The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: September 2015 (page 1 of 2)

The Francis Effect

O PreacherHow about that “Francis effect!”

Admirers straining to get a picture of Pope Francis as he passed in his popemobile near the White House on Wednesday.

Here it is in words—excerpts from Peggy Noonan’s Saturday column in  “The Wall Street Journal”  . . .

“The pope I love embraces the hideously deformed man.  He sees the modern world for what it is, ‘a field hospital after the battle . . . The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds’ . . . This pope fills my eyes with tears.  He loves the poor.  He pays his own hotel bill . . . The Francis I love is against materialism because he knows it is hollow and soul-crushing . . . He is for the little guy. . . [The] pope has captured the imagination of the world . . . [Francis] has filled the world with more than his portion of sweetness, and . . . has drawn the affection and regard of non-Catholics around the world.”

Why come?  I watched the end of the pope’s Washington mass Saturday as thousands lined up for the Eucharist.  I wished I could take a poll: “What is it about the pope that drew you to come today?”  I couldn’t, of course.  But in “Love for Pope Brings Them to the Streets, Not Necessarily to Church,” Zelda Caldwell wrote her findings of why some people came . . .

Coral Keegan, age 24, who lives in Washington, DC but is originally from New York, is a baptized Catholic, but not a regular churchgoer. She came because, “I like that he’s accepting of gays and lesbians, which the church didn’t do before.”

Does the pope make her want to go to Mass again? “No,” she said, “I don’t think it’s necessary for being a spiritual person.” Lying in the grass next to her, was Jorge Gonzalez, age 27, and originally from Colombia.

“I like how humble he is. He’s taken himself off a high, holy spot, and is showing himself as just a human being.” Raised a Catholic, Gonzalez doesn’t attend church regularly, and says that in spite of his positive feelings about the pope, he probably won’t start.

Jenna Porter, 24, from Massachusetts said, “Actually, I’m not Catholic, but I have a lot of admiration for the Holy Father. I’ve always been interested in religious studies even though I’m not religious. I think Pope Francis is a galvanizing figure. He’s a lot more optimistic, compassionate, and in touch with people than most leaders at his level. He’s an example of how religion can have a positive effect on people. ” She continued, “By sharing the original gospel that says treat people as you would have them treat you, he is himself a model of how to act as a human.”

The Crowds.  Hundreds of thousands (over 800,000 attended his final mass in Philadelphia)  greeted Pope Francis in Washington, D.C.,  in New York City and finally in Philadelphia.  They waited, cheered, photographed, reached out and, when he ended his masses, they applauded.  He called for children to come, kissed them on the head.  He clearly enjoys being with people, but seems humbly unawed by his celebrity status.  He preaches homilies of love, kindness, peace, tolerance, unity.  Last year on Holy Thursday he washed the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people—women and non-Catholics among them —in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve others like a “slave.”

Pope Francis Washes the Feet of Inmates for Holy Thursday Video - ABC ...

Clearly there’s a longing in America, and maybe in the world,  for positive, upbulding, hopeful words.  We’re weary of negative news, restrictive regulations, and pessimistic predictions (or unkept political promises).  So when someone of the pope’s stature makes us feel good, we eat it up.  (Did you see the up-close camera shots of the audience while the pope spoke?  Awe-struck.  Hungry.  Thirsty.)  The “Francis effect.”

“Rocked” & Confused.  But then I’m “rocked” like some in this 2013 “Huffington Post” article . . .

Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists. During his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome, Francis emphasized the importance of “doing good” as a principle that unites all humanity, and a “culture of encounter” to support peace.

Pope Francis went further in his sermon to say: “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”  We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Then, this “Inquisitr” article from last year confuses me about Francis . . .

According to an article  Now The End Begins, Pope Francis enforced this view that the only way to God cannot be done without the Virgin Mary and the Church of Rome. Without both, you are simply condemned to burn for all eternity in hell. The statement that Pope Francis uses that the article brings up is as follows:

“Dear friends, let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, for the grace to never fall into the temptation of thinking we can make it without others, that we can get along without the Church, that we can save ourselves alone, of being Christians of the laboratory. On the contrary, you cannot love God without loving your brothers, you cannot love God outside of the Church; you cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church.”

Simply going by that statement, there are three things that should be noted for what they state salvation should require. First, there needs to be an intercession of the Virgin Mary. Second, you cannot love God outside of the Church. And third, you cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church. Going with the Holy Bible, there is no scripture that supports this. As a matter of fact, the article even goes further and states that Pope Francis is the False Prophet, mentioned in the book of Revelations.

However, such exclamations are not new with the Roman Catholic Church. For years, which also includes the years they slaughtered millions of Christians simply because they weren’t Catholic, they have expressed their agenda, as stated by Christian Beliefs (End Times Deceptions). According to their article, the most explicit statement about this came from Pope Eugene IV, in the Bull Cantate Domino in 1441, when he proclaimed ex cathedra:

“The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ unless before death they are joined with Her…

No one, let his alms giving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Jesus Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

Affected?  How should I evaluate the pope?  How does all this affect the “Francis effect”?  On one hand, he is the pope who embraces everyone and claims Christ redeemed all.  He represents the Catholic doctrine that those outside the Catholic church cannot have eternal life.

Then there’s the “Vicar of Christ” doctrine.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Vicar of Christ” is a title of the pope implying his supreme and universal primacy, both of honour and of jurisdiction, over the Church of Christ. It is founded on the words of the Divine Shepherd to St. Peter: “Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my sheep” (John 21:16-17), by which He constituted the Prince of the Apostles guardian of His entire flock in His own place, thus making him His Vicar and fulfilling the promise made in Matthew 16:18-19. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15403b.ht).  In other words, as the Vicar of Christ, the pope is the representative of Christ on earth with the same power and authority over the church Christ has.

 Here are the passages.  Read them and see if on their face they provide any basis for the Catholic interpretation.

Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  The third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16,17).

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18,19).

Catholics claim that, according to these texts, Christ made Peter the leader of the apostles.  Later Peter became the first bishop of Rome with authority over all other bishops and church leaders.  Peter passed that apostolic authority on to the next bishop, who then passed it on to the next and so on.  By this unbroken chain of Roman bishops, the Roman Catholic Church claims it is the true church.

So I ask again:  How should I evaluate Pope Francis?  On several key doctrines, I’m opposed.  The “Vicar of Christ” teaching.  Their doctrine of salvation.  Relationally, I like the man.  If I knew him personally, I think I would love him.

Doctrinally, I seem him as a product of his Catholic system.  Most of us are.  For 25 years I was a doctrinal product of the Pentecostal denomination in which I was raised and schooled.  That didn’t make me a deceiver.  Nor does it make the pope an intentional deceiver.

I certainly can’t oppose his love of people, especially for the poor, the imprisoned, the outcast.  He embraces them as Christ did and as he taught us to.  So much of what he said and did on this U.S. visit was a fresh-air breath of kindness, mercy and love.

I see in Pope Francis a man who genuinely loves God and neighbor.  Though I disagree on key doctrines, I respect him and appreciate his pastoral warmth relationally.  I want to focus on where we agree, not disagree.  While acknowledging our important differences, I want to build him up in my speech, not tear him down.

Correct doctrine is vital.  At the same time I must remember that God’s redeemed people through Christ includes more than those who adhere to my tenets of faith.  And, holding to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, I’m commanded to love my neighbor—even if he’s the pope!

Description Pope Francis hugs a man in his visit to a rehab hospital ...

 

 

 

 

 

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Who’s the Greatest?

P.AllanFor the third time Jesus foretells his death to his disciples.   Not death by Hollywood.  Death by crucifixion.  Preceded by betrayal, condemnation, mocking, spitting and flogging.  Followed by rising three days later.  Jerusalem will be the place, where the authorities hate Jesus to death.  Jerusalem—just up the road.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.  “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,  who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark10:32-34).

The last time Jesus spoke like this the disciples didn’t understand (9:30-32).  No reason to assume they “get it” now.  What they do  seem to get is the messianic kingdom is near (1:14,15).  And James and John aim to get seats #1 and #2 in the throne room.  They start with a statement that signals every parent, “THIS IS A SET UP!”

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (10:35-37).

Give them credit for chutzpah!  (That’s a Jewish word).  Ah, but as usual, they’re a bit dense . . .

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,  but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared” (10:38-40).

Do they gulp when Jesus promises that will suffer like him?  Undoubtedly they’re  disappointed when Jesus tells them he doesn’t have the right to give those seats in his administration.  There’s more to come, however. Typically, Jesus makes James’ and John’s chutzpah (that’s a Jewish word) a teaching moment.  First he has to quiet down the class because . . .

 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).

Once the ten got over their fit, Jesus explained greatness.  It’s not what the Gentiles (a non-Jewish word) think it is (getting to lord it over people and order them around).  In his kingdom greatness is what he says it is—being a servant. 

“Downton Abbey” fan?  That’s the PBS story of an aristocratic family in Great Britain living in a multi-story mansion during the early 20th century.  Bottom floor belongs to the servants who cook, clean, launder, dress and generally wait on the family above.  In the messianic kingdom, though, it’s the servants who are upper class on the upper floors.

Living to meet others’ needs (from holding a door for a disabled man to doing more than your share around the house to interceding in prayer to sharing the gospel and everything in between) is a weird way to greatness.  Why does Jesus demand it?  Because that’s the way our King lived and the way he died.  In fact, servanthood lies at the heart of the Gospel.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Taking the place of a servant isn’t simply the helpful thing to do; it’s the Jesus-like thing to do.  It’s the way we bear witness to the presence of his kingdom and show others what kingdom-life in this age is like.

Who’s the greatest?  Servants who follow the way of Jesus.

But should we even be aiming at greatness?  Isn’t that the opposite of humility.  Shouldn’t that be our aim?  After all, Scripture says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Here’s how I see it.  I may start being a servant craving a top seat in the kingdom.  But after learning to live (sort of) like a servant for some time, I start to forget about seats #1 and #2.  Serving becomes the arena where the Holy Spirit nurtures humility in me.  By humbly serving I grow into a humble servant.  And I begin to realize that the joy found in humbly serving is enough, because I realize I’m (wobbly and weakly) walking in the steps of the King.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus the Servant Washes Feet

Whom can I serve today as Jesus would?

 

 

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The “Living” Constitution

P.AllanI’ve written a lot about the State lately.  Maybe old age is giving me a long-range perspective I didn’t have earlier.  I remember when . . . Never mind, I won’t bore you with reminiscing about how I had to walk to and from school in thigh-high snow drifts with white-out-condition winds fighting me every step of the way.

I suppose most grandfathers worry over the kind of country their grandchildren are growing up in.  I’m grateful that “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:15).  “All”, then, isn’t ultimately in the hands of politicians or court justices.  Still, what they do will profoundly determine what America will be like in years ahead—and the kind of society in which our children will be called to follow Jesus.

Yesterday Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia criticized justices who view the Constitution as “living.”  If you think this is “getting into the weeds” stuff, think again.  The more justices see the Constitution as “living”, the less we become a nation of laws and the more we become a nation legally led by powerful men and women influenced by popular culture.  And that culture is almost never friendly to Christ and his people.

Scalia addresses Constitution, same-sex marriage in speech

By ADRIAN SAINZ

 

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday criticized judges who believe the Constitution is a “living” document, saying they amount to policy makers who are rewriting it and making moral decisions for the entire country about same-sex marriage and other issues. He also referred to this summer’s same-sex marriage ruling as “extreme.”

Scalia spoke to about 500 people at Rhodes College, where he was invited to deliver the school’s annual Constitution Day lecture. He is the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Reagan in 1986.

In his speech, Scalia distinguished “originalism,” which calls for adherence to the original text and meaning of the Constitution when interpreting it, from the theory of a “living” Constitution, which views the document as one that evolves and changes over time without being amended.

“They’re not adhering to the text, they’re operating as policy makers,” Scalia, an “originalist,” said of believers in a “living” Constitution. “They’re not interpreting the constitution. They’re writing one, they’re revising one.”

Later he added: “What is it that I learned at Harvard Law School that makes me peculiarly qualified to determine such profound moral and ethical questions as whether there should be a right to abortion, whether there should be same-sex marriage, whether there should be a right to suicide?” he asked. “It has nothing to do with the law. Even Yale law school doesn’t teach that stuff.”

Scalia was among four dissenting justices in the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June that cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry. Scalia said at the time that he was not concerned so much about same-sex marriage as “this court’s threat to American democracy.”

On Tuesday, he called the same-sex marriage ruling “the furthest imaginable extension of the Supreme Court doing whatever it wants.”

“Saying that the Constitution requires that practice, which is contrary to the religious beliefs of many of our citizens, I don’t know how you can get more extreme than that,” he said. “I worry about a Court that’s headed in that direction.”

Scalia also noted that only one sitting Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, is from the South: The others are from California, New York and New Jersey. He said believers of a “living” Constitution should be upset by that.

“You should be upset because these people are making a new Constitution and they are terribly unrepresentative of the country,” he said.

Scalia said judges who believe in an ever-changing Constitution are making it more rigid, not more flexible.

“It’s no use talking about abortion anymore. It’s just off the democratic stage,” he said. “No use arguing about it, coast to coast, now and forever, or unless the Supreme Court changes its mind. Is that flexibility?”

 

 

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Planned Parenthood: Lawless

O PreacherTo defund Planned Parenthood, focus on three video-caused problems.  So writes Stephen J. Heaney (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Saint Thomas Saint Paul, MN), in the current edition of “Public Discourse” from The Witherspoon Institute (http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/09/15670/).  Here are the problems . . .

“First, Planned Parenthood affiliates, with consent of the national office, are clearly violating several federal regulations concerning obtaining fetal tissue for research—possibly including making an illegal profit from the deal. Second, in doing so, they are violating their own protocols and terms of consent with the women undergoing the abortions. Third, it is apparent from these violations that Planned Parenthood does not care about the women it claims it is so moved to serve.”

Heaney warns that if we use the videos to argue against abortion, pro-abortionists will always counter with a PC answer, such as, “You’re against women’s health!”  Rather, we should focus on their violation of federal regulations, their violating their own protocols, and their non-care about women.

First, focus on federal regulations violations.

“US Code Title 42, Chapter 6A, Subchapter III, Part H, paragraph 289g-1 gives the conditions for the donation of fetal tissue. Under b) 2) A), the following regulations are in place:

1. the consent of the woman for the abortion was obtained prior to requesting or obtaining consent for a donation of the tissue for use in research;

2. no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue

Furthermore, HHS regulations, as spelled out in Chapter VI of the Institutional Review Board Guidebook, insist:

-The decision to terminate a pregnancy and procedures of abortion should be kept independent from the retrieval and use of fetal tissue.

– The timing and methods of abortion should not be influenced by the potential uses of fetal tissue for transplantation or medical research.

– Payments and other forms of remuneration and compensation associated with the procurement of fetal tissue should be prohibited, except payment for reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of tissue

The Code of Federal Regulations at 46.204 (h) and (i) says:

(h) No inducements, monetary or otherwise, will be offered to terminate a pregnancy;

(i) Individuals engaged in the research will have no part in any decisions as to the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate a pregnancy.

And at 46.206:

(a) Research involving, after delivery, the placenta; the dead fetus; macerated fetal material; or cells, tissue, or organs excised from a dead fetus, shall be conducted only in accord with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations regarding such activities.”

Here are regulations regarding fetal tissue donations . . .

“US Code Title 42, Chapter 6A, Subchapter III, Part H, paragraph 289g-1 gives the conditions for the donation of fetal tissue. Under b) 2) A), the following regulations are in place:

1. the consent of the woman for the abortion was obtained prior to requesting or obtaining consent for a donation of the tissue for use in research;

2. no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue

Furthermore, HHS regulations, as spelled out in Chapter VI of theInstitutional Review Board Guidebook, insist:

-The decision to terminate a pregnancy and procedures of abortion should be kept independent from the retrieval and use of fetal tissue.

– The timing and methods of abortion should not be influenced by the potential uses of fetal tissue for transplantation or medical research.

– Payments and other forms of remuneration and compensation associated with the procurement of fetal tissue should be prohibited, except payment for reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of tissue

The Code of Federal Regulations at 46.204 (h) and (i) says:

(h) No inducements, monetary or otherwise, will be offered to terminate a pregnancy;

(i) Individuals engaged in the research will have no part in any decisions as to the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate a pregnancy.

And at 46.206:

(a) Research involving, after delivery, the placenta; the dead fetus; macerated fetal material; or cells, tissue, or organs excised from a dead fetus, shall be conducted only in accord with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations regarding such activities.”

Regarding profiting from the sale of baby body parts, Planned Parenthood denies they don’t profit  because they are a non-profit organization!  However, the videos clearly reveal Planned Parenthood often establishes the price and that it is as much as the market will pay.

Heaney writes:  “In the second video, Mary Gatter, president of the Planned Parenthood Medical Directors’ Council, and medical director at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles until 2014, is clearly willing to accept, not what it would cost her clinic to process the fetal organs, but whatever the buyer is willing to pay. In the third video, Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for PPFA, recognizes that the affiliates are looking for ways, not simply to break even, but to make a profit. In the fifth video, we see Abby Johnson, former director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, testifying before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, that fetal specimens were bringing in up to $120,000 per month. ‘That is certainly not “recouping costs”,’ she concludes.”

Second, focus on PP’s own protocol and terms of consent violations.  Videos one, two and five all reveal PP officials stating their abortionists “are perfectly willing to change the type of procedure they will perform, better to obtain the types of specimens desired.”  Procedure-type should to be chosen by what is best for the woman, not what is best for getting fetal tissue.   To change procedure without the patient’s consent violates federal law and PP’s own protocol.

Third, focus on PP’s lack of care for women.  The violations identified above suggest PP doesn’t genuinely care about women they claim to serve,   Again, Heaney writes,  “We have the testimony of former StemExpress procurement agent Holly O’Donnell that it was her job to pressure women into giving consent to fetal tissue donation, even when they clearly did not want to, by telling them that some good would come as a result of the valuable research to be performed on their dead babies’ remains. We further have her testimony that fetal tissue was not infrequently donated even when the woman did not give consent.”

Conclusion.    In discussing these videos. Heaney counsels,  “Stick to the pertinent facts: Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal parts. Planned Parenthood is routinely violating federal law. Planned Parenthood really does not care about women.”

Planned Parenthood proponents argue the videos are edited.  What a ridiculous charge!  How could “innocent” videos possibly be edited to this horrific degree!  The reality:  Planned Parenthood is guilty of violating federal regulations as well as its own surgical protocols.

Suppose the government doesn’t prosecute?  Then we’d have an egregious example of how lawless the government has become.  And that should frighten us.  Without laws justly applied, America would be run by whichever self-serving lawbreaker carries the most clout.  And then we’d no longer have the kind of government Paul describes in Romans 13, but be well on our way toward having the kind of government the Book of Revelation envisions.

us constitution photo: Constitution Picture2.png

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How to Enter God’s Kingdom–or Not

P.AllanHowever good life is, it disappoints us.  For much of the world, life is a struggle just to survive.  Wherever we are and whoever we are, we expected more.  That “more” is the kingdom of God Jesus brought near (Mark 1:14,15).

I can’t prove God’s kingdom is real.  I can only welcome it by faith in Jesus.  I can’t describe everything that the kingdom of God is.  I can only define it as “God taking over the world through his Son, Jesus Christ.”  According to Scripture, that process is going on right now.  And though I can’ t fully describe the kingdom, I can cite these words from the apostle Paul:  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine . . . ” (Ephesians 3:20).  God, whose kingdom it is, can do infinitely more than all we ask or even dream of!  That implies God’s kingdom is far greater than anything we might dare to ask for or even conceive of!  It’s the life we hope for, dream of, wish for—and far more!

But how do we enter God’s kingdom?  Mark 10:13-31 contrast children with a rich man to answer that question.

The Children.  People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Familiar incident.  It does, however, raise questions similar to the one we’re asking.  Why is God’s kingdom appropriate for people like those children?  How does one receive  God’s kingdom like a little child in order to enter it?  To ask another way, what is it about children that makes them models for entering the kingdom?  Let’s save our answers until after we read the contrasting narrative.

The Rich Young Man.  As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good– except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”  “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields– and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Why did the rich man go away sad without the eternal life of the kingdom?  What is it about wealth that makes entering God’s kingdom so hard?

The Contrasts.

  • The children had no accomplishments to cite.  The rich man confidently confessed he had kept all God’s commandments from his youth.  The children couldn’t claim that.  They remind me of the first phrase of the third verse of the hymn, “Rock of Ages”—“Nothing in my hand I bring . . . ”  This is what it means to welcome God’s kingdom like children—to bring nothing to Jesus but ourselves as we are and to accept whatever he wants to give us of himself.
  • The rich man treasured his wealth more than God’s kingdom.  As far as we can tell from the text, the children were content simply to be held and blessed by Jesus.  This is what prompts Jesus to exclaim, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  Not that the wealthy can’t enter (for “all things are possible with God”).  But from the human side, great possessions are a barrier to entering the kingdom.  Why?  Because they possess us!  This is why Jesus counseled the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor.  Only by such a radical act could the power of possessions over that young man be broken.  Sadly, he treasured them more than God’s kingdom.  Therefore, while the children are a model of how to enter the kingdom, the rich young man is a model of how one cannot enter.

How upside-down is this!  Wealth signifies success in the “real world.”  But it’s children Jesus embraces as examples for welcoming God’s kingdom.  Children who have to be brought to Jesus.  Children who are little in the world.  Children with empty hands who simply receive whatever blessing Jesus gives.

I wonder who I am more like?  The children or the rich man?  The question carries great consequence.  Which I am like determines whether I enter God’s full-of-wonder kingdom for “children.”

 

 

 

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It Is Well

P.AllanToday’s been rough for me.  Not feeling well at all.  Then I found an e-mail from my daughter, Meridith, who keeps me supplied with worshipful, heart-lifting music.

As I listened, I sat in solitude before the Lord, drinking in the peace of his presence.  And when the song reached the last stanza, tears began to fall and my hands almost lifted themselves in worship.  I hope it blesses you as it did me.

Thank you, Meridith, for letting the Lord use you like this today.  I love you.

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Evangelicals, Think! Donald Trump?

O PreacherI’m shocked that many professed evangelical Christians support Donald Trump.  Sure, we’re angry at Washington as other Americans are.  But have we thought about who this man is and what he’s done and stood for?  Can we even be sure when his mouth seems to run faster than his brain?

Last night’s debate on CNN was, I think, may have been the beginning of Trump’s “implosion”.   He’s not qualified to serve as President.  If he’s a Christian, the fruit of his life and words give no evidence.

Russell Moore, in a sharp, convicting article in today’s “New York Times”, says it better than I and hopefully will wake us out of our knee-jerk anger to think like Christians in this Republican nominating process.  I applaud Moore for writing it and the “New York Times” for printing it!

 

Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?

By RUSSELL MOORE SEPT. 17, 2015

IN 2006, the television comedy “The Office” aired an episode in which one of the characters, Dwight Schrute, nervously faces the prospect of delivering a speech after winning the title of top salesman of the year for his company, Dunder Mifflin. As a prank, his co-worker preps him for his moment by cribbing a speech from a dictator, coaching him to deliver it by pounding the lectern and waving his arms wildly. Dwight does it, and the audience gives a standing ovation to a manic tirade.

Watching a cartoonish TV character deliver authoritarian lines with no principles, just audacity, was hilarious back then, but that was before we saw it happening before our eyes in the race for the United States presidency.

Donald J. Trump stands astride the polls in the Republican presidential race, beating all comers in virtually every demographic of the primary electorate. Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives. To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.

Ben Carson recently contrasted his own faith in God with Mr. Trump’s theatrical egocentrism. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life, and that’s a very big part of who I am,” he said, citing a Bible verse. “I don’t get that impression with him.” Mr. Trump hit back, suggesting that Mr. Carson was faking his own faith: “So I don’t know about Ben Carson’s faith, and all of a sudden he becomes this great religious figure. I don’t think he’s a great religious figure.” Mr. Carson quickly backed off from his comments, but the questions are not so easily dismissed.

There’s no religious test for office, and there shouldn’t be. My Baptist ancestors were willing to make alliances with the heretical Thomas Jefferson because he believed in religious liberty. It didn’t matter that they never would have let him teach Sunday school.

We should not demand to see the long-form certificate for Mr. Trump’s second birth. We should, though, ask about his personal character and fitness for office. His personal morality is clear, not because of tabloid exposés but because of his own boasts. His attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord. He tells us in one of his books that he revels in the fact that he gets to sleep with some of the “top women in the world.” He has divorced two wives (so far) for other women.

This should not be surprising to social conservatives in a culture shaped by pornographic understandings of the meaning of love and sex. What is surprising is that some self-identified evangelicals are telling pollsters they’re for Mr. Trump. Worse, some social conservative leaders are praising Mr. Trump for “telling it like it is.”

In the 1990s, some of these social conservatives argued that “If Bill Clinton’s wife can’t trust him, neither can we.” If character matters, character matters. Today’s evangelicals should ask, “Whatever happened to our commitment to ‘traditional family values’?”

Mr. Trump tells us “nothing beats the Bible,” and once said to an audience that he knows how Billy Graham feels. He says of evangelicals: “I love them. They love me.” And yet, he regularly ridicules evangelicals, with almost as much glee as he does Hispanics. This goes beyond his trivialization of communion with his recent comments about “my little cracker” as a way to ask forgiveness. In recent years, he has suggested that evangelical missionaries not be treated in the United States for Ebola, since they chose to go overseas in the first place.

Still, the problem is not just Mr. Trump’s personal lack of a moral compass. He is, after all, a casino and real estate mogul who has built his career off gambling, a moral vice and an economic swindle that oppresses the poorest and most desperate. When Mr. Trump’s casinos fail, he can simply file bankruptcy and move on. The lives and families destroyed by the casino industry cannot move on so easily.

He’s defended, up until very recent years, abortion, and speaks even now of the “good things” done by Planned Parenthood. In a time when racial tensions run high across the country, Mr. Trump incites division, with slurs against Hispanic immigrants and with protectionist jargon that preys on turning economic insecurity into ugly “us versus them” identity politics. When evangelicals should be leading the way on racial reconciliation, as the Bible tells us to, are we really ready to trade unity with our black and brown brothers and sisters for this angry politician?

Jesus taught his disciples to “count the cost” of following him. We should know, he said, where we’re going and what we’re leaving behind. We should also count the cost of following Donald Trump. To do so would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist “winning” trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society. We ought to listen, to get past the boisterous confidence and the television lights and the waving arms and hear just whose speech we’re applauding.

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He is the author of “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.”

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly (Proverbs 15:2).

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Planned Parenthood: For Sale

O PreacherYesterday Center for Medical Progress released a 10th Planned Parenthood video.  In it PP officials discuss “remuneration” for fetal tissue.

Deb VanDerhei, national director of Planned Parenthood’s Consortium of Abortion Providers, says, “We have independent colleagues who generate a fair amount of income doing this.”

Planned Parenthood strongly denies that its clinics are illegally trafficking in fetal parts.

The Center for Medical Progress videos have prompted a Republican campaign to defund PP.  Senate leadership is preparing a vote on legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks.

In view of these videos, I don’t understand how Planned Parenthood has the audacity to deny illegal conduct and how any politician can defend funding this barbaric practice!  But even if traffickers and politicians get away with what is blatantly violent immoral conduct, they should remember . . .

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight
Everything is uncovered and laid bare
before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

The only people profiting off the "sale" of fetal body parts are the members of the anti-choice movement, right-wing politicians, and the snake-oil salesmen and women otherwise known as GOP candidates for president.


National Institute of Health Website

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Divorce: Looking for a Loophole

O PreacherI’ve seen the pain of abusive marriages.  I’ve seen the agony of divorce.  I’ve seen Christians and their children suffer in abusive marriages because they didn’t want to disobey Jesus’ teachings here in Mark 10.   And time and again, with this text in view, I’ve wrestled over how to counsel believers caught in an abusive marriage trap.  Here’s the text . . .

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.  Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  “What did Moses command you?” he replied.  They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”  “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.  “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate.”  When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.  He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:1-12).

The incident starts with a test question from a few Pharisees.  They’re hoping his answer will contradict the law and be self-incriminating.  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  Jesus answers with a question: “What did Moses command you?”  The Pharisees cite the Mosaic law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  They want Jesus to discuss the lawfulness of divorce on the grounds of this passage . . .

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,  then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Consider this passage for a minute.  First, Moses isn’t giving guidelines for divorce.  Nor does he prohibit it.   What he does is recognize men are divorcing their wives (see also Leviticus 21:7; Numbers 30:9).  Moses’ aim here is to prevent a man from remarrying a woman he had previously divorced.

Second, two schools of thought existed about the interpretation of “something indecent that a man finds in his wife.  The Hebrew word (ervah) basically means “nakedness”.  In this context, it obviously doesn’t mean literal nakedness.  Therefore, it’s vaguely translated, “indecent, shameful”.  Two schools of thought developed.  One, led by Rabbi Shemei, interpreted it to mean some sort of sexual immorality.  The other, led by Rabbi Hillel, interpreted it to mean virtually anything that shames the husband or that he finds displeasing about his wife.  These schools of thought lay behind the Pharisees’ question and load it with more complexity for Jesus.

But Jesus easily  hits the heart of the issue when he explains why Moses gave the Deuteronomy 24 law:  “It was because your hearts were hard (stubborn, obstinate, unyielding toward God) that Moses wrote you this law. But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh’ “.  Jesus concludes: “So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate.”  According to Jesus, God’s creation ordinance takes precedence over the later Mosaic law given due to “hard hearts”.

Later, when the disciples ask about this, Jesus draws a further conclusion:  “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” 

This is stark stuff.   What help does it offer a wife suffering an abusive marriage whose husband refuses help?  Or a wife divorced and now remarried?  Of course, Jesus doesn’t intend to offer help.  He’s answering the Pharisees’ test-question.  And he answers it with God’s ideal design for marriage.  By “ideal” I don’t mean pie-in-the-sky or out-of-reach.  By “ideal” I mean model or exemplary.  In other words, what Jesus quotes from Genesis 1:24 pictures how God designed marriage to supremely be.

But all marriages aren’t “model”.  Why?   Sin.  Sin in the world.  Sin in the husband.  Sin in the wife.  Sin still in the Spirit-indwelt believer.  As iron left in the rain rusts, so sin corrupts. And sometimes,  one or both marriage partners allow corruption to continue until the marriage crumbles.

It’s easy to approach this text as a theologian.  What Jesus teaches is plain.  But I approach this text as a (former) pastor.  Before me sits a Christian wife with two young children, all of whom have suffered verbal and emotional abuse for years.  She’s prayed.  Others have prayed.  Things have gotten worse, not better.  The pain shows on her face.  I wonder the effect on the kids.  The wife nervously confides she’s considering divorce.  But, knowing Jesus’ prohibition, she’s afraid—almost as if she’s contemplating the unpardonable sin.

My gut wants me to punch this guy in the face; my mind starts looking for loopholes.  I find one in Matthew 19:9—“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (Greek porneia–sexual immorality of any kind, including prostitution, fornication, homosexual practice, adultery, etc.), and marries another, commits adultery.”  I ask, “Has your husband cheated on you?”  “I don’t think so,” she answers.  Loophole closed.

I find another in 1 Corinthians 7:15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”  I ask, “Does your husband want to leave you?”  “No,” she replies.  “He’s got it too good right where he is.”  I wonder if “leaving” has to be physical.  Can’t it also be emotional or relational?  The text plainly means “physical desertion”.  But couldn’t it be okay to apply it emotionally?  I’m looking for a loophole because I don’t want to counsel this woman to keep suffering.

How could Jesus?  Oh, I know Ephesians 5:22-33 makes marriage a picture of Christ and his church.  And if we divorce and remarry we wreck our witness.  But how can a marriage like this one reveal Christ and his church?  Does anybody who knows this family “see Jesus” in their home?  I decide neither every marriage nor the institution of marriage pictures Christ and his church—only those that approximate God’s model.

But I still have no loophole.  Divorce + remarriage = adultery.  Maybe it’s my soft heart, but I decide each “case” must be decided on its own merits.  I have to uphold the sanctity of marriage and not condone divorce because the wife feels unappreciated.   I have to get the whole picture of the marriage, know what attempts have been made to “make it work”, and see how long this has been going on.  If it seems hopeless, I suggest a reasonable time period (six months?) to see what God might do.  Then, if nothing’s changed, I agree that divorce seems the only solution.  I warn her that’s not simple.  Divorce and remarriage come with long-term trouble.  I’ll try to help her through the process.  She and her kids won’t be alone.

So call me a heretic.  Charge me with flagrant disobedience.  But I’m not sure that Scripture explicitly tells us everything about the issue.  I figure there are certain situations where we have to make the best decision we can, knowing what we know from God’s Word . . . feeling the pain of the people involved . . . and trusting Jesus to be merciful to us as we wrestle with the stinking mess that sin has made of this marriage . . .  and hoping our Savior through divorce and remarriage will graciously redeem this stinking mess into a family that smells a lot like his love.

Seven Last Words

Wedding couple holding hands on grass background Royalty Free Stock Images

 

 

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Intercede Need?

O PreacherLois and I want to continue in ministry.  But my disability limits us.  While this blog has become my primary ministry and Lois still bears witness of Christ at work, we want to contribute more.

Intercessory prayer doesn’t require me to run or even walk, so I can partner with Lois to pray.  We’re aware of many needs.  Still others we don’t know.  So . . .

If you would like us to pray for you or a need close to your heart (whoever and wherever you are), please let us know.  Send it via email to Allan@SonRisecc.com or to Lois@SonRisecc.com.  We will keep your request confidential.  And we will pray daily for you.  The only thing we ask is that, when the Lord answers, you tell us!

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1)

This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us– whatever we ask–
we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14,15).

We really do care about you!  And, more importantly, the Lord does!

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