The Mark of Discipleship

Jesus said in John 13:34, 35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

As a result of studying this verse, I have come to take the unity of the brethren very seriously.  This command was given by Christ Himself, and I find it tragic that this message is all but passed over in the church.  The church couldn’t be in a sadder state of affairs: the one trait by which Christians are to be known is the trait hardest to find among its members for their brethren.

“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” 1 Corinthians 3:3

This is not to say that we should disregard good doctrine, because you can show unity and love while still holding fast to the teaching of the Word.

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:13

If we want to be true followers of Christ and wish to be a part of His blameless and spotless church, then we it is imperative that we follow this dictate that He has given to us.  Let us heed Christ’s words and not be divided by minor disputes, minor points of doctrine, or denominational affiliation, but let us be unified in our love for Christ!

“Let brotherly love continue.” Hebrews 13:1

Its History

On Nov. 20, 1989, the U.N. adopted the CRC and submitted it for ratification to the member nations. It has been ratified by 193 nations—the United States is one of the few countries that has not ratified it.

The ratification process requires a two-thirds vote by the U.S. Senate. On Feb. 16, 1995, Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., signed the CRC on behalf of the United States. The CRC, however, has never been sent to the Senate for ratification because there is insufficient support to pass it.

Due to the recent election, however, there are rumblings from Capitol Hill that there will be an effort to seek ratification of the CRC during the next congressional cycle. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a strong supporter of the treaty, and as secretary of state, would have direct control over the submission of treaties to the Senate.

Its Impact

Why should passage of the CRC be of concern? It likely would have a negative impact on domestic law and practice in the United States. Article VI of our Constitution makes treaties—and remember, conventions are viewed as treaties—“the supreme law of the land.” The CRC would be treated as superior to laws in every state regarding the parent-child relationship. This would include issues regarding education, health care, family discipline, the child’s role in family decision-making, and a host of other subjects.

Article 43 of the CRC establishes an international committee on the rights of the child to examine compliance by member nations. This committee, which sits in Geneva, has final authority concerning interpretation of the language contained in the CRC.

Two central principles of the CRC clearly are contrary to current U.S. laws related to parent-child relationships. The CRC provides that in all matters relating to children, whether private or public, or in courts, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Additionally, nations should ensure that children are capable of expressing their views freely in all matters affecting them, giving due weight to the age and maturity of the child.

This is contrary to traditional American law, which provides that absent proof of harm, courts and social workers simply do not have the authority to intervene in parent-child relationships and decision-making. The importance of this tradition and practice is that the government may not substitute its judgment for that of the parent until there is proof of harm to the child sufficient to justify governmental intervention. It is clear that in two very important areas of the parent-child relationship, religion and education, there will be potential for tremendous conflict.

The international committee in Geneva, in reviewing the laws of practice of countries that have ratified the CRC, has expressed its concern that parents could homeschool without the view of the child being considered; that parents could remove their children from sex-education classes without the view of the child being considered; that parents were legally permitted to use corporal punishment; and that children didn’t have access to reproductive health information without parental knowledge.

The bottom line is the CRC would drastically weaken the United States’ sovereignty over family life, which would have a substantial impact on every American family. For more information on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, visit www.parentalrights.org/learn.

Article taken from: http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/washingtontimes/20091120.asp

The Call to Dunkirk

The Origin of Christmas

My husband read to me last night Answers in Genesis’ article on the Origin of Christmas.  I found it to be a good, informative article meant to address a couple of serious questions that people may have about Christmas:

Is the true origin of Christmas pagan?

Was Christ really born in December?

I encourage the curious to check it out!

I’ve been examining the question lately: What are holidays really? They are days that we set aside as special days to remember something great or important.

It seems to me that some days bear greater recognition than others and hence that not all holidays are equal. Following this train of thought I think to myself: Being a Christian is the most important thing in my life, so holidays that celebrate important Christian events hold the most importance for me. Of Christian holidays , the most important would be the those that celebrate the most significant to the Christian faith. The most pivotal event to the Christian faith is Christ’s death and resurrection, so celebrating this should be the most important to Christians, right? The time of year that Gentiles celebrate this is during Easter. I really am no fan of the name “Easter” (named after a pagan goddess named Ēostre) so as others before me have also done, I prefer to refer to the day I celebrate Christ’s resurrection as “Resurrection Day”.

So this past year, armed with my resolve to make Resurrection Day a special celebration, I began to look all through the stores for some festive decorations. I was quite surprised by the serious lack of anything Christian linked to the holiday with which to celebrate in my most frequented store, Walmart. So I made a special trip to the Christian bookstore and was shocked to find just one item. The Easter/Resurrection Day holiday had been taken over by bunnies and chicks! Okay, so that didn’t work out so well. I also realized that having celebrated Christmas a mere 3 months prior, that we were neither in the mood nor had the finances to have “another big holiday” so soon. I came to realize that if I was going to really try to make something special out of the Resurrection Day celebration, that Christmas was going to have to be scaled back. So only able to make a small effort out of Resurrection Day this past year, I have determined to change things the next time around.

Christmas is the celebration of the miraculous and the beginning of the promises and prophecies given, and Christ’s birth is a necessary precursor to Christ’s death, but should the celebration of Christ’s birth all but supplant and negate the celebration of His resurrection? Something just seems a bit out of place about that to me. So it is my resolve to find a smaller but still meaningful way to celebrate Christmas and to find a way to make Resurrection Day into more than just a day of chocolate baskets and egg hunts and closer to the celebration that it really should be.

I believe that the main point of the prodigal son is the same as the main point in the story of the laborers and the vineyard.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:1-16

If the story about the prodigal son were just about mercy, then it could easily have ended with the father throwing the younger returning son a party, but it didn’t because the story wasn’t over.

In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus presented the son as a character who was disrespectful to his father by demanding his inheritance right then and living as a wasteful drunk and gigolo. The son brought deep shame on his family by his riotous living. By the law of Moses, this son deserved to be stoned.

“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” Deuteronomy 21:18-21

So instead of the grand welcome home which we’re all familiar with, what should have happened was the younger son be greeted with rocks being hurled his way.

In the setting that Jesus lived in , honor and shame were of much more consequence. Honor and shame affected more than a single individual; the honor or shame a person received was shared by their family. A family’s status was determined by societal rank. If you were a family with honor, you were much more likely to be trusted in life and day to day business; it was easier for you to find a good husband for your daughters, and so on. A family of shame might be mocked and ridiculed, or shunned. The honor or shame of a person very much affected their family’s fate.

So the audience that heard Jesus’ story would have remembered that this son had lived in a manner that deserved death; they also would have realized the shame and stigma that this son had brought on his family. In light of all of this, the elder son cannot be blamed for his attitude and resentment. The younger son had lived in a most vile manner, had shamed his family, and made himself deserving of death. Give this son a party? No way! Not only that, but the elder son happened upon the party! If anyone was deserving of a party, it was him, the loyal, faithful, hardworking son, not this drunken gigolo! The story was intentionally set up so that after hearing the background of the younger son’s actions, the audience would be crying in support of the elder son’s protest. This is exactly the point to which we were to be led, because the main point of Jesus’ story is that it is the right of the father to show mercy his son if he so chooses in the same way that it is God’s right to show mercy to those whom He chooses.

The common theme is God’s sovereignty. The point is best stated by Paul in Romans 9:14, 15:

“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'”

God has the right to administer mercy and compassion as He sees fit.

In the story of the laborers and the vineyard, the landowner chastises the grumbling workers who expected to get better treatment than the latecomers stating that since it’s his money, he has the right to decide to do what he wishes with it. He wished to show a kindness and give a bonus to those who didn’t have the opportunity to work all day and so that’s what he did. The point of the story is that just like people have the right to spend their money how they choose, likewise God has the right to show mercy and kindness to those He chooses.

I’d say that most of my life I believe that I missed the main theme to the prodigal son. When this story is taught, the only part I’ve ever heard discussed is God’s mercy. God’s mercy is no doubt a big theme in this story, but I believe that a greater theme yet lies in this parable. Let’s read.

“Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15:11-32

Were you able to see it too? Were you able to find an alternate main theme as well? In case you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what I’m talking about, I’ll write more in a subsequent post.