Thursday, April 30, 2015

Inclusivity #15 - “Come one and all,” said Jesus. Shouldn’t Christians be saying, “Serve one and serve all”?

A word to Christians who support RFRA laws : Grow Up!

Are you as weary as I am in hearing all these well-to-do, materially prosperous and secure American Christians whining about being religiously persecuted because they cannot act on their exclusive theology in the marketplace and deny services to our LGBT sisters and brothers?

To all my financially secure, well-off persecuted Christian friends: Please, let it go! Give it up!

It doesn’t matter what your worldview is or what your religious beliefs are, in the public arena you have to treat everyone equally. This is not rocket science. It’s the best of our democracy.

Everyone seems to know this except sexists, racists, and conservative Christians (and maybe a few Supreme Court judges).

Besides, even if you do think same-sex marriage or partnership is wrong, shouldn’t you welcome and accept everyone the way Jesus did? He didn’t require prostitutes and tax collectors to stop doing what they were doing before he fed them and accepted them at the table.

“Come one and all,” said Jesus. Shouldn’t Christians be saying, “Serve one and serve all”?

When the disciples argued with one another about who was the greatest, Jesus told them to stop acting like persons of power and prominence who liked to “lord” it over others; rather, they were to be servants of all (Mark 10:42-44).  

A contemporary application of Jesus’ teaching might be: “Certain persons in the world like to assert their power over those they do not like – denying them services and goods. But it is not to be so among you. Whoever wishes to assert such power must become the servant of all.”

Many, perhaps the majority of American Christians initially opposed the push to abolish slavery. Then they stood firm against women’s rights, a battle that is still ongoing. Next, they refused to join the civil rights movement, many supporting segregation. Now they stand against LGBT equality and fairness laws.

This is NOT the way to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

It’s a damn shame!

Chuck Queen is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and author of Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls): An Evolution of Faith.

It's Thursday # 20 April 30 God has plans and blessings in abundance

'I will not let you go unless you bless me,'  Genesis 32:26. Jacob had come through some very trying experiences triumphantly. 

Though now wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he was not without fear of what lay ahead of him along the road that God had told him to take. As we shared previously, he had to face his brother Esau who had wanted him dead when last they were together. He was also going back to a people who knew him only as a liar, a cheat and a coward.

So he sent his family, servants and all that he possessed across the River Jabbok, (v23), leaving him alone to spend time with God, and God appeared to him in the form of a man, an angel. In Jeremiah 29:11, we read, 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. But the question is, 'How much do we truly want what God has planned for us, and how much do we merely desire God to bless our best laid plans?' God has plans and blessings in abundance for those who truly want what he desires. He had a blessing in store for Jacob, but he needed to see just how much Jacob desired it. So it was that Jacob wrestled all night with God to receive it. Hosea 12:4 tells how, 'he wept and begged for his favour.'

And as dawn arrived, God tested him further by dislocating his hip, (v25). Yet, undoubtedly in pain and exhausted by it all, Jacob still would not let go. Even when the angel begged to leave, he hung on(v26). Jacob was prepared to do what ever it took, suffer whatever might befall him to receive God's blessing. God can do business with men and women like that, whose faith cannot be shaken, whose prayers cannot be silenced, (see Luke 11:5-10). Whilst the Lord says we need merely to ask, seek and knock in order to receive what he has in store for us, it is often our unrelenting persistence that reveals to him the depth of our desire and releases that blessing. And so God blessed him, replacing his old name that had reflected his previous self-centred mean spirit, with the new name Israel - a prince of God. 

God bless you all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Protestantism is about 'word', and not sacraments, right? Part -2- Conclusion

Part -2-

If we’re Protestants, we want to be biblical. And if we’re biblical we have to say things like “you were washed, sanctified, and justified in the Name of Jesus” and “in your baptism you died with Christ, and whoever dies is justified from sin.” Because that’s what the Bible says.

How are we to understand this? If we talk about baptism and justification in the same breath, aren’t we falling back into justification by works?
No, because baptism is an act of God. A human pours the water and says the words, but God performs the baptism. Baptism is an enacted word that declares the forgiveness of sins and the justification of the ungodly. The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor to me. Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts my name on the package.

Like the gospel, baptism requires a response of enduring faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says about you. Because you have died in baptism “consider [reckon] yourselves to be dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). The self-imputation of “righteous” is based on the baptismal declaration that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to recuse me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism, which is Paul’s whole point in Romans 6. Still, baptism is the moment when I “die to sin” through Christ, the moment I’m washed to become “justified from sin.”

There’s another reason to say, “No baptism, No justification.”

Suppose I ask you, “How do you know you are in a right standing with God?” You might say, “Because I feel the relief of forgiveness.” But then I’ll ask, “Do you always feel relief? Do you never feel guilty?” And I suppose you’ll admit that you do feel guilty sometimes.

You might say, “I know I’m justified because I believe the gospel.” You know you’re justified because you’re confident that you have fulfilled the condition of justification, which is faith. That sounds a lot like putting faith in your faith, which is putting faith in something you’ve done, which is the opposite of what a Protestant should say.

You might protest, “But faith is a gift. I’m not putting faith in my own belief, but in God’s gift of faith.” Fair enough, but you’ll notice that you’re still focusing on what’s happening in you. Instead of getting assurance by turning outward to God, you’re assured by turning inward. Which, again, seems like the opposite of what a Protestant should be doing. That inward turn was one of the main things Luther was trying to escape.

If baptism is not a public declaration of justification, where and when does that public declaration take place? Is it ever heard on earth? Is it ever spoken to me in particular? Can I hear it anywhere except in my heart? If I only hear the declaration of justification in my heart, how can I be sure I’m not hearing things? To be sure we’re right with God, we need some sign from Him, and it has to be a sign to me. We might wish for some other sign, but the sign that Paul talks about is water.

John Henry Newman charged that Luther delivered men from the tyranny of works only to place them under the tyranny of feelings. That’s unfair, and an inaccurate claim about Luther. But if we say that justification is a legal declaration, but then immediately say that this legal declaration is inaudible except to my inner ear, we are very much in danger of doing just what Newman worried about. We should worry too.

This leads us back to Cary’s conclusion: Justification by grace through faith cannot be sustained, either in theology or in our experience, without confidence that God works in the sacraments. We cannot get assurance unless we’re convinced that God declares me His beloved child in the water of baptism.

Which means, No baptism, No justification. And that implies, No sacraments, No Protestantism.

Peter Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute Birmingham, Alabama.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Protestantism is about 'word', and not sacraments, right?

Many former officers listed as a principle reason for resigning from ministry in the Army was their strong disagreement relative to the Army’s firm stand on the sacraments. Scores of excellent Salvation Army reading material has come forward throughout the years from some of our finest and most respected theologians, some (semi-warm) pro and others con, from the Founder on down. However, I doubt that it’s a debate that will ever abate.

While stationed in Moscow, Russia with my wife we were privileged to recruit, train and enroll more than 200 soldiers during our two year pioneering tenure. Almost 100% of them were Orthodox Russians, at least in name, and would expect the two sacraments of baptism and communion to be essential publicly exercised symbols of faith, and argued vehemently that they must be included in any Salvation Army rite of passage if they were to become Salvationists. Consequently, with valuable input and agreement from an initial number of recruits we settled on what constituted an acceptable form of the sacraments to link the 1,000 year old Orthodox tradition with the Russian Salvation Army’s own, from the years 1917-1923 and 1990-91. And the church grew – 

When, just 21/2 years later the expat officer leaders flipped and moved the Russian SA into one with mostly Dutch, Norwegian, Australian and American strains, the cultural divide became strained and growth stalled. Evangelism that embodied cultural relativism was sacrificed for ex-pat political ambition.
The Orthodox Metropolitan, Moscow 1991, in conversation with Captain Kathie Ljungholm and General Eva Burrows on the Army's welcome, purpose and intent in Russia.

I will share my view on this disappointing turn of events at another time.
Sven Ljungholm


Phillip Cary of Eastern College has argued, “Protestantism cannot carry through its own deepest intention – to put faith in the word of Christ alone – without a Catholic doctrine of sacramental efficacy.”

That will sound counterintuitive or worse to many Evangelicals. Protestantism is about word, and not sacraments.

Cary is right, though. That’s a big claim, and this is a small article. So let me narrow and sharpen the point. Instead of “No sacraments, No Protestantism,” let’s say “No baptism, No justification.” That should get some attention. Why would a Protestant say there’s some crucial connection between baptism and justification?

The Bible, for starters. Paul links justification and baptism. The Corinthians had been the kind of people who do not inherit the kingdom, but Paul tells them they are no longer such people because “you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Does “washing” refer to water baptism? It seems so, since the whole passage is embedded in a baptismal formula: “you were washed . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The shift from what the Corinthians “were” to what they “are” is marked by their baptismal washing, which is both a sanctification and a justification.
Paul actually uses the word “baptize” with “justify” in Romans 6. Whoever dies, Paul writes, is “justified from sin” (v. 7). (That’s what the Greek says, though your English Bible may translate the verb as “freed.”) When does one die to sin? Paul has already told us: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death” (vv. 3–4). Through baptism, we die to Adam and brought to life in society with Jesus. Paul calls that transition from the reign of Death to the reign of Life a “justification,” and it happens at baptism.
End part -1-

Peter Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute Birmingham, Alabama.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Salvation Army Worship Service April 26, 2015 Sunderland, UK

The Salvation Army morning worship service; Sunday April 26, 2015. Sunderland Millfield UK- 125 years of Christian service in Sunderland. Join with us for a traditional SA time of celebrating the amazing love of God typical of our expressions of joy in 126 countries where the Salvation Army ministers.... The message is brought by the Army's international leader, General Andre' Cox with offices at the Army's International Headquarters, London. The Salvation Army morning worship service; Sunday April 26, 2015. Sunderland Millfield UK- 125 years of Christian service in Sunderland. Join with us for a traditional SA time of celebrating the amazing love of God typical of our expressions of joy in 126 where the Salvation Army ministers.... The message is brough by the Army's international leader, General Andre' Cox with offices at the Army's International Headquarters, London.

(click here) SUNDAY SERVICE