Daily Archives: May 27, 2013

The Salvation Equation: The Simple Relationship Between Faith and Works – J. Warner Wallace

I just came home from a week in the great state of Utah. Our missions team of high school students had the opportunity to talk with many LDS and Christian believers about the nature of salvation. Many of our conversations centered on the relationship between faith and works. Christianity is unique in its characterization of salvation as the free gift of God:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 

This concept of grace is missing in Mormonism (as it has been classically described by LDS prophets and Mormon scripture). In fact, many of the Mormon believers we talked with described Christians as people who consistently take advantage of “cheap grace”. One member of the LDS church told us, “Christians say a prayer, get ‘saved’ and then run out and live like hell. They don’t think it’s important to obey the commandments.” At times, in an effort to emphasis the free nature of salvation, many Christians minimize the importance of good works in the Christian life. We sometimes neglect to tell our LDS friends that a grateful life, surrendered in response to what Christ has done for us, does actually result in a life of good works. The passage in Ephesians provides us with an important equation that can help us make this distinction. If you divide this verse in the middle, you’ll find faith and salvation on one side of the verse and works on the other:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith | not by works, so that no one can boast. 

This verse in Ephesians provides us with a simple equation that can help us remember a life transformed by the saving grace of God produces good works, even though good works are not what save us:

The Christian equation: Salvation + Faith = Works 

The Non-Christian equation: Faith + Works = Salvation 

The question is not whether someone performs good works, but why someone performs good works. Both Christian and non-Christian believers have a place for good works in their respective equations. Works are not missing from the Christian calculation. But for us, good works are the result of our gratitude for (and recognition of) what God has done. When we realize that our own efforts are utterly impotent, we begin to understand the gift that God has given us. When we understand what God has done for us, we can’t help but be humbled and grateful. A grateful life, ever reflective of the depth of God’s kindness, results in a surrendered response. We can’t help but want to live differently.

When I first understood the gift I had been given, the people I worked with began to notice something had changed. I was still afraid to tell them about my radical conversion, but it was quickly obvious. I was different. I wasn’t full of the same sarcasm and anger. I wasn’t as vulgar. I wasn’t as cynical. If each of my coworkers had been given a calendar, they could have estimated the day of my conversion based on the obvious change in my behavior. Good works appeared in their proper place in my life as a new Christian: On the right side of the Christian equation. They were not the means by which I was saved, but simply the evidence I had gratefully received God’s free gift of salvation.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker at Stand to Reason, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

http://www.christianity.com/blogs/j-warner-wallace/the-salvation-equation-the-simple-relationship-between-faith-and-works.html

40 Statistics About The Fall Of The U.S. Economy That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

If you know someone that actually believes that the U.S. economy is in good shape, just show them the statistics in this article. When you step back and look at the long-term trends, it is undeniable what is happening to us. We are in the midst of a horrifying economic decline that is the result of decades of very bad decisions. 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was about one trillion dollars. Today, it is almost 17 trillion dollars. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the United States was about 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars. At the same time that we have been running up all of this debt, our economic infrastructure and our ability to produce wealth has been absolutely gutted. Since 2001, the United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of good jobs have been shipped overseas. Our share of global GDP declined from 31.8 percent in 2001 to 21.6 percent in 2011. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are dependent on the government is at a record high. The U.S. economy is a complete and total mess, and it is time that we faced the truth. (Read More….)

Former Abortionist Turned Pro-Life Exposes Gruesome Reality of ‘Choice’ to Congress

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, May 23rd, former abortionist Anthony Levatino testified before a special congressional committee in an effort to call upon Congress to ban abortion, including the practice of late-term abortions.

Levatino gave his testimony in front of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, a thirteen-member congressional body currently chaired by Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ).

As stated in a press release, Thursday’s hearing was held in order to discuss H.R. 1797, a proposed bill that would ban late-term abortions in the District of Columbia. However, Franks told reporters that he plans on revising the bill to make the ban applicable nationwide. In the release, Chairman Franks expressed his hopes that “hearts and laws will change” once America truly understands the “horrifying reality” of late-term abortions.

Levatino, currently a gynecologist living in New Mexico, is all too familiar with the horror of late-term abortions. Earlier in his career, Levatino conducted well over 1,000 abortions as part of his obstetrics and gynecology routines, many of which were second trimester procedures up to 24 weeks gestation.

However, even when Levatino was regularly performing abortions, he knew something wasn’t right.

“There was this tremendous conflict going on within me,” he once shared. “[Some of the abortions were especially] horrible because you saw one intact, whole baby being born, and sometimes they were alive. That was very, very frightening. It was a very stomach-turning kind of existence.”

During this week’s congressional hearing, Levatino shared in detail some of the sickening procedures he and other abortionists would perform that ultimately led him to stop conducting abortions. First, he described one of the primary tools used in second trimester abortions—the Sopher clamp.

“This instrument is about thirteen inches long and made of stainless steel,” he explained. “At the business end are located jaws about 2½ inches long and about ¾ of an inch wide with rows of sharp ridges or teeth. This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go.”

A so-called “dilation and evacuation” (D&E) abortion, Levatino detailed, is one where the Sopher clamp is used. It involves blind sweeps through the uterus.

“Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can,” he recounted. “Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard—really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long.”

With each D&E abortion, these “sweep and pull” maneuvers are repeated as many times as necessary. “Reach in again and again with that clamp,” he continued, “and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.”

According to Levatino, the baby’s head was almost always the most difficult body part to extract, because it was sometimes the size of a large plum. However, when the head is finally removed, that would often lead to a haunting sight.

“Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you,” he recalled.

“Congratulations! You have just successfully performed a second trimester Suction D&E abortion. You just affirmed [a woman’s] right to choose,” he said with sarcasm. “If you refuse to believe that this procedure inflicts severe pain on that unborn child, please think again.”

Ultimately, it was chilling experiences like these, and the sudden death of Levatino’s young daughter, that led him to the conclusion that all life is precious. Thus, in 1985, he denounced the practice of abortion and has supported the pro-life cause ever since.

Levatino wrapped up his congressional testimony in the words of Barack Obama, which were used to backfire upon the president:

“If there is just one thing that we could do that could save just one child, don’t we have an obligation to try?”

http://christiannews.net/2013/05/25/former-abortionist-turned-pro-life-exposes-gruesome-reality-of-choice-to-congress/

Judge Finds Preacher ‘Guilty’ of Disorderly Conduct for Preaching to Patrons Near Noisy Bar

(CN) — A Christian preacher who engaged in street preaching to patrons of a Pennsylvania bar district last month has been found guilty of disorderly conduct for his activities.

Jim MacPherson told Christian News Network that he joined other local Christians on a Saturday night to share the Gospel on the streets of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania out of their desire to be a light in the darkness. It was his first time ever to street preach.

Continue reading this story >>

Questions about Relationships: Can you give me some Christian relationship advice?

We often receive questions along the lines of: “I am interested in two different guys … which one should I choose to be my boyfriend?” Or, “I am in a relationship and my girlfriend did/said ‘_____’; so, should I break up with her?” These types of questions are very difficult for us to answer. GotQuestions.org is not a Christian relationship advice ministry. We will always strive to tell you what the Bible has to say about a given situation. However, in regards to relationship advice issues, the Bible rarely specifically addresses the situations we are asked about. The Bible is far more concerned with our relationship with God.

We are very reluctant to give relationship advice. It is difficult to give wise counsel to a personal issue through an article. It is exceedingly difficult to give Christian relationship advice when we do not personally know the people involved, we are not receiving all of the details, and/or we are only receiving one side of the story. We do not presume to speak for God in giving authoritative relationship advice to Christians.

With that said, what is our advice? It is our advice that you speak with God about your relationship. Pray to the Lord, asking Him to clearly reveal to you what He would have you do (Philippians 4:6–7). Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment (James 1:5). God promises to grant prayer requests that are asked according to His will (1 John 5:14–15). Being wise and discerning are most definitely God’s will. God wants you to make good relationship decisions. God desires Christians to be joyous and edified as a result of their relationships. If you ask God with an open heart and humble spirit, He will give you the relationship advice you need.

Finally, find wise counsel with mature Christians who have been married for many years and have walked with God all that time. Seek guidance from your pastor, elders or other mature church leaders. Their years of experience enable them to speak from wisdom and the knowledge of God in their lives.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Jesus Christ: What trials did Jesus face before His crucifixion?

The night of Jesus’ arrest, He was brought before Annas, Caiaphas, and an assembly of religious leaders called the Sanhedrin (John 18:19–24; Matthew 26:57). After this He was taken before Pilate, the Roman Governor (John 18:23), sent off to Herod (Luke 23:7), and returned to Pilate (Luke 23:11–12), who finally sentenced Him to death.

There were six parts to Jesus’ trial: three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court. Jesus was tried before Annas, the former high priest; Caiaphas, the current high priest; and the Sanhedrin. He was charged in these “ecclesiastical” trials with blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

The trials before Jewish authorities, the religious trials, showed the degree to which the Jewish leaders hated Him because they carelessly disregarded many of their own laws. There were several illegalities involved in these trials from the perspective of Jewish law: (1) No trial was to be held during feast time. (2) Each member of the court was to vote individually to convict or acquit, but Jesus was convicted by acclamation. (3) If the death penalty was given, a night must pass before the sentence was carried out; however, only a few hours passed before Jesus was placed on the Cross. (4) The Jews had no authority to execute anyone. (5) No trial was to be held at night, but this trial was held before dawn. (6) The accused was to be given counsel or representation, but Jesus had none. (7) The accused was not to be asked self-incriminating questions, but Jesus was asked if He was the Christ.

The trials before the Roman authorities started with Pilate (John 18:23) after Jesus was beaten. The charges brought against Him were very different from the charges in His religious trials. He was charged with inciting people to riot, forbidding the people to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus so he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Herod had Jesus ridiculed, but wanting to avoid the political liability, sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:11–12). This was the last trial as Pilate tried to appease the animosity of the Jews by having Jesus scourged. The Roman scourge is a terrible whipping of 39 lashes. In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified and Jesus released, but to no avail. The crowds called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate granted their demand and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:25). The trials of Jesus represent the ultimate mockery of justice. Jesus, the most innocent man in the history of the world, was found guilty of crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Muslim Questions: Can keeping the Five Pillars of Islam get me to heaven?

Because God is just, He requires a payment for sin—regardless of how well the Five Pillars are kept.

Are you a faithful Muslim? If so, you truly believe in one Allah, Creator of the universe, and Muhammad, His prophet. After your death, you long to reach paradise, but how will you escape hell? “Ah!” you say, “My faithfulness in keeping the Five Pillars will outweigh my sins.” Five times a day you kneel towards Mecca. The creed (shahadah) often forms on your lips. To your mouth comes no bread or water during the daylight of Ramadan. You are saving up money for the pilgrimage to Mecca, while freely giving alms to the poor.

But still, you question, “Is it enough?” Your conscience convicts you of failing God’s standard of holiness. How could the holy God accept to paradise someone stained with even a little sin? God is a righteous Judge. Even on earth, a judge must punish sin. A judge can’t pardon someone who has stolen—just because the criminal claims to visit the mosque every Friday and fast during Ramadan. If sin goes unpunished, the law would be disregarded, and Allah would be dishonored.

God is just and will not let sin go unpunished—regardless of how well the Five Pillars are kept or how many good deeds are done. Heaven is for the perfect alone. Only one sin caused the first man’s downfall. This sin was not a “big sin” like adultery, murder, or blasphemy. By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam’s one disobedience brought the curse of sin on the world.

Shall we escape? We who have dishonored our parents, lied to our neighbors, or cheated our customers? We sin routinely by putting selfish interests ahead of loving God. Will we go to heaven with sin—even if we keep the Five Pillars?

If we were honest, we would admit that our rightful home is hell. We need Allah’s mercy. But how can Allah be both merciful and just? The Qur’an instructs you to turn to the Bible with such questions (Surah 10:94).

The Bible explains how God’s mercy fits with His justice: “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Injeel Sharif Romans 3:20–22).

Keeping the law cannot get us to heaven. Instead, the law reveals our sin. God’s justice requires death for sin, but His mercy provided a substitute—Jesus—to die for our sin.

Since Jesus/Isa was born by the power of the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, He didn’t inherit Adam’s sin nature. Jesus is called the second Adam (Al-Imran 3:59; 1 Corinthians 15:22). While Adam’s one disobedience brought the curse of sin on the world, Jesus’ perfect life brings the hope of paradise.

He died on the cross to pay the punishment of sin for those who believe in Him. God proved the sacrifice conquered sin by raising Jesus from the dead. He saves all who turn from sin and trust Jesus, not good works. Our sin triumphed over, we can have a relationship with God and go to heaven.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 3:23–31; 6:23).

To receive God’s free gift of eternal life, trust Jesus as your crucified Savior and follow Him as your resurrected Lord![1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: What is the guff?

The guff is a term the Talmud uses to refer to the repository of all unborn souls. The Talmud is the Jewish commentary on the Torah, or the Old Testament, and especially the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Jewish tradition states that the Talmud began as oral teachings handed down from Moses that were eventually completed sometime between the 4th and 2nd century B.C.

Literally, the word “guff” means “body.” The Talmud essentially says, “The Messiah will not arrive until there are no more souls in the guff.” The Talmud is saying that there are a certain number of souls in heaven waiting to be born. Until they are born, they wait in a heavenly repository called “the guff,” and the Messiah will not arrive until every single one of these souls has been born into the physical world.

Is the idea of “the guff” biblical? No, it is not. Neither the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament teach that there is a storehouse of souls in heaven. The Bible does not teach that souls are waiting to be attached to bodies when people are born. The Bible is not explicitly clear on when/how human souls are created, but the concept of the guff does not agree with what the Bible does teach about the origin of the soul. It is far more biblical to hold that God creates each human soul at the moment of conception, or that the human soul is generated along with the body through the physical-spiritual union of conception.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What is the Lord’s prayer and should we pray it?

The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4. Matthew 6:9–13 says, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ ” Many people misunderstand the Lord’s Prayer to be a prayer we are supposed to recite word for word. Some people treat the Lord’s Prayer as a magic formula, as if the words themselves have some specific power or influence with God.

The Bible teaches the opposite. God is far more interested in our hearts when we pray than He is in our words. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:6–7). In prayer, we are to pour out our hearts to God (Philippians 4:6–7), not simply recite memorized words to God.

The Lord’s Prayer should be understood as an example, a pattern, of how to pray. It gives us the “ingredients” that should go into prayer. Here is how it breaks down. “Our Father in heaven” is teaching us whom to address our prayers to—the Father. “Hallowed be your name” is telling us to worship God, and to praise Him for who He is. The phrase “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a reminder to us that we are to pray for God’s plan in our lives and the world, not our own plan. We are to pray for God’s will to be done, not for our desires. We are encouraged to ask God for the things we need in “give us today our daily bread.” “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” reminds us to confess our sins to God and to turn from them, and also to forgive others as God has forgiven us. The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” is a plea for help in achieving victory over sin and a request for protection from the attacks of the devil.

So, again, the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite back to God. It is only an example of how we should be praying. Is there anything wrong with memorizing the Lord’s Prayer? Of course not! Is there anything wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer back to God? Not if your heart is in it and you truly mean the words you say. Remember, in prayer, God is far more interested in our communicating with Him and speaking from our hearts than He is in the specific words we use. Philippians 4:6–7 declares, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: Do I have to confess my adultery to my spouse?

Whether or not to confess the sin of adultery to one’s spouse is a dilemma for many Christians who have had the unfortunate experience of the sin of adultery. Worldly “experts” usually encourage adulterers to keep their mouths shut about their infidelities, proclaiming worse damage will be done by confessing. The problem with this is that it stifles one’s conscience and doesn’t allow for the restoration of relationships that confession is intended to encompass. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

The apostle Paul wisely stated, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16). Although adultery is a sin against God, first and foremost, the Bible also says that our bodies do not belong to ourselves, but also to the one we are married to (1 Corinthians 7:4). The physical act of sex is the symbol of the way a married couple becomes one flesh when God joins them together in marriage (1 Corinthians 6:15–16). For these reasons, a person who has committed adultery should pray and allow the Holy Spirit to lead him or her, confessing the infidelity at the appropriate time.

A guilty conscience will not go away simply by trying to ignore it. It may, in fact, lead to psychological and even physical problems. As difficult as it would be for anyone to tell their husband or wife that they have been unfaithful, it is necessary not only for the integrity of the marriage, but also for the relationship between the person and God, so that their conscience may be clear and they will be able to live a holy and blameless life.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Preaching in Moore: Faith That Stands Up to the Storm

Churches across Moore, Okla., have transformed into disaster relief centers this week — the area is, after all, about as Bible Belt as America gets. The city website lists over 80 churches, and nearly a third are Baptist. Church after church has turned sanctuary into donation drop-off site, and lobby into insurance filing center or food bank. This Sunday, pastors are offering another type of assistance, one intended to feed the soul: preaching.

Read More Here: http://nation.time.com/2013/05/26/preaching-in-moore-faith-that-stands-up-to-the-storm/print/

Activist warns of brutal repression of Christians

Jihadist persecution of Christians around the world is one of the biggest under-reported stories in media circles, says a Christian activist and expert on the issue.

WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES IN THIS POST!

Raymond Ibrahim, a Copt from Egypt—now living in the U.S.—says that Western weakness in confronting radical Islam has left the jihadists feeling emboldened. In his new book, Crucified Again, Ibrahim presents first-hand knowledge and investigation of widespread persecution.

“Although Muslim persecution of Christians is one of the most dramatic stories of our times, it is also one of the least known in the West,” he writes.

Ibrahim’s own country of Egypt is experiencing a resurgence of violence towards Christians, thanks to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.

“As one of the oldest and largest Muslim nations, with one of the oldest and largest Christian populations, Egypt is a kind of paradigm of Islam’s treatment of Christians,” Ibrahim states.

Although the violence is spreading and intensifying, Ibrahim insists that many in the Western media, including Christian media, are not picking up on it.

Read More Here: http://balfourpost.com/activist-warns-of-brutal-repression-of-christians/

Thinking Theologically About Memorial Day

With Memorial Day on Monday (in the U.S.) and, no doubt, a number of patriotic services scheduled for this Sunday, I want to offer a few theses on patriotism and the church. Each of these points could be substantially expanded and beg more detailed defense and explanation, but since this is a blog and not a term paper, I’ll try to keep this under 1500 words.

1. Being a Christian does not remove ethnic and national identities.

In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free (Gal. 3:28), but this does not mean men cease to be male or Jews ceases to be Jewish. The worshiping throng gathered around the throne is not a bland mess of Esperanto Christians in matching khaki pants and white polos. God makes us one in Christ, but that oneness does not mean we can no longer recognize tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples in heaven. If you don’t have to renounce being an American in heaven, you shouldn’t have to pretend you aren’t one now.

2. Patriotism, like other earthly “prides,” can be a virtue or vice.

Most people love their families. Many people love their schools, their home, and their sports teams. All of these loves can be appropriate. In making us for himself, God did mean to eradicate all other loves. Instead he wants those loves to be purer and in right proportion to our ultimate Love. Adam and Eve should have loved the Garden. God didn’t intend for them to be so “spiritual” that they were blind to the goodness around them. In the same way, where there is good in our country or family it is right to have affection and display affection for those good things.

Of course, we can turn patriotism into an idol, just like family can be an idol. But being proud of your country (or proud to be an American or a Canadian or a Russian or whatever) is not inherently worse than being proud of your kids or proud to be a Smith or a Jones or a Dostoevsky. I find it strange that while it is fashionable to love your city, be proud of your city, and talk about transforming your city, it is, for some of the same people, quite gauche to love your country, be proud of your country, and talk about transforming your country.

3. Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country are not inherently incompatible.

Sometimes Christians talk like you should have no loyalty for your country, as if love for your country was always a bad thing. To be sure, this must never be ultimate loyalty. We must always obey God rather than men. But most Christians have understood the fifth commandment to be about honoring not only your parents but all those in authority over you.

Moreover, Jesus shows its possible to honor God and honor Caesar. This is especially clear if you know some of the Jewish history. The tax in question in Mark 12 is about the poll tax or census tax. It was first instituted in AD 6, not too many years before Jesus’ ministry. When it was established a man by the name of Judas of Galilee led a revolt. According to Josephus, “He called his fellow countrymen cowards for being willing to pay tribute to the Romans and for putting up with mortal masters in place of God.” Like the Zealots, he believed allegiance to God and allegiance to any earthly government were fundamentally incompatible. As far as they were concerned if God was your king, you couldn’t have an earthly king.

But Jesus completely disagreed. By telling the people to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” he was saying there are duties to government that do not infringe on your ultimate duty to God. It’s possible to honor lesser authorities in good conscience because they have been instituted by a greater authority.

http://www.christianity.com/church/church-life/thinking-theologically-about-memorial-day-11651058.html

What Hath Worldview to Do with Memorial Day?

“…let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”
genesis 1:26 NASB

Begun as a ritual after the American Civil War to honor fallen soldiers, Memorial Day seems to have broadened in recent years. Many people view it as a day to remember deceased friends and loved ones, regardless of military service. The propriety of this phenomenon is not so much the focus of this devotional. What is of interest, however, is the fact that there even exists a universal human urge to honor the dead. Thinking worldview-ishly—what perspective besides the Christian’s is able to provide a consistent and satisfying explanation for this?

Take atheistic evolution, for example. 1How do invisible realities like love, honor, and dignity evolve by random processes in a purely material universe? These are enduring aspects of human personality. Each is non-material, but each is very real. Deep down, we all know that they exist. Yet atheistic evolution, which says that these things can be nothing more than the product of chemical reactions in our brains, renders them meaningless. (Somehow, that little factoid gets swept under the rug in biology class though, doesn’t it?)

At a fundamental level, we know that these ideals aren’t just the product of chemical reactions in our brains. Oh, someone might protest that they are just chemical reactions. But if you could follow that person home and observe him for a while among his friends and loved ones, you’d see a different story played out.

The image of God is something which humans cannot contain or fully eradicate. Sooner or later it pokes out and finds expression. In an unguarded moment, the God-denier looks into the eyes of his beloved, or cradles a child or grandchild in his arms and knows deeply that the love he’s experiencing is not a mere product of bio-chemistry. In The God Who Is There, author Francis Schaeffer said it this way:

“Though your system may say love does not exist, your own experience shows that it does.” (chap. 2, conclusion)

We humans have an insuppressible knowledge that love is real and that there is something eternal and significant about us. We may not be able to put our finger on it or explain it precisely, but the Bible says that the living God has made mankind in His image. At the very least what that means is that we are distinct from animals. The ability to reflect on ourselves and write an essay about it (or read one), sets us apart from every other species. This is a function of the image of God at work.

God specially created us as rational and moral creatures possessing complex, intangible elements of personality. We are self-conscious; we reflect on memories of ourselves and others; we experience love—on and on. These are distinctly human qualities. We are unique in our “mannishness” as Schaeffer called it. Elsewhere, he wrote concerning this, saying:

God thinks and we think. The world of thoughts is that which distinguishes me as a man.

[Therefore,]…the battle for people is centrally in the world of thought.
(True Spirituality, chap. 9: conclusion)

Granted, people don’t always live in full awareness of these deep truths. But a so-called “non-religious” holiday like Memorial Day can help shock the awareness back, if we pause to consider it.

As Christians, we are right to observe Memorial Day. Honoring the dead is something completely consistent with our worldview. We might also observe Memorial Day by looking for opportunities to graciously challenge others to think about where their worldview leads them, and why they do what they do.

Intersecting Faith & Life:

When a non-Christian friend, neighbor, or family member brings up the subject of Memorial Day, ask them why they think humans honor their dead. Seize the occasion to start a conversation that points others to their Creator whose image they bear.

Further Reading:

colossians 3 (esp. 3:10)

the myth of neutrality (a worldview & apologetics study by Greg Bahnsen)

how to know truth and evaluate competing worldviews, by Chris Daniel

1The deficiencies of other worldviews are demonstrable re: honoring the dead. However, for the sake of brevity, the discussion is being limited here to atheistic evolution.

http://m.crosswalk.com/print/11650525/

Marchers in over 400 cities protest Monsanto

Protesters rallied in dozens of cities Saturday as part of a global protest against seed giant Monsanto and the genetically modified food it produces, organizers said.

Organizers said “March Against Monsanto” protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Washington and Los Angeles, where demonstrators waved signs that read “Real Food 4 Real People” and “Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/marchers-in-over-400-cities-protest-monsanto/2013/05/25/938dd988-c59b-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_story.html

The rise of the fourth branch of government

There were times this past week when it seemed like the 19th-century Know-Nothing Party had returned to Washington. President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions in the State Department, or the Justice Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It was as if the government functioned by some hidden hand.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rise-of-the-fourth-branch-of-government/2013/05/24/c7faaad0-c2ed-11e2-9fe2-6ee52d0eb7c1_story.html

The Day Monsanto Shuddered

By now even the most unaware individuals have seen a torrent of pictures, videos, and even mainstream media reports on the May 25, 2013 March Against Monsanto. This event has been felt like an earthquake rumbling through 436 cities in 52 countries around the world. Millions marched with the intention of raising awareness about the dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Granted, not one at these protestors believed that one single march could stop Monsanto. However, the March Against Monsanto was the small pebble that caused a major ripple in the global psyche.

http://g-jane.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-day-monsanto-shuddered.html

Christians in the Arab world: A guide

As Islamists come to power across much of the Middle East, Christians are facing growing persecution How many Christians live in the Middle East? Between 10 million and 12 million. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of its oldest communities, but the Christian population has dropped dramatically over time, especially over the last decade.

http://news.yahoo.com/christians-arab-world-guide-110000569.html

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – James Emery White

In what may be my most overlooked book, but one my editor called the best I had ever written, I listed nine places that I had been to throughout my travels that had the greatest impact on my life. Through each I took readers, to the “best” of my ability, to not only a place, but a strategic life-lesson.

The genesis of the book was simple: if I were to pour into another person’s life, how would I do it? When first asked that question, I knew. I would take them to various places around the world, using the time of travel and destination as a means to speak not just information, but hopefully wisdom into their life. Then, once at our destination, I would work to reveal all that the place held for Christian life and thought, and then follow-up with all the mentoring application I could muster.

InterVarsity Press took the bait, and “A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom” was born.

So what were my nine places?

I unashamedly hope they intrigue you:

*The “Eagle and Child” pub, Oxford, England
*The Isle of Iona, Scotland
*St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai Desert, Egypt
*The Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa
*Chartres Cathedral, France
*The Billy Graham Library, Charlotte, North Carolina (USA)
*Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, Germany
*The ten Boom House, Haarlem, Netherlands
*The Dachau Concentration Camp, Munich, Germany

The larger conversations each afforded, through the book, proved to be profound:

*You are converted
*You are spiritual
*You can hear God
*You are called into community
*You are sexual
*You have a calling
*You can make history
*You can trust God
*You will have doubts

I’ve now written, or contributed to, over twenty books. I don’t say this often, but I will now. I truly hope you buy this book and read it. It’s one of my most personal and, I believe, helpful.

But after reading it, do one more thing.

Go to some of the places.

You will never be the same.

James Emery White

Sources

James Emery White, A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom (InterVarsity); click here to purchase on Amazon.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to http://www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

http://www.churchandculture.org/blog.asp?id=4413