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by Billy Cox

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The next day, his son Dick called with bad news. Dad, a crew member of the USS Pennsylvania, had suffered a massive stroke and was in hospice care. And it became obvious that he had bottled up his eyewitness account of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the “day of infamy” until the very last minute. Dick hadn’t even known his father was at Pearl Harbor.

Now, suddenly, all that was left was a story on videotape, along with Schleicher’s brief explanation for his 73 years of silence: “I didn’t wanna talk about the war. I didn’t wanna have nothing to do with it.”

I can’t remember exactly how many of these folks I’d interviewed over the years, and nobody knows how few are left. When the bombs struck Pearl Harbor, anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 U.S. military personnel were in harm’s way.

John Schleicher, 97, survived the Pearl Harbor bombing because he was in church that Sunday morning. The Nokomis  resident never talked much about serving during WWII and did not even tell his son, Dick, that he had been at Pearl Harbor until a few days before 73rd anniversary of the attack.

To qualify for membership in the exclusive Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, however, veterans had to have been positioned within a 3-mile radius of the attack from 7:55 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941. The PHSA formed in 1958 and enjoyed peak membership in the 1960s, when some 20,000 were paying dues.

Today, with the youngest eligible members approximately 96 years old, PHSA survivors are now as rare as Civil War veterans in the nuclear age.

In fact, the PHSA held its last formal gathering at the USS Arizona Memorial in 2010, then officially folded in 2011. And with just seven members remaining, the San Diego chapter of the PHSA – perhaps once the nation’s largest, with 586 men – finally called it quits in September.

This weekend, the National Park Service expects to host 35 World War II survivors in Hawaii, according to a spokesperson, just 15 of whom saw the sneak attack unfold. “Only a few hundred Pearl Harbor survivors remain,” she stated in an email.

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A 7 Step Checklist for the Best Thanksgiving Ever

I actually believe Thanksgiving may be one of the most “Christian” holidays we can celebrate. As believers, we are to give thanks always—in every situation. And, we have reason to be thankful. Our God is on His throne—Jesus is alive—and we are loved with an everlasting love.

That’s enough, right?

But, let’s face it—Thanksgiving is hard for some people. They’ve lost loved ones. They are lonely. Another day off watching everyone celebrate how wonderful their life is online only makes it harder.

Others are so caught up in having the perfect meal and the perfect table setting—the house decorated just right—they get distracted with busyness and end up disappointed rather than enjoying some of the greatest blessings around them

And then there are those of us who simply take things for granted—and fail to stop and truly be thankful.

Here’s a checklist of activities, which will make your world look brighter and your holiday grander. I’m convinced. You may not be able to do all of them. I would encourage you to complete the ones you can.

Here’s a seven-step checklist for the best Thanksgiving ever:

Read Psalm 136. Slowly. Maybe even aloud. Maybe a couple times. Let the words dwell in you a while. Trust me.

Make a thankful list. I wrote about this in a previous POST, but one of the best ways to fill your heart with gratitude is to make a list of things for which you are thankful. When you reflect on the things you do have—rather than the things you don’t have—your heart grows in appreciation.

Spend time with family and friends. You may not be able to be with them in person—and that’s one of the harder parts of holidays for some—but even exchanging a text with someone you love can brighten your day. Reach out to some you haven’t heard from in a while. And if you’re mourning over someone special this year—spend some time remembering why they are special to you.

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Cheap grace, shattered witness: clergy sexual abuse among Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches sounds another alarm for us all

In our better moments of spiritual self-awareness, we Christians are forced to acknowledge our capacity for actions and ideas that shatter an individual and collective “witness” as followers of Jesus. It’s been like that from the start. Judas Iscariot betrayed him with a kiss. After declaring absolute loyalty, Simon Peter denied Jesus three times: “I never knew the man.” The brothers James and John, perhaps anticipating the Prosperity Gospel, demanded “the best seats” in the coming kingdom. In every era of its history, certain Christian individuals and institutions have compelled an “orthodoxy” from others they refused to require of themselves. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called that kind of gospel cheap grace.

In The Cost of Discipleship (1937), Bonhoeffer called us all to account, warning:

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace. . . . Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, ipso facto, a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God (emphasis mine).

I returned to Bonhoeffer’s admonition after reading a heartrending series of articles recently published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram regarding years of sexual abuse perpetrated by various “Independent Fundamentalist Baptist” ministers, individuals often protected and “moved on” by their pastoral supervisors or church constituencies.

“Underneath it all is a powerful emphasis on ministerial authority, with pastor-figures as ‘God’s anointed’ whose leadership is not to be questioned.”

After months of research, a group of Star-Telegram investigative reporters documented “at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions” based in 40 states and Canada. Their study suggests that some 168 “church leaders” were accused or convicted of sex crimes against children, with as many as 45 of them continuing in ministry after being identified. The articles detail occasions when women and children were sexually molested by pastoral figures who were then moved on to other churches or church-related ministries. The accusers, almost all females, were often ignored, doubted or blamed for enticing the men.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) movement has its origins in the 1920s and the infamous “Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy” that divided American Protestants around issues of biblical authority, creationism, “new science” and the nature of Christian orthodoxy. By the 1950s, the movement claimed some of the country’s largest congregations, many begun as “church start-ups,” others through schism with older Baptist denominations. Although asserting their autonomy as free-standing congregations, most IFB churches participate in certain loose “fellowships,” Bible colleges and evangelism programs.

“Not only did the abusing ministers betray their calling, they did so at the expense of some of their church’s most vulnerable constituency.”

IFB churches stress congregational independence, the classic “Five Points” of fundamentalism (Biblical inerrancy, Christ’s virgin birth, his sacrificial atonement, bodily resurrection and premillennial second coming), the necessity of personal conversion and strict adherence to fundamentalist doctrine and personal moral codes. Underneath it all is a powerful emphasis on ministerial authority, with pastor-figures as “God’s anointed” whose leadership is not to be questioned. As one abused female commented:

You have a system of belief where what the pastor says is true, and you cannot disagree, the deacon boards don’t disagree, you don’t go against what the pastor says because the ingrained thinking is he’s God’s man, and you don’t lift a hand against God’s anointed.

The Star-Telegram reporters conclude that many sex abuse cases were covered up because:

  • Supervising pastors enabled abusers to find other churches or church-related schools in which to work, even when they knew of accusations of abuse.
  • The accused ministers were recommended to other ministries without informing those ministries about allegations of sexual abuse. Thus, “in a culture where well-known pastors are elevated to near-godlike status, their recommendations are weighty.”
  • In certain situations, victims were pressured to remain silent since accusations could “ruin the alleged abuser’s ministry.” Or, the women were to blame. One female accuser commented to reporters: “There was a prevailing belief that it was always the girl’s fault, even a child. Because if a girl was being modest and obeying God nothing bad would happen. And boys and men were simply unable to control themselves, so it was up to the girls and women.”

The cases documented by the Star-Telegram staff sound strikingly like predatory acts committed against children by Catholic priests, many protected by church hierarchy. The crimes are heinous, made more so because the perpetrators were ministers to be trusted as caring representatives of Christ’s gospel, and because Independent Fundamentalist Baptists portrayed their churches and pastors as occupying the moral high ground, beyond the sexual immorality perpetuated by secular culture and permitted by “liberal” churches that “compromise with the world.” Many of the sexually abused Baptists testified to the rigorous moral code their churches instilled into them, an ethic preached but personally ignored by the ministers identified in the newspaper’s series.

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Germany’s Nuncio Reminds Bishops of Pope Francis’s Warning

Archbishop Nikola Eterović intervened on controversial plans for a ‘synodal path’

Interesting times just got more interesting, as the Fall plenary of the German bishops’ conference opened in Fulda, Germany, with a message from the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, which did not mince words when it came to the German bishops’ controversial plans for a “binding synodal path”, on which they are scheduled to vote this week.

The plans are controversial because they deliberately seek to put settled matters of doctrine on the table for discussion and a “binding” vote, and to address disciplinary issues directly involving the good of the whole Church in a way Vatican officials fear would sidestep the Roman oversight necessary to preserve order in the Church throughout the world.

Vatican officials have expressed the opinion that the mechanics of the German operation as currently planned are basically unsound from an ecclesiological point-of-view and afoul of Church law. They have urged the German bishops to review both the scope and the methods of their designs for a binding synodal path.

Recalling Pope Francis’s letter of June 29th to the people of God in Germany, Archbishop Eterović reminded the German bishops that the last time a reigning pontiff took it upon himself to write to the German people, it was Pius XI with his 1937 encyclical letter, Mit brennender sorge, on the Church and the German Reich, in which the pope decried the encroachments of National Socialism on the rights of the Church and the disorder the Nazi regime introduced to national affairs more generally.

“The letter of the Holy Father deserves special attention,” said Archbishop Eterovic. “It is indeed the first time since the encyclical of Pius XI, Mit brennender sorge, that the Pope dedicates a separate letter to the members of the Catholic Church in Germany,” he went on to say. “The difference between the two documents is great,” the nuncio explained, “because the encyclical of 14 March 1937 denounces the inadmissible interventions by the National Socialist regime in the affairs of the Catholic Church, while the current letter takes up issues proper to the Church.”

“We thank God that the relations between the Church and the Federal Republic of Germany are very good,” Archbishop Eterović said, “and therefore no intervention by the Holy See is necessary.” That is about as stark an admission of serious dysfunction and as blunt a warning as one will find in any dialect of curialese. That Francis felt the need to write and send the letter in the first place establishes the gravity of the situation. That the nuncio had to remind the bishops of the historical precedent for such an intervention at three months’ remove establishes the persistence of the crisis.

Archbishop Eterović repeated Pope Francis’s line to the effect that a synod — whatever it is — “is not a parliament,” and matters belonging to the common patrimony of the faith are not ever up for grabs, nor are matters touching the common weal of the Christian faithful subject to particular discussions apt to produce any sort of separate peace.

The apostolic nuncio invoked the memory of the Protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom the Nazis executed for his participation in the resistance against their evil regime. Bonhoeffer described attempts to negotiate solutions to the problems that inevitably arise from time to time when Christians live in the world without becoming conformed to it as “cheap grace”. Noting that Francis sees the current crisis in society as a call and opportunity for evangelisation, Eterović said, “[T]he evangelization demanded at this time cannot be reduced to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls ‘cheap grace’, but, in order to remain in [Christ’s] words, to which [Bonhoeffer] has attested by his heroic testimony, we must search for the ‘costly grace’.”

Eterović recalled one of Bonhoeffer’s enlargements upon the notion. “For example,” Eterović offered, “in 1937 Bonhoeffer wrote: ‘Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our Church. Our struggle today is over expensive grace’.”

In short: the threat to the Church in Germany in 2019 comes from within.

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by

Can Christians admire Ronald Reagan? Students at The King’s College, a Christian liberal arts school in New York City, live in ten residential houses named after Ronald Reagan, C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie ten Boom, Queen Elizabeth I, Margaret Thatcher, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Winston Churchill, and Clara Barton. According to the college, these figures were selected by students fifteen years ago “because they embodied certain ideals that students wanted to manifest.” But recently unearthed audio of a conversation between Reagan and President Richard Nixon has led some students to call for the Reagan House to be renamed.

In a taped phone conversation from October 1971, then-Governor Reagan told President Nixon, “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did. . . To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Reagan was incensed that the United Nations General Assembly had voted to admit the People’s Republic of China to the Assembly and to expel the Republic of China, the fledgling democracy in Taiwan.

We should be wary of a selective moral perfectionism. Should the standards now being applied to Reagan also be applied to John F. Kennedy (sexual assault), Lyndon B. Johnson (blatant racism), or Martin Luther King Jr. (plagiarism, infidelity, and possibly sexual assault)? In a word, no. The King’s College should not rename the Reagan House, just as we should not rename every MLK boulevard.

On August 14, The King’s College published a statement addressing the controversy.

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The Annual “Trunk or Treat” and Blood Drive will be today at Converge Church

He Asked to Hug the Woman Who Killed His Brother: ‘I Forgive You.’ ‘I Love You.’ ‘Give Your Life to Christ.’

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On September 6, 2018, Amber Guyer—an off-duty patrol officer in Dallas—entered the apartment of 26-year-old accountant Botham Jean. She later said she thought it was her own apartment and mistook Jean for a burglar, shooting and killing him.

One year later, on October 1, 2019, she was found guilty of murder. On October 2, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Botham Jean’s brother Brandt was allowed to give a victim-impact statement, and he addressed Amber Guyer directly.

The result was a beautiful Christian testimony—truly salt and light in a dark and twisted world.

If you truly are sorry, I can speak for myself, I forgive, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.

And I don’t think anyone can say it—again I’m speaking for myself—but I love you just like anyone else.

And I’m not gonna say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I presently want the best for you.

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by Diana Chandler, Wednesday, September 11, 2019

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. (BP) — Southern Baptist pastor Jarrid Wilson played games with his son Denham, attended his son Finch’s baseball practice and tweeted encouragement to a struggling alcoholic within hours of reportedly committing suicide late Monday (Sept. 9).

“I took this on Monday evening around 7:30 p.m. at our son’s baseball practice,” Wilson’s widow Julianne wrote in posting a video of Wilson playfully swinging Denham in his arms. “By 11:45 that night, my sweet husband was in the presence of Jesus. I love you, Jarrid.”

Wilson shot himself with a handgun and was transported to the emergency room of Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, Calif., where he was pronounced dead at 3:57 a.m. local time Tuesday (Sept. 10), the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office told Baptist Press Wednesday. Wilson was 30.

Wilson struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies, he said frequently throughout his ministry.

Wilson’s pastor Greg Laurie of mega Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside announced the death Tuesday on Twitter.

“Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not,” Laurie wrote. “At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day…. One dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross.” Harvest Christian Fellowship began cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2017.

Wilson had been a Harvest associate pastor for 18 months. He and his wife founded the nonprofit “Anthem of Hope” to help those “battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.”

“Hey friends,” Wilson wrote on the Anthem of Hope Twitter page on the day of his death, “check out this @anthemofhope phone wallpaper in honor of our #YourLifeMatters campaign.”

Five years ago, Wilson served nine months as student pastor of LifePoint Church in Smyrna, Tenn. In social media posts, his former senior pastor Pat Hood and others lamented Wilson’s death.

“Even though we only served with Jarrid a brief time, he left an impression on LifePoint Church and its people,” Hood said on Instagram. “We ask the members of LifePoint Church and friends of the Wilson family to pray for Julianne, the boys and Jarrid’s family during this time.

“It is oftentimes hard to find the words to express our sorrow in times like this,” Hood wrote, “but we are thankful that depression and suicide cannot beat those whose lives are anchored in the death and resurrection of Jesus.”

Wilson’s friend Travis Akers, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a political commentator, tweeted Tuesday that Wilson was one of the few people who knew of Akers’ battle with alcoholism.

“When I shared about it publicly to perhaps help others, he encouraged and lifted me up,” Akers wrote Tuesday. “This was his reply last night after I went public. That’s the type of person he was. He died moments later.”

Wilson had responded to Akers’ admission of alcoholism, “Proud of you man! What beautiful transparency.”

Wilson’s death coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10. After his death, many social media posts encouraged those considering suicide to get help through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Two GoFundMe pages for Wilson, one promoted as a tribute and the other as a memorial fund, had together raised more than $85,000 by 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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by Greg Laurie on Sep 10, 2019

It is with the deepest sadness and shock that I have to report that Jarrid Wilson went to be with the Lord last night.

At a time like this, there are just no words.

The Bible says, “There is a time to mourn.” This is certainly that time.

Jarrid is survived by his wife, Juli, his two sons, Finch and Denham, his mother, father, and siblings.

Jarrid loved the Lord and had a servant’s heart.

He was vibrant, positive, and was always serving and helping others.

Jarrid also repeatedly dealt with depression and was very open about his ongoing struggles.

He wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.

Tragically, Jarrid took his own life.

Jarrid joined us as an associate pastor at Harvest 18 months ago and had spoken out many times on this very issue of mental health.

Jarrid and his wife, Juli, founded an outreach to help people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts called “Anthem of Hope.”

Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not.

At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day.

Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most.

One dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross.

Romans reminds us that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39).

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