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Obama’s Prayer   Leave a comment

A reader asked that I include the text of Obama’s 2016 Prayer Breakfast speech, so here you go … with my remarks in red. Lela

President Barack Obama receives applauds from first lady Michelle Obama and other guests after speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. President Barack Obama spoke at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Thursday, reiterating respect for religious minorities and contemplating the idea of fear. Also in attendance were first lady Michelle Obama, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and co-chairmen of the event Rep. Rob Aderholt, R-Ala., and Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif. Here is a transcript of the remarks by President Barack Obama at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast, as provided by the White House.

 

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Thank you. (Applause.) You’re very kind. Thank you very much. Well, good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here this morning.

I want to thank everyone who helped organize this breakfast, especially our co-chairs, Robert and Juan, who embody the tradition of friendship, fellowship, and prayer. I will begin with a confession: I have always felt a tinge of guilt motorcading up here at the heart of D.C.’s rush hour. (Laughter.) I suspect that not all the commuters were blessing me as they waited to get to work. (Laughter.) But it’s for a good cause. A National Prayer Brunch doesn’t have the same ring to it. (Laughter.)

And Michelle and I are extremely honored, as always, to be with so many friends, with members of Congress, with faith leaders from across the country and around the world, to be with the Speaker, Leader. I want thank Mark and Roma for their friendship and their extraordinary story, and sharing those inspiring words. Andre, for sharing his remarkable gifts.

And on this occasion, I always enjoy reflecting on a piece of scripture that’s been meaningful to me or otherwise sustained me throughout the year. And lately, I’ve been thinking and praying on a verse from Second Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

As I explained yesterday, this is not the meaning of this Scripture, something simple to discover by a cursory reading of the subject passage in context.

https://aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/12282/

 

We live in extraordinary times. Times of extraordinary change. We’re surrounded by tectonic shifts in technology and in our economy; by destructive conflict, disruptions to our climate. And it all reshapes the way we work and the way we live. It’s all amplified by a media that is unceasing, and that feeds 24/7 on our ever-shrinking attention spans.

And as a student of history, I often remind people that the challenges that we face are not unique; that in fact, the threats of previous eras — civil war or world war or cold war, depressions or famines — those challenges put our own in perspective. Moreover, I believe that our unique strengths as a nation make us better equipped than others to harness this change to work for us, rather than against us.

And yet, the sheer rapidity of change, and the uncertainty that it brings, is real. The hardship of a family trying to make ends meet. Refugees fleeing from a war-torn home. Those things are real. Terrorism, eroding shorelines — those things are real. Even the very progress that humanity has made, the affluence, the stability that so many of us enjoy, far greater prosperity than any previous generation of humanity has experienced, shines a brighter light on those who still struggle, reveal the gap in prospects that exist for the children of the world.

And that gap between want and plenty, it gives us vertigo. It can make us afraid, not only of the possibility that progress will stall (or perhaps that we totally disagree on what is actual progress), but that maybe we have more to lose. And fear does funny things. Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different, or lead us to try to get some sinister “other” under control (or perhaps want to bring the idiot part of our culture under control). Alternatively, fear can lead us to succumb to despair, or paralysis, or cynicism. (And studies are showing that we deeply mistrust government and almost every major institution in the country. I will suggest we are right to feel this way, more so since Obama became President). Fear can feed our most selfish impulses, and erode the bonds of community.

It is a primal emotion — fear — one that we all experience. And it can be contagious, spreading through societies, and through nations. And if we let it consume us, the consequences of that fear can be worse than any outward threat.

For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear. God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear. And what more important moment for that faith than right now? What better time than these changing, tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us towards what matters. (Applause.)

Yes, Mr. President, but Jesus points to matters of faith, not politics.

His love gives us the power to resist fear’s temptations. He gives us the courage to reach out to others across that divide, rather than push people away. He gives us the courage to go against the conventional wisdom and stand up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular. To stand up not just to our enemies but, sometimes, to stand up to our friends. He gives us the fortitude to sacrifice ourselves for a larger cause. Or to make tough decisions knowing that we can only do our best. Less of me, more of God. And then, to have the courage to admit our failings and our sins while pledging to learn from our mistakes and to try to do better.

There’s this great line in The Hiding Place. The Lutheran minister comes to warn the ten Booms that opposing the Nazis is against the Bible. After he leaves, Papa says something derogatory and Corrie tries to correct him. “He’s the pastor,” she said. “No!” Papa says. “Just because you find the mouse in the jar does not mean he’s a cookie.” Obama is using buzz words here. Don’t be fooled!

Certainly, during the course of this enormous privilege to have served as the President of the United States, that’s what faith has done for me. It helps me deal with the common, everyday fears that we all share. The main one I’m feeling right now is that our children grow up too fast. (Laughter.) They’re leaving. (Laughter.) That’s a tough deal. (Laughter.) And so, as a parent, you’re worrying about will some harm befall them, how are they going to manage without you, did you miss some central moment in their lives. Will they call? (Laughter.) Or text? (Laughter.) Each day, we’re fearful that God’s purpose becomes elusive, cloudy. We try to figure out how we fit into his broader plan. They’re universal fears that we have, and my faith helps me to manage those.

And then my faiths helps me to deal with some of the unique elements of my job. As one of the great departed heroes of our age, Nelson Mandela, once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it… The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

And certainly, there are times where I’ve had to repeat that to myself while holding this office. When you hear from a parade of experts, just days after you’re elected, that another Great Depression is a very real possibility — that will get your attention. (Laughter.) When you tell a room full of young cadets that you’ve made a decision to send them into harm’s way, knowing that some of them might not return safely — that’s sobering. When you hold in your arms the mothers and fathers of innocent children gunned down in their classroom — that reminds you there’s evil in the world. And so you come to understand what President Lincoln meant when he said that he’d been driven to his knees by the overwhelming conviction that he had no place else to go.

And so like every President, like every leader, like every person, I’ve known fear. But my faith tells me that I need not fear death; that the acceptance of Christ promises everlasting life and the washing away of sins. (Applause.) If Scripture instructs me to “put on the full armor of God” so that when trouble comes, I’m able to stand, then surely I can face down these temporal setbacks, surely I can battle back doubts, surely I can rouse myself to action.

And should that faith waver, should I lose my way, I have drawn strength not only from a remarkable wife, not only from incredible colleagues and friends, but I have drawn strength from witnessing all across this country and all around this world, good people, of all faiths, who do the Lord’s work each and every day, Who wield that power and love, and sound mind to feed the hungry and heal the sick, to teach our children and welcome the stranger.

Think about the extraordinary work of the congregations and faith communities represented here today. Whether fighting global poverty or working to end the scourge of human trafficking, you are the leaders of what Pope Francis calls “this march of living hope.”

When the Earth cleaves in Haiti, Christians, Sikhs, and other faith groups sent volunteers to distribute aid, tend to the wounded, rebuild homes for the homeless.

When Ebola ravaged West Africa, Jewish, Christian, Muslim groups responded to the outbreak to save lives. And as the news fanned the flames of fear, churches and mosques responded with a powerful rebuke, welcoming survivors into their pews.

When nine worshippers were murdered in a Charleston church basement, it was people of all faiths who came together to wrap a shattered community in love and understanding.

When Syrian refugees seek the sanctuary of our shores, it’s the faithful from synagogues, mosques, temples, and churches who welcome them, the first to offer blankets and food and open their homes. Even now, people of different faiths and beliefs are coming together to help people suffering in Flint.

And then there’s the most — less spectacular, more quiet efforts of congregations all across this country just helping people. Seeing God in others. And we’re driven to do this because we’re driven by the value that so many of our faiths teach us -– I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. As Christians, we do this compelled by the Gospel of Jesus — the command to love God, and love one another.

Of course, Jesus did not say “Go into the world and feed people and stop human trafficking”, but “go into the world and make disciples … teaching them what I have taught you ….”

And so, yes, like every person, there are times where I’m fearful. But my faith and, more importantly, the faith that I’ve seen in so many of you, the God I see in you, that makes me inevitably hopeful about our future. I have seen so many who know that God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us power, and love, and a sound mind.

We see that spirit in people like Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned for no crime other than holding God in his heart. And last year, we prayed that he might be freed. And this year, we give thanks that he is home safe. (Applause.)

We pray for God’s protection for all around the world who are not free to practice their faith, including Christians who are persecuted, or who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence. (Applause.) And just as we call on other countries to respect the rights of religious minorities, we, too, respect the right of every single American to practice their faith freely. (Applause.) (Of course, if you’re the Little Sisters of Jesus, you have to pay for others to murder their babies, in direct violation of your beliefs. If you’re the former owners of Kate’s Cakes, you have lost your business, had every dime of your savings confiscated and are required to go to re-education classes for the simple “crime” of obeying your God’s command to flee sexual immorality). For this is what each of us is called on to do: To seek our common humanity in each other. To make sure our politics and our public discourse reflect that same spirit of love and sound mind. (Okay, hit PAUSE. Who made President Obama the arbiter of what politics or public discourse is actually reflective of the Holy Spirit’s gift of love and a sound mind? After all, the guy who wrote this is also the guy who said “flee sexual immorality”). To assume the best in each other and not just the worst — and not just at the National Prayer Breakfast. To begin each of our works from the shared belief that all of us want what’s good and right for our country and our future. (I don’t actually believe that Obama wants what is best or right for out country’s future. I think he’s fine with most of the country living under tyranny so long as his vision of the national is realized.)

We can draw such strength from the quiet moments of heroism around us every single day. (Unless it’s Jack Phillips quietly saying “No, I won’t do what you want because I choose to obey God rather than man). And so let me close with two such stories that I’ve come to know just over the past week.

A week ago, I spoke at a ceremony held at the Israeli Embassy for the first time, honoring the courage of people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. And one of the recipients was the grandson — or the son of an American soldier who had been captured by the Nazis. So a group of American soldiers are captured, and their captors ordered Jewish POWs to identify themselves. And one sergeant, a Christian named Roddie Edmonds, from Tennessee, ordered all American troops to report alongside them. They lined up in formation, approximately 200 of them, and the Nazi colonel said, “I asked only for the Jewish POWs,” and said, “These can’t all be Jewish.” And Master Sergeant Edmonds stood there and said, “We are all Jews.” And the colonel took out his pistol and held it to the Master Sergeant’s head and said, “Tell me who the Jews are.” And he repeated, “We are all Jews.” And faced with the choice of shooting all those soldiers, the Nazis relented. And so, through his moral clarity, through an act of faith, Sergeant Edmonds saved the lives of his Jewish brothers-in-arms. (Applause.) (And, Edmonds, assuming he’s not a figment of Obama’s speech writers, deserves kudos.)

A second story. Just yesterday, some of you may be aware I visited a mosque in Baltimore to let our Muslim-American brothers and sisters know that they, too, are Americans and welcome here. (Applause.) And there I met a Muslim-American named Rami Nashashibi, who runs a nonprofit working for social change in Chicago. And he forms coalitions with churches and Latino groups and African Americans in this poor neighborhood in Chicago. And he told me how the day after the tragedy in San Bernardino happened, he took his three young children to a playground in the Marquette Park neighborhood, and while they were out, the time came for one of the five daily prayers that are essential to the Muslim tradition. And on any other day, he told me, he would have immediately put his rug out on the grass right there and prayed.

But that day, he paused. He feared any unwelcome attention he might attract to himself and his children. And his seven year-old daughter asked him, “What are you doing, Dad? Isn’t it time to pray?” And he thought of all the times he had told her the story of the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Robert Marx, and 700 other people marched to that very same park, enduring hatred and bigotry, dodging rocks and bottles, and hateful words, in order to challenge Chicago housing segregation, and to ask America to live up to our highest ideals.

And so, at that moment, drawing from the courage of men of different religions, of a different time, Rami refused to teach his children to be afraid. Instead, he taught them to be a part of that legacy of faith and good conscience. “I want them to understand that sometimes faith will be tested,” he told me, “and that we will be asked to show immense courage, like others have before us, to make our city, our country, and our world a better reflection of all our ideals.” And he put down his rug and he prayed. (Applause.) (And nobody challenged him? So this was all in his head and there was no bravery needed. Sorry, but someone needs to point that out. Most of the time, if you aren’t looking for bigotry, you won’t find it.)

Now, those two stories, they give me courage and they give me hope. And they instruct me in my own Christian faith. I can’t imagine a moment in which that young American sergeant expressed his Christianity more profoundly than when, confronted by his own death, he said “We are all Jews.” (Applause.) I can’t imagine a clearer expression of Jesus’s teachings. I can’t imagine a better expression of the peaceful spirit of Islam than when a Muslim father, filled with fear, drew from the example of a Baptist preacher and a Jewish rabbi to teach his children what God demands. (Applause.)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I pray that by His grace, we all find the courage to set such examples in our own lives — not just during this wonderful gathering and fellowship, not just in the public piety that we profess, but in those smaller moments when it’s difficult, when we’re challenged, when we’re angry, when we’re confronted with someone who doesn’t agree with us, when no one is watching. I pray, as Roma* so beautifully said, that our differences ultimately are bridged; that the God that is in each of us comes together, and we don’t divide.

I pray that our leaders will always act with humility and generosity. I pray that my failings are forgiven. I pray that we will uphold our obligation to be good stewards of God’s creation — this beautiful planet. I pray that we will see every single child as our own, each worthy of our love and of our compassion. And I pray we answer Scripture’s call to lift up the vulnerable, and to stand up for justice, and ensure that every human being lives in dignity.

That’s my prayer for this breakfast, and for this country, in the years to come.

May God bless you, and may He continue to bless this country that we love. (Applause.)

Posted February 6, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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Obama’s Bible Manipulation   3 comments

So I’m reading the President’s prayer breakfast speech ….

President Barack Obama receives applauds from first lady Michelle Obama and other guests after speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Yes, reading it because I found a long time ago that Obama is less charming read rather than viewed.

And I decided to post the real text of his subject Biblical passage because … well, verses taken out of context can be manipulated.

Paul the apostle was in prison in Rome, largely abandoned by everybody, when he wrote this letter to Timothy,  his beloved disciple. It would be Paul’s last letter and I think he knew that.

It’s not brave if you’re not scared and I think Paul was terrified. Understanding the situation might have helped President Obama to understand the passage, but it also would have interfered with his manipulation of God’s message.

2 Timothy 1:3 I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and dayAs I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you.

Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. 1:7 For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospelHe is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel! For this gospel was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.

Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

Paul is referring to the gospel, of course — which I’m fairly certain President Obama — based on the entirely of his speech — would find entirely intolerant.

First Noel   1 comment

This is a part of a series. Check it out.

It was probably September when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a tiny backwater town in the shadow of the Herodium – King Herod’s royal palace.

The town overflowed with the descendants of David because Caesar Augustus had decreed a census and the Jews were permanently wedded to their ancestral land — you could sell it for a time, but every 50 years the ownership of it came back to you.

Joseph didn’t have a house there. Contrary to the King James translation of the Bible, there was no inn in Bethlehem as we know inns. There was probably a relative who had a large house where people could sleep on the floor. Maybe Joseph and Mary got there late and there was no more room or maybe at the first pangs of birth, the other guests demanded they leave or at least move to the lower story of the house where the animals lodged in winter. God was looking out for them.

Birth in the 1st century Jewish culture was a ritual nightmare. Blood in general was. A house where there’d been a birth required ritual sanctification, which involved not just the structure, but the people in it. Nobody would have been able to leave for months had Jesus been born upstairs in the human part of the house.

By being born in that lower area, Jesus did not inconvenience the other travelers lodging there, but more, his parents retained their freedom to move about. Because animals were born in stables, they were considered ritually unclean places, so the elaborate sanctification rituals involved in birth were not required and thus, they were not stuck there for months.

What’s more, the humbleness of Jesus’ birth makes it clear to mankind that God does not just deal with the rich and powerful or the special people wearing priestly robes, but with everyone — the shepherds, the truck driver, the fishermen and the maid.

Jesus didn’t come to the pope in his gilded palace, but to you and me in our everyday lives. He didn’t come to shower anyone with wealth or to shift the income of the wealthy to the poor, or to force one racial group to bow to the demands of another racial group.

The Son of God stepped down into history and become the Son of Man so that human beings can have the opportunity to become the sons of God.

Christians in the 21st Century   3 comments

Jesus told Christians to be “in the world, but not of it” and historically, Biblical Christians have exemplified that command. In the 1st century, that caused the Jews to want to kill Christians for disobeying their laws. Rome killed many Christians for refusing to fall in line with neighbors. As the centuries wore on, Christians walked (sometimes singing) into arenas around the Empire to be torn to pieces by wild animals for the entertainment of others. Some people think Christians gave that up when Rome recognized Christianity and then when the Roman Catholic Church became the defacto ruler of the European continent. That’s not exactly true. From time to time, the Roman Catholic Church would rule this or that group “heretics” for refusing to follow the edicts of the “Church”. Some of these groups may well have been heretics as the Bible describes heresy, but many others were simply Bible believing Christians who refused to disobey God in order to obey the Holy Roman Empire.

Today, Christians live in tension between the demands of the world in which they live and the demands of Christian discipleship. I want to examine the point at which obedience to God and obedience to government clash. I hope to offer a method of dealing with the conflict.

In the United States we take it as a matter of course that a good citizen is one who calls the government to account for its actions … unless we agree with those actions and then the person is a terrorist, right?

Christians have been taught that we are to obey the government and that doing so, shows respect for God. When Becky Akers and I were doing our series, we showed that the most relied upon Biblical passage for this (Romans 8) has been misinterpreted for many centuries. That misinterpretation probably grew out of the unholy alliance of church and state that was the Holy Roman Empire, but it also served every denomination that sought to entangle church and state — the Anglican/Episcopalian, the Methodist, the Presbyterian, the Lutheran … all have a history of this.

Notice that I left out one of the largest pan-denominations in the United States — the Baptists. Historically, Baptists come out of the anabaptist tradition and anabaptists have a long history of preaching separation of church and state. That might surprise some people who see men like Mike Huckabee running for president. I don’t really know Huckabee and don’t support him for president, although I doubt seriously that he could do a worse job than the current occupant of the Oval Office or his presumptive successor. That’s not my point in this discussion at all. My point is “What is the role of the Biblical Christian in the 21st Century.”

For me, that starts with examining my spiritual roots and then moves onto what should Christians be doing about our government — if anything — in these trying times. And along the way, we’re going to have some visits from Becky Akers once more.

Yes, because I think anarchists have a lot to teach us Christians about our role in the world. Why? Because anarchism owes some of its existence to anabaptists.

You didn’t know that?

Happy Resurrection Sunday   Leave a comment

Not Easter – a celebration of the goddess Isthar, replete with egg hunts and bunny hops …

Resurrection Sunday – a celebration of the life, ministry, voluntary death and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ the Savior God.

Why Church Discipline?   Leave a comment

What is the purpose of Christians in a church body withdrawing fellowship from the sinning church member?

Are we just judgemental and mean? Do we think we are better than them? Is it an act of revenge toward those who have fallen from the faith? Doesn’t it show a haughty or malevolent attitude?

No!

Well, if done right, no! NO! NO!

The Scriptures suggest that church discipline serves both a corrective and a protective function.

First, discipline is designed to save the erring child of God. If I seem to return to the church in Corinth a lot it is because we have one of the best examples of church discipline there. Paul demanded that the Corinthian fornicator be disfellowshipped so that he might be motivated to destroy “the flesh.”

What does that mean? Well, it’s pretty clear that Paul didn’t advocate suicide or stoning, because we know from 2 Corinthians that the sinner repented and Paul said to refellowship him. “Destroying the flesh” didn’t involve death, so it’s can reasonably be assumed it mean setting aside (turning from) his ungodly fleshly passion so that “his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Discipline is designed to “gain” the wayward (Matthew 18:15), to make him “ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:14), so that he would seek be restored (Galatians 6:1).

The church at Corinth was reluctant to do this. They apparently were proud of their forgiving attitude and Paul had to be rather harsh with them before they finally did withdraw from the sensuous offender. Their action brought him to repentance, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:6.

Discipline is not merely for the welfare of the rebel. It is also for the protection of the church. When Paul admonished the congregation at Corinth to take care of the problem of the immoral brother, he warned: “Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6). If you’ve ever baked bread, you’re familiar with the concept, but in our modern age, so few people bake bread that I find this medical example easier for them to grasp. the church as a whole is affected by the sin of the individual because the church is like an organic body that can be affected by disease in a single cell.

Sin in the church is as cancer in the body.

Paul dealt with it in other churches as well. In Romans 16:17, he declared that those who cause divisions and occasions of stumbling “by their smooth and fair speech beguile the hearts of the innocent”. Two false teachers in the early church, Hymenaeus and Alexander, had made reflected badly on the faith, so Paul “delivered [them] unto Satan. ” He disfellowshipped them (1 Timothy 1:19-20; 1 Corinthians 5:5) for the welfare of the brethren. False teaching, if allowed to go unchecked within the body of Christ, can eat like a cancer and cause the faith of some to be overthrown (2 Timothy 2:16-18).

Discipline is also important in preserving the integrity of the church before the eyes of the world. Society has enough bias against us without having the legitimate complaint that we harbor evil within our fellowship. We should never give occasion to the adversary for reviling (1 Timothy 5:14). Had the Catholic church disfellowshipped some priests who were sinning, the churches under that denomination might not have been the center of a firestorm. It is imperative that the conduct of the church be such that “the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1), and that the way of truth not be called “evil” (2 Peter 2:2). Note that it wasn’t just Paul who urged church discipline. Peter did as well.

What attitudes or conduct warrants the extreme measure of withdrawing fellowship? The Bible addresses this matter in several ways.

  • A brother who has sinned against another, but who refuses to repent of his transgression, could ultimately be disfellowshipped (Matthew 18:15-17).
  • Those who cause occasions of stumbling and who initiate division are proper subjects for church discipline (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10).
  • Those who are practitioners of such sins as fornication, covetousness, extortion, idolatry, drunkenness, reviling, etc., could certainly be candidates (1 Corinthians 5:9ff).
  • Advocates of soul-threatening doctrines must not be allowed to continue in open fellowship with the church (1 Timothy 1:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:16-18).
  • Those who walk “disorderly” are to be refused association by the faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Wait!

What is disorderly conduct?

There’s historical evidence to suggest that this may be talking about those who simply grow weary of the Christian life and decide to “resign” from the church. When approached about their neglect, and warned of possible discipline, they raise a voice of protest, claiming: “What am I doing that is wrong? I am not committing adultery; I am not a drunkard. The church cannot withdraw from me.” An appropriate response would be: “Are you faithfully serving God? Do you meet with your brethren to sing, pray, observe the Lord’s supper, etc.? What would be the fate of the family of God if every member were at liberty to do as you have done?” Spiritual neglect is disorderly conduct which may require a response of discipline. Whether that would be a thorough going disfellowshipping may be up for debate, but discipline itself should not be.

A person’s disposition is frequently the determining factor for when, or whether, withdrawal of fellowship is appropriate. Wise church leadership would not hastily disfellowship a sincere Christian who, through weakness, had fallen into a sinful situation. If the offender demonstrates humility and a genuine effort to overcome the problem, patience and forebearance would be indicated. On the other hand, a surly, rebellious attitude would require a swifter and more drastic response.

This is where faithful elders come in. I’m not just talking about pastors, but actual elders in the church who have been involved a long time and exercise some form of social supervision. Every church ought to have a body of wisdom such as this. These elders would need to make it known that if a person wants to identify with the congregation over which they exercise supervision, these Christians will be expected to live rightly, assuming a healthy responsibility in the areas of Christian growth and service. Lack of responsibility for one’s own discipline would require some form of church discipline.

This isn’t done very much any more, which is why we Christians need to discuss it and start structuring our churches to move in this direction. First, congregations would need to develop eldership — which does exist in many churches. In every congregation where qualified elders serve, these men and women (yes, I believe women can be elders and mentors within the congregation) would lead the church in the withdrawal of fellowship from the unfaithful. This shouldn’t be done behind closed doors by some privy council, but as an activity of the entire church. I’ve only seen it done once where a formalized procedure was enacted in the public assembly … and, yes, the sinning Christian repented … eventually.

Misconception of Hell Part 1   7 comments

Far too often,we human beings try to redesign God in our image. One way we do that is by misinterpreting His communication with us — the Bible.

Take the concept of Hell.

The Bible describes “hell” as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Where did the idea of hell as a place of fire and brimstone come from? Revelation 21:8 talks about a burning lake of fire where the antiChrist will be thrown in the end times and Genesis 19 describes fire and brimstone destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Preachers for centuries have riffed off that imagery for its effect, but neither image is really a description of hell.

The word the Bible uses to describe hell “Gehenna” comes from a valley adjacent to Jerusalem where the Jews (under kings Ahaz and Manasseh) sacrificed their children to the god Molech. In Jesus’ day it was a nasty place of constant fires used to burn refuse and the bodies of criminals. When Jesus used the word Gehenna, He was speaking of the city dump of all eternity. Fire was a part of it, but the emphasis was really on separation and loss.

The New Testament provides varied descriptions of hell — fire, a bottomless pit, a burning lake, darkness, death, destruction, everlasting torment, a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, a gradation of punishment. The variety of descriptions argues against applying a literal interpretation of any particular one. For example, in a place of absolute darkness, does fire emit light? Fire consumes, but the people who would provide the fuel are never consumed. The concept of graduation of punishment is also something to consider. Does Hitler’s part of the fire burn more painfully than the part inhabited by an honest pagan? Does he fall more rapidly into the abyss than the pagan? Is utter darkness darker for Hitler? Does he wail and gnash more loudly than others?

Although you have to be careful of assigning a symbolic status to God’s word, the images of torment in hell appear to be a metaphor and not a literal burning fire in eternal darkness. The symbolic nature does not lessen hell’s potency. On the contrary, their combined effect describes a hell that is worse than death, darker than darkness, and deeper than any abyss. Hell is a place with more wailing and gnashing of teeth than any single description can portray. It is a place that exceeds our capacity to imagine and describe in human language.

Crucial Differences   3 comments

An acquaintance, Afshin Ziafat, was raised a faithful Muslim in the United States and accepted Jesus as Savior as a senior in high school. He tells the story of how during a basketball game in a public high school, he said “Jesus Christ” to express his frustration at what might have been an illegal check. One of the other players shot back “Stop! That’s my Savior you’re dragging through your foul mouth.” Afshin shot back “You mean, your prophet.” And, the other student said “No, I mean my Savior and my God.” Ashin demanded to know where he’d gotten that idea and the other student said “The Bible.”

God touches people when they are ready for His touch and that set Afshin on about a year-long search for proof that Jesus was nothing more than a prophet and that his classmate (or his classmate’s religion) was making it up. Instead, he convinced himself that Jesus Christ is Savior and God. His wealthy father disowned him and he had many other struggles because of this life-changing event, but he is still a faithful Christian with an international ministry to Muslims.

Afshin learned something that the atheist in this video has not.  There is a substantial difference between faiths. While this woman would like to lump all religions together, they are not the same. There are huge differences between Islam and Biblical Christianity, between Hinduism and Biblical Christianity, between various Christian-like cults and Biblical Christianity and, for that matter, between “Christianity” and Biblical Christianity.

And, those difference matter!

Let’s start off with very basic differences between Islam and Biblical Christianity.

The God of the Bible is not Allah and Allah is not the God of the Bible.

The Qur’an describes Allah as a vengeful, angry god who demands the total obedience of his followers and even then, they may not make it into paradise. “Allah is a long way away and you do good deeds in hope of getting closer to Allah, and hope for the best,” Afshin says. “If Allah wills, you go to paradise, but you never know.”

Allah offers no peace, even for the faithful Muslim. Good deeds don’t guarantee a ticket to paradise, but even asking questions about confusing ideas in the Qur’an could, because Muslims are not allowed to question Allah, who is a far distant god, a being to be feared, who is always ready to punish wrongdoers.

Contrast that with the God of the Bible. NOTE: I said the God of the Bible, not the Christian God. Many sects have redefined God in their own image, but the God of the Bible is still discoverable through that book.

God created the universe and the first man and woman as an act of love and He immediately sought a relationship with them in a world that provided all that they needed for life.

Adam and Eve chose to alienate themselves from God, with tragic results, because the one thing we need for life more than the garden could provide is Him. We are the inheritors of that choice to violate the human-divine relationship. It means we sin (disobey God) and it means that we can never be good enough to reestablish that lost relationship throughout our own power. Fortunately, what we cannot do, God can.

The Old Testament foretold a Messiah who would come to bless mankind. That Messiah is Jesus Christ! God took on human flesh to step down into our messy world, live and die to restore that relationship. God as Jesus offers peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. Those who have asked Christ for forgiveness have agreed to restore that relationship and share His message of restoration and peace. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). When Christians share the gospel, we are speaking for Christ, Who is giving you every opportunity to restore that relationship.

The most awesome truth in the world is that while all people have sinned, God still loves us so much that He personally make it possible for us to be forgiven so that we can have a relationship with Him. While Allah is distant and angry, the God of the Bible is personal and loving.

But, unlike Islam (and some other isms), God does not force anyone to come to Him who does not want to come to Him. It is your choice to reestablish that relationship. Biblical Christians can tell you about the gift of salvation, but they cannot (nor should they) force you to accept. God can love you and provide you with the door way to a restored relationship, but He will not force you to walk through it. It’s always your own decision.

While Islam is a religion that involves doing things, saying prayers, keeping rituals in the uncertain hope of appeasing an angry god, Biblical Christian faith is a restored relationship with a loving, forgiving God Who says that once you’ve entered that relationship you will always be restored, even if you are not always the ideal Christian.

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