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It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.  Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.  At the end, all his disciples deserted him.  On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.  For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.  So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.  There is his commission, his work.  “The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.  And he who will not suffer this does not want to be in the Kingdom of Christ;  he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.  Oh you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would ever be spared?” (Luther)  (Life Together, p. 17)

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.” 

― Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

One person can make a difference

SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 

Dear Editor,

I believe one person can make a difference. Here are some examples from history where one person made a difference: In America, Rev Dr Martin Luther King; in South Africa, Nelson Mandela; in Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer; in India, Gandhi and Mother Theresa; and in Israel, King David made a difference. Yes, one person can make a difference.

In Guyana, I believe one of the people who can make a difference is GHK Lall. I know what some of you readers are thinking ‒ who is GHK Lall? It’s a fact that most Guyanese don’t know him. The truth is though that most great leaders aren’t known before they become famous.

For example, when Dr King was chosen to lead the Civil Rights movement, he was only 26-years-old, and most people didn’t know him. King David was just a teenager working as shepherd when he was called to lead Israel and most people didn’t know him.

Who is GHK Lall?

For the rest of the article…

by Charles Donovan | Washington, DC | | 9/26/13 10:55 AM

On January 1, 2014 state health exchanges, or the federal or “partnership” versions that will operate in their stead in a narrow majority of states, are required by law to be up and running.

By October 1, 2013 consumers are supposed to be able to begin researching and comparing insurance options in these exchanges.  Delays in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act are evident in nearly all areas of the law, including a feature called “multi-state plans” (MSPs) that are designed to be phased in over a four-year period for every state in the Union.

Despite provisions of law including the Hyde Amendment governing appropriations for abortion; the Hyde-Weldon amendment barring discrimination against physicians, insurers, institutional providers and others with respect to their policies regarding providing, referring or paying for abortion; and the language governing the MSPs themselves, the Obama Administration and abortion funding advocates seem bent on pursuing numerous avenues for the ACA, and MSPs in particular, to make public abortion subsidies available to tens of thousands of girls and women of childbearing age.

Here is how.

Multi-state health plans were created under Section 1334 of the Affordable Care Act.[1]  The law provides for a minimum of two such plans in each state, one of which must be a nonprofit plan.  The MSPs were a late substitute for the idea of a public option, a fully government-run plan that would have competed with – and, many advocates hoped, eventually supplanted – privately sponsored plans.  Instead, the MSPs will be offered by heavily regulated private sector insurers operating under contracts these insurers directly sign with OPM.  “Multi-state” is another word for “national” and the degree of regulation of plan content, control of medical-loss ratios, and other factors ensure that these plans will operate more like regulated utilities than truly private insurance.

Beginning in 2014, the MSPs are to be phased in over a four-year period.  The ACA requires approved plans to be available in at least 60 percent of the states in the first year (30 states), 70 percent in the second year (35 states), 85 percent in the third year (presumably 43 states), and 100 percent in the fourth year (2017).  One core rationale for these plans is to increase “competition” in the state exchanges, a goal in dramatic tension with the concept of heavily regulated plans, which by their heft and complexity are likely to be offered by only a handful of the largest health insurance companies in the country.  In order to aid this regulated competition, the MSPs will have to offer price advantages that may well flow from the fact that their administrative (including promotional) costs will be borne by the taxpayer through the Office of Personnel Management.  Both the companies and the Obama Administration have incentives to maximize participation in these plans.

What these advantaged plans will do with respect to abortion coverage is not yet fully clear.  However, Section 1334(a)(6) of the ACA states that:

In entering into contracts under this subsection, the Director [of OPM] shall ensure that with respect to multi-State qualified health plans offered in an Exchange, there is at least one such plan that does not provide coverage of services described in section 1303(b)(1)(B)(i). (Emphasis added).

The cited section refers to the ACA’s description of the Hyde Amendment regarding abortions that may be covered:  those for reasons of rape and incest and a narrow set of conditions regarding physical threat to the life of the mother.

The ACA also included a provision, Section 1303(a)(1), making clear that state legislatures, some of which already had laws in place barring every health insurer in the state from offering abortion in any plans marketed and sold there, could adopt new opt-out legislation barring plans that cover elective abortions from participation in their state’s exchanges.  Five states adopted this exchange abortion limit in 2010, and since then the number of states doing so has grown to 23.  Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia currently have no such limitation.

On March 1 of this year, the Office of Personnel Management issued its final rule on the MSPs, acknowledging that a decision by a state to exclude abortion-covering plans from its exchange will apply to any and all MSPs offered in that particular state.  Section 800.602(b) of the rule, titled “State Opt-Out,” simply says, “An MSP may not offer abortion coverage in any State where such coverage of abortion services is prohibited by State law.”[2]  That states can block all qualified insurers, including MSPs, from their exchanges if they cover elective (non-Hyde) abortions is clear.  But a strong case can be made that Section 1303(b)(1)(B)(1)’s reference to excluding abortion coverage can be read, in conjunction with other provisions of federal health law, to forestall the Obama Administration from seeking to compel any private insurance company to include elective abortion in its MSP.

For the rest of the article…

by Chad Bird

From Hitler’s Wolves to Christ’s Lambs

They walked to the gallows together, pastor and penitent. Each step up took them closer to the fall—the abbreviated, fatal fall to come. As the criminal stood above the trapdoor that, moments later, would open to rope him into eternity, an officer asked him if he had any final words. “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins,” he said. “May God have mercy on my soul.”

Then, turning toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul during his incarceration—the man who had been his confessor, his preacher, and the one from whose hand he had received the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, he said, “I’ll see you again.” Then noosed, hooded in black, and legs tied, he dropped out of this world into another.

Shepherd Among Hitler’s Wolves

No doubt many condemned men throughout history have found repentance and faith when certain death looms nigh. What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with many others hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history, guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them. These were Hitler’s men. His closest confidants. His very own pack of wolves.

Yet in the months leading up to their executions or imprisonments, many of them had been transformed from Hitler’s wolves into Christ’s lambs thanks to the ministry of a former farm boy from Missouri. This pastor reluctantly agreed to be the chaplain of the 15 Protestant war criminals during the Nuremberg trials at the close of World War II.

Henry Gerecke was in his early 50s when he went, cell by cell, to introduce himself to his infamous “congregation” and to invite them to chapel services. Some refused, others wavered, and still others promised to be there. Of the 15 chairs set up for the first service, 13 of them were filled. Scriptures were read, sermons preached, hymns sung, prayers offered. And, through it all, hearts were changed.

Soon some of the very lips that had once barked, “Heil Hitler!” spoke a repentance-confessing, faith-affirming “Amen!” as they knelt to eat and drink the body and blood of their forgiving Lord. They expressed a desire for their children to be baptized. One of them, though he began reading the Bible to find justification for his unbelief, ended up being led to faith by the same divine words.

So reliant did these men become upon their pastor that, when a rumor surfaced that he might be relieved of his duty and allowed to return home, they wrote a letter to Mrs. Gerecke, begging her to ask him to stay. On that letter were the signatures of all these former Nazis, men who had enjoyed power and rank, now humbly beseeching a housewife in America, who had not seen her husband for two and a half years, to let him stay. In her brief reply, “They need you,” is packed a whole volume about sacrifice and love.

True Scandal

Pastor Gerecke’s story has already been told (see links below), but it deserves to be retold, again and again, to every generation, for two important reasons. The first has to do with the men to whom he ministered, the ones who repented and believed in Christ. The scandal of Christianity is not that these men went to heaven; it is that God loved them so much that he was willing to die to get them there. Had it been a human decision, many would have thrown these men, guilty of such atrocities, into the flames of hell.

But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie. They are condemned because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross and earned a place for them in heaven. There is no one so vile that he is beyond redemption.

Another reason Pastor Gerecke’s story needs to be remembered involves his vocation and those who share it. What pastor, knowing he was about to visit men such as these, would not have struggled to find any hope in their possible repentance? But Gerecke visited each cell anyway, invited each man to hear the Word, and left it to the Spirit to do the work of making new creations of these hardened criminals.

Faithful Servant

Gerecke did not mince words, surrender his convictions, or water down the truth for them. On the evening before he was to be hanged, one of the men, Hermann Goering, asked to receive communion, just in case he was wrong and there was some truth to the Christian claims. But Gerecke refused to give communion to one who so obstinately refused repentance and treated the Lord’s Supper as if it were an edible, just-in-case, insurance policy.

When Christ calls men into the office of the holy ministry, he calls them to be faithful—not successful, not popular, not practical, not winsome, not cool, but faithful. They are to preach even when they doubt it will bear fruit. They are to give the Word of Christ to sinners and let the Christ of that Word do his work. And he does. He convicts, he calls, he saves, he baptizes, he feeds, and, finally, he welcomes us into his kingdom with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In 1961, at the age of 68, Pastor Gerecke passed from this life into the next. He entered that innumerable company of saints who had gone before him, some of whom had been among his flock during his years of ministry, one of whom, atop the gallows, had promised, “I’ll see you again.” And he did.

For the rest of the post…

Only the obedient believe. If we are to believe, we must obey a concrete command. Without this preliminary step of obedience, our faith will only be pious humbug, and lead us to the grace which is not costly. Everything depends on the first step. It has a unique quality of its own. The first step of obedience makes Peter leave his nets, and later gets out of the ship; it calls upon the young man to leave his riches. Only this new existence, created through obedience, can make possible faith possible. 

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 70.

Discipleship without Jesus Christ is a way of our own choosing. It may the ideal way. It may even lead to martyrdom, but it is devoid of all promises. Jesus will certainly reject it. 

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 64.

With an abstract idea it is possible to enter into a relation of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even to put it into practice; but it can never be followed in personal obedience. Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity with Christ. 

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 63-64.

Library, MacMurray team up to take on cinematic war

Film at war

Film at war

Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013 6:00 am


The Jacksonville Public Library and MacMurray College are co-sponsoring a film festival that will include viewings and discussions about significant movies.

The Humanities Film Series kicks off its inaugural year with “Perspectives on War,” screenings of four seminal war films and discussion periods hosted by MacMurray faculty and the director of the public library.

The events, which will run 6-9 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, are free and open to the public and will be held in the basement meeting room of the Jacksonville Public Library.

“These films reveal the human condition, particularly in relation to the experience and effect of war,” said Chris Strangeman, assistant professor of history at MacMurray, who organized the series. “The series will give people in the area a chance to screen superb films and discuss them with others in the community who are interested in film.”

The four films are:

• Oct. 10: “Gallipoli” – Set in the failure of the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War I, this movie depicts the loss of innocence and the coming of age of the Australian soldiers and of their country. It was an early lead role for actor Mel Gibson. Discussion led by Strangeman.

Nov. 14: “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace” – Portrays the extraordinary courage of Dietich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who resisted the Nazi extermination of the Jews and was involved in a plot to kill Hitler, for which he was hung. Discussion led by Eric Berg, MacMurray associate professor of philosophy and religion

For the rest of the article…

From the website for Blackaby Ministries:

The Blackaby family would like everyone to know that Henry has been found and is safe. His health concerns are being addressed and we will keep everyone posted with the news. We wish to express to everyone our appreciation and gratitude for the prayers and concern over the last 29 hours. Henry has taught us that we can experience God in the good and the bad times. We thank God that we have experienced his grace, peace, and faithfulness in these times.

September 2013


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