Helen Louise Herndon

Social Media and Christian Behavior

If we disagree with someone often, we can simply delete or not read their messages.  That is not the same as completely shutting them out or cutting them off.  They are our family, Christ’s family.  How can we even contemplate such unkind, thoughtless, and rude treatment of one Christ loved and died for as He has for us?

Today, Christians deal with many challenges never imagined by those believers who lived in the past.  For one, there are many ideologies infiltrating churches that undermine biblical principles and teachings.  Yet they are somewhat subtle and sentimentally popular in the world that they receive a fair share of sympathy and acceptance by Christians who have not quite or yet conquered biblical apologetics that reveal the falsehoods inherent in them.
However, and most unfortunately, there is another challenge that might be as equal in detriment to Christian testimony related to love and unity to that of false ideologies.  That challenge is social media.  Social media includes the proliferation of Facebook, blogs, e-mail, and more.  They also involve interactions, discussions, and debates.  Just as society has been affected by a coarseness and rudeness in interrelations, so social media has also been greatly affected.  The world around us is less friendly and tolerant of disagreements.  And some of the reactions and responses represent coarseness and rudeness that involve name calling, vulgar language, malice, sarcasm, and even viciousness.  But a more subtle reaction is to block, unfriend, or reject any communications from one another.
I can’t say I’ve seen any Christian respond with vulgar language, malice or viciousness, but I’ve seen and even experienced being blocked, unfriended, or all communications being rejected.  What does this say about Christians who completely cut off other Christians from any communications?  It is impossible to see any of these as positive responses to Christ’s command, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Such actions are done abruptly to some without any explanation.  Was there something said or done that caused such a reaction?  If so, wouldn’t it be more in keeping with God’s Word to communicate any such concern that caused one to react in such a radical manner to cut off all communication with another believer?  Wouldn’t that allow for perhaps an apology, a change of heart, repentance, and reconciliation?  Was some unforgivable offense committed?  If this is the case, do we remember how much we have been forgiven by our heavenly Father through Christ?  Can we recognize that completely cutting off communication with another believer is indicative of some terrible offense?  The question is in such a case, which is the greater offense and who is the true offender?  Could the greater offense and real offender be the one who fails to love another Christian as Christ commanded us to love them?
I recently read where some Africans questioned African Christians why they should become Christians when they didn’t treat other African Christians Christianly?  It caught my attention, as it goes beyond Africa.  Blocking, unfriending, and cutting people off abruptly and completely is happening among American Christians.  What a poor testimony to the world!
Remember the song, “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love?”  How we treat one another is revealing to the world around us.  The Apostle Peter clearly states what we should be known for:
“Since you have purified your souls in obedience to the truth fora sincere love of the brothers and sisters, fervently love oneanother from the heart, for you have been born again not ofseed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, throughhe living and enduring word of God.”  1 Peter 1: 22-23
Cutting people off or shutting them out contradictorily relates to “fervently love one another from the heart.”
In another passage, Jesus states: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return . . .”  How can one love one’s enemies when one fails to love fellow believers by cutting off any and all communication?
As Christians, our standards come from above and not from social media or the world.  There is never a need to completely block, unfriend, or reject communications from another believer, even if we cannot totally agree with them.  We must also resist any possible envy of the well-acceptance of believers to others we might not experience.  If we disagree with someone often, we can simply delete or not read their messages.  That is not the same as completely shutting them out or cutting them off.  They are our family, Christ’s family.  How can we even contemplate such unkind, thoughtless, and rude treatment of one Christ loved and died for as He has for us?
Perhaps it’s necessary to address pastors who receive communications from their congregants.  Do you remain open to all in your flock?  Hopefully, you do.  They need to know you care about them as their shepherd.  Even Judas was not cut off or shut out by Jesus.  What a lesson for all shepherds.
We’re living in a different world today from yesterday.  As Christians, our home is elsewhere, and we are just passing through.  The laws of God are higher than the laws of the lands and societies we pass through.  To the natural heart, mind, and spirit, it’s impossible to keep those higher laws.  But God the Holy Spirit is here with us in our trekking through social difficulties.  He fills us with the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience. kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control . . .” (Galatians 5: 22,23) Possessing His fruit is what enables us to never give up on one another and to “fervently love one another from the heart.”
Let’s obey Christ’s second great commandment to love one another as He has loved us and never allow social media to affect or diminish our Christian behavior either technically or spiritually.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.
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Personal Thoughts as June 2022 Closes: A Lamentation

To begin with the month of June was marked by a month-long celebration of two deadly sins, according to God’s divine revelation:  pride and sexual immorality.  For one, rainbow flags were flown everywhere—especially at the White House.  They were also flown with the American flag at many of our embassies in far off places. Such flags celebrate and flaunt diverse sexual acts and relationships God has clearly communicated to be evil.  The most evident one relates to homosexual acts and relationships. 

June 2022 closes and ends today.  Weather-wise, it was a mixture of exceptionally high temperatures accompanied by milder temperatures.  Precipitation-wise, it was normal.  At least, these facts relate to where I live.  Climate-wise, this is just a short recap.
Definition-wise, climate primarily refers specifically to weather conditions.  It’s the science of Meteorology.  However, there is a third definition given that communicates climate also refers to “the prevailing attitudes, standards, or environmental conditions of a group, period, or place.”  It’s the condition of a culture.  These thoughts relate to the latter definition.
June 2022 was sadly and lamentably a month clearly revealing this nation’s, this society’s low ebb in moral integrity and steep decline in righteousness.  Such a decline, of course, relates to a spiritual climate defined as “a headlong fall or rush.”  In this regard it was as precipitous as rainfall.
To begin with the month of June was marked by a month-long celebration of two deadly sins, according to God’s divine revelation:  pride and sexual immorality.  For one, rainbow flags were flown everywhere—especially at the White House.  They were also flown with the American flag at many of our embassies in far off places. Such flags celebrate and flaunt diverse sexual acts and relationships God has clearly communicated to be evil.  The most evident one relates to homosexual acts and relationships.  God created and gave the rainbow as a covenant reminder of his past condemnation of his earthly creation due to horrendous sin and rebellion and promise to never again use water to destroy the entire earth.  It is ironic and blasphemous to use it to celebrate sinfulness.  All month long, the media forced us to be witnesses to such open and unabashed flaunting of a sinful nature and practices he named as “shameful, indecent, abominable, detestable, unnatural.”  To be proud of a sinful sexual orientation or acts has to be unimaginable to say the least.  Just think, no one boasts of pride in a natural sexual orientation or acts.  One’s primary identity is not based on one physical or emotional area of life.
Some might prefer to remember June 2022 with its 24th day in which the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, wherein abortion policies were returned to the states.  Yes, that was a historic day and a positive ruling.  However, the outpouring of protests against the decision hyped by the media over a lengthy period of time has diminished to some degree the joy expressed believing more babies would be allowed to be born and to live.  The culture of death is ironically very alive and well. Isn’t that a strange paradox?  In fact, one state even seeks to legalize infanticide up to so many days following birth. It’s disheartening to see so many in favor of killing the most innocent and vulnerable among us.  The methods of destroying the unborn, the about-to-be born, the partially-born, and the just-born match, if not exceed, methods the Nazis used in the mass murder of millions.  How can anyone approve of poisoning, burning, cracking open the skull and sucking out the brain, or the dismemberment of these tiny, precious souls?  Additionally, some churches and pro-life organizations have been attacked and vandalized.
June of 2022 revealed something about us as a nation and a society.  It revealed we have as a culture returned to the paganism of the ancient empires of Greece and Rome.  In fact, we may have exceeded them in sacrificing innocent human beings and flaunting sexual immoralities.  Yes, this latter is plural because it doesn’t relate only or solely to deviant lifestyles and practices, but also to heterosexual immoralities.
For Christians, these are indications of grave rebellions against a holy, just and righteous God.  There are, nonetheless, others including Jews, Muslims, other religions, and even non-religious people who sense we have seriously lost our way.
Was June 2022 sadly and lamentably a month clearly revealing this nation’s, this society’s low ebb in moral integrity and steep decline in righteousness?  If there is agreement to this perception—even if partially—perhaps there is something we could do to July to manifest our great sadness and lament.  Let’s make July 2022 the opposite of a month of Pride by making it a month of Humility.  Let’s call it such and let’s practice it as such by confessing our sorrow and lament for the condition of our nation and society.  Godlessness and indecency have taken over our culture.
The Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, was called “the weeping prophet.”  He wrote a book called Lamentations.  We can reiterate Jeremiah’s words:
This I recall to my mind; therefore, have I hope. It is of Jehovah’slovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassionsfail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. . . Let ussearch and try our ways and turn again to Jehovah. Let us lift up our heartwith our hands unto God in the heavens. Lamentations 3: 21-23, 40-41
As we bid farewell to June 2022, let’s respond to July’s opening door with its emphasis on Independence by complementing it with an emphasis on Dependence, that is, dependence on a gracious God to forgive and spare us and inter-dependence on one another to stand for humble godliness and decency.  It will take prayers and vocal speaking the truth in love to make a difference—not anger or hate.
America deserves men and women who care for her soul and who promote genuine justice and righteousness.  The vehicle to those blessings for all is a spirit of humility.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa..
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Homosexuals: Who Really Loves Whom the More?

When it comes to “who really loves homosexuals and lesbians more?” the only answer is those who also love the divine revelation of God and are willing to speak the truth in love to their homosexual and lesbian family members and friends. 

With a month of national promotion, embracing and engaging in “Pride Month,” it’s an opportune time to ask the question: “Who really loves whom more with regard to homosexuals and lesbians?”  Do those who approve of sexual lifestyles and sexual acts that God’s divine revelation reveal as immoral, sinful, and clearly against God’s will love them more than those who abide by and accept the biblical admonitions and principles?
The question, of course, relates to relationships, doesn’t it?  What is one of the most prominent pieces of evidence of love toward another?  It may help to examine other human relationships.
Let’s begin with the family and parents and children.  Which parents genuinely love their children more?  Is it the parents who dote upon their children, who fail to train them in moral principles related to others, who never discipline their children, and who only praise them and give them their every wish?  Or is it the parents who lovingly teach their children moral principles to build character for their future, who provide for their genuine needs but not every want or wish, who praise their children in moderation as opposed to lavishly, and who discipline them when they lie, steal, disrespect others, and more because they want them to grow up to be decent adults?  Wouldn’t we choose the latter parents as those who love more than the former parents?
Let’s consider friendships.  Which friends love their friends more?  Is it the friends who never offer opposing and wise counsel to a friend who may be making a wrong decision, or is it the friends who are willing to speak the truth in love?  For instance, your Christian friend has decided to move in with a romantic partner before marriage.  Isn’t it the friend who counsels such a move does not please God because sexual relationships are only righteous within marriage?  Isn’t that speaking the truth in love?  Or consider if your friend confides he or she has become sexually involved with someone other than his or her spouse and plans to divorce their spouse in order to be with another.  Wouldn’t a genuine friend lovingly and truthfully counsel to seek marriage counsel and forgiveness from one’s spouse and remain true to one’s marriage vows?
Lastly, let’s consider church relationships.  Which churches love believers more?  Is it the churches that no longer believe the Scriptures to be God’s holy and divine revelation and have decided some parts of the Scriptures no longer apply to modern-day believers?  Or is it the churches that remain faithful and true to what they believe are eternal truths God has privileged both Jews and Gentiles to know?  Isn’t the latter more evident?
These are just a few examples of the complexity related to genuine love.  Genuine love does not exclude resistance to that which is immoral or biblically unwise.
Facing a month of pride related to acts and relationships God has clearly revealed to be seriously against His will and are actually abhorred by Him is a challenge to believers who love others but love God more.
Here is a passage of Scripture that we all do well to consider and embrace, “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar. . .”  (Romans 3: 4). The King James Version of this verse perhaps states this most powerfully.  When it comes to “who really loves homosexuals and lesbians more?” the only answer is those who also love the divine revelation of God and are willing to speak the truth in love to their homosexual and lesbian family members and friends.  Though there are Old Testament passages that communicate God’s truth, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear:
“Therefore, God gave them up to vile impurity in the lusts of their hearts, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged natural relations for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise the men, too, abandoned natural relations with women and burned in their desire toward one another, males with males committing shameful acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Romans 1: 24-27, NASB)
Let’s be those Christians who genuinely and truly love homosexuals and lesbians more than those who approve and embrace live styles and deeds that God has clearly revealed to be against His will.  Let’s be like the parents, the friends, and church people who love in truth enough to be honest because we want what is best for them in God’s creative plan for human relationships.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa..
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Deep State? What About Deep Church?

One example can be seen in larger bodies where both teaching and lay elders once governed the church; they’re called “ruling” elders.  Today, some churches reduce the role of ruling elders to merely shepherding and have established a smaller group of men, including possibly non-ordained staff members, to govern and exercise authority over the church.  One of these unbiblical innovations is called a “Governance Commission.” 

The term “deep state” is ubiquitous in today’s parlance and used by many to signify political control and power in the United States.  While driving my car just a while ago listening to the program, Issues, Etc., on the Lutheran Missouri Synod radio station KFUO, reference to the “deep state” occurred several times.  It was explained as the bureaucratic control and secret manipulation of government policy behind the scenes by certain influential members of government agencies.  When I finally heard a clear definition of what it is, I couldn’t help wondering if something similar is taking place in some churches and denominations throughout Christendom?  In other words, is there a “deep church” in the body of Christ?
Many would probably recognize or perceive its existence especially in the hierarchal churches or denominations.  But what about Protestant, Evangelical, or Reformed Faith churches?  The more I thought about it, the more I recognized its increasing presence, even in Reformed Faith churches.  However, it’s important to first attempt to recognize the source, that is, is it biblical or something else?  The early Church led by the apostles did not represent bureaucracy or hierarchy as so many churches do today.  The apostles did not represent highly educated men who were paid based on their levels of education or their degrees attained.  Some of the early leaders continued to support themselves by their trades.  Others were modestly supported by other believers, as they traveled evangelizing wherever they went.  Requests for donations appeared to focus not on support for leaders or an institution, but for the poor and persecuted believers.
The Western Church—whether hierarchal, Evangelical, or Reformed—today does not closely resemble that early church.  In many respects, today’s churches, denominations, and branches are a far cry from the early Church.  In fact, most forms seem to be distanced from the biblical image and norms given to us. With the increasing bureaucracies in most church bodies, is it possible that the world’s ways and means have invaded Christ’s Bride, surreptitiously?
Unfortunately, as a Reformed Faith Christian, I admit I can’t ignore that something close to the “deep state” in politics is evident in Reformed Faith churches.  I am reluctant to admit this, but truth requires that we acknowledge facts, history, and reality.  Below are just a few indications that some Reformed Faith churches have acquiesced and embraced the world in polity and practices.
One example can be seen in larger bodies where both teaching and lay elders once governed the church; they’re called “ruling” elders.  Today, some churches reduce the role of ruling elders to merely shepherding and have established a smaller group of men, including possibly non-ordained staff members, to govern and exercise authority over the church.  One of these unbiblical innovations is called a “Governance Commission.”  Placing so much power over a particular church in the hands of a few select individuals is always questionable and risky.  Smaller groups can become elitist and political, exercising unchecked power and possibly abuse or manipulate their authority that would not happen with the larger group of ruling elders or overseers.
As organizations receiving charitable and voluntary contributions, year-end in-depth financial statements of income and expenditures were once provided to all members.  This transparency included staff salaries, additional perks, and individual expenditures or overhead expenses that were easily understood.  Some churches no longer provide such detailed statements to their memberships.  Today, financial transparency is essentially absent to the congregation. Of all institutions and organizations, Christian churches and organizations should be the most transparent.
In bygone days, pastors were paid for the work they did for the church–as most pastors carried the same burdens and duties regardless of level of education.  Today in many churches, pastoral salaries relate to level of education and degrees received.  Pastors with more degrees are paid more than pastors with a seminary only degree.  In other words, remuneration appears to be based on what has been received rather than what is given, and many pastors’ seminary expenses were either supported or paid for by their churches. It must be recognized some are simply more privileged than others.  Even in the world, remuneration based on work performed, rather than privilege received, is more just and fair.
Churches previously relied heavily on voluntarism to perform many duties in the church, as opposed to a large paid staff.   Many of our contemporary Evangelical churches have large paid staffs and even pay people for services that were once volunteered freely as service unto God.  Both natural and spiritual gifts voluntarily bolstered churches ministries; however, today many of those services are monetarily remunerated.  Paying staff for work that could be voluntarily performed by the laity consumes limited funds that could be directed to proclamation of the Gospel or needed charity.
It’s doubtful early Christian pastors or priests received housing allowances that were tax-exempt.  Today, pastors expect to receive salaries plus housing allowances.  This practice appears based upon indirect government assistance. Allegedly, one pastor requested a reduction in salary with an equivalent raise in housing allowance in order to pay less taxes.  This practice appears to be manipulative.
In the past, congregations nominated candidates for office in Reformed Faith churches.  This too appears to be diminishing, where committees of a few elites are authorized to select candidates for church office. This “central planning” or “deep state” model creates situations whereby candidates can be selected who are more controllable, rather than based upon their qualifications, character and experience to direct activities on behalf of the church.  In some instances, the pastor has final authority to approve or disapprove candidates, without giving explanation to the ordained lay overseers. Selecting officers or committee members without congregational responsibility gives inordinate power to the staff, and over time, and will lead to diminished participation of the congregants in the life of the church.
The above discussion shows, unfortunately, that the world and worldly practices as—opposed to biblical practices and principles—have entered the Church, and there appears to be a “deep church” as well as a “deep state.”  Are we willing to acknowledge and recognize how much the world has been allowed into the Church?  Are we even willing to address the issues biblically?  In the Reformed Faith, the laity once had the responsibility for oversight, which appears to be decreasing in many churches.
Isn’t it time for both leadership and laity to take control of their churches and denominations to ensure genuine transparency, doctrinal integrity, and biblical practices and principles?  God’s Word and Church History demand it.   “Deep church,” as “deep state,” is unhealthy and merits addressing.
This is written by a former missionary.  Missionaries in general make great sacrifices to serve Christ, to proclaim the Gospel, and to disciple others out of great love for the Lord.  Remuneration is generally a pittance of what could be earned in other fields.  This writer has also served her church in many areas using both natural and spiritual gifts with no expectation of remuneration.  Today, she writes this monograph seeking no remuneration because serving God is a joy and a privilege.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa; this article originally appeared in October 1991 in her church newsletter.
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Murder Or Miracle In The Cathedral? Two Saint Augustines!

While enrapt in the progress of this mystery, I was suddenly jolted by a common misunderstanding of many relating to the need for conversion and what it means to be a Christian. St. Augustine of Canterbury may have been born an Anglican, but he could not be born a Christian. One may be born a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, a Roman Catholic, etc. However, Jesus Christ made very clear the necessity of a second birth when He said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

British mysteries have begun to have a strong attraction for me in recent years. Unlike many of our own mysteries, the British seem to rely on superb acting rather than splashy action to grip one’s attention. The authors of such mysteries, such as Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, P. D. James, and Colin Dexter, are becoming familiar names to me. Perhaps their tales absorb one because the writers themselves are true scholars, products of Oxford or Cambridge. Consequently, their writings not only delight an inquisitive “whodunit” mind, they also satisfy a thirst for knowledge, wisdom, culture, and history. Their stories are so well researched.
“Murder in the Cathedral” appeared as a recent episode on Public Television. Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse was investigating a series of murders which took place in a cathedral in Oxford. The first murder was committed while a ceremony to honor St. Augustine was taking place. Inspector Morse, whose main interests consist of classical music and a pint of beer, appeared ignorant of both doctrine and church history. His nickname while at the university was “Pagan” due to his distaste of all things religious. Because the ceremony itself offered a clue, he visited the Archdeacon of the Anglican Church to find out if there was a St. Augustine and who he was. The Archdeacon surprised him (and me) by responding, “Which St. Augustine?” He explained that there were two: St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Augustine of Canterbury. He further explained that St. Augustine of Hippo needed to be converted because of his sinful youth while St. Augustine of Canterbury did not need to be converted because he was “born” a Christian.
While enrapt in the progress of this mystery, I was suddenly jolted by a common misunderstanding of many relating to the need for conversion and what it means to be a Christian. St. Augustine of Canterbury may have been born an Anglican, but he could not be born a Christian. One may be born a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, a Roman Catholic, etc. However, Jesus Christ made very clear the necessity of a second birth when He said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
It is true that someone, such as Augustine of Canterbury, may be born into a covenant relationship to God by virtue of being born into a Christian family; but that child must one day make his or her own personal decision to trust Christ’s atonement for sin. There must be an active commitment to follow Christ and to give Him first place in one’s life. To “be born again” is to be born of the Spirit. To be born of the Spirit is to recognize one’s sinful nature and inability to cleanse oneself. There is a new recognition that only the blood of Christ shed on the cross of Calvary can make one clean and whole, forgive (as if one had never sinned), and put one in a right standing before God. This is part of “the mystery of godliness” mentioned in Paul’s first epistle to Timoth:
By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:He who was revealed in the flesh,Was vindicated in the Spirit,Seen by angels,Proclaimed among the nations,Believed on in the world,Taken up in glory. (I Timothy 3:16)
It is hoped that the Archdeacon might merely have forgotten a very important event in the life of St. Augustine of Canterbury.
Inspector Morse went on to solve the mystery of “Murder in the Cathedral.” However, I fear he did not solve for himself personally, “the mystery of godliness” or change the status of his university days’ nickname.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the sequel to “Murder in the Cathedral” could be written entitled “Miracle in the Cathedral?” In the sequel, the inspector would solve this personal mystery as have so many down through the ages and universally in the world. Those of us who have come to understand this mystery in life have both the privilege and the responsibility to share with others the solution to “the mystery of godliness.” Whenever anyone is “born again” or “born from above,” a miracle takes place, whether in a cathedral, a church, or anywhere else!
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa. Originally published April 1989—The Centralian.
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Redemption & Reconciliation Go Hand In Hand

Instead of the family of God requiring “an agreed-upon fiction to sustain itself,” it will act out an agreed-upon principle which is heaven given.  Reconciliation may be the most redemptive act we are at liberty to perform.  God has not been created for our needs, but Christians have been recreated for His pleasure.  Reconciliation pleases God.

A reviewer of a French movie wrote, “The family, like any other institution, requires agreed-upon fictions to sustain itself.”  I was struck by the fact that there might be more truth than fiction to that statement vis-à-vis the family of God.  We might wish that the world could view Christians as one big happy, loving family.  But if we are honest, we must recognize and acknowledge that we hardly imitate our heavenly father or His Son, Jesus Christ, in the area of reconciliation.
It is sad, but true, there are believers who won’t speak to other believers and are unwilling to resolve the problems between them in either a biblical or healthy manner.  Such cases exist in the same church or fellowship as well as in the same Christian circles.  Lest anyone not get the point, this is, unfortunately, true of evangelical Christians and organizations, including some who exercise spiritual leadership.  Besides appearing hypocritical to the world, such situations most certainly bring tears to our redeemer’s eyes and anger to our heavenly Father who has forgiven many more grievous sins and offenses than we could imagine possible.  As to reconciliation, Matthew, the Evangelist, aims his words well and hits the mark squarely.  He writes: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and then remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”  (Matthew 5:24) Reconciliation is a prerequisite for worship.  A few verses earlier, Matthew warns: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  (Matthew 5: 22) What greater proof of anger can there be than a total shut down of communication?  It is obvious that Matthew is speaking of believers because he calls them “brothers” rather than neighbors.
Jerry Alpert of the Central Christian Counseling Center contributed an article to the April Centralian entitled: “Verbal Terminosis.”  In it he succinctly defines what can be termed the extreme opposite of reconciliation.  He defines “Verbal Terminosis” as “Termination of open and honest communication between spouses, parents and children, and friends.”  He also notes that “it is highly contagious and should be treated at first sign of infection.”  Perhaps the definition can be expanded to include Christians of any degree of affinity.
Some consider forgiveness to mean, “I won’t hold it against you or bring it up again, but I don’t want to see you again, or I won’t talk with you anymore.”  This is neither forgiveness nor reconciliation.  Forgiveness includes restoration of fellowship as existed previous to the breakdown in communication.  Isn’t that true of God’s forgiveness toward us?  Can it be any different in our relationships with one another?
When Matthew carefully chose the word “reconciled,” he picked a word that means “to renew friendship with one” in the original language.  When Christians obey God’s Word and become reconciled with one another, they prove to the world, as well as to one another, the power of the Gospel in their lives and model transparently God’s love to an incredulous, mocking world.  Reconciliation is what redemption is all about, and our willingness to be reconciled with others may well be one of the most trustworthy indicators of our own redemption in Jesus Christ and reconciliation with God the Father.
Let’s be careful not to grieve God’s Son or to anger our heavenly Father, inviting judgment on us by our unwillingness to be reconciled with one another.  May the world scratch its head as it ponders the power of the gospel lived out through believers and notes, “See how they love one another.”
Instead of the family of God requiring “an agreed-upon fiction to sustain itself,” it will act out an agreed-upon principle which is heaven given.  Reconciliation may be the most redemptive act we are at liberty to perform.  God has not been created for our needs, but Christians have been recreated for His pleasure.  Reconciliation pleases God. 
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.

Challenging History-Making Days

Here we have an inkling of the great obstacle facing western Christianity. How clever the evil one is; he penetrates the political, sexual morality, and scientific realms in order to blind and enslave mankind. Sadly, the Church itself does not stand unscathed in this attack. Fortunately, there is power to the truth, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4: 4)

To any with the slightest interest in history, we have just passed through perhaps one of the most tumultuous history-making days of this century. To observe the dismantling of Communism (Marxist-Leninist style) around the world, almost without a shot being fired, is both awesome and baffling at the same time. To the amateur historian, it is either the most remarkable and miraculous event to take place or it is the greatest deception ever yet to be played out on the human race. Only time will reveal what is the truth behind this seemingly crumbling empire. What a comfort to know that God knows.
As our attention shifts from Eastern Europe to Communist China, Cuba, and Korea, we can only wonder what the future holds for these nations. More importantly, we should be certain as Christians to turn our eyes upon Jesus, trusting Him to forge ahead with His wonderful and merciful plan of redemption for all peoples in such days as these. If Communism is truly passing, the vacuum must be filled with something. Western civilization, with its permissive, pornographic, violent, drug-hallucinating societies, can only shudder at the possibilities.
True students of the Word of God and of prophecy know that the only light flashed on the future indicates ominous, evil days before the end comes and our Savior returns in glory. In all our wonder and elation, it behooves us to be wary, perhaps even trembling, as to what great evil crouches at the threshold of the future to rise next. If ever there were days when Christians should pray without ceasing, those days are now! Next to being a student of Scripture, being a student of history provides insights which both infidel and ignorant lack. The one reveals the will of God, and the other the will to power of various evil men.
Paul Johnson, an insightful and investigative British historian, offers perceptive clues as to from where modern history is coming to where it is advancing. He notes that “The nineteenth century saw the climax of the philosophy of personal responsibility—the notion that each of us is individually accountable for our actions—which was the joint heritage of Judeo-Christianity and the classical world.” According to him, “the impact of relativity was powerful because it coincided with the public reception of Freudianism. “Marx, Freud, Einstein – all conveyed the same message in the 1920s: the world was not what it seemed. . . Moreover, Marxist and Freudian analysis combined to under-mine, in their different ways, the highly developed sense of personal responsibility and of the duty towards a settled objectively true moral code, which was at the centre of nineteenth century European civilization.”
Here we have an inkling of the great obstacle facing western Christianity. How clever the evil one is; he penetrates the political, sexual morality, and scientific realms in order to blind and enslave mankind. Sadly, the Church itself does not stand unscathed in this attack. Fortunately, there is power to the truth, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4: 4)
Even as we gapingly watch the dismantling of Communism, we reside in the midst of the dismantling of the moral moorings of our own society and of the impact of Christianity on society. It has proceeded so cautiously that some of us are just now waking up to the fact that we are in hot water (boiling water at that)! Do any of us recoil with pain at the anti-Christian, anti-God environment in which we live? The only way the Church of Jesus Christ can advance in the hellish nightmare into which we have slipped in this century is to stand firm in our trust in God, to press on to holiness of life, and to proclaim release to those still in chains of bondage. Let us give heed to the words of Peter: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5: 8,9)
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa; this article originally appeared in October 1991 in her church newsletter.

Christians, One Alphabet Letter Powerfully Affects Race

Adding one, simple, single letter to the word race powerfully changes it to what our relationships as churches to other churches and believers to all believers ought to be, and to what Christianity offers that is not present in culture or society.  That word–—get ready for it, Christians–—that word is Grace.  Who would have thought that adding the letter “G” (“g”) to race would powerfully change it to what God intended for us all?

Our alphabet contains 26 simple letters.  We don’t generally consider one letter carrying more power than any other letter.  Yet one individual, simple letter can radically or even powerfully change a string of letters making up a word.  For instance, adding the letter “A” (“a”) to some words alters them from one meaning to the very opposite. Adding the letter “a” to either, that is, atheism and asexual, radically change them from belief in god and sexual to “no god” and “nonsexual,” both the very opposite of their meanings minus the added one-letter prefix.
Such a change is radical, but not necessarily powerful.  But this article is not about the alphabet, letters, or prefixes.  It’s about an issue dividing our country and society as well as perhaps not a few Christians.  That issue is race.
Despite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emphasizing judging “content of character” over “color of skin,” it appears the latter for many is winning out over “content of character.” That measure is applied in diverse racial directions. And there is a growing profusion of racism accusations.  There also appear a growing number of race-related hoaxes.  Political candidates and parties are accused of racism, athletic coaches are accused of racism, comedians are accused of racism, and TV newscasters are accused of racism.  When it comes to the Church and Christians, both denominations and individuals have also been accused of racism.
This is not to deny that racism exists or that some of the above are indeed guilty of racist remarks, racist practices, or racist attitudes.  Yet to deny improvements that have taken place or accomplished is to deny facts and truths.  The exponential upsurge in inter-racial marriages and relationships and the growing population of bi-racial or multi-racial children represent a decrease in racism or racist relationships. There are other positive indicators such as the growth of racial diversity of local and national political leaders.
When it comes to the Church and Christians, perhaps it is helpful to remember both historically and culturally, people tend to go where they are comfortable with people who resemble them physically and culturally.  During great immigration influxes from Europe, there were many churches based on ethnicity, such as German, Polish, Italian, churches.  Today in St. Louis where I live, there are Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, African American, and basically white-based churches.  I say the latter because European differentiation has greatly faded over the years.  This is just to suggest cultural comfort and not racism is/was the basis for ethnic churches.  No race is  monolithic; all tend to break down by ethnicity
Sitting recently in a pew and my pastor preaching on grace, the idea and concept for this article came to me.  No, I wasn’t ignoring him; his emphasis came to bear on an issue causing undue concern for many Christians and churches–—a concern contributing to a measure of division where division should not exist.   The issue of race–—even among believers–—is robbing many of something so much greater than our racial physical or cultural differences.  This is the thought that came during that powerful sermon: Adding one, simple, single letter to the word race powerfully changes it to what our relationships as churches to other churches and believers to all believers ought to be, and to what Christianity offers that is not present in culture or society.   That word–—get ready for it, Christians–—that word is Grace.  Who would have thought that adding the letter “G” (“g”) to race would powerfully change it to what God intended for us all? 
As Christians who believe God’s divine revelation, we know we are all under and guilty of sin.  The sin of racism is just one of those universal sins that affect all people and all races.  It should not be allowed, condoned, or practiced by any Christian or church.  And just as it and any sin are universal, God’s gift of grace to us is also universal–—available to all believers regardless of race.  Does that not impel and urge us to show such non-partial, non-racial grace to one another as well?  God, the Holy Spirit–—when not quenched–—gifts this issue of race with one humble letter, “G” (“g”) enabling us to love and accept impartially every believer regardless of race.  When we apply grace to one another, we focus on what we have in common, how God through Christ has transformed us all, and we can’t and don’t accuse whole races of people for the sins that some practice or perceived attitudes that some possess.  In other words, we refuse and resist to stereotype any race or people–—especially members of God’s and our family.
Let’s thank God for a simple, individual letter that added to a word that today causes havoc by some is transformed into a gift we give one another.
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God” (1 Peter 4: 10).
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.

Shepherds, Teach and Protect Your Flock

Why shepherds have a challenging and difficult task today: When it comes to racial division in the church, the culprit is today’s social justice agenda, and immoral sexual identity or tolerance relates to the LGBTQ activism and agenda.  The former is not biblical justice, and the latter is not biblical morality.  Racially, we are called to be one in Christ.  Sexually, we are only physically male and female in Christ–—not emotions or immoral desires.

Shepherds, that is ministers, priests, and other church leaders, have a most challenging and difficult responsibility–—especially today.  You may ask why or even articulate a Hmm! Throughout church history, it has not been easy.  There have been challenges resulting from false teachings, heresies, apostasies, moral scandals, and persecutions.  However, it may be questioned how can it be more challenging or difficult today?  Hopefully and eventually, I hope to be capable of shedding light on the why.
First, the flock and shepherds themselves need reminding of what shepherds are tasked to do and how they genuinely fulfill their obligation to the sheep.  Wouldn’t it be helpful to go to a sheep farm to observe what they do or to even go back in time in order to understand the biblical definition and description of shepherding?  Basically, shepherds were responsible to both feed the sheep by leading them to green pastures and to protect the sheep by anticipating dangers such as predators, rocky cliffs and dense bushes in which they could become entangled.
Personally, I’ve wanted to visit a sheep ranch to learn how differently ewes and rams are treated, as a constant conflict exists throughout church history and today as to the roles of men and women in the church.  I once thought of writing a book or essay entitled “Ewes in Rams’ Land.”  I hope this brings a smile on both men’s and women’s faces!  I’ll leave you to guess in what direction that would go; and you might be surprised!
Back to the shepherds and their task(s); feeding and protecting the sheep appear to be equal in importance for the sheep.  In many churches, expository preaching–— preaching through an entire book of the Bible–—is considered the summa cum laude preaching method, so much so it can even become an idol for some.  In other churches, topical preaching is the favored choice, while yet in others short, pithy homilies are de rigeuer.
Each perhaps has its strengths and weaknesses.  Certainly, expository preaching feeds; but does it protect when specific threats arise?  Topical preaching may do a better job of protecting, but does it promote nurturing feeding?  Not as familiar with short homilies, I’m incapable of distinguishing clearly which is stressed or if neither are.
Today’s shepherds do well to recognize their sheep–—like those grazing in a meadow–—are seriously in need of lush pastures for feeding and anticipatory protection from predators, falling down rocky cliffs or becoming entangled in thick bushes.  Both are equal responsibilities for shepherds who love and care for their Master and His sheep.  In other words, feeding and protecting the sheep are fulfilled by shepherds who are genuinely committed and loyal to their Master/Owner of the sheep.
The sheep will never flourish or thrive without feeding from “the whole counsel of God.” They also will not persevere if they are not protected from false ideologies and teachings or moral scandals.  They require clear focus on what the dangers are.  Someone else has written that sheep have poor eyesight but have a keen sense of hearing; are timid and nervous–—defenseless against predators; tend to huddle together and go where one sheep goes.  In other words, they are fragile and self-defenseless.
Today, just as throughout the Church’s history, Christians and the church are speedily assaulted with one deceptive ideology after another.  It’s not the time to ignore or be silent in face of such assaults.  This may be the weakness of expository preaching, that is, it doesn’t take a rest from feeding to protect the sheep.  The sheep need to be made aware of what ideologies are false and why from diverse biblical passages.  That requires topical preaching.  It also requires sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s urging to focus on protecting the sheep.  Shepherds do well to remember there are also new lambs in the flock.  It‘s not enough for church leaders only to be aware or to be engaged in fighting infiltration of racial divisions and embracing sexually immoral identities or tolerance.  These are just two of the most aggressive false ideologies infiltrating the Church currently–—all three branches–—and particularly Evangelical and Reformed Faith churches and denominations.
I expressed hope to shed light on why shepherds have a challenging and difficult task today. When it comes to racial division in the church, the culprit is today’s social justice agenda, and immoral sexual identity or tolerance relates to the LGBTQ activism and agenda.  The former is not biblical justice, and the latter is not biblical morality.  Racially, we are called to be one in Christ.  Sexually, we are only physically male and female in Christ–—not emotions or immoral desires.
Shepherds (clerical and laity), continue to feed the sheep, but please–—really please–—protect your flock as well.  Don’t ignore or be silent to the dangers your Master’s sheep face.  They need you to do both tasks.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder andwitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glorythat is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you,exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, accordingto the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness . . . (1 Peter 5: 2)
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.

A Single Woman’s Response to Greg Johnson

Christians ever identified themselves by inner desires?  Don’t we all experience a multitude of desires we deal with besides sexual ones?  As a single female Christian, it never occurred to me to identify myself related to any sexual desires.  I am not alone.  Among Christians, there are life-long single men and women, widowed men and women, divorced men and women, who have obeyed God’s commandments while remaining celibate during periods of their lives.  Furthermore, they never identified themselves by any desires they experienced during those same periods of their lives.

Dear Dr. Johnson:
I read your USA Today article, “I’m a gay, celibate pastor of a conservative church.”  Here’s a trick for de-scalation.”  My first thought was why would a Christian–—and a pastor at that–—take an issue controversially engaged and involving believers of a specific church and denomination out to the world–—a world that generally mocks Christianity and Christians? A second thought came immediately–— that this is not “de-escalation,” is it?  If anything, it’s a bold escalation bringing an unbelieving world into the church’s business.
Perhaps it’s time someone other than a married man or woman address you due to our mutually-deprived lives in accordance with God’s righteous laws–—deprived but not unfulfilled or unfruitful.  To begin with, you state you’ve been investigated by church authorities . . . because of your sexual orientation.”  As this issue is long-standing and quite public, you appear to miss the focus, that is, your promotion of “gay Christian identity” more so than your inner conflict.  You appear to insist on identifying yourself by desires.  Since when in Christianity’s history have Christians ever identified themselves by inner desires?  Don’t we all experience a multitude of desires we deal with besides sexual ones?  As a single female Christian at 80 years of age, it never occurred to me to identify myself related to any sexual desires.  I am not alone.  Among Christians, there are life-long single men and women, widowed men and women, divorced men and women, who have obeyed God’s commandments while remaining celibate during periods of their lives.  Furthermore, they never identified themselves by any desires they experienced during those same periods of their lives.
Specifically, why would any believer choose to self-identify oneself with a biblically-communicated deviant desire?  Both Plato and Aquinas taught: “It is sexual vice, among all vices, that has the greatest tendency to destroy rationality.  Sexual desire can seriously cloud the intellect even in the best of circumstances, but when its objects are contra naturam, indulgence makes the very idea of an objective, natural order of things hateful.”
Further on in the article, you confess: “I’ve found myself at times curled up in a ball on my office floor weeping.”  You do not define or describe exactly on what basis you wept.  Was it because you struggle with your desires?  Was it because you feel persecuted?  Was it perhaps a combination of both?  What it reveals is that you weren’t “gay.”  You were, in fact, “miserable.”  I haven’t curled up in a ball, but I know what it is to weep before the Lord.  They were times of recognizing sinfulness in diverse areas of my life and God’s many, many mercies and acts of grace in my life for which I knew I didn’t deserve.  We all need to humbly weep over any sinful desires, e.g., lust for power, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life, and more.
Now permit me to specifically address your insistence on identifying yourself as “gay.”  The word “gay” is essentially a euphemism, isn’t it?  It’s “a mild or pleasant word used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive,” according to the dictionary.  In other words, it’s a cover-up word.  It’s used instead of “deviancy,” “homosexual,” “lesbian,” or even “sodomite.”  It softens something that is biblically very offensive to God.  I can’t remember anyone being willing to call himself/herself a “deviant Christian,” a “homosexual Christian,” a “lesbian Christian,” or “a sodomite Christian.”  Would you be more honest to use any one of the genuine words for what you are claiming?  If you chose the actual word for the sin and sinful temptation you struggle with, would you choose to so identify yourself then as such a believer first, and secondly as a minister of the Gospel? Those terms sound terrible, don’t they?  Well, truth reveals the awfulness of sin and temptation.
I’m sorry if someone or others have hurt you unkindly and unnecessarily.  Many of us have been hurt by fellow believers.  At the same time, we have to do some soul-searching in order to ensure we did not do or say anything that deserved honest, loving, rebuke.  As a pastor, you must be aware that there are many diverse sexually immoral desires even believers struggle against.  So far, none of those are employed to identify one’s Christian faith.  Do you really want that door opened?  If alleged “gay” Christians insist on being so identified, wouldn’t the rest of us feel the need to identify ourselves otherwise?  Do Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican priests need to outwardly identify their sexuality?  Wouldn’t that become a quagmire for the church?
For millennia, there have been single or bachelor pastors/priests.  It did not provoke unwarranted curiosity.  Hopefully, the majority practiced celibacy, not as a sacrifice but as an act of obedience and love for God’s holy law.  The same is true for non-clerical men and women who devoted themselves to God’s holy and righteous moral standards.
Back to bringing the world into this ecclesiastical issue:  Wasn’t it unwise to do so?  Would the Holy Spirit lead you to put fellow believers and your fellow elders into a position to be further mocked and scorned by the world?  Was love the driving force or a desire for affirmation and sympathy by the many unbelieving “gays” and others who will take your article and run with it to hurt Christians who humbly seek to follow God’s commands?
A shepherd’s vocation is to protect the sheep—not to expose them to danger or derision.  It’s not too late for you to rethink and relinquish identifying your faith by an immoral and sinful desire.
I’m just a single Christian woman who has lived a long life accepting all the limitations and proscriptions our most compassionate God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—communicated to the unmarried knowing they represent His love.  But I’ve never felt any need to identify my faith by any desires, especially any morally sinful desires.
Sincerely in Christ,Helen Louise Herndon
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.

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