Monthly Archives: October 2010

Fifteen Minutes That Changed the World: Thoughts on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31

The Ninety-Five Theses of German monk Martin L...

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From Paul T. McCain over at Cyberbrethren.com. The following is a reprint of an article that he wrote a few years ago on Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, an act which change the very course of history, and shook western civilization from top to bottom.  From the very beginning, Luther sought a forum in which to debate and discuss the teaching and practice of the church on penance and indulgences.  Time and again he was refused.  Yet the Word of God would not be contained.  It continued to work when and where He willed, and the course of civilization and the life of the church was changed forever.  For good or ill, we are the heirs of the Reformation.  We bear the responsibility and the charge for carrying forward the Gospel of salvation by Grace through Faith for the sake of Christ alone to the next generation.  Lord make us worthy to stand with those who have gone before us.  Fifteen Minutes That Changed the World: Thoughts on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31.

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New Freedom House Study Shows Blasphemy Laws a Serious Threat to Human Rights

A Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece yesterday reviewed the study, and noted that the United Nations should repeal the Defamation of Religions Resolution adopted in March of last year.  The resolution was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.  The Times reports that the study shows that human rights abuses are the norm in countries that actively enforce blasphemy laws.

Domestic blasphemy laws, far beyond their clear violation of freedom of expression, are responsible for broad violations of human rights, particularly when applied in weak democracies and authoritarian systems, according to a study released by Freedom House today.  Get the full report here. New Freedom House Study Shows Blasphemy Laws a Serious Threat to Human Rights.

The laws generally work and are enforced to protect the majority faith.  Political dissidents, religious leaders in minority faiths, and journalists are frequent targets.  The Los Angeles Times concludes that “the United Nations should be working to abolish blasphemy laws, not endorse them.”

Do we have any laws like this in our country?  Laws designed to squelch dissent and religious freedom, or, more appropriately, one’s ability to speak the truth may take on more insidious and subtle forms here, and may use much different language directed at moral principles.  I will bet that you can think of a few.  As Jesus says, watch and pray;  be ready!

When Blasphemy is a Crime via the LA Times

“The United Nations General Assembly may soon vote — not for the first time — in favor of a resolution opposing the “defamation of religions.” The idea, which may sound appealing at first blush, is particularly championed by Islamic countries, which would like to go even further and have the condemnation enshrined in international law.

But a new report by Freedom House, a Washington-based human rights organization, demonstrates how such policies have too often been used by countries to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of religion, leading to serious human rights abuses.

Freedom House examined laws against blasphemy and religious insults in Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Poland. Some were more aggressive in enforcing the laws than others, and penalties varied from fines to imprisonment to death sentences. But in every nation it studied, Freedom House found violations of international human rights norms.

Some of the laws purport to shield more than one religion from verbal abuse. As a practical matter, however, anti-blasphemy laws generally protect the majority faith. For example, Freedom House found that in Greece, blasphemy laws “are used only to prosecute cases of perceived blasphemy against the Orthodox Church.” In Indonesia, the laws “have been used mostly to target blasphemy against Islam” by minority Islamic sects, Christians and followers of indigenous religions.

The laws also are used to target journalists, artists and political dissidents. In Egypt, Freedom House notes, several bloggers currently detained for alleged blasphemy have written critically about the government. In Poland and Greece, artists have run afoul of blasphemy laws, though convictions have been overturned on appeal. Even in those cases, Freedom House says in its report on Greece, blasphemy prosecutions impose financial burdens on the defendants and have a chilling effect.

Attacks on religion can be deeply offensive, which is why believers of many faiths pleaded with the Rev. Terry Jones not to burn copies of the Koran last month. But even many of his critics recognized that he had the constitutional right do so, just as adherents of other faiths (or of no faith) are free in this country to question, and even mock, Christianity.

Some argue that such freedom is a luxury that can be enjoyed only in stable, democratic societies like the United States. According to this argument, developing multicultural societies need blasphemy laws to prevent religious strife. But Freedom House demonstrates that the evenhanded application of such laws is an illusion.

The United Nations should be working to abolish blasphemy laws, not endorse them.”

 

Abram Rescues Lot, Sunday School Lesson, Reformation Sunday, October 31, 2010

This week’s Sunday School Lesson:  Abram Rescues Lot.  This would not be the last time that Abram intervenes to rescue his nephew.  Note the mysterious figure of Melchizidek, the Priest of the Most high God from the town of Salem, better known after King David as the city of Jerusalem.  Here Melchizedek blesses Abram, and shares Bread and Wine with him.  Sound familiar?  Interview with Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House.  Click the link below to listen.

Abram Rescues Lot

Commemoration of Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe Servants in the Apostolic Church

These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church. Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the Apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36–41).

Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was so much in demand in the ancient world. She was also a “worshiper of God” at the local synagogue. When the Apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (16:13–15, 40).

Phoebe was another faithful woman associated with the Apostle Paul. She was adeaconess from Cenchrae (the port of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. In it he writes of her support for the work of the early Church (Rom 16:1).
From Commemoration Biographies.

 

Festival of St. James, the Brother of our Lord

Today the Church celebrates St. James, the brother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  Christ appeared to him before the ascension, according to St. Paul.  1 Corinthians 15:7.  He is identified in Acts as being the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, one to whom Paul goes to, when controversy erupts over the message Paul has been preaching.  Galatians 1:19, Acts 9:27.  James presided over the first council in the Church which dealt with whether Gentiles had to observe the requirements of the Mosaic law as new converts to Christianity.  That council declared the freedom of Christians from the rigors of the ceremonial law and commending certain of the ceremonies and rules to their observance.  James is said to have been beaten or stoned to death by fellow Jews after declaring to them that Christ was true God and true man, the long awaited Messiah, rather than just his brother.

The oldest Liturgy still in use in the church is attributed to St. James.  The full text is set forth below.  It is long, but well worth reading.   Read the Liturgy of St. James

Sunday School Lesson, October 24, 2010, God Calls Abram

This week’s Sunday School Lesson is God Calls Abram to be the father of many nations.  “Av” in Hebrew means Father, and the first two letters of Abram’s name are transliterated into English as Av.  Click the link below to listen to the Issues Etc. interview with Deaconess Pam Nielson.

God Calls Abram.

The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Today the church remembers and celebrates as a Feast Day St. Luke the Evangelist, physician, and traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. Saint Luke, a companion and fellow-worker of Paul, was a Gentile by birth and a physician by vocation (see Col. 4:14). We first meet St. Luke during St. Paul’s second missionary journey. His witness to our Lord Jesus Christ is found in his two books, the Acts of the Apostles and the Third Gospel.

One commentator writes: “In St. Luke’s Gospel our Savior is pictured as the merciful Physician of bodily and spiritual ills. It has, therefore, been called ‘the Gospel of mercy and love.’

Read the rest of this entry

Signs of the Times — Dad, are we there yet?

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand
In a…desperate land
The Doors, The Best of the Doors, 1985, Copyright, EMI Music Publishing, Sony ATV Music Publishing.

The end of days is one of the most popular areas of theology for many Christians today.  So many “theories” have developed about the end times, when they will happen, what will happen, how it will happen. Continue Reading for Wednesday

Commemoration of Bishop Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria at the beginning of the second century A.D. and an early Christian martyr. Near the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (98–117), Ignatius was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.   On the way to Rome…

Higher Things plans three 2011 youth conferences

Under the theme of “Coram Deo” (“before God” in Latin), all three conferences withigher.gifh nearly identical programs are being planned for high-school students, although any confirmed young person may attend. College students also may register and apply to serve as “Christ on Campus Volunteers” to help conference staff during a conference.

An LCMS Recognized Service Organization, Higher Things holds annual youth conferences and “assists parents, congregations and pastors in cultivating and promoting a Lutheran identity among youth,” according to a news release about the 2011 conferences. Running Tuesday through Friday afternoons, all three conference programs will include multiple worship services, teaching sessions and leisure activities.

“Our all-inclusive conferences are very reasonably priced for groups to attend annually, and they provide a great opportunity for youth to learn more about what Christ’s death on the cross means for them while meeting other Lutherans their age from all over the United States and beyond,” said Higher Things Conference Coordinator Sandra Ostapowich.

Rev. William Cwirla of Hacienda Heights, Calif., one of two plenary teachers for the 2011 conferences, explained the “Coram Deo” theme. “Under the law, life before God is terrifying,” Cwirla said. “But under the Gospel, life before God is beautiful, a restoration of what God intended when He made man in the beginning.”

Conferences and gatherings are a great part of our youth’s life and experience.  They are great opportunities for parents and youth leaders as well to get to know their children and their generation better.  The more of these opportunities that are available with Higher Things and other youth organizations, the more opportunities our kids have to grow in their faith.  And in the subjective, my experience only is what counts, and it’s only true if I find it to be true world in which we live today, our kids need these opportunities to see that the truth of our existence lies in the person and work of Jesus Christ, not in man.  Read the full article here.  The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – Higher Things plans three 2011 youth conferences.