Choose Life!

May 9, 2019 by Dr Michael Brown

More than three-thousand years ago, Moses urged the children of Israel to “choose life.” He said to them:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NJPS).

But why would anyone choose death? Why would anyone choose to be cursed rather than blessed?

The answer is that God’s ways lead to life and blessing, but many people would rather die than follow Him.

They view God’s ways as restrictive. Oppressive. Antiquated. Harmful.

In reality, God’s ways lead to human thriving. To liberty. To freedom. To fullness.

As Jesus said:

“I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

To be sure, God’s ways require discipline. And obedience. And denial of the flesh.

But fleshly habits bring bondage. Discipline sets us free.

Indulging our earthly desires brings dullness and addiction. Obedience lifts us into a higher realm, far above our animal appetites.

God is a God of life, and in Him is life beyond description. That’s why Jesus could say:

“I am the resurrection and the life. . . . I am the bread of life. . . . . Whoever follows Me . . . will have the light of life” (John 11:24; 6:35; 8:12). And that’s why John called Him “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

Tragically, in recent decades, America has increasingly chosen a path of death, from abortion to violent video games, and from euthanasia to TV shows glorifying vampires and zombies. How can we turn the tide?

Here are some practical suggestions.

First, go about your normal daily activities, watching and reading and listening to what you normally watch and read and listen to, but this time take note of how much death is involved. How many images of the dead and dying? How many corpses? How much graphic violence? How much death are you seeing (by choice, not by necessity) over the course of a week?

Second, if you realize that you’re being influenced by a culture of death, then take a thirty-day break from all forms of death-related media entertainment, be it video games or favorite TV shows or gratuitously violent novels.

Third, immerse yourself in words of life. I would encourage you to read several chapters from Proverbs and the Gospel of John each day, noticing the constant emphasis on life. As the voice of wisdom says in Proverbs 8:

“For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35-36).

Fourth, when you spend time in prayer, ask God to flood your heart with His life and to give you the perspective of life, to see the world as He would have you see it.

Fifth, after thirty days, ask the Lord how He would have you to live. You might be surprised to see how your perspectives have changed. In the words of Paul:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things (Phil. 4:8, NIV).

If you’d like to take this even further, then consider three more steps.

First, get involved in the pro-life movement and work against abortion on demand in our nation. If Mother Teresa and others are right, this strikes at a major root of our culture of death, and by joining together as pro-life Christians, we can see the nation impacted.

Second, we can affirm the dignity of every human life by reaching out to the elderly, who are some of the most forgotten and neglected people in our society.

Third, get involved with another group that society discards, the poor and the hurting. Many churches have ministries to the poor and the needy, and every city has feeding programs and the like, and for the most part, they are greatly understaffed.

We celebrate life when we bring meaning and hope into the lives of the hurting, and we reaffirm that they too are created in the image of God, therefore of inestimable value and worth. It is something near and dear to the Lord’s heart.

The good news is that, across our nation, Americans are choosing life. In fact, already in March, a New York Times headline declared:

“Georgia Is Latest State to Pass Fetal Heartbeat Bill as Part of Growing Trend.”

The article noted that:

“The governors in Mississippi and Kentucky signed fetal heartbeat measures into law in recent weeks, and other states — including Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas — are expected to approve similar measures this year.”

May our nation choose life, that we and our offspring might live!

(Some of the material in this article was excerpted and adapted from my book Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation.)

 

Original here

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My Son Needed the Love of the Church. I Wasn’t Sure It Was Possible

Including the cognitively disabled in ministry is a chance to live in a cross-shaped way.

May 8, 2019 by JENNIFER BROWN JONES

My Son Needed the Love of the Church. I Wasn’t Sure It Was Possible.

“NO! I NOT QUIET!” The meltdown began—of course—just as the prayer was starting. My husband grabbed our son Mischa’s hand and left the sanctuary, as quickly and quietly as possible. It wasn’t quiet. I have no idea what the worship leader was praying, but my own desperate cry had become almost rote: “Lord, I can’t do this. Help. I’m so tired. I don’t remember not being tired. I can’t do this.” The lights came up and people began greeting one another. I took a breath, preparing to apologize. Again. We wouldn’t be able to come back to this church.

Church. It’s where we should be most loved. It’s where my son should feel most loved, accepted, and wanted. But it isn’t. And the very idea that I could bring my special needs son into an actual worship service was a joke, even if it was just for the music and prayer. I don’t even know why we tried. “God, you’re moving us here, but there aren’t any churches with special needs programs. How are we going to make this work?” This time, though, God’s answer wasn’t “wait and see” but “look and see.” We weren’t going to make it work. He was going to show us how people who don’t just tell his story but also live his story are not just transformed themselves but become agents of transformation in the lives of those around them. God and his people would make it work.

Most Christ-followers will agree that God’s church isn’t really a building. It’s the people that God has called and redeemed; it’s a community of people that he is transforming into the image of his Son. Sounds good, but how many of us are actually being transformed and how many of us have experienced the fruit of our own transformation or that of those around us? What does it look like to be transformed into the image of Jesus?

Living cruciform lives

Throughout the New Testament we see a portrait of Jesus that, if we allow it to, will force us to rethink our understanding of God. Jesus subverts our expectations, just as he did 2,000 years ago. He shows us that true divinity, God himself, is fundamentally self-sacrificing, self-emptying, self-humbling, and self-giving or what New Testament scholar Michael Gorman calls “cruciform” (cross-shaped). In Philippians 2 Paul uses a hymn to describe Jesus’ character, calling believers, then and now, to share in it:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

It sounds beautiful, poetic even. For many this passage is familiar, but when was the last time we allowed ourselves to be confronted by its call? These verses include what Gorman describes as the pattern of Jesus’ life and character. Although Jesus had a certain status (“equality with God”), he didn’t choose selfishness (“his own advantage”) but rather selflessness (“made himself nothing” and “humbled himself”).

It is sometimes too easy to simply marvel at what Jesus has done and miss the call to do likewise: have the same mindset; don’t look out for yourself; humble yourself; put others first. Don’t just tell Jesus’ story, live it. Don’t just narrate the gospel, embody it. Like Jesus, our lives are to be cross-shaped, demonstrating a sacrificial focus on the needs and well-being of others. When we, as members of God’s church, take Paul’s instructions seriously, focusing on others and forgetting about our own power and achievement, we not only truly reflect the image of the God that we worship, we become people that he uses in the lives of others here and now. We don’t have to wait for the new heaven and the new earth.

Such a community sounds beautiful, or at least the concept does. But if we’re honest—if I’m honest—too often we aren’t like Jesus. We are more like that old Dostoyevsky quote: “The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular.” So how do we live a cruciform life? While it may seem obvious, the first part of the answer is to be involved in the community of believers; Paul assumes believers in the Philippian church have relationships with one another. He’s instructing them on how they are to act in these relationships. Yes, this way of life will spill over beyond the church, but it starts inside of it.

Just building relationships with other believers isn’t enough, though. The church isn’t a social club. It is a community of people who are cross-shaped, retelling and reliving the self-giving and self-sacrificing life of Jesus. They are enabled to do so as each individual and the community as a whole are molded by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s image. Believers are being transformed into cross-shaped individuals through the work of the Spirit. Christ-followers have to cooperate with the Spirit’s transformative work, though, by reflecting on and identifying with this pattern: Although we may have rights, we are called not to take advantage of them. Instead we are to place the needs of others ahead of our own. Here, in our death to self—our death to personal priorities and our death to personal ambitions—we experience the paradoxical way that God brings life out of death.

The challenge of L’Arche

While he doesn’t use the words cruciform or cruciformity, Jean Vanier’s life and writings gave us a vivid portrait of what such a cross-shaped life looks like and prepares us for our own journeys. In 1964 Vanier founded L’Arche, an organization that creates homes where people with intellectual disabilities live together in a covenant community with typically abled assistants. While L’Arche itself is not explicitly Christian, Vanier’s life and work have been fundamentally motivated by his desire to follow Jesus by living out the gospel as a source of healing, love, trust, friendship, and reconciliation in a world of injustice, pain, and brokenness. Here, in Vanier’s life, we see the way in which a cross-shaped life that relives Jesus’ story spills over into our wider communities.

For Vanier, the beatitudes are at the heart of L’Arche, pointing us to the sometimes-hidden beauty found in the intellectually disabled, a beauty that can be seen in their capacity for life and growth, as well as in their openness to God. He believed that they have the gift of better understanding the Beatitudes and more closely living them out. In The Scandal of Service and The Challenge of L’Arche, Vanier described the roles of the assistants who live in L’Arche communities as not only offering physical support but, more importantly, loving those whom Vanier describes as weak, helping them to grow, to develop, to discover their beauty, and to find the meaning of their lives. Vanier believed God has a prophetic call on the lives of those who are differently abled, one that is often seen in their very ability to live life more simply, in humility, and with love and receptivity to God.

Like Paul’s portrait of Jesus in Philippians 2, Vanier’s portrait of life with the cognitively disabled is heart-achingly beautiful until we get into the nitty-gritty of what it looks like on the ground. Living with those who are differently abled requires us to let go of our self-focus and self-reliance. We have to grow in our willingness to understand people who are different, to share with them, and to sacrifice on their behalf. It is a life that confronts us with our own brokenness and poverty of spirit—our impatience, our self-absorption, our anger, and our insufficiency. In life with the intellectually disabled, we learn that we are the weak ones. Those who are supposedly “disabled” are our teachers. It is here, when we finally welcome our weakness, need, and shortcomings, that we meet Jesus.

Not everyone is called to daily life with the intellectually disabled, but they live around us and among us, as do their families. How do we engage with them on the street and in our churches? Our responses matter, because they hold the potential to embody the healing and love of God’s self-sacrifice. When we tell a parent their autistic daughter is no longer welcome in our youth group because she is too disruptive, are we living out Jesus’ love and sacrifice? Are we focusing on the needs of the “able” and “strong” at the expense of another one of Jesus’ children? Perhaps this beautiful—yes, beautiful—young woman is a crucial part of God’s transformative work. As she learns of her inherent value and beauty, finding love and acceptance, she may also help those around her to be transformed into the self-sacrificing, cross-shaped image of Jesus that is more concerned for others than self. Perhaps this young woman is there to teach the rest of us about who we really are (the broken) and what we really need (the transformative work of the Spirit).

Being confronted with weakness and failure isn’t for the faint of heart. We have to choose to cooperate with the Spirit’s work, staying in the difficult places and relationships. But when we recognize, accept, and then integrate our own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and brokenness into our lives, God brings healing. It is here where we meet Jesus, for it is only when we welcome our own weakness, need, poverty, and insufficiency that we are able to welcome him. Then, as we encounter Jesus, we become agents of healing for those around us.

Becoming a little more like Jesus

“I’m so sorry!” I told the people around me. They just looked and smiled, telling me not to worry about it. I froze for a moment. One lady commented, smiling, “You’re doing the best you can; so is he.” What? I wasn’t being judged, condemned, and found wanting? And then someone we had met on our way in came up to me. He gently placed his hand on my shoulder and asked, “What can we do to make things easier for him and for you?” Tears welled up. No one had ever asked me that unless they were being paid. Maybe we couldcome back to this church.

Less than a year later, we had not only become regular attendees but also involved members. As we have taken steps to support others in our new community, sometimes sacrificially, we have seen how God works. We’ve seen it when we’ve gone to what was supposed to be a small group meeting and were told that we had a night free to go out to dinner while fellow church members watched our son. We’ve seen it in the way that our campus pastor has stood singing while holding Mischa, who knows without a doubt that he is not just accepted; he is loved. We’ve seen it in the way that one of the regular greeters made Mischa an official member of the welcome team with his own nametag. Each of these acts may seem small, but the sum of many small acts is far greater than the individual parts.

We don’t bear our burdens alone; our joys and sorrows are shared. We have no doubt that our son is welcome. We are welcome. In this place where we are supported and loved. God has enabled us to begin serving others instead of merely trying to survive. Our family has found love, acceptance, and healing. But perhaps the moment where God taught me the most was when a visitor walked into the sanctuary carrying a dandelion. She was beaming and smilingly told me that this beautiful boy outside had made her feel so loved and welcome; he’d given her this flower and a great big smile.

Yes. That was my son. The one who still occasionally has meltdowns during the music or prayer. The one who knows he is safe and loved. And I’m still the mom who struggles and who needs to welcome her own brokenness. But we’re all making progress. We’re each becoming a little more like Jesus and seeing how God brings life, healing, and love among people who not only tell Jesus’ story but relive it in their everyday lives.

Jennifer Brown Jones is a PhD candidate in Christian theology (Old Testament) at McMaster Divinity College and adjunct faculty at Ecclesia College. Her research focuses on the Psalter, the Minor Prophets, and the intersection of Christian life with disability studies. She attends Capital Church in Park City, Utah. You can learn more about her personal journey and read her recent reflection about Jean Vanier on her website: https://jenniferbrownjones.com

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/cross-shaped-living-with-cognitively-disability-vanier.html

Abortion: A Deadly Battle for America’s Soul

God affirmed through the Founders that He endowed us with the “right to life.” He has never endowed us with rights to murder, truly a “right” human beings claimed for themselves


April 9, 2019 By

 

Abortion: A Deadly Battle for America's SoulImmediately at the beginning of 2019, the newly elected Democrats of 2018 took control of the House of Representatives and made known their determination to make funding for abortion a priority in 2019. The Democrat-controlled House immediately passed legislation to that indicated intent to directly support abortions worldwide, as well as the repeal of the Mexico City Policy, which is a U.S. government policy blocking citizens’ funding for non-governmental organizations providing abortion counseling, referrals, efforts to decriminalize abortion, or increase abortions.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

Following the lead of the Democrats in the federal government, various states across the nation took up the battle. New York led the way.  On the 46th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Governor Cuomo signed the abortion bill that permits abortions up to nine months, provides no stipulation that abortionists be doctors, and offers no protection for babies born alive. The new law also removed abortion from the NY penal code. Essentially, this bill legalizes infanticide!

Right now in America, there is a serious battle raging over the killing of babies by abortionists,  not even doctors, and abortion mills like Planned Parenthood. Jason Yates, currently CEO of My Faith Votes, issued a statement in the wake of the 2018 elections as conservatives and Christians were trying to put a positive spin on losing the Republican-controlled House:

…it is clear the radical Left is flexing its muscles and pushing an anti-life agenda. Conservatives across the country are painfully aware that elections have consequences. More than that, potentially thousands of unborn children are facing an increased threat to their lives. Christians must lobby their representatives, regardless of party, and urge them to protect life and refuse to fund Planned Parenthood or any group advocating abortion.

By late February, the United States Senate rejected legislation introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska that would have protected the lives of babies born. Yet in the crosshairs of immoral abortionists. U.S. Senators’ rejection of “The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (Senate bill S.311) is indeed a political action. It is an abomination upon this nation. Gov. Mike Huckabee, currently the Honorary Chairman of My Faith Votes, responded by stating that:

Ignorance, or pretense of ignorance, is not an excuse for the moral decline or rapid breakdown of our culture

It’s clear, our moral compass as a nation is severely damaged. It’s bad enough that states like Vermont and Illinois are following the lead of New York by introducing bills that would permit abortion up until birth, and now we are killing babies OUTSIDE the womb.

The only remedy for our nation is for Christians to boldly rise up and take action.

There is a movement in our country that is spreading like cancer and it seeks to destroy biblical values.

This is why we MUST mobilize 90-million Christians now to stand for life! We cannot wait.

Right at the beginning of the 21st century, the United States of America is facing a challenge to the heart of our culture, to the core of our existence as a free Republic. By the words of our own founding documents we are being judged in this incredible time. It matters not whether good people are aware of that challenge or plead innocence due to ignorance. Ignorance, or pretense of ignorance, is not an excuse for the moral decline or rapid breakdown of our culture. However, this breakdown is not only due to indifference, or to fear, it is clear there are people who attempt to do all they are capable of to destroy the foundation of morality in our nation. Gov. Huckabee is correct in pointing out the movement in America that is spreading like a cancer, seeking to destroy the biblical values that are at the foundation of America’s existence.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer

Yet, good people all across America are boldly rising up, and My Faith Votes is instrumental in the awakening and the arising of people of conscience. The recent release of the movie Unplanned is an example of truth exposing the deceit and inhumanity of abortion. Based on the book from Abby Johnson, who was a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, the movie puts pictures to the thousands of words that could be shared to help people understand the inhumanity, and evil aspects, of abortion. Another recent movie about the abortionist Kermit Gosnell was released in October of last year: Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants who were born alive and multiple counts of illegal late-term abortions. That movie was also based upon the non-fiction account of an abortionist and is stranger than fiction.

If Americans have not seen either movie, they should because citizens need to be aware of the realities of abortion. Such movies strike strong blows for truth against the power of the abortionist lies and propaganda and the pro-murder monster that has perpetrated the concept that mothers murdering their own children is humane. While “Progressive” propagandists seem to have worked overtime in convincing the American people that the life growing inside a mother’s womb is not fully human, light is shining upon the truth, and citizens who truly care are taking action. Featured in the movie, Unplanned, is a Pro-Life organization called 40 Days for Life, which is very active in the fight against abortion in our time. Another campus-based group is called Students for Life that grew from the foundation of previous organizations, but since 2005, has stood on its own with a full-time commitment to fight for life at colleges and universities.

Both of these organizations are truly dedicated to helping to educate the public about the realities of abortion, as well as advocating for the eradication of abortion in our time. 40 Days for Life is now considered the “largest internationally coordinated pro-life mobilization in history, helping local communities end the injustice of abortion.” 40 Days for Life started in 2004 in Bryan/College Station, Texas, by David Bereit. As of 2014, The organization had reported that there are official affiliate groups active in 25 countries around the world. Students for Life claims to be “the only national pro-life organization dedicated to training and equipping college, high school, middle, med, and law students.” They are directly fighting Planned Parenthood on the college campuses where the abortion activists target the young people with their propaganda, but also target them as potential business prospects.

America is being judged by the words of our own founding documents

Both of these groups take bold action, and local grassroots groups can be very important in taking action in rapidly changing situations. The organizations that are successful in taking action, usually rise to the public’s attention. Definitely, both of these pro-Life groups have risen to the public’s attention because they set an example of how the Christian community can respond to the evils of murdering babies in America. Also, through the recent movies, Unplanned, and Gosnell, the horrors and the tragedy of abortion are being exposed. Through such measures, the appeal to mobilize 90-million Christians to stand up and take action may “go viral”.

Well over 200 years ago, brave and brilliant men united together to take a bold stand against the tyrannical forms of government to formulate a new nation. As Abraham Lincoln stated, “a nation conceived in Liberty”. The Founding Fathers boldly affirmed self-evident truths endowed to humanity from our Creator certain unalienable rights: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” This is the Manifesto for Freedom that our Founders were willing to give their lives to defend, to hold onto such truths. America and American citizens are being tested on whether we truly believe in these truths. Certainly, the Democrat leadership has taken a stand to demonstrate that these rights are no longer sacred, they can be given or taken by governments of men as they defend taking human life a legal act.

God affirmed through the Founders that He endowed us with the “right to life.” He has never endowed us with rights to murder, truly a “right” human beings claimed for themselves. America is being judged by the words of our own founding documents. The nation’s continued existence into this new century may very well be tied to how citizens look upon and defend the continued existence of the tiny children growing inside mother’s wombs.

https://canadafreepress.com/article/abortion-a-deadly-battle-for-americas-soul

Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome

April 1, 2019 By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

 

 

The disease has been spreading across the country with the latest outbreak being found in the San Antonio Airport area. The symptoms include HIGHsteria over false impressions and false reports of certain beliefs attributed to Chick-fil-a owners and workers.

In today’s society there is a noisy group that has lost or never learned the art of debate, instead they bully those who disagree with them. For some unknown illogical reason the noisy group mistakenly believes noise, assaults, and violence will change someone’s point of view, this is known as Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome.

If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome we would not have our Constitution and we would be subjects of the Queen. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome there would not have been a War of 1812. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome members of the military could commandeer any housing it wished without recourse by or compensation to the property owner. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome police would not need a warrant to search your property. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome cruel and unusual punishment would be legal.  If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome there would be no civil rights acts or equal rights.

Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome was on display in the Decline and Fall of the SPLC Empire (One Conservative Group Fought Back).

Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome was on display in the Jussie Smollett case.

Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome was on display after the Pennsylvania State Rep opened the House in Prayer: “At The Name of Jesus Every Knee Will Bow”

I think you get the idea.

Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome is not helpful to enjoying our Rights “endowed by [our] Creator … certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is good to keep Chick-fil-A.

It is time to eradicate the Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome.

It is time to practice the age old art of debate where we discuss a question by considering opposing arguments.

Here is one example of a popular debate format called “traditional” in an academic debate setting:

Stock Issues Case:
• Demonstrate that there are serious problems with the status quo
• Show that these problems are inherent to the system
• Present a specific plan (implementing the resolution)
• Show that this plan will help solve the problems without creating serious new ones

Longtime readers may remember I served on a Charter Commission for a town. The voter registration for the town was 3 to 1 Democrat. The Charter Commission make up was five Democrats and four Republicans The membership age range was from the early twenties to late sixties.  The GOP Party town chairman and Democrat Party town vice chair were members of the Commission. All members ran town wide. The Chairman of the Charter Commission sold caskets, the rest of us worked in various fields.

The Charter Commission was authorized by voters and the membership was elected at the same election. We had one year to work together to write a Charter which is akin to a Constitution. The charter needed to resolve conflicts in town laws, bylaws and state laws as they affected the town specifically, as well as provide for town boards and commissions structure and function.

The Charter Commission held weekly open meeting and several public hearings where sections of the proposed new charter were debated by the voters and commission members.

One year after the Charter was authorized and the members elected the finished product of the printed new proposed town charter was in hands of every voter to be voted up or down as a whole.  The voters approved and accepted the new charter by a comfortable margin.

The point is we volunteered to serve one year on the town Charter Commission to write from scratch the document which outlined the operation of the town and we succeeded. We succeeded because we worked together, debated, and came to agreement in full view of the public and press.

The Charter Commission is but one example of how this country of ours became great. We can do it again.

Let’s keep Chick-fil-A.

Let’s eradicate the Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/chick-fil-a-derangement-syndrome/