The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: The Church (page 2 of 2)

Is the West Coast Rumble for Real?

O PreacherWhat are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the lasthttp://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/).  Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin?  I’m not sitting in judgment.  I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.

Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian.  He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards),  He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards). 

 The First Great Awakening  was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies the middle of the 18th century.  It brought  doctrinal changes, influenced social and political thought, and created not a small measure of theological controversy.  Edwards’ wrote The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God  “to show what are the true, certain, and distinguishing evidences of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see in others. And here I would observe, that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases.”  I’ll use The Distinguishing Marks to evaluate the “Rumble” and other such revivals.
Edwards divided his treatise into two sections, the first  . . .

Negative Signs

By this he means,  “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.”  In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival”  is not from God’s Spirit.

Edwards gives nine negative signs.  Since grammar and writing styles have changed significantly since the 18th century, I’ll summarize in my own words.  Quotes are his.  And all of his are available at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/edwards/edwards_distinguishingmarks.html.

I.  Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things.  If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture).  We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”

II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.

III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind”  doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work.  It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful.   So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.

IV.  Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit.  “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . .  It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”

V.  Means are used in producing it.   This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit.   “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.”  God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us.  God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him.  God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.

VI.  Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. 
These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work.  “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?”  The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example.  The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.

VII.  Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work.  Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth.  “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

VIII.  Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior.  This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true.  “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”.  The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example.  The classic biblical example is Judas.

IX.  It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law.  This  doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]?  The reverse is also true.  If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.

What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not?  We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away.  What difference does it make to me here?”  We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online.  Discernment, then, is important for us all.

Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs.  These come next time.

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Is The West Coast Rumble for Real?

O PreacherWhat are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the lasthttp://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/).  Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin?  I’m not sitting in judgment.  I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.

Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian.  He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards),  He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards). 

 The First Great Awakening  was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies the middle of the 18th century.  It brought  doctrinal changes, influenced social and political thought, and created not a small measure of theological controversy.  Edwards’ wrote The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God  “to show what are the true, certain, and distinguishing evidences of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see in others. And here I would observe, that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases.”  I’ll use The Distinguishing Marks to evaluate the “Rumble” and other such revivals.
Edwards divided his treatise into two sections, the first  . . .

Negative Signs

By this he means,  “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.”  In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival”  is not from God’s Spirit.

Edwards gives nine negative signs.  Since grammar and writing styles have changed significantly since the 18th century, I’ll summarize in my own words.  Quotes are his.  And all of his are available at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/edwards/edwards_distinguishingmarks.html.

I.  Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things.  If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture).  We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”

II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.

III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind”  doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work.  It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful.   So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.

IV.  Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit.  “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . .  It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”

V.  Means are used in producing it.   This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit.   “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.”  God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us.  God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him.  God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.

VI.  Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. 
These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work.  “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?”  The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example.  The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.

VII.  Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work.  Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth.  “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

VIII.  Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior.  This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true.  “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”.  The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example.  The classic biblical example is Judas.

IX.  It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law.  This  doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]?  The reverse is also true.  If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.

What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not?  We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away.  What difference does it make to me here?”  We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online.  Discernment, then, is important for us all.

Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs.  These come next time.

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The West Coast Rumble

O PreacherFollowing is a current report from Religion News Service of a West Coast revival.   Some will immediately brand this the devil’s work.  Some will claim the leaders are deceivers.  Others will say, “Bring it on here!”  While others won’t know what to think.

Need for Revival.

One comment before the report.  I think the church in the U.S. needs a revival.  (What that should look like isn’t for me to say.) Despite mega-churches and high-production worship services and sermons and music galore on smartphones, I get the impression that Christianity in America is, as they say about Tampa Bay’s waters, a mile wide and an inch deep.  The church needs renewing.  Whether what’s happening on the West Coast is part of that renewing  remains to be seen.

But the question before us now is this:  What are we to make of this West Coast revival?

Distinguishing Marks of the Spirit’s Work.

In my next post, I’ll apply Jonathan Edwards’ “The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God” to “The West Coast Rumble” (let’s not pre-judge because of that name!) and similar events, so we might wisely discern the true from the counterfeit.

* * * * *

Pentecostal Revival Sweeps Parts of West Coast

 

(RNS) They call it the West Coast Rumble: a set of multiweek revivals in Seattle and San Diego, plus a large Christian rally in Los Angeles two weekends ago.

The main players are 30-something Pentecostals who are just as apt to broadcast their messages via Periscope, Skype and Twitter, as well as on their ministry’s Facebook pages.

Can’t make it to their meetings? They’ll pray for you over their cellphones.

They belong to a loose network of roving preachers who have adopted some techniques from past Pentecostal revivals but with a digitized spin. They hope to bring faith to a region that has some of the country’s lowest church attendance.

“I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” said Darren Stott, 34, pastor of the Seattle Revival Center, a 170-member nondenominational church where the revival is now in its eighth week. “For me, to be a pastor in Seattle is easy. To be a revivalist and contend for miracles is difficult.”

The center has hired several part-time workers to oversee the revival, stream online video and schedule and pay for a succession of visiting worship bands and speakers. The church has posted a list of hotels on its site for visitors who have flown in from around the Pacific Northwest and Australia. While an average of 210 people attend nightly services, an additional 225 people will watch the entire four-hour service online, with up to 1,000 people logging in and out on any given night.

Meanwhile, in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Bernardo, a series of meetings that was supposed to end Jan. 25 has morphed into what is now a 12-week revival. The meetings were sponsored by an Albany, Ore., group called The Elijah List and headed up by two evangelistic couples: Jerame and Miranda Nelson and Joshua and Janet Mills.

“We began to notice an unusual manifest presence of God invading the meetings,” Jerame Nelson, 35, wrote on elijahlist.com. “Miracles were happening quite easily and people were really getting touched by God during the worship times.”

Just the week before, Nelson continued, a Franklin, Tenn., evangelist named James Goll, 63, had prophesied that a “West Coast rumble” would break open in port cities along the West Coast from Tijuana, Mexico, to Vancouver, B.C.

San Diego, Goll had told Nelson, would be the first spark in this spiritual line of fire. So when Joshua Mills asked Nelson if they should continue the meetings, “I immediately said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’” Nelson wrote on the site.

The San Diego meetings are part of a tapestry of events connected to Azusa Now, a large evangelistic meeting held April 9 at the Los Angeles Coliseum that attracted 56,586 worshippers.

Perhaps the most unusual occurrence during the rally was when Catholic charismatic leader Matteo Calisi knelt and kissed the feet of Azusa Now organizer Lou Engle in the name of Catholic-Protestant reconciliation. (Engle then returned the favor.)

The event marked the 110th anniversary of the legendary Azusa Street Revival, which birthed the Pentecostal movement in the U.S.  Led by William Seymour, a pastor whose prayer meetings lasted for some four years, the 1906 revival sparked a massive spiritual awakening that today numbers some 279 million adherents worldwide. Known for having received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostals often speak in tongues and dance during worship services and report healings and other miracles.

Seymour is said to have prophesied that an even greater revival would happen a century later.

Charlie Shamp, 34, a Nashville preacher who helped jump-start the Seattle meetings, said he doesn’t like calling the West Coast Rumble a revival.

“They only last a year or two,” he said. “I really believe this is the Third Great Awakening. So many people are feeling it across denominational lines.”

In late February, Shamp appeared for what was supposed to be one weekend at the Seattle Revival Center in Newcastle, a well-to-do Seattle suburb. He ended up staying for five.

The church established a Twitter handle, #westcoastrumble, and began live-streaming the nightly services. Viewers from around the world could log in, chat, leave comments and register prayer requests.

Now the 350-seat church is full most weekends. Explaining this to his congregation on March 6, Stott said: “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘This whole thing is going harvest.’”

During a typical meeting in both venues, the preacher will get what charismatics call a “word of knowledge,” usually an interior sense that God is healing certain people of a particular ailment.

Those who are physically at the church will walk up to the front to be prayed for, although online viewers can also identify themselves as having that ailment. One of the pastors — usually Stott — monitors the viewer feed and will announce to the congregation the names of people claiming to be healed or asking for prayer.

Chelsie Carbonell, 36, an artist from Bonney Lake, Wash., attended a session a few weeks ago, just as visiting evangelist Munday Martin, 38, of Nashville, Tenn., announced that someone who’d been in multiple car accidents would be healed.

Carbonnell had been in a series of accidents in the 1990s and felt she was out of alignment.

She went forward and Martin told her to sit down, as he wanted to pray for her legs to be the same length.

“I don’t think the problem is my legs,” Carbonell told him.

“Will you let a crazy evangelist try?” Martin asked her.

“My left leg grew out right then,” Carbonell said later. “I felt it. It was a strange, quick sensation. It took me four days to walk normally but now I’ve been able to jog for the first time in years.”

The congregation has no doctor-verified healings, although on March 11, it posted on its Facebook page a PET scan of what appeared to be a person’s spine and identified as “before and after photos of Stage 4 cancer.”

“I want to assemble a team to pursue these people,” Stott said. “Once we get X-rays, that kind of stuff, I will take that and publicize that on bulletin boards in Seattle. I’ve seen so many people from our immediate congregation healed. That has boosted my faith.”

In San Diego, Nelson wrote, “glaucoma healed, metal plates and pins that had been surgically inserted into people’s bodies have dissolved, deaf ears are hearing, deformities from birth are being healed, and many are getting saved, reconciled to God, and filled with the Holy Ghost.” He did not respond to requests for an interview.

Shamp, who eventually left Seattle Revival Center to fulfill other speaking engagements, said he’s seeing similar meetings around the country.

“I just got back from Columbus, Miss., and it exploded there as well,” he said.

Shamp said he was inspired by members of a 1980s movement known as the Kansas City Prophets, a loose network of Christian leaders who considered themselves apostles and prophets to the church. He called one of those leaders, Paul Cain, a week before going to Seattle in February, to ask for prayer.

“He said, ‘The angel of the Lord is going to be connected with you now,’” Shamp recalled. “‘You will not leave Seattle until the angel tells you to go.’”

Shamp, Nelson and other revivalist leaders are part of an informal network of two dozen Pentecostal and charismatic ministers, mostly under age 40, who like to push the envelope on spiritual healing.

They’ve integrated controversial parts of past U.S. revivals: reports of feathers mysteriously floating through the air during services, gold fillings appearing in the mouths of attendees, hands covered with oil or gold dust and people being overcome with fits of so-called holy laughter.

Holly Pivec, who co-authored a 2014 book with Biola University philosophy professor Doug Geivett on the movement, said these revivalists are part of the New Apostolic Reformation within the wider charismatic movement.

“They share a common belief that the church is to be governed by apostles and prophets,” she said. Churches come voluntarily under an apostle and pastors are supposed to submit to them. “Spiritual covering” is what they call it, and if they are not under this covering, they are outside of God’s blessing.

“Whole generations of young people have grown up under these NAR teachings. It’s the only version of Christianity they’ve ever known. Some 3 million people in the United States attend churches that embrace these teachings.”

Stott, whose church broke with the Assemblies of God a year ago, has been sending members out into nearby neighborhoods to do street evangelism.

He told his congregation April 6: “We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it. … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps.”

 

 

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The State Can’t Stop the Church

P.Allan“The days of gospel persecution in the United States no longer just hang on the distant horizon; they are already here, at least for some. It’s beginning with the bakers, florists, and photographers. Before long, the consensus may be that faithful biblical exposition is ‘hate speech’ (John Piper, Desiring God Ministries, Think It Not Strange).  Fear mongering?   Hardly.  The signs are here.  And for some, the substance has started.

But Acts 12 gives us Jesus-followers confidence and informs believers and unbelievers alike that the State can never stop the church.

King Herod’s Persecution (12:1-5)

Herod Agrippa (10 B.C. – 44 A.D.) ruled Palestine for Rome.  He was said to be “a pious observer of Jewish practices and a ruthless suppressor of minorities when they became disruptive”  (William J. Larkin, Jr., A Commentary on the Book of Acts).  For reasons we’re not told he began to persecute the church.  James,

John’s brother, he had killed.  Peter he had arrested, perhaps to meet the same fate.

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.  When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.  So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

How could the Christians withstand the king who represented the Roman Empire?  Their only weapon was prayer.  Author Luke tells us “the church was earnestly praying to God for him”.  The Greek word, ektenos, implies they were praying fervently and continually.  James’ death was a blow to the believers; they didn’t want Peter to be martyred too.

At this moment, as I wrote in “Think It Not Strange” (http://theoldpreacher.com/think-it-not-strange/), we have brothers and sisters in Christ somewhere in the world suffering persecution.  Lois and I include them in our daily prayer time together.  Although we don’t know their names or even exactly where they are, the Lord does.  I believe not only does the Lord use our prayers for them; praying like this prepares us for the time persecution hits closer to home.

Peter’s Angelic Rescue (12:6-19)

For the sake of space I’ll tell this part of the story . . . Between two soldiers, bound with two chains, on the eve of his trial, Peter was sleeping in prison.  Was it the Lord giving his beloved rest on such a night?  Suddenly a radiant angel appeared.  He poked Peter awake.  “Hurry, get up!”  As Peter did, his chains fell off.  “Get dressed! Follow me!”  Peter thought he was dreaming.  They walked past Guard Station #1, then #2.  As they approached the outside gate, it opened by itself.  One block away the angel disappeared.  Suddenly it dawned on him that this was real. 

He headed for John’s (also called Mark) mother Mary’s house where he knew a prayer meeting was being held for him.  A knock on the outer door brought a servant girl, Rhoda.  Hoping to get inside without being seen, he called out.  Rhoda recognized his voice and, instead of opening the door, was so happy she ran back inside and announced, “It’s Peter!”  They thought she was crazy.  So, with Peter standing nervously outside still knocking, the prayer meeting turned into a dispute.  “It’s Peter!”  “You”re crazy!”  “No, really; I know his voice.”  You have too much wine with dinner?”  “I’m telling you, it’s Peter!”  “You’re dreaming!”  Finally, some wise soul suggested they open the door.  Presto!  There stood Peter.  After explaining his rescue, he set off for the church safe house.

In the morning, as you can imagine, a bit of a brouhaha broke out at the city jail.  King Herod was, well let’s just say, not pleased.  Furious, he ordered a search, but no Peter anywhere.  Then he interrogated the guards who had nothing to say.  Herod had no one left to kill, so the guards suffered his wrath.

Why did the Lord rescue Peter and allow James be put to the sword?  In Acts 26:16,17 Paul explained his conversion.  The Lord appeared to him and told him I am “delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you . . . ”  Implication:  the Lord’s hand protects his servants so they can fulfill their calling.  Presumably, when they finally do, the Lord calls them home.  James had done his job.  Peter had more work to do.

From “ground level”, though, the State seems to have won.  Just ten years after Jesus’ resurrection, one of the twelve apostles has been beheaded.  Despite Peter’s escape, Herod seems obsessed with mutilating the church one member at a time.  However . . .

King Herod’s Death (12:20-23)

One day conducting ordinary kingly business . . .

Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people.  They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”  Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

Church members may be persecuted and suffer real loss.  We may even be martyred.  (Only the Lord knows what awaits us in days of growing gospel persecution.)  But death is the corridor to Jesus.  And eventually, the persecutors become worm food.

The Multiplied Spread of God’s Word (12:24,25).

But the word of God continued to increase and spread.  When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.  When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

Focus on the first sentence.  James has gone to Jesus.  The king got eaten by worms and died a drawn out, painful, humiliating death.  “But”—I love that word in these battles!  “But the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  

Be encouraged.  Be informed.  Regardless of what persecution may come, the State can’t stop the Church of Jesus Christ!

Celebrate that with the video above.  The music style may not be your kind, but the song is ours to sing because of our Lord!

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Many Miracles

O PreacherI’ve often longed for the heady days of the early church–permeated with God’s empowering presence (title of an excellent book by Dr. Gordon Fee–http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Empowering-Presence-Spirit-Letters/dp/0801046211/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452105365&sr=1-1&keywords=god%27s+empowering+presence).  In some circles today, however, the church is filled with practiced productions and unremarkable routines, but nothing remotely close to the miraculous.  With that in mind, here’s a brief look at the early church’s narrative that leads to Sermon 2 of “The Acts Eight”.

After Peter’s Pentecost sermon (http://theoldpreacher.com/not-drunk-like-you-think/), 3,000 were added to the 120 (2:41).  The first mega-church.  A sizable chunk of an estimated Jerusalem population of 50,000.

Wide-Angle View of the Early Church.

In Acts 2:42-47 author Luke writes a wide-angle view–a summary–of the 3,000-member church’s life in the days following Pentecost . .

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (2:42-47).

Here’s a closer look at Luke’s summary to give us a better picture of the church . . .

Devotion. The Greek word translated “devoted” (proskartereo) means they “occupied themselves diligently” with four things . . .

The apostle’s teaching.  They devotedly learned from the apostles Jesus’ teachings.  They learned in order to practice.  They were all disciples.

Fellowship.   They spent considerable time together.  If I catch the sense of text correctly, they didn’t squeeze fellowship into a busy schedule.  Rather, their days centered in their shared life together.  Daily they met in the temple courts.  “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”  This stuns me whenever I read it.  I imagine a family that loses everything due, let’s say, to illness.  Others learn of it.  They don’t give an offering of spare cash; they actually sell possessions, collect the cash and give it to the needy family.  Apparently this was common practice, not a one-time gift.  They devoted themselves to this kind of koinonia (fellowship).

The breaking of bread.  Luke explains in verses 46,47a–“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”  This bread-breaking included joyfully sharing meals together and almost certainly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer.  This devotion probably included “praising God” (2:47a) as well as praying for unbelievers and interceding for each other’s needs.  Whatever form their prayers took, they must have prayed anticipating answers because they knew they prayed to the living Lord.

Signs and wonders.  Not only devotion, but miracles marked the early church.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles (2:43).   The miraculous wasn’t commonplace; nevertheless, many wonders and signs were done by the apostles evoking a reverent fear, a sense of awe before the miracle-working power of the Lord.

Close-Up View of the Early Church.

In 3:1-10 Luke gives us a close-up view of the early church–in particular the wonders and miraculous signs they experienced.  Here it is in my own words . . .

Peter and John were walking to the temple for 3 p.m. prayer time.  (Believers in Jesus Messiah still practiced some of the Jewish worship customs.)  At the gate called “Beautiful” a man crippled from birth was being carried and set down to beg from the temple-goers.  It was how he survived.  Coming toward him he saw his day’s first prospects.  He begged for money.  Instead of rushing past or dropping him a half-shekel, the two looked him straight in the eye and demanded he lift up his head and do the same to them.  He looked, expecting money.  Peter said, “I have no money, but I’ll give you what I do have.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk!”  Peter grabbed the cripple’s hand and helped him up.  Immediately the cripple felt strength in his feet and ankles.  Suddenly he jumped.  Then he began walking around (like we do in the store when trying out a new pair of shoes).  From that moment on, the three became a star attraction.  Peter and john walked toward the temple; but at their side the former life-time cripple kept jumping and praising God.  People couldn’t help but look.  And when they recognized who he was–they pointed at him with mouths hung open in amazement  (from 3:1-10).

The Church Today.

Except for few who may be fearful of being called “charismatic”, who wouldn’t want to see miracles in the church today?  Of course, we can’t make God make miracles. God distributes them according to his will (Hebrews 2:4).  But, humbly and needy, we can pray . . .

Miracle-working God who raised Jesus from the dead,
pour out your Spirit on your people today.
We ask for signs and wonders,
not to entertain us, but to heal our hurts and bind up our wounds.

We beg for your full-of-wonder power,
not to attract spectators but to cause the lost to give ear to your Gospel.
We long to know you, Lord,
not just as a quiet comforter but as a rushing wind of power.
We pray for miracles and gifts of the Spirit, Lord,
not to make a name for ourselves but for the glory of your great name.
We humbly pray in the name of the One
with whom nothing is impossible.  Amen.

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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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End of Tax Write-Off for Tithes?

O Preacher“Christian colleges and churches need to get prepared. We must decide which is more important to us — our tax exemption or our religious convictions”  (Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and chancellor of Patrick Henry College).

“The loss of tax-exempt status would put countless churches and religious institutions out of business, simply because the burden of property taxes and loss of charitable support would cripple their ability to sustain their mission” (Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

What’s this scary scenario all about?   On Tuesday, April 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court began two days of historical oral arguments to decide (in June) the answer to this question:  Can members of the same sex get married?

An ominous moment of truth struck when Justice Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verilli, appearing on behalf of the government, “In the Bob Jones case (more below), the court held that a college was not entitled to tax exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating.  So, would the same apply to a university or college if it opposed same-sex marriage?”  Verilli explained that he would need to know more specifics, but “It’s certainly going to be an issue.  I don’t deny that.”

What about churches?  Colleges, religious high schools, grade schools and any other religious institution will confront the same issue.  All these institutions are tax-exempt under the same IRS code section.  Therefore, the IRS could revoke even local churches’ tax-exempt status.  It might take years to reach that level, but if it starts with Christian colleges, it will almost certainly “trickle down” to the local church.

What’s the connection between same-sex marriage and tax-exemption?  The same connection that existed between Bob Jones University and tax-exemption.  In 1983 the IRS revoked Bob Jones University’s tax exempt status because of its policies on interracial dating and marriage.  BJU’s defense?  The free exercise of religion. The Court rejected the defense, holding that the government’s goal of eradicating racial discrimination in marriage was more important than BJU’s religious rights.  So if the Supreme Court makes same-sex marriage legal nationwide, and a Christian college or grade school refuses to admit same-sex married couples (or children of such a union), the IRS might very well respond as it did to BJU.  That would mean if a local church refuses membership to same-sex couples (or preaches against same-sex marriage), the IRS might very well revoke that church’s tax-exemption.

What’s the big deal if a local church is no longer tax-exempt?  Two “big deals.”  First, while the local church typically doesn’t make a profit (which would be taxable), it does have property.  That means property taxes.  And the more property and building, the more tax.  Most struggle to stay afloat now.

Second, money-givers to the church could no longer deduct what they give.  I doubt any of us thinks as we drop our check in the offering plate, “Here’s another deduction”.  But it sure would jolt us on that good old 1040!   Might be tougher to tithe (or give) faithfully and freely when Uncle Sam offers no credit!

Aren’t we far off from no more tithing-tax-deduction?  Probably.  And it may never come.  Butif our giving were no longer tax-deductible, would we give less?  (Some Christians look a little Scrooge-like at offering time now!  That was back in New Jersey long ago.) And that brings us full-circle to  Michael Farris’ provoking declaration:

“We must decide which is more important to us — our tax exemption or our religious convictions.”

Now is the time!  Since I’m not the pastor now, nobody can accuse me of being money-hungry.  (So what if they do?  Their argument would be with Jesus, not me.)  I want to see SonRise grow stronger and healthier, but I don’t have a horse in this race, as they say.  And I firmly believe that one sign of a church’s spiritual health is the giving of its members.  If the Lord doesn’t have my money, he probably doesn’t have my heart.  Before the tax storm hits (if it will, only the Lord knows) we would be wise to examine our giving.

Some Scriptures to study as we consider all this . . .

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
but lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:16-18).

“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty (Haggai 2:8).

Remember the LORD your God,
for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).

No one can serve two masters,
for either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;
a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).

See that you also excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7).

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will also supply and increase your store of seed
and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way
so that you can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians
9:10,11).

The final quote below isn’t Scripture, but maybe should be.  (I wonder if God regrets not having Paul write this?  Just kidding.)  It’s from martyred missionary Jim Eliott–words we shouldn’t skim but soak in . . .

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gays Included?

P.AllanRecently a Christian friend asked a provocative question: “If churches stop giving to an organization  . . .  because they are allowing gays into that organization to serve, are people not being righteous?  Could a person learn to follow God better or understand his ways better by inclusion rather than exclusion?”

In other words, should the church treat homosexuals like lepers or welcome them as fellow-sinners?  Which action is more likely to help them to trust the good news of God’s gracious, transforming salvation in Christ? 

 A BROADER HOT-BUTTON ISSUE.  My friend’s question hit on a broader hot-button issue.  Read this segment of an article by Elizabeth Dias in the January 15th issue of Time  . . .

If evangelical Christianity is famous for anything in contemporary American politics, it is for its complete opposition to gay marriage. Now, slowly yet undeniably, evangelicals are changing their minds.”  The report describes itself as “a deep dive into the changing allegiances and divides in evangelical churches and communities over homosexuality . . .

This winter, EastLake Community Church outside Seattle is quietly coming out as one of the first evangelical megachurches in the country to support full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people. It is almost impossible to overstate the significance of this move. EastLake is in many ways the quintessential evangelical megachurch–thousands-strong attendance, rock-music worship, Bible-preaching sermons. But pastor Ryan Meeks, 36, is on the front wave of a new choice. “’I refuse to go to a church where my friends who are gay are excluded from Communion or a marriage covenant or the beauty of Christian community,” Meeks tells me. “It is a move of integrity for me—the message of Jesus was a message of wide inclusivity.’

Conversation about gay marriage is no longer seen as an automatic compromise on Biblical authority. Other big-time evangelical pastors like Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek do not go as far as Meeks, but they are talking with congregants and other evangelical leaders about how to navigate the changes they are seeing in their pews. Hybels has been meeting privately for the past year with LGBTQ congregants to learn to better understand their stories. At the Southern Baptist Convention’s three-dayOctober boot camp to train more than 1,300 evangelicals to double down against gay marriage, Stanley met together with both LGBT evangelical advocates and SBC leaders for a closed-door conversation about whether their different views on gay marriage put them outside the faith. Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, has developed a friendship with LGBT activist Ted Trimpa and the Gill Foundation, and they are working together on topics like passing anti-human-trafficking legislation . . .

“For everyone on all sides, the Bible itself is at stake. And, religious change takes decades, centuries even, when it happens at all. But with each passing day it is becoming harder and harder to deny that change is indeed coming. Meeks put it this way: “Every positive reforming movement in church history is first labeled heresy. Evangelicalism is way behind on this. We have a debt to pay.’”

I doubt the facts bear out Dias’ assertion that “slowly yet undeniably, evangelicals are changing their minds [about opposition to gay marriage].” But her article and my friend’s questions and the advance of what we might call “the gay movement” do compel us to ask the question:  How should the church respond to gay people?  Here are a few foundational—certainly not exhaustive—thoughts.

AFFIRM THE SINFULNESS OF HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE.  No credible way to circumvent this.  And we shouldn’t try, despite society’s growing acceptance and state’s legality of gay “marriage.”  Our authority is Scripture, not society.  Leviticus 18 legislates unlawful sexual relations for Old Testament Israel.  “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).  The apostle Paul expands the prohibition to all humanity that knows God through creation’s witness, but doesn’t honor God as God.  “God,” writes Paul, “gave them up to dishonorable passions.  For their woman exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men . . . ” (Romans 1:26,27).  Further, ” . . . men who practice homosexuality” will not inherit God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9,10).

UNDERSTAND ALL HOMOSEXUALS AREN’T MILITANT.  I’m not aware I personally know any homosexuals.  So what I write here comes from what I hope is common sense.  All Muslims aren’t radical extremists.  All Christians don’t spend Saturdays on street corners shouting, “Repent or perish!”  So I think all homosexuals aren’t militant.  They’re not fighting against “traditional” marriage.  They’re not branding every heterosexual “homophobic.”  Some (I think) are just quietly living their lives according to their “natural desires” and wanting the same benefits heterosexuals receive.   (I’m not approving a homosexual lifestyle and more than I would an adulterous.)

OBEY JESUS’ LOVE-COMMANDS.  Evoked by a Jewish lawyer wanting to know how to inherit eternal life, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  When the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, Jesus told the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan.  The punch line paraphrased is this:  “The question isn’t ‘who is my neighbor?’ but ‘are you a neighbor by showing mercy to someone who needs it?'” (Luke 10:27-35).  By stating the “love-your-neighbor” command, Jesus affirmed the validity of Leviticus 19:18 (” . . . love your neighbor as yourself”.)  By telling the parable about a Samaritan “neighboring” a Jew, Jesus extended the “love-your-neighbor” command beyond Israel to all people, even those different from us.

Furthermore, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his hearers, “Love your enemies . . . ” (Matthew 5:44).  So, even if we consider, say, a militant homosexual our enemy, Jesus commands us to love him.  The sign my wife Lois has hanging on our kitchen wall pretty much sums it up:  LOVE EVERYBODY.

SEE HOMOSEXUALS AS ORDINARY PEOPLE.  Some of us are guilty of shutting gay people off in a special sin-category and condemning them from afar.  Apparently God doesn’t do that, since the apostle Paul listed them in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 with more socially-acceptable kinds of sinners.  “Ordinary people” doesn’t imply acceptance of their lifestyle.  “Ordinary people” are all sinners by nature.  In that regard, homosexuals are no different than you or I.  We all need God’s saving grace in Christ.

FIND WAYS TO WELCOME HOMOSEXUAL PEOPLE.  I have no expertise here, not even suggestions.  My only aim is to answer my friend’s question.  Financially supporting an organization in which gays serve can be a thorny issue.  But I can at least say that we are not being righteous to arbitrarily cut that organization off until we know all the facts.  It seems blatantly obvious that a primary way homosexual people will come to know God’s ways if heterosexuals who have come to follow God’s ways include them in love.  Include them how?  I don’t know.

But we must start with our heart loving people as Jesus loved sinners and tax-collectors.  For that, we need grace.  And for that, we should pray.

 

 
 
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