Lossing a job for Jesus

This last Sunday I showed a video during the church service about a British couple who stood for Christian values in how they run their business, which resulted in a lawsuit.  They own a B&B and refused a double-bedded accommodation to a non-married couple based on biblical standards.  They were sued and lost and were going through the appeals process.  I showed the video because of how the woman, Hazelmary, responded in a television interview to the question about why they would not allow the couple to stay at their B&B (she seemed to be a master of living out 1 Peter 3:15 – making a defense and giving reason for her hope / faith in decision making); Hazelmary was asked,

“Why would you refuse? Surely God is a loving God, a tolerant God?”

To which she said, “It is a myth to believe this entirely.  God is a longsuffering God but not entirely tolerant, there are examples in Scripture of times when He does bring judgment.” 

That is a paraphrase…watch the video and learn from her how to lovingly and gently do apologetics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4a3814MC8Q

My other favorite comment is when she said our faith does not end at the kitchen door.  Christians, we can learn from this for she is living biblical Christianity.

Today the decision of the court was upheld in the Supreme Court and Peter and Hazelmary Bull will go out of business for Jesus.

http://onenewsnow.com/ap/world/british-court-rules-against-christian-hotel-owners#.UpYgprl3vIV

GODSPEED

West Seattle Churches come together in Prayer

What do you get when a Catholic Priest, Two Presbyterian Pastors, a Lutheran Pastor, a Baptist Pastor, and a Non-Denominational Pastor come together to seek the Lord in unity?

Photo

GODSPEED

Apologetics and Reason

I am researching “logos” in 1 Peter 3:15 and I thought I would share what I have learned thus far – the Scripture says, “always be prepared to give a defense [apologetics] of the reason [logos] for the hope you have…”

Logos = word = reason.

I secular, classical Greek this meant – “…the activity of collecting, carefully selecting, cataloguing in succession, and arranging  together in an orderly sequence.”

And…

“This was an intellectual movement which stirred Greek society at all levels, and can be characterized by the following view-points:(i) reflection is directed towards man and towards the relationship between the individual and society; (ii) knowledge of the necessity, but also the possibility, of educating people to play a sensible part in political life; (iii) the conviction that the logos, discourse – accomplished by elucidation and criticism of poets (especially Homer) – made this possible.” (Colin Brown, Ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Vol. 3, p. 1082).

What I am understanding from this article (pp. 1081-1087) is that people were encouraged then, to think, research, and critically analyze and engage in dialogue about ideas related to society, politics, and philosophy / religion.

For the Christian, Peter is calling us to engage the world in this way.

For the Christian, this means less entertainment, more research, more reflection, more thinking, more engaging in dialogue, and educating yourself how to present your argument well with the reminder from 1 Peter 3:16 that we are to do this with gentleness and respect.

GODSPEED

North Korea is like Nero’s Rome

Lets get straight to it…the following article was shared by my wife on Facebook – http://misguidedchildren.com/foreign-affairs/2013/11/80-people-executed-in-north-korea – about 80 people who were executed in North Korea.

North Korea had 80 people executed on Nov 3

As you read the article it says the North Korean government was cracking down on people for watching “pornography” videos from South Korea and for possessing Bibles.  As you read on you realize the “pornography” videos are not pornography, but Christian videos being labeled as porn by the North Korean government.  In other words – they are killing Christians.

The article talked about how those who were caught were lined up and executed, riddled with machine gun fire and that thousands were forced to watch as a warning.

This country is like Nazi Germany.  This country is like Nero’s Rome.

If you have read history you know that Nero would torture and kill Christians, sometimes for sport.  He was known to use Christians as human torches to light up his gardens at night in 64 AD.

So how did the Christians at that time respond? And what was the result?

Many Christians such as the Apostle Peter were told to stop preaching, renounce Christ, and sacrifice to the pagan deities or be tortured and killed.  Peter and the other Apostles refused, and thus Peter was crucified; but he did not believe he was worthy to be crucified in the manner of his Lord and asked to be crucified upside down as this painting illustrates:

Under Emperor Domitian (95 AD), the Apostle John was boiled alive in oil before hundreds of witnesses, and he did not die.  This was considered a miracle by many.  He was then sentenced to prison on the Island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation:

 

These are heroic figures in Church History, who have emboldened many to remain faithful and persevere in Christ.  Because of people like these, their captors and persecutors sometimes felt convicted, which had the opposite effect that the law enforcement was looking for.  In those situations many would come to Christ.  But for every story of a person martyred for faith in Jesus, there have also been those who have fallen under the pressure and renounced faith (see “The Triumph of Christianity” by Rodney Stark, pp. 137-152).

One such story is of a little girl in China; her church was worshipping and law enforcement barged in and forced everyone to go out into the square.  Beginning with the leadership they were forced to spit on a Bible and renounce their faith or be imprisoned or killed.  One-by-one each of the adults spit, renounced Christ, and walked away.  The little girl walked forward, picked up the Bible, wiped it off, and refused to renounce faith.  She was shot by the police.

Another story in China is of two girls who were in prison for their faith; they were about to be executed.  As the executioner approached them with a revolver in hand, the girls whispered to each other and one of them said:

“[Pastor] Before you shoot us, we wish to thank you heartily for what you have meant to us.  You baptized us, you taught us the ways of eternal life, you gave us holy communion with the same hand in which you now hold the gun.  You also taught us that Christians are sometimes weak and commit terrible sins, but they can be forgiven again.  When you regret what you are about to do to us, do not despair like Judas, but repent like Peter.  God bless you, and remember that our last thought was not one of indignation against your failure.  Everyone passes through hours of darkness.  May God reward you for the good you have done to us.  We die with gratitude.”

They bowed again; the pastor’s heart was hardened and he shot the girls.  Afterwards he was shot by the Communists (see “Jesus Freaks: dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs” pp. 109-110).

In the past few weeks we have been studying 1 Peter 2:11-3:17 – which teaches us to not respond to hostility in like kind, but to respond as Christ would respond.  A big part of me hopes is that none of the Christians I know ever face what is written above.  But what if we did?

There are real people in our world facing such horrible atrocities.  Pray for them.  Pray for their persecutors to think deeply about what they are doing and be brought to repentance.  And may we, American Christians, be in prayer.  May we be revived in our faith and no longer live an apathetic Christian life.  May we be inspired to seek the Lord.  May we be inspired to get on our knees, even right now as you read this, and pray.  For this is when God moves.  This is when God begins to sweep in our nation and cause revival and reformation.

Lord Jesus – Maranatha (1 Corinthians 4:5).

GODSPEED

Beer & Hymns

I was on my way to church last Sunday listening to the radio.  On NPR they had a piece about “Mainline Denominations experiencing a significant drop-off in attendance in recent years” and what certain churches are doing about it to try to gain new members.  They talked about a Lutheran church that meets in a pub on Sunday evenings in Fort Worth Texas and about a Disciples of Christ church in Portland, OR that has Sunday evenings “Beer and Hymns”. 

The first church in Texas meets for worship, hears a sermon, and partakes in communion all while non-church members walk through the doors shocked at what they are seeing.  They ask the bartender, “What’s going on, I thought it was trivia night?”  Then the bartender says, “Oh, they’re having a church service, don’t worry, trivia night is still happening after the service.”  The ELCA has decided to sanction this church as an official congregation.

The other church in Portland has a monthly gathering of about 100 people, mostly younger people, who gather for beer (2 beer limit) and to sing hymns.  They have an open mic time during which anyone can stand up and say anything they want.  The person they recorded speaking was a transgender person who stood up to talk about their frustration with church doctrine teaching that animals don’t have a soul.  He emphasized his dog must have a soul because the dog acts with real emotions.

Then NPR interviewed an older gentleman about the changes in his church and what they are doing to attract new members.  He basically said the church really struggled with this at first because of the traditional American church’s stance on alcohol, but he and many others are also struggling with the drop-off in attendance so if this works to attract people, then hey, whatever works, right?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christianpiatt/2013/10/fcc-portlands-beer-and-hymns-on-national-public-radio/

The above raises the question of how the church is to reach the next generation, which seemingly is walking away from the church.  But is the next gen walking away?

In the book “EVERYDAY Church” Timmis and Chester point out in America that the vast majority of Americans claim to have a connection with a church.  And even more Americans claim to be Christian.  In the Northwest we have the least amount of people claiming to belong to a church and the percentage is still around 46% (pp. 14-17).  As the book says:

“Pointing to a survey that named India as the world’s most religious country and Sweden as the world’s most secular country, Berger quips that the United States is a nation of Indians ruled over by Swedes.  In other words, it is a highly religious nation, but its elites are deeply secular, even antireligious.” (EVERYDAY Church, p. 14)

Let me put this in different terms and relate this to the NPR piece on Beer and Hymns – there are many Americans who are Christian and who love Jesus, but our news organizations like NPR and our media subtly say things that make it seem like Christianity is dying and that it is unpopular to be associated with Christ.  For example, in the NPR piece, notice it said, “Mainline Denominations [are] experiencing a significant drop-off in attendance in recent years” – this, for the most part is true.  But does this mean all denominations are experiencing a drop-off in attendance? Or just Mainline Denominations? (There is a difference) Does this mean non-denominational churches are experiencing a drop-off as well? Does this mean there are no new church plants in America? Does this mean there are a significant amount of young people that want nothing to do with the church? Does this mean churches should compromise doctrine in order to attract people?

The more I learn about non-traditional churches like Imago Dei in Portland, OR., or Mars Hill in Seattle, WA., or Soma in Tacoma, or the ACTS 29 Network of Church Planters I find that there is a tremendous amount of interest in three things: (1) Jesus; (2) being a part of a church community; and (3) holding to the orthodox teachings of the gospel without compromise.

So why is it these Mainline Denominations are experiencing a significant drop-off in membership and attendance?  

I have two illustrations, which I think explain what is going on:

First, the church that George Washington attended had about 3,000 members in early 2012.  They were a solidly evangelical and conservative Episcopalian church.  The church decided in May of 2012 to break away from TEC (The Episcopal Church) because of liberal stances on certain issues such as gay marriage and ordaining openly homosexual priests.  When the congregation broke away, the TEC gave them two weeks to move and find a new home (i.e., the Denomination owned the property and so the people were kicked out of their church building because they didn’t want to remain Episcopalian).  So the church moved to a different facility on a temporary basis and the TEC confiscated the church building and had 29 worshippers the following Sunday.  Since there was such a dramatic drop off, the TEC was talking about selling the building to Muslims to use as a mosque (ironic).

Second, a have a friend who just got back from California.  She was visiting her father who is moving into an assisted living situation.  He was talking about funeral arrangements and would like his previous pastor to do the service and for it to be in his home church (which is ELCA – a Mainline Denomination).  There is only one problem; the former pastor was attending that church until the church hired an openly gay youth pastor who is living with his boyfriend.  Now the former senior pastor will not step foot back in his old church and many congregants are leaving right and left.

What is the common theme, which the media will likely not address properly? The common theme is that many Mainline Denominations are going with the flow of culture and the people who used to be solidly vested in those churches are frustrated with the direction of the new leadership and new denominational policies, which compromise the values and morals of Scripture.

In short, from what I am gathering and reading about, there are likely not less Christians in America, but there are less churches Christians want to be associated with.  In Scripture, as leadership goes so go the churches.  It seems God is removing his blessing from churches that are compromising God’s truth.  But my experience here at Grace is as that as we have stuck to the principles of Scripture, we have experienced about a 25% increase in membership in the last 3 ½ years.  In 2013 alone we have baptized 25 new believers, 18 of which have been adults.

GODSPEED