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from Got Questions:

“I am the way and the truth and the life” is one of the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus. On the last night before His betrayal and death, Jesus was preparing His disciples for the days ahead. For over three years, these men had been following Jesus and learning from His teaching and example. They had placed their hopes in Him as the Messiah, the promised deliverer, yet they still didn’t understand how He was going to accomplish that deliverance. After the Last Supper, Jesus began speaking about His departure, which led to questions from His disciples.

In John 13:33, Jesus said, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.” This prompted Peter to ask where He was going (verse 36). Peter and the others did not understand that Jesus was speaking of His death and ascension to heaven. Jesus’ response was, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter was still misunderstanding and declared that he would follow Jesus anywhere and even lay down His life if necessary. As Jesus patiently continued to teach His disciples, He began speaking more plainly about heaven, describing the place He was going to prepare for them (John 14:2–3). Then Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going” (verse 4). Speaking for the others, Thomas said they did not know where He was going, so how could they know how to follow Him there? It was in answer to this question that Jesus uttered one of the seven famous “I am” statements.

I am – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.” Several other times in the Gospels we find Jesus using these words. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6, where God uses the same intensive form to say, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” The Jews clearly understood Jesus to be calling Himself God because they took up stones to stone Him for committing blasphemy in equating Himself with God. In Matthew 28:20, as Jesus gave the Great Commission, He gave it emphasis by saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” When the soldiers came seeking Jesus in the garden the night before His crucifixion, He told them, “I am he,” and His words were so powerful that the soldiers fell to the ground (John 18:4–6). These words reflect the very name of God in Hebrew, Yahweh, which means “to be” or “the self-existing one.” It is the name of power and authority, and Jesus claimed it as His own.

The way – Jesus used the definite article to distinguish Himself as “the only way.” A way is a path or route, and the disciples had expressed their confusion about where He was going and how they could follow. As He had told them from the beginning, Jesus was again telling them (and us) “follow me.” There is no other path to heaven, no other way to the Father. Peter reiterated this same truth years later to the rulers in Jerusalem, saying about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The exclusive nature of the only path to salvation is expressed in the words “I am the way.”

The truth – Again Jesus used the definite article to emphasize Himself as “the only truth.” Psalm 119:142 says, “Your law is the truth.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His listeners of several points of the Law, then said, “But I say unto you . . .” (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44), thereby equating Himself with the Law of God as the authoritative standard of righteousness. In fact, Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus, as the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1) is the source of all truth.

The life – Jesus had just been telling His disciples about His impending death, and now He was claiming to be the source of all life. In John 10:17–18, Jesus declared that He was going to lay down His life for His sheep, and then take it back again. He spoke of His authority over life and death as being granted to Him by the Father. In John 14:19, He gave the promise that “because I live, you also will live.” The deliverance He was about to provide was not a political or social deliverance (which most of the Jews were seeking), but a true deliverance from a life of bondage to sin and death to a life of freedom in eternity.

In these words, Jesus was declaring Himself the great “I Am,” the only path to heaven, the only true measure of righteousness, and the source of both physical and spiritual life. He was staking His claim as the very God of Creation, the Lord who blessed Abraham, and the Holy One who inhabits eternity. He did this so the disciples would be able to face the dark days ahead and carry on the mission of declaring the gospel to the world. Of course, we know from Scripture that they still didn’t understand, and it took several visits from their risen Lord to shake them out of their disbelief. Once they understood the truth of His words, they became changed people, and the world has never been the same.

So how do we follow Him today? The same way the disciples did long ago. They heard the words of Jesus and believed them. They took His words and obeyed them. They confessed their sins to Jesus as their Lord and God. They believed that He died to take the punishment of their sins and rose from the dead to give them new life. They followed His example and command to tell others the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment. When we follow Him in “the way,” we can be assured of following Him all the way to heaven.

from Got Questions:

Both Christian parents and their married children can have difficulty with the balance between the concept of “leave and cleave” and honoring parents. Some pertinent Bible passages:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined (cleave) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

There are three aspects to the statement of Genesis 2:24: 1. Leave – This indicates that in a family there are two types of relationships. The parent-child relationship is the temporary one and there will be a “leaving.” The husband-wife relationship is the permanent one—“what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). Problems occur in family life when these two roles are reversed and the parent-child relationship is treated as the primary relationship. When an adult child has married and this parent-child relationship remains primary, the newly formed union is threatened.

2. Cleave – the Hebrew word translated “cleave” refers to (1) the pursuing hard after someone else and (2) being glued or stuck to something/someone. So a man is to pursue hard after his wife after the marriage has occurred (the courtship should not end with the wedding vows) and is to be “stuck to her like glue.” This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent.

3. And they shall become one flesh – Marriage takes two individuals and creates a new single entity. There is to be such sharing and oneness in every aspect (physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social) that the resulting unity can be best described as “one flesh.” Again, when there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a continuing parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being threatened, resulting in an unbiblical imbalance.

With these three aspects of Genesis 2:24 in mind, there are also the scriptural admonitions to honor one’s parents. This includes treating them with a respectful attitude (Proverbs 30:11,17), obeying them when their commands are in keeping with God’s laws (“in the Lord” Ephesians 6:1), and taking care of them as they get older (Mark 7:10-12; 1 Timothy 5:4-8).

The line between these two commands is drawn where one is being asked to comply with one principle in such a way that it will violate the other principle or command. When the meddling of a parent violates the “leaving” because it is treating the parent-child relationship as primary (demanding obedience, dependence, or emotional oneness over the desires of, dependence upon, or oneness with the spouse), it should be respectfully rejected and the spouse’s desires honored. However, when there are genuine needs of an aging parent (either physical or emotional, assuming the emotional “need” does not supersede the “leaving” principle), that need is to be met, even if one’s spouse does not “like” the parent-in-law. Biblical love toward the aging parent is given based on choosing to do the loving thing, even when one does not feel like doing it.

The balance between these scriptural mandates is similar to the command to obey those in authority (Romans 13) and the example of the apostles violating that principle when the authority figures ask them to act contrary to God’s mandates. In Acts 4:5-20, the apostles rejected the Jewish authorities’ demand to stop preaching the gospel because their command violated God’s, but the apostles did so in a respectful manner. Similarly, Jesus says we are to honor our parents but that the parent-child relationship is secondary to our relationship with Christ (Luke 14:26). In like manner, when parents violate Genesis 2:24 principles, the parents should be respectfully disobeyed. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, a spouse’s desires should be overlooked if he/she is unwilling to expend the time, energy, and finances required to meet the needs of an aging parent; keeping in mind that one must distinguish true physical and emotional needs from the “felt needs” of an overbearing, demanding parent.

From Yahoo:

Vatican-backed family rally to have speech on welcoming gays

 An international family rally the Catholic Church is hosting in Ireland will feature workshops on hot-button issues facing Catholic families, including protecting children from clergy sexual abuse, weathering divorce and ministering to lesbian and gay faithful.

Pope Francis will join the Aug. 21-26 World Meeting of Families for the last two days and preside over the final Mass in Dublin.

Organizers on Monday unveiled the pastoral program leading up to Francis’ arrival, and it includes some surprising entries. Perhaps none is more surprising than the inclusion of the Rev. James Martin, an American Jesuit scheduled to deliver a presentation on welcoming LGBT Catholics and their families into parishes.

Martin, author of “Building a Bridge,” about Catholic outreach to the LGBT community, has had several talks canceled in the United States in recent months because of pressure from conservative groups who oppose his call for the church to better accompany gay Catholics.

Martin told The Associated Press it was “immensely significant” that a Vatican-backed meeting would include his presentation, saying it showed “that LGBT Catholics and their parents are an important part of our church.”

“The message from the Vatican to LGBT Catholics is this: you belong,” he said.

Martin recalled that during the previous World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in 2015, the only official event about gay Catholics featured a gay man and his mother speaking about chastity.

Martin’s talk is not the only meeting event indicating that organizers were keen to follow Francis’ lead and reach out to some of the most marginalized Catholics. Other workshops are on Catholics suffering from addiction and domestic violence, coping with family members in prison and homelessness.

Others are perhaps addressed to a broader audience: how to find time to pray in a digital age, women in leadership, teenagers in the digital world.

One of the major panels is on child protection, and features the pope’s top adviser on sexual abuse prevention, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Joining him is Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse who resigned from O’Malley’s panel last year in frustration over the Vatican’s resistance to listening to victims.

These ravening wolves are never satisfied even as many of their followers are living paycheck to paycheck!

from Fox News:

Louisiana-based televangelist is asking his followers to donate money for a $54 million jet that can “go anywhere in the world in one stop,” The Times-Picayune reported.

Jesse Duplantis, 68, a Christian minister based in Destrehan, about 25 miles east of New Orleans, says his ministry has paid cash for three private jets.

“You know I’ve owned three different jets in my life and used them and used them and just burning them up for the Lord,” Duplantis says in a video posted to his ministries’ website.

Duplantis is now reportedly seeking the funds for a Dassault Falcon 7X, worth $54 million.

The problem with the previous jets, he says, is that they require multiple stops to refuel. But flying the Falcon 7X, Duplantis says, will allow him to save money and not pay “those exorbitant prices with jet fuel all over the world.”

“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” Duplantis says in the video, “He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”

Duplantis’ video comes after another televangelist, Kenneth Copeland in Texas, purchased the Gulfstream V jet for $36 million.

Both televangelists defended their use of private jets during a joint appearance on Copeland’s program, saying that commercial airlines filled with “a bunch of demons” that get in the way of their busy schedules.

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.”

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