What the gospel mission entails

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John 15:11-15

Joh 15:11 I have spoken these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may reach its peak.

Joh 15:12 This is my command: Love one another just like I have loved you.

Joh 15:13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

Joh 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Joh 15:15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have made you aware of everything I have heard from my Father.

What the gospel mission entails

He’s still our master, but he does not call us slaves anymore. The reason our title has changed is that he has made us aware of the gospel mission. Christ’s gospel mission was to lay down his life for us out of love. Our gospel mission is to love others with the same sacrificial love – to love just like he loved. It may not mean we actually get executed for someone. But it may.

Lord, give us the courage to embrace all that your gospel mission entails.

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Sunlight the Best Disinfectant

A Painful Necessity
They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant.  And so it can be amongst men: the revelation of good deeds and misdeeds can go a long way towards setting things on a better course.  

In this light, it seems a very positive thing that the dark secrets of Roman Catholicism concerning the sexual purity of Roman Catholic priests are now being publicly disclosed–despite the ongoing demands for secrecy and confidentiality.

Big Jump in US Catholic Dioceses Naming Names
Over the past four months, Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. have released the names of more than 1,000 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children in an unprecedented public reckoning spurred at least in part by a shocking grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania, an Associated Press review has found.

Nearly 50 dioceses and religious orders have publicly identified child-molesting priests in the wake of the Pennsylvania report issued in mid-August, and 55 more have announced plans to do the same over the next few months, the AP found. Together they account for more than half of the nation’s 187 dioceses.

The review also found that nearly 20 local, state or federal investigations, either criminal or civil, have been launched since the release of the grand jury findings. Those investigations could lead to more names and more damning accusations, as well as fines against dioceses and court-ordered safety measures.

“People saw what happened in these parishes in Pennsylvania and said, ‘That happened in my parish too.’ They could see the immediate connection, and they are demanding the same accounting,” said Tim Lennon, national president of the board of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.  [AP]

In many cases the accused cannot be brought to trial.  They have passed to face a higher court.  But the disclosures are useful and beneficial nonetheless.

The recently disclosed accusations date back six or seven decades in some cases, with the oldest from the 1910s in Louisiana. Most of the priests were long ago removed from ministry. An AP examination found that more than 60 percent are dead. In most cases, the statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges or suing has run out.

Nevertheless, advocates say exposing molesters nearly two decades after the scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002 is an encouraging step, in part because it gives some victims a sense of vindication after decades of official silence or denials. Also, it could increase pressure on dioceses to set up victims’ compensation funds, as the church has done in Pennsylvania already. And it could result in the removal of molesters from positions outside the church that give them access to children.

“This is a milestone. We are getting closer and closer to what this ought to be, the true coming to terms that would have to be at a national level,” said Joe McLean, who filed a lawsuit with other victims seeking to compel the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to release files on alleged abusers nationwide.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The 10 Worst Things Trump Has Done in His First Year in Office

By Marc A. Thiessen
Columnist
Washington Post

In his first year in office, President Trump has done many positive things — from enforcing Barack Obama’s red line in Syria to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, driving the Islamic State from its physical caliphate, getting NATO allies to kick in more money for our collective security, reversing Obama’s Afghan withdrawal, enacting historic tax and regulatory reforms, and installing conservative judges who will preside for decades.

But his record of conservative achievement has been overshadowed by a series of self-inflicted wounds. On Wednesday, I gave my list of the 10 best things Trump has done in his first year in office. Here are the 10 worst:

10. He has made no effort at bipartisanship. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush reached across the aisle in their first year in office, but Barack Obama told Republicans that “elections have consequences” and “I won.” Instead of repeating Obama’s mistake, Trump should have reached out across party lines. Perhaps the “Resistance” would have refused, but Trump would have gotten credit for trying.

9. He has spent more time attacking Republicans than Democrats. Trump needs to expand his Senate majority if he wants to pass his agenda. Yet he spent an inordinate amount of time in his first year at war with members of his own party.

8. He is empowering al-Qaeda in Syria. By forging a de facto alliance with Russia and Iran to defeat the Islamic State, Trump is driving Sunni Arabs into the waiting arms of al-Qaeda — which is preparing to replace the Islamic State and is much more dangerous.

7. He is giving Miranda rights to captured terrorists. Trump promised to start treating captured terrorists as enemy combatants again, but instead of intelligence-driven interrogation and sending terrorists to Guantanamo Bay, he has continued Obama’s criminal-justice approach to terrorist detention.

6. He has attacked the FBI and the intelligence community. Trump is right to be angry about leaks of private conversations with foreign leaders and the political bias of some individuals involved in the Russia probe. But the vast majority of those in the FBI, the Justice Department and the CIA are good, decent and honorable patriots who deserve the president’s respect. Trump should not undermine our institutions because of the corrupt or illegal actions of some individuals.

5. His noxious tweets undermine his presidency. He overshadowed his policy achievements, his excellent address to Congress and speeches in Saudi Arabia, Warsaw and South Korea by tweeting about Obama “wiretapping” him, gloating over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failure on “The Apprentice” and attacking the hosts of “Morning Joe.” Trump fails to understand that the power and grandeur of the presidency are greater than any of the smash-mouth tactics that got him into the office.

4. He fired James B. Comey. If he wanted a change in FBI leadership, he should have announced it the day after the election. Comey’s belated firing led directly to the Mueller probe, which hangs over the Trump presidency like the Sword of Damocles.

3. He has dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 election. During his trip to Asia, Trump said he really believes that when Vladimir Putin tells him Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, Putin believes it. This is patently absurd. Putin directed Russia’s meddling. It is possible to accept that Russia sought to influence our election without accepting that there was any collusion. The fact that a foreign government tried to undermine our democracy should outrage all Americans, regardless of party — including the president.

2. He stood by Roy Moore. His endorsement of an alleged sex predator was morally indefensible and sent a message to women everywhere that Republicans do not believe that credible allegations of a grown man molesting teenage girls are disqualifying. And that message has been received. Polls show a significant increase in the percentage of women who favor Democrats over Republicans in 2018.

1. He has failed to condemn the alt-right. His “many sides” response to Charlottesville was shameful. There a lot of things about the presidency that are hard, but condemning neo-Nazis isn’t one of them. While Trump eventually did so, as white nationalist Richard Spencer pointed out, “Trump has never denounced the Alt-Right. Nor will he.” Sadly, Spencer is right. Trump’s failure to condemn the right’s fever swamps hurts his presidency and the conservative movement.

Trump should be celebrating a year of achievement, but instead his administration is hemorrhaging public support. When Trump took office, he had 45 percent approval. Yet today — despite policy successes at home and abroad, economic growth exceeding 3 percent and unemployment at a 17-year low — his approval has dropped 10 points to 35 percent, the lowest of any modern president at this time in his administration. If Trump wants to understand why, he can start with this list.

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Lettering in the red letters

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John 15:7-10

Joh 15:7 If you stay on me and my sayings stay in you, ask whatever you want and it will happen for you.

Joh 15:8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and show that you have become my disciples.

Joh 15:9 “Just like the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Stay in my love.

Joh 15:10 If you keep my commands you will stay in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and stay in his love.

Lettering in the red letters

Kim Erickson writes… “Not for His benefit … but for their joy! And not just some ordinary joy, but to be full of His joy, overflowing with divine joy.”1

Jesus’ commands are all about living life today to its fullest and tapping into the resources of the divine relationship. Obedience is the key. But it is not blind Pharisaical obedience. It is obedience not to some ritual or practice, but to the actual commands of Christ. We need to letter in the red letters.

Lord, help us to live and breathe your commands.

1 His Last Words: What Jesus Taught and Prayed in His Final Hours (John 13-17)

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Secularist Hate-Religion

Modern Wars of Religion

In the UK, the government, run by increasingly militant secular humanists, are insisting that everybody support and participate in the promotion of homosexuality and trans-sexuality.  The front line of this ideological and political war is the school.

The same conflict is already playing out in Australia.  It can be expected to unfold in New Zealand as well. 

Here is a UK orthodox Jewish perspective:

Jewish Families Will Leave UK If Faith Schools Forced to Promote LGBT Lifestyles

Thousands of Jewish families will leave Britain if the government goes ahead with plans to force schools to promote LGBT lifestyles to children, an Orthodox campaigner has warned.  Lawyers acting for the Charedi activist and father, Shraga Stern, have written to British education minister Nick Gibb warning draft guidelines requiring schools to “actively promote” same-sex relationships and alternative lifestyles as “equally valid” would breach religious freedom provisions under European human rights law.

Mr Stern, whose seven children are aged between two and 12, argues that “in the Orthodox Jewish world it falls to parents or legal guardians, and not to schools” to teach children about sex and relationships. “My father taught me about relationships at the appropriate time. I want to do the same. We do not want sex education taught in schools. We are tolerant of different lifestyles but we do not promote them,” the Sunday Times reported him as saying.

Department of Education advice, which demands “homosexuality, same-sex relationships and gender reassignment” be introduced in the classroom with the “active promotion of respect”, is described as “morally unacceptable and unlawful” by representatives of Mr Stern in their 19-page letter, which claims thousands of Orthodox Jews will have to leave Britain if the rules are put into effect.

The letter explains: “We note in particular the phrase that different ways of life may be ‘equally valid’. This statement goes to the heart of the ethical worldview taught by a faith school.  “Belief in God and in a religious way of life distinguishes between action that is morally good and action that is sin.”

Lest anyone think that this is just a mere academic debate, the authorities have demonstrated that if religious schools do not conform to the Government orthodoxy, they would be punished and shut down. 

Breitbart London previously reported how Ofsted, the British schools watchdog led by Ms Spielman, failed a private Jewish girls’ school, claiming its pupils — aged eight and under — were being denied “a full understanding of fundamental British values” as a result of the north London institution’s failure to teach about homosexuality and gender reassignment.”

In New Zealand, the NZ Bill of Rights carves out strong protections for religious freedom.  However, it remains to be seen whether the present wave of ideological zealots championing their particular secularist religion can be withstood and the integrity of the Bill of Rights be maintained. 

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Doomsters Hysteria Deconstructured

Actually, 2018 Was a Pretty Good Year

By Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

Aside from the Washington hysterias, 2018 was a most successful year for Americans.
The year 2018 will be deplored by pundits as a bad year of more unpredictable Donald Trump, headlined by wild stock-market gyrations, the melodramas of the Robert Mueller investigation, and the musical-chair tenures of officials in the Trump administration.

A quarter of the government is still shut down. Talk of impeachment by the newly Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is in the air. Seemingly every day there are sensational breakthroughs, scandals, and bombshells that race through social media and the Internet — only to be forgotten by the next day.

In truth, aside from the Washington hysterias, 2018 was a most successful year for Americans.

In December, the United States reached a staggering level of oil production, pumping some 11.6 million barrels per day. For the first time since 1973, America is now the world’s largest oil producer

Since Trump took office, the U.S. has increased its oil production by nearly 3 million barrels per day, largely as the result of fewer regulations, more federal leasing, and the continuing brilliance of American frackers and horizontal drillers. It appears that there is still far more oil beneath U.S. soil than has ever been taken out. American production could even soar higher in the months ahead.

In addition, the United States remains the largest producer of natural gas and the second-greatest producer of coal. The scary old energy-related phraseology of the last half-century — “energy crisis,” “peak oil,” “oil embargo” — no longer exists.

Near-total energy self-sufficiency means that the U.S. is no longer strategically manipulated by the Middle East, forced to pay exorbitant political prices to guarantee access to imported oil, or threatened by gasoline prices of $4 to $5 a gallon.

The American economy grew by 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018, and by 3.4 percent in the third quarter. American GDP is nearly $1.7 trillion larger than in January 2017, and nearly $8 trillion larger than the GDP of China. For all the talk of the Chinese juggernaut, three Chinese workers produce about 60 percent of the goods and services produced by one American worker.

In 2018, unemployment fell to a near-record peacetime low of 3.7 percent. That’s the lowest U.S. unemployment rate since 1969. Black unemployment hit an all-time low in 2018. For the first time in memory, employers are seeking out entry-level workers rather than vice versa.

The poverty rate is also near a historic low, and household income increased. There are about 8 million fewer Americans living below the poverty line than there were eight years ago. Since January 2017, more than 3 million Americans have gone off so-called food stamps.

Abroad, lots of bad things that were supposed to happen simply did not.

After withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the U.S. exceeded the annual percentage of carbon reductions of most countries that are part of the agreement.

North Korea and the U.S. did not go to war. Instead, North Korea has stopped its provocative nuclear testing and its launching of ballistic missiles over the territory of its neighbors.

Despite all the Trump bluster, NATO and NAFTA did not quite implode. Rather, allies and partners agreed to renegotiate past commitments and agreements on terms more favorable to the U.S.

The United States — and increasingly most of the world — is at last addressing the systematic commercial cheating, technological appropriation, overt espionage, intellectual-property theft, cyber intrusions, and mercantilism of the Chinese government.

The Middle East is still chaotic, but it is a mess that is now far less important to the U.S. for a variety of reasons. Energy-wise, America is not dependent on oil imports from corrupt Gulf monarchies or hostile Islamic states. Strategy-wise, the new fault lines are not Arab and Islamic cultures versus Israel or the United States. Instead, it is internecine strife within the Islamic world, mostly with Iran and its Shiite satellites opposing the Sunni Arab monarchies and the more moderate Middle Eastern regimes.

For all the pro- and anti-Trump invective and media hysteria, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation circus, and the bitter midterm elections, the U.S. was relatively calm in 2018 compared with the rest of the world. There was none of the mass rioting, demonstrations, and street violence that occurred recently in France, and none of the existential and unsolvable divides over globalization and Brexit that we saw in Europe

Europe’s three most powerful leaders — Angela Merkel of Germany, Emmanuel Macron of France, and Theresa May of the United Kingdom — have worse approval ratings than the embattled Donald Trump.

In sum, the more media pundits claimed that America was on the brink of disaster in 2018, the more Americans became prosperous and secure.

© 2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. 

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The consequences of separation

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John 15:4-6

Joh 15:4 Stay on me, and I in you. Just as a shoot is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you stay on me.

Joh 15:5 I am the vine; you are the shoots. The one who stays on me and I in him produces much fruit because you can do nothing without me.

Joh 15:6 If anyone does not stay on me, he is thrown out like that detached shoot and he dries up. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned up.

The consequences of separation

I have to be a bit inconsistent with the preposition ἐν here, because Jesus is talking about a reciprocal relationship, but still keeping up the vine/shoot metaphor. So, “on” is appropriate, because shoots can only produce grapes if they stay on the vine. This is an example of what Danker alludes to “with numerous other resources in Engl. to express contextual nuances of ἐν: at, on, among, near, with, by.”

Jesus also refers to final punishment in Gehenna here by saying that detached shoots are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned up (καίω). While the word can refer to the mere lighting or kindling of a fire, in this reference it is to a consuming fire which ultimately produces the second death (Revelation 21:8).

Some people have convinced themselves that final punishment merely means being thrown out – separated from the presence of God forever. Jesus shows here that as a consequence of this separation, the lost will also be gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned up. Hell is a terrible place, but the only way to escape it is to stay on the vine – stay in Jesus.

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Too Close to Home

Socialism And the Hollywood Elites

 

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his pruning method

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his pruning method

Joh 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper.

Joh 15:2 He removes every shoot on me that does not produce fruit, and he prunes each that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.

Joh 15:3 You are already pruned because of the word I have spoken to you.

The shoots from a grapevine that are about a year old are called canes. Here’s some professional information about canes and their pruning:

In viticulture it is important for wine grape growers to properly manage new canes as they play a vital role in the growth and development of the wine vine and the wine grape yield. Trimming or choosing canes will determine how the vine trains and grows in the vineyard. Not all shoots will develop into canes, growers monitor the growth of shoots from the time they are buds to determine which ones they will allow to grow. Canes that are thicker, or growing closer to the trunk and that are widely spaced, are often chosen as the best fruiting wood, while canes that are thinner and spaced closer together are not chosen, as thin canes can break and clusters that are too close hold moisture and increase the chance of disease. Cane management during the growing season is vital to the grape harvest, as shoots and canes that are not actively growing grapes compete with the grapes and the vine for resources. Canes are cut back after harvest, to promote new growth for the next growing cycle.1

 

The good news for me in today’s text is in verse 3. I need not fear some adversity coming into my life to prune me to make me more fruitful. The word of God itself does the pruning. Those who choose to follow the commands of Jesus are those who make the cut.

 

Lord, thank you for your commands – your pruning method.

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Chinese Persecution of Early Rain Covenant Church Continues

Officials Continue Abuse of Early Rain Covenant Church Members

China Aid

(Chengdu, Sichuan—Jan. 4, 2018) Since officials rounded up around 160 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in December, the church’s congregants have undergone abuse at the hands of the authorities.

When police conducted a mass arrest of the Chengdu-based church, Wang Jun, one of the Christians who attends services at Early Rain Covenant Church, tried negotiating peacefully with the police. In response, the officers attacked him, injuring his head, knees, and toes. Wang was also recently detained after he organized a Sunday worship event at the side of the Funan River. Police shut the service down.

In custody, Wang has been beaten violently, and he was sentenced 14 days in prison after undergoing an investigation that lasted for more than 30 hours.  Wang’s wife, Tang Shuangfei, was also arrested, along with his one-year-old child.

Other arrested Christians reported the police hit and trampled them. One of the Christian men had his arms bound and was imprisoned at midnight. From the abuse, his legs bled, and he sustained many injuries. Another said the police refused him food and water during his 24-hour detention. Instead, they bound him to a chair, and he was only able to sleep for a few hours that night.

On Dec. 20, the police inspected the home of one of the church’s elders, Su Bingsen. Su and others detainees associated with the church have been denied their right to meet with lawyers, and there is no way for the church to know whether or not the people have been treated humanely.

Nearly 700 congregants have been monitored, tailed, and threatened by local authorities, and two people have been beaten or hurt. In addition, equipment belonging to the church has been confiscated.

Despite these hardships, the remaining church members often gather in each other’s homes to host services, but they have been severely harassed. The local government dispatched numerous personnel to monitor their apartment buildings and follow them if they go out. They also stop friends from visiting them, and the officials repeatedly tell the Christians that they risk criminal detention on a “provoking troubles” charge if they continue to meet.

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