6/11/15

From Mark Copeland... "EQUIPPING THE SAINTS FOR MINISTRY" Areas Of Service In The Body




                  "EQUIPPING THE SAINTS FOR MINISTRY"

                      Areas Of Service In The Body

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous lesson we noticed the following truths about body of
   Christ...
   a. The body of Christ has many members - cf. 1Co 12:12,14
   b. Not all members have the same function - cf. Ro 12:4,6a
   c. Every function is crucial to the operation of the body 
      - cf. 1Co 12:21-22; Ep 4:15-16

2. Therefore the challenges we face are these...
   a. To be aware of the different ways that members can serve in the body
   b. To encourage members to develop those functions that best suit 
      their abilities and opportunities to serve
   c. To provide direction and opportunity for those willing and 
      prepared to serve in their different functions

3. In an effort to meet the first challenge, in this study we will...
   a. Summarize the four basic areas of service in the body of Christ
   b. Provide examples of roles that people can fulfill within each
      basic area of service

[Let's begin with an area of service in the body that is evident every
time we assemble...]

I. THE AREA OF "PUBLIC WORSHIP"

   A. PUBLIC WORSHIP AS AN AREA OF SERVICE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST...
      1. We are commanded not to forsake our assembling together, for
         therein we can exhort one another to love and good works 
         - He 10:24-25
      2. There are certain commands that we can keep only in the 
         context of our coming together
         a. The command to observe the Lord's Supper - 1Co 11:20-34
         b. The command to lay by in store - 1Co 16:1-2
      3. We have an example of the early Christians meeting on the 
         first day of the week to carry out such commands - cf. Ac 20:7
      4. Guidelines for our assemblies have been given...
         a. "Let all things be done for edification" - 1Co 14:26
         b. "Let all things be done decently and in order" - 1Co 14:40

   B. SAMPLE "ROLES" IN THE AREA OF PUBLIC WORSHIP...
      1. Those that direct the congregation in its worship...
         a. Making announcements
         b. Leading singing
         c. Leading prayer
         d. Reading Scriptures
         e. Assisting in the Lord's Supper (Communion), and the 
            Collection (Offering)
         f. Offering short exhortations or invitations
         g. Preaching sermons
      2. Other roles that expedite the public worship...
         a. Serving as ushers
         b. Taking attendance
         c. Preparing the communion
         d. Taping the service (either video or audio)

[Perhaps you can think of other roles that fall into the framework of
the public worship.  But these should suffice to illustrate that there
is room for service by people with varying abilities.

Let's now consider...]

II. THE AREA OF "EDIFICATION"

   A. EDIFICATION AS AN AREA OF SERVICE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST...
      1. Edification, or building up the body of Christ, is a major 
         function in the work of the church - cf. Ep 4:11-16
      2. Much of our edification takes place in the public worship, but
         there other avenues as well
         a. Congregational Bible study classes (Sunday morning and midweek classes)
         b. Home Bible studies
         c. Monthly or weekly bulletins

   B. SAMPLE "ROLES" IN THE AREA OF EDIFICATION...
      1. As part of the congregation's teaching curriculum
         a. Teach adult classes
         b. Teach children's classes (1-4 yrs, K-12th grade, college)
         c. Teach special classes (ladies, singles, young marrieds, seniors)
         d. Produce a church bulletin
      2. As part of the congregation's follow-up program
         a. Conduct home Bible studies with new converts or new members
         b. Provide child care for those involved in home Bible studies
      3. And let's not forget these two most important roles...
         a. Elders (also known as bishops, pastors) 
             - Ac 20:17,28; 1Pe 5:1-2; 1Ti 3:1-7
         b. Deacons (servants qualified and duly appointed to assist
            the elders-bishops-pastors) - Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:8-13

[Again, this is just a sampling to illustrate there are many and
diverse ways we can serve in the body of Christ.  Of course, there is
also..]

III. THE AREA OF "EVANGELISM"

   A. EVANGELISM AS AN AREA OF SERVICE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST...
      1. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ goes back to the "Great 
         Commission" our Lord gave His disciples - cf. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16
      2. It is certainly an important function of the body of Christ 
         - cf. 1Pe 2:9-10
      3. A work that can be done by individuals, it can also be 
         supported by local congregations - cf. Php 1:3-5; 4:15-16;2Co 11:7-9

   B. SAMPLE "ROLES" IN THE AREA OF EVANGELISM...
      1. Write letters to visitors
      2. Pay courtesy visit to visitors
      3. Mail or hand out tracts, cards, flyers
      4. Grade Bible correspondence courses
      5. Conduct home Bible studies with prospects
      6. Invite friends and neighbors to services, or to a home Bible
         study where someone else will do the teaching
      7. Assist with baptisms (very helpful when they occur at all 
         hours of the day)
      8. Provide child care for those involved with home Bible studies
      9. Travel to foreign countries, or support those who do

[There is a lot that can be done in the area of evangelism, no matter
what one's ability may be at the present.

But to public worship, edification, and evangelism, we can add yet 
another area of service...]

IV. THE AREA OF "BENEVOLENCE"

   A. BENEVOLENCE AS AN AREA OF SERVICE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST...
      1. The early church was noted for their love and support for one another
         a. In times of great need they were willing to go to great 
            extremes - Ac 2:44-45; 4:32-35
         b. When they heard of their brothers' need in other places,
            they were quick to respond - Ac 11:27-30; Ro 15:25-26; 2Co 8:1-5
      2. As a function of the local church, it is apparent that such
         benevolence was limited in scope
         a. Every example of congregational benevolent activity was 
            only to needy saints
         b. Even then there were limitations placed upon who the church
            was to support - 1Ti 5:3-16
      3. But as individuals, Christians are expected to be benevolent
         toward all, whether believers or non-believers - cf. Ga 6:10; Jm 1:27

   B. SAMPLE "ROLES" IN THE AREA OF BENEVOLENCE...
      PLEASE NOTE:  Several of the roles listed below properly fall 
      into the area of individual responsibility rather than the work 
      of the local church.  But since it is the work of the church to
      provide "for the equipping of the saints for the work of 
      ministry" (Ep 4:12), I think it proper for the elders "to stir
      up love and good works" (He 10:24) and even provide some 
      coordination of those activities we carry out as individual
      Christians (such as many churches do in providing for flowers on special occasions).
      1. Toward the sick and shut-ins
         a. Visit and care for the sick at the hospital
         b. Visit and care for the sick at their homes
         c. Visit and care for those confined to their homes
         d. Telephone those sick and confined on a daily basis
         e. Provide transportation to doctors, pharmacies, food stores
      2. Toward the needy
         a. Prepare clothes
         b. Prepare food
         c. Provide emergency shelter
         d. Provide emergency child care
         e. Provide emergency financial assistance
         f. Provide transportation to services, stores
      3. Miscellaneous
         a. Prepare meals for the sick, bereaved, new mothers
         b. Provide flowers for special occasions (e.g., sickness, 
            funerals)

CONCLUSION

1. The list could go on and on, especially when we seek to list things
   that go beyond the work of the local congregation and into the area
   of individual responsibility; for example...
   a. Arranging activities for young people
   b. Arranging social activities for members
   c. Minor repair work (painting, carpentry)
   d. Cleaning the building, landscaping, maintaining the baptistery

2. My purpose has been to illustrate...
   a. That there are many different ways to serve when you consider the
      different areas of service in the Lord's body:  public worship, 
      edification, evangelism, and benevolence
   b. That even on an individual basis (i.e., not really a work of the
      congregation per se) there are things to be done that can 
      contribute to the edifying of the body of Christ
   c. That no matter how large a congregation can become, there are 
      plenty of roles for the members to fulfill

3. Again, the challenges we face in "Equipping The Saints For Ministry"
   are these...
   a. To be aware of the different ways that members can serve in the body
   b. To encourage members to develop those functions that best suit 
      their abilities and opportunities to serve
   c. To provide direction and opportunity for those willing and 
      prepared to serve in their different functions

4. With this lesson I have sought to meet the first challenge, our 
   next lesson will seek to address the remaining two

In the meantime, I hope you will be giving prayerful consideration as 
to how you are functioning as a member of the body of Christ...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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Fact—The New Testament is the Most Historically Accurate Book Ever Written by Kyle Butt, M.A.



http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=524

Fact—The New Testament is the Most Historically Accurate Book Ever Written

by Kyle Butt, M.A.

Dismissing the miracles documented in the New Testament is a favorite pastime of many skeptics, and even some liberal-thinking religious leaders. However, this “dismissal” game gets extremely complicated because the miracles are so closely blended with historical facts that separating the two soon becomes like trying to separate two different colors of Play-Doh.® Take, for instance, the plight of Sir William Ramsay. His extensive education had engrained within him the keenest sense of scholarship. Along with that sense of scholarship came a built-in prejudice about the supposed inaccuracy of the Bible (especially the book of Acts). Ramsay noted: “…[A]bout 1880 to 1890 the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence [sic]. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence [sic] for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts” (1915, p. 38).
As could be expect of a person trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view—for a while. He held the view only for a brief time, however, because he did what few people of his time dared to do. He decided to explore the actual Bible lands with an open Bible—with the intention of proving the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as found in the book of Acts. However, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. After his investigation of the Bible lands, he was forced to conclude:
The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the Book of Acts—KB]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (1915, p. 89).
The renowned archaeologist Nelson Glueck put it like this:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which conform in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible (1959, p. 31).
Considering the fact that the land of Palestine in the days of the New Testament writers tossed and turned on a sea of political, economical, and social unrest, I would say that its historical accuracy is pretty amazing. Travel to the Holy Lands and see for yourself if you doubt New Testament accuracy. Carry with you an honest, open mind and a New Testament, and I assure you that you will respect the New Testament writers as accurate historians by the end of your journey.

REFERENCES

Glueck, Nelson (1959), Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy).
Ramsay, William (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975 reprint).


Considering Our Cosmic Home: Reflections from the 2012 Venus Transit by Branyon May, Ph.D.



http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=688

Considering Our Cosmic Home: Reflections from the 2012 Venus Transit

by Branyon May, Ph.D.


Time lapse image of the
2012 Venus transit
Recently, humanity was treated to a rare event in the heavens; from our vantage point on Earth we were able to see the transit of the planet, Venus, across the visible disk of the Sun. A planetary transit is analogous to an eclipse, because it involves one object passing through the line of sight between two other objects. Similar to a solar eclipse, especially a partial solar eclipse, where the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun and blocks a portion of the Sun’s light, a transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes between Earth and the Sun blocking our view of a region of the Sun’s disk. Since this type of event requires a very precise alignment of the Sun, Venus, and Earth, it is quite rare. Although the previous alignment occurred only 8 years ago, in 2004, you have to look back historically to 1882 to find the next previous alignment, and looking to the future it will not be until the year 2117 before the alignment happens again (Espenak, 2012). Thus, in all likelihood, being 105 years in the future, there will be no one alive in 2117 who saw or was old enough to remember this year’s transit of Venus. (For those who may have missed seeing any of the event or press coverage, see the links at the end of the article for more images and videos.) At this point, let’s pause and contemplate some unique considerations this recent transit event offers.
Astronomically, the Sun and Venus are the brightest and third brightest celestial objects in Earth’s skies (the Moon being second), and historically are two of the most studied celestial objects. Ancient records dating back to the Babylonian civilization around 3000 B.C., reference this bright celestial object, and other civilizations such as the Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek civilizations include observations and cultural lore about Venus. Interestingly, historical references sometimes called Venus the “morning star” or “evening star,” and specifically the ancient Greeks called Venus by two names (Phosphorus and Hesperus) supposing it to be two different objects (Squyres, 2012). The two-object idea isn’t completely unreasonable, since for a portion of our year Venus precedes the Sun in the sky and for the other portion of the year it seems to follow the Sun across the sky. In fact, Venus is never more than about 48 degrees from the Sun in the sky (termed its greatest elongation, and is due to its orbit being inside Earth’s orbit). In fact, 2 Peter 1:19 makes reference to the “day star,” which is translated from the Greek word for phosphorus.
Commonly called “Earth’s Twin” or our “Sister Planet,” Venus is not only the planet that travels in its orbit closest to Earth’s orbit, but has such nicknames because it is nearly identical in size and mass. (Actually, the time of the transit of Venus represents the period of time for closest approach to Earth). When we consider this comparison it brings to mind the question, “What would an Earth transit event look like?” If we were to step outside of our own orbit and align ourselves looking back toward Earth, similar to the alignment we have seen with Venus and the Sun, then based on the similarity between Earth and Venus we actually have our answer. An Earth transit would basically provide the same stunning sight—a single distinguished planet, a fraction the size of the Sun, slowly crossing the wide, intensely bright solar landscape. Earth, too, is more than 100 times smaller in diameter than the Sun and approximately one million times smaller by volume. Therefore, this rare event of Venus’ transit affords us an interesting self-reflection to consider our own planet’s size, scale, design, and place in the Solar System.
Consider: as we watched Venus traverse the Sun’s disk, we were watching Earth’s closest planetary neighbor pass in front of Earth’s nearest stellar companion. Likely the most obvious observation from this event was the size comparison. Venus’s dark silhouette against the Sun’s surface portrayed such a small planet, but the truth is that the actual physical size comparison is even more extreme than what was observed. At the time of the 2012 transit, Venus’s angular diameter was approximately 58 arcseconds while the Sun’s was approximately 1,890 arcseconds, a factor of 32.6 times greater (Odenwald, 2012). However, since Venus was much closer to Earth than the Sun it appeared larger than if it had been at equal distance. This fact means the size of the Sun versus Venus is even more dramatic than the transit view appeared. In actuality the Sun is greater than 100 times the diameter of Venus and greater than one million times the volume, providing a perspective for the true scale of our Solar System. Sometimes the statement is made, “The Universe just has too much wasted space to be the result of an intelligent creator” (see Miller, 2003 for an article addressing that subject). However, this incredible scale of size and distance within our Solar System illustrates (1) the infinite nature of the Creator, and (2) an important aspect to God’s design for our life-sustaining planet. The following considerations should help illuminate some of the usefulness and purpose for the scales we see.
How does Earth compare to our nearest planetary companion? Although Venus and Earth are approximately equal in size and mass, Venus is an interesting case study in planetary characteristics, since in actuality, it is extremely different from Earth in most ways. From a distance we first notice that Venus is enshrouded in a thick atmosphere of clouds. This atmosphere is far thicker than Earth’s, mostly composed of carbon dioxide (CO2), and has an atmospheric surface pressure 90 times greater. To experience an equal amount of pressure on Earth you would have to travel nearly one kilometer below the surface of the ocean (“Venus,” 2012). Venus’s carbon dioxide dominated atmosphere, along with solar irradiance being double that of Earth’s (caused by its closer proximity to the Sun), results in Venus having the hottest average surface temperature in the entire solar system, over 860 degrees Fahrenheit (464 degrees Celsius). Such an incredible temperature means liquid water is not present on its surface, compared to more than 70% coverage on Earth’s surface, and incredibly, even metals such as lead and zinc would melt on its surface (Bentor, 2010). Another major contrast between the two planets is the presence of a strong magnetic field. Earth’s rather fast rotation is thought to drive a dynamo effect that maintains a steady and sufficiently strong field to provide a finely tuned cocoon of protection from the dangerous streams of charged particles flowing from the Sun through the inner Solar System. By contrast, Venus has an extremely slow rotation, which causes its day to be longer than its year, and lacks any magnetic field and associated protection from the solar wind. When we consider our “Sister Planet,” we find that it is not a “Twin” where we would want to or could live. These observations lead to the simple acknowledgement that Earth’s position in the Solar System is well-tuned and finely designed for life to thrive. The Earth shows itself to differ from all other planets in that it possesses all the necessary constituent elements to make it suitable for human life.
Observations of Venus have been linked to prominent times in history and have served to mark events and history, as many major celestial observations and events have. Examples of such help to illustrate just how important the view of our Universe is, and how the created purpose specified in Genesis has been demonstrated: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). The consistent, unwavering behavior of the motion of the planets—behavior which allows scientists to predict precisely when Venus will transit in this way again decades in the future—is not a characteristic that would result from randomness, mindlessness, and accidental processes as evolutionary theories suppose. Rather, such behavior points to the existence of laws governing the Universe and its planets—laws which could not have written themselves, but rather, were written by the Great Lawmaker of the Universe (Job 38:33).
Venus Multimedia:
1)      NASA video:
4)      Sky and Telescope viewing from around the globe:http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/2012-Venus-Transit-ST-Reports-157500315.html

REFERENCES

Bentor, Yinon (2010), “Periodic Table: Melting Point,” Chemical Elements, http://www.chemicalelements.com/show/meltingpoint.html.
Espenak, Fred (2012), “Six Millennium Catalog of Venus Transits: 2000 BCE to 4000 CE,” NASA Eclipse Web Site, http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/catalog/VenusCatalog.html.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Universe—A ‘Waste of Space’?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1207.
Odenwald, Sten (2012), “The Cultural Impact of the Transit of Venus,” 2012 Transit of Venus—Sun-Earth Day: Shadows of the Sun, http://venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/articles/ttt_76.php.
Squyres, Steven W. (2012), “Venus,” History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/planet-venus.
“Venus” (2012), Nine Planets, http://nineplanets.org/venus.html.

Another Case of Man Mimicking God’s Design by Dave Miller, Ph.D.



http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2101

Another Case of Man Mimicking God’s Design

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The year was 1966. My classmates and I were herded aboard buses by our grade school teachers in Phoenix, Arizona for a “field trip” to see a newly released science fiction movie titled, Fantastic Voyage. The story line: Russian scientist, Jan Benes, who held the secret of how to shrink soldiers for an indefinite period, escaped from behind the Iron Curtain with the help of a CIA agent. While being transferred, their motorcade was attacked and Benes’ head was struck, causing a blood clot to form in his brain. A group of scientists then were miniaturized, along with a submarine, injected into his bloodstream, and had one hour to travel to his brain and remove the clot and get out before the immune system recognized them as a foreign body. As I remember, the teachers wanted us to see the internal marvels of the human body as the crew made their way from the arm, through the heart, and on to the brain. A similar concept was explored in the 1990s by the popular PBS children’s television program based on the Magic School Bus children’s books by Joanna Cole (“The Magic School...,” n.d.).
Discounting the idea of shrinking people, reality can be stranger than fiction. Australian scientists are developing a miniature robot that they hope will be able to propel itself through human arteries to perform delicate medical procedures. With a width of two human hairs, the 250-micron microrobot will transmit images and perform microscopic tasks in areas of the body where current surgical procedure is risky. Once inserted by means of a syringe, the microrobot will be guided by remote control to the target site to perform its assigned tasks, and then returned to the point of entry for extraction (Cole, 2007).
One of the obstacles researchers have faced for years is how to design the propulsion system (e.g., Philipkoski, 1999; Lurie, 2004). Since electromagnetic motors have been found to be impractical, this “microrobot’s design is based on the E. coli bacterium, complete with flagella that will propel it through the body,” with the flagella made from human hair (Cole, 2007).
Once again, men turn to God and His creation in order to solve their problems. The Creator built into His creation the principles necessary for the Universe to operate for His purposes. Within that divinely designed framework, intelligent men tap into the intelligent designs of the Master Designer to produce amazing technology that aids the human race. “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3).

REFERENCES

Cole, Emmet (2007), “Fantastic Voyage: Departure 2009,” Wired News, January 18, [On-line], URL:http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,72448-0.html.
“The Magic School Bus®: Inside the Human Body” (no date), [On-line], URL:http://www.scholastic.com/magicschoolbus/home.htm.
Lurie, Karen (2004), “Smallest Robot,” ScienCentral News, July 15, [On-line], URL:http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?type=article&article_id =218392303.
Philipkoski, Kristen (1999), “Will Robots Sail Your Veins?” Wired News, January 16, [On-line], URL: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,17376-1.html?tw=wn_story_page_next1.


Are Americans Becoming Uncivil? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.



http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=2316

Are Americans Becoming Uncivil?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Depending on your age and generation, no doubt you have noticed a change that has come over much of the American population. Citizens are becoming more discourteous, impolite, and rude. A recent Associated Press poll on American public attitudes about rudeness found that 69% of those polled believe that Americans are more rude than 20 or 30 years ago (“American Manners...,” 2005). Perhaps you have approached the cash register of a store or fast food restaurant in hopes of checking out promptly. Instead, you are faced with employees chatting with each other, seemingly oblivious to your presence. When you eventually are noticed, the employees’ nonverbal signals make you feel as if you have interrupted them. What’s more, you cannot help noticing that their conversation is frivolous chit-chat, centered perhaps on social life, romantic relationships, or dissatisfaction with their employer or fellow employee. The very idea that their jobs actually depend on customer satisfaction seems to be of no concern. Where once American business literally survived and thrived on the notion that “the customer is always right,” now the widespread sentiment seems to be “I could care less about the customer—just pay me for doing as little as possible.” Attentiveness, generosity, and caring service have all but evaporated. How many times have you entered a restaurant and noticed unclean tables and unkempt floors? How often have you made a trip to the grocery store only to encounter shelves unstocked or in disarray—with the very item you came for sold out? In bygone days, the average grocery store manager would have considered such a situation with disgust—even alarm due to lost sales and customer dissatisfaction—and called the negligent employees to account for their inefficiency.
Another indication of the decline in virtue in American culture in the last 50 years is the behavior of motorists on America’s highways. Where once most truckers were renowned for their unassuming, courteous driving habits and their willingness to give way to automobiles and even extend assistance to the stranded motorist, an increasing number of truckers bully smaller vehicles by changing lanes unsafely, and radio airways are filled with foul language and truckers cursing other truckers. Exceeding the speed limit is now the norm on the Interstate. Cutting in line, tail-gaiting, and angry exclamations are commonplace on the highways of the nation.
Politics has become an even nastier business. Cutthroat tactics and bashing opponents characterize a majority. In fact, the polite, civil candidate is pummeled and left in a state of shock. Children speak disrespectfully to adults in public. Individuals cut in line in stores, post offices, and amusement parks. Telemarketers seem kind and genuinely concerned—until the customer refuses to buy the product. Then the telemarketer often turns nasty and shows obvious irritation with the consumer. Where once the average gas station provided eager service to customers—not only pumping the gasoline, but washing the windows, checking the oil, and adding air to the tires—it’s now “every man for himself.”
Granted, it could be much worse. Compare America with many other nations of the world. Take, for example, Islamic nations, where the people press against each other in the streets and in the marketplace, jostling each other and competing for services. Many seem to be completely focused on self—with little thought and concern for those around them. But historically, such societal circumstances have not been typical of America.
What has happened? How can such profound change come over an entire civilization? The Founders of the American Republic anticipated just this social scenario—and even described the circumstances under which it would occur. The Founders predicted that: if Americans do not retain an ardent commitment to the moral principles of Christianity, civil society will wane.
Consider the following prophetic voices. In the 1811 New York State Supreme Court case of The People v. Ruggles, the “Father of American Jurisprudence,” James Kent, explained the importance of punishing unchristian behavior, when he wrote that Americans are a “people whose manners are refined, and whose morals have been elevated and inspired with a more enlarged benevolence, by means of the Christian religion” (1811, emp. added). The gentility of the American spirit has historically been contrasted with those peoples “whose sense of shame would not be effected by what we should consider the most audacious outrages upon decorum” (1811, emp. added).
Such thinking was typical of the Founders. In his scathing repudiation of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, Continental Congress president Elias Boudinot insisted: “[O]ur country should be preserved from the dreadful evil of becoming enemies to the religion of the Gospel, which I have no doubt, but would be introductive of the dissolution of government and the bonds of civil society” (1801, p. xxii, emp. added). Dr. Benjamin Rush added his blunt observation: “Without the restraints of religion and social worship, men become savages” (1951, 1:505, emp. added). Noah Webster stated: “[R]eligion has an excellent effect in repressing vices [and] in softening the manners of men” (1794, Vol. 2, Ch. 44, emp. added).
The Founders believed that should Christian principles be jettisoned by Americans, manners would be corrupted, and social anarchy and the fall of the Republic would naturally follow. Declaration signer and “The Father of the American Revolution,” Samuel Adams, issued a solemn warning in a letter to James Warren on February 12, 1779: “A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy” (1908, 4:124). In his inaugural address as the Governor of Massachusetts in 1780, Founder John Hancock insisted that both our freedom and our very existence as a Republic will be determined by public attachment to Christian morality: “Manners, by which not only the freedom, but the very existence of the republics, are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion and the good education of youth” (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269, emp. added). The words of Declaration signer John Witherspoon are frightening: “Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction” (1802, 3:41, emp. added). In contrasting the general religion of Christianity with Islam, John Quincy Adams likewise explained:
The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion, is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies. There is no denomination of Christians, which denies or misunderstands this doctrine. All understand it alike—all acknowledge its obligations; and however imperfectly, in the purposes of Divine Providence, its efficacy has been shown in the practice of Christians, it has not been wholly inoperative upon them. Its effect has been upon the manners of nations. It has mitigated the horrors of war—it has softened the features of slavery—it has humanized the intercourse of social life (1830, p. 300, emp. added).
There is no question that the influence of the Christian religion in America has been significantly curtailed during the last half-century. So what would we expect to occur? We would fully expect citizens to become uncivil, impolite, and discourteous. We would expect them to abandon the fundamental principle of human conduct articulated by Jesus Himself: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). As people move further away from Christianity, they will inevitably become selfish, self-centered, and savage in their treatment of their fellowman. The only hope, the only solution, is to return to the principles of the religion of Jesus Christ.

REFERENCES

Adams, John Quincy (1830), The American Annual Register (New York: E. & G.W. Blunt).
Adams, Samuel (1904-1908), The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry Cushing (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
“American Manners Poll” (2005), Associated Press, [On-line], URL:http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-10-14-rudeness-poll-method_x.htm.
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins), [On-line], URL:http://www.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ.
Brown, Abram (1898), John Hancock, His Book (Boston, MA: Lee & Shepard Publishers), [On-line],URL: http://www.archive.org/details/johnhancock00browrich.
The People v. Ruggles (1811), 8 Johns 290 (Sup. Ct. NY.), N.Y. Lexis 124.
Rush, Benjamin (1951), Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L.H. Butterfield (Princeton, NJ: The American Philosophical Society).
Webster, Noah (1794), “The Revolution in France,” in Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, ed. Ellis Sandoz (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund), 1998 edition, [On-line], URL:http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/817/69415.
Witherspoon, John (1802), The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon (Philadelphia, PA: William Woodard).

From Jim McGuiggan... Mozart and Psalm 73

Mozart and Psalm 73

do know it's more than this, but part of our trouble with the way God is running the world is that he's too generous. That remark will infuriate all sensitive non-believers and many believers but I think it's true nonetheless. In a world with millions as hungry as ours "generosity" isn't the first word that comes to our minds. That makes sense but the sense it makes takes in only part of the entire picture. If we knew—cared to know—what God is up to and will bring about we would still sense the "wrongness" of the world but we'd think noble things of God and we'd know it would all end in breathtaking joy and glory.
In the meantime we hate to see villains prosper and the righteous and innocent (babies) suffer. Sometimes we hate it that God is generous to the evil and thankless; they shouldn't be blessed at all. Many of us who talk a lot about his generosity are quick to say it should be limited to us and people like us.
Antonio Salieri had that problem. Salieri served Emperor Joseph II for thirty-six years at the court in Vienna as the master of the chapel, though he'd been around the court much longer. He was a great composer who produced thirty-nine operas, seven secular cantatas, eighty-six religious compositions and an assortment of other pieces. He remained friends with Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig Van Beethoven throughout his life and had given Beethoven lessons on counterpoint. Beethoven dedicated the three violin sonatas, Opus 12, to Salieri.
When he was a teenager Salieri dedicated himself to God. Ignoring its serious distortions of fact at times in favour of drama, as the movie Amadeus tells the story, one day Salieri prayed, "Lord, make me a great composer. Let me celebrate your glory through music. Make me famous, dear God; make me immortal. After I die, let people forever speak my name with love for what I wrote. In return, I will give you my chastity, my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life." He thoroughly believed that God gave him his giftedness!
He became the toast of Europe, and on the 16th of June, 1816, he celebrated the golden anniversary of his debut in Vienna. Everyone who mattered was there and some of his famous students, including Franz Schubert, played pieces in his honour. Life couldn't have been better for him. Invitations flooded in from everywhere, his opinion was sought and the praise never ceased and he was a part of every tribunal of consequence; but one thing troubled him deeply and his life soured and shriveled.
Let's turn the clock back more than twenty-five hundred years before Salieri, to another musician and composer called Asaph. When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, Asaph was one of the lead singers. He was (perhaps) the "master of the chapel" and prophet for the most revered king in Israelite history (1 Chronicles 16:4-5, 37; 2 Chronicles 29:30). Today, three thousand years after he wrote them, the songs Asaph composed are still being sung and read in the presence of millions. Twelve psalms bear his name to the glory of God.
What did Salieri and Asaph have in common? Both were troubled by God's generosity, though they probably didn't realize that that was the case.
Both were troubled not by bad things happening to good people but by good things happening to bad people!
In Psalm 73:1-16 Asaph said he almost lost his footing in faith when he saw what was happening in the lives of so many that were wicked. The wicked prospered and people sang their praises and even asked them the secret of their success.
In the movie, the success of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart nearly unhinged Salieri. Mozart is regarded as "the most sheerly musical composer who ever lived" and the famous Goethe saw him as "the human incarnation of a divine force of creation." Mozart began composing at the age of four and he continued furiously with hardly a breath until he died at thirty-five.
It isn't surprising that Salieri would be jealous, even though the Viennese public preferred one or two of his works. On the whole, people were thrilled by Salieri but they were dumbfounded by Mozart whose name was never off their lips and whose music left them speechless with pleasure. Not only did Mozart write more than Salieri, the movie has his scores written perfectly the first time—he never revised!
As the movie tells it, Salieri described Mozart as "a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy!" Every time he heard the name of Mozart he became incensed and every time he heard him praised it drove him nearer to madness. Finally, obsessed by his jealousy and after looking at some of Mozart's perfectly written scores, he throws a crucifix into the fire, saying to God, "We are enemies you and I, because you are unjust, unfair, unkind. I will hinder and harm your creature on earth as far as I am able."
God—unjust and unkind? Because he was generous to the happy pagan? God is unjust because he is generous? (Compare Matthew 20:1-15.) Darkness closed in on Salieri; he shriveled and died long before they put his body into the ground. In spite of his still making the rounds, receiving respectful nods from the aristocracy, despite being recognized and praised he was the shell of a man—cancer had eaten his soul.
If we weren't troubled by jealousy, if we didn't know the pangs of envy when we heard someone praised—someone we knew some dark secret about—if we weren't profoundly unsettled by the good things that happen to bad people maybe all the above would be of fervent dramatic interest, but no more. If we weren't inclined to stand in for God as judge of all who should receive good in this life then the dramatized Salieri would be just another tragic figure. But like the composer we can burn in a fever and everyone loses.
Salieri offered no help to Mozart to lift him to a moral life that matched the generosity of God in creativity. It didn't matter to him that Mozart and his young wife would waltz on bare floorboards in their freezing apartment just to keep warm (which is true to fact).
When we're in the fever of jealousy no beauty or depth or honor of giftedness of our enemy makes a difference. No, that's untrue—these things make matters even worse; their presence only increases our bitterness for then we realize others have reason to praise our enemy. Others are lifted nearer to God and to the higher life by our enemy. Not us! We're too consumed with out correct views of his/her shortcomings, too filled with bile because we're aware of his/her sinfulness and too busy dissecting him/her to be uplifted by the gift God is offering us through him/her.
So even God loses!
We become so sour that everything in life—every gift from God in life—is lost on us or if not completely lost, at least cheapened. I need hardly rehearse the bah humbug approach to life that marked out Ebenezer Scrooge. [What a name for Scrooge. "Ebenezer". "God has helped me to get this far."] He was miserly and when he was transformed he became not just fair, he became generous.
Generous like God who gives riches to the evil and thankless; who spreads his generosity around through people who have no time for him and who wants his children to be generous as he is generous (Matthew 5:44-48).
[I've borrowed this and adapted it by permission from my little book Celebrating the Wrath of God. Permission from Waterbrook Press (a division of Random House), Colorado.]

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

From Gary... Bible Reading June 11


June 11
1 Samuel 15, 16

1Sa 15:1 Samuel said to Saul, Yahweh sent me to anoint you to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore listen you to the voice of the words of Yahweh.
1Sa 15:2 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.
1Sa 15:3 Now go and strike Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and don't spare them; but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.
1Sa 15:4 Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.
1Sa 15:5 Saul came to the city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.
1Sa 15:6 Saul said to the Kenites, Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
1Sa 15:7 Saul struck the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, that is before Egypt.
1Sa 15:8 He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
1Sa 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the cattle, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and wouldn't utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
1Sa 15:10 Then came the word of Yahweh to Samuel, saying,
1Sa 15:11 It grieves me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments. Samuel was angry; and he cried to Yahweh all night.
1Sa 15:12 Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning; and it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set him up a monument, and turned, and passed on, and went down to Gilgal.
1Sa 15:13 Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said to him, Blessed are you by Yahweh: I have performed the commandment of Yahweh.
1Sa 15:14 Samuel said, What means then this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the cattle which I hear?
1Sa 15:15 Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the cattle, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
1Sa 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, Stay, and I will tell you what Yahweh has said to me this night. He said to him, Say on.
1Sa 15:17 Samuel said, "Though you were little in your own sight, weren't you made the head of the tribes of Israel? Yahweh anointed you king over Israel;
1Sa 15:18 and Yahweh sent you on a journey, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.'
1Sa 15:19 Why then didn't you obey the voice of Yahweh, but flew on the spoil, and did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh?"
1Sa 15:20 Saul said to Samuel, Yes, I have obeyed the voice of Yahweh, and have gone the way which Yahweh sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
1Sa 15:21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and cattle, the chief of the devoted things, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God in Gilgal.
1Sa 15:22 Samuel said, Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because you have rejected the word of Yahweh, he has also rejected you from being king.
1Sa 15:24 Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of Yahweh, and your words, because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship Yahweh.
1Sa 15:26 Samuel said to Saul, I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of Yahweh, and Yahweh has rejected you from being king over Israel.
1Sa 15:27 As Samuel turned about to go away, Saul laid hold on the skirt of his robe, and it tore.
1Sa 15:28 Samuel said to him, Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you.
1Sa 15:29 Also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent.
1Sa 15:30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honor me now, Please, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship Yahweh your God.
1Sa 15:31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshiped Yahweh.
1Sa 15:32 Then said Samuel, Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.
1Sa 15:33 Samuel said, As your sword has made women childless, so your mother will be childless among women. Samuel cut Agag in pieces before Yahweh in Gilgal.
1Sa 15:34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.
1Sa 15:35 Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death; for Samuel mourned for Saul: and Yahweh grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.
1Sa 16:1 Yahweh said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? fill your horn with oil, and go: I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided me a king among his sons.
1Sa 16:2 Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. Yahweh said, Take a heifer with you, and say, I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh.
1Sa 16:3 Call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do: and you shall anoint to me him whom I name to you.
1Sa 16:4 Samuel did that which Yahweh spoke, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, Do you come peaceably?
1Sa 16:5 He said, Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. He sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.
1Sa 16:6 It happened, when they had come, that he looked at Eliab, and said, Surely Yahweh's anointed is before him.
1Sa 16:7 But Yahweh said to Samuel, "Don't look on his face, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Yahweh sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart."
1Sa 16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, Neither has Yahweh chosen this.
1Sa 16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. He said, Neither has Yahweh chosen this.
1Sa 16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. Samuel said to Jesse, Yahweh has not chosen these.
1Sa 16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, Are here all your children? He said, There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is keeping the sheep. Samuel said to Jesse, Send and get him; for we will not sit down until he come here.
1Sa 16:12 He sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful face, and goodly to look on. Yahweh said, Arise, anoint him; for this is he.
1Sa 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
1Sa 16:14 Now the Spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him.
1Sa 16:15 Saul's servants said to him, See now, an evil spirit from God troubles you.
1Sa 16:16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp: and it shall happen, when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play with his hand, and you shall be well.
1Sa 16:17 Saul said to his servants, Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.
1Sa 16:18 Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in speech, and a comely person; and Yahweh is with him.
1Sa 16:19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.
1Sa 16:20 Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul.
1Sa 16:21 David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armor bearer.
1Sa 16:22 Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Please let David stand before me; for he has found favor in my sight.
1Sa 16:23 It happened, when the evil spirit from God was on Saul, that David took the harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.


Jun. 11, 12
John 14

Joh 14:1 "Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.
Joh 14:2 In my Father's house are many homes. If it weren't so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.
Joh 14:3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.
Joh 14:4 Where I go, you know, and you know the way."
Joh 14:5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.
Joh 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him."
Joh 14:8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, 'Show us the Father?'
Joh 14:10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works.
Joh 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake.
Joh 14:12 Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father.
Joh 14:13 Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Joh 14:14 If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it.
Joh 14:15 If you love me, keep my commandments.
Joh 14:16 I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever,-
Joh 14:17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world can't receive; for it doesn't see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.
Joh 14:18 I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.
Joh 14:19 Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more; but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also.
Joh 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
Joh 14:21 One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him."
Joh 14:22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?"
Joh 14:23 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.
Joh 14:24 He who doesn't love me doesn't keep my words. The word which you hear isn't mine, but the Father's who sent me.
Joh 14:25 I have said these things to you, while still living with you.
Joh 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.
Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don't let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.
Joh 14:28 You heard how I told you, 'I go away, and I come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I said 'I am going to my Father;' for the Father is greater than I.
Joh 14:29 Now I have told you before it happens so that, when it happens, you may believe.
Joh 14:30 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world comes, and he has nothing in me.
Joh 14:31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here.