SAVE LIVES THIS LENT – A Special Request From Bishop Julian Dobbs
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. [Ecclesiastes 3:1]
In 2015, I was working with Congressional Leaders endeavoring to help Assyrian Christians escape the constant danger of Islamic terror. I was thankful for a small but growing number of Democrat and Republican House and Senate leaders who were supportive.
The words of Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Northern Iraq, showed the desperation faced by the Assyrian Christians: Throughout all these long centuries, we have experienced many hardships and persecutions, offering caravans of martyrs. Yet 2014 brought the worst acts of genocide against us in our history. We now face the extinction of Christianity as a religion and as a culture from Mesopotamia [ancient Iraq].
Despite ISIS’ targeting Iraqi Christians, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) told me on January 15, 2015 there was no way that Christians would be supported in coming to the United States because of their religious affiliation.
When the PRM’s position about persecuted Christians was made public in 2015;
There were just suffering Assyrian Christians and the targeted eradication of Christianity from an ancient homeland.
Americas leaders turned their backs on Christians and looked the other way!
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016 the U.S. admitted the highest number of Muslim refugees of any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002. However, religious persecution against Christians and other minorities continues to increase across Africa and the Middle East.
I am thankful that the United States of America has eventually recognized that persecuted Christians and other minorities can now be a priority for our great nation.
Recently, many commentators have cited Matthew 25 as the basis for Christian care and support for the poor of the world, the sick, the disabled, and the homeless. Some Christian leaders are teaching that Jesus was referring to refugees from other religions when he said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” However the early Church, while providing pastoral care for many needy people, had an emphasis on caring for Christians.
Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth in the late 2nd century, wrote to thank the Church in Rome for the aid they had sent to his church. “From the beginning it is your custom to bestow your alms in all places, and to furnish subsistence to many churches. You send relief to the needy, especially to those who work in the mines; in which you follow the example of your fathers.”
A few years later, Tertullian noted how the non-Christians would comment with astonishment about the Christians, “See how they love one another.”
The early Christians sought to fulfil the teaching of Matthew 25:31-46, in which our Lord Jesus, in His story of the sheep and the goats, commends those who provide practical care for even “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” (verse 40).
Jesus himself refers to His disciples as His brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:49-50).
To neglect to care and support marginalized and suffering Christian ‘brothers and sisters’ is to neglect Christ Himself.
While it is important and necessary that Christians work together for the good of all people, whenever there is an opportunity, they are called to prioritize their care and for their brothers and sisters in Christ. [Galatians 6:10]
Bishop Julian Dobbs
A new year has begun – it is 2017!
This year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when the Word of God became accessible to God’s people.
I often pray this prayer from the prayer book when I read the bible: Blessed Lord who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.
Through the turbulent early decades of the English Reformation, the public reading of God’s Word in the common language of the people was forbidden. The clerical elite closely guarded Scripture and its Latin text was jealously protected. However, through the grace and providence of God, His word written became available and Archbishops Thomas Cranmer’s dream of a renewed church in England was one step closer to reality.
By edict of King Henry VIII, the Bible was not only to be made available; it was also to be read in public. Churches were required to purchase and display the Bible in English. Clergy were instructed to put the Bible on display in churches and that no one should be discouraged from reading or hearing the Bible.
How is your own bible study going? This is such a very important question! The only place where God supremely discloses himself is in his Word. Martin Luther whose courageous actions triggered the Reformation said this, “The Bible is alive. It speaks to me. It has feet. It runs after me. It has hands. It lays hold of me. The Bible is not antique or modern. It is eternal.”
Anglican theologian and author, Dr. J.I. Packer has wisely written, “Western Christianity has become superficial and shallow. We do not give ourselves time to soak ourselves in Scripture and stunted development, which includes an undervaluing of the Bible, is the unhappy result. We need to be clear, other things being equal. It is the Christians who eat up the Scriptures on a regular basis who are likely to achieve most for our Lord Jesus Christ in the future just as it was Bible-fed Christians who achieved most for him in the past.”
As this Reformation 500 year begins, may God give us the passion to ‘eat up the Scriptures’ on a daily basis. I encourage you to develop the pattern of daily reading the Bible, taking your Bible to church on Sundays and reading from it as the Scriptures are proclaimed and the sermon is preached.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105