Religion Archives

Sermon Notes: Forgiveness

From this week’s sermon.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Minimizing or excusing an offense.
  • Subjecting yourself to continued abuse.
  • Only an emotional response.
  • Assigning blame.
  • An act of weakness.

Forgiveness is:

  • Giving up rights to retaliate.
  • Healing internal abuse.
  • A choice involving thoughts, emotions and actions.
  • Taking responsibility to remove sin, regardless of who did it.
  • An act of inner health.
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    Overcoming Such Unanimity

    Ben DeBono is one of the co-hosts of a podcast I listen to, "The Sci-Fi Christian".  I have the distinction of having named their alien mascot, "Theo".

    Ben is a recent convert to Catholicism, while I am a  long-time Protestant. And yet there are commonalties that people tend to ignore too often. He highlighted one of those commonalities in a recent Facebook post.

    Here’s a thought experiment for Christians arguing for biblical support of homosexuality and/or homosexuall [sic] marriage:

    On the subject of homosexuality theologians as diverse as the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther and every other major pre-20th century Christian thinker stand in complete agreement. Such unanimity is all but unprecedented in the tradition. Even a doctrine as fundamental as the Trinity has greater diversity of thought than homosexuality.

    Regardless of how you view the authority of tradition, doesn’t such complete agreement deserve to be acknowledged and taken seriously? If you say yes, how can you justify the near complete lack of engagement with the tradition by those arguing for an understanding of Christianity that is pro-homosexuality? Wouldn’t such a drastic change on this issue demand a lengthy and complete engagement with the tradition?

    If you say no, how do you justify the implicit claim that your interpretive abilities are superior to 2,000 years of unanimous teaching on this issue – Protestant, Catholic and otherwise?

    Ben shows that, over the millennia, smart Christian guys from all over the spectrum, have been unified on this topic. I made a similar point 2 years ago when I noted that the Bible speak of homosexuality 100% negatively, and of marriage 100% heterosexually. I said essentially the same thing, "Ignore all of that collected wisdom at your peril."

    The religious Left has been accepting homosexuality as a "non-sin" over the past 40 years, and same-sex marriage as blessed just for the past 10 years or so. Relatively speaking, however, this is nothing compared to the unanimity of the faith for the last 2,000 years. If one is going to throw out 2 millennia of doctrine, you had better have a good argument that a) this is really what the Bible says and b) the other guys were wrong. Yelling "Equality!" is not such an argument.

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      Jim Wallis "Evolves". Again.

      Just as our President supposedly "evolved" on the issue of same-sex marriage, Rev. Jim Wallis, head of the liberal Sojourners group, has done the same thing. After saying that marriage shouldn’t be redefined, now that the culture apparently want to change it, now he’s fine with it.

      Michael Brown, author and radio talk-show host, wrote an article for Charisma News that calls Wallis on the carpet for this change. (Emphasis his.)

      Rev. Wallis, you told us in 2008 that “the sacrament of marriage” should not be changed and that “marriage is all through the Bible, and it’s not gender-neutral.” Now, in 2013, you want to redefine marriage and make it gender-neutral. In doing so, you have betrayed the Word of God and the people of God.

      To be candid, sir, I’m not surprised by your theological flip-flop—just pained and distressed by it, since your name is still associated with evangelical Christianity in America and you are a prominent church leader.

      This is not just an issue of going against what Brown (and I) believes the Bible says, but it’s yet another case of Wallis saying one thing and doing another. Brown offers up many examples.

      In the past, you raised some valid criticisms about the “religious right” and its deep solidarity with the Republican Party, but then you joined yourself to the religious left and the Democratic Party, even campaigning for Democratic candidates. So much for taking a kingdom-of-God position that transcends partisan politics and challenges the political establishment.

      To be sure, you have rightly challenged us to consider the poor and the oppressed, pointing to the hundreds of Scriptures that call us to “social justice.” But then you have turned around and applauded Communist dictatorships that championed oppression and tyranny.

      When it comes to Christian integrity, you disappointed us when you received funding from pro-abortion, pro-atheism billionaire George Soros and when you allowed the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the world’s largest gay activist organization, to take out paid advertising in your Sojourners magazine, even though the HRC would love to silence all religious opposition to homosexual practice.

      It is true that in 2008, you expressed having “mixed feelings” about the HRC ads, stating that you “probably wouldn’t do it again.” But today, the HRC celebrates your defection from biblical values, announcing in headline news, “Leading Evangelical Christian Voice Announces Support For Marriage Equality.”

      Rev. Wallis, you have brought reproach to the name of Jesus, to the Word of God and to evangelical Christianity.

      But the height of the hypocrisy is that Wallis seems to be making his moral decisions based on the culture, not based on Christ.

      Worst of all, you have reversed your earlier position on what the Bible clearly says about marriage based largely on where “the country is going.”

      What? Jim Wallis, the critic of the religious establishment; Jim Wallis, the counter-cultural revolutionary; Jim Wallis, the advocate of a Jesus who changes the world rather than conforms to it. You, sir, are now willing to redefine one of the most foundational and sacred human institutions, the institution of marriage, based on where the country is going? Isn’t that the path to spiritual and moral suicide?

      Read the whole thing. (Hey, you’ve read most of it already.)

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        The Bible Doubter

        My brother, an ordained minister in The Salvation Army, is using YouTube to present a series he calls "The Bible Doubter". He gives answers to common charges made against the Bible that are short (4 – 7 minutes), concise and accessible. He’s starting in Genesis. Really worth a look.

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          The Draw of Pacifism

          I’ve known Christians who claim to adhere to pacifism, as well as seen protest signs with "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" painted on them. But Bart Gingerich, critiquing Methodist professor and theologian William Abraham’s new book, notes that this supposed "cure" for war may just be as bad, or worse, than the disease. Of the book "Shaking Hands with the Devil: The Intersection of Terrorism and Theology", Gingerich writes.

          Abraham admits that pacifism superficially offers moral arguments against terrorism, but its medicine is worse than the disease by disallowing defense of the innocent. He opines: “It requires a very special kind of intellectual malfunction and self-deception to sustain pacifism over time.” And he specifically challenges the particularly fashionable form of “pragmatic pacifism” espoused now by Glen Stassen of Fuller Seminary as “just peacemaking,” which he decries for failing to address terrorism seriously. Its pseudo-scientific claims he calls “bogus and misleading.” Although maybe offering occasionally useful “partisan” policy proposals, just peacemaking ultimately aims to shut down the case for force, can offer “false hope,” and ultimately may only fuel further terrorism.

          Hat tip to Don Sensing.

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            Dealing Fairly With Pat Robertson

            I’ve had my issues with what Pat Robertson has said in the past, and expressed them here. But the news media seems to love to just toss out items from him, even items that may be 6 years old, to keep piling on.

            The wonderful Get Religion blog, which I recommend to any Christian, or religious person in general, covers how the press covers religion, both the good and the bad. Yesterday they had a blog post on the Pat Robertson issue, highlighting an article in The Huffington Post that has Robertson saying something he’s always been saying, and calling it news.

            After noting that he’s not examining Robertson’s claims, only the reporting thereof, George Conger takes apart the article, noting that when Robertson said that Islam wasn’t a real religion but an economic system in 2007 (and in stronger terms back then), few cared. The Huffington Post calls the 2013 remarks "inflammatory", but if that’s so, why was nothing inflamed 6 years ago?

            How many times can you make “inflammatory” comments before they no longer become “inflammatory” — do they become combustible, explosive, or after the passage of time — and when no fire ensues — do they simply become rude?

            That’s a fair question.

            And what of the actual opinion expressed? If it is incorrect, surely it could be explained why. But the Post doesn’t go into this at all.

            The tone of offended outrage adopted by the article, that Pat Robertson has said a terrible thing, is not explored. The Huffington Post believes these sentiments are outrageous, but it does not say why. A long time ago I studied Arabic and Farsi as an undergraduate and took a number of courses in Islam. I have not kept up my studies and have lost my facilities in these languages, but I do recall the academic debates over Islam — whether it was a religion in the sense that Christianity or Judaism understood itself to be a religion, or whether it was a religio-political movement that did not bear a one to one comparison with the other Abrahamic faiths. I offer no answer to these questions. But given the unlimited space available to a Huffington Post author for an article, to denounce him without substantiation is sloppy reporting.

            Oh and by the way…

            And please note, Pat Robertson is not an “elder statesman of the evangelical movement. ” He is a Pentecostal Christian. There is a difference.

            Pat Robertson has much more weekly air time than most on his own show, and thus has loads of time to speak. During those many hours of speaking, he’s bound to say something worth disagreeing with. I’ve done some disagreeing with him myself. But if a journalistic endeavor like the Huffington Post is going to do so, they need to do a far better job than this.

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              "Children, Obey Your Parents." But What If…

              I believe that, generally speaking, parents have both the right and responsibility to determine the health care of their minor children. The case of abortion, however, adds a additional life to the equation and makes it more difficult.

              A pregnant teenager in Houston, Texas, is suing her parents, claiming that they are trying to coerce her to have an abortion. The 16-year-old, who is reportedly two months pregnant, is being represented by the Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL), a pro-life legal organization. For now, the girl and her unborn child are protected by a temporary restraining order, but the battle is far from over.

              Here’s a poser: The Bible exhorts children to obey their parents. The parents are telling the child to have a legal medical procedure. As the child, you want to obey your parents, and yet don’t want to abort your baby, both Biblically-based beliefs. There are times when we disobey the civil law to follow the moral law, but these are two moral laws.

              Tough decision, but I think I support the 16-year-old. What do you think?

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                In arguing for the deity of Jesus Christ (i.e., that he is, in fact, God), many Christians will point to places in the Gospel accounts where Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. For example,

                And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

                – Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

                or, more specific to the point,

                Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

                – John 19:4-7 ESV

                Yet, when presenting these apologetic arguments, many times Christians will face the response that Jesus never claimed to be God but merely ‘the son of God’.

                This, I think, is an unfortunate consequence of our current culture’s thinking (and, perhaps, most of Western culture). The mindset we are facing, and most times have ourselves, tends to see individuals rather than groups. When we meet someone who is introduced as so-and-so’s son we think along the lines of, “Oh, your name is Frank, and you’re John’s son.” Is it any surprise, then, that we have instances of surnames such as “Johnson”?

                We do this all the time. “Hello Mary. Yes, I know your mother Kate, and don’t you have a daughter named Rebecca?” In such a dialogue, despite understanding the familial relationship between the mother – daughter – granddaughter, we assign (inadvertently, perhaps) more importance to the individuality of each person. Hence, the argument that if Jesus is the Son of God, then he is God, carries little weight with us.

                However, this does not seem to be the case with the culture with which Jesus interacted. Consider this excerpt from the book of John,

                The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

                – John 10:31-39 ESV

                Here we see that the Jews were ready to stone Jesus because, as they stated, “you, being a man, make yourself God.” In his response Jesus actually takes their charge and clarifies it so as to make it clear that, yes, he is in fact making himself out to be God. Note his reference back to his saying, “I am the Son of God”.

                So, how does this all tie in with CS Lewis, Narnia, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

                At the beginning of chapter 2, just after the Faun (Mr. Tumnus) spots Lucy, we have the following,

                “Good evening,” said Lucy. But the Faun was so busy picking up its parcels that at first it did not reply. When it had finished it made her a little bow.

                “Good evening, good evening,” said the Faun. “Excuse me – I don’t want to be inquisitive – should I be right in thinking that you are a Daughter of Eve?”

                “My name’s Lucy,” said she, not quite understanding him.

                “But you are – forgive me – you are what they call a girl?” asked the Faun.

                “Of course I’m a girl,” said Lucy.

                “You are in fact Human?”

                In these few short lines of text Lewis wonderfully parlays the aspects of cross-cultural issues in how we understand textual meaning. Notice how when the Faun asked “Are you a daughter of Eve?” he was asking if Lucy was “in fact Human”. Lucy, “not quite understanding him” (in true Western form), immediately looked to the individuality aspect of her status as the daughter of her mother – that they were two distinct, and therefore separate, persons. Luckily, the Faun understood this confusion on Lucy’s part and stepped her through the process, first by asking if she was “a girl”, and then asking his initial question in a point blank fashion: “You are in fact Human?”

                The point here is that the title Daughter of Eve had nothing to do with the individuality of Lucy but everything to do with her being of the same species as Eve: Human. In like manner, when Jesus was referred to or claimed to be the Son of God it had everything to do with him being of the same “species” as his Father: God.

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                  Happy New Year! And Happy 240th!

                  Today is January 1st, 2013. Happy New Year! It also happens to be the 240th anniversary of the sermon with which John Newton introduced his newly written poem, Amazing Grace. From Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns,

                  On Friday morning, January 1, 1773, John Newton, former slave trader and infidel, preached a New Year’s message from 1 Chronicles 17:16–17 in his church at Olney, England. Newton opened his sermon, saying, “The Lord bestows many blessings upon His people, but unless He likewise gives them a thankful heart, they lose much of the comfort they might have.” He told his church to look back at God’s goodness, look around at God’s promises, and look forward to future usefulness. In concluding, Newton introduced a poem he’d written for the occasion, the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

                  – Morgan, Robert J., Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns

                  The scriptural text that Newton referred to in his sermon, the setting just after the announcement of the Davidic Covenant,

                  Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O LORD God!

                  (1 Chronicles 17:16-17 ESV)

                  And Newton’s original six verses:

                  Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
                  That sav’d a wretch like me!
                  I once was lost, but now am found,
                  Was blind, but now I see.

                  ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
                  And grace my fears reliev’d;
                  How precious did that grace appear
                  The hour I first believ’d!

                  Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
                  I have already come;
                  ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
                  And grace will lead me home.

                  The Lord has promis’d good to me,
                  His word my hope secures;
                  He will my shield and portion be
                  As long as life endures.

                  Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
                  And mortal life shall cease;
                  I shall possess, within the veil,
                  A life of joy and peace.

                  The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
                  The sun forbear to shine;
                  But God, who call’d me here below,
                  Will be forever mine.

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                    Links for Monday, 31 December 2012

                    Exporting the “old and sick” to another place

                    But don’t worry – I’m sure it’s for “the common good.”

                    From The Guardian,

                    Growing numbers of elderly and sick Germans are being sent overseas for long-term care in retirement and rehabilitation centres because of rising costs and falling standards in Germany.

                    …with increasing numbers of Germans unable to afford the growing costs of retirement homes, and an ageing and shrinking population, the number expected to be sent abroad in the next few years is only likely to rise. Experts describe it as a “time bomb”.

                    Germany has one of the fastest-ageing populations in the world, and the movement here has implications for other western countries, including Britain, particularly amid fears that austerity measures and rising care costs are potentially undermining standards of residential care.

                    Something to think about as we travers the road towards nationalized healthcare.

                    ###

                    The Last Radicals
                    From the National Review,

                    There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional.

                    The author contends that opponents to homeschoolers have three core reasons.

                    The first is that progressives by their nature do not trust people as individuals and feel that, whether we are applying for a credit card or popping into 7-Eleven for a soft drink, Americans require state-appointed overseers.

                    The second reason for this hostility is that while there is a growing number of secular, progressive, organic-quinoa-consuming homeschool families, there remains a significant conservative and Christian component.

                    A third reason is that the majority of homeschool teachers are mothers. A traditional two-parent family with one full-time breadwinner and one stay-at-home parent is practically built into the model.

                    Long live independence!

                    ###

                    Safe, legal and… rare?
                    From Touchstone Magazine,

                    The Federal Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) released a report on the eve of Thanksgiving showing that there was an historic drop of five percent in the abortion rate, the most in a decade. The data is from 2009, the latest year available, and shows that there were only 789,000 abortions. [emphasis in original]

                    The author states that data from California was not included, so the number of abortions most likely was over 1,000,000.

                    As for the demographics, this unsettling note,

                    Approximately 85 percent of women who aborted their babies were unmarried. The majority of abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy. White women had the lowest abortion rate, at about 8.5 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age; the rate for African-American women was about four times that; and the abortion rate for Hispanic women was about 19 per 1,000.

                    The liberal mantra of being there for the disadvantaged seems to get turned on its head.

                    And to put some perspective on the killing of 1,000,000 unborn children every year, it’s like having 137 Sandy Hook mass killings EVERY DAY.

                    ###

                    A belated Christmas Light Painting link for you all
                    Here’s a great example!

                    Merry Christmas Everyone!

                    © Michael Ross

                    ###

                    Doctrine vs. Methodology?
                    From The Gospel Coalition,

                    Pastors constantly face temptation to devote more time and energy to methods rather than to doctrine. If that includes you, then give heed to Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

                    Following the imperative to keep watch on himself, Paul further instructs Timothy to keep watch on his doctrine. My observation, however, is that most ministers aren’t doing this. They don’t talk about doctrine. They don’t read it. If they’re paying close attention to anything, it is their methods and psychology. What’s the result? Less biblical fidelity. Less interest in truth. Less seriousness. Less depth.

                    Neglecting doctrine results in less capacity to offer a compelling alternative to the thinking of our generation. I often hear the excuse that pastors aren’t studying theology because they’re too busy trying to reach more people. Ironically, this pursuit of identification often comes with a corresponding loss of communication. We put forth all this effort to make people feel comfortable and at home so they don’t feel the difference between life in Christ and life without Christ. Problem is, it is supposed to be different when you come to Christ. That is the point.

                    [emphasis added]

                    ###

                    From Radicals to Oddballs
                    Oh, those homeschoolers,

                    There are two facets to educating a child well. The first is to recognize that education is not merely the accumulation of facts, but that it has an unavoidably moral aspect. A suitable education must do more, therefore, than simply teach facts, even moral facts. Education must seek to cultivate the moral imagination of the child, for reducing moral education to a list of rules is bound to fail.

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                      "Hear the Bells"

                      Every Christmas Eve, before the kids go to bed, we listen to Mannheim Steamroller’s "Silent Night" as the last thing in the day. Usually I’ll say a little something about remember family far away, or about soldiers deployed during this time. It’s usually short.

                      However this year, with the Newtown shooting, and getting some inspiration from different sources, I wrote this up. It gives us some perspective; how good most of us have it, how much some people are hurting, and how much God has for all of us.

                      And I dare you not to cry when you hear the toy piano plink out "Silent Night".

                      Merry Christmas.

                      Doug

                      Read the rest of this entry

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                        Just like Mary, you too can give birth to Jesus!

                        What, you say? How can this be? Simple, just check you Cable listings for the Casting Crowns Christmas Celebration and listen to the sermon [sic] from Max Lucado (about 30 minutes into the program). After reading the scriptural account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary, Lucado then launches into one of the strangest evangelistic talks I’ve ever heard.

                        Here are some direct excerpts:

                        “The virgin birth – more than just a Christmas story, but a heavenly promise that what God did for Mary, he will do for you.”

                        “The virgin birth – the core of the Christian hope, that God could work such a miracle in those that would trust and obey him, that Jesus himself would be placed within them, so that they could do what Mary did – deliver hope into a dark world.”

                        “And John was clear that those who obey his [Jesus'] commands live in him and he lives in them. And the sweet invitation of Christ is this, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come-,” not just near, and not just around, but “I will come in.” Jesus’ invitation to all people is this, “If you’ll let me, I’ll move in.” And what Christ did for Mary, he’s willing to do for you. To grow in you, until he has to come out – until you deliver him. Until he comes out through your speech – through your touch – through your eyes – through your love. Every place you live will be a Bethlehem, and every day you live will be a Christmas. And you, like Mary, will deliver Christ into the world.”

                        “And the day you deposited your faith in Christ he performed an irrevocable yet undeniable miracle – he moved in. And he took up residence, deep within you, until he grows and he grows and he grows, and he must be delivered. You do not have a choice – you are third trimester heavy, with the presence of Christ. And you deliver him into the world.”

                        I think this takes metaphorical analogy, with a personal application, to a whole new level.

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                          1st Sunday of Advent – Love

                          Love

                          The 1st Sunday of Advent was December 2nd. I’m late. I know.

                          This year we’re celebrating Love for the First Sunday of Advent. You may have heard of the saying, “God is Love.” Indeed, reference 1 John 4. But what exactly is that supposed to mean? In English, the word ‘love’ has a variety of applications which can run from the erotic to gastronomical. I ‘love’ green chile cheeseburgers, for instance. Not to worry, though, because we have the Word of God to explain this to us.

                          In Romans 5 we are told of the depths of love which was expressed for us.

                          For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

                          (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

                          And in the well known John 3:16 passage we are explicitly told of God’s love for mankind as well as the implications of such love. Hence we celebrate the Advent of Love, a pre-existing love, which by its very nature, cannot have existed in a singular state – for who would God have to love?

                          One admonition I’d like to leave you with is that as you reflect on the Love of God, particularly in the Advent of the Incarnate Jesus, don’t make the mistake of trivializing said love by over-personalizing the concept. While God loves each and every one of us, the phrase “For God so loved the world…” should not be translated “For God so loved ME…” In our self-centered culture, that’s an easy trap to fall into. I recently heard an evangelist prompt the audience he was speaking to to repeat the phrase, “Jesus was born, just for me.” Besides being wrong on so many levels, such a phrase only serves to reinforce the individualistic mentality so prevalent in society. Remember Romans 5:8, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

                          Happy Advent!

                          And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

                          “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

                          (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

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                            The War on Religion

                            (Hey, if Democrats can invent a war, so can I.)

                            Hobby Lobby had filed suit to block the ObamaCare contraception mandate. They lost round 1.

                            As a “secular” corporation, they have no rights to use the religious beliefs of their ownership as a justification not to abide by the contraception mandate. This decision is inconsistent with the Tyndale House one you may have heard about. So apparently being a Bible publisher does make you religious, but being a Bible seller doesn’t.

                            The argument the administration advanced successfully in the Hobby Lobby case is a particularly troublesome one for believers of all faiths who operate under the assumption that they can use their moral principles to guide the way their place of business spends money. According to the administration’s legal arguments, the family that owns Hobby Lobby is not protected by the First Amendment’s "free exercise" clause because “Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion.”

                            Hobby Lobby is an all-American success story if there ever was one. Read the whole thing for their history. But now, with ObamaCare breathing down our collective necks, you lose your religious freedom the minute you start a company.

                            The company remained all privately owned, with no franchising. Their statement of purposes and various commitments all begin with Bible verses, commitments to honor the Lord. The Hobby Lobby folks pay well above minimum wage and have increased salaries four years in a row despite the recession. They are teetotalers of the old Oral Roberts variety, refusing to stock shot glasses, don’t sell any of their store locations with liquor stores, don’t allow backhauling of beer shipments – all things that could make them money, but they just bear the costs. Every Christmas and Easter, the Hobby Lobby folks advertise a free Bible and spiritual counseling. They are closed every Sunday. The family also signed the giving pledge, committing to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

                            So: I doubt this is the type of company to spend one dime on this contraception mandate. They will just drop coverage, and pay employees the difference, shifting them onto the exchanges or the taxpayer, rather than compromise their beliefs. It’s logical, it’s more predictable as a budgeting choice, and it will save them tens of millions in the long run versus retaining coverage and paying the fine.

                            I have to wonder if this wasn’t part of the plan all along; a self-fulfilling prophesy of the need for state insurance exchanges by forcing, in part, religious people who happened to have started a business to join them. That’s a little cynical, I’ll agree, but it’s tough to understand this blatant contravening of freedoms in the very first Amendment.

                            Arguing that a corporation isn’t a person is one thing. Arguing that you stop being one when you create one is another one entirely.

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                              The Most Bibles

                              Which country produces the most Bibles? I thought this would be a simple question; the United States, the most capitalist country around. Lots of people, and a jillion different translations, paraphrases and parallel versions would make for a big market.

                              Not so. This may surprise you, until you think about it a bit.

                              When one thinks of China, Christianity and the Bible are likely two of the furthest things that come to mind. “Communism,” “forced abortions,” one-child policy” and other terms are, more generally, what’s the nation is known for. But now, a shocking new development has come to the forefront: China, a country that makes many products consumed in the U.S. and abroad, is now also the world’s largest Bible producer.

                              Amity Printing Company is the only outfit in China that is permitted to produce Christian Bibles. While the Chinese government doesn’t have the most stellar record when it comes to religious freedom, Amity Printing has been fast at work, with the company’s chairman, Qiu Zhonghui, announcing that the business published its 100 millionth Bible in July.

                              According to a report by Christian Today [Ed.: not "Christianity Today"], the Amity has printed 60 million Bibles, including nine ethnic minority editions in various languages. Additionally, 40 million copies were printed in more than 90 languages and sent to about 70 nations and regions across the globe.

                              Not bad for a printing company founded in 1988.

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