Oct 212017
 

Lord God,
you have taught us
that anything we do without love is worth nothing,
for whoever lives without love
is counted dead before you;
send your Holy Spirit,
and pour into our hearts
that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues;

grant this for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.

Oct 212017
 

Matthew 27:32-44

The Crucifixion

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.

  • You would think that one of the disciples, the ones who vowed to die for him, would be there to help carry his cross.
  • Instead we have a stranger – ‘a man of Cyrene, Simon by name.
  • Cyrene was a large city in Libya Northern Africa a short distance from the southern shore of the Mediterranean.
  • A large Jewish population, ) up to 1/4th of the city) many went to Jerusalem at this time of year. So many in fact that they occupied their own synagogue (Acts 2:10; Acts 6:9)
  • Many became Christians (Acts 11:20)
  • Was Simon the first missionary back to his home country telling of what he saw and who Jesus was?

33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),

  • Calvary is the Latin word for Place of the Skull.

34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

  • Who are the “they”? It does not say it was the soldiers. The Jewish tradition says that the women of the town would offer this up to those condemned to crucifixion to ease the pain and to calm them.
  • Jesus will not take the pain killer – he will endure all that the Father gives him. He has work to do and a few words left to say.
  • He will drink the unmixed wine later in v. 48.

35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

  • See Psalm 22:18 – “they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there.

  • What were they watching for? To be sure no one removed him from the cross.

37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

  • According to John 19 “19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
  • The Jews want the statement changed – but Pilate stands by what he wrote.

38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

  • Who were these 2? Could they have been part of Barabbas’ clan?
  • Some manuscripts insert verse 28: And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “He was numbered with the transgressors” Which is a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12.
  • Of which he spoke to his disciples in the Garden Luke 22:37 – “37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads

  • Here we see the one who is despised – Psalm 22:7 “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;”
  • Isaiah 53:3 – “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

  • Look what we have here – similar to Matthew 4 – Jesus being tempted.
  • Satan is now using the mocking crowd to tempt Jesus.
  • In Luke’s gospel at the end of the temptation it says v.13 – “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” – Now we see that opportune time.

41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,

42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

  • This is a tremendous satanic temptation
  • Save yourself – isn’t this how we all think we will get through life in God’s good graces? Saving ourselves?
  • “and we will believe in him.” – God, do what we say and we will believe in you.

43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

  • They do recognize the truth in their mocking – Jesus does trust in God.
  • They do know what his words meant “I am the Son of God.”

44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

  • You would think that they had enough troubles of their own.
  • Note the term ‘robbers’ – as we said earlier about Barabbas, robbers = revolutionaries. If Barabbas was actually released, perhaps these are his fellow revolutionaries.

 

Oct 202017
 

If you have a cat, you know the one thing that strikes terror in the heart of a feline.

A closed bathroom door.

Despite the fact that they have seen you safely enter and leave the bathroom thousands of times, they still evidence fear and separation anxiety every time you close that door.

This morning, Chester managed to pop the door open and burst into the shower with me.

He burst back out as quickly.

Chastened and wet, he observed the rest of the proceedings from on top the toilet.

While I found this to be somewhat amusing, I probably shouldn’t mock him.

I have my my own fears and I am always on the verge of separation anxiety of a different sort.

Sometimes…a lot of times…I think God has shut himself away or gone away, period.

Now, I know this is irrational, but, like my cats, I never seem to overcome the problem.

The only remedy is to constantly remind ourselves (and each other) that not only has He not gone away, Jesus is the door and we have complete access to God through Him.

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

(Ephesians 3:11–13 ESV)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Hebrews 4:15–16 ESV)

You don’t have to stand outside a closed door and howl the song of your people or try to bust in by force…heaven is always open to those who want to be with their Master.

The problem is that most of us don’t want to be with Him as much as my cats want to be with me in the bathroom…

Make your own application…

 

Oct 202017
 

Behold, the latest gun pointed at the head of the local church.

“There are millions of churches around the world. They represent a wide spectrum of beliefs, which are translated into actively enforced policies. At the level of the local church, policies are often communicated unclearly, if they disclosed at all. In many churches, especially evangelical ones, clarity is elusive. “

“In the first phase of Church Clarity, our focus is on policies that directly impact LGBTQ+ people.

While ostensibly nothing more than an attempt to inform people of a given churches position on LGBTQ people, it is really a means to further divide the culture and the church into binary categories of “affirming” or “non affirming”, as if those are the only choices there are.

The organization claims to be neutral, but watch the heat on the “non affirming” churches after they gather their information.

My answer to the good folks at Church Clarity is to tell them to go straight to hell.

They don’t have a category that says “we affirm two thousand years of the moral theology of the church, but offer the Gospel and pastoral care to all”, so I had to provide my own response.

I encourage my fellow ministers to do likewise.

I’m not playing this game, nor am I going to allow others to choose the game and make up the rules.

I refuse to divide the world into categories that reflect sexual preferences only.

I refuse to cater to the tiny minority of people that do.

I refuse to cede my right or your right to hold to and practice traditional religious and moral standards and do so in peace with dignity.

You only lose this game if you continue to play it.

Make your own application…

Oct 192017
 

Law and Gospel

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.” (Matt 22:34-35)

In this encounter, the Pharisees and Jesus exchanged two important questions: one about the Law; the other about the Christ. Out of these two questions, Jesus addresses the two central themes or teachings of the entire Bible: the Law; and the Gospel. These two themes are central because they run throughout the entire Bible and together are essential teachings if one is to be saved. Therefore, the preaching and teaching of both the Law and the Gospel must continue, alongside one another, until Christ returns.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matt 22:36)

When God created mankind in His own image (Gen 1:27), He endowed us with the knowledge of God and both the ability and willingness to do God’s will. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), Adam and Eve were created with an innate love for God and each other. This is God’s eternal, unchangeable will (or Law), which Adam and Eve walked in from a willing spirit without coercion, before the fall.

The Divine image in Adam and Eve was shattered when, seduced by the serpent, they ate the forbidden fruit and fell from grace. Sin and death entered the world: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” (Gen 3:7a) Adam no longer loved God as he had: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10); Adam no longer loved Eve as he had: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen 3:12); and Eve no longer loved Adam as she had: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16b) God’s Law would remain in effect, but after the fall, for Adam and all of his descendants, obedience to it would have to be coerced with threats and punishments.

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’ ” (Matt 22:37-40)

At Sinai God gave Moses the Law in the form of Ten Commandments. These Commandments are often divided into two tables (representing the two tablets received by Moses): The first table consists of the Commandments which we owe directly to God (the first 3 or 4 according to one’s tradition); the second table consists of the remaining Commandments, which we owe to our neighbors. In answering the lawyer’s question, Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments into Two Commandments, one for each of the two tables. These are not different or additional commandments, but a distillation of what all Ten Commandments essentially mean.

The Law tells us what God requires of an individual to stand in the right before Him. The Law must be kept perfectly in thought, word and deed, as it is written: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48); and “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:10)

What the Law requires of mankind, however, we do not have the ability or will to accomplish. The Law is powerless to accomplish in us what it requires of us. In this way, the Law shows us what we have become as children of Adam: “all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’ ” (Rom 3:9-11) Therefore the Law must always be preached “so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Rom 3:19).

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ ” (Matt 22:41-42a)

If we do not know our miserable and hopeless state before God, we will never inquire about Christ. (That was the Pharisees’ problem, who presumed to walk in the Law, never truly understanding it.) Therefore, the Law must show us our universal disease, or we will never inquire for the Physician and His help.

But God’s purpose is not to diagnose our disease and leave us dead in our sin. Therefore, Christ and the Gospel must be preached alongside the Law. Jesus knows man cannot fulfill the Law and stand in the right before God. Thus, He broaches the second and ultimate theme of the Bible – the Christ and the Gospel. “Whose son is he?”

“They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” (Matt 42b-46)

What does it mean to know Christ? The Pharisees were clueless; they did not consider him more than David’s son. They expected him to be only a temporal ruler. But that they would need him in their lost state, to help them out of sin and death, of that the Pharisees knew nothing. The Holy Spirit must teach that Christ is not only David’s son, but also God’s Son.

Jesus here does not provide a full Christology, but broaches the subject of His divinity using Psalm 110:1: “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord”? Christ is David’s Lord to whom the Father says: “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” The Father is saying essentially to Christ: “You shall be acknowledged and worshipped as true God.” Since the Father places Christ equal with himself, He must be more than all creatures. Therefore, we are to believe that Christ was both David’s true son by human descent and also David’s Lord, whom David himself must worship and hold as God. It is impossible to make these statements harmonize, unless the Holy Spirit reveals how the two are at the same time in the one Christ, both that he is truly David’s son and God’s Son.

Christ came and stepped between the Father and us. He bore in His flesh our transgressions, shedding His blood for the entire human race to grant us the forgiveness of sins. Moreover, Christ fulfilled the Law for us so that we might be clothed in His righteousness and thereby come to grace.

Jesus also sends us the Holy Spirit to follow Him, and even in this life begins to extinguish and slay sin, until we come to Him and become like him without any sin and in perfect righteousness. For Christ was raised from the dead to the right hand of the Father to totally abolish sin, death and hell and bring us to new eternal righteousness and eternal life. Amen.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom 3:21) Amen.

Oct 182017
 

From 2014-2016 we reported on allegations of sexual abuse at a Philippine children’s home which was at the time run by Tom Randall and his World Harvest Ministries.

You can read a synopsis of that story written by the whistleblower by clicking here.

Randall himself was arrested and released by authorities, a situation that made headlines here in the United States and a martyr of Randall with his supporters.

We tried (without success) to get authorities or the press to dig deeper into the situation.

For more background on this story click here for all the articles we’ve written as well as a podcast interviewing one of the victims.

There is also this story on alleged financial irregularities and more unanswered questions.

Now, despite all of these questions, Randall is making a triumphant return to the Philippines.

From his October “prayer letter”…

Dear Friends
I would like you to consider giving me your blessing and prayers as I return to the Philippines to visit and minister from November 20 to December 4. I understand that many will not like the idea of me returning considering the threats, ambushes, and arrests over the years. Frankly, the people in the Philippines are not expecting me to return after my unjust arrest and imprisonment during my last ministry trip.
It is difficult to explain the burden and love God has given me for the country and people of the Philippines. But perhaps you can understand my desire to see and hug my kids again. I am also anxious to encourage our missionary staff and friends who have bravely carried on and grown our ministry in the Philippines. I have a powerful story to tell, the language to communicate, and the Good News of Christ to share.
Personally receiving apologies from the NBI agents, DSWD personal, and prison guards and officials has been encouraging. Even the girl who accused our staff member of a kiss has asked forgiveness from him and Karen and me. The missionary who inserted himself into our business and escalated the gossip and slander which resulted in our arrest and the detention of our kids is no longer credible or relevant and poses no threat.
We are encouraged by Joseph’s response in Genesis 41:52. “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Karen and I are so thankful to our church, supporters, and friends who have helped us “sow with tears and reap with joy” these past three plus years while healing from the betrayal, physical abuse and continued slander. As I look to return to the Philippines with a renewed enthusiasm and boldness I want to speak of what I have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20-29).
While still imprisoned in Cell Block 1 a Christian visitor of military authority came to my aid. He fed me, prayed for me, and then stunned and motivated me with the exact words the Lord said to Paul in Acts 18:9-10. “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you and no one will attack or harm you for I have many in this city who are my people.”
And so it was after my “visitor” left Cell Block 1 I was no longer attacked or threatened and four more inmates would give their lives to Christ before my release! “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” The apostle Paul asks these questions and then gives the answers in Romans 8:31-39 after experiencing God’s power and presence in prison. “ For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So it is with great confidence that I ask you to pray and send me again on another adventure with Jesus and the Good News to the Philippines! Karen will be at home or with her mom in Michigan so I will travel alone this time. But there will be many friends waiting for me in Manila and providing security and fellowship every day, in every place, all the time. God is not finished with me yet!

Still your missionary,

Tom Randall

All of the comments have been overwhelmingly supportive to the letter posted on Facebook.

There could not possibly be a letter written that shows how those in positions of power can position themselves against accusations and scrutiny.

His accusers have all allegedly either recanted or been found to lack credibility.

He has bravely withstood his enemies and they have allegedly apologized.

He walks in the power of God, has been vindicated, and is unafraid.

The only thing he left out is a mention of the devil.

There is no proof offered for any of this, just bold and pious statements.

It works…for now.

For the record, I have interviewed many of the people in this situation many times and they do not lack credibility at all.

I have spoken with the alleged victims and they do not lack credibility at all.

I have spoken with the whistleblowers and found them both credible and godly people.

Whether there will ever be a real investigation into all of the issues surrounding Tom Randall is an open question…but then, there are a lot of those.

 

 

Oct 172017
 

Jason Stellman first came on my radar back in the early days of the blog when he was a missionary for Calvary Chapel in Europe.

His support was cut off and he had to return home because he was becoming a (gasp) Calvinist.

That interest in Calvinism led to him going to seminary and becoming a Presbyterian pastor.

 

While dwelling among the Reformed, he authored what I thought was the book on two kingdom theology and his church was stable and growing.

JJS was going to be a star.

Then, out of seemingly nowhere, he left it all and joined the Roman Catholic communion.

The tongue clucking among the frozen chosen sounded like thunder…

Now, it seems like the new gig has it’s own problems.

It seems like Stellman doesn’t completely fit in anywhere.

He’s a misfit.

My guess is that many of you feel the same way, even if your road hasn’t been as long and winding as Jason’s.

This book may be for you.

Now, if you’re looking for one of those books that affirms traditional orthodoxy in the face of doubt, this probably isn’t the book for you.

That would be too easy and Stellman seems to have an aversion to easy.

If you’re willing to to ask some hard questions and explore some different paradigms (because God and faith are important and worthy of such) I think you will find real value here.

If you’re a misfit, you’re already asking them and looking for change…

Stellman at his best is provocative, glib, and quite humorous…and he’s often at his best here.

What needs to be remembered is that he’s paid a high price over the years to get to this place…and you may have as well.

Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not alone…misfits are often isolated.

His journey isn’t over…neither is yours.

“Misfit Faith” may make the road trip a little more enjoyable for you.

Click on the book cover or here to order it from us…

 

Oct 172017
 

20 truths from God’s country…

Protecting people from themselves…

How vulgarity normalizes predators…

God strengthens those of weak faith…

Why the American South would have killed Charles Spurgeon…

Don’t put faith in your doubt…

How biblical is biblical counseling?

Church planting through death…

The origin of “Judeo-Christian” values…

Let the main thing be the main thing…

How the Reformation failed…

Religion is alive and well in America, says professor…

Why Christy Wimber closed her church…

How the ELCA is trying to be relevant…

How to convert a white supremacist…

Is the book of Romans strategy or theology?

Are there too many churches in America?

5 myths about Martin Luther…

Is there a new Reformation? No…

Bury the word”evangelical”…

An open letter to Lecrae…

Remember to support EricL at top right…he does excellent work!

 

Oct 172017
 

1. My apologies for my absence…fighting through another bout with kidney stones…

2. The #metoo social media tag for women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted has the potential to turn some big churches inside out…

 

3. While I have no stomach for constant self promotion,perhaps it’s time the church reminded everyone who the first people who show up for disaster relief are…this would be a real counter balance to simply being identified as a partisan political group…

4. While I have no stomach for constant self promotion, it’s the only way to sell books these days. It still makes me sick to watch it, let alone participate in it. This was my epiphany when I was struggling for reasons why I can’t finish a book I’m writing…I fear being the dog in another dog and pony show…

5. On the other hand, maybe the church doesn’t really need my book…or I want everyone else to promote me, for me…

6. The #metoo campaign is pointless if names aren’t named…but the names can often bear the sword…

7. Kay Warren tweeted #metoo…Kay Warren is a national treasure in my book…

8. The fabric of the church is torn whenever we convince another godly servant that anonymity is a problem to be overcome…

9. Sometimes I wonder how long it will be until churches are named after the pastor like restaurants are named after chefs…

10. Revival almost always comes from groups on the margins and it comes when it seems like religion is in decline. We are in a qualifying time…how will we react when revival breaks out amongst those we scorn? Who do we scorn enough for God to bless them with an outpouring of the Spirit?

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