreements it drove me back to the Scriptures to see what they have to say on the matter. What I found was almost staggering!

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess—if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.

If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ — Deuteronomy 15:1-11 (ESV)

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. 😉 See, Chesapeake Community Church has just started a series of sermons on 1 John. I wasn’t there on Sunday (this cold’s been pretty nasty), but I did have John Piper’s message from January 7th, also on 1 John (2:12-14, to be specific) playing as I drove to and from this men’s meeting. Anyway, I definitely had 1 John on my mind as I was going into this. Now, the reason I mention 1 John is that in that letter, the Apostle says something very interesting:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. — 1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is such that we have an advocate, even if we sin after having first received mercy! The reason this was giving me a eureka! moment is because this is the exact same sort of thing being said in the Deuteronomy passage! Look at it again, specifically verses 4-5 and 7-8:

“But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess—if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. […] If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”

Do you see it? Do you see it? There is at least an implication that as Israel’s financial prosperity in the Promised Land is tied to their lawkeeping, their poverty will be due to sin… yet they are commanded to lend whatever is needed to the seeming backslider, even if there’s no chance he can pay them back. In fact, according to verse 9, if you don’t open wide your hand to give the presumed “sinner” whatever he needs, you’re guilty of sin! What a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ command in the Sermon on the Mount:

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you… so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. […] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:42, 45, 48 (ESV)

So brothers and sisters, I urge you: do not sin against God and your neighbor in an effort to “avoid foolish investments”! He is no wise steward who ignores the master’s stewardship instructions. Rather, look upon the mercy and kindness of God—who pours out common grace upon all, regardless of merit (that’s what grace is)—and open wide your hand to the poor in your midst, even if you think his poverty is the result of his sin.

UPDATE: It figures that someone like Doug Wilson would have beaten me to this by a few weeks—and he said it better than I did, to boot! :p

The Myth of Moral Neutrality

Just read a new post by Tim Challies. It’s a good post, but he said something in there that really irks me:

I believe that music, assembled notes and chords, is morally neutral. I don’t think there is music that is inherently good and music that is inherently evil.

I don’t think this is a Biblically-informed statement. Now I’m not knocking Challies—Tim could probably thrash me in theological debates most any day. No, this is a very common statement to make, but I believe it’s unbiblical. I’ll try to explain why, but please keep in mind that I’ve been up for about 24 hours now…

God didn’t complete His act of Creation on the sixth day and call it “neutral” — He called it “very good.” When He acknowledged the man’s need of a helpmeet, He didn’t say, “It is morally neutral that the man be alone, so I’ll flip a coin (or whatever God does) to decide whether or not to give Him a woman.” He said, “It is not good…”

The universe is God’s handiwork, and God is Good. Sin has wrecked much in the universe, and sin is evil. It’s like two sides of a coin: if you flip a coin, it could land on either heads or tails. Anyone with half a brain would acknowledge this. However, it is utter folly (or a strange application of quantum mechanics) to claim that a coin has some sort of mystical “neutral” side to it until it gets flipped.

I think we’re in danger of self-deception the moment we think in terms of moral neutrality — because if something isn’t actively (or inherently) glorifying God, then is it not morally repugnant to Him?

Music was created by God. However, music was also employed by the Prince of Lies. It’s either one or the other, folks. That something can be either good or evil does not mean it is neutral; no, regardless of its moral adaptability, everything in the universe has a moral default — and that default will either be good or evil. There is no middle ground.

So what does this have to do with rap music (or music in general)? I would say that, in light of the Fall of Man, all human employment of music is tainted with evil—to varying degrees, but tainted nonetheless. Music can be redeemed in Christ, and this doesn’t mean “only Middle-English hymns” or “only praise choruses from the 1980s.” Such definitions miss the point of music.

The purpose of music is to praise God. Fallen Man has taken this gift and spent it on his idols—whether beautiful women, drunkenness, or simply himself, man has used this worship tool to worship other things. Thus, I would say that any employment of music divorced from praise of God is evil, and any employment of music directed as praise to God is good.