Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. Join us for all the worship services of Holy Week as we walk with Christ towards the Cross and his triumph over sin and death.
March 29, 2009
by Roger Headland, Parishioner at Trinity, Beaver
HOLY MONDAY APRIL 6TH THRU RESURRECTION SUNDAY APRIL 12TH
As we proceed through this Lenten time, we tend to find ourselves reading scripture and meeting more often – sharing God’s Holy Word. Now, in particular, as we move even closer to Holy Week, beginning Monday April 6th, we might easily find ourselves being quite taken-in through our own prayerful thoughts and concerns for our Lord, His ending mission and crucifixion – each of us suffering vicariously together in Christ. It is easy for any of us to see how long and how hard we have studied and exercised our minds – in learning to know our Lord and the conditions He suffered.
All of this together could signal a great precaution for any of us – the precaution to remember and stay healthy as we also continue to serve or Lord and His community in our own lives. For in exercising our minds we have also continued to exercise our spiritual means, to perhaps, even greater lengths. But to stay healthy – we must also exercise or bodies, through light aerobics, flexibility and, perhaps, to those of greater ability, by weight training or through sport.
Therefore, for each of us who has been cleared by his doctor for increased physical activity – The Pennsylvania Department of Health is encouraging our Commonwealth’s citizen’s to “Walk the Walk” in support of National Public Health Week, beginning (Holy) Monday April 6th through (Resurrection) Sunday April 12th. The theme for this years event is “Building the Foundation for a Healthy America.”
In this, the PA Department of Health ensures us that by at least taking time for a few extra steps, in a daily Walking Routine, a good pair of shoes, and maybe with a good walking partner – YOU are helping to protect and improve our nations overall health.
In support of this concept let us consider the benefits of just walking – as your daily exercise. You can:
Ø lower your blood pressure
Ø decrease anxiety and stress
Ø increase bone density
Ø lower “bad” cholesterol
Ø improve cognitive functioning
Ø strengthen the immune system
You can’t beat it. And it doesn’t cost anything.
So, maybe all of us, in preparation for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday – might keep in mind our nation’s call for a healthier America. That by us, in this community and Trinity Church, benefit ourselves building a healthier America – then fully prepared for our worship together - in hope of new life in Christ. We give thanks.
March 28, 2009
Posted on: March 27, 2009
More than five years later, tensions caused by the consecration of a partnered homosexual man as Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire continue to affect half of all Episcopal churches, according to census information compiled in the Blue Book prepared for the 76th General Convention, to be held July 8-17 in Anaheim, Calif.
The report, based on results from 783 completed surveys, is a sober snapshot of an aging denomination, struggling with unresolved conflict and in danger of long-term decline. It was written by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church and included in the Blue Book report published in advance of Convention.
“In prior years the Committee on the State of the Church often heard the criticism that our church seemed unwilling to recognize the presence of a major source of internal controversy that some argued was having an impact on our common life, as reflected in declining membership and attendance statistics,” the Blue Book Report states. “The metaphor most often used was that we ‘failed to acknowledge the elephant in the room’, referring to what many viewed as the momentous decision by the 74th General Convention (2003) to consent to the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire.”
There are some indications that what the committee describes as “tensions” are growing in congregations. In a similar survey undertaken in 2005, 37 percent of congregations reported serious conflict that resulted in at least some members leaving. About one-third of those responding in 2005 attributed the conflict to decisions made during the 2003 General Convention. In a similar survey conducted in 2008, 64 percent of congregations reported some level of conflict over the ordination of homosexual clergy, with most reporting such conflict to be serious.
“Overall, 47 percent of Episcopal congregations had serious conflict over this issue, 40 percent indicated that some people left and 18 percent indicated that some people withheld funds,” the committee report states. “Furthermore, the rate of decline in Average Sunday Attendance from 2003-2007 among congregations with serious conflict over the ordination of gay clergy was 35 percent higher than congregations with no conflict over the issue (and accounted for more than double the aggregate loss).”
The report states that among the most enlightening insights gained from the survey is the skewed age structure of The Episcopal Church. The report noted that The Episcopal Church has an average 19,000 more deaths than births each year, which is comparable to the loss of an entire diocese annually.
“Despite these trends of decline, about 50 percent of ‘cradle Episcopalians’ are being retained. Detailed analysis of our survey data suggests that The Episcopal Church does make up for some of its losses through ‘transfers in’—although not nearly at the same rate as in the historic past,” the report notes. The ongoing tension and loss of membership has caused what the report describes as an “alarming” increase in the number of congregations reporting financial difficulty. In 2005, 44 percent of congregations reported experiencing some degree of financial difficulty. By the 2008 the figure had increased to 68 percent. Only one domestic diocese, South Carolina, reported growth in active members and communicants in good standing between 2003 and 2007.
The Committee on the State of the Church report constitues about 20 pages of the entire Blue Book report. Also included are canonically required reports by all of the other committees, commissions, agencies and task forces of the church. The Blue Book report also includes the proposed 2010-2012 budget as well as all of the resolutions that have been pre-filed. The complete report is more than 700 pages in length, twice as large as the report published before the 75th General Convention in 2006.
Get your copy of The Living Church the same day it’s printed with the Online Edition. Hurry: Our introductory price of just $24.50 for a full year ends April 1, so order yours today!
March 28th, 2009 Posted in Apologetics, Culture
By Annamarie Adkins for Zenit
James Kalb on the Ideology’s Totalitarian Impulses
NEW YORK, MARCH 27, 2009 - Liberals — on both the Right and Left — may posit that they favor freedom, reason and the well-being of ordinary people. But some critics believe that liberalism itself erodes the very institutions — family, religion, local associations — necessary to restrain its excesses.
One such liberal skeptic is attorney and writer James Kalb, who recently wrote a book entitled, "The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command" (ISI).
Kalb explained to ZENIT why he believes liberalism inevitably evolves into a form of soft totalitarianism, or a “dictatorship of relativism,” and why the Church is well positioned to be its preeminent foe.
Q: What is liberalism?
Kalb: We’re so much in the middle of it that it’s difficult to see it as a whole. You can look at it, though, as an expression of modern skepticism.
Skeptical doubts have led to a demand for knowledge based on impersonal observation and devoted to practical goals. Applied to the physical world, that demand has given us modern natural science.
Applied to life in society, it has led to a technological understanding of human affairs. If we limit ourselves to impersonal observations, we don’t observe the good; we observe preferences and how to satisfy them. The result is a belief that the point of life is satisfying preferences.
On that view, the basic social issue is whose preferences get satisfied.
Liberalism answers that question by saying that all preferences are equal, so they all have an equal claim to satisfaction. Maximum equal satisfaction therefore becomes the rational ordering principle for life in society — give everyone what he wants, as much and as equally as possible. In other words, give everybody maximum equal freedom.
Q: How can an ideology of freedom become tyrannical?
Kalb: Equal freedom is an open-ended standard that makes unlimited demands when taken seriously.
For example, it views non-liberal standards as oppressive, because they limit equal freedom. Liberal government wants to protect us from oppression, so it tries to eradicate those standards from more and more areas of life.
The attempt puts liberal government at odds with natural human tendencies. If the way someone acts seems odd to me, and I look at him strangely, that helps construct the social world he’s forced to live in. He will find that oppressive. Liberal government can’t accept that, so it eventually feels compelled to supervise all my attitudes about how people live and how I express them.
The end result is a comprehensive system of control over all human relations run by an expert elite responsible only to itself. That, of course, is tyranny.
Q: You argue that liberalism, especially its "advanced" form, corrupts and suppresses the traditional aspects of life that defined and kept Western society together for centuries such as religion, marriage, family and local community. How does it do that?
Kalb: Equal freedom isn’t the highest standard in those areas of life. They have to do with love and loyalty toward something outside ourselves that defines who we are. That love and loyalty involve particular connections to particular people and their ways of life.
Such things cannot be the same for everyone. They create divisions and inequalities. They tell people they can’t have things they want.
So equal freedom tells us traditional institutions have to be done away with as material factors in people’s lives. They have to be debunked and their effects suppressed.
At bottom, liberalism says people have to be neutered to fit into a managed system of equal freedom. They have to be encouraged to devote themselves to satisfactions that don’t interfere with the satisfactions of others.
In the end, the only permissible goals are career, consumption and various private pursuits and indulgences.
That doesn’t leave much room for religion or for family or communal values. The only permissible public value is liberalism itself.
Q: How does mass media advance the cause of liberalism?
Kalb: The relationship is almost mechanical. It’s one of the great strengths of liberalism.
Television and the Internet give us a world chopped up into interchangeable fragments.
To make that world comprehensible to journalists and viewers it has to be put in order in a simple way that can be understood quickly without regard to particularities.
That’s impossible if complex distinctions and local habits are allowed to matter.
For that reason the mass media naturally favor a top-down managerial approach to social life with a bias toward sameness and equality — in other words, something very much like contemporary liberalism.
To put it differently, the mass media prefer things to be discussed publicly and decided centrally based on a simple principle like equality. If that’s done they can understand what’s going on and what it all means.
Also, they themselves will serve an important function because they provide the forum for discussion and the information for decision. That situation naturally seems appropriate to them.
Q: What about the distinction between Anglo-American liberalism and continental liberalism, and their different models of secularism? Is it inaccurate to lump everything together under the heading of "liberalism"?
Kalb: The fundamental principle is the same, so the distinction can’t be relied on.
In the English-speaking world the social order was traditionally less illiberal than on the continent.
King and state were less absolute, the Church had less independent authority, standing armies were out of favor, the aristocracy was less a separate caste, and the general outlook was more commercial and utilitarian.
Classical liberalism could be moderate and still get what it wanted.
Liberalism is progressive, though, so its demands keep growing. It eventually rejects all traditional ways as illiberal and becomes more and more radical.
For that reason state imposition of liberal norms has become at least as aggressive in Britain and Canada as on the continent.
The United States is still somewhat of an exception, but even among us aggressive forms of liberalism are gaining ground. They captured the academy, the elite bar and the media years ago, and they’re steadily gaining ground among the people.
The international dizziness about President Obama and the violent reaction to the narrow victory of Proposition 8 concerning same-sex marriage in California show the direction things are going.
Q: Does rejecting "liberalism" mean rejecting freedom of conscience, political equality, free markets and other supposed benefits of "liberalism"?
Kalb: No. A society can still have those things to the extent they make sense. They just need to be subordinated, at least in principle, to a larger order defined by considerations like the good life.
The Church has noted, for example, that free markets are an excellent thing in many ways. They just aren’t the highest thing. The same principle applies to other liberal ideals.
Q: Both Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII condemned liberalism, but it seems the Church has embraced it since the Second Vatican Council in its defense of democracy and human rights. The tone of Church social teaching has also focused more on influencing liberal institutions, and less on shaping individuals, families, and local communities. How does one account for this shift in the Church’s attitude?
Kalb: The Church apparently decided modernity was here to stay. Liberal modernity looked better than fascist modernity or Bolshevik modernity.
It claimed to be a modest and tolerant approach to government that let culture and civil society develop in their own way. So the Church decided to accept and work within it.
Also, the development of the mass media and consumer society, and the growth of state education and industrial social organization generally, meant Catholics were more and more drawn into liberal ways of thinking. Hostility to liberalism became difficult to maintain within the Church.
The problem, though, is that liberal modernity is extremely critical and therefore intolerant. In order to cooperate with it you have to do things its way.
The recent, virulent attacks on Pope Benedict for many different reasons by the liberal elite illustrate that phenomenon perfectly.
For that reason, if there’s going to be joint social action today, it inevitably focuses on extending liberal institutions rather than promoting local and traditional institutions like the family, which are intrinsically non-liberal. Many people in the Church have come to accept that.
Q: You argue that religion can be the unifying force that offers resistance to advanced liberalism, and that the Catholic Church is the spiritual organization most suited to that task. Why do you think so?
Kalb: To resist advanced liberalism you have to propose a definite social outlook based on goods beyond equal freedom and satisfaction.
A conception of transcendent goods won’t stand up without a definite conception of the transcendent, which requires religion. And a religious view won’t stand up in public life unless there’s a definite way to resolve disputes about what it is.
You need the Pope.
Catholics have the Pope, and they also have other advantages like an emphasis on reason and natural law. As a Catholic, I’d add that they have the advantage of truth.
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March 27, 2009
For years, Episcopal Church leaders have taught that God can be found in other faiths. Now some clergy are pursuing him there.
by George Conger posted 3/27/2009 09:29AM
Jesus saves, the Episcopal Church teaches, but a growing number of its clergy and leaders believe other faiths may lead to salvation as well. Long divided and distracted by questions of sexual ethics, the Episcopal Church (along with most mainline Protestant communities) are facing a cultural and theological shift towards religious pluralism—the belief that there are diverse paths to God.
The debate is not just academic. In two current cases, Episcopal clergy are under scrutiny for practicing and promoting other religions. On February 12 a devotee of Zen Buddhism was elected bishop of the Episcopal Church's Northern Michigan diocese. Meanwhile, a Seattle-area priest has been given until March 30 to decide whether she is a Muslim or a Christian as her bishop will not permit her to profess both faiths.
The Episcopal Church's problems with syncretism—the blending of belief systems—comes as no surprise to Wade Clark Roof, professor of Religious Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara and a leading sociologist of religion. "Clearly there are people, including religious leaders, [who find] spiritual wisdom in faiths other than their own," he told Christianity Today.
This openness to other faiths is "in some respects good in an age of global religious diversity when tolerance and respect are essential to our peace if not our survival," he said. There is also something healthy about seeing "Christ in the face of the other," he said, quoting Thomas Merton. "It implies not just acceptance of the religious other, but something of the intrinsic similarities among people despite their differences."
But the spread of syncretism within mainstream Christianity is an even greater threat to the church than the 2003 election of a gay bishop, Episcopal theologian Kendall Harmon of South Carolina told Christianity Today. It imperils interfaith dialogue by detaching Christianity from its doctrinal and historical core, he argued. "To be a Christian is to worship Jesus," Harmon said. "To lose that is to lose the center of Christian truth and identity."
Click on the link below for the complete article:
March 26, 2009
The Secret to Raising Smart Kids: Scientific American
March 25, 2009
March 24, 2009
March 20, 2009
The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has resolved unanimously to be “in abiding and full communion” with the emerging Anglican Church in North America. The Church of Nigeria, which counts more than a quarter of the world’s Anglican Christians as members, is the first Anglican province to formally accept the Anglican Church in North America as its North American partner within the Anglican Communion.
In making their decision, the leaders of the Church of Nigeria’s more than 140 dioceses also recommended that their province send a delegation to the Anglican Church in North America’s inaugural Provincial Assembly, to be held June 22-25 in Bedford, TX, “to demonstrate our enduring partnership in the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Robert Duncan, archbishop-designate for the Anglican Church in North America, thanked the Church of Nigeria for their decision. “In this one action, leaders representing every diocese in the Church of Nigeria, which in turn count as members more than a quarter of the world’s Anglicans, have declared themselves to be full partners of the Anglican Church in North America. They have stated clearly that we stand together on the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible, the historic creeds and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as our only Savior and Lord. We look forward to welcoming our Nigerian brothers and sisters to observe our inaugural assembly in Bedford this June.”
“Both in Nigeria and in North America,” added Bishop Duncan, “We understand our mission very similarly, that is, to reach our societies with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”
The Anglican Church in North America unites some 700 Anglican parishes in 12 Anglican jurisdictions in North America into a single church. Jurisdictions coming together in the Anglican Church in North America are the Anglican Coalition in Canada, the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin (of the Anglican Communion Network), the Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Anglican Network in Canada, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the missionary initiatives of Kenya, Uganda, and South America’s Southern Cone. Additionally, the American Anglican Council and Forward in Faith North America are founding organizations.
March 19, 2009
By David Welch
Posted at Worldnetdaily.com: March 17, 20091:00 am Eastern© 2009
While much of the nation, including Christians of myriad backgrounds, wrestles with the sense that "We, the People," have lost control of our government, we should really be looking past that institution for answers as to the "Why?"
There are few better spokesmen for the truth of and need for strong, orthodox Christian influence in our nation than Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition and author of a profound book called "America's Real War," released in 1999. Over the years I have had the privilege of having Rabbi Lapin speak at multiple events to pastors and activists, and he routinely hits a home run by cutting directly to the Judeo-Christian heart of an issue.
"As an Orthodox rabbi," he declares, "I will make a compelling case for America as a Christian nation and the need for our nation to be based on Judeo-Christian ethics in order to survive." He also makes a compelling observation that Jews and Christians who adhere to the historic tenets of our respective faiths have much more in common with each other than we do with liberal members of our own faiths.
We have reached a point through the indoctrination of religious pluralism, shallow, quasi-Gnostic theology and multiculturalism that Christians who actually believe and practice the "faith of our fathers" have yielded to the premise of those who assert, as Lapin articulates, "… a new secular public policy posture has become necessary because of America's increasing diversity."
By so yielding, we have become illustrations of Proverbs 25:26: "Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked."
If we accept the premise that in our constitutional republic the government is a reflection of the people who participate, we should stop complaining about Obama and take a long, hard look in the mirror. More specifically, we should take a long, hard look at our pulpits and at our men.
I once read a statement attributed to a statesman at the turn of the 20th century (which unfortunately I can no longer find my source) that stuck in my mind forever. It goes like this:
"We have a weak nation because we have weak churches; we have weak churches because we have weak homes; we have weak homes because we have weak fathers."
I would add weak pulpits to that list because the point is that weakness flows from the bottom up, and so must national spiritual, moral, cultural and political redemption. While we certainly must fight the radical socialism being force-fed us by President Obama and the Reid/Pelosi squad in Congress, if we do not look at the failure of the church to influence the hearts and minds of people with biblical truths, we will fail – again.
Pastors must first and foremost once again reassume the responsibility of "Growing True Disciples," as George Barna describes in his book by that name. How do we do that? Read the Book – and while Barna's is outstanding, that is not the Book to which I am referring!
Most importantly, we must disciple men to be godly followers of Christ, husbands and fathers and to – and I would shout this in text if I could! – begin taking responsibility for raising, training and discipling our own families. We must stop letting schools, children's church, the youth group and Hollywood do what God has charged fathers the duty and joy of doing.
Grace Community Church in Magnolia, Texas, has as their church slogan, "Discipling dads who disciple their families!" Amen!
There is a major current of powerful training and equipping occurring through many para-church ministries to fill the void left by the church not being the church. However, we cannot and should not ignore God's ordained purpose of the institution of the church of making disciples who then enter every sphere of our world, bringing the only legitimate "hope and change" that exists.
Rabbi Lapin closes with a clarion call to Christians and Jews as the unique carriers of the faiths that unquestionably shaped Western Civilization: "We really have no choice but to pray and encourage a return to an America steeped in Judeo-Christian values. It is either that or taking our chances in a society with no values at all. For all Americans the former carries certain risks, but the latter spells certain doom."
We should stop apologizing for believing that Jesus Christ came to redeem God's creation because of His eternal, immeasurable love for us and for it – and put that transforming love to work in our homes, churches, all the way to Washington
D.C. – and beyond.
March 18, 2009
March 15, 2009
This scene in the Temple is one of a few events that is recorded in all four gospels. Although each emphasizes different aspects of the event they are similar enough to believe that it happened once and each is recalling that one event. John’s account emphasizes Jesus’ claim to be the Temple and his prediction that he will be resurrected from the dead. But we can not help hearing the echo from the other gospel writers, especially Jesus’ reference to the “den of thieves.”
Now when I have listened to this passage preached I have most often heard it said that Jesus was offended by the corruption that he found in the Temple and thus, in a sort of righteous indignation, he begins to purge the Temple of the scoundrels perhaps initiating a Temple reform…but that is probably not what is happening. In fact, providing animals to be offered for sacrifice had become a necessity, and was a legitimate service to the many pilgrims who traveled great distances to the Temple in Jerusalem. They could not have realistically brought their own animals. And different coinage needed to be exchanged. Instead, in all likelihood, Jesus was performing a symbolic act—fulfilling the role of Messiah and King—by cleansing the Temple as the prophets had predicted.
Bishop Tom Wright explains it this way, “When Jesus came to Jerusalem, at the climax of his public work, there can be no doubt that he intended his actions to be seen as making a royal claim. Like David, he came to Jerusalem to claim his kingdom. Like Judas Maccabaeus (the last King before Herod who had conquered Israel’s enemies), Jesus entered the city with palm branches waving all around him. It was a messianic symbol, a messianic demonstration.” And when Jesus proceeded to the Temple, “Jesus didn’t intend to reform the Temple system. He was acting like another prophet, Jeremiah. He was doing something which symbolized something quite different—the Temple’s destruction." (N.T.Wright, Jesus, The New Way)
Jeremiah had confronted the Temple rulers of his day. Those rulers thought that the Temple had some sort of magical quality that would protect them from harm, even while they were ignoring God’s commandments. God speaks through Jeremiah and says to the rulers, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to idols, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this House, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!” Only then to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Therefore I will do to the House which is called by my name, in which you trust, just what I did to Shiloh.” (Jeremiah 7.9-14) That is to say, God will destroy it. And to make a visual demonstration of that destruction of the Temple Jeremiah takes a clay pot and shatters it. (Jeremiah 19.10)
When Jesus enters the Temple, He expresses his Father’s indignation and he scatters the animals, overturns the tables and casts out the moneychangers—a visual demonstration of the immanent destruction of the Temple. Jesus is pointing to the destruction of the Temple—and the Temple would indeed be destroyed by Rome, and the city would be razed.
God has never been tied to a building. Solomon recognized that fact and said so, when he dedicated the original Temple. “God does not dwell in structures built by human hands.” God’s presence, God’s Holy Spirit living in the midst of his people is pure gift, a priceless divine grace. And God is righteous when he withdraws that gift from a community that has abandoned Him, ignored Him and abused Him. As Jesus stands in the Temple built of mortar and stone he stands as God incarnate. He stands there as the Presence of God in the midst of his people and they neither recognize Him nor acknowledge Him. God’s Presence in the midst of the Temple is ignored and rejected.
So, this raises the question, what is the true Temple of God? Wouldn’t the true Temple be the place where the Spirit of God resides and where the Spirit of God is blessed and sanctified? And where, in this Gospel story this morning is it? Is it to be found in stone and mortar or in flesh and blood?
The Jews demanded of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” There is the new Temple—the true Temple—the Temple in which God resides in His fullness, in which God is honored completely—there in the flesh and blood of Jesus. And there is the answer to their call for a wondrous sign. Jesus will indeed raise himself from the dead in three days.
Those who seek to receive blessing from God, those who come looking for forgiveness, can no longer come to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. God does not reside there. John told us the same thing at the very beginning of his Gospel. He said, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” (John 1.11-12) And so, the place of sacrifice changed. God’s only Son, the immortal one, became the source of worship. Jesus the Christ became the source of God’s forgiveness and compassion. This Jesus was made to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world…and all who would be blessed of God would come to receive the Christ as their Lord and Savior, just as John had said, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.12-14)
But where does that leave us all? God’s people were always able to find hope and receive God’s blessing by coming to the House of the Lord and offering up prayer and sacrifice there. When Jesus walked the earth, his followers were able to receive his blessing. But what about us? After Jesus ascends to heaven, are we left in the lurch to await his eventual return? Are we to sustain our own hope and struggle to hold on the message of salvation on our own? Or has God made provision for us as well?
In the upper room, when Jesus is saying his parting words to his disciples, he says, "Now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16.6-7)
Indeed, God has made provision for us. The Holy Spirit has come and lives in our midst. God’s Holy Presence is a fact for the Christian community that honors His Son. And we are able to bring our prayers before God knowing with certainty that God hears and that God will provide. We can ask God for help, knowing that He is ready to answer us. He wants to heal us. He wants to restore us. He wants to bring this community into the fullness of the truth and to shower blessings upon us.
We are the most blessed of all people because God resides in our midst. God has restored his holy temple here in this place, and here in our collective hearts. We do not need to look to the hills to seek our help. God is not distant. He is here in our midst.
We can act boldly. We can trust in His promises. We can fight for holiness in our homes. We can strike out in the name of Christ and attempt great things. We can overcome the evil one in the world. Because the Lord is with us. He is present in his Holy Temple the Church. Amen.
March 12, 2009
Read the whole statement by clicking on the headline above.
March 10, 2009
March 9, 2009
A good article about the real reason young people don't attend church.
Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colo., is defined as a megachurch; its worship style is a blend of traditional and contemporary worship; and the attire there is both formal and informal, according to a church directory.
Senior Pastor Jim Shaddix describes his church as "somewhat contemporary." It has a robed choir and a praise team, hymnals and Brooklyn Tabernacle songs, and a big screen. One elderly lady believes the church needs to incorporate more hymnals into their worship services while the twenty-somethings want to ditch the choir and the robes. "What is a pastor to do?" Shaddix posed at a recent Southern Baptist conference.
"We gener! alize this trend as simply a choice between the traditional and contemporary," he noted.
But Shaddix does not see it in that light. Young people, he believes, are not opposed to hymns. In fact, they sing revisions of hymnals sung by contemporary artists such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. And they are not opposed to the organ, or else many of them would walk out of ball games. Pastors clad in a suit and tie are also not a turnoff to the younger generation who watch late night show hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman run their monologues in a suit and tie.
Beyond the form of traditional churches and worship styles, young people, who are labeled as the future of the church, are opposed to the "fabricated Christian culture" within the traditional churches.
"They're opposed to the lifeless and heartless way we often sing those hymns," Shaddix said at the second Baptist Identity Conference in Jackson, Tenn.
Many young adults are leaving the traditional c! hurches they may have grown up in and searching for alternativ! e forms, including the popular emerging church movement. Shaddix said such alternative forms are more appealing to "the marginally churched within our own camps" than the unchurched population.
In 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention baptized more than 100,000 18- to 30-year-olds. Twenty five years later, the figure dropped to slightly more than 60,000, according to Shaddix. And only 31 percent of twenty-somethings attend any kind of Christian church although more than half of them attended church weekly when they were in high school, he further noted.
"If that statistic holds up, our young Baptist friend who was an active churchgoer as a teenager won't be a member of anybody's church by his 30th birthday."
If young believers are not dropping out of an organized church altogether, they are being "captured by philosophies" like the emerging church, said Shaddix.
Making a bold statement that some Baptist church leaders agree with, Shaddix said that "both of th! ose venues - no church at all or the emerging church - champion for a belief in nothing."
On a general note, Shaddix pointed out that the postmodern church movements downplay and depreciate sound theology, and that they will be short-lived as they are built on passing styles and forms, making "perceived relevance impossible to keep up with."
Young people are not necessarily running to something, the Southern Baptist pastor highlighted. They are running away from something.
And the standard answer church leaders would give to the question of what they are running from is the church form, the worship style, the traditional denominational affiliation – the tangible. But Shaddix believes the young believers are running from "lifeless Christianity."
"They're so turned off by it that they're running to nothing," he said.
This generation of young people "can see through" the emotionless expression during worship and the frequent lis! ting of prayer requests but the little time allotted in servic! es for a ctual prayer.
"They can see through our hypocrisy," said Shaddix.
This generation has the gift of discerning authenticity in the church, Shaddix plainly stated. And this generation wants to do missions, not just study and give to missions.
In 10 years, the churches that these young people form will be churches that are built on a biblical model and focused on the Great Commission; are desperate for God for revival, for the transformation of culture, for the evangelization of the lost; make sacrificial callings to prayer that take priority over sleeping and eating; have a spirit that makes them accepting of all people and creates intimacy with God; and are always preparing financially to take the gospel to other places. Shaddix cited this future picture of churches from Richard Ross who leads True Love Waits, an international Christian group that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students.
The churches of the futu! re are not focused on musical styles or denominational involvement.
Shaddix thus exhorted his fellow Southern Baptists to give their young brethren such an authentic church. If they don't find it, they won't stay, he said.
"The traditional church will survive and thrive if its people have a change of heart about their God."
A personal message from Scott Homer:
Here is a good article on the the most disabling affliction in the world second only to cardio vascular disease. What ought our church be doing to help each other heal?
Click here (or copy URL into your Internet browser) to read the article:
March 6, 2009
By Danna Harman Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 27, 2009 edition
Kabul, Afghanistan - The worshippers close their eyes, bow heads, hold hands, and speak their hopes and prayers out loud.
"I praise God for reconciling between my father-in-law and his stepdaughters.... Prayer works!" rejoices one. "I pray for ... the sanctity of marriage," says another.
"I give thanks for not being hit in the explosion today, and for suicide bombers staying away," a third intones, the sound of a chopper almost drowning him out.
"Amen," they sing, a group of men and women in neat camouflage fatigues, pistols strapped on their legs and chests and Bibles open in their hands.
And then there is Ahmed. With his acid-wash jeans, white shirt, and ID badge reading "escort required," he stands among them – mumbling the prayers, tapping his shiny brown loafers as the guitarist strikes up a catchy hymn. He's included, and apart, at the same time.
A recent convert to Christianity, Ahmed, who asked that his real name not be used out of fear for his security, has begun to join the hour-long church services at the Kabul Afghanistan International Airport (KAIA) base most Thursday evenings.
Even without consorting with Westerners, Afghan Christians face consequences for practicing their faith.
Months ago, Ahmed's parents, having discovered he had become a Christian, threw him out of the house, tossing his clothes into the street behind him. Later, they forced him into marriage with a relative from Kunduz, hoping this might return him to the ways of Islam.
Read it all by clicking on the Headline above.
March 5, 2009
Ways that Buddhism is incompatible with Christianity:
1. Buddhism not only doesn’t acknowledge the divinity of Christ, it does not recognize divinity at all as a serious category. “Worldly” gods who are born, live and eventually die (even though their time-frame is measured in eons) are the only kind of gods acknowledged, and they are rightly considered inferior and not of merit. The easiest to find reference source on this is “The Questions of King Milinda.” Therefore there can be no purpose to life or living, there is no teleology of developing the fullness God has planted in us. However, in the Third Turning school, it is said you do have inherently some Buddha-qualities that are god-like which are revealed when your defilements of mind are purged.
2. Ditto for the soul or souls (I won’t go into the Classic soul/spirit continuum questions here) for that teaching I have the same source (Milinda) and many, many others. You are held to be a mere mental continuum that may be split into a variety of incarnations if circumstances are correct for that. In Buddhism, you don’t “reincarnate” exactly (as you don’t have a soul there’s nothing to “re” anything). Your mind-stream finds itself helplessly in another body. The personality in the subsequent body is not you, in fact you are not the same personality from instant to instant. Coherence as a being is what Buddhism says you are empty of.
3. The point of Buddhism is the attainment of enlightenment, an ontological category that is personal, though it can only be achieved through the accomplishment of heroic virtue and one must have the intention to help others. Only a very, very few are qualified to practice Buddhism seriously enough to accomplish this end, even though it is the stated goal of all Buddhists, whether of the Theravadin (Southern) or Northern Mahayana traditions. Many tens of thousands of years (or more) and possibly uncountable lifetimes are required to accomplish this goal. You have to be a hero. In Christianity, all who willingly accept the lordship of Jesus may be saved. Even if you’re not a heroic type.
4. In Buddhism, suffering is meaningless, except insofar as it it exhausts bad karma. The principle aim of Buddhism is to end pointless suffering. Contrast that with the refiner’s fire we willingly submit to. There is meaning in everything that happens not only to us, but to everything in Creation.
5. To properly be a Buddhist (as opposed to someone who pretends to be one), you must have three supreme refuges, forsaking all others: Buddha, Dharma & Sangha. This explicitly excludes Christ. God. The Bible, His Church, etc. Now, there are traditions that are vague on that point, but of late, for instance, Tibetan Buddhist teachers have been very, very clear about this (e.g. Dzongsar Khyentse’s “Who is a Buddhist?” --approx. title).
 Posted by ears2hear on 02-28-2009 at 01:26 PM
March 3, 2009
Video Series, "Jesus: the New Way" begins at 7:15PM.
Come and join in the fun. Bring a friend or neighbor. This is a great way of getting to know one another better and to learn more about our great and wonderful Savior...Scott +
March 2, 2009
March 1, 2009
In the name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A group of us had lunch together on Friday. And yes, I did eat fish. I don’t have to but I choose to…but that is another sermon. And it reminds me of an old Irish joke that goes like this: John a protestant asked Mary, a good catholic girl, to marry him. But before she would agree she insisted that John become a catholic…and so he did. But one day John went to Fr. O’Brien and he said, “Father, I know I’m a catholic now but I keep having protestant thoughts. What can I do about it? And Fr O’Brien, being a wise priest, said, “Here’s what you do. Every time you have a protestant thought, keep repeating, “I’m a catholic I’m not a protestant. I’m a catholic I’m not a protestant. I’m a catholic I’m not a protestant. And before you know it those protestant thoughts will disappear. Well, one Friday evening during Lent, the good father went to visit the newlyweds and Mary answered the door, and she said, “Father, it’s wonderful to see you, please come in.” but when Fr O”Brien came in he smelled a smell coming from the kitchen. It was a smell you shouldn’t smell in a good catholic house on Friday night. So, he went and opened the kitchen door, and there was John standing at the stove frying a big old steak. And John was repeating over and over again, “You’re a fish you’re not a steak. You’re a fish you’re not a steak. You’re a fish you’re not a steak.”
Anyway, at lunch Friday, I was sitting with a group of pretty devoted Christians. These are not backsliders, reprobates and scoundrels. These are people who are trying hard and doing good. And the question that arose and occupied most of our mealtime conversation was, “Why is it so hard? Why is it so hard to live a godly life and to give ourselves unselfishly to the mission of God and the needs of others?” (I swear I didn’t start it. It wasn’t my fault.) These people are really trying hard to do the right thing and they often feel as though they are taking one step forward and two steps back. They are frustrated by the fact that they often succumb to the temptations that present themselves all too often. Why is the Christian life such a struggle? Is there any hope? Can we be victorious?
Our Gospel story this morning is about Baptism and temptation. Mark with his characteristic economy of words, uses four verses to tell us about Jesus’ first public appearance and that he goes and does spiritual battle with Satan for forty days in the wilderness. The story takes place at the Jordan River and in the Judean desert but our story really begins way back, at the foundations of human life. We could look at Noah and the Flood story. We could draw our parallels between the water of the flood and the waters of baptism but to get to the root of the problem we need to go back farther. Our story really begins in the Garden of Eden, the garden God created and then gave to Adam and Eve. Our Gospel needs to be understood in relation to Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden. It is a theme that has fascinated artists for a thousand years. My favorite rendering of the scene is an etching by Gustave Dore. He captures the grave pain in this most tragic event in the history of the world. A young, handsome couple, cast out of the King’s courts. They possessed everything. They leave with nothing. They have known all the riches the world had to offer. They have been the masters of all of creation. They have enjoyed the good life and they have been free to do whatever they pleased, everything but one thing. And now they stumble down a rocky slope being cast headlong into a frightening and dark wilderness. Barely out of the gates of paradise, their feet are already bruised by the rocks and pierced by the thorns. They have looks of anguish and dismay on their faces. Their future is clouded. The woods are full of wild beasts. They move from a world where all was cared for and all was provided, into a world where their survival will depend upon their hard labor and their wise decisions. And just ahead of them slithers the snake—just barely preceding them into their new home.
In that hostile world into which they now step, the couple will grow old…if they are fortunate…and the couple “will surely die”…just as they had been warned. And their children, and their children’s children, and all the generations after them will endure the same fate. Being born into a hostile world they will, if they are fortunate, grow old and die. There is no hope of everlasting life because in the background of the print, standing behind the young couple at the gates to Eden, stands a superhuman obstacle—the terrible warrior angel of God wielding a terrible sword of fire, poised to destroy anyone and everyone who would attempt to re-enter Eden. No child of Adam may return to the garden, no child of Adam can know eternal life until the wrong has been made right. A child of man must be born without sin, as Adam was. It must be a child who can do what Adam was unable to do, to live without yielding to the power of temptation, to live a lifetime devoted to God.
All this tragedy, all this heartbreak because of a simple temptation. God’s will had been the most natural thing in all the world until a terrible, tragic option was placed before Adam and Eve by the serpent. There had only been God’s will but in an instant there were viable options. How could there possibly be an alternative to doing God’s will, and yet there it was, an alternative, “You will not surely die,” the serpent had said. And they listened to him. “You will become like gods,” he had promised. And they were delighted with the prospect. “You can eat what you want, despite what God says.” Their delight with the idea drew them to consent to the lie and they took and they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and their eyes were opened forever. The couple who had never seen anything but good now saw evil too and a whole world of alternatives to God’s good and perfect will opened up before their eyes. These new possibilities continued to delight them and they knew that they would consent to them too, ignoring God again….and again…and again. At one time they had known innocence but they would never again be able to look only on the good or do only the good.
I want to draw your attention to what the Bible says at this tragic moment because it is an important bridge to our Gospel reading today. The words are recorded in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 24. The Bible says, “So [God] drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3.24) “So God drove the man out…” into the wilderness, into the world of choices where he and his children would be presented with alternatives to God’s good and perfect will. Being presented with those alternatives is what we call temptation and the temptation is always to do the wrong thing and to make a bad choice. And as the children of Adam we continue to be confronted with temptations, to be delighted by the things they seem to be offering us and we sometimes still consent by making the choice contrary to God’s will. We are children of Adam and Eve conceived in sin and born predisposed to rebelling against God. That’s called original sin and it is a fact that makes living the Christian life very, very difficult. In fact it makes the Christian walk impossible—or it would be impossible except for one very great thing.
Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. St. Peter tells us, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Righteous means “without sin.” Unrighteous means “with sin.” Jesus lived without sin. He was not conceived like other people. Jesus was born of the Mary and made man. So he was conceived in innocence, in a different way but with the same effect as Adam had been. At his Baptism God tells us that Jesus is God’s exact image—just as Adam had been. But Adam had been tested. He had faced temptation and he had failed. And now Jesus must be tempted. Jesus must be put to the test and so God must drive Jesus into the wilderness. I usually like the NIV but the NIV translation says “the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness” and that is a very weak translation of the verb. The verb ekballo means to caste away, to throw out, or to force to go. For example, when Jesus is teaching he tells people, "If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out [or rip it out].” This is the same verb, ekballo. When Jesus tells the parable of the talents and the master says, “Caste the useless slave into the outer darkness…” It is the same verb, ekballo. The RSV gets it right. The RSV says, “The Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness.” It is the same thing that God did to Adam when he “drove him into the wilderness” and Adam went on sinning. Adam and the children of Adam fell over and over. They listened to Satan. They were delighted by the prospect of an alternative to God’s word and they consented to breaking God’s commandments. But this time it is different. Jesus does not listen to Satan. He is not influenced by Satan’s lies. He does not delight in the alternative path being offered to him. The other gospel writers tell us that Jesus rebukes Satan and Jesus goes about doing what God has commanded him to do. Jesus is victorious where all the rest of humanity has failed.
There is an answer to Satan’s lies. There is victory over sin and death and victory is found in Jesus Christ and him alone. Jesus is able to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world because Jesus has lived as the perfect man. Jesus is the Image of God—God’s only begotten Son—but also the fulfillment of God’s intentions for all of humanity. And only the One who has lived a perfect life can die for the imperfections of others. Jesus is able to volunteer his life’s blood to God as the perfect sacrifice for the our sins and he does—once for all—for all the sins of our past—for all the sins of our present—for all the sins of our future—for our sins, for our family’s sins, for our friends sins and our enemies sins, for the sins of the whole world…Jesus is the perfect sacrifice and through him we know victory. It is victory over death and it is not ours. It is Jesus’ but we enjoy the fruits of his labor and his sacrifice when we call on him as our Lord and Savior. It is victory over the evil one but it is not our victory. It belongs to Jesus but we are able to experience powerful healing and transformed lives when we surrender to Him. We don’t know perfection. We are still sons and daughters of Adam and we are still susceptible to the serpent’s lies but we know that there is a new man who has conquered the old life and with him we can walk a new path that leads us back home towards God’s garden. We are no longer being thrown out of God’s presence. We are being drawn back into his loving arms…through Jesus and through his victory.
Following God has always been tough. Adam and Eve were unable to follow in one simple matter. In Noah’s day the people were so evil and corrupt that God decided to start over and he sent a flood. The patriarch’s failed to follow God’s commands. Moses and God’s people were thrown into their own wilderness for forty years because of their disobedience. The nation Israel was thrown into exile for their disobedience. All throughout history God’s people have been disobeying God and have found themselves in a jackpot—thrown into the wilderness. If we look honestly at our lives we will find our own examples. The Christian walk is hard and we fail regularly…but our hope is not found in our own righteousness. We will fail but our Lord will not. “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
Fight the good fight. Stand firm in your faith. Do not let the evil one persuade you. Never forget, Jesus loves you and has provided the way forward for you. He has redeemed your life from the grave. You have been forgiven your sins. You no longer live as an enemy of God. Trust in God. Trust in Him even when his way seems impossible and you will discover that God is able to carry you through the most difficult problems and will assist you in resisting any temptation. Amen.