Religion

Was President Gerald Ford a Born-Again Christian?

Gerald_ford

Was Gerald Ford a born-again Christian? By all accounts yes.

Ford grew up religious in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but as he moved into politics in his adult life most of that had subsided.

He did however make a genuine re-commitment to Christ, which he nurtured and continued into the presidency and continued after he left office.  It was Billy Zeoli, now president of www.Gospelcom.net (the parent company of Gospel Films) that helped Ford get back on track when Ford was a Congressman. Zeoli brought Ford a Bible, but he says it was at a chapel service for a Cowboys verses Redskins game that Ford recommitted his life to Christ.  Zeoli was involved in ministry to professional athletes. Ford shared with Zeoli a passion for sports. 

When Ford became president Zeoli wrote a weekly devotional for him and conducted regular Bible Studies throughout Ford's tenure. Those devotionals are available in book form with an introduction by Gerald Ford in a book called, "God Has a Better Idea."

Gerald Ford's son Michael is today an ordained minister who attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the Boston area. When his son graduated in 1977 Ford gave the commencement address and spoke of his own faith.  Ford also spoke at Wheaton College.

President Ford can be seen confessing his faith before thousands of young people by clicking the video embedded at the end of the text of the prayer of commitment reproduced below:

Gerald Ford: "I pledge my life recognizing I am no longer my own, belonging to God who has called me to lead the world.

I pledge my character, understanding that it is the cornerstone of leadership. I make God's word the final authority directing my motives and actions.

I pledge my service realizing I am chosen by God, not by men. I will give my life away to serve others.

To this end, I will stand for the hurting, the hopeless, the unloved. I will say what others refuse to say. I will reach the world without losing sight of the neighborhood. I will walk upright, speak the truth, and live above reproach. I will not be ashamed to fall on my knees, to cry out to God, to shed tears for the dying, to [live] a life worthy of a leader, to stand up and lead my generation that all may know that Jesus Christ is alive."  To see the video of Gerald Ford reciting this pledge click here.


Will the Real Jesus Stand Up?

Who_do_men_say_i_am_1Jesus. That's one pretty powerful Name! Which explains why so many have used the name to promote themselves, their agendas and their weird ideas to a hungry and desperate public. Some have even claimed to be Jesus!  The most recent claim being Jose Luis Jesus Miranda, who preaches from a warehouse in Florida.

JesusThrough his numerous interviews he has given we can begin to piece together his beliefs and his history.  Jose is 60 years old and born in Puerto Rico.  He says he used to be an evangelical.'  Prior to becoming an evangelical he was a heroin addict. The way the story goes is that he previously ministered in a drug rehabilitation ministry in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  After some years of ministry he began to be disillusioned with the church.  In his more desperate moments he claims that Jesus Christ came to visit him one night.

When Jesus visited him, he says that Jesus disappeared and Jesus disappeared into him. This was, to him, the second coming of Christ. Jesus was now living in him.  By his own testimony he was a bit slow figuring out what happened at that moment and used to consider that he was the apostle Paul. But after growing some, he finally came to realize in 2,000 - the year he says many were waiting for and looking for Jesus to return - that he was Jesus returned.

One of the "proofs" Jose Luis Jesus Miranda gives that he is Jesus is that he does no signs and wonders. Since the Bible says that false Christs and prophets will perform signs to deceive, Miranda claims that he does no signs and wonders as a 'proof' that he is in fact Jesus Christ.

You know what?  Yawn!

There is only one Jesus who is 'the way the truth and the life' and it is not Jose Luis Jesus Miranda!


Christian Persecution in Pakistan

Pakistan_matyr_2_1 Radical Muslims cut off Mohan Shahzad’s arm with an axe after he refused to stop selling Christian literature.  Even so, he says he will continue to build the Lord’s Kingdom, even if his persecutors cut off his other arm.

Pray Mohan’s brave testimony will demonstrate the strength that comes from a relationship with the Lord.
For more information on the persecuted church visit:

Open Doors

Voice of the Martyrs

Safe Harbor International


New England: An Evangelical Dead Zone

Evangelicals_in_america_3    CONNECTICUT: "THE" EVANGELICAL DEAD ZONE

First let me say I don't like the term "evangelical."  I never use it for myself, and I don't recall anybody ever using it when referring to me. It has been used to marginalize and define people for political and / or popular media purposes.  Yet, the word is out there and is both descriptive and misused, so if you can't beat them, we'll join them for the sake of this conversation. An Evangelical is basically defined by two things: (1) They had a point in their life where they had a conversion to Jesus Christ, an experience that they can point to. (2) They believe the Bible. Even that second definition is variously defined within the movement.  But it is safe to say "Evangelicals are Bible believing converts to Jesus Christ." It has nothing to do with political associations or social activism.

As such Pat Robertson is certainly an evangelical, as is Jimmy Carter.  Ollie North by definition is an evangelical, as is Bono from U2. (listen to the podcast where he talks about his faith and inspiration.) Jerry Falwell falls into the category, as does Joel Osteen. Deion Sanders, George Foreman and Kathie Lee Gifford all register as evangelicals.  It's a pretty broad category, as the definition is pretty generous. Folks that have come to believe in Jesus and the Bible.  Evangelicals can be found everywhere as they live and work among us.  You won't however find too many in New England and the Northeast, as the Time Magazine map shows.

The Time Magazine map (from the "America turns 300 Million" issue) shows the number of evangelicals per one thousand people. The tan color (double click the map to blow it up) of New England shows less than 100 in 1,000 are evangelicals. People who converted to Jesus and believe the Bible.  George Barna shows similar statistics and has Connecticut at the very bottom of the barrel of evangelical adherents. We are 'dead last' with the lowest number of converts to Jesus in the USA!  Wow!

New England is a bona fide mission field with less than 10% evangelical. We send missionaries to countries with larger Christian populations than that. According to Patrick Johnstone of "Operation World" (who tracks believing populations around the world) countries with larger believing populations than the state of Connecticut include Guatemala with 23%, Nicaragua with 15.1%, Ethiopia with 13% and Zaire with 21%. Don't hear me wrong, we are responsible as New Testament Christians to send our people to fields abroad. But Connecticut is as dark spiritually as many fields we send missionaries to.   Read my friend Bill Lamorey's post about church planting / missions work in Connecticut.

It's not just Connecticut, although we are the worst in the country, but much of the Northeast is in a similar condition.  Here's some more statistics:

* Of the 86 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, those with the lowest proportion of evangelicals were Salt Lake City, Utah; Hartford, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island.

* Involvement in an adult small group is most prolific in Shreveport, Louisiana. The three areas with the lowest rates of small group participation are Albany (NY), Boston and Providence.

* Adults are most likely to claim they have a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with other people if they live in Birmingham, Alabama. That perspective is least common in Providence and Green Bay.

* Believing that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today” is most common in Tulsa. It is least predominant in Boston and San Francisco.

* One out of every six residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington are atheist or agnostic – nearly double the national average. Atheists and agnostics are hardest to locate in Louisiana and Missouri.

There are other areas around the country that have relatively low percentages as well, including parts of southern California. The difference there is the density of the populations. So while the percentages may be low, the numbers are high. Los Angeles County has a small percentage of Evangelicals, but because of population density has millions of them.

I'm not complaining.  But we do have our work cut out for us. It's appropriate for us to maintain a missionary posture and find creative and innovative ways to reach more people with the Good New of the Gospel of Jesus. 

We've definitely got a lot to do, but God is good! Let's roll up our sleeves and let God do His creative and innovative work among us>

Look out Connecticut, here we come! 


Where Was God in the Amish Killings?" Trouble in Paradise

AmishwomenIt's ironic that the killings of the young Amish children were in the village of Paradise, Pennsylvania. It was the third school violence incident in the United States involving guns in one week.  This time it was in the most unlikely of places, in an Amish community, where non-violence and pacifism are practiced and held as high vlaues.

Where was God in the midst of the killing of the Amish school children? It's a good question and one that we should ask and try to answer. When we start to dig a little deeper, looking at the lives of some of those involved, we start to see Him all over the place. Understanding where God was begins with the knowledge that faith goes deeper than tragedy and life goes deeper than death.

THE AMISH COMMUNITY DOESN'T SEE GOD AS REMOVED FROM THE SITUATION.  In fact their lifestyle and belief structure predicts that such horrible things will happen. The Intelligencer Journal, a Lancaster County newspaper, quotes Amish researcher Donald Kimball, "The Amish are a resilient, peace-loving people of faith who won't be changed by Monday's spasm of violence, which they likely will view as a one-time incident. 'I think the community will understand it as an aberration, a crime committed by a man with a severe psychiatric disorder... I think they have a sense of resignation in accepting these kinds of things as somehow a part of God's larger plan.'"  David Weaver-Zercher, of Messiah College said in the same article that the Amish have a view of the world as "an evil place, and one's only security is with God."

THE ELDERS IN THE AMISH COMMUNITY ARE TALKING FORGIVENESS.  Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN he was standing with the grandfather of one of the slain girls, while the grandfather was teaching the young boys that they were not to hate. He is quoted as saying, "We must not think evil of this man." 

Amish woodworker, Sam Stoltzfus told an Associated Press reporter that "the families would be sustained by their faith." He said, "We think it was God's plan, and we're going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going. A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter."

The same article that quotes Stoltzfus, quotes Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community who said people were trying to follow the teachings of Jesus. He said, "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."  Wow! Reaching out to the family of the man that killed your children. Supernatural power and love exists in the hearts of the effected Amish families. God is spilling out all over that situation.

THE KILLER WAS HAVING AN AWFUL TIME IN HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. Charles Carl Roberts IV, was having a hard time finding God in just about anything. He was experiencing a number of troubling thoughts that he recorded in suicide notes he left for his family. He was particularly troubled by the death of his daughter, Elise, born prematurely in 1997 and living for only 20 minutes. In his note Robarts said Elise's death, "changed my life forever. I haven't been the same since it affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate towards myself, hate towards God and unimaginable emptiness it seems like every time we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us and I go right back to anger." Whew, that's some tough stuff, really rough emotions. But not a denial of God or His existence, just an overall anger.

One of the strangest places that God showed up in the incident was that Marie Roberts, the killer's wife was leading a prayer meeting for the community's schoolchildren at the time that he had stormed into the one-room classroom.  Marie Roberts has been asking for prayer all along in this tragedy. CNN reported on Wednesday night, October 4th in an interview with two of the midwives that delivered two of the Amish girls that died, that Marie Roberts had asked to meet with the families of the slain children after the funeral and the Amish bishop agreed.

Even emergency response workers were saying "God was with us while we were taking care of those kids."

SPONTANEOUS PRAYER MEETINGS ERUPTED ACROSS LANCASTER COUNTY.  Lancaster Online reported on one of the many meetings. “We come here tonight as a grieving community,” Sam Smucker, pastor of The Worship Center, said. “We’ve come here to pray and proclaim the lordship of Christ and to put our arms around each other and the community and ask God to put his arms around us. God hears our prayers.”

Contemporary Christian artist Michael W. Smith led the group in worship, playing the piano and singing hymns like “It Is Well With My Soul,” as well as praise songs
like “Above All.”

Smith, who originally had been scheduled to perform at a rally for U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in Lancaster Tuesday night, said, “It’s not an accident that I’m here (at The Worship Center’s prayer vigil). I’m a big believer in the providence of God.”

Smith told those attending the vigil that the shooting “could be your grandest
opportunity to turn tragedy into good, to grieve with those who grieve. What happened (Monday) will see what you’re made of.” As long as it takes to heal, “we have to stand in the gap.”

Of all the places in the world, Smith said, this is the last place one would think anything like this would happen. “But God is in control. ... Was this God’s will? Absolutely not. But he will use it for good,” Smith said. “Satan has won the battle
— temporarily. God has overcome the evil one. Let’s get on with building the kingdom. Let’s get on with God’s agenda.”

Smith closed his portion of the service by dedicating his new song, “See You on the Other Side” to the “five precious girls” who died in the shooting, Naomi Rose Ebersol, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, Marian Fisher, Mary Liz Miller and Lina Miller.

THE POWER OF GOD WAS EVIDENT IN SO MANY PLACES IN THE MIDST OF SUCH A HORRIBLE TRAGEDY. Forgiveness is being extended to Roberts family by the Amish. God has been evident throughout this whole situation.  Enos Miller, the grandfather of the two Miller sisters, was with both of the girls when they died. He was out walking near the schoolhouse before dawn Wednesday _ he said he couldn't sleep _ when he was asked by a reporter for WGAL-TV whether he had forgiven the gunman.

"In my heart, yes," he said, explaining it was "through God's help."


Apes: In the Image of God?

Time_mag_what_makes_us_differentIt seems as though Time Magazine, more than other news weeklies, likes to probe spiritually provocative and evangelical Christian themes.  Sometimes they do a good job, especially in terms of religion, as they have had some decent religion editors, including Richard Ostling, in the past. The October 3 cover article explores "How We Became Human."  The opening line says, "No single, essential difference separates human beings from other animals."  We'll have to explore and challenge that one.

The article centers around two tracks. One, being that evolutionary research and conclusions are being thrown into confusion by recent and contradictory finds. This includes the new belief that humans evolved simultaneously in several regions of the globe at the same time.

The other track is the similarities between humans and apes.  I don't know about that.  I remember hearing about evolution when I was in elementary school and wondering if this were true, why were there 'still' monkeys around? On the most basic level so many of these things never made sense to me.

I was recently at a whale demonstration with my family. The trainer was young and a lot of fun, interacting with us and making the experience really enjoyable.  The trainer then pointed to the whale's blow-hole and told us that this 'adaptation' took millions of years to develop. The trainer then went on to tell us that the whale could submerge several thousand feet and stay under water for up to an hour.  That didn't make any sense to me.  I later asked the presenter if the whale only had one hour of air before using the blow-hole for more air, wouldn't it stand to reason that the adaptation would have to happen within an hour or there would be no whales?  He replied, "Yea, that's kind of interesting, I never thought about that."

So much in evolutionary theory doesn't make sense. That's probably why, according to a CBS poll, after one hundred years of teaching evolution only 15% of Americans believe that life came through evolution without God.  People just don't buy it despite mandating creation out of textbooks, magazine articles like the Time cover, television specials and teachers telling it to young impressionable minds day after day, year after year. What's going on?  Maybe we have something inside of us that tell us this isn't true and we trust our internal resources more than we do the efforts of modern education to convince us differently.

The argument of similarities, points more to design than "image." Agricultural scientist Don Batten writing for "Answers in Genesis" says, "Think about a Porsche and Volkswagen ‘Beetle’ car. They both have air–cooled, flat, horizontally–opposed, 4–cylinder engines in the rear, independent suspension, two doors, boot (trunk) in the front, and many other similarities (‘homologies’). Why do these two very different cars have so many similarities? Because they had the same designer!" 

The works of artists, painters, musicians and writers have similarities that help us to identify the work as theirs.  John Cougar Mellencamp has an identifiable sound. He has written a variety of songs about differing topics, yet his 'signature' comes through his songs.  He is the creator and they sound like they came from him. Each is different, but they are variations on the theme of the one that created them.  Eyes and hands are not the "Image," but design.

That the animal world has 'similarities' to the human world should come as no surprise.  All of the 'created order' shares similarities.  But everything is not the same, nor does it stand to reason that they descended from each other because they bear common traits. This is to be expected with a Master Creator. In our house we like the French Impressionist painters. Although they all derive their style from common techniques, each can be identified by their own style and twist. It is possible to identify a creator through their works. So it is with God, the creator of all things. Shouldn't we 'natuarally' expect that we will see similarities?

Humans are as different from the animal kingdom, including apes, as they are similar.  It is claimed that he DNA between apes and humans is 97-99% similar. That still allows for huge differences. But the biggest difference isn't in physical characteristics, but in what the Bible calls being created "in the image of God."  (Genesis 1:26) What does that mean?

Being created in 'the image of God" does not refer to physical likeness.  What is does mean is that there are many characteristics of God that we share.

The ability to choose to love, to commit to love, to make intellectual, emotional and volitional decisions to love makes us "like God" and unlike the animal world.

The ability to communicate about past, present and future and to build monuments and museums to recall our past achievements and failures are uniquely human and something we share being created in the Image of God.

Being created in the image of God gives us an innate sense of right and wrong and of justice. All humans everywhere have a sense of justice, of what is right for people.  This stems from us being created in the Image of God. It is the basis of all human rights. The fact that every individual has worth and value, simply because they are exist is part of being creating in the Image of God.

The same?  Sure.  One creator, with variations on a theme.  Descending from each other? No way. After God created the order of nature and the animal world, he created human beings. People in His image. The same creator placing us on the same shared earth, but with a different task and with a different purpose.

In some ways it's not even worth debunking the evolutionary belief structure, since no matter how hard they try hardly anybody believes it anyway.  That's because God placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11.) It's only one other way that we are created in the Image of God.


The Metro-Spirituals Are Here!

Richard20gere I'm fond of saying, "People are incurably religious." The apostle Paul on Mars Hill said, "His -God's- purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist."  Centuries later, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known by Jesus Christ."  You can't escape it, sooner or later people are going to have to find 'some way' to express this inner, created need.

There's a new outward expression of this inner need on the scene, this time lead by some of the more visible personalities in the entertainment industry.  Many of us have started to notice it, but haven't known what to call it.  It's the "spiritual expressions" of the likes of Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere, Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman and even Madonna. Last year a BeliefNet article called it 'metro-spirituality.'  This time around, it mixes Buddhism, Taoism and other ancient forms of spirituality with products.  A spiritual consumerism.  Going shopping as a holy experience?   It's not shopping at Wal-Mart, QVC or Stop and Shop though.  Although these wise retailers are sure to have a product line for metro-spiritual types soon.

OK, what is it? It's about values, choices and the search for inner peace in the modern world turning into expressions of spiritual life.  This time much of the expression comes from purchases and consuming. Food and where it comes from is a big part of a metro-spiritual lifestyle.

Some say the "Holy Trinity" of metro spirituality is: (1) Honoring the Planet (2) Healing Yourself (3) Exploring Other Cultures.

Others see it in a more consumer oriented package (1) Organic, artisan foods purchased under fair trade agreements (2) Clothes and furnishings from the global community (3) Health, Beauty and Alternative Medicine Products.

Before you hear anything too negative about all of the above, it should be said there is nothing wrong and maybe a lot of things right with those categories.  The church I pastor deliberately buys coffee from PuraVida because they enter into fair trade agreements with coffee farmers in places where they otherwise are frequently taken advantage of. Truth is we probably pay a bit more, but the coffee is good and the practices are fair. PuraVida also returns a percentage of their profits back into coffee growing communities and social projects. Everybody wins. That's good.

Recently more Christian leaders been paying attention to the environment, without resorting to worshiping the earth.  The earth has been given to us as a stewardship and we should care for it in a similar way to how we care for our bodies and our cars. Which for many of us, isn't much care or investment at all, but even the worst of us give occasional thought and maintenance to both.

Take note that you can't really be poor and be a metro-spiritual, most of this costs money and the products that appeal to metro-spirituals are quite a bit more expensive than their counterparts in WalMart.  The Yankee Candles we burn in our house probably won't pass the muster with most metro-spirituals.  I do have some sandalwood oils I brought back from India, they would probably have a better chance of towing the line.

Origins, a health and beauty company, whose byline is "The Genius of Nature" offers "Peace of Mind" aroma products.  The "Peace of Mind" product line includes some spiritual hints on living the peaceful life: (1) Turn off your cell phone for one hour (2) Create rituals (3) Reconnect with nature (4) Breathe deeply (5) Reach for a 'Peace of Mind' product.   

For totally cool and very expensive clothes and home furnishings putting you in tune with the global community and making you feel spiritual be sure to shop Anthropologie or ABC Carpet and Home.  If you have doubts that home decorating can be a global spiritual experience, just click on the link to ABC and enjoy the world music and world visual collage on their home page. They put forth their products as "illuminate, timeless, sustainable, spiritual, nomadic, beauty."  And they DO have some totally cool stuff!!

Food, the organic kind, grown by artisans is course part of the life of metro-spirituals.  Be forewarned though, it's expensive!  Somebody described the life of a metro-spiritual as one having, "hippie values and a yuppies pocketbook."  Pretty fair.  But what drives it?

The human need to touch divinity, to experience inner peace and be connected to others is the driving force. We're incurable. We need to be religious.  The 20th century made all of us aware that we are in fact a global community and equality does not exist across the global spectrum.  Metro-spirituals are trying somehow to connect with the rest of the world and to show their solidarity and concern, even if their carpets are overpriced and the profits never get to the peasants that wove them together with bleeding fingers.  But at least they're aware and they are trying to appease an inner calling to connection. Or as others would evaluate it, maybe they are just filthy rich and are trying to appease their conscience. Maybe a little of both. 

The problem, as I see it, and what makes it obviously clear that it doesn't embody absolute truth, is that everybody cannot practice metro-spirituality. The truth is the people in the developing world that are creating the product base that connects so many metro-spirituals to the global community are not earning a sustainable income from their products. In fairness many companies are recognizing this, but the Buddhist peasant that carves out a statue sold in a Manhattan shop could not pay the street price of his own creation if he saved all of his income for a lifetime.

If something is true, it will be true for all people in all places at all times. This is what we mean when we use the phrase "absolute truth."  With one billion people still without clean drinking water, metro-spirituality is a long way from being able to meet the spiritual needs of the global community.

Some say that metro-spirituality is actually contributing to some of the problems it is trying to identify with. Eco-tourism is a growing industry among metro-spirituals, but some say it is harming the very environments people are coming to see and experience.

One of the proofs that true, Biblical Christianity, is the expression that has come from heaven is its ability to morph in every culture, every locality and any age. Poverty is no barrier to the practice of pure Christianity and neither is great wealth. The Bible is full of the accounts of people with nothing and people with abundance. Christianity works for both and has admonitions to both.

Jesus gives peace to people who are not able to afford luxury health and beauty products.   

The up side is that it's finally OK for Hollywood and celebrities to be spiritual.  Celebrities are humans too. They have a God-shaped vacuum as well. Madonna told Larry King, "I was looking for something. I mean, I'd begun practicing yoga and, you know, I was looking for the answers to life. Why am I here? What am I doing here? What is my purpose? How do I fit into the big picture? I know there's more to life than making lots of money and being successful and even getting married and having a family...  There's only one thing that lasts and that's your soul. And if you don't work on that, and you don't pay attention to that, then all the money in the world is not going to help you."

Some say that America is 'post-Christian,' that they have tried Christianity and moved right past it. Maybe so. But if it is post-Christian, than it must also be pre-Christian. Most of those that have rejected Christianity haven't rejected Jesus. They've rejected the institutions they have seen around them.  Beginning with the baby-boomers, America began to increasingly distrust institutions and started to opt for more individualized and personal outlets of spirituality. That would be fine, except that it will not ultimately satisfy.  There is only One that will satisfy and put our hearts at rest.

Metro-Spirituality is only one more evidence, one more proof that there is an emptiness in our hearts that is longing to be filled.  Madonna's Kabballh is destined to end up empty and fashions and home furnishings will go out of style. The day will come when getting into an aroma bath will be more painful than it is helpful.  There is something of eternal weigh and worth that works for all people everywhere. As the old hymn says, "Come into my heart Lord Jesus, Come into my heart today!"


Polygamy: Today in History, September 25, 1890

Wilford_woodruffThat's a picture of Wilfred Woodruff, the fourth president of the Mormon church. He's the one that made the proclamation on September 25, 1890, that plural marriage or polygamy would no longer be allowed in the Mormon Church or be a Mormon practice. But the polygamy issue just won't go away.

Although, the Mormon church put aside polygamy, under tremendous pressure. many Mormons know that polygamy was the original practice of Mormonism ans that it is the real Mormonism. When Mormons that practice polygamy are called fundamentalist Mormons' it is a correct description. They are the ones that are building their lives on the foundational and fundamental practices of Mormonism. The Mormon church through its young history (it's not even two hundred years old) has had a policy of one prophecy or proclamation from God being over-written by another. A rather convenient doctrine.

But polygamy is back and it looks like the battle is going to rage.  HBO has a show about a polygamous family called "Big Love."  Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints recently ended up on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted List"  along with the likes of Usama bin Laden. I don't think the name Jesus Christ should be the mane of his church, but this is America and you can do that if you want.   

Look for this battle to come to the forefront as we as a culture of dialog and individualism become increasingly confused about how to think about issues like marriage. 

When I do pre-marital counseling with couples moving towards marriage I asked them this question, "Who invented marriage anyway?"  You be surprised the number of people that have never even asked the question. The answer of course is that God created marriage.  If you want to know how marriage works, we'll have to ask him in the pages the scripture.  As Francis Schaeffer was fond of saying, "He is there and He is not Silent."


The Church: A History of Anti-Semitism

Constatine_1The Emperor Constantine is known as the first Christian emperor of the Rome. I've got my doubts that he was a Christian, but who am I to judge?  That's God's job.  Nevertheless from Constantine on, the church has undoubtedly contributed and been party to anti-semitism throughout history. To my mind this is wrong and we need to own up to our history.  Here are some quotes:

1) The first "Christian" Emperor, Constantine (315 ad), legally branded the Jews a "vicious and perverse sect."

2) Emperor Justinian (527-565) decreed:
"They (the Jews) shall enjoy no honors.  Their status shall reflect the perverse condition they have desired in their souls."  Under Justinian’s Law Code, Jews were not considered credible witnesses against Christians in a lawsuit. Jews were forbidden to teach the prophecies concerning the physical restoration of the nation Israel.

3) "Brothel and theater, the synagogue is also a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts...Living for their belly, mouth forever gaping, the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats in the lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony...Jews are possessed by demons."   St. John Chrysostom

4) In 1215, Pope Innocent III and the Fourth Lateran Council ordered Jews to wear distinctive Jewish hats and yellow arm badges.  The Jews were ordered segregated into Ghettos in every city. “Jews, against whom the blood of Jesus Christ cries out, although they ought to be slain lest the Christian people forget the Divine law, ought nevertheless to be dispersed over the earth as wanderers so their countenance might be full of shame and they might seek for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."   Innocent III

5) According to a Papal Bull issued July 12, 1555 by Pope Paul IV:
"In Rome and all the other cities of the Papal States, the Jews shall live entirely separate from the Christians, in a quarter or a street with one entrance and one exit.  They shall build no new synagogue nor own real estate."

6) When the Black Plague of 1348-1349 killed 1/3 of Europe, the Jews were blamed for it.  They were accused of poisoning Christians wells.  They were also accused of using Christian babies for sacrifices.  Angry mobs wiped out hundreds of Jewish Ghettos.

7) Martin Luther  “What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews?...Let me give you my honest advice. First, their synagogues or churches should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may be able to see a cinder or stone of it.  And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not wittingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing and blaspheming of His Son and His Christians...  Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed.  For they perpetrate the same things there that they do in their synagogues...  Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more."     "Against the Jews and Their Lies”

8) "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”     ADOLPH HITLER   Mein Keif

Hitler had many of the clergy of Germany in his pocket going along with him as Germany moved towards the Holocaust.  There were a few notable exceptions, not the least of them being Dietrich Bonhoffer, who we'll talk about at another time.


This War is Not Ishamel (Arabs) and Isaac (Israel) It's Shiites and Israel

HezbollahThe present war going on in Lebanon is not a war between Isaac (Israel) and Ishmael (Arabs, wandering tribes.) It is between Shiite Islam and the nation of Israel.  In our blog we've been attempting to explain the differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims and Arabs and the general Muslim population. (see other articles in the Middle East, Islam and Israel category.)

On July 17th there was a meeting by the Arab League and they refused to make a strong statement concerning Israel's reaction" to the Hezbollah provocation. This went, as far I can tell, largely unnoticed by the news outlets, but is significant in understanding the conflicts and where the sides are being drawn. The Arabs are not protesting this. Why?

Previous, we've said that all Arabs (those speaking Arabic) are not Muslims and that Islam (the religion of Muslims) is divided into two major factions (Sunni & Shiite.) In the present war (if you look at the Sunni Shiite map we provided) you'll see where the Shiites are primarily located. Hezbollah, located in Lebanon, is primarily a Shiite funded and encouraged organization. The Shiites are located in Iran, some in Syria, a good number in Iraq, some in Lebanon (mostly Hezbollah) and some in Gaza. This war is Shiite Islam against Israel and not many of the Sunnis (or perhaps not any) want to join the Shiites. At least not at the moment. They have long standing divisions and this war so far doesn't seem to be enough to unite them. While some of the Sunnis have a historical blood links to Ishmael, most of the Shiites do not. Iran, dominated by Shiites, is ancient Persia, a one time enemy of Israel (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.)

The world could not be any crazier at the moment. But for the Bible believing Christian, we've read the end of the book and we know how it finishes. We don't know everything in between, but we have some clues.  Sooner or later Iran will invade Israel (Ezekiel 38.)  Russia seems to be a likely  accomplice from a study of that chapter. When all these things happen is anybody's guess...  but it is much closer than it has ever been.

So remember what we say, "Keep your feet on the ground, your eyes to the sky and you're heart with people!"  Add to that keep your nose in your Bible and your thumb in the newspaper!

LATE BREAKING NEWS:  Al Queda calls for ALL Muslims to fight Israel.  Al Queda doesn't seem to have much influence with Islamic nations or national leaders, but they do have some very dedicated networks of individuls from Islamic and non-Islamic nations worldwide.  So far the Sunni nations aren't jumping in.  We'll have to see how much sway Al Queda has and 'if' Hezbollah even wants to be associated with them.   The plot thickens! Or Al Queda may be gasping for breath... 

picture courtesy of the New York Times  www.nytimes.com