A different gospel

I’ve just returned from a holiday and just catching up on the news. One article I read was about the Episcopalians (Anglican Church in the USA), who recently overturned a moratorium on the consecration of practising lesbian or homosexual bishops.

As an aside, I think the debate on homosexuality is out of balance, because the debate does not put equal weight on all the other sins. As an example, the sin of anger or the sin of looking lustfully at another person, who is not our husband or wife (in any type of media – pictures [papers, magazines], movies, videos); are all in the same category – they all separate us from God.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes (5:16-26, NIV): “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

No one can deny that there is discord, dissension and factions within the Anglican ‘communion’ – something is wrong; and Scripture is very prescriptive about the process to be employed.  In an odd way, I think, the spotlight is not on the Episcopal Church in America but on those who claim to follow the true gospel. The reason is this: they claim that their views are biblical based – therefore their response also has to be biblical based – and that response does not (cannot) included continued communion with a group who believe in a different gospel.

I’ll leave the conclusion to Paul, Galatians1:6-9 (NIV): “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”



Sunday – an ordinary 15th one

The reading for today, in a local church, was Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians 3:1-18, as follows (New Living Translation): “Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you.

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. Here is my greeting in my own handwriting—Paul. I do this in all my letters to prove they are from me. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

The call to spread the Lord’s message is an on-going requirement, and we should commit as much time (or resources) as possible to this calling – not only should we give just our time but we should also aim to do the best we can – to aim for excellence, even in those times when we feel tired and exhausted.

In addition, where we have the skills and ability and not limited by illness or other disabilities, we should undertake work to support ourselves and not to be idle – especially, when there are things that need doing. Idleness, in a real sense undervalues the limited life-time we have – it’s the only life we will have to freely serve God – it’s too valuable to waste. God paid for us with His blood – that’s how much He values us – should we not love and live in accordance with His values?

What is heresy?

In the Macquarie Dictionary, there is a fairly straight forward definition of – heresy:1. doctrine contrary to the orthodox or accepted doctrine of a church or religious system. 2. the maintaining of such an opinion or doctrine. 3. any opinion or belief contrary to established theory.

So it is interesting when Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in her opening address to the Church’s 76th General Convention (USA), presented on 7 July. Included this statement in her address: ”  … The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of use alone can be in right relationship with God. (sic)It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being.”

Perhaps, I have an idea of what she was trying to say: a bit like James, a faith without an outpouring of love as seen in a relationship with others is not a faith at all.  But, my interpretation of what she may have wanted to say – could be wrong.

What ever the Presiding Bishop meant to say – or meant to add, to qualify her statements – is now lost from the public record; quite a few blogs have picked up on these words.

In summary: her statement, as it stands, which implies that we can’t be saved as individuals is actually heretical – most of the New Testament and large bits of the Old Testament, highlight the fact that God seeks individuals who are lost, so that they may be saved to become members of His holy nation. 

In 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV), we read: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Yes, we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation, made up of individuals – called (one by one) out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Why attack someone for the views they hold – is it easier than attacking their views?

Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church of England’s Bishop of Rochester, is under increasing pressure from homosexual activists, after he expressed a view the Church should “welcome homosexuals” but “we want them to repent and be changed”.

His critics have said that homophobes, like Bishop Nazie-Ali,  ‘have turned their back on the love and compassion that is central to the Christian Gospel … and, are not representative of Christians generally.’

It’s my view that those people who believe that they have a legitimate view of what’s written in Scripture, should be allowed to do so; applying labels like ‘homophobes’ is a type of dialogue that has run out of sound arguments to present. 

Yet, I also think a lot of problems have occurred because many Christian teachers have failed to address the general nature of sin. Fornication (sex outside of marriage is wrong); adultery (and lust) is wrong; taking what is not yours, another person’s life, property or money (e.g., with-holding taxes from a legitimate government) is wrong; slander and false attacks on another character are wrong, not having a right relationship with your parents is wrong; lacking respect for God (& His name) is wrong; and, most important of all, putting anything or anyone before God is wrong. In all that, there is a principle- that says – sex, outside of God’s ‘natural order’ – is wrong (and genetics or environment have no bearing on the morality of such actions -yet, they may have a huge bearing on culpability).

Now, that’s my belief – I honestly think it’s supported by Scripture. Why can’t the other camp – accept that’s my honest view, a view that has struggled to the surface after a lot of prayer. A view – stripped of all fears – that seeks only God’s love. A view, which understands that Jesus’ love can be seen in the death of two people who lied about the amount of money they give to their church (Acts 5:1-10).

Jesus represents both love and judgment – the critics of Bishop Nazir-Ali, don’t seem to understand that Jesus – is the Judge of all judges, and critics.

What’s your view?

The Growth of Straw Houses – Israeli Settlements

My land – is the land, I stand on!

On reading the Israeli news media (e.g. http://www.haaretz.com/), you will see a number of articles on USA (and UN) requests to freeze settlement growth – in two main areas: the Palestinian West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

Let’s look at the scale of this issue in the West Bank – about 120 settlements, comprising about 270,000 settlers (close to 4% of Israel’s total population). These settlements are scattered through out the West Bank – there are no neat, concentration of settlements in discrete areas. The average growth rate is about 5% a year but this growth is not reflected in the majority of settlements – it’s more, sudden spurts of growth (building activity) in a minority of settlements – at any one time.

President Obama has called for a freeze on the growth of all settlements, including what’s termed ‘natural growth’ – mainly, the children of settlers wanting their own accommodation – as the existing settlers would claim. The emotional side is: why can’t my children live with me, in my community with their friends, with whom they have grown up with – nice, warm, and fuzzy goals-  but as a parent – I can say, it’s a wish!

Obama’s style of diplomacy regarding Israel, is doomed to failure – it’s immaterial if the growth rate of 5% of West Bank settlements is reduced to zero – right now! The ‘facts on the ground’ are 270,000 people, who are there – and, who won’t move from their beliefs – unless their compensation (national or monetary) for their ‘loss’, is much more than adequate!

In a real sense, they (West Bank settlers) are the front-line troops regarding the settlements in East Jerusalem – the land development around East Jerusalem is not without a lot of innate brilliance; the emotions that will rise to enormous nationalistic levels after the straw houses in the West Bank are blown away by American diplomatic ignorance (driven by an uninformed desire to reduce pressures in the womb of Arab terrorism) – will, I think, surprise the Western world. Jerusalem, the city of peace, its status – is not negotiable – in any sense of the word.

As someone who watches the events within Israel, as they influence God’s world, I can only watch in awe at how; such a small country, with such a small population – can grab hold of a white elephant by its tail, with the expectation they can swing it around and out of their lives. Maybe, they really do think that they have God on their side?

What are your views?