American Family Association Issues at Hand: Planned Parenthood closings; Social Media linked to Depression

American Family Association Issues at Hand:

Planned Parenthood closings; Social Media linked to Depression

Planned Parenthood closes more centers

March 2017 – The American Life League annual survey shows that in 2016, 27 Planned Parenthood locations closed. The closings were offset with eight new centers, resulting in a net loss of 19.

“They’re now down to 624 facilities across the country from a high of 938,” said ALL executive director Jim Sedlak. “So they’ve lost one-third of the facilities.”

Although figures related to services provided by the abortion giant are not yet available for 2015 and 2016, the number of services provided in the six previous years (from 2009 to 2014) decreased significantly: 63% fewer cancer screenings, 56% fewer breast exams, 70% fewer Pap smear tests, and 30% fewer abortions.

In 2016, Planned Parenthood received over $553 million of taxpayer money from the federal government.

onenewsnow, 12/28/16; lifenews.com, 12/28/16

Fastest growing churches hold to literal interpretation of the Scripture

 

March 2017 – According to a five-year study published in Review of Religious Research, an internationally respected journal, the fastest growing churches are those that hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, including teachings on heaven and hell.

“If we are talking solely about what belief system is more likely to lead to numerical growth among Protestant churches,” said David Haskell, lead researcher of the Canadian study, “the evidence suggests conservative Protestant theology is the clear winner.”

Clergy and worshippers in growing churches experienced greater participation in regular Bible reading and prayer.

Additionally, with respect to outsiders, an unwavering message with clear boundaries is a drawing factor.

theguardian.com, 11/17/16

Social media linked to depression

March 2017 –It has become cliché to see young people staring at their phones scrolling social media pages. But all that scrolling can have a negative effect on the way they see the world and themselves.

According to a 2016 study sponsored by the National Institute for Mental Health, social media can have a detrimental impact on the mental and emotional well-being of young adults.

The study polled 1,787 adults ages 19 to 32. Researchers inquired about time spent on social media, number of visits per week, and other related issues.

“It is human nature to compare ourselves to others,” said Mark Widdowson, a writer for the website Mashable. “Sometimes comparisons can be a way to inspire ourselves to improve in some way, but, more often than not – especially when someone is feeling down or is prone to depression – the comparisons become negative and erode self-esteem.”

onlinelibrary.wiley.com, 1/19/16; freeportpress.com, 5/4/16

Bible Story: God is with Israel

Dinner Topics for Friday

keyoldThis is the last day in which the great consummation of God’s purposes will be made, the only dispensation in which the Lord has promised that sin will not prevail. ~Ezra Taft Benson

elisha2Christians faced with persecution in the 19th century were reminded by their leader: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. ” ~Doctrine and Covenants 128:22; 123:17

9 And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.

10 And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.

11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel?

12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.

13 ¶And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.

14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.

15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

 elisha416 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Judeo-Christian Definition: Christianity and Biblical Morals

Dinner Topics for Monday

Month-Defining Moment

Judeo-Christian Definition: Christianity and Biblical Morals

Ju•deo-Chris•tian

Definition of Judeo-Christian: A term worth defending

By Ed Vitagliano

We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values. Most evangelicals have a Judeo-Christian worldview. Our Judeo-Christian principles are under attack.

KJV BibleWe hear the term Judeo-Christian used quite frequently, but what does it mean? Here are a few ideas to consider regarding the term as used at American Family Association.

1. It does not refer primarily to Judaism.
Judaism itself can be a term that is frequently misunderstood. Usually, it refers to the religion of the Jewish people, rooted especially in the Law of Moses and the Old Testament.

Judaism also includes the more than 6,000 pages of commentary – developed over the last 2,000 years – incorporated in the Talmud, which explains the meaning of the Law.

2. It is not a term of religious equivalency.
Most Christians rightly examine the Old Testament as a source of religious teaching that informs their faith. Paul says in Romans 15:4, “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction.” (See also 1 Corinthians 10:6.)

biblical-worldview2-christianHowever, using the term Judeo-Christian does not mean that Christianity and Judaism are viewed as equally valid faiths. The Bible is the Christian’s final authority on matters of faith, and the New Testament clearly teaches that Christianity supplanted Judaism as the revelation of God’s redemptive purposes in the earth. Hebrews 8:13 says that a New Covenant has been established through Christ, and thus God “has made the first [covenant] obsolete.”

As a result, the clarion call for this age is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – and that call goes out to both Jew and Gentile alike.

3. It is a moral term.
Since Christianity flowed out of Old Testament Judaism, there is a perceived theological kinship between the Christian and the Jew that does not exist between, say, Christian and Muslim or Christian and Hindu.

As a result Christianity and Judaism share something – what Christians call the Old Testament. Paul, for example, gives great honor to the Jews – his own people – as those who “were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2; see also Acts 7:38; Romans 9:4.)

judeo-christian1It is here that Judeo-Christian begins to come into focus, for it is the equivalent of referring to the religious and moral principles shared by both Jew and Christian.

Those principles would include monotheism, religious law such as the Ten Commandments, ideas concerning the nature of man, biblical (as opposed to pagan) morality regarding human sexuality, marriage and family, the prophetic tradition of a holy people, the state subject to God Himself, etc.

Morality, of course, is not the same as religion. By “morality” we mean how men and women ought to live before a holy and just God, and how they ought to order their lives, families, communities, etc. People of different religions can share moral views; people who agree on morality can disagree on religion.

4. It is a cultural term.
judeo-christian2-10-commandmentsThese moral principles have become more important as they have increasingly come under attack, and so the term is used more and more in the context of the culture wars.

Judeo-Christian is therefore frequently used in contrast to those ideologies that have sought to overthrow the biblical view of marriage, for example, or the sanctity of human life.

Ironically, secularists who demand that America be cleansed of its Judeo-Christian heritage are simply advocating a return to pagan – or pre-Christian – views on these important issues.

Both Jews and Christians lived under such regimes, devoid of the law of God; and neither Jew nor Christian should ever want to return to those times of spiritual darkness.

That is why the battle to preserve Judeo-Christian values must continue in America.

Bible Story: Jesus’ Teaching of Good vs. Evil

Dinner Topics for Monday

Jesus’ Teaching: Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

Bible Story: Learning about Good vs. Evil

keyoldHe answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. ~Matthew 13:37-39

wheattaresTares—The word denotes darnel grass, a poisonous weed, which, until it comes into ear, is similar in appearance to wheat. ~Bible Dictionary, 780, KJV

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-42

24 ¶Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

enemy-sowed-tares-bible-story28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.

37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

Jesusinfield40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Doctrine and Covenants 38: 12

12 Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned; and, behold, the enemy is combined.

Doctrine and Covenants 86: 1-7

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares:

2 Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed;

bible13 And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.

4 But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—

5 Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;

6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.

7 Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned.

Prophetic Meanings of “Tares”

Note: Context here for references to the word “church” are not speaking of a specific building, location, or Christian denomination. Rather, “church” is depicted in a broader sense, meaning ideas, philosophies, teachings, or doctrines, and can be either true or false.

As opposed to the way of Jesus Christ, which is love, truth, and persuasion without compulsion, Satan’s way is hate and force. The “prophet” of Islam teaches that Allah wants them to force their “religion” upon the world. “Allah” commands his worshippers to kill all those who prefer the truth to lies, and who will not accept the Islamic “religion”. Given this as their doctrine, might we reasonably surmise that “Allah” is not really God, our loving Father? If “Allah” is not Heavenly Father, who do you think “Allah” is, really?  ~ C.A. Davidson

And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. ~ Doctrine and Covenants 88:94

 

Question: What did Jesus mean when He identified “tares” as the “church of the devil?”

Dallin H. Oaks

wolfsheep2It [Tares, or “church of the devil”]must be any philosophy or organization that opposes belief in God. And the “captivity” into which this “church” seeks to bring the saints will not be so much physical confinement as the captivity of false ideas. ~Dallin H. Oaks

Book of Mormon prophecies describe the “great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil” (1 Nephi 14:17). This “church” is prophesied to have “dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (1 Nephi 14:11). Called “most abominable above all other churches,” this church is also said to act “for the praise of the world” to bring “the saints of God . . . down into captivity” (1 Nephi 13:5, 9). Since no religious denomination — Christian or non-Christian — has ever had “dominion” over all nations of the earth or the potential to bring all the saints of God down into “captivity,” this great and abominable church must be something far more pervasive and widespread than a single “church” as we understand that term today.

It must be any philosophy or organization that opposes belief in God. And the “captivity” into which this “church” seeks to bring the saints will not be so much physical confinement as the captivity of false ideas.

In the Savior’s [post-resurrection] ministry among the Nephites [in ancient America], He warned against a church that “be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil” (3 Nephi 27:11). These warnings are not limited to religious organizations. In the circumstances of our day they include a multitude of secular philosophies and activities.

Doctrine and Covenants 101:65-66

65 Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;

66 While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.

History Facts: Real Story of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Stories the Teacher is not Teaching our Children

History Facts: Real Story of Thanksgiving

key “Here’s the part that’s been omitted…”  I’ll come back with the part that is omitted from modern day textbooks for young children in the schools. ~Rush Limbaugh

plymouth-colony-AA group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community. “After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they would certainly face hardships, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from?

bible1“From the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote.

“There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims — including Bradford’s own wife — died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.” For a long time, many of them continued to live on the Mayflower. There was nowhere else to live. “When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper!

“This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives,” and teaching them to grow food and eat and all that, “rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments.” The Bible. Remember, these were religious people. They set out on a journey to a place that they had no idea of, and they just found barren wilderness.

thanksgiving1stThe very idea that they survived — even before they began to prosper, the very idea that they just survived — was what gave them pause to thank God. That was the original Thanksgiving, and that’s not taught. The original Thanksgiving is taught as, “If it weren’t for the Indians, Pilgrims would have died. The Indians saved their bacon! The Indians saved them.” It’s an understandable effort here, but that’s not what happened, is the point. “Here’s the part that’s been omitted…”  I’ll come back with the part that is omitted from modern day textbooks for young children in the schools.

RUSH: We are back with the original, the true story of Thanksgiving, as written by me See, I Told You So, Chapter 6: “Dead White Guys, What the History Books Never Told You, The True Story of Thanksgiving — “Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors…” in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community,” all 40 of them, “was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. “

Mayflower-compact-hero2-AIt was a commune. It was socialism! Because they wanted to be fair. “They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune, folks. “It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the ’60s and ’70s out in California — and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way,” in case you’d like to know. “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives,” and half the people weren’t carrying their weight, didn’t have to.

“He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage,” and they got to keep the bulk of what they produced, “thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. That’s right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! … “What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!

“But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years … the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future. ‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years,'” meaning it was tough for a long time, “‘that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing — as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote.”

Meaning: We thought we knew, but we were wrong.

“‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.'” So what happened was, the hard workers began to see a bunch of slackers. Even in the first Pilgrims, they had a bunch of slackers, and they said, “What the hell are we doing? If everybody’s getting an equal share here and half of these people aren’t working, to hell with this!” and they threw it out.

William Bradford wrote about it in the journal. “The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work,” and they were permitted to use it as they saw fit, “and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.'”

bradfordwilliamThey had surpluses. You know what they did with the surpluses? They shared them with the Indians. Capitalism, as opposed to socialism, produced abundance, the likes of which they had never experienced. They remembered the help they got when they first landed from the Indians. They shared their abundance. That’s the first Thanksgiving: A thanks to God for their safety, a thanks to God for their discovery, and a thanks to the Indians by sharing the abundance that they themselves produced after first trying what could only be called today Obamaism or Clintonism or socialism.

That, my friends, is the real story of Thanksgiving.

It’s not taught. It is not explained anywhere. The original story of Thanksgiving stops where the Indians saw these newly arrived, struggling Europeans who did not know what to do, and showed them how to plant corn and all that. Meaning the first Thanksgiving is: “If it weren’t for Indians…” So that has led us to today where Obama says the Indians are the only ones that have any real right to be offended at immigration. I try to tell this story every year on the day before Thanksgiving on the EIB Network. I do. And as I say, we’ve written an entire book for children about this featuring time travel with Rush Revere and his talking horse, Liberty, that take children back to Holland.

They make the journey with the Pilgrims across the Atlantic Ocean.

They’re there and get to know Bradford and so forth.

It’s the way we decided to teach history, by actually taking these young readers to these events and making them part of them. Kathryn and I are abundantly thankful for all of you for making our lives and the lives of our families so rich and rewarding. The true story of Thanksgiving for us is how fortunate we all are to have people like you in our lives and compromising this audience. We hope you have a great Thanksgiving with your family. We hope that it’s everything that you want it to be, hope you’re able to get there if you intend to go. But regardless, if you’re able to make it or not, we hope that your Thanksgiving gives you time to pause and give thanks for the great fortune we all have to be Americans.

Culture Wars: Church and State Issues and Illegal Immigration

Culture Wars: Church and State Issues and Illegal Immigration

 

Critical Thinking

church-state2-reaganChurch and State: Where do we draw the Line?

C .A. Davidson

The overall responsibility of our nation is to protect her citizens from foreign invasion and crimes against other citizens, and to uphold Constitutional law. We already have laws governing immigration and citizenship. For the government to dismiss immigration law in favor of any religion is unconstitutional. This is what is happening now; the Obama administration favors Muslim refugees at all costs, to the point of trampling the Constitution.

No matter what your religion, you are still subject to the laws of the land which are in place to protect civilized society. Most religions are generally peace-loving, abiding by moral laws based on the Ten Commandments. Other than Islam (and in some countries, atheism, which is also a religion), I don’t know of other religions which condone rape, murder, deceit, and the suppression of free speech.      American citizens have freedom of religion, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Churches can excommunicate a member for church-state1-madison-quoteimmoral conduct, but cannot put a person in prison. If someone commits a crime that endangers society, such as stealing or murder, it is no longer a Church issue—it becomes the jurisdiction of the State. That person is subject to the laws of the land, no matter what his religion. We have seen Christians put in prison for committing crimes. That is as it should be for Muslims as well, or for any other religion. The minute your religion violates another person’s life or property, it becomes political.

Furthermore, whereas citizens are required to abide by the law, illegal immigrants are already outside the law. The policy of Open Borders should not even be debatable, as it is inherently illegal.

In the following article, Ed Vitagliano does much to clarify the line between church and state, religion and politics.

Immigration: thinking biblically

Ed Vitagliano

bible-word-of-godAs we wrestle with such weighty matters, it is critical that Christians turn to Scripture for guidance as much as possible.

Some Christians believe the Bible is clear on these matters, citing Old Testament passages such as Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (NIV).

From the New Testament, some Christians argue that the command to love your neighbor requires America – a so-called Christian nation – to help those in need.

However, if we are concerned with “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15*), here are some things to remember:

  1. Biblical passages that address individual Christians – or the church – don’t necessarily apply to governments.
    There is no doubt that Christ commanded Christians to be generous, to care for those in need, and to love our neighbor.

However, does this apply to government programs? May Christians who have the power to vote – as do those in the West – use that power to bring the government into the equation? Absolutely.

welfare-government-charity-madisonHowever, must Christians vote to do so? And if Christians do vote to do so, how much government activity should we demand? How much tax money should be allocated? What sort of programs must we call for? Food stamps only? Job training programs? Is there ever a time when someone should cease getting aid?

These questions are vexing, but here’s the problem: At this point the Bible ceases to be a guide.

Instead, at this point it becomes a matter of sound judgment, not biblical injunction. Christians, like everyone else, make their case in the public square and attempt to persuade others to join them.

Here is the principle: Biblically speaking, the government is not the same as the individual Christian, and it is not the same as the church. Therefore, believers must be careful not to apply to government Scriptures intended for the church.

For example, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).

ImmigrationCriminalsSo, we must conclude that individual Christians are to forgive their enemies. But must we also conclude that governments should forgive their enemies? Must we demand that criminals convicted of crimes be released and not sent to prison?

The application of this principle is that individual Christians should help refugees who are in our nation. But the issue of who we allow in – and how many – is not a biblical matter. It is a political matter.

  1. Understanding the proper biblical function of government is critical to this debate.
    Many Christians fail to understand the purpose of government in a fallen world, and they act as if the matter is irrelevant to Christians focused on the eternal kingdom. But God has ordained government to serve His purposes on the earth as surely as He has ordained the church to carry out its assigned role.

Romans 13 makes plain the fact that governments derive their authority from God and are considered ministers or servants of Yahweh (vv. 1, 4). They help order human existence, represent the authority of God Himself, restrain evil, and reward good.

Therefore one must assume that a government has both the right and the responsibility before God to maintain order. Surely that would include providing for national borders – which might require restricting immigration and the flow of refugees across them.

More than Platitudes

trojan-horse-isisU.S. ever seem to wrestle with this matter. Invariably their responses are: “Yes, of course, the government should establish secure borders and enforce laws, but ….”

Such a proclamation is not helpful. In fact, it does not wrestle with the subtleties of the issue at all. A viable resolution requires more than platitudes.

We need these questions answered: Should a government allow every refugee who wants to enter the country to do so? No? Then exactly how should a government decide who and how many?

If a Christian insists that “love your neighbor” requires us (as a country) to accept, say, more Syrian refugees, then that Christian cannot restrict the refugee process at all. The moment a Christian says a government can be loving and restrict the refugee process, the Christian has then admitted that the political process must take place. In other words, the government must be allowed to do its job.

But if it does its job and restricts the refugee process, that Christian cannot argue that the country is no longer being loving. Why? Because the Bible does not quantify how many refugees a country must allow. Once again, that is a matter of sound judgment, rather than a biblical command.

  1. Old Testament passages dealing with immigration, refugees, or foreigners in Israel do not apply to our current political debates.
    It is clear that Old Testament passages (e.g., Leviticus 19:34) required God’s people to love and treat respectfully non-Jews who were living among them or passing through.

However, such verses merely assume that certain people would fall into those categories because transient peoples were common in the ancient world. Virtually all societies, and especially those in that part of the world – in the middle of major trade routes – were quite used to seeing trade caravans passing through and foreigners who stayed for a few months conducting business.

These biblical references instruct God’s people to treat lovingly those who were already passing through. The more likely parallel would be: How should Christians today treat legal immigrants who are in our midst?

  1. Passages that apply to Israel do not always apply to other nations like the U.S.
    It is probably safe to assume that Leviticus 19:34 requires Christians not only to help the foreigners already in their midst, but also to press their government to do likewise.

israel_flagSometimes the moral force behind a commandment given to Israel is universal in its application. But this is not always the case. Great care should be exercised when attempting to stretch a passage that might apply only to Israel and make it universally binding.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a classic example of a promise made to Israel that evangelicals often stretch to apply to America – or some other nation.

There are certainly principles in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that should encourage American Christians to repent and pray and seek revival for their land. But it is not a covenant promise from God. He has not obligated Himself to save America as He obligated Himself to respond to the prayers of His people in the Old Testament.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Vitagliano on this particular point. America is a choice land, with a Constitution created by men raised up by God for that purpose. References to Zion may even include America. Isaiah prophesied for all time, especially for our time. He said, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3) God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He keeps His promises; He favors the righteous, but not any particular race. He has already blessed America greatly because of our Judeo-Christian culture. Why wouldn’t He honor, even empower, our efforts for a revival? ~C.D.

As the immigration debate demonstrates, there is nothing simple about trying to interpret the Bible in the often overheated atmosphere of the culture wars of 2015. If we are to sort out the implications of such issues, it will require that all of us in the body of Christ jump into the debate.

The worst thing we can do is to accuse our brothers and sisters of disobeying Christ or not loving their neighbors when we disagree. Unity in the body of Christ is imperative if we are to be the light He commands us to be.

*Unless otherwise noted, the New American Standard Version is used throughout this article.

Gospel Teachings: Parable of the Sower

Dinner Talk Topics for Monday

Gospel Teachings: Parable of the Sower

By Dallin H. Oaks

 

keyIt is up to each of us to set the priorities and to do the things that make our soil good and our harvest plentiful.

parableofsowerThe parable of the sower is one of a small number of parables reported in all three of the synoptic Gospels. It is also one of an even smaller group of parables Jesus explained to His disciples. The seed that was sown was “the word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19), “the word” (Mark 4:14), or “the word of God” (Luke 8:11)—the teachings of the Master and His servants.

The different soils on which the seeds fell represent different ways in which mortals receive and follow these teachings. Thus the seeds that “fell by the way side” (Mark 4:4) have not reached mortal soil where they might possibly grow. They are like teachings that fall upon a heart hardened or unprepared. I will say nothing more of these. My message concerns those of us who have committed to be followers of Christ. What do we do with the Savior’s teachings as we live our lives?

The parable of the sower warns us of circumstances and attitudes that can keep anyone who has received the seed of the gospel message from bringing forth a goodly harvest.

I. Stony Ground, No Root

parable-sower6Some seed “fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away” (Mark 4:5–6).

Jesus explained that this describes those “who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness,” but because they “have no root in themselves, … when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16–17).

What causes hearers to “have no root in themselves”? This is the circumstance of new members who are merely converted to the missionaries or to the many attractive characteristics of the Church or to the many great fruits of Church membership. Not being rooted in the word, they can be scorched and wither away when opposition arises. But even those raised in the Church—long-term members—can slip into a condition where they have no root in themselves. I have known some of these—members without firm and lasting conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are not rooted in the teachings of the gospel and regular in its practices, any one of us can develop a stony heart, which is stony ground for spiritual seeds.

Spiritual food is necessary for spiritual survival, especially in a world that is moving away from belief in God and the absolutes of right and wrong. In an age dominated by the Internet, which magnifies messages that menace faith, we must increase our exposure to spiritual truth in order to strengthen our faith and stay rooted in the gospel.

Young people, if that teaching seems too general, here is a specific example. If the emblems of the sacrament are being passed and you are texting or whispering or playing video games or doing anything else to deny yourself essential spiritual food, you are severing your spiritual roots and moving yourself toward stony ground. You are making yourself vulnerable to withering away when you encounter tribulation like isolation, intimidation, or ridicule. And that applies to adults also.

II. Thorns: The Cares of This World and the Deceitfulness of Riches

parable-sower5 Jesus taught that “some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit” (Mark 4:7). He explained that these are “such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19). This is surely a warning to be heeded by all of us.

I will speak first of the deceitfulness of riches. Wherever we are in our spiritual journey—whatever our state of conversion—we are all tempted by this. When attitudes or priorities are fixed on the acquisition, use, or possession of property, we call that materialism. So much has been said and written about materialism that little needs to be added here.2 Those who believe in what has been called the theology of prosperity are suffering from the deceitfulness of riches. The possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor. When Jesus told a faithful follower that he could inherit eternal life if he would only give all that he had to the poor (see Mark 10:17–24), He was not identifying an evil in the possession of riches but an evil in that follower’s attitude toward them. As we are all aware, Jesus praised the good Samaritan, who used the same coinage to serve his fellowman that Judas used to betray his Savior. The root of all evil is not money but the love of money (see 1 Timothy 6:10).

The Book of Mormon tells of a time when the Church of God “began to fail in its progress” (Alma 4:10) because “the people of the church began to … set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world” (Alma 4:8). Whoever has an abundance of material things is in jeopardy of being spiritually “sedated” by riches and other things of the world.3 That is a suitable introduction to the next of the Savior’s teachings.

parable-sower1The most subtle thorns to choke out the effect of the gospel word in our lives are the worldly forces that Jesus called the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). These are too numerous to recite. Some examples will suffice.

On one occasion Jesus rebuked His chief Apostle, saying to Peter, “Thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23; see also D&C 3:6–7; 58:39). Savoring the things of men means putting the cares of this world ahead of the things of God in our actions, our priorities, and our thinking.

We surrender to the “pleasures of this life” (1) when we are addicted, which impairs God’s precious gift of agency; (2) when we are beguiled by trivial distractions, which draw us away from things of eternal importance; and (3) when we have an entitlement mentality, which impairs the personal growth necessary to qualify us for our eternal destiny.

parable-sower4We are overcome by the “cares … of this life” when we are paralyzed by fear of the future, which hinders our going forward in faith, trusting in God and His promises. Twenty-five years ago my esteemed BYU teacher Hugh W. Nibley spoke of the dangers of surrendering to the cares of the world. He was asked in an interview whether world conditions and our duty to spread the gospel made it desirable to seek some way to “be accommodating of the world in what we do in the Church.”4

quote-oaks-sowerHis reply: “That’s been the whole story of the Church, hasn’t it? You have to be willing to offend here, you have to be willing to take the risk. That’s where the faith comes in. … Our commitment is supposed to be a test, it’s supposed to be hard, it’s supposed to be impractical in the terms of this world.”5

This gospel priority was affirmed on the BYU campus just a few months ago by an esteemed Catholic leader, Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia. Speaking of “concerns that the LDS and Catholic communities share,” such as “about marriage and family, the nature of our sexuality, the sanctity of human life, and the urgency of religious liberty,” he said this:

“I want to stress again the importance of really living what we claim to believe. That needs to be a priority—not just in our personal and family lives but in our churches, our political choices, our business dealings, our treatment of the poor; in other words, in everything we do.”

“Here’s why that’s important,” he continued. “Learn from the Catholic experience. We Catholics believe that our vocation is to be leaven in society. But there’s a fine line between being leaven in society, and being digested by society.”6

The Savior’s warning against having the cares of this world choke out the word of God in our lives surely challenges us to keep our priorities fixed—our hearts set—on the commandments of God and the leadership of His Church.

parable-sower2The Savior’s examples could cause us to think of this parable as the parable of the soils. The suitability of the soil depends upon the heart of each one of us who is exposed to the gospel seed. In susceptibility to spiritual teachings, some hearts are hardened and unprepared, some hearts are stony from disuse, and some hearts are set upon the things of the world.

III. Fell into Good Ground and Brought Forth Fruit

parable-harvest-wheatThe parable of the sower ends with the Savior’s description of the seed that “fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit” in various measures (Matthew 13:8). How can we prepare ourselves to be that good ground and to have that good harvest?

parable-sower3Jesus explained that “the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). We have the seed of the gospel word. It is up to each of us to set the priorities and to do the things that make our soil good and our harvest plentiful. We must seek to be firmly rooted and converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Colossians 2:6–7). We achieve this conversion by praying, by scripture reading, by serving, and by regularly partaking of the sacrament to always have His Spirit to be with us. We must also seek that mighty change of heart (see Alma 5:12–14) that replaces evil desires and selfish concerns with the love of God and the desire to serve Him and His children.

I testify of the truth of these things, and I testify of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose teachings point the way and whose Atonement makes it all possible.