Friday Morning, All Saints Day, 01 Nov 2019, ~ “Blessed are those who die in the Lord”

Opening: – Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of your Son: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
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Reading: -Revelation 14:7

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down:
Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on.
Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed,
for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!”

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“For All the Saints” (Sine Nomine) – St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choir(UK)
For over 1,000 years, the site of Suffolk ‘s Cathedral has been one of worship and pilgrimage. The death of Edmund, King of the East Angles, at the hands of the Danes in 869 led to the building of an abbey to house his remains. St James’s Church was built within the precincts of the Abbey, becoming a Cathedral in 1914.

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Reading: – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

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Litany of the Saints – John Becker
The Litany of the Saints (Latin: Litaniae Sanctorum) is a formal prayer of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Old Catholic Church, Anglo-Catholic communities, and Western Rite Orthodox communities. It is a prayer to the Triune God, which also includes invocations for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and all the martyrs and saints upon whom Christianity was founded, and those recognized as saints through the subsequent history of the church. Following the invocation of the saints, the Litany concludes with a series of supplications to God to hear the prayers of the worshipers.

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Closing – Jude 24-25

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
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40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags ~ Reblog Kevin DeYoung (TGC)

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags (click on link for original article)

July 1, 2015 | by Kevin DeYoung

Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

For evangelicals who lament last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, it’s been a hard few days. We aren’t asking for emotional pity, nor do I suspect many people are eager to give us any. Our pain is not sacred. Making legal and theological decisions based on what makes people feel better is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Nevertheless, it still hurts.

rainbow flag

There are many reasons for our lamentation, from fear that religious liberties will be taken away to worries about social ostracism and cultural marginalization. But of all the things that grieve us, perhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty “Amen” to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor. We thought the rainbow was God’s sign (Gen. 9:8-17).

If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

18. How would you define marriage?

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

24. If not, why not?

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

Food for thought, I hope. At the very least, something to chew on before swallowing everything the world and Facebook put on our plate.
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Note: An earlier version of this post had the questions in paragraph format rather than enumerated. The content is still the same. Readers interested in studying what the Bible teaches about homosexuality may be interested in checking out my new book on that theme.

Same-Sex Marriage and the Future: Reblog / Russell Moore / TGC

Same-Sex Marriage and the Future (see original article here)
Russell Moore / June 26, 2015

Above all, we must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive. If our people assume that everything goes back to normal with the right President and a quick constitutional amendment, they are not being equipped for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots and freaks.

The Bible tells us that the king of Israel once wanted to hear from the prophets, as to whether he would be victorious over his enemies. All the court prophets told him exactly what he wanted to hear. Yet the king of Judah, wisely, asked whether there might be another voice to hear from, and Israel’s king said that, yes, there was, but that he hated this prophet “because he never prophesies good concerning me” (1 Kings 22:8).

Once found, this prophet refused to speak the consensus word the king wanted to hear. “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak” (1 Kings 22:14). And, as it turned out, it was a hard word.

future-ssm

When it comes to what people want to hear, the church faces a similar situation as we look to the future of marriage in this country. Many want the sort of prophetic witness that will spin the situation to look favorable, regardless of whether that favor is from the Lord or in touch with reality.

Some people want a court of prophets who will take a surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God. They want those who will say, in light of what the Bible clearly calls immorality, “Has God really said?” Following the trajectory of every old liberalism of the past, they want to do with a Christian sexual ethic what the old liberals did with the virgin birth—claim that contemporary people just won’t have this, and if we want to rescue Christianity, this will have to go overboard. All the while they’ll tell us they’re doing it for the children (or for the Millennials).

Preaching a Gospel That Doesn’t Save

This is infidelity to the gospel we’ve received. First, no one refusing to repent of sin—be it homosexuality or fornication or anything else—will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). This strategy leaves people in condemnation before the judgment seat of Christ, without reconciliation and without hope.

Second, it doesn’t even work. Look at the empty cathedrals of the Episcopal Church, the vacated pews of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and right down the line. Let me be clear. Even if embracing same-sex marriage—or any other endorsement of what the Bible calls sexual immorality—“worked” in church building, we still wouldn’t do it. If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus. But history shows us that those who want a different Jesus—the one who says, “Do whatever you want with your body, it’s okay by me”—don’t want Christianity at all.

But there will be those who want prophets who will say that the gospel doesn’t call for repentance, or at least not repentance from this sin. These prophets will apply a selective universalism that denies that judgment is coming, or that the blood of Christ is needed. But these prophets don’t speak for God. And we have no one to blame but ourselves since, for too long, too many of us have tolerated among us those who have substituted a cheap and easy false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many have been called gospel preachers who preach decision without faith, regeneration without repentance, justification without lordship, deliverance by walking an aisle but without carrying a cross. That gospel is different from the one Jesus and his apostles delivered to us. That gospel doesn’t save.

So when these prophets emerge to tell people they can stay in their sins and still be saved, we must thunder back with the old gospel that calls all of us to repentance and to cross-bearing, the gospel that calls sin what it is in order to call grace what it is. J. Gresham Machen warned us that our Lord Jesus himself never attempted to preach the gospel to the righteous but only to sinners. Those who follow him must start by acknowledging themselves to be in need of mercy, to be in need of grace that can pardon and cleanse within.

Marriage Revolution Is Real

There’s another form of court prophet of these times, too. This one has no problem identifying homosexuality as sin. He may do so with all sorts of bluster and outrage, but he still does what court prophets always do—he speaks a word that people want to hear. Some people want to hear that sexual immorality is moral after all, and other people want to hear that same-sex marriage is simply a matter of some elites on the coasts of the country. This prophet implies that if we just sign checks to the right radio talk-show hosts, and have a good election cycle or two, we’ll be right back where we were, back when carpets were shag and marriages were strong. I don’t know anyone in any advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.—and there are many fighting the good fight on this one—who is saying that. As a matter of fact, the organizations closest to the ground know just how dark the hour is.

In some form or another, your church will have to address the marriage revolution. This includes thinking through steps that churches should take to protect themselves and their confessions of faith from legal action. But it also includes being honest about our congregations. It’s simply not the case that homosexuality, same-sex attraction, transgenderism, and so on are issues in “big” churches or “city” churches. In backwood rural churches of Appalachia or the mythological Bible Belt of the American South, congregations have to know how to faithfully and compassionately minister to the sexual revolution’s refugees. Churches that aren’t addressing these issues in their Sunday gatherings are ignoring the Great Commission.

That’s why this isn’t merely an issue of an election cycle or two. There is an urgent need for conscience protections for those who dissent from the High Church of the Sexual Revolution. Look at the way the CEO of Mozilla was hounded out of office simply for supporting a ballot measure defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Look at the way Baronnelle Stutzman was accosted by her own government, not for refusing services to gay customers (she served many gay clients for years) but for refusing to agree with two customers, and the state, about a same-sex wedding.

If the church doesn’t read the signs of the times, we will be right where we evangelicals were after Roe v. Wade—caught flat-footed and unprepared. Thankfully, many Christian leaders, and many outside the evangelical tradition, became bold leaders in the cause of protecting unborn life. We owe much today to their courage.

Lessons from the Pro-Life Movement

So what should we do? Precisely what we should have done before and after Roe. We should recognize where the courts and the culture are, and we should work for justice. That means not simply assuming most people agree with us on marriage. We must articulate, both in and out of the church, why marriage matters, and why its definition isn’t infinitely elastic.

We must—like the pro-life movement has done—seek not only to engage our base, those who already agree with us, but to persuade those who don’t. That doesn’t mean less talk about marriage and sexuality but more—and not just in soundbytes and slogans but in a robust theology of why sexual complementarity and the one-flesh union are rooted in the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:22–33). We must—also like the pro-life movement—understand the danger of a Supreme Court that won’t will into existence constitutional planks.

Above all, we must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive. If our people assume that everything goes back to normal with the right President and a quick constitutional amendment, they are not being equipped for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots and freaks.

Jesus told us we would have hard times. He never promised us a prosperity gospel. He said we would face opposition, but he said he would be with us. If we are going to be faithful to his gospel, we must preach repentance—even when that repentance is culturally unwelcome. And we must preach that any sinner can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. That means courage, and that means kindness. Sexual revolutionaries will hate the repentance. Buffoonish heretics, who want only to vent paranoia and rally their troops, will hate the kindness. So be it.

Be Ready

Our churches must be ready to call out the revisionists who wish to do away with a Christian sexual ethic. And we must be ready to call out those who tell us acknowledging the signs of the times is forbidden, and we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing. An issue this culturally powerful cannot be addressed by a halfway-gospel or by talk-radio sloganeering.

The marriage revolution around us means we must do a better job articulating a theology of marriage to our people, as well as a theology of suffering and marginalization. It means we must do a better job articulating to those on the outside why children need both a Mom and a Dad, not just “parents,” and why marriage isn’t simply a matter of court decree. It means we must start teaching our children about marriage “from the beginning” as male and female when they’re in Sunday school. It means we may have to decide if and when the day will come in which we will refuse to sign the state’s marriage licenses.

The long-term prospects for marriage are good. Marriage is resilient, and the sexual revolution always disappoints. It’s true these are dark days for the culture of marriage. But dark days are exactly what our gospel is for. No day was darker than the day the Son of God died in Palestine on a criminal’s cross. We are here because that dark day was not the end of the story. And because it wasn’t the end then, it will never be the end now.
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Editors’ note: For more resources on same-sex marriage and homosexuality, visit Equip, a joint initiative of The Gospel Coalition and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention to provide a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for this changing culture.

02 Nov, International Day of Prayer: The Persecuted Church (Voice of the Martyrs)

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church / 2014

Please visit Voice of the Martyrs / International Day of Prayer website for more resources – click here.

idop_banner

PLEASE PRAY: The most common request of persecuted Christians is “PRAY FOR US.” One of the ways we answer their request is through participation in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), which we observe on the first Sunday of each November. Our goal is simple: We want EVERY CHURCH to “Remember them that are in bonds …” on IDOP Sunday (Heb. 13:3).

Watch VOM’s IDOP videos – click here … share with your friends … and pray for the persecuted.

Liena and her family turned down offers of asylum in Western countries after civil war broke out in Syria. They knew the cost that might be required, but they chose to remain as witnesses to their Muslim neighbors and as an encouragement to other Christians.
Liena was a dedicated Christian, faithful wife and mother of two. In her prayers, she asked God to use her to reach more people. And then God asked her to make one more commitment.

Watch the dramatic testimony of Liena’s Prayer, as she struggles with the difficult decision of how much she can offer God.
You may never pray the same again.

IRAQ: PRAYER FOR IRAQ

VOM received these prayer points from a church in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, with whom VOM is partnering to help Christians in Iraq. Please join with your brothers and sisters in the Middle East to pray for the region. For security reasons, we have removed the name of the church.

  • That we would reach the community and meet its spiritual as well as physical needs.
  • That the Church would experience an unprecedented presence of the Holy Spirit throughout this crisis to change the region, country and Middle East.
  • That individuals and the Church would experience our Almighty God’s unity and power, open heavens, and rivers flowing from the Holy Spirit to give us one shared Vision.
  • That God would grant us favor in the government’s eyes, to acquire permission for establishing a school.
  • That God would send workers for his Kingdom, as many of our services and relief deliveries have been delayed due to a shortage of workers.
  • That God would grant us wisdom in handling the Internally Displaced People (IDP) projects, and strength to those who work with them directly.
  • That God would send confusion and disagreement to those in the IS group, to stop them from inflicting more violence to the region, and that their hidden cells would be uncovered by local authorities.
  • That God would save misled young people from IS and judge the leaders who are aware and yet still misleading youth with their evil desires and ideologies.
  • That all ISIS’ financial resources would be cut off.
  • That God would comfort and encourage the Yezidi people amidst their heartbreaking genocide; that the Lord would reveal Himself to them with dreams and visions; that he would burden missionaries to serve among the remaining Yezidis.
  • That God would encourage the believers who fled from Mosul, that they’d be strong in Him, be bold to witness and never lose hope in Him.
  • That God would raise up faithful leaders in the Central Government who fear God rather than men of power and use their authority for justice.
  • That God would give wisdom to the Kurdistan Regional Government, to manage the crisis, to defend the region faithfully, and that they would realize that God raised them up to serve Him at this time – that He would reveal Himself to them.
  • That the church would pray with one heart: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, in Heaven as well as in Kurdistan.”
  • That God would send visitations to the Shi’a in central and south Iraq, to heal their hearts and release them from idolatry.

Thank you for reading this far… and for praying for persecuted Christians around the world. May God bless you.

3 Reasons You Should Care About Election Day (Reblog TGC)

Anne Chamberlin lives in Allen, Texas, and blogs at Tales from Shangri-La.

thegospelcoalition.org / October 28

It’s the last Tuesday in October, just one week away from Election Day. I’ve noticed in some (not all) American Christian corners a silence about issues in the political realm. This may have to do with a few possibilities: the rejection of old-school Moral Majority hypocrisy and overreach, the rejection of Obama-as-Messiah liberalism, a distaste for corrupt government and flawed candidates, some kind of notion that secular nations like ours aren’t our Christian business, or ignorance about self-rule in our country. As believers, we know that the purpose of government is not to save souls, but to “punish those who do evil and praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14).

washington  monument

Whatever the cause of the silence, here are three reasons American Christians should be politically principled, informed, opinionated, and involved.

1. You are a ruler, and God calls kings to rule well.

There is no one king in America. You and I are kings, for we hire and fire our elected representatives. While you may not have asked for this burden, when you are an American citizen you live in country that has given its people self-rule. It follows that, as kings, Christians would seek the advice given to rulers in Scripture.

Some guidance in Scripture for rulers is direct. God has direct guidance for King Lemuel in Proverbs (Prov. 31:1–9). Lemuel is to rule soberly, justly, and fairly, looking out for those who are oppressed and those whose rights are being stolen. The proverbs have many statements about kings: they take pleasure in honesty, they appreciate skilled labor, they mete out justice.

Some guidance in Scripture is by example. The king of Ninevah (a non-Jewish king of a non-Jewish people) was a king who did well. He repents of his moral sins, and he legislates that his people repent as well, thereby saving them from destruction. Again, these were not Israelites (Jonah 3:7–10). For another example, in the New Testament Paul calls on believers to pray for rulers, that they would help us live peaceful and quiet lives, that we might be “godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1–4). It would follow that Christians would wish to rule in such a way that those prayers are answered.

2. You are a Christian, and God calls you to love well.

Christ calls us to love our neighbor. It is the second half of his summation of all the law and the prophets (Matt. 22:34–40). Christian, do you love your neighbor? If you do, you will care about the types of laws he lives under. You will care about the just, merciful, and sensible implementation of such laws, too, for these things affect your neighbor. You will keenly study and deduce the things your elected officials wish to reward and encourage, and that which they wish to punish or discourage, and you will vote accordingly. These things affect your neighbor.

You will keenly study and deduce which policies work, and which are well-intentioned yet bound to fail. They affect your neighbor, and you love her. You will weigh a flawed candidate with sensible policies that achieve good things for your country and culture—against another flawed candidate with well-intentioned but foolish or destructive policies.

You will need to think philosophically about the human condition, and weigh the two parties and their approach to legislation, and you will decide which party has more sensible and upright policies. You will need to be shrewd about propaganda, false narratives, cover-ups, and the like, and you will need to learn from history. Because you love your neighbor.

You will do this because in your city, county, state, and country the crime rate, education, educational freedom, corruption, defense, and how the international community treats your countrymen—to name a few issues—matter to your neighbors. And you love them.

Christian, you love your neighbor, even—especially—the tiniest ones. I am speaking of our neighbors in utero who deserve the right to live. May I submit that you consider these—your smallest, weakest neighbors—when you weigh candidates and legislation?

3. You have the Word, and you already know ‘it’s complicated.’

As a child of God, you hold in your hands the book that thoroughly explains the human condition. Again, whether you like it or not, to whom much is given much shall be required. By describing life, humanity, family, community, and kingdoms, the Bible is relevant to people living in every possible “-archy” and “-ism.” Its message is eminently applicable to image-bearers living in monarchies, oligarchies, aristocracies, kleptocracies, and democracies, and under fascism, communism, and socialism. It’s relevant because government is about people, and the Bible is the definitive, inerrant story of God and humanity.

And it’s yours. It’s in your hands.

The Bible teaches us about human nature and experience, how we thrive, and what brings out the best and the worst in us. It describes how true oppression looks and what true human rights and duties we ought to pursue. Of course human candidates, parties, and platforms are not perfect. Far be it from any believer to be surprised by sin, corruption, or imperfection. But somehow we still scorn and turn away from a system made up of flawed people. What did we expect? As Americans, we can turn away from brokenness in our culture, government, and systems. We can reject “those people and their government” and God’s call on us as rulers and Christians, because we cannot find the flawless candidate or party or legislation. We can hunker down in our “Christian ghetto.”

As Christians, however, we are called to turn toward our neighbors. We are called to live in this world and engage our communities and love those around us. We can do this by exercising the gift of self-rule wisely, shrewdly. As Christ’s regents, we can support sensible candidates and policies to help bring about freedom and quiet living rather than oppression, here in our little 21st-century kingdom called America.