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from Got Questions:

Science is defined as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” Science is a method that mankind can use to gain a greater understanding of the natural universe. It is a search for knowledge through observation. Advances in science demonstrate the reach of human logic and imagination. However, a Christian’s belief in science should never be like our belief in God. A Christian can have faith in God and respect for science, as long as we remember which is perfect and which is not.

Our belief in God is a belief of faith. We have faith in His Son for salvation, faith in His Word for instruction, and faith in His Holy Spirit for guidance. Our faith in God should be absolute, since when we put our faith in God, we depend on a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient Creator. Our belief in science should be intellectual and nothing more. We can count on science to do many great things, but we can also count on science to make mistakes. If we put faith in science, we depend on imperfect, sinful, limited, mortal men. Science throughout history has been wrong about many things, such as the shape of the earth, powered flight, vaccines, blood transfusions, and even reproduction. God is never wrong.

Truth is nothing to fear, so there is no reason for a Christian to fear good science. Learning more about the way God constructed our universe helps all of mankind appreciate the wonder of creation. Expanding our knowledge helps us to combat disease, ignorance, and misunderstanding. However, there is danger when scientists hold their faith in human logic above faith in our Creator. These persons are no different from anyone devoted to a religion; they have chosen faith in man and will find facts to defend that faith.

Still, the most rational scientists, even those who refuse to believe in God, admit to a lack of completeness in our understanding of the universe. They will admit that neither God nor the Bible can be proved or disproved by science, just as many of their favorite theories ultimately cannot be proved or disproved. Science is meant to be a truly neutral discipline, seeking only the truth, not furtherance of an agenda.

Much of science supports the existence and work of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” As modern science discovers more about the universe, we find more evidence of creation. The amazing complexity and replication of DNA, the intricate and interlocking laws of physics, and the absolute harmony of conditions and chemistry here on earth all serve to support the message of the Bible. A Christian should embrace science that seeks the truth, but reject the “priests of science” who put human knowledge above God.

from abcnews go:

A California family has been fined for holding weekly Bible studies in their home, meetings that are allegedly in violation of the city’s zoning regulations.

Stephanie and Chuck Fromm have been living in their San Juan Capistrano home for 18 years and were shocked when they received a notice of violation from the city. They have already been fined $300 and have been told they will be fined an additional $500 per meeting if they continue to meet without a Conditional Use Permit.

But they’re not backing down.

“Nobody should be able to tell us what we can do in our home,” Stephanie Fromm said. “Since when do we have to qualify who we have at our house and what we’re doing?”

The Fromms regularly host 40 to 50 friends and family members at their home from 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays for Bible studies. They don’t think noise or traffic issues are to blame for the citation. There is no music, and the meetings, they say, are largely “contemplative.”

Many who attend the Bible study drive to the house together, so there are many fewer cars than people, the Fromms say. They only have one next-door neighbor, and the space on the other side of their house is more than six acres of empty land.

They say one disgruntled neighbor has set off the entire situation, while the rest of the neighborhood has no problem with the meetings and are supportive of the family.

“We have a neighbor that’s cross at us and contacted the zoning department,” Chuck Fromm said. “It feels sort of like a snitch system. There’s no due process. It’s arbitrary. We’re reasonable, rational people but we don’t have a reasonable, rational system.”

An attorney from the Pacific Justice Institute, a national organization that provides volunteer attorneys in battles to defend religious freedom, is representing the Fromms.

“It’s a huge abridgement to personal freedom, to privacy and to religious liberty,” said Brad Dacus, the couple’s attorney. “An individual’s home is probably the most revered in terms of an individual’s right to gather, to pray and to exercise their religion, particularly with their friends and family.”

Millions of Americans regularly gather at Bible studies, a tradition dating far back into American history, Dacus pointed out.

“If this Bible study is not allowed—if they’re not allowed to exercise their rights under the First Amendment—then the floodgates will be open wide for every Bible study in the country to potentially be on the chopping block by their local government,” Dacus said.

The ordinance in question identified “religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations as uses which require approval of a conditional use permit,” said Dacus. This would include organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, continued Dacus, adding that the vagueness of the word “fraternal” could even include groups who meet weekly to watch Sunday Night Football.

“It’s an overabuse of authority and discretion for any local government to say a family like the Fromms must pay money to the city and get their prior consent to engage in such a fundamentally traditional use of their own home,” Dacus said.

The San Juan Capistrano City Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

But, for now, Chuck Fromm is clear about his plan: “We’ll meet and they can charge us.” Both he and Dacus say they are willing to do whatever it takes to fight this problem.

“The Pacific Justice Institute is committed to taking this all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be, not just for the Fromms, but for every other family in the United States looking to exercise the same freedom,” Dacus said.

And Stephanie Fromm, who her husband describes as “a real host with the most,” said she just wants to host her loved ones for Bible studies in her home without worrying about being fined or interrogated.

“We’re not pot-stirrers. We are surprised and sad,” she said. “It just doesn’t make our city look like the community that we came into to raise our children. We love our community. We will stand up for our faith and for the use of our home.”

From The Washington Post:

Churches make a drastic pledge in the name of social justice: To stop calling the police

First Congregational Church of Oakland shares a neighborhood with many homeless people who often come to the church in times of mental health crises. Sometimes church members feel unequipped to deal with the erratic behavior: The most heart-wrenching scenes, volunteer leader Nichola Torbett says, are the times when the church is closing for the day, and a person with nowhere else to go absolutely refuses to leave the building.

At least once or twice a month, at their wits’ end, the church members call 911.

Now, the church has joined a small handful of like-minded congregations with a radical goal: to stop calling the police. Not for mental health crises, not for graffiti on their buildings, not even for acts of violence. These churches believe the American police system, criticized for its impact especially on people of color, is such a problem that they should wash their hands of it entirely. 

“Can this actually be reformed, when it was actually created for the unjust distribution of resources or to police black and brown bodies?” Torbett asked. For her and for her fellow church members, the answer is no — the police don’t just need reform. The police need to be abandoned altogether.

The churches call their drastic approach “divesting” from policing. They say that one headline after another about policing around the country shows that divestment is necessary — most recently, events include a notorious call to police about two African American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, shot eight times as he was holding an iPhone, not a gun.

The project of divesting is organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a nationwide organization that tries to get white Americans working on behalf of racial justice. The four Unitarian and Protestant churches that have joined so far include three in the Bay Area and one in Iowa City. The Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ has signed on to recruit from among its member churches, and the Bay Area churches are talking to more congregations in their area, from denominations including the Disciples of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

“It’s a challenging ask,” acknowledged the Rev. Anne Dunlap, a United Church of Christ minister who leads SURJ’s outreach to faith communities. “It’s a big ask to invite us, as white folks, to think differently about what safety means. Who do we rely on? What is safe? For whom? Should our safety be predicated on violence for other communities? And if not, what do we do if we’re confronted with a situation, because we are, as congregations? … How do we handle it if there’s a burglary? How do we handle it if there’s a situation of violence or abuse in the congregation?”

Those are hard questions. The churches that commit to ending their use of police resources are training members in alternate responses to danger. Torbett said at First Congregational, church leaders have invited experts from several nonprofits to train members on de-escalating mental health crises, and on self-defense in the case of a violent person at the church. “Our goal is to never call the police,” she said. As members discuss self-defense, they’ve also decided that they will not arm anyone at the church with any weapon.

The leaders involved in the SURJ effort say that they are not asking churchgoers not to call police in their lives outside of church, though they hope that some will choose to refrain.

Many of the churches that SURJ approached were not interested. “I had some hard conversations with pastors and members,” Dunlap said. “These were progressive congregations that had participated in our work in the past — hung Black Lives Matter banners and had them vandalized. They said, ‘We appreciate our relationship with the police. We don’t want to put that at risk.’”

But to Dunlap, resisting policing is among her religious obligations. “You’re talking about state violence against communities. You have to speak up and take a stand about that. There’s not a nice way to just play in the middle,” she said. “There’s not a way to reform our way out of police violence but to dismantle policing as a system.”

She envisions instead a form of local accountability, in which neighbors get to know one another and defend their own communities.

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which conducts studies on improving policing, said churches can and should take on some tasks themselves instead of calling police, like providing assistance to a person who is drunk or sick. But he cautioned that churches would be foolhardy to try to take the place of police in a violent situation — especially if the aggressor has a gun, in a tragic case like the church shootings in Charleston, S.C., and Sutherland Springs, Tex.

Moreover, Wexler believes clergy can use their moral influence to make police departments better. “I understand where these folks may be coming from. They’re saying we have issues. But if you have issues, you shouldn’t cut yourself off from such an important institution in the community. Communities only have one police force. If they’re not doing what you want them to do, you should be engaged with them,” he said, pointing to examples of clergy in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago who worked with officers on reducing gang violence and other community priorities. “It’s disappointing to hear when a community or religious organization decides they’re not going to engage with the police anymore. Police need the church. They need an active clergy. They rely on them.”

Dunlap said that even in a case of criminal behavior, she would ideally like to see churches not call police, because she doesn’t trust the criminal justice system to deliver a fair outcome.

“In the case of interpersonal violence, for the survivors as well as the perpetrators, we want to look at transformative justice,” she said. “Would a punitive police and legal system actually bring us the desired outcome for everyone involved? What are our actual values? What do our traditions teach us about redemption?”

That’s a controversial position that members are discussing in each church. Sarah Pritchard, a co-pastor at another Oakland church that has signed on, Agape Fellowship, said while the pledge not to call the police applies to the churches, not to individual members, the hope is the training at church will inspire some members when they go home as well.

When it comes to police and prisons, Pritchard uses an old word to describe a still-radical stance: “abolitionist.”

from Got Questions:

The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, the resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and Messiah. According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4) and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:18–22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Savior of the world.

Another reason the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important is that it proves His sinless character and divine nature. The Scriptures said God’s “Holy One” would never see corruption (Psalm 16:10), and Jesus never saw corruption, even after He died (see Acts 13:32–37). It was on the basis of the resurrection of Christ that Paul preached, “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin” (Acts 13:38–39).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Paul said, our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and in that statement claimed to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, no eternal life. Jesus does more than give life; He is life, and that’s why death has no power over Him. Jesus confers His life on those who trust in Him, so that we can share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11–12). We who believe in Jesus Christ will personally experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, we have overcome death. It is impossible for death to win (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).

Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, Jesus led the way in life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important as a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike other religions, Christianity possesses a Founder who transcends death and promises that His followers will do the same. Every other religion was founded by men or prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we know that God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Hebrews 10:12).

The Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His church at the rapture. Such assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (cf. Hosea 13:14).

The importance of the resurrection of Christ has an impact on our service to the Lord now. Paul ends his discourse on resurrection with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can endure persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (verses 30–32), just as our Lord did. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands of Christian martyrs through history have willingly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life and the promise of resurrection.

The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). And He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? It proves who Jesus is. It demonstrates that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It shows that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that the bodies of those who believe in Christ will not remain dead but will be resurrected unto eternal life.

from Zero Hedge:

Europe is a hugely diverse place in terms of culture, language and especially religion. The European Social Survey 2014-2016 found that across the continent, there is a huge difference in the share of young people identifying as having no religion.

Statista’s Niall McCarthy reports  that the research found that the youth in Poland are still quite religious with only 17 percent of respondents aged 16-29 not associating themselves with any religion.

The situation is much different in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands where 7 out of 10 young adults identify as having no religion.

You will find more infographics at Statista

The highest share on non-religious youth was recorded in the Czech Republic where the share stood at 91 percent.Estonia came second with 80 percent while Sweden was third with 75 percent.

So it begs the question: Even if Kirbyjon Caldwell was not actively involved in the scam, what is a pastor doing being involved in the sale of Chinese Bonds to poor people?

from The Daily Mail:

A Houston megachurch pastor and a Louisiana financial planner were indicted on Thursday for orchestrating a $3.5million fraud.

According to the federal indictment, Kirbyjon Caldwell and Gregory Alan Smith used their ‘influence and status’ to lure dozens of ‘vulnerable and elderly’ people to invest in worthless Republic of China bonds.

The bonds were issued after World War II, but became worthless when the Communists took over the country in 1949, kicking out the old government who issued the bonds. Their only value today is as collectibles.

Prosecutors say Calwell, the head of the 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodish Church, and Smith, the operator and manager of Smith Financial Group LLC, knew the bonds held no value but sold them anyway and then used the money to fund their expensive lifestyles.

The duo are said to have cheated 29 investors out of $3.5million between April 2013 and April 2014. Some of these investors put their whole life savings at stake on the bonds.

Caldwell used his money to pay the mortgage on his Houston home, which according to public records is worth more than $2.5million (if found guilty, he may have to forfeit the home). Smith on the other hand, used the money to buy luxury vehicles, the indictment reveals.

The two promised their investors returns of three to 15 times in a matter of weeks, and when the money never materialized, they made up elaborate excuses.

According to the filings, Caldwell ‘used religious references to give investors hope they would soon be repaid’ telling them to ‘remain faithful’.

Smith, 55, who boasts years of experience as a financial planner, allegedly convinced people to invest by saying that the bonds were ‘risk free’ and ‘guaranteed’ and that he himself had invested $250,000.

Although many investors did not understand the investment, they ultimately trusted Smith and took comfort in the fact that a high-profile pastor was offering the investment,’ the complaint reads.

Caldwell, 64, gained notoriety through his relationship with former President George W. Bush.

The two connected when Bush was governor of Texas, and Caldwell became his spiritual adviser. He later gave the benedictions at both of Bush’s inaugurations and officiated Jenna Bush’s wedding in 2008.

He denied the claims at a Friday press conference with his attorney, Dan Cogdell.

Cogdell told reporters that his client is ‘100% not guilty’ and that they have proof Caldwell thought the bonds were legitimate.

‘The accusations are simply false,’ Cogdell said. ‘At no time did the pastor conspire with anyone.’

They say that Caldwell himself invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money in hopes of reinvesting the gains back into the church. Caldwell added that none of the people he got to invest in the bonds were members of his church.

‘These bonds are legitimate,’ Caldwell said. ‘The process is legitimate. I fully maintain that the accusation is baseless.’

Neither Caldwell or his attorney would comment on Smith.

Caldwell plans to turn himself into authorities in Louisiana in the next seven to 10 days.

The two men are facing six counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering and one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana.

The Securities and Exchange Commission have also accused the two men of nine violations.

Caldwell and Smith face up to 20 years in prison and fines as high as $1million if convicted.

Bishop Scott J. Jones of the United Methodist Church released this statement after Caldwell’s indictment on Thursday.

‘Kirbyjon Caldwell has been an outstanding pastor and leader in our community for over 30 years. The United Methodist Church has high standards for the moral conduct of its clergy, and we recognize the seriousness of the charges against him. We will walk though this difficult situation with Rev. Caldwell and the Windsor Village congregation and keep them in our prayers. We have faith that the judicial process will find the truth.’

Caldwell is also a limited partner in the Houston Texans, which also responded to the scandal.

‘We have recently been made aware of a report involving Kirbyjon Caldwell. We are gathering more information and will have no further comment at this time,’ the baseball team said in a statement.

“They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A Hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”

from The Jerusalem Post:

The Vatican on Thursday rebuked a well-known Italian journalist who quoted Pope Francis as saying hell does not exist.

The Vatican issued a statement after the comments spread on social media, saying they did not properly reflect what the pope had said.
Eugenio Scalfari, 93, an avowed atheist who has struck up an intellectual friendship with Francis, met the pope recently and wrote up a long story that included a question-and-answer section at the end.

The Vatican said the pope did not grant him an interview and the article “was the fruit of his reconstruction” not a “faithful transcription of the Holy Father’s words.”

Scalfari, the founder of Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, has prided himself on not taking notes and not using tape recorders during his encounters with leaders and later reconstructing the meetings to create lengthy articles.

According to Scalfari’s article in Thursday’s La Repubblica, he asked the pope where “bad souls” go and where they are punished. Scalfari quoted the pope as saying:

“They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A Hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”

The universal catechism of the Catholic Church says “The teaching of the Catholic Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.” It speaks of “eternal fire” and adds that “the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God.”

It was at least the third time the Vatican has issued statements distancing itself from Scalfari’s articles about the pope, including one in 2014 in which the journalist said the pontiff had abolished sin.

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