Oct 312017
 

1. Every Reformation Day we hear the calls to reaffirm or restate the need for theological reformation. We don’t need another theological reformation, but an ethical and moral one. We need that one as much as the one Luther headed…

 

 

2. Political power was needed to enable the first Reformation…cleansing the church of the lust for it will be necessary for the next one…

3. If the baseball is juiced, they should keep it that way…

4. I write #1 every Reformation Day and will probably keep having to do so…

5. Luther is the most fascinating person in church history…a picture of what God can do with a man full of conviction and how a man full of conviction can be one that is horribly flawed…

6. It will always seem to me that the efficacy of prayer should be quantifiable in some way…

7. Every Reformation Day I join with others in pretending that the day matters and that people care about their history…

8. The new iPhone software update has 70 new emoji. I read somewhere today that soon we’ll do without words and be back to hieroglyphics…no wonder kids can’t write…

9. I got tired of complaining about what the church wasn’t doing in town and just decided to work with people that are doing important stuff…and there’s not enough time in the day to keep up…

10. I said this on Facebook,but it bears repeating here…the “opioid crisis’ is a symptom of the greater “misery crisis”. Until we discern why we’re all so damned unhappy any solutions will be temporary and futile…

Oct 312017
 

Corby Stephen’s Kickstarter for the Rhythm Journal…

Luther and the Ethiopian church….

How people use the Bible today…

From Hindu to Anglican…

14 women of the Reformation you probably never heard of…

The art of the counter-Reformation…

K-Love wants your cash….

Change “evangelical” to “beaconist”…

Is it time for the Reformation to end?

Is the Roman Catholic church “catholic” enough?

John Wesley’s place in the Protestant Reformation…

Scripture is music, not math…

Nepal criminalizes Christianity…

Best article I’ve read on the appeal of Trump…

Hillsong doesn’t sing “Shout To The Lord” anymore…

The “good old days” have never existed in Christianity…

What we can learn from the Reformation 500 years later…

Anglicans and (some) Lutherans together…

Nailed to the door or not?

Martin Luther: The wrath of God?

Halloween -more Christian than pagan…

Five misconceptions of Reformation Day…

How a drunk German took on the Pope and lived to tell the tale…

Confederate monuments and the power of absence…

The monster within…

Is Hollywood harder on sexual predators than the church is?

500 years after Luther, we still feel the need to be justified…

Did Martin Luther invent “justification” 500 years ago?

Faith leaders fighting white supremacy, Trump…

Take off your costume, God’s got a better one…

Big thanks as always to Eric L for the link help…support him at top right…

Oct 302017
 

Through the Looking Glass

‘Would you tell me, please, which way ought I to go from here?’ said Alice.

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where…’ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

Alice in Wonderland

These days, I feel very much like Alice.  I’ve walked through the looking glass into a strange new world.  It’s 2017 and we have a television reality show host as President of the United States.  After years of dedicated public servants like Richard Lugar of Indiana and Sam Nunn of Georgia seeking to reduce nuclear stockpiles world-wide, we’re now hearing about a new arms race.  In the second decade of the twenty-first century, almost 150 years since the passage of the 14th Amendment granting equal rights and equal protection to all Americans, white supremacists and Neo-Nazis are marching through the streets of American towns and cities. 

Religious institutions which once provided a moral compass are mired in their own declining fortunes.  The Episcopal Church in its 2016 – 2018 budget allocated some $21 million to supporting mission through local churches while spending over $50 million in property litigation with departing members.  In the Roman Catholic Church over the last decade, thirteen dioceses and Archdioceses have had to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection as a figure approaching $2 billion has been paid out in pedophile and sexual abuse case settlements. Once esteemed denominations seem to be fading from the scene. Seminaries are closing owing to lack of enrollment. Evangelicals, once the “renegades” of the ecclesiastical world in America, are tying their future prospects to the present incumbent of the White House, for better or worse.

I must say, it is all very bewildering.  Like Alice, I want to ask, “Which way ought I to go from here?”  

Despite, or perhaps because of, the issues we are facing, there is, of course, the “safe house” of absolute certainty.  This can be found in many iterations. Additionally, when one finds a particular “safe-house” and enters, one can receive an additional benefit – the zeal of a convert.  This allows you to set aside any troubling reports concerning a particular church or denomination. Thus, for example, when one becomes a Roman Catholic, you will be an ultra-montane Roman Catholic. You will be exceedingly devout, attending Mass daily, finding special devotion to obscure saints, correcting all around you on their practice of your new found faith (even if they are cradle Catholics) and, with an air of weary superiority, instructing those poor benighted souls who have not yet found the “true faith”.  This certainty and zeal, however, is not limited to our brethren who have made their way to the banks of the Tiber.  It can also be found with those who have embraced the certainties of Methodism, the Reformed tradition, Lutheranism, the charismatic experience, Eastern Orthodoxy, evangelical free churches, and yes, Anglicanism.  Moreover, in each of these worlds, one can find yet further subsets – a “Latin Mass” Roman Catholic, a “confessional” Lutheran, an “Anglo-Catholic” Anglican, a “premillennial” evangelical… and on and on it goes, along with the absolute certainty that THIS is the place everyone belongs. THIS is the way everyone should go.

Over the course of decades, I’ve watched this scenario play out with many friends and acquaintances.  First they were a devout Baptist, then a Charismatic, then a Calvinist, and then, and then… Each iteration was embraced with the same absolute certainty, the same convert’s zeal and the same slight air of superiority and, perhaps for some, this is what their particular personality demands. 

Now, Alice didn’t care much about where she was going and, thus, the Cat’s reply was correct.  For myself, although like Alice I am bewildered, I do care where I am going, so asking, “Which way ought I to go from here?” is a far different question and requires a different answer.  For me, and I can only speak for myself, the answer quite simply is the person of Christ.

Christ is the destination – the way we go, the truth we hear, the life we live. All that we read in Scripture, all that we affirm in the Creeds, all that we discover in the rich Tradition of the Church, all that we encounter in the Sacraments has one focal point – the person of Christ.  Now, that may be a comfort to some, but it may be a bit terrifying to others.  We remember that when C.S. Lewis introduced the Christ figure of the lion Aslan in Narnia, he reminded his readers that Aslan was not a “tame lion” and could be dangerous. You see, Christ is not only the destination, he is also the journey and that journey is one of transformation and that transformation is into a particular likeness.  It is, of course, the likeness of Christ himself – the homeless Christ of the nativity, the Christ of the Beatitudes, the servant Christ who washes his disciples feet, and yes, the Christ who carries a cross and dies upon it, and the risen Christ of the resurrection. While transformation can be glorious, it can also be decidedly uncomfortable and, at times, painful. The triumphant fronds of Palm Sunday will be burned and provide the sign of the Cross upon our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. If we lay claim to the joy of Easter, we will also have wept below the Cross on Good Friday. 

Such a journey, such a transformation, encompasses all of this and more, for it encompasses our very life and all that our life involves.  Our traditions, our distinctives, our theological musings, even our ecclesiastical certainties and convert’s zeal, only have value in that they assist in, and help us to understand this transformation and, in love, to share it with others.  Yet in that sharing, we need to understand that in this bewildering landscape their journey, like their life, will be their own and very likely, different from ours.

Unlike Alice, we care where we are going, but within our current ecclesial landscape, the way we go may be of lesser importance, regardless of the certainties of others.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Oct 292017
 

May the Lord support us all the day long,
Till the shades lengthen and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging,
and holy rest, and peace at the last.

 Amen.

Cardinal Newman

Oct 292017
 

Matthew 27:45-51

The Death of Jesus

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour,

  • Noon to 3 – Darkness – How much? Just Israel – technically half the world is already dark.
  • When the sun is at its highest and the day should be at its brightest – there is darkness.
  • Amos 8:9 – “And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”
  • The reason for the darkness? God is done with Israel – Amos 8:2 – And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day, “declares the Lord God. “So many dead bodies!” “They are thrown everywhere!” “Silence!”
  • This is what Paul means to preach Jesus and him crucified. The sky gets dark because Jesus gets damned. Jesus is suffering damnation and condemnation of hell itself
  • This is God’s judgment on sin and sinners and they are reduced to one in Jesus. This is why Peter at Pentecost says “this Jesus who you crucified…” not that they put him on the cross – but their / our sin did – their sin caused the crucifixion.
  • This is why Good Friday is the most important day in the history of the world. (you can consider Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday as one event.)

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”

  • This helps us to understand how far Old Israel has fallen – to the point that they do not even recognize prayer.
  • Psalm 22 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
  • Jesus is calling to the Father and they think he is calling Elijah.

48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.

  • This is not to be confused with the wine mixed with gall which Jesus earlier refused to drink. This was to moisten his lips and mouth as he had some great things to still get out – his 7 famous sayings from the cross.

49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

  • In Hebrew legend Elijah was celebrated as the helper in times of need – so that is what they think he is doing – calling for help.
  • But the crowd does not understand.

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

  • Note that he is yielding up his spirit on his own.
  • At this point in the Gospel of John Jesus says “It is finished.”
  • What is finished?
  • The vicarious atonement is finished.
  • All righteousness is fulfilled.
  • God’s Plan of Salvation has been done.
  • Everything after this is the delivery of this salvation.
  • Easter is just that – the preaching of ‘it is finished’ for you.
  • This is not just a general historical event spoken of like in a lecture. It must be preached ‘for you!’
  • A note: Jesus is the fulfillment of every OT sacrifice ever made in faith.
  • This is not the blood of bulls and goats and rams – this is the blood of God.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

  • To the Jews this is an “Oh My!” moment. What did the curtain represent? The way you got to God.
  • Didn’t Jesus he was the way to the Father? Didn’t he say he was the door?
  • So why was it torn in two? I think for 3 reasons.
  • ) To show that God is no longer present in the brick and mortar temple.
  • ) God now lives in the dead / the resurrected body of Christ.
  • ) Access to the Holy of Holies is through Jesus Christ.
  • What was the accusation? Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up again.
  • The foolishness of American Christians who are desperate to rebuild the temple – to go against God is not a promising venture.
  • So what are the chances that they already have it prefabricated ready to send over when the Battle of Armageddon begins or the Rapture happens.
  • Whatever their timetable is, it is total foolishness. The brick & mortar temple is done – finished!
  • Jesus is the temple – his body is God in the flesh vs God in the temple – and there are no more temples to be offered … not even in a memorial sense (a Jewish substitute version of the Lord’s Supper.)
  • It is finished and for a Christian group to be involved in helping of encouraging Jews to do so is straight up blasphemy.
  • Jesus said in Matt 23:38 “See, your house is left to you desolate.” – Get over it!!.
  • You cannot hold on to both temples – I say ‘choose you this day which temple you will have

 

Oct 272017
 


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Oct 272017
 

Chester is out of patience.

He wants out.

He had always been an outdoor cat before he was arrested for assault and spent time in the pound.

While there, he was diagnosed with FIV, a deadly virus that cats spread by biting other cats.

Chester likes to bite other cats…with malice and vigor.

Thus, he was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life.

I am both his beloved owner and the warden of the prison.

He has tried to adapt to his new circumstances, but they are now almost more than he can bear.

He howls and cries to be let out and when I’m gone he does everything he can to escape.

He has successfully rooted the carpet around the door up while trying to tunnel his way under it.

I should have named him “El Chapo”…

He thinks there may be an escape route behind the television thus, I came home to find it face down on the floor as he had to move it first.

Perhaps there is an opening behind the bookcases…so he has pushed the contents of them onto the floor as well.

His misery is compounded by living with Miss Kitty.

Miss Kitty scratches on the door from the outside to be let in, and she sits politely by the door to be let out.

She comes in and out as it pleases her.

He watches her leave while I restrain him and cries loudly…for about half an hour.

He is confused and confounded by my dual roles of provider and jailer.

He was finally frustrated enough to spit at me before breakfast.

He has spent the rest of the morning with his back turned to let me know he’s ignoring me.

I understand his frustration.

I really do.

Sometimes it seems like God has us hemmed in from all sides.

No matter what we do we can’t seem to change our circumstances.

To make matters worse, we see His other kids moving about freely and they like to share their “testimonies” about how the Father was the one that freed them.

We spit toward heaven, then turn our backs to it while we try to find yet another way to escape.

What Chester cannot possibly comprehend are all the reasons I have to keep him where he is at the moment.

He ‘s a bright cat, but not that bright.

I have the same comprehension problem with God.

I don’t know the “whys”, but He does.

What I try to communicate to Chet is that everything I do, I do in love for him.

God says the same about where I am…and where you are.

It doesn’t always feel that way.

It still is that way.

Someday, I hope to find a way to let Chester out safely…while I pray God finds a way to do the same for me.

For now, I have to have faith and clean up some spit.

Make your own application…

 

 

Oct 262017
 

Are You a Sinner?

“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’ And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:1-8)

A couple years ago, I was struck by the comment of a pastor, who said most people today are not concerned about sin. Assuming the validity of his comment, this lack of concern has serious implications for what motivates people today to want to be Christians and join or remain in churches. It also could influence the content of worship and preaching. For example, if church growth and member retention are of paramount importance, will preachers deemphasize sin and God’s wrath to accommodate the interests and perceived needs of their members?

If I could ask a few follow up questions to this pastor, it would be these: Why would anyone in a post-Christendom America want to be a Christian, if not to rid oneself of sin and its temporal and eternal consequences? If one assumes that the Christian pursuit is an eternal relationship with Christ, can the foundation of such a relationship be built on anything other than Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins? If the church does away with sin, does it also do away with the Gospel as a consequence?

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

When Jesus declares your sins forgiven, He says: “Take heart”. The KJV reads “be of good cheer”. The NASB reads “Take courage”. It is as though Jesus were to say: “I have cast all your sins into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19). Since I no longer remember them, let them no longer burden your conscience.”

The forgiveness of sins consists of three indispensable parts: (1) sin; (2) forgiveness; and (3) proclamation.

(1) Sin.

There can be no forgiveness, no grace, and consequently no salvation – without sin. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matt 9:12) Without the knowledge of our sin, we are like the mass of mankind in the days of Noah: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matt 24:38).

Christians may read about humility in the Bible, may affirm its virtue, and may even attempt to become humble, but true humility is the work of God, worked in us through His word of Law which condemns our holiness, works, disobedience and arrogance as sin. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5)

Neither will the ignorance of sin excuse us before God: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

Therefore, we must be and always remain sinners and fear the wrath of God on account of sin for as long as we live. We must not consider ourselves guilty of little infractions, but in truth of grievous, damnable sin. Because it is to real sinners that God pours out His grace, as Jesus said of the woman who anointed His feet: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

(2) Forgiveness.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10)

After our sin is made known to us and justly condemns us, we will desire Christ and His medicine. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come from heaven and has been made man, has suffered and died for our sins. This is the cause, the means, and the treasure, through which we obtain the forgiveness of sin and for the sake of which the grace of God is bestowed upon us; for there is no other means of reconciliation between God and mankind.

All of us are born in sin and are the enemies of God. We have deserved eternal wrath and punishment. All that we are and have is condemned, and there is no help or way out of it. For sin is so grave that no man can quench it or appease it. Therefore, another Man must take our place, namely Jesus Christ, God and man, who through his suffering and death made satisfaction for our sins and paid for them. This is the price that was set and expended for us, by which sin has been quenched and the wrath of God appeased, the Father has been reconciled and made our friend.

Therefore, if we seize Christ as the One who has become our substitute, who has taken our sin upon himself, and who has given himself with all His righteousness for us, then no sin can harm us. Take heart: We are sinners, but our Christ is holy and is Lord over sin, death, Satan and hell, so that no sin can harm us, because in Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14)

(3) Proclamation.

“And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom 10:14b)

There is only one Gospel – Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins, one Christian faith, and one Way to reconciliation between God and mankind, which we know because God has given us His God-breathed Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16). The proclamation of this Gospel must remain the principle mission of the Church and should be the form, rule and standard of all Christian preaching.

The reason for this is that God has ordained no other way to save sinful human beings other than through the proclamation of God’s two words of Law and Gospel. This proclamation has the power to apply the saving work of Christ’s atonement to the hearer by the power of the Holy Spirit who comes to us in the Word of God and gives us repentance and faith.

If people, including Christians, are no longer concerned about their sin, then the Gospel will no longer comfort or benefit them. In such a case, the answer is not less preaching of sin, by which the Gospel will be lost along with the sinners and the church, but churches and preachers should stand firm in the midst of secularism, humanism and post-Christendom and preach God’s words of Law and Gospel without compromise until the Lord returns. Amen.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ ” (1 Cor 1:18-19) Amen.

Oct 252017
 

Fats Domino died this morning.

It will get dark earlier tonight…

The true “Mt. Rushmore” of rock and roll would have him on it, next to Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

He was before them and with them, but not like them.

Elvis was odd and dangerous, Chuck was mean and greedy, Richard was bi sexual and bold, and Jerry Lee was a felony waiting to happen.

There was no menace to Fats Domino in persona or music, only joy.

Joy.

He wasn’t trying to scare or seduce you, he just wanted everyone to have a good time.

He was a master of the boogie woogie piano and the incredible rolling beat of his left hand and the huge smile on his face provided all you needed to have one.

There were no big scandals or arrest records, no burnt pianos, no gunshots in the night.

Just joy.

He gave me lots of it.

It will endure the passing of another casket…

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