You Shall Be Perfect

by Gene Taylor

“Along these lines you might be ideal similarly as your Father in paradise is flawless” (Matt. 5:48). At first look, this is a troublesome section. It is by all accounts calling us to do or be what appears to be unimaginable. “No one is immaculate,” is the thing that we say.

Doubtlessly all dependable individuals confer sin. Romans 3:23 states that all have trespassed and missed the mark concerning the brilliance of God. That is the reason Jesus kicked the bucket for all men to give them the chance to have their transgression evacuated (Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:14). It is additionally why the gospel should be lectured “to each animal” (Mark 16:16). Indeed, even after one complies with the gospel, regardless he confers sin and needs absolution (1 John 1:7– 10).

In the event that Matthew 5:48 were revealing to us that we should live righteously idealize lives or that we should be as flawless as God, at that point we clearly have some genuine issues.

When we look to decide the significance of any Biblical content, particularly one that appears to be hard to comprehend, we should recall, with regards to Scripture, whatever God’s oath says regarding any matter is correct (Psa. 119:128). It is additionally conceivable to curve or abuse the Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:15– 16).

In the investigation of the troublesome content before us, we should answer three inquiries. Initially: Can “consummate” have a few implications in the Bible? Second: What is the setting of this verse? Third: Are there different verses in the Bible which will enable us to comprehend this one?

The Meaning of Perfect

“Perfect,” in the Bible, can and means “finish” or “wrapped up.” Jesus was made “immaculate” through affliction (Heb. 2:10; 5:8– 9). He finished or satisfied God’s arrangement for Him as our Savior by misery for us.

“Culminate” can likewise have the significance of “develop” or “experienced childhood.” In Philippians 3:15, the messenger Paul addresses “the same number of as be flawless” (KJV). The NKJV interprets this expression “the same number of as are develop.”

The Context of Matthew 5:48

Jesus stands out His instructing from that of the Old Law (Matt. 5:38– 39). He demonstrates to us what our state of mind is to be toward the individuals who need to make life hard for us by driving us or disdainfully treating us (Matt. 5:40– 44).

He shows us to love our “adversaries” (Matt. 5:44), not a simple activity. We are to do this so “that you might be children of your Father in paradise” (Matt. 5:45a). God acts with concern and love for all men. In the event that we demonstration like our brilliant Father, we will act with positive cooperative attitude toward malevolent and great men alike. On the off chance that we just love the individuals who adore us yet don’t love our adversaries, we are extremely no superior to anything malicious men for even fiendishness individuals are equipped for cherishing the individuals who adore them (Matt. 5:46).

At the point when Jesus stated, “Be impeccable, as your Father in paradise is immaculate” (Matt. 5:48), He was stating, “Given your adoration a chance to be finished as God’s affection.” God cherishes all individuals, even shrewdness ones. This is the way we can be as “immaculate” as God. Our adoration for our kindred man needs to develop and develop – including cherishing our foes. On the off chance that we don’t love our foes, we are not going about as children of God should act.

Different Passages To Help Us Understand

“In this manner be imitators of God as dear kids” (Eph. 5:1). In this entry, the messenger Paul holds forward the Father as one we are to mimic. By again observing the setting in which this entry is discovered, we can see that His illustration is in the domain of states of mind toward our kindred man. The verses quickly going before this content say: “Let all intensity, fury, outrage, fuss, and malice talking be secured from you, with all malevolence. Also, be caring to each other, kind, pardoning each other, similarly as God in Christ excused you” (Eph. 4:31– 32).

This section obviously shows that our states of mind toward other individuals must be the same as those of our Father in paradise. If not, we have no privilege to claim to be His youngsters.

“In any case, as He who called you is heavenly, you additionally be blessed in all your lead, since it is composed, ‘Be sacred, for I am blessed'” (1 Pet. 1:15– 16). This content urges us the need of adjusting our lives to the qualities and models of holiness. Blessed lead emerges from heavenly mentalities. In the event that we will act in a legitimate way toward our kindred man, we should have the best possible mentalities including the state of mind to love even our adversaries.

Conclusion

We should regard the order of our Savior given in Matthew 5:48 to “be flawless” similarly as our wonderful Father is great. We should be cautious, however, not to apply this summon to regions in which Jesus never proposed for it to be connected.

He was talking about the adoration that is to describe the individuals who are offspring of God. That affection is to be finished, stretching out even to the individuals who are your adversaries, who despise you and angrily utilize you. In this, as in every other thing, we should endeavor to be as both Father and Son.

Placed in God’s Hands

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands; that I still possess.” Martin Luther The above quote from Martin Luther is not well known, but every time I read it I am moved to ask the question; what have I placed in God’s hands? In baptism, parents, godparents and the entire community of faith indeed place into God’s hands children brought to the font. In the sacrament a host of specific responsibilities are placed upon the parents, sponsors and indeed upon the whole community of faith: As you bring your children to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities: to live with them among God’s faithful people, bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, place in their hands the holy scriptures, and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that your children may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. Parents and sponsors take on these responsibilities and the community of faith pledges to support them in their efforts. Sadly the above pledge is treated lightly and many children who are baptized seldom see the inside of a church unless it is for a funeral or a wedding. Why does this happen? Because all of us too often fail to truly place the lives of these young children in God’s hands. We instead place their lives into the hands of coaches and trainers, teachers and television, social media and the care of the creators of video games. Please understand that there is nothing wrong with good coaches, trainers, teachers; their involvement is essential for the development of the lives of young people. But if this alone is who we trust have we not failed in our promises to God and to our children? Is it any wonder that many who are baptized drift away and are never seen again? We have failed to place the lives of these young people into the hands of God. What is most important is to remember it is not merely the failing of parents, or godparents but the Church as a whole. We fail to put our own lives in the hands of God and therefore fail to place others in God’s hands. Is it any wonder that children and young people are leaving the Church? We fail to give to God that which is most precious to us and we fail to share the hours of our lives. We also are meager in the sharing of material wealth. We do not consider placing before the Lord the talents of our lives and so an impoverished church stumbles from the November, 2016 November, 2016 Grace Notes is also available online at www.gracelc.org/news/grace-notes Page 2 overwhelming loss brought on by our unwillingness to give over to God the preciousness of our lives, our treasures. What does our word matter? What good is our pledge to care for young ones, each other and the world if we fail to live our lives according to the pledges and promises we make? Integrity is a word that makes all the difference when we remember to live it out in our daily lives. Faith is a word that proclaims where we have placed our lives. A pledge made to God and the integrity to live out our pledge is essential for the well-being of children and adults alike. Who we are is the result of our words and our lives being in sync. Placing our lives, the lives of children, and all of who we are will define us and in turn bring wholeness and healing to a world in need of people of integrity. We will live out our baptismal promises proclaiming Christ through word and deed, caring for others and the world God made, and by working for justice and peace. This is who we are and this is what our lives are to be about. Placing our lives and all that we are in God’s precious hands will hold us fast in the fullness of God’s grace and guide us as a people who can indeed make a difference for the entire world.

 

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Philippi: A Church To Be Thankful For

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:3-6).

One of the greatest joys an evangelist has is a church for which he can be truly thankful. It is a great encouragement to a preacher to know there are brethren who will come to his aid in times of distress or persecution. It renews the spirit to feel the weight of the daily burdens lightened by the helping hands of loving saints of like precious faith.

Zealous To Support Paul

The Philippian brethren were ardent supporters of the apostle from the first day (Phil. 1:5). How different they were from the Corinthians from whom Paul received nothing though he gave them his all (2 Cor. 11:7-10; 12:14-17). These brethren supported Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:15), at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16), in Achaia at Athens and Corinth (Phil. 4:15; Acts 17:13-16) and in the imperial prison at Rome (Phil. 1:7; 4:14-19). They supported Paul out of there “deep poverty” while undergoing a “great trial of affliction” (2 Cor. 8:2). Evangelists ought to be grateful for what they receive from the brethren.

While what the evangelist receives is earned (2 Cor. 11:8), it is no less a matter of generosity and sacrifice on the part of the brethren. They work, they earn and they have bills, needs and wants. Yet, they give. They could have more for themselves if they gave less, but their commitment to Christ is greater than their desires for additional comforts and pleasures (Phil. 1:6; 4:10; 2 Cor. 9:8-11).

Worked By His Side

The Philippians did not just “throw money” at Paul, Luke or Timothy expecting “so much preach for so much pay.” No, the Philippians were “yokefellows,” “fellow laborers,” “fellow soldiers” and “companions in labor” with Paul (Phil. 2:25; 4:3). These brethren had actually helped in the work of evangelizing. Lydia opened her house and received the church (Acts 16:40). Epaphroditus was an evangelist, as well as their messenger who risked his life to carry a gift to Paul (Phil. 2:25). Clement was a teacher of the gospel (Phil. 1:1; 4:1-2). Euodias and Syntyche were served as well (cf. Rom. 16:1-2).

Too many “in the pew” are under the impression that preachers are hired to do their evangelism. There are quite a few preachers under the impression that their sole responsibility is to “fill the pulpit.” The evangelist and the church are in fellowship together in the great work of evangelism. The church shares in the financial needs of the preacher, but also in the work. Elders and deacons have a responsibility to teach and preach the word (1 Tim. 5:17; Acts 21:8) and to train others in that work (1 Tim. 3:10; Titus 1:9-10).

Not Ashamed of Paul

When Paul wrote the church at Philippi his popularity was greatly diminished. He was in prison in Rome (Phil. 1:7) deserted by some of his former companions and alone (2 Tim. 4:9-17). The sect of the circumcision continued to harass Paul (Phil. 1:15-18). Their desire was to destroy him if possible. They made false charges against him and misrepresented his doctrine (Gal. 5:10-12; Phil. 3:18-19; Rom. 3:8). Some of the brethren were turning away from Paul (2 Tim. 1:15). However, the Philippians were remaining steadfast in their former love (Phil. 1:7; 4:14). They unashamedly acknowledged their debt to Paul as the herald of their salvation (Phil. 2:17).

There will be times when an unpopular stand must be taken because it is the right place to stand (Gal. 2:11-12). Men of influence and importance will try and persuade you to do otherwise for the sake of your influence (Gal. 2:6). Weak brethren will tremble because they fear being “labeled” (Acts 28:22). Former stalwarts will cave into pressure because the majority is against you (Gal. 2:13).

When we are ashamed of those who faithfully stand for Christ, we reveal that we are ashamed of the Lord (2 Tim. 1:8). The Lord needs churches today that will support preachers who choose to suffer rather than to practice compromise. We need brethren who will sacrifice to see that those who are standing for the truth have their needs met abundantly. Elders that fear God more than they fear men — leading saints to hold up the hands of the righteous in defense of the faith.

A Good Church

Philippi was certainly a church to be thankful for — evangelistic, sacrificial and loyal. What more could one want in a congregation of God’s people? Is this church such a body of believers? Are we all working? Have we sacrificed for truth? Will we stand when the time comes?

Homosexuality And The Bible

by David Padfield

Was King David of Israel a homosexual? According to some “researchers” in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, both King David and Jonathan, the oldest son of King Saul, were gay. In a correspondence course used by their congregation in Key West, Florida, they say, “All scripture referring to the love that David and Jonathan had indicates that it was a very romantic, personal love.” They also imply that Ruth and Naomi, women of the Old Testament, were lesbian lovers, and claim homosexuals “will receive very special recognition” in heaven.

The Metropolitan Community Church was organized in 1968 by Troy Perry. Metropolitan Community Church congregations can be found in most American cities and a dozen foreign countries. They claim 80% of their members are homosexual. In one of their tracts, Why We Are A Fellowship, James Sandmire states the Metropolitan Community Church “creates community where it never existed before: literally thousands of lesbians and gay men take great strength and comfort in the fact that in most major cities, and now in many rural communities, there is a Metropolitan Community Church. We are becoming widely recognized as a Church of liberation for a community in need. This need increases with changing political climates, health crises and attacks from the religious right.”

As a result of talking about this subject in print and on the radio, I have been called a “homophobe,” a “bigot,” and a “gay basher.” I have no personal animosity against these people. Homosexuals are no worse than any idolater, adulterer or thief. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the apostle Paul puts these people in the same class, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

When you quote this verse to members of the Metropolitan Community Church, they will quickly tell you it is just a bad translation. They must believe every recognized Bible translator is a bigoted, gay bashing, homophobe!

In Roman 1:24-32, Paul explains that homosexuality was one of the reasons God “gave up” on the Gentiles. He says, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

Paul put homosexual activity in the midst of a list which includes sexual immorality, murder, and those who hate God. Paul claimed those who committed these crimes were worthy of death.

God’s laws on sexual morality in the Old Testament were very plain. Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” Of course, homosexuals today claim this verse was just not translated correctly.

In Leviticus 18:22 we read, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Was this verse also mistranslated by a group of bigots and gay-bashers? I wonder about the verse that follows it. It says, “Nor shall you mate with any beast, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before a beast to mate with it. It is perversion” (Leviticus 18:23). This verse deals with the sin of bestiality (sexual intercourse with animals). Those who practice this perversion are called zoophiles. Could those guilty of bestiality claim this verse was just mis-translated by a group of zoophile-bashers?

Since the Metropolitan Community Church is in favor of “loving, committed same sex relationships,” I wonder how they feel about pedophiles? You know, those are adults who prefer intercourse with little children. We usually refer to them as child molesters. The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) advocates consensual sex between men and boys. The San Francisco chapter of NAMBLA has used the public library for their meetings (USA Today, January 21, 1992). A spokesman for the organization said, “We are not child abusers. We’re fighting for children’s rights, and children must have the right to have consensual sex with adults.”

The Roman Catholic Church has a few priests who might qualify for membership in NAMBLA. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that in Chicago, “A flurry of child sex-abuse scandals has drawn the Roman Catholic Church into a far-ranging investigation of pedophile priests, a phenomenon critics say the church hierarchy has long kept muffled” (March 20, 1992). Seven Roman Catholic priests were removed from their parishes due to sexual mistreatment of children. I don’t know where these priests moved to, but they might be able to find a job with the Metropolitan Community Church! You know the old saying, birds of a feather flock together.

Sometimes you will hear homosexuality called a sickness. Other times they claim “God made me this way.” Is homosexuality a learned life-style? The Bible never presents homosexuality as a sickness. It always refers to it as a sin. The good news is Christ our Lord died for sin. In Romans 5:8,9, Paul shows us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Many homosexuals and sodomites in Corinth found mercy from the Lord. First, they had to repent of their sins and be washed in the blood of Christ. Paul speaks of homosexuals and sodomites, then says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

I am not suggesting that anyone burn the building of the Metropolitan Community Church or form a picket line in front of it. The cause of Christ is neither promoted nor defended by violence. The only weapon of our warfare is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). The gospel has not lost any of its power, but it has suffered in the feeble hands of some preachers. I am appalled at denominational preachers who have decided to remain silent on this issue. It appears these spiritual cowards would rather spend their time playing bingo or planning the next ladies auxiliary meeting.

If it were not for the fact the Metropolitan Community Church claims to have God’s approval, I would have remained silent about their organization. I am not a political activist, nor am I interested in denying them their civil rights. But, when these sodomites and lesbians use the name of my Lord, I cannot remain silent.

In an article in the Evansville Press, one of the leaders of the Metropolitan Community Church said many gays and lesbians “have expressed a desire for spiritual programs but do not feel welcome in many churches here.” I cannot speak for any other religious group, but these folks are welcome at the church of Christ. They are welcome to attend and search the scriptures with us. It is the only way I that know they will ever come to a knowledge of the truth. Once they find out the gospel demands they repent of all their sins, including the sin of their homosexual life-style, then they can render obedience unto the Son of God. If they then continue to walk in the light of God’s word, heaven can be their home.

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An Overwhelming Response

by David Padfield

In the August (1995) issue of this bulletin we printed an article titled, “Adultery: It Destroys The Soul.” The response from our readers about this article has been overwhelming. Within a month after publication we received over 40 letters and phone calls from brethren commending the article. At the time this issue was sent to the printers we had received only one negative letter about the article.

The section of the article that got the most attention dealt with gospel preachers who had committed the “heinous crime” of adultery. I suggested that these men go back to “making tents” for a living until they, like elders, could “have a good testimony among those who are outside” (1 Timothy 3:7).

There is no question that one guilty of adultery can be forgiven if they genuinely repent of their sin. The church at Corinth had members who formerly were prostitutes, adulterers and homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The brother who took issue with my article had two main objections. First, he thought I overstated my case when I said, “It is a sad fact that many gospel preachers have been guilty of adultery.” Second, he had “difficulty finding in the word of God where the restrictions were ever placed upon anyone’s serving God faithfully following their sinning (and tearfully correcting the same).”

As for the exact number of preachers who have been guilty of adultery in the last few years I would not even try to guess. Before I wrote the article I sat down and made a list of over 20 preachers who had publicly confessed to this sin in the past few years. I do not know about you, but to me that is a lot! One preacher guilty of adultery would be too many.

Concerning his second point I believe we have a basic, fundamental difference in our understanding of the New Testament. When I read the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, I do see “restrictions placed upon anyone’s serving God faithfully following their sinning.” I do not see how a man guilty of polygamy could ever be qualified to serve as an elder, even after his repentance (see Titus 1:6). Could a drunkard sincerely repent of his drunkenness on Sunday morning and be appointed as an elder on Sunday evening (see Titus 1:7)? If a Christian neglects his own children and gives them to the world by his neglect, would he be qualified to serve as an elder when he repents? What is your understanding of the phrase “having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination” (Titus 1:6). Is this qualification to be cast aside if the man repents of raising children who are “accused of dissipation or insubordination”? Paul said, “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5). If a man raised reprobate children does he learn how to “take care of the church of God” the moment he repents?

Adultery is different from other sins, at least in its consequences. God has provided only one reason for an individual to divorce their spouse and marry another, that is, sexual immorality (Matt. 19:9). When a man commits adultery his wife no longer has faith, confidence or trust in his fidelity. He has lied to both God and man. Are we to believe that a woman can divorce her husband because he has broken his sacred vows (even if he repents) and yet if he is a preacher the brethren have to support him?

The patriarch Job called adultery a “heinous crime” (Job 31:11). King Solomon said adultery “destroys the soul” (Prov. 6:32). In Proverbs 22:1 he said, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Adultery destroys one’s soul and reputation. How long does it take for one to regain his “good name”?

Wedding sermons, ceremonies and vows

  • Wedding And Funeral Sermons, a collection of wedding and funeral sermons by David Padfield, Wayne Greeson, Harry Lewis, Brian Sullivan, Wayne Walker, Gene Taylor, and Robert Welch (PDF file size: 149k).
  • Wedding Vows Are Sacred Vows

Mary, The Mother Of Jesus

by David Padfield

What attitude should Christians have towards Mary, the mother of Jesus? Should we worship and praise her? Should we pray to Mary as the “Co-Redeemer” of humanity?

One Roman Catholic “Saint” claimed that, “At the command of Mary all obey, even God. She is omnipotent, for the queen, according to all laws, enjoys the same privileges as the king; and since the son’s power also belongs to the mother, this Mother is made omnipotent by an omnipotent Son.” (Alphonsus Ligouri, The Glories Of Mary, [New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co.], p. 114).

Several years ago Time magazine carried an article about Mary and the viewpoint many have towards her. “Among all the women who have ever lived, the mother of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated, the most venerated, the most portrayed, the most honored in the naming of girl babies and churches. Even the Koran praises her chastity and faith. Among Roman Catholics, the Madonna is recognized not only as the Mother of God but also, according to modern Popes, as the Queen of the Universe, Queen of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom and even the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” (Richard N. Ostling, “Hand-maid or Feminist?,” Time, Dec. 30, 1991, p. 62).

There is no question Mary was honored by being selected to bring the Son of God into this world. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28). In view of the confusion about Mary, I believe it would be good for us to explore a few of the myths Roman Catholics have perpetuated about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Immaculate Conception

Many people confuse the phrase “immaculate conception” with “virgin birth.” These words do not refer to the same thing. Karl Keating, a noted Catholic apologist, explains it like this: “The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived in the womb of her mother without the stain of original sin. The essence of original sin consists in the lack of sanctifying grace. Mary was preserved from this defect; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace.” (Karl Keating, Catholicism And Fundamentalism, [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988], p. 270).

In a booklet distributed by The Knights of Columbus there is a section on the fall of man. The book speaks of inherited sin and attempts to explain how the “defects” of Adam were “passed on to his children as a man may pass certain qualities by heredity. First of these defects was, of course, the original sin. Adam’s children (and we are all Adam’s children) were born without grace. And all inherited other evils as well” (Imprimatur of John F. Whealon, The Apostles’ Creed, p. 10).

The Bible never speaks of “inherited sin.” Instead, it teaches “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezek. 18:20).

Mary did not inherit any sin from her parents-no one ever inherits the sins of others. Mary did commit sin. We know this because she, like the rest of humanity, needs a Savior. She said, “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). You can not save that which is not lost!

Perpetual Virginity

Roman Catholics also insist that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life, even after her marriage to Joseph. “Accusation has been made by many rationalists and others attacking the perpetual virginity of Mary because of reference in the gospel to the ‘brethren’ of our Lord. This reference denotes solely a group of cousins. It is clear from the gospel that Mary kept her resolve and had no other children after the virginal birth of Christ.” (Robert Broderick, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986], p. 601).

Keating asserts that, “A careful look at the New Testament shows Mary kept her vow and never had any children other than Jesus” (Keating, p. 284). This statement makes me wonder if Keating has ever read the Catholic Bible, for it says Mary did have other children! “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary known to be his mother and James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? Aren’t his sisters our neighbors?” (Matthew 13:55, New American Bible [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983]).

Keating also says, “It is traditional, at the conclusion of the (wedding) ceremony, for the bride to take a bouquet to a side altar and lay it at the feet of a statue of the Virgin, at the same time praying that she might emulate Mary as a wife and a mother” (Keating, p. 259). Not many men would want their spouse to “emulate Mary as a wife,” if the Catholic claim of her perpetual virginity is true. It is interesting to note that if an engaged couple told a Catholic priest that they wanted to get married but intended to remain celibate the priest would not allow them to get married!

The apostle Paul tells us, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:2-5).

“If Mary was married to Joseph and Joseph to Mary in appearance only, then they were recreant to each other and to the ordinance of God which made them one. How a Roman Catholic, to whom marriage is a sacrament, can entertain such a notion is an unfathomable mystery. The fact that Mary was miraculously the mother of the Messiah has nothing to do with the question of her privilege and obligation in the holiest of human relationships. Back of this unwholesome dogma are two utterly false ideas: that the marriage relationship is incompatible with holy living, and that Mary is not to be considered a human being under ordinary obligations of human life” (James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956], Vol. III, p. 2003).

Our Mediator

Many people mistakenly believe the Roman Catholic Church teaches Mary is on par with Jesus in the role of mediating between God and man. Some of this confusion comes when non-Catholics hear The Hail Mary prayer: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The Catholic Catechism says, “Mary, ever associated with her Son, prays for us with Him. She is not alone in this. The whole community of the blessed in heaven imitate Christ in continuing their concern for us. As we pray for one another upon earth and for the souls in purgatory, so our brothers and sisters in heaven intercede for us. We are united with all of them by the intimate bonds of Christian love. But Mary, our spiritual mother, has an altogether exceptional role in this. Among those redeemed by her Son, her intercessory power is by far the most extensive and effective.” (Ronald Lawler, ed., The Teaching Of Christ, [Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1983], pp. 228-229).

The Bible teaches there is “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). This passage not only rules out Mary as a mediator, but also all of the other Catholic “saints.” You will also note the Bible never calls Mary our “spiritual mother” nor mentions a place known as purgatory.

Assumed Into Heaven

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after Mary ended her earthly life, she was taken up into heaven in body as well as in soul. This doctrine was “defined” in Catholic theology by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

You might wonder where the Bible teaches such a doctrine as this. Knowing that no verse in the Bible even hints at this doctrine, Keating, in his chapter on Marian Beliefs, says, “fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true” (Keating, p. 275).

Keating is willing to reject the Bible and accept the word of the same people who brought us the Crusades and the Inquisition.

While Jesus was teaching in Galilee, “a woman from the crowd called out, ‘Blest is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ ‘Rather’ He replied, ‘blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27, NAB). This woman had the same idea that Catholics have today. The reply of Jesus cuts at the heart of Mariolatry. While not denying that Mary was blessed in being His mother, our Lord insists that more blessed are those who “hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28).

Debate on the Roman Catholic Church

  • The Greeson-Rutland Debate On Catholicism (PDF file size: 240k)
  • This article is also available as a free Bible tract you can reprint

Facts About The Bible

by David Padfield

The Bible is composed of 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Some 39 or 40 men had a part in the writing of the Bible, from Moses to the apostle John. It took over 1500 years to produce the Bible.

Out of all the men who wrote the books of the Bible, Luke “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) was the only Gentile. He penned the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.

The first section of the Old Testament is called the Pentateuch. It contains the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). These books, written by Moses, cover the period of time from Creation to the death of Moses, just prior to the entrance of God’s people into the promised land.

The Old Testament contains twelve books of history, from Joshua through Esther. There are five books of poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. There are five books of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. There are 12 minor prophets, from Hosea through Malachi.

The New Testament contains four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), each telling the story of the life of Christ from different viewpoints. The New Testament has one book of history, the book of Acts, which tells of the establishment of the church and the growth of Christianity in the first century. It also has 21 epistles, the majority of which were written by the apostle Paul (Romans through Jude) and one book of prophecy (the Revelation), penned by John while on the isle of Patmos.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with the exception of Daniel 2:4b-7:28 and Ezra 4:8-6:18). The New Testament was written in Greek.

The Catholic Bible

The Catholic Bible (including the Douay version, the Confraternity Version and the New American Bible) contains seven extra books: Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, First and Second Maccabees, plus additional parts in the books of Esther and Daniel. Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever quoted from these books as if they were inspired.

The Apocryphal books were rejected by the first century Jewish Flavius Josephus and were never accepted by the Palestinian Jews.

When Jerome (now a Roman Catholic “saint”) translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Latin, he rejected these books as non-canonical (383-406 a.d.).

The Apocryphal books were not even received by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent on April 8, 1546.

Bible and Roman Catholic Church and Council of Trent

  • How To Do A Word Study, a one page handout showing how to find the meaning of a Greek word by starting with the English word found in the King James Version (PDF file size: 20k).
  • How To Do A Word Study (Color), a one page handout showing how to find the meaning of a Greek word by starting with the English word found in the King James Version. This file is intended to be printed on color laser printers (PDF file size: 216k).
  • Notes For The Margin Of Your Bible, a handout used in personal work and for edifying individual Christians (PDF file size: 117k).

Recreating the Church

In Recreating the Church, Richard Hamm offers 1968 as the pivotal year where things start going downhill for most mainline denominations. In January, the Tet offensive showed that the Viet Cong, despite assurances to the contrary, were still a potent military force in South Vietnam. In March, Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection, setting off what would become a three man contest between Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon. Martin Luther King, Junior, was assassinated in April. Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June. The Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago, was rocked by protests. Several cities experienced deadly riots. Hamm points out that today mainline denominations have “lost even the appearance of success.” We are too busy trying to survive by maintaining a dying system. We must seek not just technical change to the system (replacing one leader or structure with another), but adaptive change of the entire system itself (rethinking our method completely). I personally could not agree more.

Hamm does an excellent job of diagnosing the changes which have brought the mainline denominations to where we are today:  the ‘perfect storm’ of change in American culture, organizational obsolescence, and anxiety. But he doesn’t stop there. Using the language of Ronald Heifetz, he suggests personal and systemic models of how to lead the adaptive change necessary to move from modern to postmodern leaders and institutions, as we face a challenge unprecedented in history:  ministering to and with five distinct generations at one time.

From a big picture perspective, Hamm offers a terrific explanation for post-moderns, their faith and their role in the church. That being said, I would like to focus on one point that Hamm makes that I found particularly helpful. Specifically, I often hear an argument that goes something like this: our call in life is to be faithful and let God deal with the growth or decline. This argument is persuasive because it has a kernel of truth in it.  But Hamm points out the problem in this argument over the past fifty years.  The entire paragraph is worth quoting:

A fourth reason [that mainline leaders did not notice the shift from modern leadership to postmodern leadership], found among some mainline church leaders, was an attitude that viewed the decreases as a sign that the denominations were paying the “price of faithfulness.”  That is, some mainline church leaders and governing bodies (especially in national settings) had taken unpopular stands in regard to such issues as racism and the Vietnam War, and so some concluded that a lot of contributing members just couldn’t take the “heat” of the “truth.”  This was a self-serving, but understandable interpretation.  If we had done statistical analyses of who was still attending, however, we would have found that the losses were primarily among the young, not the old (who were the primary contributors and would have been more likely to leave than would the young when traditional values were challenged).

 

Ouch!  I hear the same argument today around issues like homosexuality and politics and religion.  Hamm’s insightful analysis of what has taken place in the past fifty years suggests that today something bigger is going on with the continued decline of mainline denominations than just “taking the heat” for progressive stances on divisive issues.

Finally, one of the most encouraging parts of the book was the final chapter: “Why Bother?” In other words, what can mainline denominations do that others cannot do? On page 116, Hamm suggests five reasons why we (meaning his denomination) are still valuable:

  1. We hold faith and reason together at a time when the world seems bent on separating the two.
  2. Our institutions of higher education engage in education rather than indoctrination.
  3. We have a worldview that analyzes reality both in terms of individuals and systems, rather than through the lens of radical individualism only.
  4. We interpret the Scriptures in a way that empowers women, people of color, and other historically marginalized people to participate more fully in the church and the wider culture.
  5. Our overseas involvements are marked by partnership with indigenous people rather than by colonialist approaches.

 

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Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts

Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts

 

It is a misconception (and a complete falsehood) that conflict is bad. This misunderstanding is likely one of the reasons that people go to such great lengths to avoid conflict. In fact, conflict is healthy and necessary for growth to take place—be that in the case of a personal relationship at home, a business relationship between colleagues or a group working together for a common goal. Conflict alone is amoral, neither “good” nor “bad”. It is how people choose to handle conflict that ultimately determines its’ morality, or lack thereof. This having been said, in light of the fact that the Christian faith is based entirely upon relationships between Christ-followers and their relationship with God, it is an imperative that Christians learn to become comfortable operating within conflict and appreciate each conflict for the opportunity it provides to grow relationships.

Jones states from the beginning that his goal is to “provide a step-by-step process for pursuing peace in all your relationships and to give you a tool you can use to help others” (p. 12); which accomplishes with great success. A reader would struggle to walk away from this book and honestly say that he/she does not now know the biblical process for resolving conflict. And it’s not just a few theoretical steps that are divorced from grace and the gospel.  For the first few chapters Jones focuses our eyes and hearts were they really need to be; namely, on God Himself.  In doing this he also reminds us that “pursuing peace” and “having God-pleasing relationships is not a dispensable luxury” (19).  It is the Christian life. Jones’ process for resolving conflict is three steps.  Step One: Please God.  Step Two: Repent.  Step Three: Love the Person.  Loving the Person includes having an attitude of grace, forgiving, confronting, and serving.  The book is structured around expounding each of the steps in this process. 

Through the first two chapters I was tempted to just skim through the book. But something happened in chapter three.  Chapter 3 was like a play that makes “Sports Center” and makes you simply marvel.  Afterwards you aren’t thinking, “oh I could do that”.  Your thinking, “wow, if I want to be a good shortstop I better study this dude”. This was my reaction after having finished chapter 3.  I realized the beauty and the simplicity of conflict.  It’s really something that is a “duh”.  All we can really control in our conflicts is pleasing God.  And that is what is to be our central aim.  If I focus on pleasing God it may not solve the conflict but it will make me a faithful disciple and that’s the biggest goal anyways.  It puts your focus in the correct place. 

Robert D. Jones does exactly what he set out to do.  He provides a clear and biblical process for pursuing peace in the midst of conflict and he provides a helpful tool that can easily be reproduced. 

On a personal level, this text has challenged me greatly in the manner in which I think of people who have offended me. While it’s certainly not easy to re-program one’s mind to focus on sin against God instead of sins against people, but Jones has certainly challenged me towards this endeavor. He has also helped to reshape the way certain events in my past are organized in my head. He has caused me to think through my own attitudes and behaviors; and because of this my thought life is more peaceful. There is less fear, because I’m learning (again) that life is not about me. Instead of concerning myself with the actions and reactions of others, the greatest thing I need to be worried about is this huge plank that is piercing my own eyeball.

 

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Personal Statement of Faith

Personal Statement of Faith

 

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

This statement from Mother Teresa, stirs within me a great emotional response and resonates on level that I struggle to communicate or even fully understand. As a recovering Pharisee I understand her words with great clarity. Even in my greatest attempts at a religious life, I often lived in a state of spiritual poverty. It was not until I hit rock bottom that I was ready to respond. My rock bottom took place when I was in the greatest need of love, encouragement and compassion from my spiritual community. Instead, I was met with the same judgment that I had displayed to so many others. It was at that season in my life that I began to fill my hunger with the bread that only God can provide; and at the same time provide clarity and a greater understanding of what church is and how my ministry would serve God’s family.

Now, instead of seeing church as something I did a few times each week in order complete my religious duty, I live with freedom by experiencing God’s love through the redeemed community of Christ. Jesus’ plea to His Disciples best expresses my understanding and thoughts: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).  

The story of my journey, and any statement of faith on my part, is one that ultimately centers on and around the passionate love and grace of a forgiving God who relentlessly pursued me . . . in spite of me. When Paul calls for the Ephesians to know or experience the love can’t be known (3:19), I strangely understand exactly what he is talking about. Today, I embrace what I know is there without knowing exactly how it works or how it could be possible – the extravagant love of God and his reconciliation and redemption through my Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am often brought to tears of sorrow in those rare moments that I am able catch a glimpse of my failures and the hurt that must have inflicted on my Father. Thankfully, that emotion is often overwhelmed by a deep sense of humility and appreciation that I can’t describe, as I think back to all the moments that God was gently speaking a message of grace into my life. I am just so grateful that He never gave up on me.

As a servant of God and of His Word, each day I strive to bring this same message of grace and hope to those who are hurt and wounded by the work of Satan. Having been humbled by the realization of my sinfulness, I appreciate that people need a soft place to fall and loving arms to grab them, help them up and turn them towards Christ. As much as anything else, this is the role and responsibility of the Church today. Living as a community belonging to Christ brings with it awesome blessings and very real responsibilities. Foremost among these responsibilities is to live out Jesus’ mission in our families, schools, work places and communities. Helping the Church to catch this vision, and then motivating and equipping them to pursue it, is one of the primary roles of a teacher and equipper. It is a role and responsibility that I am passionate about pursuing.

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