Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Christians and Global Poverty

Evangelicals for Social Action sent an open letter to the president demanding a global war on poverty. Reading the list of signers, I noticed a few “conservative” evangelicals, including Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

According to Time Magazine, Land is “God’s Lobbyist,” and one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America. Land has a huge rolodex filled with the names of Washington insiders, not to mention an educational pedigree that includes stops at Princeton and Oxford, but he has evidently not taken an economics class.

The letter begins by emphasizing the moral imperative to clothe the naked and feed the hungry:

We write as evangelical leaders to urge a strengthened, expanded emphasis on overcoming hunger and poverty both here and abroad in the next four years. Precisely the commitment to moral values (including the sanctity of human life) that shape all our political activity compels us to insist as a nation we must do more to end starvation and hunger and strengthen the capacity of poor people to create wealth and care for their families.

ESA goes on to urge a greater commitment to foreign aid programs:

In 2000, virtually every nation on the planet approved the Millennium Development Goals that included a commitment to halve global poverty by 2015. But adequate funds to meet these goals are not being given, and the U. S. ranks absolutely last (as a percentage of GNP) among all developed nations in its governmental assistance to overcome global poverty. Our nation has fallen far short of the increase in health and development assistance that you proposed. The richest nation in history can and must grasp the opportunity to lead.

The ESA is also concerned about poverty here at home, and while they laud the work of charities and churches, they say that faith-based social services are just not doing enough:

But our faith-based social service agencies cannot by themselves solve the problem of poverty of the wallet. As you have often said, government can and should help solve this problem. Tragically, millions of Americans today work full time and still fall below the poverty level. The moral values that shape our lives tell us this is wrong. We believe our rich nation should agree that everyone who works full time responsibly will be able to earn enough to rise above the poverty level and enjoy health insurance.

ESA urged the president to stare down austere members of congress (hee hee) who might want to take an axe to "effective" government anti-poverty programs:

We know there will be powerful pressures, from some places, as you and the Congress work to reduce deficit spending, to cut even effective programs for poor people. We pray that you will not allow this to happen. We pray that God will give you the strength to act like the righteous king in Ps. 72:12-13 and “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help, take pity on the weak and the needy, and save the needy from death.

Indeed, God's concern for the poor and helpless is manifested throughout the Bible. In fact, God's word has much to say about specific remedies for poverty.

But how is wealth created? The only way to achieve to broad-based wealth is by increasing productivity through capital investment. However, investment and capital accumulation don't spring from nowhere. To bear such fruit, a culture must first ingest principles of thrift and work based upon a future-orientation. In short, economic growth is a product of culture, and culture is a product of the religious presuppositions that under gird the culture. It is no accident that free-markets, capitalism and freedom constrained by law are largely confined to those parts of the world still borrowing off the spiritual capital accumulated by Christian ancestors.

Economist P. T. Bauer summarizes the ideology of pagan countries as:

lack of interest in material advance combined with resignation in the face of poverty; lack of initiative, self-reliance and of a sense of personal responsibility for the economic fortune of oneself and one's family; high leisure preference, together with a lassitude often found in tropical climates; relatively high prestige of passive or contemplative life compared to active life...belief in perpetual reincarnation which reduces the significance of effort in the course of the present life; recognized status of beggary, together with a lack of stigma in the acceptance of charity...

Bauer rightly concludes that these attitudes are "an integral part of the spiritual and emotional life" of millions, perhaps billions, of people. Moreover, irresponsible charity and foreign aid will only be reinforce these attitudes

Another assumption made in the ESA letter is that the state is the primary institution established by God to tackle poverty. But is that true? What are the legitimate functions of the state? According to the Bible, God established civil government for three primary reasons:

1) To protect human life that is made in the image of God: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6);

2) To defend the law-abiding from lawbreakers: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:3-4);

3) To provide for a peaceful, orderly society: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Tim. 1:1-2).

Paul says that the civil authority is a servant of God (Rom. 13:4) who is responsible to enforce justice. The Biblical role for the state is limited to the administration of just laws to defend life and property, punish criminals, and defend the innocent. There is no implied right for the state to coercively take money from one party to give it to another in the name of social welfare.

Rather than dependence on the state, scripture commands responsibility on the part of individuals and families. Paul says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” The basic social institution is the family, not the state, and when we are quick to call on non-family agencies, we undermine the responsibility of families to care for their own.

While the church has a duty to care for indigent widows (I Tim. 5:3) who do not have family, even that charity is restricted. A widow is placed on a list and must be engaged in charitable service. She must be "well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds" (I Tim. 5:10). Here we see that principle that charity must not subsidize irresponsibility (II Thess. 3:10). The further that charity is removed from familial and local institutions, the more likely the principle is to be abused.

In conclusion, the Bible commands individuals, families and churches to provide charity to the poor in as direct a way as possible. Likewise, there are obligations imposed on the recipients of charity. Such a framework rejects the notion that "thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote," and reinforces the principle of loving our neighbor through real, concrete action. Basic to such change is the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit and propagation of the gospel rather than the "redemptive" power of the state.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Let the Children Come to Me"

I can't help but wonder why so many Christian parents insist on dropping their kids off at the church nursery before going in to worship. Do they believe that their children won't get anything out of the service? Are they under the impression that the proper mediums of worship for youngsters are crayons, glitter and macaroni? Or is it because they simply don't want any unnecessary distractions from the grown-up worship experience?

Yesterday at church, I found myself sitting next to a family who thought enough to bring their young daughter, who looked to be less than two years old, into the sanctuary. Like most kids her age, the little girl was a bit fidgety, but she didn't disrupt the service in the least. Even the brief coos and cries that emanated periodically from other children throughout the congregation didn't put a damper on our morning worship.

Consider the words of Mark 10:13-16:
    And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
In Luke 18:15, we are told that the people "were bringing even infants to him." Is there a principle here that can be applied to the way we worship today?

Just something to think about the next time you're tempted to dump the little urchins into Sunday morning daycare.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On the Christian Calling(s)

Too often when Christians hear the word “calling” they assume it to be synonymous with occupation. In fact, I think the idea of calling carries the concept of man’s lifetime service and subordination to God. As a husband, father of three young boys, member of a community, disciple of Jesus, etc., I wear a number of hats and have various sundry callings or purposes that God has laid before me.

Service to God, however, primarily implies service to men. Though the whole creation belongs to the Lord (Ex. 19:5) we are the stewards of His creation (Gen. 1:26-28). Christians occasionally exhibit Gnostic and Platonic tendencies when they over-spiritualize the faith. Spirituality divorced from the earthy practicalities of Scripture is, in fact, an enemy of true Christianity.

Having a wife and three children under age five presents a number of challenges and certainly creates constraints on my time. Yet what grander purpose could God have for my life than living in covenant under His authority with the beautiful woman he has given to me? Indeed, when God through the Apostle Paul described the glorious mystery of the relationship between Christ and His people, He used the metaphor of marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). Paul also used that opportunity to provide imperative commands to husbands and wives. Wives, through submitting to and honoring their husbands reflect God’s purpose for His people. Likewise, husbands become one flesh with their wives, and in loving their wives reflect Christ’s love for His people. In short, my calling and purpose is to love my wife.

Likewise, raising children is a Godly and honorable calling. In Malachi, we read, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring.”

Writing when Christians looked to Scripture rather than the NY Times bestseller list to find life’s purpose, Martin Luther wrote about the purpose of marriage:

The purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children, to support a household. Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks, and logs unworthy of being called men or women; for they despise the blessings of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.

Frequently, marriage and child-rearing are difficult tasks that appear distasteful in the eyes of foolish men. But we would have an entirely different view of the matter if we looked at things through God’s eyes instead, and sought to glorify and honor Him in all things. To quote Luther again:

Our natural reason looks at marriage and turns up its nose and says, "Alas! Must I rock the baby? Wash its diapers? Make its bed? Smell its stench? Stay at nights with it? Take care of it when it cries? Heal its rashes and sores? And on top of that care for my spouse, provide labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that? Do this and do that? And endure this and endure that? Why should I make such a prisoner of myself?”

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful and despised duties in the spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.

Its says, "O God, I confess I am not worthy to rock that little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? Oh, how gladly will I do so. Though the duty should be even more insignificant and despised, neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor will distress me for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

Scripture says that children are a blessing (Ps. 127:3-5) from God, and that as parents we must train (Eph. 6:4), correct (Prov. 29:15), and instruct them (Deut. 6:1-9) in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

The education of children is also a noble calling, and it is a parental calling. Doug Wilson says that as parents we are responsible for what our children learn whether we teach it to them or not. In an age where parents hand their children to the state and church for instruction, such a warning should be frightening. Moreover, the education of which I speak is not merely religious instruction. There is no such thing as neutral or secular education. Either it is grounded in the fear of the Lord or it is atheistic (anti-theistic). Consider the words of God through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:

1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD , the God of your fathers, promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The law and word of God are comprehensive in scope and as parents we are called to teach our children theology, science, history, economics, politics and all other disciplines from the perspective of God’s Word, always keeping in mind that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

I thank God that in His grace He allows me to participate in His Kingdom, to be His servant, to work for the fulfillment of His purposes. I'm grateful to my Father for the knowledge that crunching numbers is not the entirety of my calling, but that in serving others--particularly my family--I serve Him and participate in greatest of callings.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Women in Combat?

According to the NY Times, the Army failed to meet recruiting goals for the fourth consecutive month. The figures for May put the service nearly 8,300 soldiers behind its projected year-to-date number of enlistees. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps, which had not missed recruiting targets for the better part of a decade, has also come up short for four consecutive months.

The dim statistics from the Pentagon, largely the result of the continuing war in Iraq, have not diminished the zeal of the administration. Speaking at the Air Force Academy, Vice President Cheney ominously promised more "great victories to come."

Where will the soldiers come from to claim these “great victories?” There is still resistance to a draft on Capitol Hill and even within the Pentagon itself.

One potential stopgap measure advocated by an unholy alliance of egalitarian liberals, individualist libertarians, and imperious neoconservatives is to end the ban on open homosexuals serving in the armed forces. Neocon hawk Max Boot makes the pragmatic argument against the ban: “Sooner or later, the U.S. military will follow the example of Australia, Britain and Israel and lift its ban on openly gay service members. In the struggle against Islamic fanatics, we can't afford to turn volunteers away.”

Boot’s solution would bring limited benefits. Between 1994 and 2003 the Government Accountability Office says the military discharged 9,488 homosexuals. I doubt seriously that those additional 900 gay soldiers per annum would secure victory in the “War on Terror.”

However, a larger potential pool of fodder for the imperial project could be found by systematically tapping into the fairer sex. And what could be more “fair” than sending our nation’s wives, daughters, and sisters off to wage war? Libertarian feminist Cathy Young says that the “notion that women deserve special protection from violence…is ultimately infantilizing [and] no society dedicated to the principle of fair play can demand that men treat women as equals in all other walks of life, and then tell men their lives are more expendable.”

Today women comprise 15% of the active-duty military and 24% of the reservists. There are 9,000 women stationed in Iraq and 35 have perished in the fighting there so far.

What shall we make of the suggestion that women should serve alongside men? The question takes on greater importance as we consider the looming possibility of a draft that almost certainly would, in this day of gender confusion, include women.

Christians who aren’t embarrassed by their Bibles should forcefully put forth the truth that there is a comprehensive pattern of differentiation between men and women outlined in Scripture. It is men who protect and lay down their lives for women, even as Christ died for the Church, and it is women who bear a responsibility as nurturers. In Joshua 1:14, we read that the “wives, young children, and livestock” of Israel remained on the other side of the Jordan River while the “fighting men” crossed the river to wage war against the Canaanites.

Christians can also point to numerous other texts, including Deut. 22:5: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

The passage obviously refers to clothes, but the meaning is far broader. The intention is to maintain distinctions between the sexes. As R. J. Rushdoony said in commenting on the text, it “forbids imposing a man’s duties and tools on a woman, and a woman’s on a man. Its purpose is thus to maintain God’s fundamental order.” That fundamental order is hierarchical and, for lack of a better word, patriarchal.

Warfare is an inherently revolutionary business. Christians and conservatives used to understand that truism. Today, the pragmatic needs of the warfare state are being used to systematically undermine, eliminate, and obliterate distinctions between the sexes.

Having swallowed the egalitarian presuppositions of the Enlightenment, Christians routinely deny that there are in fact God-ordained sexual roles, and have functionally become egalitarians. But egalitarianism is heresy, for it denies the very principle of order itself and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution. “Conservative” evangelicals have been loath to do battle with the egalitarian ethos in our homes and churches, so we ought not be surprised that when this virus attacks other institutions we stand by impotently in the face of social revolution.

The progressive desexualization of our culture is running amok, and the distinctions between male and female are increasingly blurred. To quote Rushdoony again, “modern culture has a strongly transvestite character. Here as elsewhere it prefers the character of perversion to the law of God.”

Where are the pastors with the courage to preach on what God says about sending women into combat, and where are the Christian publications and leaders who will stand up and call the problem of women in combat what the Bible does: an “abomination”? Where are the teachers who will call the doctrine of equality what it is: “heresy”?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Greatness of the Great Commission

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a few essays that I've written elsewhere over the last couple of months. The first deals with the Great Commission. I contend that evangelicals have a truncated theology that leads them to misunderstand the nature of God's Kingdom. The Kingdom is a present reality, to be fully consumated with the return of the King. It also has social, in fact cosmic, implications. Many evangelicals, however, argue that God's Kingdom will only be manifested in the future, or they behave as though the Great Commission is merely a command for the Church to witness in a hopeless and dying world, snatching a few desperate souls from the fiery cauldron of the lake of fire. I think our God, and His Kingdom, are much larger realities.

The Majesty of the Great Commission

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

The contemporary Church largely ignores the Great Commission. Dr. Tom Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, found that 90% of Christians have never shared their faith with another person. Rainer concludes from his research that perhaps, “the most eye-opening discovery we made about the unchurched person's attitude towards us Christians is that most of them would like to hear about Jesus Christ from us. Yet the vast majority of the unchurched with whom we spoke have never had a Christian share their faith with them.”

Yet even when Christians muster up the courage to discuss the Cross, that is often where we stop. Today, there is a tremendous need for Biblical evangelism that surpasses tract passing and personal testimony. What is needed is a comprehensive program that brings the comprehensive message of salvation to every individual.

Evangelicals have an extremely narrow view of God’s Kingdom and His purposes. What is the purpose of the Great Commission? Is it merely direction to the Church to witness in a hopeless and dying world, snatching a few desperate souls from the fiery cauldron of the lake of fire? Or should Jesus’ directive give us hope that the Holy Spirit will empower the Church to promote salvation against the world and the evil one?

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples the BIG question that we must all answer—“Who do you say I am?” Peter responds by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Next, Jesus tells Peter that upon his confession, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The picture painted by our Lord is of a militant and empowered body of believers, taking the light of the Gospel message into the world and scattering the darkness. It is the forces of evil manning the barricades against the Church, not visa versa.

Though Satan is a mighty enemy, described as a roaring lion, Scripture gives us comfort that in light of Jesus’ victory at Golgotha, the strong man has been bound, and we are to plunder his house (Matt. 12:29) and occupy it until Jesus returns.

Thankfully, we have not been left powerless to fulfill our mission. We have the Word of God, which is sharper than a two-edged sword, and access to God through prayer. Most importantly, we have Jesus’ promise that He will be with us always in the person of the Holy Spirit, who was sent to be our counselor and minister.

Aside from the purpose of the Great Commission, Evangelicals also frequently misunderstand its nature as well. Is it merely individualistic, with the hope of saving individual lost sinners and training them in their private “walk with God” and public worship? Or is its goal to necessarily transform individuals with the expectation that they will make a difference in the world, creating a Christian culture?

Dave Black recently discussed the perversion of the “individualistic” Gospel. He writes:

One of the perversions of the Gospel I think needs eliminating today is the emphasis upon personal evangelism to the detriment or exclusion of any social emphasis. I do not question the fact that salvation is personal and individual, but it is far more than that. However, for many evangelicals the emphasis on the personal and individual has increasingly made salvation individualistic. The whole of the Christian experience is thought to be one’s personal relationship to God – often to the exclusion of one’s relationship with others or to the culture in general.

Salvation is both personal and social. Since sin is personal, each individual is guilty of sin and must be forgiven for his sin, not someone else’s. However, salvation is also social. Jesus is Lord of all. Politics, education, economics, the arts – all these are included under His divine Lordship. Thus Christians must come to understand that although salvation is individual and personal, the kingdom of God is far broader than just our personal salvation experiences.

In Genesis 1, God gives Adam the command, “Be fruitful, and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Man’s task in accordance with God’s command and our own nature, having been created in His image, is to exercise dominion and develop culture. As a “federal head,” Adam did not merely act on his own behalf, but as a representative for all of mankind. Thus his fall into sin was imputed to all humanity and perverted the God-given desire to exercise authority in God’s name, and replaced it with a desire to become God ourselves. Consequently, Christ’s representative and vicarious death was necessary to restore and renew the image of God of allow redeemed men to bring the creation into submission to God. Thus, there is an intimate connection between the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate.

As Christians, our duty is not simply to fill our churches and drag new converts into the baptistery. We are to make disciples for our Lord, and teach them to obey everything God has commanded.

True Christian discipleship recognizes that every sphere of life is under the authority of God, and Christ’s salvation and healing is not merely for individuals, but also for the creation that groans under the impact of sin. As Gary North has written, “Nothing is to be excluded from Christ’s healing: not the family, not the State, not business, not education, and surely not the institutional church. Salvation is the salve that heals the wounds inflicted by sin: every type of wound from every type of sin.”

Let us rediscover the majesty of the Great Commission.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Gay Pride Meets Christian Humility

I have never heard of Millington Baptist Church before. I don't know anything about them or their theology, but one thing about their ministry caught my attention.

The New Jersey church has "Liquid" services on Sunday nights. According to their website, "Liquid is a progressive Christian community that gathers to grow deep and lasting relationships with God and one another." On June 5, however, they didn't meet at church--they attended a gay pride celebration. Why? To demonstrate Christ's love:
    We'll be serving over 5,000 bottles of ice cold water to thirsty festival-goers at the Jersey Pride Celebration in Asbury Park. We're gonna spend the day demonstrating the kindness of God to the gay community in NJ--a group of people that have often been kept at arm's length by the Christian church (and, tragically, even singled-out for special condemnation at times).
Again, I don't know anything about this church or the group known as Liquid. But I think every church can learn from this example. Wouldn't you rather see Christians reaching out in kindness and love than a group of idiots shouting down gay activists with signs that say, "Fags burn in hell"? Whether Calvinist or not, isn't Millington Baptist Church doing more for the gospel than apostate churches like Westboro Baptist, which uses the website to promote its so-called "ministry"?

Yes, the lost need to hear the Law. Yes, they need to be convicted of their sin. But we should be motivated out of love for God and our fellow man, not out of hate. Or am I completely missing the point of Christ's command to love our enemies?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Concluding Observations on the Christian and Suffering

This is the last in a series of brief posts on the Christian and suffering. To read earlier entries, see below:

On Suffering, Part 1
The Cause of Suffering
On Suffering, Part 3
On Suffering, Part 4

The Bible says that Christians will suffer, and God has a purpose in it for His children. So what attitude should we exhibit toward suffering? Because God promises that all things work to good for those that love Him, we can be joyful even in our sufferings. That doesn’t mean we should put on a happy face and merely act as though nothing is wrong or that we are not struggling. Rather, we should be assured that God is in control and has a purpose for us that will be glorifying to Him. We can also take assurance that suffering will not be permanent for I Peter 1:6 says that suffering is for a season. Its duration is short.

The Bible also says that temptation and trial will not be so great that it cannot be overcome. In I Cor. 10:13, Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

We aren’t left defenseless on the battlefield. God’s Holy Spirit resides in us, and we have the very Word of the Lord given in Scripture. We also have the strength and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to help us bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2).

Most importantly, we have a Savior who understands our suffering. Christ came to earth and emptied Himself for us, dying as a man to be our sacrifice and our mediator, reconciling sinners to the Father. But in His humanity, Christ also serves as an example to us. Scripture says that we are “being changed into his likeness” and being “conformed to the image of the Son.” Likewise, Peter tells us that with regard to suffering, Christ is our example—“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21). We know that “He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18) and that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

As I wrap this up, let me conclude with a few observations and hopefully practical suggestions for facing times of trouble.

1. Renew confidence in God, for though our afflictions may be great, He will deliver us from them.

Romans 8
28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Psalm 34
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

2. Pray

Psalm 50
15Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."

Psalm 34
4I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

In prayer we show our dependence on God, and our trust in Him. When we go through times of struggle and hurt, we should go to Him.

3. Count your blessings
When we see the goodness of God and recognize it, our trials become easier because we know that will ultimately produce good.

Romans 5
3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

4. Get into the word.
God’s Word is a comfort to the believer. Even if we don’t know the cause of our trials, we know that the Word says that God “will never leave of forsake” us (Heb. 13:6) and that the Lord is our helper. He suffers with us, but He knows the end result.

5. Forget yourself, love others

Galatians 6
2Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

2 Corinthians 1
4who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

Friday, June 03, 2005

"For God So Loved the World, that She Gave Her Only Daughter..."

Are you uncomfortable with the Bible's patriarchal bias? Are you tired of its misogynistic undertones? Are you offended by scripture's use of masculine pronouns when referring to the Almighty? Well, then perhaps you need a different translation:
    New Bible Shows Christ as a Woman, God as Female

    A new edition of the Gospels of the Bible for the first time shows Christ as a woman, named Judith Christ of Nazareth, and God as female. In all other respects, the classic texts of the Gospels remain unchanged.

    The publisher, LBI Institute, has released this new Bible entitled: "Judith Christ of Nazareth, The Gospels of the Bible, Corrected to Reflect that Christ Was a Woman, Extracted from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John." The book is available in bookstores and online.

    "This long-awaited revised text of the Gospels makes the moral message of Christ more accessible to many, and more illuminating to all," says Billie Shakespeare, V.P. for the publisher. "It is empowering. We published this new Bible to acknowledge the rise of women in society."

    This new Bible includes: The Parable of the Prodigal Daughter, The Lady's Prayer, and other revised favorite passages, such as:

    • Her birth - Luke 2: 4And Joseph went to Bethlehem. 5To be enrolled with Mary, his wife, who was then pregnant. 7And she brought forth her firstborn child. 21And her name was chosen to be Judith.

    • Her crucifixion - John 19: 17And She bearing her cross went forth. 18There they crucified Judith.

    • Her resurrection - Matthew 28: 1Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 5But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Judith who was crucified." 6"She is not here; for She is risen."
No, this isn't a joke. It's blasphemy.
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