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Aída Besançon Spencer, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament, & William David Spencer, Th.D., Ranked Adjunct Professor of Theology & the Arts, teach at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, MA. Both are
Posted 8/13/14 at 5:20 PM | Aida and William Spencer
Guest blog by Sergeant First Class Charles C. Scott
(RA 13328908 1st Platoon, “C” Company, 1st Battalion 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division Korea—August 6, 1950-August 10, 1951)
The Medal of Honor, often called the Congressional Medal of Honor or CMH, is the United States’ highest military award. After the War of Independence, the United States had no decorations. It was not until 1861 during the War Between the States that congress approved the Medal of Honor which was the only decoration until World War I.
In 1918 Congress restricted the Medal of Honor to persons who went above and beyond the call of duty in performing an extraordinary act of heroism. More than 3,400 medals have been awarded in the name of Congress since the first award on March 25, 1863. Nineteen men have been awarded the medal twice. FULL POST
Posted 7/21/14 at 9:59 AM | Aida and William Spencer
Posted 6/22/14 at 7:32 AM | Aida and William Spencer
This past week 71% of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America’s General Assembly ratified a resolution to send to its presbyteries to vote a change in its constitution allowing marriage to be between two people, traditionally a man and a woman. (“Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people [traditionally between a man and a woman] to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.”) Nevertheless, the General Assembly also approved, but without presbytery vote, an authoritative interpretation of the current Constitution that allows Presbyterian pastors discretion to conduct same-sex ceremonies in states where the practice is legal, annulling the full effect of the later vote of each presbytery. After many years of continual pressure and resistance, this 2014 General Assembly vote was made despite Jesus’ reaffirmation of Genesis 2:24 that “the one who made them at 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” (Matthew 19:4-6 NRSV). The Apostle Paul further reminded his parishioners that continued homosexual actions, premarital sex, adultery, drunkenness, robbery, or greed keeps one from inheriting God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 16-18). But, then he adds, “This is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (6:11). What the Bible as God’s authoritative and reliable revelation does is teach us standards to which all Christians should aspire. By working to change these standards, some church members are thereby refusing to recognize God’s standards are for everyone. We are not dealing here with a question of justice, but of holiness. Love does not rejoice in falsehood, but in truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). If someone challenges drunkards to stop drinking, it is done out of love for them, not hatred. If someone challenges an adulterer to seek repentance, drop his/her extramarital affair, seek forgiveness from the spouse, it is out of love for all three of those involved. If someone challenges thieves to stop stealing, they are thereby not loving less, but more. They are still accepting and loving errant people, but they are not approving their actions. Likewise, someone who can be attracted to his/her same sex may be transformed by God’s Spirit and helpful human guidance. According to the Presbyterian Oneby1 organization: “A California-based association of psychiatrists and psychologists (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH]) has proven that homosexuals can change their orientation through intense therapy and a strong desire to change.” The church needs to uphold God’s standards and teach them, while offering assistance in the transformation process, not merely capitulate to strong cultural pressure. FULL POST
Posted 5/1/14 at 10:39 AM | Aida and William Spencer
After humbling himself before his followers by washing the dirt from their feet (the task of the lowest of servants), Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, explained his view of ruling, literally: “The kings of the Gentiles [all of us who are not Jewish] ‘lord’ over [kurieuō – a word for ‘rule’ constructed from the word for ruler – kurios – ‘lord’] them and, the ones having the power over them, are calling themselves benefactors. But, you, do not do thusly, but the one greater among you become as the youngest and the one leading as the one serving” (Luke 22:25-26).[i] This is simply good advice on how to ensure one rules a happy and contented people.
When Jesus was giving this advice, he and his hearers were not part of a democracy. Their context was being part of a captive people under the overlordship of Rome, itself subject to an emperor. His advice was applicable to that as well as every form of legitimate rule. Leadership that cares for people it is entrusted to lead is not dependent on any particular form of government. Any type of governing system can be abused. Whether their citizens are living under an empire, as was the Rome of Jesus’ day, a dictatorship, as in the Dominican Republic in the days Aίda was growing up on that island, a democracy, as here in the United States, a communal, state-oriented system, as in China, or any other governmental system, good rulers do not “lord it over” their subjects in the name of ideology, but serve them, mindful that, as leaders, they are responsible to those they rule for the well-being of the people in their care. FULL POST
Posted 4/22/14 at 6:13 AM | Aida and William Spencer
Posted 3/30/14 at 3:44 PM | Aida and William Spencer
One of the most terrifying passages in the entire Bible is Hebrews 6:4-6a, which states:
“For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away” (NRSV).
What a frightening prospect! Could we lose our salvation so utterly that we could search across the whole world and never find it again?
And, if so, is there any way we can buy a passport to heaven that we can stick in the bank, or under our mattress, in safe keeping, something we can pull out on the Day of Judgment and show the Lord to get a pass?
In the year 1095, Pope Urban II thought he’d figured out a way to offer just that: a passport to heaven. You see, he had a problem confronting him. He was also well aware of the people’s fear of being carelessly lost and going to hell irrevocably or, short of that, suffering long punishment before getting into heaven, and he figured that calming the people’s fears might also help him solve his problem. FULL POST
Posted 2/12/14 at 2:46 PM | Aida and William Spencer
Guest blog by Paul Bricker, hospital chaplain
In the Bible, believers complain all the time when things go wrong. In fact, Lamentations is an entire book of complaints by Jeremiah, the whining prophet. And the Holy Spirit made it canonical, a part of the Bible! Thus, we whiners can learn a lot from passages like Lamentations 3:1-25, since I believe God wants us to learn how to complain!
Lamentations is a chiastic poem. The word “chiastic” comes from the Greek letter X which is pronounced chi. A chiastic poem is ½ an X, if one cuts the X in half from top to bottom. One of the keys of a chiastic poem is that the central message may be in the middle of the poem. In the Bible, there are numerous chiastic poems. The structure of Lamentations is as follows:
Chapter I. Lament over Jerusalem. 22 verses.
Chapter II. Lament of God's Heavy Hand over Jerusalem. 22 verses.
Chapter III. Lament over Jeremiah's suffering. 66 verses. FULL POST
Posted 1/1/14 at 12:01 PM | Aida and William Spencer
When it comes to aging, the youth-driven world culture seems to offer us limericks such as these:
You’re barely alive at 65,
You cease getting kicks at 66,
You’re halfway to heaven at 67,
You’re way out of date at 68,
You’re over the line at 69,
You’re coming up empty at 70,
There’s no more fun at 71,
The joys are few at 72,
They don’t recognize me at 73,
You’re out the door at 74,
You’re done with that jive at 75,
You’re always sick at 76,
But, I say,
You’ve still got plenty at 70,
Your opinion is weighty at 80,
You’re the Lord’s mighty at 90,
You’ve a bounteous head at 100,
You can do it again at 110,
You’re a horn of plenty at 120.
As I contemplate my 67th birthday, I find it difficult to turn from 66 to 67. Sixty-six, after all, is close to 65 and 65 and 66 are landmark years when one is completely eligible for social security and pension benefits and reductions for plays, trains, and other celebratory activities. But, 67, instead, looks forward to 70. At 70 one could more likely get a limiting physical disease or disability. It is not as likely as at 80, but one’s memory could go. One’s sight is definitely deteriorating, but maybe the Lord might help, as the Lord did with Ahijah, who though “his eyes were dim because of his age” still received a word from the Lord (1 Kings 14:4-5). (You can note this in the big print version.) Moses only promises we may live to 70 or perhaps 80, “if we are strong” (Ps 90:10), yet he lived until 120 and his “sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated” (Deut 34:7). But, he had been in close presence to the everlasting God! We definitely will not pass 120 since God declares that is our maximum age (Gen 6:3). FULL POST
Posted 12/21/13 at 10:43 AM | Aida and William Spencer
Can Christians do funny? Apparently, Yes.
“Silver Bells,” from Pure Flix Entertainment (www.pureflix.com/silverbells), is a movie that almost slipped by us. It did not register at our local AMC, which is normally pretty good on independent films, perhaps going direct to DVD and Walmart. But, thanks to the extensive and impressive range of our local public library, it surfaced there and gave us quite a surprise.
Bruce Boxleitner, who is a fine actor we’ve seen many times over the years, is a stand-out in the main role, but the cast as a whole turns in an excellent performance. Directing, producing, editing are all deftly done and the script is well written and delightful.
The story focuses on a competitive dad who overdoes it on the epic scale. Winning has become everything until he has all but morphed himself into a walking parable of Mark 8:36, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (TNIV) This dad is in danger of losing soul, family, job, as his competitive edge slices everybody around him. FULL POST
Posted 11/30/13 at 4:19 PM | Aida and William Spencer
Go see the film “Black Nativity” and be edified and moved. So far this movie is the Christmas movie of 2013.
Last week we were in Baltimore, Maryland for the 65th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and we were struck by the rich African-American heritage of the City. As the chief city of a border state during the USA’s Civil War whose primal section of track birthed the railway system that still crosses the USA, Baltimore was the destination of the “Underground Railroad” that carried escaping slaves to freedom. The great statesman Frederick Douglass fled here in the disguise of a sailor (claiming he never took his [non-existent] papers to sea) and Baltimore now has a national site and museum in his honor. Everywhere Baltimore’s African-American legacy is honored today, but in 1924, when the sensitive young poet, James Mercer Langston Hughes was working as a busboy in Washington, D.C., the east coast along with the rest of the nation was still oppressed by segregation and estrangement between people groups. In one of the most provocative poems about oppression in the North, “Incident,” fellow Harlem Renaissance poet, Countee Cullen described “riding in old Baltimore,” as an eight year old, “heart-filled, head-filled with glee,” but after “smiling” at another traveling child and having that smile returned with a rude gesture and a racial slur, “I saw the whole of Baltimore/From May until December/Of all the things that happened there/That’s all that I remember.” Like all of the USA, it was a city that needed reconciliation and forgiveness. FULL POST