The timeless to the timely: Applying Scriptural Truths to Today
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Aida and William Spencer

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 7/21/14 at 9:59 AM | Aida and William Spencer |

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A Personal Amount of Marijuana Burns down 2 Million Dollars’ Worth of Homes

David Le/staff photo, Salem Evening News 14 July 2014
Firefighters battle the blaze on Folger Avenue, Beverly, MA 12 July 2014

While a hopped up teen with a blow torch was lighting up what some consider Massachusetts’ favorite past time, toking marijuana, he managed to ignite several brand new houses[1] including damaging the hard-earned home of one of our school’s young Christian professors and endangering the lives of his wife and three young children. Medical use of marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts along with “personal use,” according to the police, making it all the more difficult to enforce the misuse of it. The selling point to voters was that marijuana alleviates the discomfort of cancer and Crohn’s disease. Since the present authors have survived both cancer and chronic Crohn’s disease, we know smoking marijuana not only was not necessary, it would have harmed us with its high content of tars and nicotine.[2] Rather than valid, all of the arguments for legalization appear to have been a ruse to line the pockets of those with a seared conscience. The production and selling of marijuana is big business. For example, a June 2013 report from the Office of the State Auditor in Colorado finds that only 12 physicians had certified half of the 108,000 registered patients, and one had registered more than 8,400. Dr. Ronald Dunlap, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, questioned whether doctors should be allowed to set up practices that provide access to one particular drug: “You can’t have a clinic that just gives out one substance…That is not medicine.”[3]Massachusetts has sown the wind. The home-destroying fire is an example of it reaping the whirlwind, demonstrating that marijuana breaks parents’ hearts and destroys the future of their children. The young person is being held without bail on 10 counts of arson, 13 counts of malicious destruction of property, breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony and trespassing. Proponents of marijuana claim the drug itself is only bad if it leads to something worse—but, we believe, it is bad in and of itself. For example, who would ever light a cigarette with a blow torch unless they had lost all sense of perspective? Just as it distorts one’s ability to drive, cannabis distorts all sense of proportion in other areas of judgment.[4] FULL POST

Posted 6/22/14 at 7:32 AM | Aida and William Spencer |

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Has the Presbyterian Church (USA) Departed from Jesus’ View of Marriage?

www.images.google.com
Jesus weeping over Jerusalem

 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.[1] (“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.”[2] 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.[3] FULL POST

Posted 5/1/14 at 10:39 AM | Aida and William Spencer

How Should Global Christians Respond to the Destruction of China’s Sanjiang Church?

i.telegraph.co.uk/
Sanjiang Wenzhou Church torn down, image by telegraph.co.uk

 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

A Guide for Bible Students to the Land of Israel: How is the Israel of Today Different and Similar to the Israel of Bible Times?

Israelthebeautiful.blogspot.com
Consider the "lilies of the field" (Anemone in Israel) (Luke 12:27-28)

When we enter Israel today, we can see that the Israel of our time is different from the Israel of 2000 years ago, with its cars racing along major highways while airplanes circle above. But, what about the land itself: the terrain (that is, the ground, especially with regard to its natural features), the flora (flowers, plants), and the fauna (animals)? Although hills and valleys remain in Israel as they were thousands of years ago and the species of vegetation are basically the same and many ancient animals remain, the density of the vegetation has diminished, new flora has been added, and many larger fauna have become rare or extinct.

Terrain: The Bible writers frequently describe God as “my rock, my fortress” (e.g., 2 Sam 22:2). Not only is Israel a land of many rocks, but also of high massive rocklike hills, which were used as well for fortresses. Nevertheless, the ancient Jewish historian Josephus in the first century wrote that Israel was like “a garden of God in which there grows the most precious and most beautiful trees in amazing varieties.” He adds that Judea and Samaria “have abundance of trees, and are full of autumnal fruit…[which] derive their chief moisture from rain water…all their waters are exceedingly sweet: by reason also of the excellent grass they have, their cattle yield more milk than do that of other places.” In Galilee and Perea the soil also was “universally rich and fruitful, and full of the plantations of trees of all sorts” (War III.3.2 [42-50]). Because Israel lies at the crossroads of three continents, it has the flora, fauna, and terrain of the Mediterranean, the Irano-Turanian steppeland, the African, and the Euro-Siberian regions. Closer to our times, Ammon Stapleton declares that “No country in the face of the globe, of equal area, has such great inequalities of surface…in one’s day’s travel, may be experienced the heat of the Tropics, and the cold of the Arctic regions!” Mount Hermon is 11,090 feet above while the Dead Sea is 1337 feet below sea level. “Perpetual summer and perpetual snow” may be found in Israel”[1] Plant and bird species present in Israel are far out of proportion to the size of the area. 150 plant species are found only in Israel, such as the large Iris. Over 2800 flowering plants have been classified. Over 380 different species of birds can be seen (for example, compared to 577 species throughout Europe up to the Russian border). FULL POST

Posted 3/30/14 at 3:44 PM | Aida and William Spencer

Can We Lose Our Salvation Like We Can Our Car Keys?

Mercury-Lost-Car-Key-New-York.jpg
images google

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 |

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Is God Offended When We Complain?

 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 |

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What Is the Bible’s Perspective on Aging?

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.[1]

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).[2] (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 Comedy? Check out "Silver Bells"

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 |

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See a Parable of Healing in “Black Nativity” Film

mother & son in "Black Nativity"

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

Posted 11/28/13 at 5:51 PM | Aida and William Spencer

Shinchunji Heresy Challenges Church in South Korea and Elsewhere

Manhee Lee of ShinchunjiGuest blog by Doomin ChoDoomin Cho was born in South Korea. Causing trouble as a wandering street kid, he had no purpose for life. While he was wandering with alcohol, helpless and desperate, God came into his life. Through the Psalms of David in the Bible, Doomin experienced the grace of God as David did. From this point forward, Doomin committed his life to Jesus and has been following his call into full-time ministry.[1]

The number of the Christians in South Korea is decreasing due to many reasons. The major ones are the corruption of church leaders, the wave of liberalism, the loss of functional churches, secular culture, and the growth of heresy.[2] But these days, these named failings of the global church are meeting a particular challenge in South Korea that is called “Shinchunji.”

This heresy tempts not only non-Christians but also existing Christians. Many Shinchunji members are working in orthodox churches, disguising themselves as leaders or lay people. They try to divide these churches and to bring church members into their own church. Many churches in Korea are becoming victims of Shinchunji. Its main strategy in attacking the churches is to play one against the other. Its proselytizers try to make church members doubt each other and the teachings of church. Then Shinchunji members bring those whom they have made discontented with their church to a Shinchunji Bible study. FULL POST

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