Archbishop of Canterbury adviser warns College of Bishops ‘decisions have to be made’ on same-sex weddings

Canon David Porter has warned that decisions need to be made

By Nick Duffy
PINK News
http://www.pinknews.co.uk
Sept. 2014

An adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned Bishops that “decisions will have to be made” on the Church’s approach to same-sex marriage.

The College of Bishops is meeting this week to have “shared conversations” about the Church’s approach to sexuality and same-sex couples.

The long-awaited Pilling Report recommended last year that the church adopt a more conciliatory approach to same-sex couples, but the House of Bishops refused to back formal blessings for marriages, and forbade gay clergy from marrying.

Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, today warned Bishops ahead of this week’s meeting that a final decision cannot be stalled forever.

He said: “For me the ideal outcome will be that people will be able to articulate with a measure of empathy the views of others that they don’t agree with.

“When we get to the process beyond the shared conversations, decisions will have to be made, because we can’t leave it in this space forever.

“The way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ.

“Even though we disagree, we are going to do that in a way that reflects that reality as much as the reality of our convictions on these issues.”

Reverend Michael Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, added: “There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations about hidden agendas.

“I hope that we’ve unpacked that sufficiently in the light of Pilling indeed to show that that isn’t the case. There’s a lot of reassurance that says this is what it says on the tin and it’s not something hidden.”

END

Are Pro-Gay Evangelicals out to destroy Christianity?

Are Pro-Gay Evangelicals out to destroy Christianity?

NEWS ANALYSIS

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
Sept. 2014

It is no surprise that the all-pervasive secular culture — fed in large part by Hollywood — is working against the Christian faith. Day in and day out mass media is working to destroy Christian moral values while exalting fornication, adultery and homosexuality, and painting those who should come down with a nasty death-affirming disease as victims of homophobia.

The inroads into the churches has been nothing short of a blitzkrieg and catastrophic working to bring about compromise watering down the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” While the pressure on the church to capitulate is what one might expect, Jesus and the apostles warned this might happen. There are some 44 verses about compromise in Scripture. Jesus in Matthew 6:24 says “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” (or anything else including sex).

What is more surprising is when Christians, particularly evangelicals who should know better, capitulate in the face of contemporary cultural changes. One can only stand in shock at the reckless abandonment of truth especially in the explosive area of human sexuality. Satan is having a field day with Christians. It is hard to watch as liberal Protestant denominations slowly collapse in the face of a virulent homo fascism. Now a growing number of evangelical churches and their leaders are doing so as well.

Many times this comes from evangelical pop stars, the most recent being when Christian singer Vicky Beeching who disclosed a self-affirmed identity as a lesbian in an extensive interview with the British newspaper “The Independent” (“Vicky Beeching, Christian rock star ‘I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am”). She happily used the media to the fullest to attack the historic Christian stance on a male-female foundation for marriage. On her webpage she now has a whole section devoted to her “Coming Out” which provides over seventy links to media “covering Vicky’s coming out story” for the dates Aug. 14 -21.

Satan and his minions must have openly rejoiced at her “outing” as she sought to destroy the church from within along with its core teachings on male/female sexuality.

Now a group calling itself Evangelicals for Marriage Equality made a public pronouncement for an initiative for Evangelicals to support civil marriage equality in TIME magazine via an article written by someone calling himself Brandan Robertson.

Robertson, calling himself an evangelical Christian and affirming his belief that the Bible is God’s word, said he also believed that LGBT men and women should enjoy the same right to civil marriage as any other couple. “For many evangelicals, these statements are mutually exclusive. But they don’t have to be,” he said. Really.

“That is why I am joining forces with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, a new initiative launching Tuesday that seeks to change the hearts and minds of evangelicals about civil marriage equality,” writes Robertson.

EME is the first organization of its kind that is specifically focused on creating conversations within evangelical churches, colleges, and institutions to help dispel myths about marriage equality and stake out a middle ground for young evangelicals in this contentious debate. It was founded by two young, straight evangelicals –Josh Dickson and Michael Saltsman–who grew up in the church and have an appreciation for both its strengths and its weaknesses.

“As spokesperson for the organization, I represent a growing number of millennial evangelicals that believes it’s possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality.”

According to data from the Public Religion Research Institute, evangelicals register the lowest level of support for same-sex marriage of any religious denomination. As of 2013, just 27 percent of his fellow churchgoers were proponents of marriage equality.

Within this topline statistic, there’s considerable generational diversity. For instance, 43 percent of evangelicals in the 18-to 33-year-old demographic support marriage equality. Even among Generation X adults aged 34 to 48, marriage equality support stands at 33 percent.

“Since I began my journey of faith as an evangelical Christian at the age of twelve, I have seen the many sides of this thorny topic. I once was strongly opposed to marriage equality, even to the point of preaching in the streets of Baltimore with my church youth group about the dangers of legalizing same-sex marriage.

“But as I dug deeper into studying the Bible and became friends with many of my LGBT peers, I began to struggle with the clear call of Jesus to love my neighbor and my evangelical community’s insistence that I oppose marriage equality for my gay and lesbian friends.”

Robertson rolls out the old saw that he now understands that Jesus taught that the way we are to change the world is through love, justice, and the proclamation of the Gospel. “But the Church seemed to believe that, on this issue, the faithful pattern was to stand against gay and lesbians rights to be civilly married under the law.”

This is the thin end of the wedge.

Are evangelicals who support civil marriage for same-sex couples watering down their faith to adapt to secular society? Not at all. Instead, we’re making a distinction between theology and politics, says Robertson.

Not true. First of all, sex is not a right, gay or straight. Sex is a gift, given to some, withheld from others. Nowhere in Scripture is it suggested that there is an alternative to sex in marriage between a man and a woman. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his book on Christian Behavior, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Robertson, therefore, is dead wrong.

“Many evangelicals believe the Bible describes same-sex relationships as sinful; others disagree. Regardless of whether we believe that God views these relationship or sinful or not, our particular Christian definition of marriage shouldn’t dictate the definition of marriage in a pluralistic and religiously diverse society such as ours,” writes Robertson.

But the mere acceptance of same-sex sex, because we live in a pluralistic and religiously diverse society such as ours, is not remotely a reason to change the definition of marriage. This is the triumph of culture over Scripture. Robertson has tumbled over the abyss.

Robertson goes on to say that “people of Good News” (which is what “evangelical” means) have become bearers of harsh proclamations and black-and-white judgments, more in love with politics than with people.

Wrong again. Evangelicals have not politicized this issue; religious and secular pansexualists have done so by persuading a US president along with a majority of secular institutions and corporations of the rightness of same sex civil unions. Revisionist and liberal “Christians” like Episcopal layman Dr. Louie Crew and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson have brokered sodomy into the Episcopal Church. Evangelicals (except for Westboro Baptist Church of “God hates fags” fame) have consistently said the behavior is wrong…love the sinner, hate the sin.

True Evangelicals, a number of whom are ex-gays who have suffered from same-sex attractions have changed, gone straight, married and had children, are regularly vilified by the gay community for promoting the notion change is possible, something Robertson does not address in his riff on why evangelicals should accept civil unions.

The “judgments” have come from the other side, not ours. Most evangelicals feel beaten down about the issue. Some people like the wife of evangelist Dr. Tony Campolo openly embrace gaydom.

Robertson says this, “Proponents of marriage equality aren’t blameless, either. One reason it’s so difficult for evangelicals to have honest conversations about this issue is that they’ve risked the “bigot” label if they express their struggles and doubts. Evangelicals and their critics alike should agree that name-calling and a hostile posture aren’t conducive to respectful and productive dialogue.”

“Bigot” doesn’t touch what true evangelicals experience on a daily basis. This reporter has been called everything in the book from homophobe, uninclusive, lacking diversity, bigot, hate-monger, and much more.

Religious freedom in America now means that evangelicals can have their businesses ripped from them if they don’t bake cakes for gay marriages, or provide abortifacents for employees, and called all manner of names for daring to say, however graciously, that sodomy is wrong. That is now forbidden as hate speech.

If Robertson thinks that evangelicals must now roll over and accept civil marriage equality as an overflow of our love for our lesbian and gay neighbors, he is promoting a misplaced compassion and a false understanding of human sexuality.

There are good reasons why the seven Scriptures condemning sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman are there for our edification and learning. They are there to protect marriage and the very fabric of what we call Western Civilization.

When we destroy that, we will destroy ourselves. As C.S. Lewis rightly noted, “Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices.”

As one commentator put it, “The Word of God must always trump trendy lefty social issues and anti-biblical agendas.”

We, who are Evangelicals, must remain faithful to our beliefs or suffer the consequences personally, societally, generationally and ultimately face the judgment of God.

END

Anglican Identity

Fr. Van McCalister

 

Are you a victim of identity theft?  Most Anglicans are.  Well, if not identity theft, certainly identity confusion.angliidentity

We hear questions like: Are you Catholic?  Do you have a pope?  Are you Protestant?  Weren’t you founded by King Henry the VIIIth?  (That’s embarrassing!)

Unfortunately, we have accepted some misleading labels that get us off to a bad start.  So, let’s get our identity back!

Are Anglicans Catholic?  Yes, we are.  But we are not Roman Catholic.  Our bishops have been consecrated within the unbroken line of apostolic succession from the apostles to the present, along with the bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore our identity as a Catholic Church is as legitimate as that of the Roman Catholic Church.  For Anglicans, being Catholic means being faithful to the catholicity of the Early Church before the denominational divisions, and the medieval corruptions born out of political interests.

Do Anglicans have a pope? No. The early undivided Catholic Church made decisions through councils where bishops and others met to seek God’s direction over matters of faith, through prayer and debate. For example, the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon, which have defined Trinitarian doctrine and the nature of Christ for nearly 1700 years, were the products of Church Councils. During those early centuries the Bishop of Rome was known as “the first among equals” – certainly someone who deserved much respect, but still only a bishop among fellow bishops. Prior to the Great Schism of 1054, the Emperor called the early Ecumenical Councils together and presided over them. The Emperor sought the advice of the Bishop of Rome, who in turn presided over lesser councils and synods to resolve theological and ecclesiastical issues. It is noteworthy that the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) did not have broad unilateral authority during the early centuries of the Church. Anglicanism follows a similar pattern, where an archbishop will preside over councils, but he is still simply a bishop among a college of bishops. The archbishop’s authority allows him to call the College of Bishops together, to introduce an agenda, and to preside over the meetings, but he does not have unilateral authority to introduce or revise matters of Faith and Doctrine.

Are Anglicans Protestant?  Not really.  Anglicans were among those who protested the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation Movement of the 1500s and later.  However, none of the Christian denominations are now what they were in the 1500s. So, the label “Protestant” is not very helpful.  Since then, “Protestant” has come to mean “churches that are not Catholic” because few Christian denominations are still protesting the Roman Catholic Church.  So, if by “Protestant” one means “not Catholic” then Anglicans are not really Protestants.  At least, certainly not in the way other denominations are Protestant.  The difference between Anglicans and Protestants is most apparent by the fact that Anglicans were the only group of protesting Christians within the Reformation Movement who maintained the ancient Catholic Liturgy and continued the ministration of the seven Sacraments.  As you can imagine, the “Protestant” label and the “Catholic” label carry a variety of implications depending on the context.

Weren’t Anglicans founded by Henry the VIII?  No.  The Church was founded by Christ on Pentecost.  During the Reformation Movement, a number of people risked their lives and gave up their lives to reform the Church in England during those tumultuous years.  Henry the VIII simply provided an opportunity to carry out those reforms.  To diminish the sacrifice of those English martyrs by attributing their faith to the political whims of King Henry is a travesty.  The fact that Anglicanism has no such visible founder as Luther, Calvin or Knox is a testimony to the desire of the Anglican reformers to restore the doctrine and practices of the Early Church in England.  This is why you will find no Anglican Creed.  Our only Doctrine is Holy Scripture.  Our only Creeds are the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

Finally, the most important aspect of our identity is that we are followers of Jesus.

“In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect . . .”    Saint Peter

Re-creating Campus Ministry

Author:

Gordon Govier

(Madison, WI) – The California State University (CSU) system has issued a nondiscrimination policy that requires InterVarsity to allow non-Christians to be chapter leaders. InterVarsity has always required chapter leaders to agree to our Doctrinal Basis, a summary of basic, historic Christian beliefs. While InterVarsity invites and welcomes all students as participants, we believe a Christian group should have the right to expect and even require their leaders to be Christian—just as any student group, club or Greek organization should be able to require their leaders to be like-minded.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is now developing a new style of campus ministry on CSU campuses where we have been banned from participating in campus life as a recognized student organization. In order to maintain a ministry presence with 23 chapters on 19 CSU campuses, InterVarsity is introducing creative new ways to connect with students and share the gospel message—though doing so as an “unrecognized” student group will prove considerably more costly.

Because we are no longer allowed to participate in campus organization fairs, InterVarsity will make contact with students by deploying new tools such as mobile banner stands, interactive displays, social media, and other techniques that don’t rely on established campus structures.

“Our campus access challenges give this generation of students an opportunity to reinvent campus ministry,” said Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s National Field Director. “Even as we use new tools and techniques, we remind students that effective ministry is ultimately relational. It’s about students inviting other students to follow Jesus.”

Building on Success

On most of the 616 college campuses across the U.S where InterVarsity has 949 chapters, our student ministry work will continue as it has for more than seven decades. Overall our annual reports from staff indicate that InterVarsity is sharing the gospel message with more students and faculty than at any other time in our 73-year history.

During the 2013-2014 school year, 40,299 core students and faculty were actively involved with InterVarsity across the country, our highest participation rate ever. People professing faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for the first time numbered 3,517, almost double the same number from 10 years ago. Approximately 50 percent of students active in our chapters are members of ethnic minority groups, in California the number is closer to 70 percent.

Students from every conceivable background still come to college seeking answers to life’s larger questions in order to find meaning and significance. And InterVarsity is committed to sharing with them the message of the gospel, a message that has been revolutionizing lives for 2,000 years.

About InterVarsity

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA has been active on U.S. college and university campuses for more than 73 years. InterVarsity is affiliated with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), and is a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

For more information:

Gordon Govier
608/443-3688
ggovier@intervarsity.org

Out of Kurdistan

Author:

Jerry Kramer

“Tell the world of our suffering! You might not have luck with the White House. But tell the Christians in America!”

Dearest Praying Friends, We are safely in Istanbul. Thank you to all who prayed and gave so generously. Yesterday was a bit hairy, we came within a few miles of ISIS and the fighting. We began our journey early in the morning and arrived here at 3am.

Right now we’re processing all that we saw and experienced firsthand. Honestly, we don’t have the words at the moment. The suffering is so immense. The magnitude of the disaster is beyond comprehension.

Christians were given 48 hours to leave their homes. Some paid to stay or converted to Islam. They were all crucified, beheaded or shot. Those who left were stripped of all their possessions, allowed to leave with only the clothes on their backs. Now they have absolutely nothing and cannot return home. Isis has destroyed their villages and placed landmines all around.

“The Americans are here! I told my people you would come! I told them! You believe in God. We believe in God! Americans no afraid die. This is a BIG encouragement for my little people.” — Mayor of Hawrysk

The Christians are not in camps. They have scattered to villages and family all across the region. The average village is overflowing with refugees. They need food. They have no clothes. They need heaters and cookers. It will soon be bitter cold. Relief is NOT getting to them.

These people are in total shock. They have lost everything. They want to go home and can’t. Some were betrayed by their Muslim neighbours with whom they lived for generations. Their neighbours called in ISIS, giving their location away, to come and exterminate them. The hurt runs very deep. If you hug a refugee for more than 3 seconds, they break down and cry.

“Why save us from the mountains and villages just to starve to death now?”

What can we do? We can love the one in front of us. If “Christians” in America — just a small percentage of us — would love one refugee family, we could help them all. If churches will actually care and do something, we can bring light to the darkness, alleviate horrific suffering and advance the Kingdom in this region.

The crisis is so massive that one organisation is not going to get it done. No chance. It’s going to take a network of small front line relief operations. We’ve learned from our Katrina experience that small, grassroots is always better. Also, it’s ideal to support the local Church in its ministry. Help them help themselves and their communities. In this way we are pouring into the local Church for the long term.

Right now the people are OPEN to the Gospel!!! Even in the midst of this incredible suffering, God is moving. The pastors are united like never before. God is appearing to the Muslims in dreams and visions. The displaced Christians have more boldness and are caring for Muslims and Yazidi with the little they have!

We are partnering with a group of local pastors who are working directly in the packed, suffering villages. $50 will feed a family for a month. $50 will buy a kerosene heater and cooker. They are desperate for clothes, especially winter clothes. The children need schools. $3,000 will build a house for a family: How many can your church build?

We delivered every penny you sent over with us. Heaters/Cookers and Arabic Bibles were provided for the refuges. And we put on an early Christmas celebration for the children of one village. We were also able to pray for and comfort many.

We are eager to tell the story in the U.S and then return as soon as possible. Our plan is to locate ourselves in one of the villages — about six miles from the Mosul Dam — and work with the emerging local Church network.  We will help on the front lines with this effort if you are willing to join us in what God is doing. Love One.

If you’d like more details, please contact us directly. We can connect you directly to what God is doing through His people on the front-lines.  We can provide photos. We can provide names of families and their details. Please share this! Rally your friends. GET YOUR CHURCH INVOLVED! We need to act as a Body . . . NOW! Be a CHAMPION! We need you to speak for them and rally the Church for them!!!

Love looks like something.  What does it look like from YOU to THEM? Please . . . we are on our knees begging for them.

And pray for the broken Body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in their time of need.

In His Love for the Least,
jerry+ and Stacy

‘The Blasphemy Challenge’ Tempts Teens To Curse God

blasphemy challenge

Alex McFarland

Though only 17, high school senior Perri Frost has met more than her share of atheists and agnostics. For several years she has been reaching out to fellow teens who are skeptics, including some who post videos on the internet insulting God.

“Some of the teens who seem most hostile toward God are the same ones who emphasize that they are rational thinkers,” she says. “It seems odd to want to insult Someone who supposedly isn’t there.”

Regarding the videos, Frost is referring to “The Blasphemy Challenge,” an Internet-related activity that encourages people to post a clip of themselves cursing God or renouncing the Holy Spirit’s work in their life. The more brazen clips include assertions that the person willingly accepts the consequences this action (including hell) incurs should it turn out that God does exist.

Blasphemy-challenge promoters make no secret of their desire to promote atheism among teens. One website offered to send a free DVD documentary against Christianity to teens who post a video rejection of God online. One of the project’s organizers told Fox News, “It (the blasphemy challenge) exposes the crock that is Christian doctrine.”

Some Needed Clarifications

Online atheists base their so-called “blasphemy challenge” on Scriptures such as Mark 3:29 in which Jesus says, “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (ESV). On the basis of this Scripture, some atheists fault God for apparently being unable or unwilling to forgive this specific sin.

But what exactly is blasphemy? Are there unforgivable or unpardonable sins? How does one know whether or not they have “crossed the line” and passed beyond the point of God’s forgiveness?

Biblical examples of blasphemy imply irreverence or slander against God. But the term also means, “to spurn.” The Scriptures alluding to “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” imply a two-fold indictment against the leaders who personally encountered Jesus while He was here on Earth: They refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, plus they accused Him of being empowered by Satan. To say the least, they spurned Jesus.

Considering the Context

Barry Leventhal, Ph.D., is director the Jewish studies program at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Regarding passages that deal with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Leventhal states, “There is a difference between an unpardonable sin, and the unpardonable sin. The sin which ultimately places a person beyond God’s forgiveness is to live and die in the act of unbelief. That is, to reject Christ.”

Most scholars agree that Jesus’ ominous warnings about “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” represent a situation unique to the time that Christ was on Earth. Leventhal explains, “Jesus had presented Himself as Messiah to the Jewish leaders. With irrefutable evidence, He had done everything necessary to validate who He was.”

Because the religious leaders were intimately familiar with all of the Old Testament Scriptures—and because the incarnate Lord was right in front of them—these particular Jewish leaders had been entrusted with an unparalleled amount of revelation. “For them to stubbornly maintain that posture of unbelief and then to attribute Christ’s work to the devil—this rejection of God’s overtures was the inexcusable, unpardonable, “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” Leventhal explained.

Could a Christian Commit the Unpardonable Sin?

Some Christians struggle with a nagging fear that they may have committed an unforgivable sin. Verses like 1 John 1:9 reminds us that when people come to God in repentance and faith, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Rom. 8:1 assures believers: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus taught that part of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world would be to reveal to people their sinfulness and need for salvation (John 16). A healthy concern about sin evidences the fact that the Holy Spirit is still at work in a person’s life. To feel contrite about sin is proof that one hasn’t committed something unpardonable.

Effective Witness in an Age of Doubt

Interestingly, the taunts of blasphemy-challenge videos are directed almost exclusively at the God of Christianity.

“The online atheists and teens who are into the blasphemy challenge are almost exclusively opposed to Christianity,” says Frost. “There are almost no complaints against other faiths. Virtually all of the atheists rail against Christianity only.”

The rise of spiritual skepticism and outright blasphemy are vivid reminders that Christians must strive to be authentic. After listing the spiritual qualities that ought to be tangibly present in a Christian’s life, Gal. 5:23 says that “against such things there is no law.” In other words, “it can’t be argued against.” The blasphemy of an unbelieving world is tangibly answered by a testimony of Christ-likeness on the part of God’s people.
Read more at http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/2014/September12/125.html#ahCQQ2VU5SYv3TbD.99

WALKING IN THE LIGHT: 1 John 1:5-2:2

By Ted Schroder,
Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church, Anderson, SC writes, The reality is that every person we lock eyes with on Sunday morning (including the person we saw in the mirror this morning) needs grace. Before the service even starts, we’ve all most likely messed something up, lost our temper over a minor issue, or said something we regret. However, when people sit in church pews, the atmosphere isn’t usually conducive to people admitting they have a problem and asking for help. Instead, everyone tries to appear as perfect as possible.

Somehow the perception is that church is for perfect people, for people who have it all together, for people who aren’t overwhelmed by their circumstances. Instead of seeing the church as a place to repent of our brokenness and get support in our weakness, we’ve gotten good at covering up our messes. And even though our lives aren’t perfect and things may not be holding together, we’ve been taught to pretend we’re great, to “fake it till we make it.”…

When someone decides they simply can’t live with the pressure of appearing to be perfect, they drop out of church altogether. They know they’ll never measure up to the perfection club, so they stop trying.
Somehow church has become a place where we don’t want to hear about real issues or relevant struggles or sins we’ve been dealing with all week long. (Perry Noble, Overwhelmed, Winning the War Against Worry, p.30f.)

I can remember sharing with two friends, who were leaders in our church in Texas, the pain we were experiencing with our teenagers at the time and looking to them for support and encouragement. They did not want to hear about our problems. They wanted our family life to be perfect. We could not be real with them about our struggles as parents. As a result we felt isolated. We could not leave the church because I was the pastor! St. John faced a different situation. People were leaving his church because they felt they were more perfect than others. They did not want to hear about their own shortcomings, their own sin. They did not want to admit that they had a problem and needed help. They were covering up and pretending they were great. St. John claimed that this analysis of their condition could not stand up to the light of the Gospel.

The message of Christianity is that, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” God, who has appeared to us in Jesus Christ is light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). That means that God is good, pure, true and holy. God is opposed to spiritual forces that are full of darkness, who are evil and false. If you claim to have fellowship with God but in reality have a lifestyle characterized by evil and impurity you are deceived. To have fellowship with God who is light you have to live in the light, confess your sins and find forgiveness and cleansing from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. If you claim to be sinless and not to be in need of forgiveness you are self-deceived and living a lie. You also are calling God a liar and reject the mission of Jesus to atone for the sins of the whole world. The message of the whole Bible is that all human beings are sinners, have fallen short of God’s plan and purpose for their lives, and have been corrupted by sin. To deny this fact is to deny the truthfulness of God’s Word. Since God is light, what he says is true. He is truth. To claim sinlessness, is unrealistic. It is to set oneself over against God who reveals what is true and who comes to rescue us from our sinfulness. This is the Gospel: that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Why do people deny that they are sinners in need of a Savior? Why do they want to perpetuate the fiction that they are perfectly good people and don’t need help?

Many of our contemporaries feel that they are accountable only to themselves. They see themselves as “good people”. They are the center of their world, and their goal is to fulfill themselves. They have no obligation to God (if he exists), or to others. They relate to others only to further their own self-realization. In our therapeutic culture my suffering is never my fault, for I am the victim. Power comes from blaming others for my problems.

Whoever can claim the status of victim with greater authority wins, because that status projects an image of innocence over against which all others are somehow guilty. (L.G. Jones, Embodying Forgiveness, p. 46)

Crime is explained, not in terms of individual responsibility, but genetic or environmental causes. So sin is not my fault. Nobody can ever be said to be guilty, because nobody has a free choice to do anything. Ultimately I am the victim of my own genetic make-up.

It would seem that we move ever closer to a society free from personal guilt, free from the traditional language of sin…We seek not salvation — as defined in a religious manner — but liberation, as defined psychologically, ‘the feeling, the momentary illusion, of personal well-being, health, and psychic security.’ (Alan Mann, Atonement for a ‘Sinless’ Society, 29)

A friend asked me the other day why I thought that no one takes responsibility for anything anymore. It started in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). We don’t want to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We are deceived. The blame game is the story line of every conflict in marriage, in the family, in politics and in ethnic strife. It is walking in the darkness and not living by the truth.

How do we walk in the light? By confessing our sins and praying for each other. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). By being real with each other and honest about our own struggles and needs without fear of being condemned. By not judging others for their imperfections for we all have them. Jesus said that he who is without sin should cast the first stone (John 8:7). “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own” (Matthew 7:1-3, The Message).

The message of Jesus is “God is light”. We don’t have to hide. When we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us because Jesus has atoned for our sins and all who come to him in faith. “If we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — he won’t let us down’ (1 John 1:9, The Message). Forgiveness and acceptance is at the heart of the ministry and message of Jesus. Let us embrace this light and walk in it.

(Ted’s blog is found at www.tedschroder.com His books are found on www.amazon.com. SOUL FOOD: DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR THE HUNGRY, Vol.4, October, November and December is available to pre-order.)

The House that Muhammad Built

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day

Imagine this scenario if you will. A Christian bookshop in the leafy suburbs of an Australian city is actually much more than it appears to be. Inside it has all sorts of literature calling for the killing of non-Christians, and attacks on Jews.

It features books arguing for the second class citizenship of women, and urges Australian Christians to rise up against the nation and overthrow democracy, rule of law, and religious freedom. Not only is it selling such literature, but it actively recruits Christians to go and fight overseas, killing in the cause of Christ.

And it is involved in raising funds for such overseas terror activities. But hey, it is a good Christian bookshop, so we really should not get too excited about some of these extra-curricular activities. Plus we don’t want to be seen as racist, bigoted or intolerant, now do we?

Now let me assure you that if a Christian bookstore were involved in such things, every news outlet in the country would feature it as their lead story, would demand that it be shut down at once, and urge that we look closely into whether we allow Christianity to continue in this country.

Well, I have a bit of good news here for those who might be getting worried: there is no such Christian bookshop in Australia, or in any other country that I am aware of. This is not at all what biblical Christianity is about, and if it were found to exist, every true Christian in the nation would denounce it in the strongest of terms.

But there is also some bad news here. You see, this scenario happens to be perfectly true. It is just that it is not a Christian bookshop, but – wait for it – an Islamic bookshop. Yep, this is an actual Muslim shop up in Brisbane, Queensland.

islam 107The story first broke 4 days ago. Here is part of that initial report:

A Logan man believed to be the brother of Australia’s first suicide bomber in Syria is running a bookshop south of Brisbane which is accused of promoting extremist views. The Courier-Mail has been told that the iQraa Islamic Centre at Underwood had developed ties to firebrand Perth preacher Mohammed Junaid Thorne.
The centre this year “promoted’’ and helped raise funds for two “sermons’’ by the self-styled preacher, who is a vocal supporter of jihad and has had ties to the Australian branch of the Millatu Ibrahim group, which is banned in Germany. It can also be revealed the centre hosted a lecture this year on what followers should do if they were contacted by national security organisation ASIO.
The lecture included being aware of the “tell-tale’’ signs of spies and examples of when a group had been infiltrated.
But a spokesman for the Logan centre said it merely engaged people to speak on a range of opinions. A key figure in the bookshop is Omar Succarieh, who in an online promotional video is described as “one of the main brothers’’ at the centre. Succarieh’s brother Ahmed has been investigated by Australian agencies in relation to a suicide bombing in Syria, where a truck laden with 12 tonnes of explosives was driven into an army checkpoint last September, killing 35.

And then there are the very interesting books on offer there:

While the iQraa Islamic Centre does offer books promoting peaceful coexistence and respect for women, it also carries on its shelves books that call for men to restrict the movements and employment opportunities of their wives and some that even assert that “beating” can be used “as a last resort”. One such book, Forty Solutions to your Marriage Problems, describes the “Jewish plan to emancipate women and thus corrupt them and society” and says women “should remain in (their) homes, but go out only if it is necessary”.
It discourages women working, unless “necessary”, because it may lead to mixing with the opposite sex and possibly “illegal sexual intercourse”. Author Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid also lists as recommendation 25 “hanging a whip in a visible place”. “Hinting at punishment in different ways is one of the elegant methods of punishment,” he writes. He does note that it has been previously said that the whip is not explicitly “meant for beating”.

If all that was not bad enough, today new revelations are appearing, with a police raid actually resulting in the arrest of two men:

Two Brisbane men face terrorism charges after Australian Federal Police raided an Islamic bookstore and seven homes on Brisbane’s southside. It will be alleged the men were involved in recruiting, facilitating and funding people to travel to Syria to engage in hostile activities, the AFP says.
The charges come after an Islamic book store and drop-in centre south of Brisbane was raided by the Australian Federal Police this morning. Officers are still on scene at the iQraa Islamic Centre on Logan Rd, Underwood several hours after the raid. Two men were taken into custody. At the same time, there were seven raids on homes across the Logan area. Bullet holes were also found in a window at the centre.

Now that is serious stuff. But as I have documented plenty of times, this is simply Islam 101. It is not an aberration or perversion of Islam. It is not extreme Islam. It is not Islam gone bad. It is Islam, pure and simple. It is the house that Muhammad built.

But so far I have not seen mass rallies in the streets by “moderate” Muslims condemning both the extremist literature in such bookshops, nor the recruiting and funding of jihad which happens also in mosques and elsewhere. I am often hearing Muslims defend these sorts of things, but those criticising it seem to be on holiday or something.

As I have said before, when it comes to all the so-called moderates in the Islamic community, the crickets keep chirping. No mass protests, no taking to the streets, no angry letters to the editor condemning all the terror, bloodshed, beheadings and jihad. Just business as usual.

www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/islamic-bookshop-run-by-brother-of-suicide-bomber-promotes-extremism/story-fnihsrf2-1227049545344?nk=86e9a7071abd65a3f5ddad779ed41f76
www.news.com.au/national/queensland/two-men-face-terror-charges-as-police-raid-islamic-book-store-at-logan/story-fnii5v6w-1227053771259

There Are Zombies Amongst Us

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day

Since they seem to be all the rage at the moment, it is fitting that we know a little bit about zombies. Evidently they are known primarily as animated corpses, carrying on in mindless capacity. The stuff of folklore and Hollywood films and TV shows of late, this description seems rather apt for many folks walking amongst us today.

There are plenty of the living dead in our midst, who may move and walk, but seem otherwise to be dead – at least in the head. They simply go with the times and parrot whatever they are told to say. They lack the capacity to critically reflect, assess and think on their own.

They do as they are told and are quite happy that way. Indeed, the masses tend to just accept things as they are without asking hard questions or looking beyond the surface. So lulled are they into a comatose state by bread and circuses that they are no problem for any potential despot who might come along and manipulate them at will. Indeed, America under Obama seems to be a perfect illustration of this.zombie

And the really worrying thing is this does not just describe so very many non-believers. Sadly, there are way too many Christians who seem to fit this description as well. There are all sorts of Christians who seem to have given up on thinking, on discerning, on testing all things, on holding up everything to the light of Scripture.

Recall how the Bereans were praised for doing this very thing: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Not long ago most Christians carried a Bible to church with them as they heard sermons heavily comprised of Scripture. Today few believers bring a Bible to church, and few churches actually teach from the Bible. Instead we get an endless supply of feel-good pep talks, topical sermons about how we can be successful in life, and plenty of entertainment and razzamatazz.

Why bring a Bible when it features so sparsely in so many of our church services today? And Bible reading at home seems to be on the wane as well throughout much of Western Christendom. As a result we have the most biblically illiterate and theologically obtuse generation of Christians ever.

The examples of this are legion, and I encounter them every day, sadly. As but one example, I recently posted something on the New Age heresy which is being promoted by the Osteens. A Christian asked me in response, ‘Is it your ministry to find fault with other Christians?’

My reply went along these lines: ‘My ministry is to faithfully and fearlessly uphold and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would have thought that this should be the ministry of every single Christian on the planet. And of course to stand up for truth always means to refute error, and to point out – when and where necessary – the gospel is under attack. Paul did that regularly as part of his ministry, and so should every single one of us.’

This person came back and said he thought 1 Corinthians 6:1 meant we should not do this. I responded that this passage has absolutely nothing to do with telling believers not to critique and judge others – the complete opposite in fact.

As the context makes clear (1 Cor. 5-6), Paul of course was talking about how they should not be going to secular law courts to deal with the believer caught up in incest; instead the Christians should be judging this brother for his sin. They have a God-given responsibility to rebuke this brother and seek his restoration.

Such biblical illiteracy is unfortunately par for the course for far too many Christians today. They know little about what is in their Bibles presumably because they hardly ever read their Bibles, and they hardly ever hear the Bible being taught from the pulpit.

Paul said time and time again that Christians must adhere to sound doctrine and careful biblical teaching. Jesus, Paul and others warned on numerous occasions about not being led astray, and not allowing false teachers to come in and destroy the flock. Yet way too many Christians today don’t even care about this. They are running on feelings instead.

What Thomas Sowell said about the population at large is just as true about so many Christians today: “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”

We have entire churches full of people today who do not discern, do not think, and do not biblically evaluate. They merely emote and mindlessly accept whatever is thrown at them from the pulpit – and from the surrounding secular culture.

The church has lost its way because the church has lost its mind. The need of the hour is to regain the mind – the Christian mind, the biblical mind. We must stop reading Romans 12:2 as if it says: “be transformed by the removing of your mind,” when in fact it says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.

But why are so many Christians shocked to hear all this? This is not some novel, alien idea. It is at the very heart of the Christian faith. Do these Christians not even read the gospels? Do they not recall that Jesus was asked what the most important commandment of all was?

And what was his reply? ‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.’ This is found in all three synoptic gospels. Look it up for yourself. This is hugely important, Jesus said. So why is it not important for most Christians today?

If what C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity 70 years ago was true back then, how much more so is it desperately true and necessary today:

God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of being a Christian, I warn you: you are embarking on something that is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book [The Pilgrim's Progress] that has astonished the whole world.

Bunyan was no zombie. Lewis was no Zombie. Paul was no zombie. So why do we have so many brainless and clueless zombies in our churches today? When Hollywood keeps speaking about the zombie apocalypse, is it possible they just might have the Christian churches in mind?

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NHS worker who ‘bullied’ Muslim by praying for her

Christian health worker Victoria Wasteney is taking legal action against the NHS after she was accused of bullying a Muslim colleague

Victoria Wasteney, NHS worker taken to disciplinary over giving a Muslim colleague a Bible

Victoria Wasteney, NHS worker taken to disciplinary over giving a Muslim colleague a Bible Photo: WILL WINTERCROSS

A Christian health worker has begun a legal challenge after being disciplined by the NHS for praying with a Muslim colleague.

Victoria Wasteney, a senior occupational therapist in one of the country’s most racially diverse areas, was also accused of bullying the colleague after giving her a book about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity.

In addition, senior managers told Miss Wasteney that it was inappropriate to invite the woman to a community sports day organised by her church.

The complaints led to Miss Wasteney being suspended on full pay for nine months.

Three charges were upheld against the 37-year-old Christian at an internal disciplinary hearing in February and five charges were found to be unsubstantiated. She had to accept a final written warning at work which will remain on her records for 12 months, as well as accept a range of other requirements designed to stop her discussing her faith and beliefs with colleagues.

Miss Wasteney said she was challenging her employers in court because political correctness in the NHS was stifling ordinary conversations about faith.

“I believe in tolerance for everyone and that is why I am challenging what has happened to me,” she added.

The young Muslim woman was appointed as a newly qualified occupational therapist in a team of 30 managed by Miss Wasteney at East London NHS Foundation Trust.

“One of the earliest conversations I can recall was one in which she said she had just moved to London. She felt that God had a real plan and a purpose for her,” said Miss Wasteney, from Essex. Miss Wasteney told her colleague that she went to church, but was “very cautious because our environment is such that these things can be misconstrued and, with her being from a different faith background, I was mindful of being respectful of that”.

Miss Wasteney said the woman was interested in the anti-human trafficking community work being done by her church.

Over a period of time, Miss Wasteney said she invited her colleague to several church-organised events and thought no more about it. Later, when the woman was due to go off work for hospital treatment, Miss Wasteney gave her a book to read during her recuperation.

“A friend had recommended it to me, a book called I Dared to Call Him Father. I hadn’t read it. I still haven’t. But it is a story about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity.

“Because we had had these conversations it did not seem abnormal. It certainly was not an attempt to convert her to Christianity, as it was put to me later.”

On another occasion the woman came to Miss Wasteney’s office in tears, upset about her health and problems at home.

“I said to her that she had strong faith and she should draw on that faith,” said Miss Wasteney. “I said ‘Pray!’ She told me she could not pray, so I replied ‘Maybe I can pray for you?’ And she said ‘OK’.

“I asked if I could put my hand on her knee, and she said yes. I don’t know if I said ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ but I said what I thought was the most neutral. Then I said ‘I trust that You will bring peace and You will bring healing’.”

In June last year, Miss Wasteney was told that complaints had been made about bullying and harassment.

A disciplinary hearing at her work in February found her guilty of three charges of misconduct – praying with the colleague, giving her the book and inviting her to church events.

Miss Wasteney’s case is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, which has instructed Paul Diamond, a leading human rights barrister.

Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the case demonstrated that “the NHS is increasingly dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian”.

A spokesman for East London NHS Foundation Trust said it did not comment on individual cases.

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