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Archive for the ‘Apostasy’ Category

from Anglican Ink:

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34 .

In her sermon delivered at All Saints Church in Curaçao in the diocese of Venezuela, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori condemned those who did not share her views as enemies of the Holy Spirit.

The presiding bishop opened her remarks with an observation on the Dutch slave past. “The history of this place tells some tragic stories about the inability of some to see the beauty in other skin colors or the treasure of cultures they didn’t value or understand,” she said.

She continued stating: “Human beings have a long history of discounting and devaluing difference, finding it offensive or even evil.  That kind of blindness is what leads to oppression, slavery, and often, war.  Yet there remains a holier impulse in human life toward freedom, dignity, and the full flourishing of those who have been kept apart or on the margins of human communities.”

Just as the forces of historical inevitability led to the ending of industrial slavery, so too would the march of progress lead to a change in attitude towards homosexuality, she argued.

“We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and instead use other people as means to an end.  We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong.  For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.”

To illustrate her point presiding bishop turned to the book of Acts, noting “There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it.  Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God.  She is quite right.  She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said, referencing the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

“But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!,” the presiding bishop said.

The New Testament passage goes on to say that Paul and Silas were imprisoned for freeing the girl of her demonic possession. Presiding Bishop noted “an earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God.  The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand.”

However, Paul now repents of his mistake in casting out the spirit of divination, she argues.  “This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor.  This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household.  It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.”

In support her argument for radical inclusion and diversity over doctrine Bishop Jefferts Schori adds that the day’s reading “from Revelation pushes us in the same direction, outward and away from our own self-righteousness, inviting us to look harder for God’s gift and presence all around us.  Jesus says he’s looking for everybody, anyone who’s looking for good news, anybody who is thirsty.  There are no obstacles or barriers – just come.  God is at work everywhere, even if we can’t or won’t see it immediately.”

She concluded her sermon by stating that we are not justified by our faith but by our respect for diversity.

“Looking for the reflection of God’s glory all around us means changing our lenses, or letting the scales on our eyes fall away.  That kind of change isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s the only road to the kingdom of God.”

Salvation comes not from being cleansed of our sins by the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, but through the divinization of humanity through the work of the human will. “We are here, among all the other creatures of God’s creation, to be transformed into the glory intended from the beginning.  The next time we feel the pain of that change, perhaps instead of annoyance or angry resentment we might pray for a new pair of glasses.  When resentment about difference or change builds up within us, it’s really an invitation to look inward for the wound that cries out for a healing dose of glory.  We will find it in the strangeness of our neighbor.  Celebrate that difference – for it’s necessary for the healing of this world – and know that the wholeness we so crave lies in recognizing the glory of God’s creative invitation.  God among us in human form is the most glorious act we know.”

Responses posted on the Episcopal Church’s website to the Presiding Bishop’s sermon have been uniformly harsh, noting her interpretation was at odds with traditional Christian teaching, grammar, and logic. “This is quite possibly some if the most delusional exegesis I’ve ever read in my life,” one critic charged. “I’m sorry, but this sermon is not a Christian sermon.”

The reception by bloggers has been equally unkind. The Rev Timothy Fountain observed the presiding bishop had up ended the plain meaning of the text. “Instead of liberation” in freeing the slave girl from exploitation, presiding bishop finds “confinement.  Instead of Christ’s glory, there’s just squalor.”

The Rev. Bryan Owen argued “What’s happening here is the exploitation of a biblical text in service to a theopolitical agenda.  Given what she says in the first paragraph I’ve quoted from her sermon, the Presiding Bishop suggests that anyone who doesn’t buy into that agenda – anyone who holds to the traditional, orthodox understanding of such matters – is likewise afflicted with the same narrow-minded bigotry as Paul, and thus in need of enlightenment.”

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from Got Questions:

This question highlights an unfortunate trend. As numerous recent books and studies have revealed, a large number of today’s youth are becoming disenchanted with the church. As a result, they are either leaving the church altogether or exploring other avenues to satisfy their spiritual appetites. And, contrary to what some may believe, more young people leave the church during their middle and high school years than will leave during their college years. Over 60 percent of young adults who attended church in their teens will ultimately become spiritually disengaged at some point during their twenties (The Barna Group).

Although the reasons behind this youthful exodus are many and varied, the answer to this epidemic is really quite simple. Our children need to fully understand that Scripture alone can give life and bring sanctification to a sinful soul, and only Scripture can equip us to discern truth from error. Yet, as the Apostle Paul aptly pointed out, how can they believe when they’ve not heard? (Romans 10:14). In a world in which there is a growing tide of hostility towards Christianity, we need to teach our children the Word of God and how to defend it (1 Peter 3:15). There are three places our children ultimately learn and develop their worldview and belief system: school, church, and home.

Beginning around age five, kids will spend the better part of two decades becoming educated. And public school systems, along with the colleges and universities they attend, continue to indoctrinate kids with the religious beliefs of humanists. Half a century ago, the United States Supreme Court recognized humanism as a religion. So, when the Bible and prayer were tossed out of public schools, they did not throw out religion. They simply replaced the Christian worldview with an atheistic one. As a result, practically everything a child learns in school about science and history has nothing to do with God. Everything is explained without any reference to our Creator. On the other hand, while kids are in school they are taught and expected to tolerate all beliefs, points of view, and different behavioral preferences. A sign at one college epitomizes this expected tolerance: “It is OK for you to think you are right. It is NOT OK for you to think someone else is wrong.” It should come as no surprise, then, that over 70 percent of young adults under the age 25 think all beliefs are equally valid.

Let’s look at the church, as this is certainly a place where the truth of God’s Word should be vigorously defended. Unfortunately, however, more and more churches are deviating from scriptural truth. The Apostle Paul warned us this would happen (2 Timothy 4:3). Discussing the church’s diminishing adherence to the hard truths of God’s Word, Charles Spurgeon had this to say: “There will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today…how is the world to be saved if the church is false to her Lord?” One theologian aptly commented in response: “We who love the Lord and His church must not sit by while the church gains momentum on the down-grade of worldliness and compromise. Men and women before us have paid with their blood to deliver the faith intact to us. Now, it is our turn to guard the truth. It is a task that calls for courage, not compromise. And it is a responsibility that demands unwavering devotion to a very narrow purpose.”

The development of a Christian foundation, then, must begin at home with the parents. Yet the truth is that, by the time the average child leaves for college at age 18, he or she will have never read the entire Bible (which can be read cover to cover in about 80 hours), and many will never have opened a Bible. Yet they will have watched roughly 21,000 – 30,000 hours of television, which will most definitely have played a significant role in developing their worldview.

The Bible tells us that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). Even though we are their stewards for a relatively short time, our parental influence in their lives is significant, to say the least, and it is our responsibility to pass along our faith and values to them. In the Old Testament, Moses stressed to his people the importance of teaching children about the LORD and His commands, decrees, and laws: “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:19-20). And in the New Testament, parents are taught to raise their children in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), as all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, training, and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16). Parents need to instill in their children a thoroughly Christian worldview so they understand that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This requires studying the Bible and a lot of hard work. For our children to be able to defend the Word of God (1 Peter 3:15), they need to know it well. The importance of teaching our children the truth of Scripture at an early age is put into perspective by this sobering statistic from Barna: only about 6 percent of people who are not Christians by age 18 will become Christians later in life. That frightening thought should reverberate deeply in the hearts of parents who aspire to have their children attain the eternal life that Jesus Christ died to give us.

Jesus Christ said, “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 as it had its foundation on the rock”  (Matthew 7:24-25). It is clear that the forces of our increasingly secular world will bring torrents of “rain” and “wind” into our children’s lives so as to turn their ears away from the truth. Christians are not surprised by this, as the Bible tells us this is going to happen to a greater degree as we draw closer to Christ’s return. The wise Solomon taught us to train our children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). Quite simply, it is imperative that we construct a Christian paradigm in our children’s hearts at a
tender age.

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from Now The End Begins:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” 2 Thessalonians 2:3

Controversial faith leader Rob Bell spoke over the weekend at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif., where the former pastor openly endorsed gay marriage. When asked about the controversial issue by The Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, who was moderating the event, he offered up a clear and concise response – one that will serve as a surprise to many conservative evangelicals.

“Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love,” he said, going on to get more specific. “Whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man — and I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs to just — this is the world we’re living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

Bell also addressed the political association that is generally attached to American Christians. Rather than embracing the notion that most believers are conservative in nature, he said that dynamic no longer holds true.

“I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told ‘we’re gonna change the thin’ and they haven’t,” Bell said. “And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt.”

The pastor and author went on to say that some of the methods that Christians have used to discuss God have not been inclusive and have done little to bring people into the fold. He even called some policies that Christians have embraced “destructive” and he called for believers to “repent.”

News of Bell’s gay marriage endorsement was reported on Greg Carey’s HuffPo blog. Carey is a professor of New Testament studies at Lancaster Theological Seminary. In writing about Bell’s shocking claim, he said,

“To my knowledge, Bell’s interview marks the first time that he has openly supported marriage equality and perhaps the first time he has definitively separated himself from politically conservative evangelicalism.”

This won’t be the first time that the pastor makes headlines, though. In March 2011, we reported Bell’s questioning of hell. In September of that same year, Bell announced that he was stepping down from his pastoral position at Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Mich.

The announcement about Bell’s gay marriage views comes as Hillary Clinton made a similar public proclamation on Monday. In January, Steve Chalke, senior pastor at Oasis Church in the UK, also endorsed same-sex marriage, sending shock-waves through the evangelical community. source – The Blaze

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Revelation 3:14-17:

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”

from Slate:

Pope Francis is not just the spiritual leader of one of the world’s major religions: He’s also the head of what’s probably the wealthiest institution in the entire world. The Catholic Church’s global spending matches the annual revenues of the planet’s largest firms, and its assets—huge amounts of real estate, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Vatican City, some of the world’s greatest art—surely exceed those of any corporation by an order of magnitude.*

But it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to understand exactly how rich the church is. That’s in part because church finances are complicated. But it’s also because, in the United States at least, churches in general are exempted from the financial reporting and disclosure requirements that otherwise apply to nonprofit groups. And it turns out, that exemption may have undesirable consequences.

The main thing we know about Catholic Church finance is that in cash flow terms, the United States is by far the most important branch. America is a rich country with a large population of Catholics. What’s more, America’s Catholic population is a religious minority. That’s meant that, rather than using political clout to influence the shape of mainstream government institutions, as in an overwhelmingly Catholic country such as Brazil, the Catholic Church in the United States has created a parallel state: a vast web of schools, hospitals, universities, and charities that serve millions of clients.

Our best window into the overall financial picture of American Catholicism comes from a 2012 investigation by the Economist, which offered a rough-and-ready estimate of $170 billion in annual spending, of which almost $150 billion is associated with church-affiliated hospitals and institutions of higher education. The operating budget for ordinary parishes, at around $11 billion a year, is a relatively small share, and Catholic Charities is a smaller share still.

Apple and General Motors, by way of comparison, each had revenue of about $150 billion worldwide in Fiscal Year 2012. Legally speaking, there is no such thing as “the Catholic Church,” which is why these finances get so complicated. As far as the law is concerned, each diocese is a separate legal entity, incorporated in the states where it operates. Generally speaking, they are organized as what’s known as a corporation sole—a legal corporation wholly controlled by the individual bishop rather than a board of directors—and not officially part of any larger transnational spiritual organization. This has led to conflicts during the sex abuse scandals. Lawsuits have caused disputes about how deep the church’s pockets go and who should pay.

On several occasions, abuse-related litigation has inspired dioceses to declare bankruptcy, which offers a rare window into the internal financial organization of the institution. Individual parishes, though operating under the umbrella of the relevant bishop, have a fair degree of financial autonomy. They conduct separate fundraising and maintain separate expenses. That way, parish donors can feel they’re bolstering their particular community and not an impersonal bureaucracy. But it’s common for parish investment funds within a single diocese to be pooled. When a diocese declares bankruptcy, this raises the question of whether pooled parish investment funds are available to be seized by the bishop’s creditors or whether they exist separately.

As a fascinating article in this month’s American Bankruptcy Institute Journal explains, the status of parish investment funds depends on some very subtle details. Both the Diocese of Milwaukee and the Diocese of Wilmington ran pooled investment funds in which a single account simply noted how much each parish had contributed. The difference is that in Wilmington, Del., operating funds were also mingled into the pooled account, whereas in Milwaukee they were kept separate. That small difference ended up costing Wilmington parishes $74 million in exposure to Episcopal creditors. At the same time, as a matter of Canon Law individual parishes can be wholly “suppressed,” merged into other parishes, or otherwise divided up, essentially at the discretion of the bishop—notwithstanding the existence of separate bank accounts. This authority suggests that the diocese does indeed wholly own and control its parishes, but church officials take advantage of the ambiguity, sometimes claiming to fully control its parishes, sometimes—for legal reasons—arguing that the parishes are wholly independent entities.

Given America’s diverse religious landscape, the Catholic Church is hardly unique in taking advantage of the First Amendment to engage in some opaque accounting. It’s simply the largest player in this game. Lawrence Wright’s recent Scientology exposé, Going Clear, reveals egregious exploitation of religious privileges for the personal financial benefit of church leaders. Or consider the case of the Tennessee pastor arrested on money laundering and drug charges only because a local TV news investigation revealed that he was using donations to pay off what amounted to personal debts.

The legal framework that allows for this funny business has been constructed in the name of religious freedom but hardly seems required by that important principle. America has a robust ecology of secular nonprofit groups that manage to abide by fairly stringent accounting and disclosure standards. These help donors know where their money is going and reassure residual claimants that there’s some consistent theory of whose assets are whose. Religion is big business—the Catholic Church the biggest of all—and it deserves to be treated as such in the relevant ways.

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from WorldView Weekend:

Those who viewed the first installment of The History Channel’s  ‘The Bible’ miniseries know that far more than merely utilizing creative license, the producers of this series woefully and sinfully altered not simply the biblical text, but biblical truth. Among many grave and concerning alterations, one particular omission stood out, and it seems important to highlight it, especially considering the current moral state of society.

The producers of ‘The Bible’ appear to have taken it upon themselves to alter the story of Sodom and the reason for God’s destruction of this city. Perhaps they did not have access to a dictionary so that they could look up the term ‘sodomy,’ or perhaps they simply forgot to glance at the biblical narrative that clearly explains the sins of this city. Regardless of the reason, the unfortunate result is that the sin of homosexuality, and God’s righteous judgment and wrath upon those who were impenitently engaged in this sin, were ignored. Instead, ‘The Bible’ depicted the sins of Sodom as men behaving promiscuously with women, rather than with those of the same sex. Other significant discrepancies occurred in the telling of this narrative, but this element strikes one as the most notable in a time when many are seeking to normalize the sin of homosexuality.

God was quite clear, however, about the sins of Sodom when He inspired Moses to record this story in Genesis 18 and 19. 

Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.(Gen. 18:20–21; 19:1–11)

The men of the city sinfully sought out the two angels, who they knew only as strangers to their city, so that they might “know them.” The context implies that the men of the city desired to know these men sexually, i.e., to have homosexual relations with them. No doubt this is why Lot earlier implored them not to spend the night in the town square.

So consumed with their sinful lusts and unsatisfied with Lot’s cowardly offer of his two virgin daughters, the men nearly broke down the door of Lot’s house so that they could act upon their homosexual desires. It seems undeniable that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah acts as a vivid description and validation of Paul’s words in Romans:
 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:18–32)

Truly the men of Sodom were clear and real examples of those who had been given over to a debased mind “to do what ought not to be done.”

In the world today, there is a constant push for men to come to accept, and even celebrate, the sin of homosexuality. Scarcely a day goes by that so-called gay ‘marriage’ is not found in the headlines. From government to churches, the cry for tolerance of this sinful behavior is declared from every sector of society. Yet the Christian knows that the Bible cannot be denied. Thus, no matter what the culture proclaims, the man who hopes in the Lord and who trusts in and lives by the truth found in His Word, knows that such debauchery should never be celebrated as morally right. The Christian must stand firm on these truths of Scripture as found in the written Word, not as found in a television miniseries.

Perhaps the most wonderful news, however, is that even those who are bound by the sin of homosexuality can find forgiveness and freedom in Jesus Christ. The Lord will forgive any man who comes to him in repentance and faith, believing and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

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From Worldview Weekend:

Is there any greater book than the Bible? Is there any greater treasure than that Truth which has been handed to the Christian by God? Is there anything more relevant, more life-changing, more convicting, more comforting, than the very Word of God. No, beloved, there is not.

Yet, for reasons that far exceed the rationale of the regenerate, there are those who seek to twist and change this great Word so that it might be more relevant, more exciting, more enjoyed by those who stand as enemies of its Author. In this sad and unfortunate quest for more, the Truth becomes untruth and any benefit that may be derived from this Word is lost.

One may rightly inquire, what more could possibly be desired? Is it adventure the reader seeks? What greater adventure is there than the story of a nation wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before being allowed to enter the land promised to them by God? What young boy does not delight to hear his father read to him the story of David and Goliath? Oh, yes, the Bible has adventure.
Perhaps you are of a more lyrical bent. Why, there is an entire book of poems to be enjoyed in the Psalms! And far from sharing thoughts of temporal whims, these Psalms proclaim and praise the very God Who inspired them.

Is it love you seek? Then that search is over when you open the pages of Scripture, for it reveals not a fleeting version of man’s emotion, but the greatest love ever demonstrated: the love of a holy and perfect God extended to sinners.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:13-14)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom. 5:6-11)

This great book is no ordinary tome to be perused, enjoyed once and then placed on the shelf for a rainy day. No, this is the very Word of God, and while it contains all of those elements described above, it is not to be enjoyed piecemeal, but in its entirety as it tells the story of redemption through Jesus Christ the Lord.
This splendid, God-breathed Word is not merely a thing to be observed, but a thing to be obeyed. It is sufficient for all matters pertaining to life and godliness.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Penned by men, yet inspired by the Holy Spirit, all that is contained within the pages of Scripture is true and trustworthy.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:16-21)

And so this magnificent work, this great gift from a holy God to His children, cannot be improved upon. Yes, to enjoy it, to learn from it, to be convicted by its truths, to be overjoyed by the salvation of which it speaks, one must open it, one must read it, one must understand it. But, oh, what reward the Christian gleans upon immersing himself in the pages of the words of his Lord, even if for a few moments!
Why, then, would anyone seek to enhance this already perfect Word? A valid reason cannot be imagined, except perhaps that one desires to share what he thinks Scripture should teach rather than what the Word truly says.

Here one cannot help but think of The History Channel’s upcoming miniseries, The Bible, set to air on 3 March 2013. Praised by men such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, the film is being called ‘epic’, which is indeed quite a claim. Produced by Mark Burnett of Survivor fame and his wife, Touched By An Angel star Roma Downey, already books, studies, devotionals and other resources are available based upon this production.

The FAQ section of The Bible website answers a question about which many may be wondering:

bible docudrama

Not only, then, were seeker-driven and Word Faith pastors such as Warren, Osteen and Jakes consulted, but others of questionable convictions like Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Gabe Lyons, Samuel Rodriguez and others. Time and space prevent from examining here each of these names in depth. . . . . . .

read the full article here.

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from Got Questions:

The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching about the pope (“pope” means “father”) is built upon and involves the following Roman Catholic teachings:

1) Christ made Peter the leader of the apostles and of the church (Matthew 16:18-19). In giving Peter the “keys of the kingdom,” Christ not only made him leader, but also made him infallible when he acted or spoke as Christ’s representative on earth (speaking from the seat of authority, or “ex cathedra”). This ability to act on behalf of the church in an infallible way when speaking “ex cathedra” was passed on to Peter’s successors, thus giving the church an infallible guide on earth. The purpose of the papacy is to lead the church unerringly.

2) Peter later became the first bishop of Rome. As bishop of Rome, he exercised authority over all other bishops and church leaders. The teaching that the bishop of Rome is above all other bishops in authority is referred to as the “primacy” of the Roman bishop.

3) Peter passed on his apostolic authority to the next bishop of Rome, along with the other apostles who passed on their apostolic authority to the bishops that they ordained. These new bishops, in turn, passed on that apostolic authority to those bishops that they later ordained, and so on. This “passing on of apostolic authority” is referred to as “apostolic succession.”

4) Based upon the claim of an unbroken chain of Roman bishops, Roman Catholics teach that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church, and that all churches that do not accept the primacy of the pope have broken away from them, the original and one true church.

Having briefly reviewed some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the papacy, the question is whether those teachings are in agreement with Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church sees the papacy and the infallible teaching authority of “Mother Church” as being necessary to guide the church, and uses that as logical reasoning for God’s provision of it. But in examining Scripture, we find the following:

1) While Peter was central in the early spread of the gospel (part of the meaning behind Matthew 16:18-19), the teaching of Scripture, taken in context, nowhere declares that he was in authority over the other apostles or over the church (see Acts 15:1-23; Galatians 2:1-14; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Nor is it ever taught that the bishop of Rome was to have primacy over the church. Rather, there is only one reference in Scripture of Peter writing from “Babylon,” a name sometimes applied to Rome, found in 1 Peter 5:13. Primarily from this, and the historical rise of the influence of the bishop of Rome (due to the support of Constantine and the Roman emperors who followed him), come the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of the primacy of the bishop of Rome. However, Scripture shows that Peter’s authority was shared by the other apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20) and that the “loosing and binding” authority attributed to him was likewise shared by the local churches, not just their church leaders  (see Matthew 18:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Titus 2:15; 3:10-11).

2) Nowhere does Scripture state that in order to keep the church from error, the authority of the apostles was passed on to those they ordained (the idea behind apostolic succession). Apostolic succession is “read into” those verses that the Roman Catholic Church uses to support this doctrine (2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5; 2:1; 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:19-22). What Scripture DOES teach is that false teachings would arise even from among church leaders and that Christians were to compare the teachings of these later church leaders with Scripture, which alone is cited in the Bible as infallible. The Bible does not teach that the apostles were infallible, apart from what was written by them and incorporated into scripture. Paul, in talking to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus, makes note of coming false teachers. To fight against their error does NOT commend them to “the apostles and those who would carry on their authority,” but rather to “God and to the word of His grace” (Acts 20:28-32).

Again, the Bible teaches that it is Scripture that is to be used as measuring stick to determine truth from error. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul states that it is not WHO teaches but WHAT is being taught that is to be used to determine truth from error. While the Roman Catholic Church continues to pronounce a curse to hell, or “anathema,” upon those who would reject the authority of the pope, Scripture reserves that curse for those who would teach a different gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).

3) While the Roman Catholic Church sees apostolic succession as logically necessary in order for God to unerringly guide the church, Scripture states that God has provided for His church through the following:

(a) Infallible Scripture, (Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Acts 17:10-12; Isaiah 8:20; 40:8; etc.) Note: Peter speaks of Paul’s writings in the same category as other Scripture (2 Peter 3:16),

(b) Christ’s unending high-priesthood in heaven (Hebrews 7:22-28),

(c) The provision of the Holy Spirit who guided the apostles into truth after Christ’s death (John 16:12-14), who gifts believers for the work of the
ministry, including teaching (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16), and who uses the written word as His chief tool (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17).

While there have been good (humanly speaking) and moral men who have served as pope of the Roman Catholic Church, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the Roman Catholic Church teaching about the office of the pope should be rejected because it is not “in continuity” with the teachings of the original church related to us in the New Testament. This comparison of any church’s teaching is essential, lest we miss the New Testament’s teaching concerning the gospel, and not only miss eternal life in heaven ourselves, but unwittingly lead others down the wrong path (Galatians 1:8-9).

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Things like this give Christianity a black eye! Unbelievable!

from WLWT:

A waitress who posted a  photo of a receipt online that’s since gone viral has been fired.

Chelsea Welch of St. Louis  told Yahoo! News in an email that she lost her job at Applebee’s after the  customer, a pastor, complained to her manager that the incident had ruined her  life.

The pastor, identified by  St. Louis TV station KPLR as Alois Bell, made headlines when she scratched out  the automatic 18 percent gratuity for her large party and wrote, “I give God 10  percent why do you get 18?”

A photo of the receipt was  posted on Reddit, and it has since gone viral and sparked religious debate  online.

Bell, 37, has since  expressed regret for the incident, saying she shouldn’t have written what she  did.

“My heart is really  broken,” she told The Smoking Gun. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and  ministry.”

A spokesman for Applebee’s  told Yahoo! that the restaurant chain apologized to Bell for violating her  “right to privacy.”

Welch feels her firing was  unfair.

“I come home exhausted,  sore, burnt, dirty and blistered on a good day,” she told Yahoo!. “And after all  that, I can be fired for ‘embarrassing’ someone who directly insults their  server on religious grounds.”

 

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from Now The End Begins:

Can one be a Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim believer of Jesus? And can they do this without persecution?

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” 2 Corinthians 6:17

A growing number of Christians and church leaders are stopping to consider that this idea may actually be possible, thanks to “Insider Movement” groups that have been pushing this idea forward for the past decade, especially in the Muslim mission field.  Now those ideas are gaining ground in the West, as Christians embrace these controversial methods.

RELATED STORY: Rick Warren and the Growth Of Chrislam

The most recent issue of Christianity Today is giving a whole lot of print space to Insider Movement (IM) proponents, who believe that it is not necessary for believers to convert to Christianity, a term often associated with baggage and most certainly persecution if outed as “Christian.”

This should immediately send you running for your Bible and asking some key questions about what Scripture has to say about the blending of two very different and opposing faiths vs a full conversion to Christianity.

The January issue of CT contains the headlines, Why Evangelicals Should Be Thankful for Muslim Insiders, arguing that “Insider followers of Jesus may not have changed religions, but their lives have been changed by Christ,”  and the provocative headline Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque in which a reporter interviews a “Muslim follower of Isa.”

But instead of comparing what IM-ers teach to what the Bible says and asking questions, Christians are saying, “cool!”

“Where is the outcry of pastors in America because of this? Nobody is challenging these methods, and it boggles my mind that churches subscribe to this,” says Elijah Abraham, a born-again Christian who was raised a Muslim believer in Iraq, and today is the founder and executive director of Living Oasis Ministries, reaching Muslims with the Gospel.

Abraham is part of Biblical Missiology, the think-tank group that recently petitioned Wycliffe and its partners for removing familial terms like Son and Father to describe God and Jesus from Arabic Bible translations used to reach Muslim communities.

Abraham points out that John Travis (the writer of Why Evangelicals Should Be Thankful for Muslim Insiders), is one of godfathers of the Insider Movement. Abraham encourages readers to examine the IM leaders through the lens of a video highly recommends titled, Half Devil Half Child, in which even the Muslim Imams say these teachings are not Christianity:

We know that Christians in Islamic nations are being brutally slaughtered simply because their identity is in Christ. Persecution is on the rise, and that’s risky for Muslims who embrace Christ yet want to stay within their Islamic community. Yet the core doctrines of belief, repentance, and preaching Jesus Christ and HIM crucified (not the Muslim “Isa”) for the forgiveness of sins is not the focus of IM methodology.

CT conducted an interview with one insider named “Abu Jaz,” a key leader in a movement that describes itself as the People of the Gospel. CT reports that this group represents several thousand Muslims in eastern Africa who have converted to faith in Christ during the past decade, but who have remained in their Muslim communities.

Abu Jaz describes his conversion after dining with a guest in his home, and their sparse meal of macaroni began to multiply in the bowl.

Afterward I lay down on the bed, and as I slept, Isa came to me and asked me, “Do you know who multiplied the macaroni?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I am Isa al Masih. If you follow me, not only the macaroni but your life will be multiplied.”

He didn’t tell me that he was God; he didn’t tell me that he died on behalf of me; he didn’t say, “I am the Son of God.” He didn’t talk to me about any complicated theological issues. He only told me that if I followed him, he would multiply my life. Isa al Masih came to my home with the kingdom of God. He didn’t completely explain theological issues, he only said, “If you will follow.”

Abraham, who has interviewed hundreds of converts in many nations, doesn’t doubt Abu’s story of dreams and visions. In fact, he says true converts do have dreams and visions, and they’ve paid a heavy price. But the Jesus they encounter is never confusing or vague about who He is.  And the fact that Abu maintains a Muslim rather than an African identity troubles him.  “You would think after Bible school, Abu would reject Islam,” Abraham says. “Abu never contradicts the Qur’anic version of Isa, and the interviewer didn’t even challenge the convert to ask if the Allah he was talking about was the triune God of the Bible or Allah of the Qur’an.”

He points out that the title, Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque  is very misleading, since the reporter does not mention anyone actually worshiping Christ in a mosque. “The Christianity Today title is only intended to persuade the readership that it is possible to worship Jesus in the mosque. Three problems:  Any mosque will be offended if Jesus is worshiped inside its walls. Second, any Christian from a Muslim Background will tell you that the mosque is not the place to go to worship Jesus. Finally, if you go to a mosque, you have already denied Him.”

But, a church isn’t a building, it is people. Abraham contends that the so-called Muslim-culture church is an oxymoron.

“Muslim-culture church? What in the world does that mean? If their identity is Islam,and not Christianity, are they really set apart?

Abraham says insiders who say they are converts are the most confused individuals he has ever found. “They are confused in their theology and identity, and they’re still loyal to Mohammad, so you’ve got problems there.”

As for Christian churches embracing these methods, he says there are many missionaries and leaders who will try to cover up their IM connections from their congregants so as to diffuse critics.  He says church members who do question the Insider Movement methods in their churches are often met with a guilt trip for criticizing them for not actually traveling overseas and meeting Muslims.

“To that I would say, ‘you know, you are right. But I read your article and compared your methods to Scripture, and it does line up.” source – Stand Up For The Truth

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from The Baptist Press:

The percentage of Americans who believe homosexuality is a sin has fallen in the past year, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

A November 2012 survey of adults in the United States found 37 percent affirm a belief that homosexual behavior is a sin — a statistically significant change from a September 2011 LifeWay Research survey asking the same question. At that time, 44 percent answered, “Yes.”

In contrast, the percentage of Americans who do not believe homosexuality is a sin remains nearly the same between the two surveys — 43 percent in September 2011 and 45 percent in November, with an increase in the percentage of those unsure what they believe. Seventeen percent
in the November 2012 survey answered “I don’t know,” an increase of 4 percent over the September 2011 survey.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, pointed out that halfway between the two polls President Barack Obama changed his pre-election position concerning gay marriage.

“The president’s evolution on homosexuality probably impacted the evolution of cultural values — there is a real and substantive shift, surprisingly large for a one-year time frame — though this was hardly a normal year on this issue,” Stetzer said.

The November 2012 survey also found that Americans in the South (40 percent) are the most likely to select “Yes” to the question “Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?” as are Americans who attend religious services at least about once a week (61 percent) and those calling themselves “born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian” (73 percent).

Americans who never attend religious services are the most likely to say they do not believe homosexual behavior is a sin (71 percent).

These findings from LifeWay Research come as Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio on Jan. 10 withdrew from giving the benediction at President Obama’s upcoming inauguration in the face of criticism over a 15-year-old sermon referencing homosexuality as a sin. Stetzer noted the connection, saying, “The culture is clearly shifting on homosexuality and this creates a whole new issue: How will America deal with a minority view, strongly held by evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims and so many others?”

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee, noted that the shift in viewpoint reflects a correlation between “faith and attitudes about homosexual behavior.”

“The survey challenges the church to make sure she continues to teach the faithful about the Bible’s teachings on homosexual behavior,” Duke told Baptist Press. “It also provides clear evidence of the importance of the church to the moral framework of the nation. We must redouble our efforts to win the lost and make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, who taught that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

“God’s Word still speaks clearly to the issue of homosexual behavior — it is sin,” the Southern Baptist ethicist said. “We must make sure we share this message in a way that communicates our genuine concern for those struggling with same-sex attractions. God has a better plan for their
lives. We want them to experience it.”

Bob Stith, a Texas pastor who served several years as Southern Baptists’ national strategist for gender issues, commented in similar fashion to Baptist Press, “The real danger here is not so much the view of homosexuality as it is the decline in the confidence of the American people in the trustworthiness of Scripture. …

“Some have been saying for years that this issue is the watershed issue for the church in this generation, not because of homosexuality per se but as an indicator of the degree to which the American public truly believes the Bible to be the Word of God,” Stith said.

“We have gone as a people from a broad and general trust in the Bible to a nation that questions whether there really is any such thing as absolute truth.”

Such trends, Stith said, “have opened the door for gay apologists to cast doubt on what the Bible really says about homosexuality. Southern Baptists must do a better job of addressing these claims. Failure to do so will further undermine confidence in the Bible.”

Stith also commented on “the manner in which the subject is handled in the entertainment media. It isn’t just that it is one-sided. Those  who hold to a scriptural view of homosexuality are consistently portrayed as being hate-filled and ignorant.

“Evangelicals must do a better job of teaching our people to hold to a clear biblical position on homosexuality while being consistently Compassionate and redemptive in our approach. But we must also accept the reality that no matter how loving and compassionate we are, many
in the culture will vilify us if we dare say the Bible really does speak of homosexual acts as sin. Louis Giglio is only the latest example of
this.”

Methodology for the LifeWay Research survey on homosexuality: An online panel representing the adult population of the United States was sampled from Nov. 14-16, 2012. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and education to reflect the population. The completed sample of 1,191 surveys provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus .9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

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