Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The missing Facebook page! UPDATE!

It was a dark & stormy night. Actually it was day after day with continual dreariness. This is a short story about how a Facebook site disappeared and it contains an additional tale about how some bigots were sent to checkout a Presbyterian (EPC) pastor and harass him.

I prayed about befriending the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) so I could write on their Facebook wall. I decided not to but then discovered that it was possible with out befriending them—although I am not sure why. Any way every so often I would comment if they linked to a particular bad article. A very few times I told them it was interesting if I found it so. And then some of my friends discovered that they could comment and did so.

The IPMN too often links to some very bad sites, including sites that are heavily anti-Semitic. They have linked to Veterans Today which targets not only Israel but also Jews in particular. Veterans Today blames Israel for 9-11 and insists, like all anti-Semites, that the Jews are trying to control the world including the United States government. VT has a lot of sister sites with many of the same writers. IPMN also links to the sister sites and/or the writers. And one of the writers sometimes published on VT is Jim Wall the former Editor of the Christian Century. Wall, who has his own blog, is definitely an anti-Semite and has friends who are even more so.

Recently David Fischler who blogs at Reformed Pastor, wrote an article entitled, “When an Anti-Semite Does Political Analysis.” It was about Wall’s article, “With South Carolina Victory, Gingrich Rides Adelson Money Train Against Obama,” In Wall’s article he insisted that Newt Gingrich would win the GOP presidential primary in Florida because of a Jewish man, Sheldon Adelson, who is pro Israel. Wall went so far as to state that the Jews of South Florida would vote for him. Fischler among many other things pointed out that 75% of the Jews in Florida are Democrats and the Primary in Florida is a closed one meaning that one has to vote for their own registered political party. Also as Fischler wrote:
… the real point is that Wall’s weaving a classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: Adelson is the Jewish money man, controlling the politician who will do his bidding, and who apparently all by himself buy the politician a presidential nomination for the purpose of giving blind and total support to the Jewish state.
This story was on Wall’s blog, Wallwritings, and linked to by IPMN. I had been invited to post something once on the IPMN Facebook site when I found it too hard to place a copied link in a comment. So I decided to post Fischler’s analysis. And I made a few comments so people would know what they were reading and why I posted it. I think it was about a day later, perhaps two days, the IPMN Facebook page disappeared.

I wrote to Carol Hylkema asking what had happened to their Facebook. She wrote me back “We’ve taken it down temporarily while we figure out the best way to monitor the postings.” So I can only suppose that my link posting broke the camel’s back. But this story has a twist. Wall must have been infuriated because he immediately subscribed to Fischler’s blog and then some of his fellow anti-Semites came over to Fischer’s blog to harass him.

You can read all of the comments here: http://reformedpastor.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/when-an-anti-semite-does-political-analysis/#comments

So this is two stories and one theme, anti-Semitism. I am certain there will be a sequel, and I will write about it when it happens.

UPDATE: The Facebook is back up with this message:

"Dear IPMN Facebook Friend,

We have been posting articles, videos and more here on Facebook as a place where dialogue can take place and show the diversity of opinion on the conflict in Israel/Palestine, and to serve as a clearing-house for information not readily available in one place in the media. Mostly, this forum has been respectful and meaningful though ther...e have been times when comments or posts have had to be taken down as they were deemed offensive.

This fan page has been staffed by volunteers (IPMN has no paid staff at all), which makes it difficult to monitor all the comments that are posted here. Unfortunately, Facebook does not have a setting that suits our needs at the current time and we will be moving this clearing-house to our Twitter page. We hope that you will be able to follow us on Twitter where we will be continuing to post links to important articles and information. If you are not a Twitter user, you can still bookmark our page and check in on it on a daily basis, without a Twitter account. If you are a Twitter user, we ask that you follow us on twitter and keep the conversation going.

We have been told by many of you that the range of information we are posting here makes IPMN a good source for solid and current information. We will continue to provide links to news and events in Palestine as well as Israel, vis-à-vis the 44-year occupation and the facts on the ground pertaining to it, on Twitter.

Please bookmark this page and visit regularly or better yet, follow IPMN on Twitter:


And don’t forget to peruse our network’s website where we have a LIVE newsfeed on our homepage. Our Newsfeed is supplied by Ha’aretz, BBC Mideast and Electronic Intifada:




Dice picture by Christopher Juncker

Monday, January 30, 2012

Washington D. C. March for Life

Because the newspapers thought it wasn’t so important I thought I would post this. And while I’m at it, maybe some people from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will note that many of the people in this video are young, joyful, and earnest about life. It’s a great video about the pro-life march in Washington D.C.:

Video by Marc Barnes

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Journey, Fremont and the joy of the Lord

Sunday, 29th of January, my husband and I will begin a new journey, at Journey, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). There is some melancholy in this move, some sadness, but also some hope and always joy. God provided a place for us and new friends and fellowship. But we will not really leave behind the old friends, our sisters and brothers—we will be seeing them also off and on. One of our daughters and son-in-law are now attending our old Church Fremont. And they will stick with them loss of building or not. That is five new people, Fremont, in place of two. It seems God will double your people because of faithfulness to him.

I listened to some of the videos of the Fellowship of Presbyterians today and thought of Fremont when the pastor asked if your church disappeared would anyone (in your neighborhood) notice. I am afraid that Sacramento Presbytery will cause that to happen unless God intervenes. The children’s basketball team. The music, the Christmas Eve program. When attending once I had an older Catholic lady tell me “I come here on Christmas Eve because it is close and I like the music.” I think I have mentioned before how Fremont gave an offering to keep the neighborhood swimming pool open, and they have adopted a school that they care for. The principal has come several times on Sunday morning to thank the congregation. I know Fremont will continue much of this wherever they move, if they have to move, but it will be hard.

But for each of us who belong to Christ, he is our joy in all circumstances. Jesus is walking with his people through all the scary times.

All the poor and powerless

And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
And know that You are holy

And all will sing out
And we will cry out

All the hearts who are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
And we will cry out

Shout it

Go on scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God
We will sing out
And we will cry out

Music by All Sons and Daughters, Video by Beanscot

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chesterton, developing evil & the Western Church

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Vice Moderator in a recent posting suggested that the “Bible was written by a people who, at that time of human development, were the functional cognitive equivalents of the modern six year old.” He also suggested in a comment “that societies mature in an equivalent process to individuals. Just as you and I go through a developmental process, so do groups.” That is a 19th century assumption, but it started me thinking about how evil develops in society and groups. I have been reading G.K. Chesterton and I note that in his book The Everlasting Man he basically scoffs at the 19th century idea of all ancient societies being lower in their developmental stage.

Chesterton makes a big distinction between the morality of a civilization and their development. One of the interesting contrasts he points out is a civilization that was highly advanced but yet carried within it a demonic urge that began in another society, that of the Canaanites. His chapter, “The war of the Gods and Demons,” covers the ideological difference between two great enemies, Rome and Carthage. Rome’s early gods were more of the domestic kind. Carthage’s god was a different kind all together.

Chesterton writes of the Canaanite religion with its idea of child sacrifice to Molech and how that demonic name can be traced moving via Canaan to Sidon and Tyre and finally Carthage. He contrasts the demons of Carthage with the domestic gods of Rome and suggests that we as a western civilization have much too thank the Romans for as they defeated Carthage. He writes of the god that was called Moloch:
The Romans did not at first quite know what to make of him; they had to go back to the grossest myth of Greek or Roman origins and compare him to Saturn devouring his children. But the worshippers of Moloch were not gross or primitive, they were members of a mature and polished civilization, abounding in refinements and luxuries; they were probably more civilized than the Romans. … These highly civilized people really met together to invoke the blessing of heaven on their empire by throwing hundreds of their infants into a large furnace. (149)
Chesterton goes on to the Greek gods and their mythologies. Greek vices, which may have developed from their gods or perhaps their gods developed from their vices, left the very early Romans appalled. Chesterton writes of the Greek vices, “Just as they became unnatural by worshiping nature, so they became unmanly by worshiping man.” He elaborates:
If Greece led her conqueror, she might have misled her conqueror; but these were things he did originally wish to conquer—even in himself. It is true that in one sense there was less inhumanity even in Sodom and Gomorrah than in Tyre and Sidon. When we consider the war of the demons on the children, we cannot compare even Greek decadence to Punic devil worship. But it is not true that the sincere revulsion from either be merely pharisaical. It is not true to human nature or common sense. (159)
But the Roman virtue came to an end with the dying of their mythologies. Chesterton wrote about the mythological boredom that led to atheism, drug taking and “startling obscenities.” That is where his famous quote, about teasing the cat pops up:
I do not believe that mythology must begin with eroticism. But I do believe that mythology must end in it. I am quite certain that mythology did end in it. Moreover, not only did the poetry grow more immoral, but the morality grew more indefensible. Greek vices, oriental vices, hints of the old horrors of the Semitic demons [the Canaanites] began to fill the fancies of decaying Rome, swarming like flies on a dung heap. The psychology of it is really human enough, to anyone who will try that experiment of seeing history from the inside. There comes an hour in the afternoon when the child is tired of ‘pretending’; when he is weary of being a robber or a Red Indian. It is then that he torments the cat. (164)
In the end, Rome was conquered by both demons and strange evolving gods. Even Nero participated in same gender weddings at one time calling himself a bride. The western world, and the United States in particular may be weary of the God who toppled Rome’s demons but he nonetheless stands over all our holy houses pleading with his people.

All the doors are opening to the demonic in the Western World. We have a holocaust of dead babies. Sexual sins of many kinds are finding blessings in many denominations and religious communities. Although I haven’t touched on it there is greed seeping through all of this. And yes, arrogance, because civilizations breed an awful false pride in humanity; we build our towers while leaving God’s word on the ground—perhaps as a footstool.

There is an answer. Chesterton wrote of those first believers who would not offer incense to Caesar. “We see a new scene, in which the world has drawn its skirts away from these men and women and they stand in the center of a great space like lepers.” He writes of the witnesses that form about and above them. He writes of the hatred that forms toward them. But he also writes of the light that shone in a dark night, “a white fire clinging to that group like unearthly phosphorescence, blazing its track through the twilights of history and confounding every effort to confound it with the mists of mythology and theory…”

Faithfulness in the midst of it all is what God calls us to. Jesus is faithful to his promises and we belong after all to that “begotten God” who is in the bosom of his Father. (John 1:18)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tautologies, overtures 009 & 020 & marriage in the North West Company

Usually in ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ classes students discuss tautologies. In a casual definition it simply means two differently worded definitions that are the same, such as “an unmarried man is a bachelor.” That statement is both redundant and true. But speaking logically it is, as my side dictionary, puts it, “a proposition or statement that, in itself, is logically true. It would not be true if we changed either the meaning of a bachelor or an unmarried man. But at least for the time being if we know that Joe is a bachelor we also know that he is an unmarried man. That is logically consistent.

But we live in a culture that tends to deny even the logically true statement. For instance, for two thousand years in western society the proposition that marriage is an official conjugal relationship between a man and a woman has been a logically true statement in itself. That is, no other statement was needed to prove that statement. And that is not only a logical statement it is also a biblical statement, the definitions are the same but they are also upheld by God’s mandate.

But in this post-modern world even tautologies are under attack. And when logical truths are under attack the foundations that hold cultural expectations together begin shattering. Several overtures coming to the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are designed to shatter the foundations of Christianity in general and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in particular. Overture 020 from the Presbytery of the Hudson River and Overture 009 from East Iowa are asking the GA to send to the Presbyteries for vote a request to remove the wording of marriage between a man and a woman to marriage between two people. This is of course meant to change the definition of marriage from an official conjugal relationship between a man and woman to an official conjugal relationship between any adult sex pairing.

The progressives in the PC (U.S.A.) believe they are dealing in rights, but instead they are changing the foundations of the western world as they casually attempt to throw away truth statements. And even more so, they are attacking the biblical understanding of marriage which is based on God’s word. It is sad to think that not only in the secular world is night falling, but also in the Christian world, in the largest Presbyterian denomination.

If the meaning of marriage is changed, all else will fall with that change. And if it is changed within a Christian denomination it will no longer be a ‘Christian’ denomination because that change will be the great contradiction that is laid over the word of God and the Confessions of the Church. But let me look at how the good news reverses the throw away of truth.

When I took a class on how to write a thesis the subject matter was to be about Native Americans. Because my real thesis was going to be on women and their rights I chose to write about the fur traders and frontier men and their Native American wives. The first part centered on those members of the North West Company that lived in the wilderness of Canada. One person, Daniel Harmon, was very interesting, a bookish loner coming from an intellectual family. Among the men he worked with it was generally acceptable to marry a native woman and then when it was time to leave for civilization leave her and her children behind.

But Harmon started getting letters from his brother in the colonies where a revival was occurring, undoubtedly a part of one of the Great Awakenings. He turned to Christ and in the turning realized that he could not leave his wife and children behind.

In his journal he wrote of his conversion:
I have always doubted whether such a Savior as the scriptures describe, ever really existed, and appeared on earth. … My intention, however, was, by no means to cast off all religion; but I attempted to frame to myself a religion which would comport with my feelings, and with my manner of life. –For several years past, however, my mind has not been at rest …As I was praying today, on a sudden, the faith, respecting which I was so solicitous, was, I trust, graciously granted me’ My views of the Savior; underwent a total change. I was enabled, not only to believe in his existence, but to apprehend his superlative excellency, and now he appears to be, in truth, what the scriptures describe him to be, the chiefest among ten thousand, and one altogether lovely.[1]
A group of the men began reading scripture together and the consequence was a new understanding of the sacredness of marriage. One of the men even wrote a letter chastising another who was planning on leaving his wife behind.

The good news of Jesus Christ includes the truth that marriage is between a woman and a man. To allow the breaking of that truth is to destroy the name Christian above the door of any denomination. Those presbyteries sending such overtures to the 220 GA are involved in the worst kind of destruction. They are fighting against the holy guidance of the Holy Spirit as our hearts and minds are opened to the “chiefest among ten thousand, and one altogether lovely. The One who stated, “Have you not read, that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh’?”

Picture is of Daniel Harmon

[1] Daniel W. Harmon, A Journal of Voyages and Travels in the interior of North America, Ed. Daniel Haskel, intro. By W.L. Grant, preface by Daniel Haskel, (New York: Allerton Book Co. 1820; reprint, no city: Williams-Barker Co. 1905). 196-197.

Friday, January 20, 2012

ECO is a sign of Christ's love for the PC (U.S.A.)

I think what happened in Orlando this week, the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, is part of what God is doing for and to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). But more importantly it is what God is doing in the midst of his universal Church. It may be a large part or a small part; history must be lived, before we know. I do not think it is a reason for anger, sniping or general rudeness, such as I have read here and there.

I still contend that the progressives in the denomination simply do not understand the pain of the orthodox. It wasn’t just a case of winning or losing a debate by a vote; it was some throwing the holy into the garbage dump. It was declaring that the word of God written does not have authority over the experiences of humanity. It was insisting the redemptive quality of Christ’s work on the cross was insufficient; we should just go it alone, so to speak, “what we can’t change by ourselves must be unchangeable.” Pelagianism is running amok—in church history it has often led to antinomianism, since one tends to cover up what seemingly can’t be changed by calling sin a gift and good.

If we do not believe in the redeeming life, death and resurrection of Christ, if the power of his resurrection is not transformative, our chosen paths will close in upon our souls; we will die in our sins.

God’s mercy is very wide. He will not leave his own to flounder in their rebelliousness. He warns most of the seven churches of Asia Minor urging them to repent. For instance, to the church of Sardis, “Wake up and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent”

Or to the church of Pergamum, “Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them [the Nicolaitans, who taught the church “to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality] with the sword of my mouth.” Jesus leans over his church like a mother leans over the crib of a sick child. He offers good to those who see their need, and hope to those who follow in faith.

He likens the Church to a wife and himself the husband who causes her, by his own life-giving sacrifice, to be transformed into her most perfect self. “That he might present to himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but she should be holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:27) The PCUSA is a part of that church that Christ is transforming. If another body, such as the ECO must grow out of her or another denomination stands beside her such as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church receiving hurting members it can only be because God yet longs to work within the PCUSA. He longs for us to turn back to the written word and Jesus Christ, the living word who is after all the Lord of the Church universal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Resisting faith; Renewing faith

 Thinking about Vice Moderator Landon Whitsitt's idea for a new book:

When I began studies at Sacramento Junior College, about thirty-five years ago, the philosophy department was small. Classes often contained no more then five people and so there were fewer professors. One professor, in particular, has never faded from my memory. He was Presbyterian; I was not at the time, but I was a Christian. The professor had diabetes and was going blind. As we began modern philosophy we were stuck; he could not get past Augustine who he apparently loathed. And he planned, when he retired, to write a book disproving the Incarnation. I felt sorry for the downtown Presbyterian church where he taught the book of Romans.

This was an intriguing time for me because I was living in the midst of the Jesus Movement and as I watched hundreds of young people come to Christ I also watched the declining faith of this professor. He at one point was befriended by two of my young church friends who became his readers. We prayed together for him.

I have often thought, because of the professor, of how easy it is, in rejecting Christ or for that matter simply ignoring the essentials of Christianity, to miss the events swirling about us. And it surely has to do with a belief that the Christian faith evolves into something new as it aligns with each new culture. This is what I thought of as I read our vice-moderator, Landon Whitsitt’s, recent blog posting, Remix Reformation: A book proposal. It was at the end where he gives an abstract of what, perhaps, he is going to write about that my thoughts occurred. Whitsitt suggests that each church age is resistant to the new evolving faith:
At each stage of the advance, the form of Christianity that was prevalent resisted the progression of the faith. Notably, Protestant persecution occurred during the period of the Inquisition. Today, however, the extreme measures taken by the Inquisition simply would not fly. What has risen in its place is a vitriolic coercion in the defense of orthodoxy, which often takes the form of laying the blame of the decline of Christendom at the feet of progressive Christians.[1]

The only way for Christianity to move forward is to nullify and neutralize the neo-orthodoxy that is attempting to retain control.
Perhaps it is my love of history that prompts me to write about this. But both the present and the past are missing in the quote. The past that is missing is the understanding that the Reformation turned God’s people back to grace, justification, the word of God and faith. Martin Luther’s writings are full of Paul. Reading John Calvin is a partial reading of Augustine placed beside Paul. It isn’t that the Holy Spirit turns the Church back to an earlier day, but he does turn the church back to Christ, to the word, to faith. And persecution often follows those who turn, because the Spirit turns them to Jesus.

The present that is missing is the growth of Christianity in the global south and Asia. The growth is not a growth of progressive Christianity, but a growth of orthodox Christianity. And as usual, in the history of the Church, is the horrible persecution that meets that growth. There is in this post-modern world a very busy inquisition.

But are progressive Christians the cause of the decline of Christianity in the Western world? Maybe, partially, but it is undoubtedly the lack of fervor and passion among the orthodox. It is we, who must love our Lord with greater devotion. It is we who must be more often in his word. We must lift up the name of Jesus over all the ills of our broken world and our broken denomination.

I do not know if the philosophy professor was reconciled with the redeeming Lord, he died a few years later after I moved on to another university. But I do know the love of Christ endures in some older Presbyterians who found Christ in the midst of the Jesus Movement. That is a part of the history of the Western Church. Lord Jesus, renew again your Church.

[1] Whitsitt has changed neo-orthodoxy to Christian fundamentalism writing in a comment, "Perhaps “Neo-Orthodoxy” is not the term of choice. I am speaking of the religious dogmatists who are currently on heresy hunts for anyone not professing a strict, classical orthodoxy. What’s the term for that? I like Barth. I don’t see the world as he does, but I like what he’s doing. I’ve always been more of a Schleiermacher/Tillich fan."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Music by Fremont Presbyterian Church to listen to while praying for Fremont

I just found these wonderful videos of Fremont's choir and praise team and thought everyone would enjoy listening to them while praying for Fremont.
The first is the sanctuary choir.

This is from a Christmas concert; this year's covered three nights with three thousand people attending.

And this is the praise team

May Christ keep all of them ...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dealing with sadness and looking at hope ...

Last Monday night, January 9th, I came home from the special presbytery meeting where they voted to put an administrative commission over my church, Fremont Presbyterian, and wrote my small posting, An administrative commission & deception. I checked my e-mail before going to bed and discovered that someone who had been rather contentious in his comment on an earlier posting wanted to friend me on Facebook.

In his comment he wrote that his father had at one time been a pastor of Fremont and he made disparaging remarks about Fremont's ‘senior pastor and those members who were leaving the PCUSA. He left his phone number in case someone wanted his help or information. So when he asked to be my friend I had second thoughts, but then I thought perhaps this will be a good thing and fruitful. After checking out his site I affirmed the friendship and because it was midnight went to bed. Sometime around two in the morning I awoke feeling very troubled.

I thought perhaps it was my blog. Perhaps I had written too strongly and needed to soften what I had written. That does sometimes happen. But when I turned on my computer I discovered that I had made friends with a very troubled individual. Within the last two hours he had written twenty times on my face book page and not pleasantly. He had gone so far as to attack some of my friends. And he had placed bad information about former pastors of Fremont who were pastors before I joined the church. Some of it I knew to be true, some of it I knew nothing about.

Needless to say I quickly deleted all of his material and clicked the places that disallow him from seeing my Facebook page. I have been very sad all week, both because of the actions of my Presbytery toward Fremont, and because a troubled individual would go so far as to befriend me so that he could torment me all in the name of LGBT rights. He even mentioned that my small great granddaughter had on rainbow colored leggings that is a symbol of the LGBT community. “What’s up with that,” he wrote.

I thought of these events as I read the letter written by the Moderator and Vice Moderator and watched the video they had made with six other Presbyterian ruling and teaching elders about hope. My sadness has spilled over into that. Why are they unable to comprehend the sorrow of so many orthodox? They do not understand that for the orthodox it is a matter of faithfulness. To make Jesus Lord means loving him past all other human desires and contrivances. It means obeying past any human predictions or perspectives.

Hope is founded on the word of God. Hope is not founded on any thing but the Son of God and the promises of God’s word. The author of Hebrews writes about that hope which the Christian has which is the fulfillment of God’s promises. And all of his promises are in Christ Jesus. Hebrews calls such hope the anchor of our soul. It brings the Christian into the very presence of God. As Hebrews states, “a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us ...” (6:19-20)

God may yet provide hope in the PCUSA—but he may not—He may instead bring judgment. As Karl Barth warned the German Church, God may “remove the candlestick” of our denomination unless we turn back to the Son and the written word of God. To bring it all back to where I began, how, for a Christian, could it be otherwise than to hope in Christ and his promises? Nothing else is sure, only Jesus, only his word, only the promises of God. We cannot meet the affronts to our faith, whether they come from a troubled individual or a troubled presbytery, alone; Christ and the hope he gives comes before and between all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In his arms he will gather the lambs

When I read the article that More Light Presbyterians had placed on their site and the information they introduced it with I was sickened. Their article is Lessons from Sharing the Story of My (Possibly) Gay 6-Year-Old Son. They link to the mother’s article on Huffpost Gay Voices and both places link to her blog. She wrote about her six year old having a crush on one of the gay men on the show Glee and how her son said he would rather kiss guys instead of girls. And really after several sons and many grandsons I don’t think many little boys, at the age of six, like kissing girls.

But the sad part is she thought this was so cute that her son would sit for a half-hour “mooning” over a picture of the man. And while she admitted that, ‘Six year olds get obsessed with all kinds of things.’ and ‘This might not mean anything at all,’ she nonetheless was happy to watch and not hinder or guide. But children need care and guidance….

Some of the Bible’s most tender yet powerful images occur when Jesus speaks to his disciples about placing children in his care. He was “indignant” at their attempts to push the children away and said, “Permit the children to come to me; and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” But more so, “He took them in his arms and began blessing them, laying his hand on them.” (Mark 10:14, 16.) There is both gentle care and a warning in these scenes which are pictured in all of the synoptic gospels. Do not hinder he says.

The care is not unlike Isaiah 40:11, “Like a shepherd he will tend his flock, in his arms he will gather the lambs and carry them in his bosom; he will gently lead the nursing ewes.” Before this verse in Isaiah 40 and after it there are detailed accounts of the finiteness of humanity and the powerfulness, creativity and eternality of God. But his children, the adult kind and the child kind, rest in his care. And he does not leave them without nourishment, guidance, love and discipline. He does not leave them to gather their goods or goals from the world’s immorality but has sent his word, both written and living.

We can trust the one who created everything to heal that which is broken and give abundant life without end. We can still bring our children to Christ and place them in his arms for blessing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

An administrative commission & deception-update

I was going to put an update on my prayers for Fremont posting but this needs to be a whole new posting. The motion to put an administrative commission over Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento did pass with a vote of 81 for and 51 against. But some of the facts that came out in the meeting were very disturbing.

It was admitted that although the negotiating team of the Presbytery failed to meet with Fremont’s negotiating team they did meet with a small group of those who voted not to leave. Twenty-five was the number given. And they met with them twice they said. That number we were assured had grown to 60 or at least fifty. The Presbytery had helped them to open an escrow account where their tithes could be placed rather than giving them to Fremont, and then gave them a place to worship. All of this was done without the Session of Fremont knowing about it and as I said, it was done before the negotiating  team met with Fremont’s negotiating team.

This information only became known because one brave pastor of another church had heard rumors and asked if it was so. The numbers were not given either until someone asked.

Could one call this deceitful and deceptive?

Should one call this deceitful and deceptive?

Isn’t it the Presbytery that is causing schism or should one even ask?

To understand better why I ask these questions please read an older post, "Threats of loss towards those who want to leave: seduction for all others"

Update: I accidentally used the word discernment when I meant negotiating team.

Prayers for Fremont Presbyterian Church today

Please pray for Fremont Presbyterian Church today. This evening, 1-9-2012, the Sacramento Presbytery will vote on whether to put an administrative Commission over the church or not. The Church‘s Session, pastors and a majority of the congregation voted to leave the PC (U.S.A.) and go to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. While the October 17 vote was 427 to leave and 164 to stay, there has been an ongoing push by a very small group, calling themselves the Fremont Faithful Fellowship, to be allowed to keep the property. And although the majority is concerned about many doctrinal issues including a growing universalism (One does not need to belong to Jesus to be saved), a willingness to ordain those who live together without marriage (fornication) and LGBT ordination, the smaller group is desirous that the church allow LGBT ordination.

I have written about this here Prayers for Fremont Presbyterian Church: an Administrative Commission and here Threats of loss towards those who want to leave: seduction for all others.

I will update this later in the evening after the vote.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A response to former deputy managing editor of the Sacramento Bee, Bill Endicott

It is exasperating, all of the articles appearing in the Sacramento Bee about Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. But this article above all needs a response because it is nothing more than a diatribe against faithful Christians.

A response to former deputy managing editor of the Bee, Bill Endicott:

In his special to the Bee, Viewpoints: Message from pulpit should be of love, tolerance, Endicott ends with these words, “But there will always be those, as a friend once said, who believe the snake really did talk to Eve. “

Yes the snake did talk to Eve. It wasn’t actually a snake but Satan using the snake. Satan does that in this world, he deceives people. Oh not with an audible voice but deception enters their heart and soul, their very being. That is why we have wars, rape, abused children, broken lives, etc., because humanity, in the midst of deception, believes they are wise enough to be the arbitrators of morality instead of God.

P.D. James, one of the great English mystery writers, wrote about that kind of arbitration in her mystery Original Sin. Someone decides they know who killed who, long ago—except they have the wrong person in mind. They have read the wrong book, heard the wrong whispers in their heart. But God knows all and reveals what we should know both in the written word and the living Word.

And yes, although the entire Bible is the words of Jesus Christ—he is after all the third member of the Trinity, God’s eternal Son, still in his words in the New Testament he did have something to say about homosexuality. It was this:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5)
So it is the Session of Fremont Presbyterian Church and the pastors who have made their decision along with a majority of the congregation that they no longer want to be joined to a denomination that is disobedient to the word of God. And it isn’t just about homosexuality, in fact, homosexuality is the least problem. The PC (U.S.A.)’s new Book of Order is pushing universalism. That is the idea that one need not come to Christ to be saved. And it also down plays the authority of the word of God.

Back to the snake—Satan tells a great lie to Eve, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in that day you eat from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] and your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.” That was a double edged lie.

First of all they would die. The spiritual death occurred at once, the physical death would follow. Pain, evil, brokenness and death entered the primeval world because of disobedience to God. Second, humanity now knew of good and evil. They know it as God knows, but unlike God whose very being is goodness, they do not have the power to overcome evil. That is why in grace God said to Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Jesus Christ, the One who stomped the death stomp to Satan’s head by his death and resurrection is worth a thousand buildings and the entire world’s wealth. May God keep those Fremonters, who have chosen to go to another denomination, for the sake of obedience to Christ, secure in their building. But if God chooses not to leave them there, may he be glorified in their suffering loss of property and may they quickly expand and grow in His good kingdom where ever he chooses to place them. May this be so for all of those faithful Presbyterians suffering loss in this faithless age.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Joy for the weekend

This is joy for the weekend. This is on an airplane waiting for a maintenance check. It is the Indiana Wesleyan University Chorale. Just what everyone needs for their journey.

Hat Tip to Sarah Hill

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Light Presbyterians-using a death for their agenda

I don’t take the Sacramento Bee so I didn’t see the article until I read the More Light Presbyterians web site. Their title is Beyond 10-A: The Wellbeing of LGBT Persons In Our Church. The Bee’s title is Memories of a gay man's suicide loom over Fremont Presbyterian Church. I didn’t know Thomas Paniccia except to notice his nice smile when he greeted me and others. At first when I saw him I often saw him with one of Pastor Baird’s sons. At first I thought he was the Pastor's son. I didn’t know he was struggling with his sexuality either. I do remember when he committed suicide.

Here are my thoughts about the Bee's news article and More Light Presbyterian’s site and statements:

The Sacramento Bee:

The author of the article, Jennifer Garza, mentions several times that Paniccia left a three page letter behind, and that both Pastor Baird and David Larson received copies. There is speculation by both Baird and Larson about why he committed suicide. Evidently Paniccia did not say in the letter, or they would have said so, so it cannot be truthfully stated as a fact that he committed suicide because of his sexual struggles. In fact, the article points out that he asked that no one be blamed.

The article also states that his name was raised during Fremont’s debate about leaving the denomination. I attended all but one forum [they were not debates except right before we voted] but did not hear his name. So if the name was raised during that time it could not have been often.

What I do appreciate about the Bee article is that it gave the whole story and did not insist that Paniccia committed suicide because of his sexual problems. Instead they told both sides of the story. But not More Light Presbyterians.

More Light Presbyterians:

I have little to say about them. My first reaction was anger. How could they take the self inflicted death of a man (who is now, undoubtedly home in safe keeping in the care of our Lord) and use it to push their own agenda. They write:
We grieve with our sisters and brothers within Fremont Presbyterian Church, Sacramento, CA who have come to understand that they lost one of their own to suicide because he was not encouraged to be the person God had created him to be.
Believe me he was encouraged to be the person God created him to be; someone loved and cared for by the Lord. We all know so little about what is going on in the mind of someone who commits suicide. How dare strangers use the death of someone they did not know at all to promote their own selfish cause.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christians in Gaza

This is about comparison and disagreement using articles filled with pathos. I actually thanked the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA for linking to the article, Gaza Christians long for days before Hamas cancelled Christmas, until I discovered that they linked to it because they believed it was about Palestinians not being able to go to Bethlehem during Christmas. It is partly, but mostly it is about how hard it is to be a Christian in Gaza. The author, Phoebe Greenwood, writes:

Karam Qubrsi, 23, and his younger brother Peter, 21, are the eldest sons in one of Gaza's 55 remaining Catholic families. Both wear prominent wooden crucifixes. "Jesus tells me, 'if you can't carry my cross, you don't belong to me,'" Peter explained. It's a demonstration of faith that has caused him some trouble.

He describes being stopped in the street by a Hamas official who told him to remove the cross. "I told him it's not his business and that I wouldn't," Peter said. After being threatened with arrest he was eventually let go, but the incident scared him.
Greenwood adds, “Their sisters Rani, 29, and Mai, 27, left Gaza in 2007 when the 30-year-old manager of Gaza's Bible Society bookstore, where their husbands worked, was shot dead, having been accused by radical elements of proselytising. They now live in Bethlehem.”

The persecution of Christians in Gaza is something that is not widely known in the West. In an article Christianity Today published in 2007 the story is told of Rami Ayyad’s, death. The article is “Christian Bookstore Manager Martyred in Gaza City”.The author writes:
At 6:25 a.m. Sunday October 7, Ayyad's body was found near the bookshop. "Signs of bullets and knife stabs could be clearly seen on his body," the Bible Society release said. Unconfirmed reports added that his head had been severely injured.

Another earlier story was written in 2005 and is about the ministry of Evangelical Christians in Gaza. It is filled with hopes that have undoubtedly been dashed. The article is “Love in the Land of Enmity.” The author of that story writes:
The context in which Christians inside Gaza do ministry is daunting. Gaza is 98 percent Sunni Muslim. Since the September 2000 start of the Al Aksa intifada, some 3,300 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis have died in political violence. Hamas, which is behind many suicide bombings, is based here and has an extensive social-service network, including Gaza's only free kindergarten. Most Gazans live on less than $2 a day in one of the world's most densely populated hotspots.

To deter terrorism and the weapons trade, Israel has destroyed the runway at Yasser Arafat International Airport, blocked construction of a seaport, and in recent months has kept borders under stringent control. Nonetheless, Palestinian terrorists routinely launch lethal rockets from Gaza into southern Israel or at Israeli settlements inside Gaza.

No one in Gaza is far from the conflict. Gaza Baptist's roof has been damaged four times by Israeli mortars. In modern Hebrew, the curse "go to hell" (lekh léazazel) is nearly identical to "go to Gaza" (lekh léaza). The play on words is not lost on anyone.

Despite these conditions, Massad's return six years ago ushered in growth with a core group of lay volunteers at Gaza Baptist, including Magdy Anwar and his wife, Rima, from the Bible Society. One church member told me, "Something special began happening. God invited Gaza to know him."
The author goes on to write of God's work in Gaza--but when the articles reach to 2008 there is the great loss, 'My Heart Is in Gaza'. The author begins:
Gaza Baptist Church used to draw hundreds of Palestinian worshipers to its two Sunday services. But on a recent Sunday in January, less than 10 people risked attending the only evangelical church in the 25-mile coastal strip.

Palestinian evangelicals, a group of hundreds living among 1.5 million Muslims, have been fleeing the Gaza Strip for the West Bank in response to increased violence and threats from Islamic extremists. In October, Rami Ayyad, the 29-year-old manager of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, was kidnapped and murdered. Then on February 15, a group of 14 masked gunmen forcibly entered the ymca offices and set off a bomb in the library, burning thousands of books.
I have added all of this because of another article I saw at Veterans Today by an author that the IPMN sometimes uses.

The article, “Is Hamas Really a Mean-Minded Christmas Scrooge?” by Stuart Littlewood is an attempt to belittle Greenwood’s article. Littlewood, who is an anti-Semite, quotes Fr Manuel Mussallam in Gaza in 2007 and Archbishop Theodosius Hanna and Mussallam in 2010. Hanna states in the 2007 article, “The problem in Palestine has nothing to do with religion – it is not a religious issue. It is not a conflict of Christians, Muslims and Jewish people. It is a conflict between those who are the holders of a rightful cause and those who took away that right by military might [meaning Israel].”

But there is a problem with religion which in many ways has nothing to do with the conflict between the leaders of Israel and the leaders of the Palestinian Territories. As Jeremy Weber writes in the article, “My heart is in Gaza”:
Severe economic hardship has been accompanied by increased threats from extremists since Hamas installed Shari'ah law in Gaza. Massad said his church members fear gathering in groups. Many believers no longer wear crosses, and some women now cover their heads in public as Muslim women do.
We do not hear about this from our PCUSA organizations, but we should. While we pray for peace between Israel and the Palestinians we should be praying for strength, comfort and open doors for the Christians of Gaza. We should pray for God’s work to be done in the whole area. We should pray that God will open the hearts of many Muslims and Jews to acknowledge Jesus as redeemer and Lord in that war torn area.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 and God's wooing and merciful judgment

In a New Year's posting, "My Thoughts on God's Will for the PCUSA in 2012," Janet Edwards, a pastor who has long advocated for LGBT ordination, calls for reconciliation which includes the letting go of such terms as liberal and conservative. She writes, “We must shed the antiquated 20th century labels of “liberal” and “conservative.” They have never served us well and do us serious harm now.” Edwards goes on to advise:

In 2012, God can inspire us to see ourselves as Presbyterian Christians together who disagree on how Scripture informs our faith in Christ as we all navigate through the unpredictable and turbulent seas of this life. These are disagreements that can serve us if we choose. Namely, they can help us all to grow in our faith and to better serve God.
In such a case we would simply be Christians with different opinions about the Bible. We would all be mediators of our own destinies navigating rocky shoals and stormed tossed seas by the use of our own particular methodology. But the rocks before us are huge and the hidden dangers unfathomable to human eyes.

We tend to think that human agendas and plans, including the call for ordination rights and same gender marriage, is all that we, as a Church are dealing with. Edwards references it all that way: women’s rights, racism and gay and lesbian ordination all lumped in one confusing and false category. But that is not all that such an agenda calls for—a mighty enemy seeks to undo the Church. A mighty enemy (but a defeated one) seeks to overcome the Church with sin and the belittling of God’s word.

But more importantly the great Enemy of our enemy puts his gigantic NO not only upon our enemy but upon our own human agendas. His word is very clear. He will have his Church sanctified, washed and pure. By the use of his word he will present to himself “the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Eph. 5:25-27)

Biblically speaking, false prophets call for peace when there is no peace. In the Old Testament it often happens that God sends judgment on Israel and in the beginning or in the midst of judgment false prophets keep insisting that it is a time of peace and reconciliation. They pretend to stand between enemies as a peace maker who will keep two opposing sides together. In some cases the ones calling for peace are those who have shattered peace by encouraging the people to sin.

The New Testament puts this idea of a false call for peace in a slightly different form. The corruption that shatters peace has to do with the peace of the Church rather than a nation. The Church is often under assault by those outside of the Church. But the Church is also often under assault by those within. Those who have waged war against the Church within the Church, inflicting her with false teaching and antinomianism, cannot turn and call for peace and reconciliation among members; instead the call must be for repentance and reconciliation with God.

And only the Holy Spirit both wooing us and inflicting us with the judgment of God can turn us back to our Redeemer. 2012, this is the year we pray God will inflict those of us within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with the mercy of his judgment that we might turn in repentance and faithfully listen to the words of God. We pray that in mercy the Lord Jesus Christ will not take away the candle of this denomination.