May 192018
 

The Death of Outrage and The Sickness in Our Soul

Yesterday, ten lives were lost at Santa Fe High School in Texas.  Since the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, it counts as the seventeenth school shooting. This time, however, the weapons used were not assault rifles or semi-automatic handguns, but a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver. These are the sort of guns many of us grew up with.  They are the sort of guns with which we might have actually learned to shoot in many parts of the country.  While I certainly believe in stricter gun control, universal background checks and all the rest, there is something else going on here and it involves us.

We are slowly learning not to be outraged by such tragedies.

We are increasingly becoming inured to the rising tide of violence that surrounds us.  It is not, however, merely violent acts such as school shootings that we now accept as commonplace or normal.  It is the violence of speech from politicians.  It is the violence of families separated in deportations.  It is the violence of intolerance from both the right and the left witnessed in street demonstrations.  It is the violence of men who exploit and abuse women. It is the violence of economic inequity where working families find it hard to make ends meet and frequently have to choose between food on the table and paying the rent.   It is the violence of demeaning an opponent with the casual cruelty of insults.  It is the violence of poverty in the abandoned industrial towns of Appalachia. It is the calculated violence of discrimination whereby another person created in the image of God is made out to be less than human because of their color, their national origin, their faith, their gender or their politics.

Now, with increasing regularity, that violence is put on display in the form of an alienated angry teen with a gun in his hands in a school hallway.

Oh yes, we will try to establish the individual motive of the shooter, or we will debate the availability of guns, but I think something more is going on in our society and it seems to be getting worse.

Meanwhile, as the Church, we are debating what it means to be the Church.  There are numerous church leaders, seeking political and policy advantage, who seem willing to accept the current state of affairs.  Using golf metaphors, they are willing to give certain political leaders “a pass” when it comes to blatant immorality, or to mocking a disabled reporter or a continuing stream of lies and insults.  They condone the violence of speech and, at times, amplify that speech.  Then there are others struggling to understand how the Church is to function in the current atmosphere.  Yet, even here, we find it hard to reach consensus.  We debate the relevance of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes to our current lives as believers.  We parse the words of Matthew 25 hoping that it might say something different from what it actually says.  In any case, we’re more interested in the latest denominational  (and non-denominational) scandals and we would rather discuss the finer points of soteriology or eschatology.  

We are no longer outraged by the violence of thought and action that surrounds us… and that is a problem.

The early church recognized that it bore a special responsibility toward the world. As the letter to Diognetus says:

“[Christians] pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life…To sum up all in one word–what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world.”

If, indeed, we are the soul, we cannot afford not to be outraged, no matter what that might cost us.  Yet, in my darker moments, I fear that a sickness has entered that soul… and we stand in need of healing.

Duane W.H. Arnold

The Project

May 192018
 

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May 192018
 

Revelation 9:1-12

1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.

  • We ended 8:13 with the triple woe – coming judgment
  • This blowing of the trumpet brings about a star falling from heaven – Isaiah 14:12 – “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!”
  • We will see a further description in verse 11 (Satan).
  • The bottomless pit = the Abyss – A place that is forsaken by God – Demonland – Hades (6:8).

He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.

  • The Bottomless Pit – The word literally means “without depth.” And seems to play a fairly prominent role in scripture. From several biblical references, it seems the “abyss” is a place reserved for the demonic angels. The demons expelled from the Gadarene begged Jesus “not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8:31). In Romans, the abyss is the abode of the dead (Rom 10:7; see also Ps 63:9; 71:20). In the epistles, evil angels are in “chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). In Revelation, the abyss is the origin of the beast (11:7; 17:8) and the place of Satan’s temporary incarceration (20:1-8). Here, this bottomless pit appears to be the home of demons shut up until they are released at the proper time.
  • Smoke filled the air in such quantity, it blocked the sun.

Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.

  • Think back to the plagues. This is the 8th plague on Egypt – Ex 10:4.
  • Joel 2:2-5 uses the locust as a description of the Assyrian invasion.
  • Locust Joel 1:1-12 – a description of the invasion and v.13, the purpose – repentance — sound familiar?
  • You must understand Joel to understand this Rev 9 passage – judgment is brought for the sake of what? People repenting – turning from their sin and believing in the lamb who has been slain.
  • If you do not see this as a call to repentance, it really skews your view of our Father. Rather than the one who loves and desires to save his dear children, he is vindictive – he is judgmental.
  • Now this is a divine event – it is not some natural phenomenon that can be explained by global warming or global cooling, as I am sure many today would attempt.
  • Note that this began with a star falling from the sky. This star is given the key to the bottomless pit. This is not something to be explained away – but it is an unexplainable event
  • These are demonic hoards sent by God as his agents, his instruments to do his work.

They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

  • This is not a judgment on the earth but on man – unbelieving man – worshipers of the beast of all times – past, present and future.
  • Notice how those who have God’s seal are spared? Just like in Egypt as the Israelites were not harmed by the plagues that attacked Egypt – see Ex 8-10.
  • To me, this is another anti rapture passage. Those with God’s seal and those without are still living on earth side by side.
  • God protects his own from his wrath – he does not need to remove them.

They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.

  • Five months – what is happening here? How long does the average locust live? Up to 5 months.
  • This is partial judgment so 5 months = limited time.
  • It is interesting to keep in mind how God is in charge. He sets the parameters – do not harm the grass – time limit, 5 months – all of this as he keeps focus on his work.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (but read the broader statement v.8-10.

And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

  • The people will be tormented and tortured but cannot die. They will wish they could, but they can’t.
  • Is this not a description of how despairing people are? People who believe the satanic lie that you can be as God, knowing good from evil and that you are in charge?
  • The grim wages of lusts and additions. Tiger Woods could tell us much about living under the addictions of pornography and sex. Living under the burden of sin, living with the sting of the scorpion – that fiery burning that just will not die.
  • When your false gods crash you wish you were dead.

In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,

their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;

they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.

10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.

  • After detailing their origin and their mission, John next attempts to describe what he saw in his vision. In one of the strangest passages in the entire Bible, he writes verses 7-10.
  • John saw what looked like locusts to him. He describes them in words built on real locusts but his description goes far beyond reality. This nine-fold description of the locusts in the verses above stretch John’s own apocalyptic imagination. Note the struggle with John’s continual use of the word “like”.

11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

  • They – who are the THEY? This refers to the locust like beings, but we must also apply it to the unbeliever – all unbelievers of all time – those without God’s seal.
  • Satan is their leader. How does John handle the description? With great emphasis John states his name in both Hebrew and Greek – the Destroyer.

12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.

  • Literally ‘went away’ – the idea is that the first woe has come and gone – we will see the same in 11:14.
  • This is a transitional verse between the 5th and 6th We know that these are woes as the text tells us so.
  • The next woe will run from 9:13 to 11:13 … this is a lot of woe.
  • Where is the 3rd woe identified in the 7th trumpet? It is not. Instead, John records another scene of heavenly worship at 11:15-19.
  • So the function of the 3 woes is to form a link between the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls which begin in Rev 16.

 

May 182018
 

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.

 

And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

(Genesis 28:9–17 ESV)

If you want to make a cat panic and feel utterly abandoned and without hope…go in the bathroom and shut the door.

Chester is sure that all who enter therein are lost forever.

He’s sure of this despite the fact that he’s seen me safely enter and exit the room a thousand times.

He sits outside the door and howls in emotional agony, occasionally gathering himself to try to ram the door open.

He does this until he can do it no more and resigns himself to fate.

When he can’t see me or see what I’m doing, he believes he’s all alone and life as he knew it is over…until he sees me again and all is well until the next time nature calls.

Sometimes I feel a lot like Chester did when I went in and showered this morning.

I can feel the same way when it seems God is silent or absent.

I think Jacob was in a similar state of mind in the story above.

He had screwed up his life, people were angry with him, and he was on the run and alone.

The potential for metaphors is rich here…

Alone.

In the desert.

In the dark.

A rock for a pillow.

Can I get a witness?

God responded to Jacob’s plight by opening his spiritual eyes to see that even though he felt abandoned and alone, in reality he had a bunch of heavenly company.

God was there with him and so were the angels…working on his behalf between heaven and earth.

The “gate of heaven” wasn’t that particular geographic location,but would be wherever Jacob was…because God was always with Jacob.

He was shown that the spiritual reality was much different from the one he could see with natural eyes.

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

My prayer this morning is that for those of us whom those metaphors resonate loudly in our spirits can have our spiritual eyes opened to these same realities.

God is with us.

He will never leave or forsake us.

He and the hosts of heaven are working for us.

His promises are true…true for me and true for you.

I pray that soon we can say with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

We didn’t know it.

We will.

He promised.

Make your own application…

 

May 172018
 

The Calvary Global Network released it’s first official podcast today…“What Is the Calvary Global Network?”

After listening, I still don’t know…

 

 

In reality, it seems to be more of an idea than an identity…which is not a bad thing, but without an identity you have nothing to belong to.

We’ll see if the concept is getting any traction by how many pastors show up for this summers conference…

Almost every day I get an email from “The Elijah List”, which is a bullhorn for the “prophetic” movement.

I’m alternately amused and disgusted by the nonsense put forth as “from God”.

This is an expose from someone who worked there…not very well written, but interesting nonetheless…

This anti “social Gospel” resolution will be offered at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention convention…

If you’re interested in helping support us now would be a good time…

 

May 172018
 

Michigan State University settled it’s sexual abuse scandal for 500 million dollars.

While we rejoice at the fact that an institution has been held accountable, we also need to look at the implications for other institutions.

My Twitter feed was full of folks warning the Protestant churches that they were “next”…after the Roman Catholic church has already made many similar, large, settlements.

What will happen in reality is a lot different…let me explain.

The people most impressed with the size of this settlement are lawyers, as they stand to be the ones who will profit the most from the misery of others.

The only churches they will attempt to “hold accountable” are ones that can line their pockets.

That means large churches or entire denominations.

Small churches simply aren’t worth their brand of justice or accountability.

The end result will be that in the broader evangelical community there will actually be less accountability.

Let me give you an example.

When Chuck Smith was still alive and in charge of Calvary Chapels, he had a disciplinary arm of the non denominational denomination call the Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship, or “CCOF” for short.

Ostensibly the office that did affiliations, it also served as the doctrinal and moral police agency for the movement, working out of the Costa Mesa church.

The existence of that office and the fact that they enforced “discipline” in the field made Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa legally liable for the misdeeds of all the affiliates.

They paid for a bunch of them…Costa Mesa had really deep pockets.

A few years ago, Smith wearied of paying for the sins of people he didn’t know and disbanded CCOF in an attempt to cut that tie between the affiliates and the mothership.

Henceforth, Costa Mesa would only pay for their own issues.

When his brother Paul (who was running CCOF) continued to enforce (mainly doctrinal) rules, he fired his brother.

Today, neither side of the CC split will exercise any control over the affiliates other than adding or removing their names from a database.

It’s all about liability.

If there is no accountability at the local church level there will be none above it either.

Most churches in this country have shallow pockets and aren’t worth the attention of the tort vultures.

Those that do have resources…might want to make sure they have air tight child protection and hiring standards in place.

It’s all about liability…

 

May 152018
 

I’m back…with a solo effort.

I’m using the Anchor app to record and it’s available on both iTunes and Google Play for Android.

Hopefully, it will also be available on all the other podcast services by the end of the week.

This week. I’m doing a mini bible study from Genesis and telling you why the Paige Patterson debacle doesn’t have legs…

May 152018
 

When God leaves you in the pit…

You missed the Rapture, again…

What was missing from Paige Patterson’s apology…

Faith as union with Christ…

Why happy Christian moms still feel guilty…

How to stand where Jesus stands…in the messy middle…

Seminary students leave the MDiv behind…

The benefits of failure…

Check your idols at the church door…

Four ways to join Jesus in intercession…

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that you can’t use it…

How not to be an online troll…

Superheroes, vigilantes, Jesus…

Tearing families apart at the border…

Superheroes saving us from ourselves…

Have we gotten “render unto Caesar what is Caesars” all wrong?

Andy Stanley’s modern Marcionism…

Prayer isn’t serious, (contrary to what we’ve been told)…

Nature is not your friend…

The Great Physician’s bedside manner…

An appetite of the heart…

How to waste a $1000…the American history version…

The creation, care, and feeding, of church planters…

Are my friends really my friends?

The Palestinian Christians: strangers in a familiar land…

Making sense of Israel in Christian theology…

The real reason young people are leaving the church…

Huge thanks to EricL for the link help…support him at top right…

May 142018
 

The Acceptable Sacrifice

New York City is known for its beautiful churches, many of which are open for prayer throughout the day.  A certain Anglican visited his parish church on a busy weekday afternoon.  He wanted to light a candle and say a prayer in a particular chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  From the moment he entered the west doors, even a casual observer could tell that he knew what he was doing. 

 

As the pledge campaign was approaching, he picked up a pledge card for the Every Member Canvas, extracted an iPhone from his suit pocket, went to the calculator, sorted out ten percent of his income for the church and an additional three percent for the music program. Filling in the lines on the card, he slipped it into his pocket to turn in later in the week.  Turning to an opposite table, he made a mental note to sign up for the next mid-week Bible Study class.  Entering the nave, he moved up the center aisle and reverenced the altar.  Before turning towards the Lady Chapel, he looked in the direction of the sanctuary lamp, deeply bowed and before lighting a candle, which had been his original intention, he slipped into a pew to pray, carefully adjusting his trousers before kneeling so as not to cause wrinkles at the knee.  Flicking a bit of lint from his coat sleeve, he crossed himself, then lifted his hand preparing to shield his eyes and pray.

At that moment, he was distracted as, out of the corner of his eye, he observed some movement in the side aisle.  Turning his head, he watched as a young woman, obviously of a disreputable reputation and line of work, made her way into the chapel.  Her makeup was excessive and her clothing risque. It was clear from her confusion that she seldom frequented places of worship. She neither reverenced the altar nor acknowledged the sanctuary lamp.  In fact, she seemed unable to even lift her head. As she moved closer and looked up for a moment, our man in the pew could see, even in the dim light of the chapel, what appeared to be streaks of tears on her face.  Finally, she moved by him with a hesitant and uneven gait, and settled into a pew some distance away.  

Reflecting upon that which he had seen, the man began to pray.  “God,” he thought, “there’s so much misery in the world.  I’m so thankful that my life isn’t like all the others out there.  My business dealings are honest, my tax returns haven’t been audited for years and while most of my friends have had multiple divorces and affairs (especially Jim at the office – his mind wandered for a moment) I’ve always been faithful. I’m so glad that I’m not like them, or even worse, like that poor woman over there.  God, it’s a lot to be thankful for…”  Suddenly, he heard something that broke his concentration.  The woman, previously silent in her personal grief, was now sobbing, and the sound reverberated off the stone walls and low vaulted ceiling of the chapel.  She did not know how to pray or what words to use, but from the wellspring of distant memory arose a single phrase, “God be merciful to me a sinner”.  Through her tears and with uneven breath, she repeated the phrase again and again, her voice growing softer with every word.

The man kneeling in the pew, his concentration broken, breathed a sigh of importunate resignation, crossed himself, rose, reverenced the altar and made his way toward the street, remembering  along the way (although he had almost forgotten) quickly to light a candle at the small bronze sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child.

The young woman, her tears spent, also arose and made her way toward the back of the church.  She paused, however, along the way when she noticed a statue, bathed in blue light from burning candles.  She saw it was a mother and child, but the look on the mother’s face was arresting.  It seemed to know all the joys and all the pains of life and yet, the face was radiant with love.  She thought of her own unborn child that she would never know, and the tears welled up again.  The young woman, not fully knowing why, lit a candle and beneath her breath again whispered the long forgotten, yet heartfelt words, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”. 

Out on the busy city street, the man had already disappeared into the crowd, safe and assured of his place in God’s kingdom and confidant of his own righteousness, though, in some ways, he felt vaguely distracted rather than comforted as a result of the time he had taken from his day.  The woman, who had walked slowly down the steps, almost not wanting to leave, turned to go in the other direction, unsure that her broken words had been heard in that place, yet feeling some intangible sense of peace and knowing, somehow instinctively, that life, her life, could be different.

Of the two, I think the woman went to her home knowing more of God’s presence than the man.  Why? Because those who lay themselves bare to God’s mercy will be covered by God’s love, but those who come dressed in their own sense of righteousness and well-being will find themselves spiritually impoverished, even when they do all the things that we all agree they ought to do. For you see, our God whom we worship, in addition to fulfilling our obligations to his Church and his altar, requires yet one more thing.  It is, unfortunately, something that we all too often lack.  It was something possessed by the young woman in our narrative and by a renegade Jewish tax collector in a far older story, for, as the Psalmist says, “the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise…”

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

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