Can We Ever Get Along?

There can be no unity ultimately between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics until and unless the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders, including the Vatican and the Pope, submit to God’s Word as the only ultimate authority over all of life.

That was one of the closing sentences in last week’s post. It’s based in part on Jesus’ teaching in John 17.  In it He prays one of the most stunning and important prayers in the entire Bible.

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”

Leaving aside for just a moment how the Father was going to glorify the son (via a spectacle of suffering), look at the first part of the passage.  How is it that the Son would be glorifying the Father?  By taking up the authority over all people the Father gave Him, that He may give them eternal life. We must allow Jesus to have supreme authority over every part of our lives, or we risk losing it.  He goes on.

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Knowing the Father and the Son is eternal life.  I wonder, do you know Him?

14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

If we seek the Kingdom, we are still in the world, but it is not our home. Jesus wants us to remain in the world, but prays that we will be protected from the evil one.  And he asks that we would be made perfect (sanctified) by the truth.  What’s the truth?  The Word of God.  (Check out the Top 10 Reasons the Bible is True.) Know that and we know both God and the truth.  And we have eternal life.  And finally:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

So if we know the truth, the Father and the Son, If we allow Jesus to be our final authority in every part of life, and we are truly loving God and our neighbor, we will be unified.

Our standard has to be Jesus.  And the way in which we know Him is by His Word.  So the only way to get along is to agree on a final authority.  But as long as we listen to teachers who say what our itching ears want to hear, we will be led astray.

Can we do it? Can we get along?  Probably not until Christ returns.  When He does, will we be found pursuing the eternal prize?

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Rodney King’s question (which was actually “Can we get along?”)

is a good one, and it seems that we as a people are completely incapable of doing so.  In a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, Ron Dzwonkowski concluded that the answer is no.  And to an extent, I agree with him.  But let’s think about it just a little. 

In her daily devotional 843 Acres, Bethany Jenkins asked a similar question: What is at stake in our unity?  She points out that “Jesus prayed specifically for us” when he prayed this: “I do not ask for [the apostles] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  He was praying for unity: “that they be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”

She goes on to point out that we are making a mess of it by quoting Christopher Hitchens from thoughts he wrote down while being treated for the cancer that eventually took his life. She points out In one essay, Hitchens–a renowned atheist–offers an insightful observation on Christian unity: “If I were to announce that I had suddenly converted to Catholicism, I know that [two particular fundamentalist evangelicals] would feel I had fallen into grievous error. On the other hand, if I were to join either of their Protestant evangelical groups, the followers of Rome would not think my soul was much safer than it is now …” 

Tim Challies has been doing a series on his blog called “The False Teachers“.  He includes among the ones he calls out such luminaries as Muhammed, Joseph Smith and Norman Vincent Peale.  But he also has included at least two living teachers, namely Brian McLaren and I’m sure outrageously to many, Pope Francis.  You can decide for yourself whether you agree with him or not that these are false teachers.

What I want to say to him, to you and to everyone is this: Ron Dzwonkowski, in concluding that the answer to Rodney King’s question is no, assumes that we are unable to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord, as Prophet, Priest and King, and as the Alpha and Omega.  I can’t be in complete unity with Brian McLaren because he denies the infallibility of the Bible as the very Word of God.  He suggests we accept it as kind of an inspired library.  Challies says “He does not see the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word.”  Is that a problem?  Whether you agree with him or not, it is clear that some people cannot and will not.  We therefore cannot be unified unless everyone either submits to the leadership and lordship of McLaren or Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis is a false teacher in Challies opinion because and specifically because he is a Roman Catholic.  As such he does not believe that salvation is “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”  The Roman Catholic church instead says “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining [of] the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

So there you have it.  There can be no unity ultimately between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics until and unless the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders, including the Vatican and the Pope, submit to God’s Word as the only ultimate authority over all of life. So since large swaths of humanity are unwilling to do that, the ultimate fulfillment of Jesus prayer that He “Make us one, just as the Son and the Father are one, that we together may be in the Christ”, will go as yet unfulfilled.

In my next post, I will address the question of how we can “get along” until That Day comes, when we will all be one.

 

Name change

I finally decided, after about 90 posts, to keep doing this for a while.  Having arrived at that decision, I thought it might also be time to get an actual personally owned domain, and a better name.  So effective with this post, Bloom Where You’re Planted, is now…

Beyond the Fog

And, you’ll be able to find me by typing “beyondthefog.me”, instead of that code you had to use before.

What I’ve always tried to do here is challenge the status quo, question the “settled science”, and generally just be the guy who states the obvious fact that the emperor is buck-naked.  I may not always be able to see what’s on the other side of the fog, but I’m always going to be squinting to see through it, and challenging you to do likewise.

You shouldn’t have to re-subscribe if you were already subscribed under the old name, and if you weren’t why not do so?  You can always easily unsubscribe, and who knows, I might make it worth your while at some point?

And feel free to comment on this or any post.  Non-obnoxious, non-profane and respectful comments and questions are always welcome.  Even those with which I don’t agree!

Thanks for squinting with me!

 

Grappling with the Gospel

In reading some of the posts by Mike Morrell on his facebook page, I found myself growing more and more twisted around.  The first one I read set the tone.  Word of a Woman is one in-your-face rant-aholic, and her post “You’re Damn Right I Believe in Another Gospel” is one angry rant about how the Gospel is something that she really, really hates because it’s so un-christian.  Wow.

That’s not the only rant.  She has a few of the others listed under “Recent Posts” on the right side of the page.  My reaction to pretty much everything she wrote was, initially, to defend the Gospel – not to mention the Christians – she was so angrily blasting.  But then I realized the true Gospel does not need defending.  So I’ll just say this.  Whenever we put ourselves in opposition to the plain truth of the Gospel, and attack it and the God it testifies to, we elevate ourselves above that God.  It’s succumbing to the oldest trick Satan has ever come up with: YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD!

But take heart.  All is not lost.  Alternatively, we have the testimony of a “Frustrated Christian” as he calls himself, named Curtis Allen, AKA Curt Kennedy.  In an article in Rapzilla, he says “I was facing 43 years in prison for attempted murder due to gang violence…I thought my life was over.’ With matter of fact articulation and brutal honesty, Curt Kennedy isn’t shy about telling his testimony.”

Why Rapzilla?  He’s a Christian rapper, of course.

But don’t judge him by his past, or his looks, or his musical genre.  Judge him by whether what he says rings true.  Read Re-thinking “Gay Marriage”.

Like Curt, I too get frustrated by our misinterpretation of the Gospel.  But thanks be to God that He still gives some of us the clarity of mind to understand the difference between agape love and eros or storge love.  If we agape our neighbor, we accept him as he is, but we do not endorse his choice of lifestyle if it is putting him at enmity with his maker.  If we agape him, we serve him, we respect him, we defend him against anyone who would do him harm.  And we tirelessly and winsomely testify to the truth.

How’s that for a blahg post, Curt?

Certifiably Miraculous

The following was written by Terrell Smith Clemmons on her blog Right Angles.  It is re-posted here with permission.

Jesus of Testimony

February 27, 2014

Greg Spencer

Greg Spencer of Roseburg, OR, was a police officer in narcotics enforcement in the 1990s. His work kept him immersed in a world of violence, death, and depravity on a regular basis. In addition he was a deputy medical examiner, which meant he had to view autopsies, often on bodies whose life had ended in a horrible death. He was dedicated to his work, but it turned him into a hardened and calloused man, and his first marriage ended because of it.

He left the police force after fifteen years of service and became a cross-country truck driver, but about six months into that, macular degeneration in both eyes rendered him effectively blind. He went on disability, and, with the expectation of being blind and disabled for the rest of his life, got help through the Oregon Commission of the Blind in functional blind living, including white cane and guide dog training.

During this time, he met Wendy – his face softens into a smile when he mentions Wendy – a “born again, on fire believer in Jesus Christ,” who “drug me with her to church.” He met Jesus Christ there. And he married Wendy.

If Greg Spencer’s story were to end there, most of us would consider it a rather happy ending. A man loses his sight but gains salvation, a beautiful wife, and the means to live out a reasonably comfortable life on earth. But his story didn’t end there.

Healed
In 2001, he attended a men’s retreat, the topic of which was, “Cleansing of the Mind.” He needed that. He’d not been able to sleep nights because of the horrid, graphic images of bodies, violence, and pornography still haunting his psyche. Sometimes he would wake up screaming from the nightmares. So at the retreat he prayed, Lord, cleanse my mind. Take this junk away. Set me free. Right away, he felt the Lord respond directly, You’re clean.

He opened his eyes. And the next thing he knew, he was reading the little red “Exit” sign behind the speaker in the chapel. Not only had his mind been cleansed of the residue of years among such evil, but his eyes had been healed of their blindness. His vision was totally restored. Even the scar tissue was gone.

A subsequent investigation opened by the state of Oregon resulted in comprehensive documentation, both of his visual impairment and the restoration of his sight, and cleared him of any fraud charges in relation to the temporary collection of disability. His is a current-day, thoroughly documented healing, or in the words on the diagnosis submitted by Dr. Brad Seeley of the Dept. of Ophthalmology, Oregon Health Sciences University, “Unexplained Decreased Visual Acuity.”

Jesus of TestimonyThe Testimony of Data
Greg Spencer’s story is only one small component of the documentary, Jesus of Testimony, produced by Nesch Productions, but it offers our scientifically “enlightened” age some powerful evidence of the supernatural to chew on.

Though this story is dramatic, most of the two-plus hour long documentary is more of an intellectual discussion with an array of New Testament scholars. Here’s a brief summary:

Part One: Lord or Legend looks at references to Jesus from sources outside the Bible – for example the Roman historian Tacitus and Josephus, an ancient Jewish scholar – that confirm details in the gospel accounts. For example, many non-Christian sources didn’t shy away from calling Jesus “God” or “Son of God.” Some mention that he was known for miracles, even by those who didn’t believe in him. Thallus, a Greek historian, wrote of the darkness on Good Friday, and Josephus tells about the resurrection.

Part Two: Are the Gospels Reliable? gives data on the numbers of extant manuscripts, full and partial, to address the question, Are the gospel texts we have today reliable copies of the originals? It also looks at ancient customs concerning oral traditions and the dating of the writings.

Part Three: Miracles, which is the segment containing the story of Greg Spencer, deconstructs David Hume’s circular argument against the possibility of miracles, on which most arguments against miracles are based today and explains how the empirical sciences, historiography, and forensics go about (or at least should go about) evaluating claims concerning the miraculous.

Part Four: The Testimony of Prophecy. The Old Testament contains more than three hundred prophecies about the coming Messiah. All were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This segment draws out a few of them, establishing the supernatural credentials both of the ancient prophets and of Jesus himself.

Part Five: The Resurrection – Fact or Fiction? looks at the practice of crucifixion (a highly reliable means of killing, which the Romans both invented and perfected), the evidence for the empty tomb, and the various theories posited to explain the resurrection away.

Part Six: The Good News gives us the basic New Testament gospel message, and then we hear from two men. Dr. Michael Brown, who says his own story is “from LSD to Ph.D.,” shot heroin and played drums in a rock band with the intention of becoming a rock star until the day he realized how much God loved him and that Jesus had died for him. On that day, he says, God set him free, and he never put a needle in his arm again. Dr. Brown went on to earn a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures. He is the author of numerous books including Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections.

Dr. Craig Keener was an atheist when some people shared the gospel with him. He said, “I’m an atheist; I don’t believe that. Why should I believe that?” and then walked away.

But although they couldn’t give him a good argument for it, they did give him the right content, and after that, God gave him a different kind of evidence. “God gave me the evidence of his own presence,” he says, knowing that some people may not be able to understand that. It was “a certainty that went beyond any other kind of evidence that I could have had because it came directly into my heart.” He didn’t understand the language of salvation that the people had used, and he struggled with God over the implications of it. But eventually his knees buckled underneath him and he surrendered. That was the beginning of his Christian life.

The Testimonies of the Living
Jesus of Testimony is packed with data about this one central figure of human history, Jesus of Nazareth. The information could have been put into book form, but there’s something more human about hearing the scholars speak to it, especially the ones whose lives have undergone such drastic transformations. Greg Spencer didn’t ask God to restore his sight. Dr. Michael Brown didn’t ask for help getting off drugs, and Dr. Craig Keener never asked to be “cured” of his atheism.

The data is compelling on its own. The evidence in human lives, the testimonies of men whose lives have been restored, changed, retooled, if you will, for good rather than for naught, is soul-nourishing. If the historical Jesus of testimony is who he told us he was, this should come as no surprise whatsoever.

Craig Keener, who now teaches at at Asbury Theological Seminary and is the author of numerous books including, Miracles: The credibility of the New Testament Accounts, has a message for anyone who’ll listen: “If God would take me, … who had blasphemed God’s name, who had spoken against him, if God would take me, God will take anybody who’s just willing to accept the testimony of the Spirit. Jesus rose from the dead, and now Jesus is alive and is Lord of the universe and is ready to transform the life of whoever comes to him.”

Related:

Categories: Films

War on women?

So Huckabee didn’t say it right.  Let me give it a try.

Democrats have thrown up a phony war on women argument to shift attention away from the real ugly truth of the real war that’s being waged on another innocent party: babies.

Since Roe v Wade we have killed 5 times as many defenseless, voiceless human beings as the Nazis killed in the entire war on the Jews.  The arguments then were the same as the arguments now.  They’re not really people.

Here’s my position on women’s sexual rights.  I support their right to have sex whenever and with whomever they choose.  In that sense, I guess I’m pro-choice. And I should add that I do not believe sex outside of marriage is good or moral.  I guess I support giving women the right to make whatever stupid choices she wants with her body.

I do not, however, support her right to kill the child in her womb.  Ever.  I do not support her right to use abortion or infanticide as a means of legal birth-control.  The child is in her body, but it is a completely unique human being from the moment of conception.  That has been scientifically and medically verified.  And I most definitely do not support forcing the taxpayers to foot the bill for either her contraception or her abortion.

Democrats tell us they’re for the little guy (or little women).  But when it comes to defending the most defenseless of the little guys, they’re stone deaf.  It always amazes me that in defending the specific little guys they say they’re for, they completely ignore the parties most harmed by their policies.

There is no war on women.  There is a war on our sense and sensibilities.  There is a war on Biblical morality.  And there is most definitely a war on babies.

Chicken Stuff

It saddens me deeply that we Christians have fallen so head-over-heels into the deceptions surrounding gay marriage.  We seem to draw our opinions from facebook and Twitter and the on-line and on-air media.  (A dwindling minority actually reads printed news.)  What we don’t seem to do, is draw our opinions from this book.

So let me say as succinctly as I can what my views are on the issue, making specific reference to the firestorm surrounding the remarks by Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-a and the letter to him from the Mayor of Boston inviting him to take Boston off of his company’s expansion plans because he hates gay people.

First, there are only a few things I hate.  I hate sin.  I define it by what this book says. I don’t hate sinners.  I am one.  I hate lies, all of which come right from the mind of Satan, who is the king of liars.  I hate him too.  But that’s pretty much it.  Oh, and I hate intolerance.  The trouble is, we’re all intolerant in one way or the other.  That’s because we can’t seem to separate our hatred for lies from our hatred for liars.  It’s hard to do, but this book calls us to do it.

I believe that the universe did not just pop into existence on its own.  The scientists tell us it had a beginning.  I believe them.  Logic tells me there had to be a cause.  I believe the cause was the eternal, self-existent being we call God, who created everything, including you and me. The other thing I believe about God is that he has revealed himself to us in this book, which I believe to be without equal or peer as a guide for us as to how we should live.

I believe that God loves us, but that love does not mean allowing us to do whatever we please without consequence. God from the beginning allowed us free will.  He allowed us to decide for ourselves.  But our decisions always have consequences.  When we earnestly seek to understand what God wants of us – how he wants us to behave – the consequences are ultimate joy in our eternal home, Heaven.  But when we ignore God’s will, or excise parts of His Word so that we use only the parts that we agree with, we may say we are Christian, but we worship a god of our own creation.  And that god does not exist.

 Another decision we all make over time is whether we truly believe in God’s system of rewards and punishments for our decisions.  If we do, we take seriously the instructions contained in the Book.  If we don’t, we don’t read it much. We don’t study it.  The result is that we are christians in name only – little c.  Jesus himself said, in Matthew 7 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

So, if you call yourself Christian, and if you expect to be rewarded on that day when you stand before Jesus himself, wouldn’t it be a good idea to really put some time and effort into understanding what his will really is?

Now let’s talk about tolerance.  So often we Christians are accused of being intolerant.  The gay rights crowd adds that we are haters and homophobes.  It dies not seem to occur to them that they are being intolerant of us.  God understands who is truly being tolerant and who is truly hating.  And He will judge.  Will he be fair?  Yes, but more than that.  See, He’s full of grace and truth. Trusting Him in this life as The Truth will mean that you will get a far better assignment in Heaven than you deserve. But the consequences for rejecting Him as The Truth will be dire.

Should we be more tolerant of the gay lifestyle?  Is it more loving of a person with a same-sex attraction to help them resist, or to tell them in effect, there’s absolutely no way for you to ever be happy unless you live out your same-sex attractions?  Let’s look at this question without some of the hyperbole that typically surrounds it.

If my child wants to stay out after dark, am I more or less loving if I say no?  If he wants to immerse himself in internet porn, am I more or less loving if I advise him on its dangers?  If my barely adult child announces that his girlfriend is moving in with him, do I celebrate?  Or do I have a talk about the value of things like delayed gratification and commitment?  If I tell my gay friends that I love them and want the best for them, am I being honest if I don’t tell them about successful organizations like Exodus International, which helps people deal with their unwanted same-sex attraction?

Do I mention the higher rates of suicide among gays?  Would it be more or less loving of me if I suggested that living gay may not be the key to happiness? Do I embrace their lifestyle choice by throwing a party?  Or do I just tolerate it?  If I love them (and the Bible is absolutely unequivocal that I must!) do I accept life choices I see them making without telling them that I believe they are in moral danger?

Have we forgotten that all of us have sexual urges, and that most of them should be resisted?  When I got married, I promised to cling to my wife and to forsake all other women.  I took that vow seriously.  Many of us don’t.  We jump in and out of relationships with other “partners” as if we never made the vows in the first place.  Are we fearing God when we do?  Do we honestly believe that we will be OK on judgement day, but the homosexuals will not?

All of us, the Bible assures us, have sinned and fallen short of the standard God laid out for us.  There is no escaping eternal punishment for those sins outside of commitment to follow Christ.  That may seem intolerant, but that’s what the Book says.  I am not your judge, God is.  But I am commanded to discern what is right and what is wrong, and to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

 I have read the “guilty as charged” piece in the Baptist press.  There is not one single solitary reference to gays, or LGBT or gay marriage.  There are references to traditional family, which Cathy says he and his company support.  That’s fodder for a firestorm?

Well, maybe it was Mike Huckabee’s inflammatory comments in response?  Nope.  No reference there to gays, gay marriage or LGBT there either.

Could it be that somebody is a little hypersensitive?  And could it be that the news media is so anxious to find the next “man bites dog” piece that it fuels the fire when there is no fire?

Let’s be clear about one thing.  The Book teaches us that “a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  Genesis 2:24.  This union produces children, and in 100% of all births since Adam and Eve, there was one man and one woman involved.  It is also an absolutely irreplaceable component of a healthy society and culture.  Every place on the planet where you see a declining birth rate, you see a nation or culture in decline.  And where you see fewer people getting and staying married, you see a declining birth rate.

What’s more, the family, with a Mom and a Dad who are there with the kids, and who love them, provide for them, teach them the way they should go, and who never leave, is the original department of health, education and welfare.  If we as a society had any sense, we would be doing all we could to support and promote this kind of family culture.

That may be controversial, but it’s the truth.

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