Daily Archives: February 10, 2014

Questions about Relationships: Does the Bible Teach that There Is a Gift of Celibacy?

 

Two passages in the New Testament are typically used to discuss what is sometimes called “the gift of celibacy.” The first is Matthew 19:9–12, “ ‘I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’ The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’ Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’ ”

The phrase “only those to whom it has been given” refers to people receiving what some call “the gift of celibacy” or “the gift of singleness.” Regardless of what we call the gift, Jesus teaches that most people do not naturally desire to remain single and celibate for a lifetime. The exceptions are those who have “renounced marriage” for the kingdom’s sake. Such celibates have received a special gift from God.

The other pertinent passage is 1 Corinthians 7. In this chapter Paul states that it is not wrong to get married, but that it is better if a Christian can stay single. (The reason is that a married man’s attention is “divided” between pleasing the Lord and pleasing his wife; a single man is free to be more focused on the Lord’s work, verses 32–34.) Paul says, “I wish that all men were [unmarried] as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (verse 7). Paul is careful to state that this is “a concession, not … a command” (verse 6). The ability to stay single and serve God apart from marriage is a gift. Paul and some others had this gift, but not everyone.

As we see, the Bible does not explicitly call this “the gift of celibacy,” but it does express that the ability to remain unmarried to serve God more fully is a gift. Most adults desire marriage, and this desire is not sinful. In fact, marriage can keep us from sin: “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Rather than engage in immorality, believers are to be married. Sex within marriage between one man and one woman or celibate singleness—these are the only two options for Christians.

Although the Bible does speak of celibacy as a gift, it is not listed with the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12; Roman 12). Singleness is a gift that God gives everyone, at least temporarily. For some, the gift of singleness is permanent; for others, God takes that gift away and gives the gift of marriage in its place. The Bible encourages those who are celibate in Christian service that they are an important part of God’s family.[1]


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

Questions about Parables: What Is the Meaning of the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful Servant?

 

We find the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant only in Matthew 18:23–35. The Apostle Peter had asked how many times one should forgive, “Till seven times?” and Jesus answered, “Not seven times but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21–22). The context of this passage is Jesus teaching His disciples about the “kingdom of heaven.” We can take some very important principles from this parable and apply them to our lives today.

The servant whose lord forgave him much, ten thousand talents, equivalent to several millions of dollars, was unwilling to forgive another servant who owed him a hundred denarii. A denarius was a day’s wage and was worth approximately sixteen cents. Therefore, compared to what the first servant was forgiven, this was a very small amount. The principle here is, “the one forgiven much should forgive much.” In other words, the principle of forgiveness is that grace or forgiveness to another is without limit. The disciples are not to count the number of times they forgive. Rather, as the parable teaches, they are to forgive much because God has forgiven much.

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus is presenting a new principle that is similar to the basis of the forgiveness command for believers found in Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind to one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Jesus is teaching His disciples pre-cross, and therefore in the pre-church age, but the basis for forgiveness is the same. Because God has forgiven us, we are to forgive each other. Therefore, because we have received much grace, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), we are commanded to give that same grace to others. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the first servant’s debt was forgiven, and he was not required to repay until his unforgiving nature was discovered. In contrast, our sin debt was paid in full by Christ and is the only basis for God’s forgiveness. We cannot repay our debt to God or earn our salvation. It is a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Therefore, in the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful / Unjust Servant, Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us by extension, that forgiveness should be in like proportion to the amount forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he then should have forgiven all. In like manner, a child of God by faith through Christ has had all sins forgiven. Therefore, when someone offends or sins against us we should be willing to forgive him from a heart of gratitude for the grace to which we ourselves are debtors.[1]

 


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

Questions about the Bible: What Does It Mean that the Bible Is God-Breathed?

 

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul states “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” This is the only use in the Bible of the Greek word theopneustos, which means ‘God-breathed, inspired by God, due to the inspiration of God,’ but other scriptural passages support the basic premise of the source of Scripture being inspired by God.

The power of the breath of God in divine inspiration pervades Scripture. God breathed “the breath of life” into Adam (Genesis 2:7) and Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 20:22). In 2 Peter 1:21 we are told that “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Here we see the truths of Scripture described as coming directly from God, not from the will of the writers He used to record them.

Peter notes that Paul writes “with the wisdom that God gave him” and that failure to take heed to these messages is done at the peril of the readers (1 Peter 3:15–16). Scripture comes from the Holy Spirit, who gives it to us “in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13). In fact, the Berean believers faithfully used the inspired Word of God to check Paul’s adherence to the Word as they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Faith is central to how anyone receives the validity or value of God’s inspired Word because “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The “spiritual man” is the one who has been given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8–9) for the salvation of his soul. Hebrews 11:1 tells us “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” There is a righteousness in the gospel revealed by God in the Scriptures, but our righteousness comes and is maintained by and through faith alone. “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

Although 2 Timothy 3:16 may be the only place in the Bible where the phrase “God-breathed” is used to describe the Word of God, Scripture is replete with similar claims. These are actually God’s words reminding us that His truth and love can be found there to guide us in all aspects of life. Perhaps James has the final word about the nature of Scripture (and many other things) when he proclaims “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).[1]

 


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

NBC’s Mitchell: Hillary Wooed Big Donors at State Dept Events

“You know Mr./Mrs. Bigshotmoneybags, I’m Secretary of State now. But soon I’ll be president. I am a very good friend to have, as I know you know. Did I ever tell you about the $100,000 I made on cattle futures? Ah, yes, now just a couple of speaking fees these days. Much more efficient. And legal.

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221 Percent Increase In One Year? Why Are So Many People Renouncing American Citizenship?

The number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012. That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend. In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently. A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes. But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons. Some were very serious when they said they would leave the U.S. if Barack Obama got a second term, some (such as Jesse Ventura) are dismayed at how our freedoms and liberties are eroding and are alarmed at the rise of the Big Brother police state, some are absolutely disgusted by the social and moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society, and there are yet others that consider “the grass to be greener” on the other side of the planet. Personally, I have a number of friends that have made the very hard decision to relocate their families thousands of miles away because they see what is coming to America and they believe that there isn’t any hope of turning things around at this point. I also have a lot of friends that are determined to stay in the United States no matter what. When it comes to the future of America, almost everyone has a very strong opinion, and these are discussions that we need to start having. (Read More….)

The Persecution & Prayer Alert Voice of the Martyrs – February 7, 2014

PAKISTAN: Christians Devastated by Death of Preacher Source: Release International

Friends of a popular Pakistani preacher who was killed by a hit-and-run driver believe he may have been murdered because of his conversion from Islam. Rashid Mehmood, 33, came from a rich, influential Muslim family but turned to Christ in 2005. Though he trained as a lawyer, he decided to become a pastor and preach the Gospel, despite strong opposition from his relatives.

On December 26th, 2013, Rashid was a passenger on a motorbike driven by his pastor friend when a car began to chase them, and then deliberately struck the motorbike. Rashid suffered serious head injuries and died later in hospital after undergoing surgery.

Two days before his death, Rashid had preached about Jesus being the only true and living God and the embodiment of God’s love, quoting from the Quran at several points. According to sources, Rashid was a role model for other Christians with a Muslim background and his death “broke people’s hearts.”

Pray that the truth surrounding this situation will become known. As many now grieve Rashid’s loss, pray that they will be comforted by the Spirit’s sure presence. May Rashid’s passion for sharing the Gospel continue among other believers from Muslim backgrounds. Just as God reached out to Saul, a ruthless persecutor, may He also draw to Himself those who opposed Rashid (Acts 9:1-19). Finally, please remember to pray for Pakistan’s leaders, as they are currently considering the implementation of a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy. Pray that this law will not come to pass, but instead may religious freedom be respected for all.

To learn more about the trials Christians face for their faith in Pakistan, visit our Pakistan Country Report at http://www.persecution.net/pakistan.htm.

NIGERIA: Christians Targeted by Militants in Ruthless Attacks
Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Morning Star News

Boko Haram militants recently targeted Christians two times in less than a week in Madagali Local Government Area, Adamawa State. Adamawa is one of three northeastern states in which the Nigerian government declared a military state of emergency in May of last year.

Approximately 45 people were murdered on January 26th when assailants armed with guns and explosives launched an attack on a church in Wada Chakawa village. The militants killed a police inspector and sergeant who were guarding the building, before barring the doors and killing anyone attempting to escape through the windows. Others were held hostage for several hours. “We were all scattered by the attackers, and…those who were not able to escape were taken hostage, especially women, children and the elderly,” a church member shared. The militants went on to burn down several houses in the area.

Just days later, on the evening of January 31st, Boko Haram gunmen attacked a church in Sabon Garin Yamdula village. Storming the building, the assailants killed 11 believers, including the church’s pastor who died later in hospital. They also attempted to set the church ablaze, but were thwarted by local youths. At last report, two Christians were reported to be missing.

In the aftermath of these gruesome attacks, please bring those grieving the loss of loved ones to the Lord in prayer. May they look to Christ for strength each day, grace to forgive their attackers, and boldness to continue serving Him despite the risks. Also pray for the members of Boko Haram who perpetrated these attacks. May they lay down their weapons and their hate, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. Pray that, as suffering overflows in this nation, our Christian family will look with longing and expectation to the day when there will be no more death, sorrow or pain (Revelation 21:4).

To post a prayer of support for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria, please visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall at http://www.persecution.net/prayerwall.

NEPAL: Church Leader’s Home Burned Down
Source: VOM USA

A church leader living among the Brahmin, the Hindu upper caste, recently lost his home and belongings when villagers burned down his home. While “Karuna’s” primary job is to visit and encourage believers in the area, he has also led many Hindus to Christ, angering those in the village. On several occasions, villagers threatened to kill Karuna, his wife and their two children if he continued to evangelize.

In early January, the villagers burned Karuna’s home while he and his family were away fellowshipping with other Christians. They also repeated their threat to kill him if he continues preaching the Gospel.

Pray that Karuna and his family will be encouraged in their faith and continue to be strong witnesses for Christ. Thank the Lord that VOM USA is supporting Karuna and his family during this time. Intercede on behalf of the villagers who feel threatened by Karuna’s evangelism. May they come to know the God that Karuna professes and seek to live wholeheartedly for Him.

For more information about the persecuted church in Nepal, please visit http://www.persecution.net/nepal.htm.

RECENT PRISONER UPDATES

IRAN: Shahnaz Jayzan Released from Prison Source: Mohabat News

Shahnaz Jayzan, an Iranian Christian arrested in December of 2011, was released from prison on January 28th. Shahnaz was imprisoned along with Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, Davoud Alijani and her husband, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh. The three men were earlier freed after spending over 200 days in jail. (For more on their release from prison, please visit http://www.persecution.net/ir-2014-01-23.htm.)

Shahnaz’s release was conditional, and she is required to report to the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz every four months. According to sources, Shahnaz and Pastor Farhad are not permitted to hold church services or visit Christians in Khuzestan province. Also, they were told they should leave Ahwaz, their hometown.

Thank God that Shahnaz has also been released from prison. Pray that she and her husband will continue to serve God faithfully, despite the limitations placed on them by authorities. Also remember in prayer the many other Iranian believers who remain imprisoned. Ask God to grant them endurance, and pray also that they will soon be released.

You can impact and encourage imprisoned Christians in Iran by writing letters, reminding them that they are not forgotten. For our complete list of prisoners’ addresses, please visit our website at http://www.persecution.net/write.htm.

***********************************
The Persecution & Prayer Alert is a ministry of:
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, P.O. Box 608, Streetsville, Ontario, L5M 2C1
Tel. (905) 670.9721. Website: http://www.persecution.net

Eschatological Anti-Semitism is Here and the Clock is Ticking!

There is no doubt in my mind that organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League or the Simon Wiesenthal Center are instrumental in fighting bigotry and xenophobia in general and anti-Semitism in particular. They are very involved in tracking, exposing and fighting all kinds of anti-Semitism worldwide. Yet, I still believe that the best barometer to measure the global level of anti-Semitism remains the nation of Israel.
Biblically, Israel has been in existence since God gave the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21, 17:8, 26:2-5, 28:12-15). There was no condition and the covenant is eternal, especially because only God’s glory went through the split animals to ratify that foundational covenant with Abraham, and we know from His word that God never changes (Hebrews 13:8).
Additionally, 1948 saw the prophetic re-birth of Israel as a modern nation. Ever since its re-birth, Israel has been at war with its neighbors in the Middle East. It is only because of God’s grace and the promise He made to Abraham and his descendants that Israel still exists today. Israel’s destruction is the goal of many but Israel’s survival and future glory is part of God’s decree (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
Simultaneously, anti-Semitism has punctuated Jewish history through the ages since the Jewish people came into existence and Satan realized that God had a special plan for those He calls “the Apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
The majority of the Jewish people have spread out globally since the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD. They are known today as the “Diaspora” meaning dispersion. While Jews around the world have been able to preserve their identity through the ages, they have not been so successful in escaping the re-birth of anti-Semitism. As a matter of fact, I believe that we live in an age where the recent New anti-Semitism is merging with classic anti-Semitism giving birth to a new hybrid hatred of the Jews that I call “Eschatological1 anti-Semitism” or the anti-Semitism of the last days.

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Robert Jeffress on Revelation, President Obama’s Role in End Times Prophecy and Motivating Christians to Share the Gospel (Part I)

Pastor Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, has released a new book, Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today, that cuts through the misconceptions about end times prophecy and God’s judgment, and answers questions about heaven. It also answers why Christians should be actively sharing the Gospel with nonbelievers.

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The Hillary Papers

Archive of ‘closest friend’ paints portrait of ruthless First Lady

Their conclusion: “What voters find slick in Bill Clinton, they find ruthless in Hillary.”

The full memo is one of many previously unpublished documents contained in the archive of one of Hillary Clinton’s best friends and advisers, documents that portray the former first lady, secretary of State, and potential 2016 presidential candidate as a strong, ambitious, and ruthless Democratic operative.

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Why Kids Leave Church

Three out of five young Christians leave church after the age of 15. If one were to stand in a room full of hundreds of people and ask why that is, one should expect to get at least as many answers. The issue is personal; perhaps deep down, those of us who have influence over a child’s potential faith, either point our fingers at others, or partly blame ourselves for not setting a good enough example.

For letting the kid hang with the wrong crowd, for not wowing the kid into faith, for not keeping church interesting enough, for not communicating the gospel smartly enough. So, what do the kids have to say?

A research study conducted over a five-year period and released a few years ago by the Barna Group, points to six different reasons why young people leave church. Interviews with teenagers, young adults, youth pastors, senior pastors and parents were compiled to produce the following results. Some kids may have chosen more than one reason below, hence the percentages do not add up to 100%.

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Albert Mohler Blog: “Christian Missions in the Third Millennium”

In his latest Blog Essay, “Christian Missions in the Third Millennium,” Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. reflects on two thousand years of church missions and looks forward to the challenges church missions will face in the new millennium:

“Today, the Christian church faces new challenges. Without exaggeration, we can point to the twenty-first century as a new era in Christian missions, and recognize it as a vast new opportunity.”

What must we do to steward these opportunities well? What do our missiological convictions reveal about our spiritual and theological health? What challenges lie ahead?

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Why Are Young Christians Leaving the Church? It’s Simple Math

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak to an engaging group of Christians in Elgin, Iowa at the First Baptist Church of Elgin. The congregation was a wonderful combination of young families and older members who understand the challenges facing the younger Christians in their midst. I shared the overwhelming statistics chronicling the growing number of young Christians leaving the church during their college years, but many in the audience had already seen the departure firsthand. The dilemma was personal, and they were ready (and eager) to examine the causes (and the possible solutions). Before I shared my T.R.A.I.N. paradigm, I took a minute to describe the causal factors leading to the departure of so many young Christians. This isn’t rocket science; three simple truths combine to create the situation we see today:

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The Brave New World

Chastisement 2014

70 MILLION AMERICANS TAKING MIND-ALTERING DRUGS

Exclusive: David Kupelian tells untold story of nation’s rapidly escalating drug dependence

 

The heroin-overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has caused the media to focus, however fleetingly, on America’s drug problem.

News accounts of the Oscar-winner’s tragic demise typically reference the startling increase in heroin-related deaths in the last four to five years. The problem, reporters explain, is the vast number of Americans addicted to prescription pain meds like OxyContin, many of whom discover heroin to be both cheaper and easier to obtain than the prescription opioid drugs to which they initially became addicted.

That’s accurate as far as it goes. But by following the trail further, we arrive at a place far more shocking and consequential. We discover that not only has the traditional distinction between illegal “street drugs” and legal “therapeutic prescription drugs” become so blurred as to be almost…

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Why do atheists like Dan Barker abandon their faith?

WINTERY KNIGHT

Unbelievable’s latest radio show featured a discussion with former Christian Dan Barker, the founder and co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The MP3 file is here. (60 minutes)

I thought that I would make some general comments about why I think that many people leave the Christian faith, and what you should be careful of in order to avoid following in Dan Barker’s footsteps, specifically.

Basically, there are four major reasons why people leave Christianity.

  1. They want to do something immoral with impunity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex. They dump Christianity in order to feel better about seeking happiness in this life, apart from God and his moral duties.
  2. They want to pursue happiness in irresponsible ways. This type of person thinks that God’s job is to save them when they act irresponsibly while pursuing happiness…

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