Backup plan launched ‘to force people of faith to abandon beliefs’

Looking to make exercise of religion subservient to LGBT rights in all cases

Bible dust read me

Democrats in Congress already have staged a massive campaign to promote their Equality Act, which would impose the LGBT agenda on churches and faith-based organizations.

But now they’re working on a backup plan should the aggressive Equality Act fail.

It’s named the Do No Harm Act, but it would destroy protections for the exercise of religion by changing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill would make the exercise of religion in public life subservient to LGBT rights in all cases.

The RFRA has helped protect religious freedom since it was enacted in 1993.

The law was cited when a Texas town arbitrarily tripled water connection fees for churches to make up for “lost” property taxes.

The RFRA has enabled citizens to use their constitutionally protected religious faith as a defense against unwarranted demands, including those of LGBT activists.

Doctors have used it to decline to do abortions. Pharmacists have, under its protections, declined to provide abortion-causing drugs.

It has been used to protect a Christian foster care program in South Carolina that provides homes for hundreds of kids. The Barack Obama administration threatened to shut down the program if it didn’t adhere to a “nondiscrimination,” pro-LGBT policy.

Democrats believe they can reverse the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision if the RFRA is changed. The ruling protected a Christian baker from being forced to violate his religious beliefs by creating a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Now come Democrats with their H.R. 1450.

While it claims to be the Do No Harm Act, it would allow LGBT activists to impose their religious “views, habits, or practices” on Christians or people of other faiths.

It would prevent using the RFRA to protect a citizen’s religious liberty if the action imposes “dignitary harm” or an insult “on a third party.”

It would modify the RFRA simply to say its provisions do “not apply” in such disputes.

And it states that “sexual orientation or gender identity” protections trump constitutional protections for religious freedom.

Faith-based morals also could not be used to deny “a person the full and equal enjoyment of a good, service, benefit, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation.”

Courthouse News reported this week the House will hold a hearing on the bill.

The report explained it condemns “those who wield their faiths to hurt others,” according to a civil-rights lawyer.

Rachel Laser of Americans United for Separation of Church and State claimed the Trump administration is “weaponizing” the law to “undermine civil rights protections.”

She said it harms “women, people of no religion, the LGBT community and religious minorities.”

She condemned RFRA because it allowed the South Carolina foster agency to operate according to its faith, which she said is unacceptable.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., had a different perspective.

“This isn’t about forcing religious beliefs; this is about forcing people of faith to abandon their beliefs.”

An obstetrician, he asked: “Will I be forced to perform something I believe is wrong? Will I be forced to perform an abortion?”

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., explained that the Constitution doesn’t confine religion to houses of worship.

“I understand that I am a Christian first and a congressman second. My faith is not divorced from my life. And I would expect everyone else who has a similar belief, that they, in this country, should be free, whether they’re Judeo-Christian or not,” he said.

 

https://www.wnd.com/2019/06/dems-launch-backup-plan-to-force-people-of-faith-to-abandon-beliefs/

Advertisements

Imitate These Things Not Those

imitate1920x495

Not everything in church culture is good for us. How can we tell the difference between authentic discipleship and unholy peer pressure?

Katie had a solid Christian pedigree. She’d grown up in the church, committed her life to Jesus at youth camp, attended a Christian college, and married Jeff, her college sweetheart, immediately after graduation. At the church they’d begun attending, the couple served as Sunday school teachers. Katie also made time in her busy schedule to volunteer with a ministry serving the homeless in their new community. Yet after nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in. “I’m still treated as an outsider by the other women, and it’s not because I’m a relative newcomer. It’s because I work full-time outside the home.” She explained that almost all the other women her age in the congregation were stay-at-home moms who homeschooled their children, and a few older women focused most of their attention on nurturing this group. Besides meeting during the day for Bible studies on how to be better wives and mothers, they often arranged informal play dates and field trips. Katie’s work schedule meant she and her young son couldn’t join them. But it wasn’t the lack of invitations from the other women that troubled her.

After nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in.

“When we first came to the church, Jeff and I knew that my job put me in the minority among the stay-at-home moms, but the pastor assured us it shouldn’t matter, as we were all seeking Jesus together. We appreciated his emphasis on discipleship. As the years have passed, however, I’m noticing that most of the women seem to be copying each other in terms of lifestyle, convictions, and calling. It feels more like a clique than a church,” Katie said sadly. She and Jeff were considering leaving the congregation.

Scripture portrays discipleship as the way in which a mature believer lives out faith in the everyday and ongoing companionship of a younger student. This maturity references age, experience, and faithfulness. It’s a description of the ongoing process of spiritual growth, not the arrival at some state of spiritual perfection (Deut. 6:4-9). The late Dallas Willard called this whole-life learning model apprenticeship, a word that is helpful in translating an ancient concept into our modern context.

Like my friend Katie, I’ve found that sometimes a Christianized form of peer pressure takes the place of true apprenticeship. If your church culture implies that all real believers end up looking, acting, voting, or talking the same, pay close attention. It’s possible you’re seeing peer pressure at work. And though it’s simply a more sophisticated version of what you may have experienced in middle school, the social push to conform to a group’s standards can be just as powerful. Some examples:

  • We tell new believers (or inquirers) that they need to learn to “act like a Christian” in order to fit in at church.
  • We subtly (or not so subtly) discourage young believers from pursuing careers in academia or the arts because those vocational paths are “too secular.”
  • We shun or shame people who, on a theological non-essential—such as politics—may not share the prevailing opinion of our congregation.

The challenge for the more mature in an apprenticeship relationship is to remember that learning happens in different ways at different stages of our spiritual development. There is a time and a season in our spiritual life for imitation. Just as young children parrot sounds and words as they’re learning to communicate for themselves, we learn how to walk with Jesus by patterning our lives after those who’ve gone before us. Imitation serves an instructional purpose.

Peer pressure has “fear of missing out” at its root, and not fitting into the group is viewed as a cardinal sin. If you sense everyone around you competing in an unspoken contest to conform to the group’s standards, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re noticing the effects of peer pressure. The imitation of godly women and men, on the other hand, teaches us essential patterns and practices while honoring individual calling and giftedness.

First-century rabbis would assess a potential apprentice via a long period of living and learning together: They would look for someone who had the capacity and desire to mold himself to be like his teacher. Author Doug Greenwold explained, “Throughout the Gospels, the phrase ‘follow me’ is a Jewish idiom used by the rabbis to mean, ‘Come and be with me as my disciple, and submit to my authoritative teaching.’” Jesus’ words “follow Me” mean far more than “join my team.” They are words that tell us He believes we will seek to pattern every aspect of our life after His.

However, His goal isn’t that we remain perpetual infants, repeating basic lessons over and over again as though we’re in an endlessly looping game of Simon Says. Instead, wanting us to move toward maturity, He empowers us to then apprentice others who will delight in imitating Him as we’re learning to do (Matt. 28:18-20). The writer of Hebrews expressed frustration with his readers’ seemingly plateaued spiritual growth: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).

We see this pattern in action in Paul’s counsel to the church at Corinth. He urges the young church to imitate him while learning to navigate their lives as immature followers of Jesus: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). However, in the personal greetings he uses to conclude the first letter to the Corinthians—those words we tend to zip past because they seem like personal bits of housekeeping—we see how Paul celebrates the diversity of gifts and ministries among those who’ve been mature leaders among those believers.

He asks the Christians in Corinth to treat his protégé Timothy with respect, because though a different person than Paul, the younger man was carrying on a similar, complementary ministry to the apostle’s (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Without denigrating Apollos, Paul noted that this co-laborer in Christ didn’t initially want to visit the church but then reconsidered—a recognition that Apollos was his own man, with his own mind and faith (1 Corinthians 16:12). Paul then offers a shout-out to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. Their ministry to him came in the form of practical financial assistance (1 Corinthians 16:15-18). Finally, he mentions mature church leaders Priscilla and Aquila, who led a congregation in their home, apprenticing young believers in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:19Acts 18:24-26).

The pattern of follow-the-leader was formalized in the early decades of the church. The Didache, a document that dates from perhaps as early as A.D. 100, is an example of an early catechism—a set of questions and answers new believers had to learn or memorize as part of their membership process in the local congregation. The Didache and eventually other forms of catechesis were Discipleship 101 for the early church, focusing on both the essential teachings of Jesus and the baseline practices of corporate confession, communion, and the authority structure God has ordained for life together. Young Christians learned to follow Jesus by following their leaders.

However, imitation should never result in uniformity. Musician Steve Taylor’s 1983 satirical song entitled “I Want to Be a Clone” named the fear driving Christian peer pressure: “They told me that I’d fall away / unless I followed what they say.” Aping the beliefs and behaviors of the influencers in their church may seem to promise a sort of spiritual insurance policy that will seal their salvation—or at least their place in the group. But a life shaped by a healthy fear of God will produce very different fruit than one shaped by fear of being excluded by the in-crowd. Fear of God offers us freedom. Fear of others enslaves.

A better “discipleship program” will not fix this problem, because it runs as deep in each one of us as our fear of being abandoned or left behind. That unexposed, un-discipled fear leaves us vulnerable to peer pressure whether we’re a young Christian or a seasoned leader. As my friend Katie and her husband assessed their experience at the church, they asked God first to reveal their own fears of being left out or forgotten, and then to confirm that they were being obedient in the ways their family was serving Him through work, parenting, and lifestyle decisions.

Jeff and Katie were asking good questions. Those questions led to them seeking the prayer and counsel of other mature believers—their pastor, a friend at church, and other friends in their social network, including my husband and me. The process clarified for them their own calling at this stage of their lives. It also helped them to better recognize the unhealthy peer-dependent dynamics among many of the young families at church. Instead of feeling excluded or judged by them, Katie told me she found new compassion for them. They decided to stay and brought their concerns to the pastor, who told them he was noticing the same issues as they were.

J. Oswald Sanders said, “No living thing comes to maturity instantaneously. In the attainment of intellectual maturity, there is no alternative to the student painfully working through the prescribed courses. Nor is it any different in the spiritual life. Growth toward spiritual maturity will of necessity involve moral effort, discipline, renunciation, and perseverance in pursuit of the goal. There are no shortcuts.”

Christian peer pressure is a counterproductive shortcut. And recognizing it for what it is becomes a powerful step in an apprentice’s journey toward maturity.

Illustrations by Jack Richardson

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/imitate-these-things-not-those

For What “Good” Is God Working All Things Together?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by Jeremiah Johnson

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 28, 2015. -ed.

You’ve probably heard the proverb “Familiarity breeds contempt.” That’s often true with relationships and institutions, as your close proximity reveals cracks and blemishes you wouldn’t notice in passing. However, when it comes to Scripture, familiarity usually breeds carelessness.

Many of the “Frequently Abused Verses” we’re considering have been maliciously ripped from their context, misappropriated, and misapplied. Their original meaning has been twisted and contorted to serve a foreign purpose and make a fraudulent point.

However, in some cases, the abuse is much more passive. That’s true of the verse before us today—Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

At first glance, it might be hard to imagine how such a simple, straightforward verse could be abused. How could anyone misconstrue and misrepresent this wonderful promise from God?

But in this case, the abuse of this verse is tied to its familiarity and simplicity. Most believers have heard this verse so many times that they rarely stop to consider its larger context, or give any thought to the point the apostle Paul had in mind when he first wrote it. Call it “needlepoint theology”—the great passages of Scripture that most often wind up on wall hangings and throw pillows are the ones we’re least likely to prayerfully consider and thoroughly study.

Romans 8:28 is a prime example of how careless familiarity can lead to corruption. The verse is applied to virtually every hardship, disappointment, and trial that believers encounter. It’s an all-purpose spiritual salve for every situation.

A Better Life

Here’s one example—a devotional reading from Joel Osteen. Romans 8:28 appears to be one of the prosperity preacher’s favorite verses—this is just one of the many entries he’s written on it, titled “When Life Isn’t Fair.”

Everyone goes through things that don’t seem to make sense. It’s easy to get discouraged and wonder, “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did this person treat me wrong?” “Why did I get laid off?” But we have to understand, even though life is not always fair, God is fair. And, He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.

I believe the key word is this verse is “together.” In other words, you can’t just isolate one part of your life and say, “Well, this is not good.” “It’s not good that I got laid off.” “It’s not good that my relationship didn’t work out.” Yes, that’s true, but that’s just one part of your life. God can see the big picture. That disappointment is not the end. Remember, when one door closes, God has another door for you to walk through—a better door. Those difficulties and challenges are merely stepping stones toward your brighter future. Be encouraged today because God has a plan for you to rise higher. He has a plan for you to come out stronger. He has a plan to work all things together for your good so that you can move forward in the victory He has prepared for you! [1]

With some variation, that represents many believers’ general understanding of what Paul meant in Romans 8:28—“Don’t let life get you down. God’s going to make everything better!”

Of course that oversimplification goes beyond the original intent of Paul’s words. There’s no biblical basis for Osteen’s promise that God always has a better door for us to walk through. In fact, His Word promises that life won’t always be happy, rich, and full—sometimes we’re meant to suffer (1 Peter 4:12).

It’s in the midst of that suffering that Romans 8:28 is most often deployed. We want to trust that God is working, even through our trials, to bring about His will. And there’s plenty of biblical evidence to back up that hope. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is one of the clearest examples.

Joseph was severely beaten and sold into slavery by his brothers. He endured the illicit advances of his boss’ wife, and was thrown into prison after she made false accusations against him. He lingered in prison for years before he was released and brought in to council Pharaoh himself. He was given a position of leadership, in which the Lord used him to spare Egypt and countless surrounding communities—including his own family—from famine. At the end of his story, as he reconciles with the brothers who kick-started all his suffering, he acknowledges God’s sovereign hand working through it all: “As for you, you meant evil against me, butGod meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

Stories like Joseph’s give us confidence that God is always working behind the scenes to bring about His will. But He might not have such monumental purposes for our suffering. Sometimes it’s simply for our own spiritual growth that the Lord allows us to suffer through trials (James 1:2). The Spirit’s refining, sanctifying work is often painful, but the spiritual fruit it bears is well worth the struggle.

In his commentary on Romans, John MacArthur explains that God is working out

our good during this present life as well as ultimately in the life to come. No matter what happens in our lives as His children, the providence of God uses it for our temporal as well as our eternal benefit, sometimes by saving us from tragedies and sometimes by sending us through them in order to draw us closer to Him. [2]

But is our spiritual growth and temporal blessing the ultimate “good” Paul describes in his words to the Romans? A careful look at the context of verse 28 points us to an even greater promise from the Lord.

A Certain Eternity

In the immediate context of Romans 8, Paul is not dwelling on our current suffering, but looking forward to eternity. In verse 18, he mentions the “sufferings of this present time,” but only to say that they cannot compare to “the glory that is to be revealed to us.” From there he explains how creation groans to be free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19-22), and how believers likewise long to see the fulfillment of their faith (vv. 23-25). Then he describes how the Spirit intercedes on our behalf according to God’s eternal purposes (vv. 26-27).

The theme continues in the verses immediately following:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

In the context of the believer’s eternal glorification, we need to understand the “purpose” for which God is working all things together as not merely our temporal good, but our eternal good. In that sense, Romans 8:28 isn’t merely a promise that God is watching out for us in this life; it’s a guarantee that He is working out all aspects of our lives toward His ultimate goal of our future glorification. It’s a promise that our eternity with Him is secure.

In a sermon on this passage called “Groanings Too Deep for Words,” John MacArthur explains that powerful promise this way:

The point is this: Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good. Not everything in this life works out for good—far from it. Oh, you might draw a good lesson from it. You might draw a good outcome from it. You might be drawn to the Lord. It might increase your prayer life. It might strengthen you. It might give you patience. It might perfect you, mature you. It might make you able to counsel other people and strengthen them because . . . you’ve been comforted by God in the same struggles.

All of those are wonderful realities, but that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here. The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers. We are secured to that final good, that which is the best.

In His providence, God is sovereignly orchestrating all events according to His will, for His glory and our good. But we’re not guaranteed that all our struggles will be turned into blessing. Sometimes He will rescue us from tragedies; other times it’s our suffering that brings about His desired result. Our perspective on His sovereign goodness cannot be bound to our own circumstances—if Joseph had remained in the Egyptian jail for the rest of His life, would God be any less good, or His will less than perfect?

What we are guaranteed in Romans 8:28 is that regardless of what we have to endure in this life, our eternity with Him is unassailable. Nothing can stand in the way of His plans for our future glorification.

And in the midst of life’s struggles, what better promise could we cling to?

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150928

Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Or, why aren’t we doing what Jesus told us to do?
MARK GALLI| JULY 10, 2019

Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

There is no greater signal that evangelicals have long forgotten their roots than the disrepair into which the sacraments have fallen in our day. By way of reminder, we should note that the Second Great Awakening began as a Communion retreat. Churches from all over gathered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in August 1801 to prepare themselves for and then partake in Communion. As I wrote in an article on this revival:

Communions (annual three-to-five-day meetings climaxed with the Lord’s Supper) gathered people in the dozens, maybe the hundreds. At this Cane Ridge Communion, though, sometimes 20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.

The Cane Ridge Communion quickly became one of the best-reported events in American history, and according to Vanderbilt historian Paul Conkin, “arguably … the most important religious gathering in all of American history.” It ignited the explosion of evangelical religion, which soon reached into nearly every corner of American life. For decades the prayer of camp meetings and revivals across the land was “Lord, make it like Cane Ridge.”

As such Communions, people gathered on Friday and spent that evening and Saturday praying, reading Scripture, and listening to sermons as they prepared themselves for worship and Communion on Sunday. At Cane Ridge, Saturday was not so quiet:

The Saturday morning services had been quiet—the proverbial lull before a storm. But by afternoon, the preaching was continual, from both the meetinghouse and the tent. … Excitement mounted, and amid smoke and sweat, the camp erupted in noise: the cries and shouts of the penitent, the crying of babies, the shrieking of children, and the neighing of horses.

Then the tumultuous bodily “exercises” began. Along with the shouting and crying, some began falling. Some experienced only weakened knees or a light head (including Governor James Garrard). Others fell but remained conscious or talkative; a few fell into a deep coma, displaying the symptoms of a grand mal seizure or a type of hysteria. Though only a minority fell, some parts of the grounds were strewn like a battlefield.

Some were attended to where they fell; others were carried to a convenient place, where people would gather around them to pray and sing hymns. “If they [the fallen] speak,” one reported, “what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting—many are struck under such exhortations.”

Early Sunday morning, relative calm reigned, though some had been up most of the night. The central purpose of the gathering—the Communion—took place as scheduled in the meetinghouse. The minister of a nearby congregation preached the traditional sermon outside, and then those with Communion tokens went inside for the sacrament. The tables, set up in the shape of a cross in the aisles, could probably accommodate 100 at a time. Over the ensuing hours, hundreds were served. Lyle wrote that he had “clearer views of divine things than … before” as he partook, and that he felt “uncommonly tender” as he spoke.

The point of rehearsing this history is not to suggest that we should try to create emotionally extravagant Communion services like this. Clearly, that was a unique moment in American church history. What impresses me is the reverence and seriousness with which these believers approached Communion.

Stumbling Over the Sacraments

I believe the sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Let clarify my use of the term sacrament. Some evangelical churches call the Lord’s Supper and baptism ordinances, to suggest they are actions Jesus commands us to participate in, and that they signal our faith in and obedience to Christ. The term sacrament includes these two ideas and another crucial one: that they are means of grace. By “means of grace” I’m not proposing any specific theology—whether trans- or consubstantiation, whether real or symbolic presence. But for all believers, Communion and baptism are practices in which one’s faith is deepened and strengthened, and that sort of thing only happens by God’s grace. This is what I mean by “means of grace” in this article, and why I will use the word sacrament to talk about them.

As I said, I believe these sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Take baptism. Even among churches that believe Matthew 28:19 is the church’s rallying cry—“Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ….”—the sacrament is no longer central to their mission. It would be difficult to come by statistics that suggest the problem, but one anecdote suggests it’s a serious one. I belong to an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, which meets not far from Wheaton College. The charismatic singing and Bible-centered preaching attract many Wheaton College students to attend worship and to become members. However, to partake in Communion, as well as to become a member, one must have been baptized. The pastors are continually surprised at the number of Wheaton College students—no doubt some of the most earnest, devout, and intelligent young believers in the evangelical world—who have yet to be baptized. One would have thought that their churches would have attended to this matter long before they left home for college.

Another sign of the problem is the deep fear some evangelicals have of baptism. I attended an independent church in Dallas, Texas, on a Sunday on which they were having a mass baptism for some 400 people. This speaks well of the effectiveness of their outreach and their desire to obey the commands of their Lord. As part of the service, four or five people came on stage and were interviewed by the pastor to help them give their testimony. At the end of each testimony, the last question the pastor asked each was this: “But you don’t believe that baptism saves you, right?” It wasn’t just the question, but the leading way in which it was asked time and again that suggested to me that the pastor was deeply afraid of the power of the sacrament. And the fact that he also asked this right before each person was baptized went a long way into ensuring that the sacrament did not become a means by which God broke in and blessed the recipient but became all about the horizontal: an act of the person’s faith.

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state. I’ve lost track of the number of startup evangelical churches—again, who are sincerely seeking to reach the world for Christ—whose practice of Communion is frankly a sacrilege. One has to give them credit for, yes, seeking out the lost and taking down unnecessary cultural/religious barriers. And one has to also praise them for at least offering Communion. But in many churches, it is something that is presented during the offering, at a small table holding crackers and juice on the side aisles for those who feel so led to partake. Sometimes this is accompanied by the words of institution, but sometimes it is not.

The idea of Communion—of the body of Christ participating with one another in an ordinance of their Lord—is completely lost. Not to mention the loss of any concerted effort by worship leaders to highlight why the sacrament is a central feature of Christian life.

In contrast to the evangelical churches of the late 1700s/early 1800s, it almost goes without saying that few if any evangelical congregations today would dedicate a whole weekend to preparing and then participating in Communion. It would not only be perceived as a turnoff to unbelievers but a meaningless rite to members. And yet it was at Communions that thousands upon thousands came to know Christ intimately for the first time.

We do well to recall the emphasis that our Baptist brothers and sisters insist on: that these are practices ordained by our Lord.

To be sure, today one can find evangelical churches, high church and low, Anglican and Baptist, who take the Lord’s Supper with utmost seriousness. They—no matter their theology of the sacrament—will say it remains a means by which they are drawn out of themselves to remember the One outside of themselves, who didn’t just come to give them affirming spiritual feelings but to die on a Cross for their sins and to rise again for the dead for their salvation.

We do well to recall the emphasis that our Baptist brothers and sisters insist on: that these are practices ordained by our Lord: “Go … baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” I do not believe evangelicalism will recover from its spiritual stupor, its fascination with the horizontal, until it once again practices regularly and respectfully, with earnestness and devotion, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Until, that is, it obeys the clear commands of its Lord.

As for the way forward—well, a lot depends on a particular church’s theology of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But let me hazard some suggestions.

First, I don’t think any sophisticated theology of Communion would make it an individualistic act as it has become in some churches. Simply refusing to offer Communion unless it is a part of the service in which every member or believer is invited—that’s a start.

Against all odds, a church might very well offer a weekend retreat in which the focus is Communion—with teaching and times of prayer to prepare oneself—and the climax being the receiving of the bread and cup.

As for baptism: Let’s insist that as soon as possible, as infants or after conversion (whatever your theology), that we obey the plain command of our Lord to baptize. And then when we do baptize, let’s not get in the way of the act by explaining it away, that is, saying what it is not. We might just say what we believe it is, and do so simply. There is a time and place to teach a church’s theology of baptism, but during the baptism, we should let the visual power of the sacrament, and a few well-chosen words, to the work. You can believe that baptism as such has no ultimate efficacy and still recognize that it is a powerful symbol, and as a powerful symbol, it speaks volumes.

In the context of this series, one reason I advocate the regular and reverential participation in the sacraments is because, as noted above, they require us to look at what is happening at the altar/Communion table or in the waters of baptism. We are required to look outside ourselves, to the physical means by which Christ blesses his people. Rather than encouraging us to ponder the feelings that are going on inside us, the sacraments require us, however briefly, to focus on God and what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Next week: How our preaching has gone awry.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today. If you want to be alerted to these essays as they appear, subscribe to The Galli Report.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/whatever-happened-to-communion-baptism.html

Is Your Worldview Weakening Your Marriage?

Dr. Nancy Pearcey

The Family Project team asked noted author and Christian worldview leader Dr. Nancy Pearcey why a theology of family is important. Here is what she had to say:

The reason Christians need to be more intentional about developing a theology of the family is that we are all children of our age — which means we are prone to pick up the views of those around us, often without even being aware of it.

In their view of the family, Americans have been deeply affected by what is called social contract theory, propounded by thinkers such as Locke and Rousseau.  American conservatives tend to be influenced by Locke, while liberals think more along the lines of Rousseau.  But in both cases, the heart of social contract theory is the idea that the ultimate starting point is the individual, the autonomous self.

Where then do social institutions, like the family, come from?  They are products of choice.

The implications are staggering.  Social contract theory implies that we agree to be in relationships when they meet our needs.  Relationships are essentially redefined as products of enlightened self interest.  Thus if a marriage relationship is not meeting my needs, then I can choose to leave.  If the origin of marriage is individual choice, then marriage is subject to the whim of the individual.  No wonder marriage has become so fragile in our day.

And if we choose to create marriage in the first place, then we can also choose to change it — we can redefine it any way we want.  No wonder so many people today are questioning the very definition of marriage.

By contrast, the biblical concept of marriage as a covenant is that it is a pre-existing social institution built into our very nature.  We don’t create it so much as we enter into it.  (Remember that wonderful older phrase: We “enter into the holy estate of matrimony.”)  The relationship of marriage is a moral entity that exists in itself, with its own normative definition.  That means it confers on us certain moral obligations such as fidelity, integrity, and so on.

The Rosetta Stone of Christian social thought is the Trinity: The human race was created in the image of God, who is three Persons so intimately related as to constitute one Godhead—in the classic theological formulation, one in being and three in person. Both oneness and threeness, both individuality and relationship, are equally real, equally ultimate, equally integral to God’s nature.

Because humans are created in the image of God, this perfect balance of unity and diversity in the Trinity gives a model for human social life.  On one hand, the Trinity implies the dignity and uniqueness of individual persons.  On the other hand, the Trinity implies that relationships are not created by sheer choice but are built into the very essence of human nature.  We are not atomistic individuals but are created for ­relationship.

The implication of the doctrine of the Trinity is that relationships are just as ultimate or real as individuals.  Relationships are not the creation of autonomous individuals, who can make or break them at will.   Relationships are part of the created order, and thus are ontologically real and good.

This may sound abstract, but think of it this way.  When we are in a relationship. we sense that there is “me” and there is “you” . . . and then there is “the  relationship.”   And there are times when we say, We need to work on “our relationship.”  In other words, we sense that a relationship is more than the sum of its parts—that it is a reality that goes beyond the two individuals involved.

This was traditionally spoken about in terms of the common good: There was a “good” for each of the individuals in the relationship (God’s moral purpose for each person), and then there was a “common good” for their lives together (God’s moral purpose for the marriage ­itself).  In a perfect marriage unaffected by sin, there would be no conflict between these two purposes: The common good would express and fulfill the individual natures of both wife and husband.

A woman recently wrote me an email saying that she had been raised in a home governed by the rule that Christians should not expose themselves to any non-biblical ways of thinking.  But when she read Total Truth, she says,  “I discovered that I had unconsciously absorbed ideas that came from secular thinkers like Rousseau.”  What about you?

Are your ideas about marriage biblical, or have you absorbed ideas from our secular culture that are eating away at the heart of your marriage?

(Adapted from Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, used with permission)

____________________________________

Nancy Pearcey is author of the award-winning, bestselling book Total Truth: Liberation Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity and coauthor (with Chuck Colson) of How Now Shall We Live?She is a professor and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University, as well as editor at large of the Pearcey Report. Heralded in The Economist as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” Pearcey has appeared on national radio and television, including C-SPAN. She and her husband homeschooled their two sons. Her most recent book is Saving Leonardo.

Original here

VIDEO Moabite King’s Boast Corroborates Genesis

BY JAMES J. S. JOHNSON, J.D., TH.D. *  | JUNE 28, 2019

 

The Moabite Stone was discovered in 1868 in Dibon (Dhiban in modern-day Jordan). Also called the Mesha Stele, it was set in place as a monument by King Mesha of Moab around 830 BC. The stone is not only a reminder that archaeology is riddled with speculation, it also has interesting implications for biblical apologetics.

Recently, a secular archaeologist advocated a new guess about two letters in the Moabite Stone’s inscription.1 Israel Finkelstein used high-resolution photographs to scrutinize damaged portions of Line 31 and decided that an earlier expert, André Lemaire, was wrong. Lemaire reported one part as BT [D]WD.2 Finkelstein speculated that B[??] is correct, which could be BLQ—i.e., Balak, a Moabite king.1

The Moabite Stone corroborates some Old Testament history from a Moabite perspective, specifically the military conflict reported in 2 Kings 3.3,4 Echoing biblical history, King Mesha refers to his home as Dibon (Lines 1-2), the Israelites’ God as YHWH (Line 18), Moab’s god as Chemosh (Lines 4-5, 9, 12), Omri as dynastic head of Israel’s Northern Kingdom (Lines 4-5, 7), and mentions many Moabite place names known to Scripture: Ataroth, Mehdeba, Beth-Baal-Meon, Kiriathen, Nebo, Jahaz, Beth-Diblathain, Beth-Bamoth, Horonain, the Arnon riverbed, etc.

Detail of the Moabite Stone written by Mesha, king of Moab, around 830 BC. (Louvre, Paris.)
Image credit: Copyright © 2012 Mbzt. Used in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

Mesha also boasts success as a “sheep master” (Lines 30-31), although he conveniently omits the embarrassing fact that Moab paid Israel an annual tribute in sheep—literally thousands (see 2 Kings 3:4). Mesha exaggerates like a politician (Line 7), claiming to have destroyed Israel: “destroyed, destroyed forever!”

The king also bragged about defeating the tribe of Gad at Ataroth (Lines 10-13). The Bible, however, designates this and other place names on the stone as the territory of the tribe of Reuben.4 King Mesha designated Ataroth as land of the Gadites, but the Reubenites he never mentioned. Why were the Reubenites ignored, and why were the Gadites recorded with such respect, as if Gadite presence in Reubenite territory was noteworthy to the conquering king?4

The answer lies in Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:1-4, 19. Jacob foretold that Reuben was “unstable as water” and would not excel (v. 4). When Mesha completely ignores Reuben, it corroborates the prophecy about Reuben. Even when Mesha brags about all his conquests in Reubenite territory, he sees no value in bragging about his conquest of Reubenites themselves.

Jacob prophesied about Gad differently: “He shall triumph [‘fight,’ ‘battle’] at last” (v. 19). Gad was a warrior tribe, an aggressive force to be reckoned with. They proved themselves as overcomers, although Gad’s future included some defeats—one of which, at Ataroth, Mesha records in Line 10. When Mesha brags about defeating the warrior Gadites, he verifies Jacob’s prophecy.4

The Moabite Stone is relevant to biblical apologetics. If the new study of Line 31 is correct, it reflects the King Balak referred to in the Bible’s Balaam story (Numbers 22–24). But regardless, the Moabite Stone already substantiates other aspects of biblical history, and even provides unintentional corroboration of fulfillments of Jacob’s prophecies about Reuben and Gad.

References

  1. Finkelstein, I., N. Na’aman, and T. Römer. 2019. Restoring Line 31 in the Mesha Stele: The ‘House of David’ or Biblical Balak? Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. 46 (1): 3-11. “The name on Line 31 [could] be read as Balak, the king of Moab referred to in the Balaam story in Numbers 22–24.”
  2. Lemaire, A. 1994. ‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription. Biblical Archaeology Review. 20 (3): 30-37.
  3. Johnson, J. J. S. The Moabite Stone, a New Translation, Analytically Cross-Examined in Light of the Bible and Moabite History, pages 23-28, 103-121. Presented to the Evangelical Theological Society conference November 16, 2000, in Nashville, TN.
  4. Johnson, J. J. S. 2014. How the Moabite Stone Corroborates a Prophecy in Genesis 49. Bible and Spade. 27 (3): 68-74, with quotations from page 73.

* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. 2019. Moabite King’s Boast Corroborates GenesisActs & Facts. 48 (7).

https://www.icr.org/article/moabite-kings-boast-corroborates-genesis/

 

 

VIDEO Contend Earnestly

BY HENRY M. MORRIS IV * |  JUNE 28, 2019

 

The little book of Jude is a short but powerful statement against those who dilute and warp the gospel of grace and salvation through Christ. Written nearly 2,000 years ago to address the teachings of ungodly men who had “crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4), it seemingly could have been written last week. The problems in Jude’s day are still very real in ours, and we would be wise to heed his warnings.

Jude had apparently intended to write a straightforward exposition of the doctrines “concerning our common salvation” (v. 3)—that is, the great salvation held in common by all believers who have been “called, sanctified…and preserved” (v. 1). But he was compelled instead, evidently by the Holy Spirit, to call for a vigorous defense of the faith in light of the arrival of apostate teachers. Jude “found it necessary” (v. 3), a strong word in the Greek that conveys the idea of urgent distress in view of a pending calamity. False teachers preaching and living out a counterfeit gospel were misleading those who needed to hear the true gospel, and it was imperative for Christians to quench such doctrinal error in all its forms.

Jude’s urging to “contend earnestly” (v. 3) doesn’t mean to be argumentative or contentious. Rather, the single Greek word epagonizomai, used only this once in the New Testament, literally means to “agonize over” or to “struggle with intense determination.” Like a warrior entrusted with a crucial task, our defending and contending for the faith is serious, urgent business. The adversaries are many, and like “ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15), they will tear and rend the coming generations if we don’t defend the faith wherever it is under attack.

“The faith” (v. 3) we are to defend incorporates “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), the entire body of Christian truth recorded in His Word. This includes a rigorous defense of the doctrine of special and recent creation, which serves as the foundation for all doctrines in the metanarrative of Scripture. And because it’s so vitally important, it should come as no surprise this doctrine remains under the most intensive and persistent attack within our culture today.

Having been “once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3), God has entrusted the faith to us for guarding and safekeeping. This responsibility doesn’t fall only to specially trained theologians, apologists, and scientists, but to all “the saints” who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ. We must keep it intact and undefiled, teaching and preaching all of it to the greatest extent possible to every generation until Christ returns.

The Institute for Creation Research has stood in defense of the faith, and for the truth of special creation in particular, for nearly 50 years. And by God’s grace and provision, our ministry will soon enter a new phase when the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History opens this fall. We invite you to “contend earnestly” with us through your prayers and gifts of support to reach many more with the evidence that God’s Word is true and Jesus is coming again!

* Mr. Morris is Director of Operations at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Henry M. Morris IV. 2019. Contend EarnestlyActs & Facts. 48 (7).

https://www.icr.org/article/contend-earnestly/

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: