Presidential Election and Friendship: Some Words of Advice!

Presidential Election and Friendship: Some Words of Advice!
As we continue to experience this very sensitive topic we call “Presidential election” and the battle for the White House between Mr. Donald Trump and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, allow me to quickly share a few words of advice with you on the subject matter: Presidential election  and friendship.
  1.  It is okay (Should I say tolerable) for you and your friend to hold competing perspectives about politics.  All of us hold different ideologies and ideas about  social, economic, and political issues–even cultural and religious ones. We are firm about our beliefs and will not let them go. Some of them are helpful and human uplifting; others are unhealthy and unconstructive.
  2. Do not unfriend your friend on Facebook or stop following him/her–on whatever social media:twitter, wordpress, blogger, instagram, what have you?-because you just found out on a  post that he/she will vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in this year’s presidential election. Mrs. Hillary Clinton or Mr. Donald Trump will be elected as our next President for only 4 yrs, if lucky, 8 yrs in reelection. Good and genuine friendship endures and lasts a little bit longer than the temporary presidential post.
  3. Watch your tongue! Keep your heart pure! Have I said to control your temper too?
  4. Do not demonize your friend or shame him or her on a public post! Be respectful and kind to all, especially your friends. After all, he/she is your friend. Donald or Hillary is not and probably will never befriend you.
  5. You have been trying to persuade your friend to vote for Hillary or Donald for a while now. It is not working. Give it up! Let the person choose and vote according to his or her conscience to the glory of God.
  6. Do not let your friendship with someone you love and care for fall apart because of  political difference or over this year’s presidential choice. It takes a lot of time to nurture and cultivate genuine friendship.
  7. It is okay to be a Christian and  be a democrat. Remember your faith is in no one or nothing else but in Jesus Christ.
  8. It is okay to be a Christian and be a republican. Remember your faith is in no one or nothing else but in Jesus Christ.
  9. It is okay to be a Christian and be an independent voter. Remember your faith is in no one or nothing else but in Jesus Christ.
  10. If your conscience is not clear about a particular presidential candidate, it is not unbiblical if you decide not to vote  in this year’s presidential election. There’s no biblical mandate that you have to vote in order to fulfill your civic duty as a christian of the Kingdom of God and citizen of the United States. God will not send you to hell nor will he disown you as his child.  In the same line of thought, always remember God is not a republican or a democrat.
 *For propositions 5-10, I take for granted most of my readers are followers of Christ.

To the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God!

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph
President
Hope for Today Outreach

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The Pastor and His Pen: Writing as Ministry

The Pastor and His Pen: Writing as Ministry

After reading this short post, ” 5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Consider Writing a Book,” I decided to share my perspective on the relationship between pastoring, ministry, and writing. It is succinct and clear.

Writing is self-invention. If the pastor or minister is not willing to allow himself/herself to be vulnerable and retrospective, the writing project will not be a successful endeavor. Writing that serves people or ministers to the community of faith and individuals and families in need is effective, transformative, and self-sustaining.

Good writing takes a lot of discipline and great courage; it is also time-consuming and requires a lot of patience. Hence, writing is not for every pastor; not many pastors will make the sacrifice to sit down and write…. because the writing process invites critical thinking and self-criticism.

The pastor-writer ought to write with grace, clarity, and responsibly in the same manner he is devoted to the ministry of teaching and preaching in the church and diligent in studying and preparing to deliver his Sunday sermon. Writing as ministry is nothing but effective and constructive writing that is intentional and executed with care and in love to the spiritual and intellectual growth of the community faith and the people of God. Writing that ministers effectively to the people of God is also God-centered, Christ-honoring, and Holy Spirit-filled.

To the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God!

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph
President
Hope for Today Outreach

A Gentle call to prayer for this broken world

A Gentle call to prayer for this broken world

Pray for peace; pray for friendship; pray for reconciliation; pray for the love of Christ to shine in our hearts; pray for Jesus to be exalted among the nations and peoples; pray for those who are hurting at the moment; pray for those who are unable to make sense of their suffering and pain; pray for justice; and pray for the reign of God to come on earth and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As Paul prays to the God who provides comfort and consolation to us in the midst of life’s troubles, let us pray in this manner:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor 1:3-5)

Amen!!!

To the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph,

President

Hope for Today Outreach

Do not Rob the Poor: Do Justice!

Do not Rob the Poor: Do Justice!
I’m currently working through the book of Isaiah for my devotional reading. Please allow me to share with you a provocative passage that I read this morning from Isaiah chapter 10. I will close with a brief comment.
 
1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
 
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
 
2 to turn aside the needy from justice
 
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
 
that widows may be their spoil,
 
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
 
3 What will you do on the day of punishment,
 
in the ruin that will come from afar?
 
To whom will you flee for help,
 
and where will you leave your wealth? (Isaiah 10:1-3)
While this passage makes a clarion call to anyone to do justice, it is directed explicitly to those in power and authority, and the individuals with societal influence who use their influence and power to write off justice and promote what is deemed unjust, God-dishonoring, and evil before the Lord. The underlying truth about this passage is that God despises these people and will judge them for the miscarriage of justice and the failure to protect the weak and the oppressed. Furthermore, my summary of this passage is articulated in six points below:
  1.   Do to support those who rob the poor and exploit the immigrant, undocumented workers, etc. to make a profit and increase their wealth!
  2.  Do not associate with those who oppress the poor, the widow, and the fatherless.
  3. Be on the side of the oppressed and those do not have a voice or whose voices have been silent.
  4.  Always be on the side of justice by walking in solidarity with the oppressed and the least among us.
  5.  Defend the rights (i.e. Human rights, civil rights, the right to live and exist) of those whose rights have been taken away and those whose rights have been undermined in society.
  6.  People who refuse to do these things or any of these things will experience God’s imminent eschatological judgment and his great day of wrath.
*Our present time is characterized by an increase desire and search for wealth, power, and economic stability, as well as prominence, popularity, and high social standing. Unfortunately, many people, corporations, institutions, both private and public, will do whatever it takes–even stepping on people’s toes or employers will exploit their employers or vice versa–to get to the top. By contrary, the disciples of Christ in today’s society are called to live differently and justly in these dangerous times than those who are not following Christ and resisting justice and love.   God’s wisdom contradicts human wisdom, and his ways transcend ours. God has called the community of faith, his people, to be on the side of justice and to work robustly, consistently, and practically to affirm the value of underprivileged individuals and people–by defending their rights and take a stand against those who are mistreating, exploiting, and dehumanizing them. Failure to practice any of these things will bring dishonor to God and stimulate his wrath and judgment. He has called his people, the people of God to embrace a higher ethical and value system and to an alternative lifestyle that are contrary to worldly demands but consistent with his character and his desire for justice, righteousness, and human flourishing.

To the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God!
Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph
President
Hope for Today Outreach

How Now Shall We Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

How Now Shall We  Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

The American Political Constitution is a masterpiece and should be praised for its democratic and cosmopolitan language. It is one of a kind. However, the relationship between Americans of different racial and ethnic background and the attitude they express toward one another and the foreigner among them is disheartening and betrays the American democratic ideals.

How shall we then proceed to heal our national wound?

How shall we then move forward to learn to live together, accept one another, and love another as Americans?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other in this moment of pain, trial, and seemingly great despair.

If I may appeal to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the sixth chapter,  please allow me to share a few ideas with you.  Although I make a sharp distinction between Christianity and American Nationalism, I would like to offer a Christian perspective on these national issues I noted above. The Christian identity counters the American identity. Nonetheless, I do believe  and maintain that Christians are called by God to actively engage their culture with the message of Christ and be active citizens who must use the Wisdom of God and biblical principles to transform their neighborhood, community, city, and their country–toward peace, love, justice, truth, equality, etc. for the common good–to the glorious praise of the Triune God. Consequently, toward these goals, in this brief post, I would like to bring your attention to three underlying propositions: listening with care and love, doing good to all, and live gently, which may strengthen human relationship, bring collective peace, national healing, and foster racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Ultimately, I’m interested in highlighting some basic biblical principles on how to do life together and live gently in these tragic times in the modern world.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“–Micah 6:8

  1. Listening with care and love

In such a national predicament and collective crisis we’re presently undergoing as a people, it is critical for each one of us to listen to each other and try to understand the other individual’s perspective. You will not understand somebody’s hurt and moments of troubles-both in the past and the present–  until you learn to cultivate an attitude to listen and sympathize with that person. You will ruin the possibility to move  forward toward collective progress, goal, and unity should you undermine one’s suffering and point of view.  Do not interrupt! Listen!!!

Listen with care! Listen with patience! Listen responsibly! Listen with understanding! Listen with love! Moments of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation come at the time when we offer ourselves up to each other for the sake of love and unity. As Paul encourages the Christians at Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). The imperative for social transformation, communal shalom, national healing,  social justice, and radical spiritual renewal is to be relational to all people and to bear one another’s burden.

2. Doing good to all

Secondly, to work toward the common good and human flourishing in our society, it is crucial that we do good to all–with no exception. Doing good to everyone one meets means to be inclusive in one’s generous outreach efforts and activism; it also means that to deliberately extend acts of kindness, compassion, and love to those who cannot give back or do not have the means to return your favor. The ethical aspect of this biblical command and notion of goodness compels us all to forgive and love even those who refuse to love and forgive in return. Doing good to all is an act of justice and a form of loving activism and participation in the life of people or individuals in crisis. It provides a terrific opportunity to the Christian community to condemn social sins and human oppression–the antithesis of good–and to stand in solidarity with those to whom we have called to perform acts of goodness. According to James, the failure to do good and condemn what is unjust (or “not good”) contradicts the Christian ethic and the Jesus Creed: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).  The Christian community is also called to be exemplary models of goodness: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7-9). For  Prophet Micah, goodness includes both social responsibility and spiritual development. The prophet associates good with justice, kindness, and humility.  Doing good is also interpreted as a divine imperative, that is what God requires of his people and the community of faith. Social justice is integral to the spiritual life of God’s people and the Church in the modern age.  When we dissociate Christian discipleship and (or from) the call to justice, it will ultimately lead to a life of obedience and a life that dishonors God.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Moreover, in Galatians 6, Paul implies that acts of goodness should not be premised on a spirit of  aggressiveness and comparison, but rather should be framed within a  spirit of humility and gratitude. Paul characterizes the Christian life not only as relational living but as a life that pursues the best interest and welfare of others, and the common good. Christian discipleship or the Christian life for Paul is not (and should not be) measured by an attitude of competition and comparison: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (6:4); rather, it is/should be characterized by an attitude of selflessness, sacrificial doing, and  an attitude of  deliberate service and sustaining good : “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9).  Even in the midst of unwarranted criticism, Christians in contemporary society should not be weary of doing and defending what is just, righteous, loving, and good.  Such attitude toward life and other individuals is a pivotal marker  of an exemplary and Christ-like discipleship.

“So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

3. Living Gently

Thirdly, the call to do life together and live  gently in this chaotic world and in this  life of uncertainty is not a free pass  nor is it the absence of weakness.  This is a high calling for the Christian to engage the world and culture meaningfully, relationally,  and graciously.  In other for the Christian to foster such an attitude toward culture, life, and the world, his/her life must radically be refined by the Spirit of God and shaped by the wisdom of the community of faith  in Christ Jesus.  Paul comforts us Christians that we should not be despair nor lose hope in these tragic times; for Apostle Paul, the Christian life that produces genuine spiritual transformation and growth is reciprocal, interconnected, and interdependent upon the community’s active collaboration and sustaining support: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (6:1). The christian life is lived in community and with the community of faith. This life of relations is in active solidarity with the community of Christ’s disciples–what we call ekklesia, “the church.” It is also a life in active solidarity with the oppressed, the disinherited, and underprivileged individuals and families. Genuine Christian discipleship means  the courage to follow Jesus Christ, the courage to love, the courage to forgive, and the courage to take upon oneself the suffering and trials of another individual. The cross of discipleship is not only a call to bear the cross of Christ continually; it is also an imperative to bear the cross of both the weak and the strong among us.

Paul’s articulation of these radical ethical principles of the new  community of grace in Christ and in the Spirit of love has tremendous implications for constructing a life characterized by the ethics and art of listening with care and love, doing good to all, and living gently. It is God’s desire for us to do life together, accept one another, and love another. It is only through the moral vision of the Kingdom of God that Christians and the Christian church in the American society and elsewhere could contribute meaningfully and constructively to a life of optimism, collective participation, a spirit of democratic communitarianism and humanitarianism, and a life of  collective solidarity and racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10).

 

May we become the Gospel we proclaim!

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph

President

Hope for Today Outreach

What the Gospel Is! What the Gospel is not!

What the Gospel Is! What the Gospel is not!

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph

Calvinism, Arminianism or any form of ism is not the Gospel! They are theological perspectives and speculations about the Gospel. They’re also schools of thought that provide a theological framework or ideals on how salvation works and how God saves people in Christ from their sins. Evangelicals embrace both perspectives because people read scriptures with different hermeneutical lenses, and from different constructed ideological frameworks.

What should then the preacher announce or proclaim to the unsaved and people of God? Should he/she preach the Gospel or theological views about the Gospel?

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, with conviction and boldness, Paul reiterates a common Christian tradition about the nature and content of the Gospel, which he communicates to the Christians at Corinth: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

For Paul, the content of the Gospel is not a new message. He presents himself as a “recipient” of this ‘old message,’ an old story to which he now becomes its messenger. Accordingly, the Gospel message has become a Christian tradition ( It should be construed as an early confession of the Christian church) since it was well-known among the Christians, and was subsequently passed on from the post-resurrection and Pentecost generation to Paul’s post-conversion generation of Christians. Paul argues that the Gospel constitutes three components: (1) the death of Christ, (2) the burial of Christ, and (3) the resurrection of Christ. Paul accentuates that these historical events about the historical Jesus bear the testimony of the Old Testament and what the Prophets of the OT declared about the Jewish-Messiah. Here, one on hand, Paul is defending the historical reliability of Old Testament messianic prophecies; on the other hand, he is vindicating the historical reliability of the events surrounding the person of the historical Jesus. Paul interprets them as the fulfillment of God’s covenantal faithfulness to his people.

In addition, this “Gospel tradition,” which consists of a threefold historical event (death, burial, and resurrection), articulates boldly Christian identity and distinctive: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Secondly, Paul argues that believing in this message of the Gospel is a matter of life and death for the Christian, and the non-Christian—by implication: “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” He also expounds on this existential and experiential reality of the Gospel in latter verses of the same passage, in which he contradicts the false messengers who were denying the historical resurrection of the historical Jesus.

Further, Paul also implies later in the same chapter that Christians should denounce preachers or messengers who mix up the Gospel with other things, as well as reject those who have redefined the content of its message. Paul calls those individuals who have transformed the content of the Gospel for something contrary and unbiblical “false messengers” (15:15). The Pauline warning is this: Do Not Receive their Message!!!

In theological and homiletical reflection, the preacher-theologian should articulate with precision and clarity the distinction between the nature of the Gospel—that is what the Gospel is and what the Gospel is not—and doctrinal interpretation about the Gospel. Biblical integrity or faithfulness to the Scripture is a vital aspect of the Christian life. The concept of doctrine is a theological construct, and theological thinking about the Gospel is a different phenomenon than the message that is grounded on the person and works of Jesus Christ.  While some theological doctrines have their source in the Gospel, some theological positions do not. Some doctrines are more biblical than others; the latter needs to be assessed with rigor and responsibility. Scripture should always be the compass to measure our thinking, orient our intellect, inform our theological beliefs, and determine our everyday decisions in this life of theological confusion and doctrinal ambiguity.

The Gospel is a very specific message we Christians proclaim, believe, and practice. As previously mentioned, among other biblical passages, it is well defined by Paul, in 1 Corinthian 15: 1-5.  The Christian Gospel is a peculiar narrative we announce about Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection, which may lead to the salvation of sinners—according to Paul in Romans 10: 9-13. However, the Gospel demands both confession and belief. Confession is an oral affirmation of the sovereign Lordship of Christ; belief is the intellectual acknowledgement that Christ is who he claimed to be—He is the only Savior and mediator between God and humanity—and that the atoning and sacrificial work he provides on behalf of sinners is adequate and sufficient—before God.

Paul closes the 15th chapter of the letter to the Corinthians with these words:

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you…” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Thank You!!!

Thank you!!!
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We would like to thank everyone who has made a contribution to our most recent trip to Haiti: June mission trip 2016. You have prayed for us and contributed financially to make it a successful and God-honoring trip!
 
In Christ,
 
Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph
President
Hope for Today Outreach
“Remember the Poor”–Galatians 2:10