Gentiles grafted in

Romans 11:17-18

Our Bible study this week will be from Romans 11:1-25.

My notes are available here.

Drawing from broadroot.com

Scion Graft

Comment: Click here for an interesting article on grafting!

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“Here in Rome [he’s] nobody”

Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII

JP: I don’t intend this post to be either political or critical of one who recently died! Rather I post this to emphasize the magnificent access the believer has to the Father through the redemption we have in the Lord Jesus Christ! See my further comments below.

After Kennedy’s Death: Silence from the Pope

Excerpt:

There was a poignant footnote to President Obama’s historic July 10 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Behind closed doors in the papal library, Obama handed Benedict a letter that Senator Edward Kennedy had asked him to personally deliver to the pontiff. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later told reporters that nobody – not even the President – knew the contents of the sealed missive. Obama himself asked Benedict to pray for Kennedy, and called the ailing Senator afterward to fill him in on his encounter with the 82-year-old Pope.

The letter, most likely already re-sealed and tucked away in the Vatican archives, was probably just a dying Catholic’s request for a papal blessing. In the eyes of the traditionalist wing of the Church, however, Kennedy should have been asking the Pope for forgiveness. The Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported Kennedy’s death, praising his work on civil rights and fighting poverty, but noted that his record was marred by his stance on abortion. As of yet, unlike some other world leaders, Pope Benedict has not commented or issued an official communique in response to Kennedy’s death. One veteran official at the Vatican, of U.S. nationality, expressed the view of many conservatives about the Kennedy clan’s rapport with the Catholic Church: “Why would he even write a letter to the Pope? The Kennedys have always been defiantly in opposition to the Roman Catholic magisterium.” Magisterium is the formal expression for the authority of Church teaching. (See a Kennedy family photo album.)

Since Kennedy’s death on Aug. 25, commentators have been poring over the Liberal Lion’s many legislative achievements and the details of his biography. But it is also worth remembering that for four decades Ted Kennedy remained the nation’s most prominent Roman Catholic politician, and brother of America’s first and only Catholic President. Ted Kennedy received his first communion directly from Pope Pius XII, and his marriage in 1958 was performed by Cardinal Francis Spellman, the influential Archbishop of New York. His mother, Rose Kennedy, once reportedly said that she’d dreamed that her youngest son Teddy would become a priest rather than a politician, destined to ultimately rise to bishop status. (See pictures of Pope Benedict XVI visiting America.)

Edward Kennedy, it can be said, was not cut out for the priestly life. His first marriage to former model Virginia Joan Bennett, ended in divorce in 1982, with the marriage annulled by the Roman Rota more than a decade later. And there are the infamous episodes in his life that showed a man not quite in control of his demons. But ultimately, beyond his personal travails, Kennedy’s relationship with the Church hierarchy was destined for conflict because of politics. The Senator became both the face and engine of the liberal wing of the Democratic party that has long led the battle for abortion rights, stem cell research and gay marriage, all of which Catholic doctrine strictly forbids.

“He is a complicated figure,” says Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and the culture editor of the Catholic magazine America. “Catholics on the right are critical because of his stance on abortion. Catholics on the left celebrate his achievements on immigration, fighting poverty and other legislation that is a virtual mirror of the Church’s social teaching.” (See pictures of the lion of the senate, Ted Kennedy.)

Back at headquarters, however, there is little room for nuance. “Here in Rome Ted Kennedy is nobody. He’s a legend with his own constituency,” says the Vatican official. “If he had influence in the past it was only with the Archdiocese of Boston and that eventually disappeared too.” Some say the final sunset on the Kennedy name within Catholic halls of power was the Vatican’s decision in 2007 to overturn the annulment of the first marriage of former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, the eldest son of Robert Kennedy. The successful appeal by Joe Kennedy’s ex-wife Sheila Rauch, an Episcopalian, was another blow for the Kennedy image in Catholic circles.

Comments:

  • Image above is cover art of “Catholic Boy Magazine” (source)
  • For Catholics, the Eucharist (Holy Communion), is a means of grace.
  • Imagine the tremendous privilege Ted Kennedy enjoyed in receiving his first communion from the Pope Pius XII!
  • “The highest authorities in the Vatican and indeed the Pope himself have insisted that pro-abortion Catholic politicians be denied Holy Communion” (source).
  • The Bible believer’s view of communion is that it does not confer grace but rather memorializes the sacrificial death of our Savior until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).
  • The above being stated, Bible believers do not look to Rome for authority or approval! Franky in Rome I am a nobody! (And I don’t care!)
  • But we respect a higher (and truer) authority and approval – the Lord Himself! Matthew 25:22-24: “Well done, good and faithful servant”
  • Romans 5:1-3 tells the redeemed one that he has “access” to the Father through the redemption we have in the Lord Jesus Christ!
  • 1 John 2:1 teaches that the Christian has Christ as our “Advocate with the Father”!
  • Thus every Christian is somebody in heaven, the place that really counts!

Updated: Excerpts from Kennedy’s letter to Pope Benedict XVI

Senator Kennedy and the Hope of Heaven

Leadership – Godliness is key!

JP: A good read by Pastor Dave Doran.

The Challenge of Spiritual Leadership

Conclusion:

We cannot afford to adopt our culture’s approach to identifying and elevating leaders. People rise to leadership too often because of ability, attractiveness, or assertiveness—they can do things better than others, possess magnetic qualities that draw followers, or push their way to success and power. This text reminds us that none of those are central. Godliness is. The church does not need entrepreneurs, celebrities, or driven people in places of leadership. It needs men who walk with God and can faithfully handle the Word.

1969: The year everything changed

Image is cover art of 1969: The year everything changed. USA Today Review

1969 was the year of my salvation. It was the year that changed everything for me! This is the first of a series of blog posts about 1969 and the events that I remember about that year.

The purpose of these articles:

  1. To provide a historical retrospective of life as a college student 40 years ago!
  2. To explain how God used these events in my life as a lead up to my conversion in November 1969
  3. To provide some spiritual directives about faith and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The News was different then:

There was no Internet (although the seed was planted with the ARPANET), CNN, or round the clock media. I received the news from a morning and evening paper (The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Post) delivered to my parent’s home, Newsweek, and Walter Cronkite.

Where I was and what I was doing:

I lived in Delhi Ohio with my parents and younger brother. When 1969 commenced, I was a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati. I commuted to the campus daily. I have various jobs: I sold shoes for Bakers at the Western Woods Mall, I worked on Saturday nights at the loading dock of the Cincinnati Enquirer – loading bundles of newspapers onto trucks until about 2 or 3 in the morning on Sundays. I worked in the summers at Monsanto Chemical in Addyston, Ohio.

As I recollect I made $ 1.80 per hour at the paper. I made $ 2.85 at the chemical plant. And I earned commission selling shoes.

I was majoring in Economics and Finance (double major) on my way to a Bachelors of Business Administration degree.

I had a 1968 white VW bug that I bought kind of new. It was a grey market vehicle that had been used in Germany and was shipped over and sold used – not through an official VW channel. I think it had a couple of thousand miles on it when I bought it. My Father co-signed on my loan.

My life as a student:

I was a very poor student in High School. High School or me was about girls, partying, poker, and drinking. The drinking age for 3.2% beer was 18, but basically as soon as someone turned 16 one could easily buy beer. Friday nights were often poker nights with the guys. And Saturdays were the “date night” for me. I graduated from High School with a 1.8 average! Somehow (probably because of my SAT scores) I was accepted into the University of Cincinnati.

My Freshman year of college was a year of academic adjustment. At Freshman orientation the presenter said, “look to your right and to your left … half of you will not complete college”. I was intent on not being one of them (to fail).

I was really lost:

While today it is easy to put those years in theological perspective: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), back then I just considered myself as one who had real questions about life. Such as:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What is my purpose in life?
  3. Where do I belong?
  4. How can I have a real relationship with God?

My religion:

I was a nominal Christian – a Methodist. I attended church most of my life. I had been baptized a Methodist and confirmed.

I did believe in God but I was almost completely ignorant of Him. I viewed Him as the Creator. While I did pray, my prayers were more like “to the unknown god” (Acts 17:23).

As I recollect church was not a part of my life for the first two years of college. I probably attended Easter services and Christmas services and that was about it.

I had a confirmation Bible but I did not read it and was generally ignorant of the Scriptures.

Seeds sown:

Two seeds were sown in my Freshman year of college. Firstly I had to read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God for a literature class assignment (full text here). This section both angered me and haunted me:

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.

To counter that we also read (and I recollect memorized) William Ernest Henley’s Invictus (Full text). I took comfort in these words:

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Secondly I read Here I stand as an assignment for a European history class. This book introduced me to Martin Luther, the Reformation and the doctrine of justification by faith. Studying the reformation and specially the life of Martin Luther left me with these impressions:

  • Martin Luther was a real masculine man! His Christianity was not a feminine or a weak Christianity. It was a vibrant courageous and brave faith. (Dear Sisters in Christ, I implore you to not be offended by my comments! My Mother was the religious leader in our family. This impression, that Christianity was masculine, strong and brave, opened the door a crack towards faith in Christ!)
  • Truth was at stake and it was worth fighting for!
  • I became a great admirer of Martin Luther! (I remain so to this day!)

Drinking from the well of Relativism

JP: Relativism is expressed in a statement such as “That’s true for you but not for me.” Albert Mohler comments on the Newsweek article previously mentioned on 4BYA.info (‘many paths to god’ de facto Hinduism):

Are We a Nation of Hindus?

Excerpts:

Those who argue that all religions are essentially the same reveal the fact that they know little about these very different belief systems. The worldview of Christianity is, for example, radically different from the belief structure of Buddhism (some forms of which may actually claim to resist the very idea of beliefs).

These differences in belief systems are apparent in Lisa Miller’s recent article for Newsweek. As she explains, “A million-plus Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity.”

Many Christians will flinch when reading this. Does this mean that Hindu temples are appearing across the American landscape? Not hardly. What Miller describes is the transformation of the belief system in ways that resemble Hinduism. Her argument deserves a fair hearing.

She begins by quoting a Hindu writing, the Rig Veda: “Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names.” The idea of one truth known by many names is not new. Indeed, it is central to polytheism and the syncretistic beliefs of several historic and current worldviews. Hinduism is radically polytheistic and syncretistic. According to Hindu belief, the many gods and goddesses of their veneration all represent one fundamental divine reality. The idea of a singular and exclusive truth is antithetical to classical Hinduism.

So what is Lisa Miller’s point? She suggests that contemporary Americans, including many who consider themselves Christians, are abandoning the exclusive truth claims of Christianity for a form of theological pluralism or relativism.

Without doubt, Americans have been growing more and more accepting of plural and relative understandings of truth. A tragically large number of those who identify as Christians have been drinking from the same wells of thought.

The exclusivity of the Gospel is not merely a facet of the church’s message. Indeed, a Gospel that does not affirm that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone is not the Gospel of Christ, but a false gospel. As Lisa Miller correctly recites, Jesus did say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” [John 14:6]

Another aspect of the story is this: Many Americans have such a doctrineless understanding of Christianity that they do not even know what the Gospel is — not even remotely. A greater tragedy is that so many who consider themselves Christians seem to share in this confusion.

JP: Wiki: Relativism

God-Focused Sanctification

JP: Good Jerry Bridges quote cited by Chris Anderson

[I]t is clear that [Calvin] regards a zealous pursuit of holiness as the normal Christian life.

Such an ardent pursuit of Christlikeness requires a strong motivation. To find it, Calvin appeals to the blessings of God:

  • God has revealed Himself as a Father; therefore, we should behave as His children.
  • Christ has purified us through His blood; therefore, we should not become defiled by fresh pollution.
  • Christ has united us to His body as His members; therefore, we should not disgrace Him by any blemish.
  • Christ ascended to heaven; therefore, we should leave our carnal desires behind and life our hearts upward to Him.
  • The Holy Spirit has dedicated us as temples of God; therefore, we should exert ourselves not to profane His sanctuary, but to display His glory.
  • Both our soul and body are destined to inherit an incorruptible and never-fading crown; therefore, we should keep them pure and undefiled.” (pp. 222-223, emphasis his)

If Jay and Katie could do it, I guess I could too!

JP: Today I had one of those very uncomfortable medical procedures. Oh the perils of turning 60! I was supposed to have it at 50 but I procrastinated for three years and had it at 53! Last year when I turned 59, my Doctor said it was time and I said I’m waiting a year.

In the past several months, I’ve whined about this to my Mother, my Brother, my Wife, my Sister and an assorted number of other relatives. They all have suffered the indignation and have mockingly made fun of me so today was my day!

Jay Adam’s comments on his. Katie Couric comments on hers.

I’m glad that it is done and that I can wait another 10 years for another. Perhaps the Lord will rapture me first! Thanks all for praying for me! (I am eating a banana and drinking apple juice …. first food since Saturday morning!)

Image Source: Blig Blug and Friends