Dec 222017
 

Calvary Chapel Honolulu, pastored by Calvary Chapel Association board member Bill Stonebreaker is being sued for allegedly not doing enough to stop a sexual predator at the church.

You can read the story here…

Because of the sexual abuse charges coming out of both the entertainment and political spheres and the social media support for the victims, I expect to see a flood of stories like this in the future.

 

Calvary Chapels have often covered up these cases, often with a cash payout with a non disclosure agreement (NDA) attached.

Now, with many states considering legislation to allow NDA’s to be ignored in sexual abuse cases, the lid may come off a lot of stories.

Perhaps this will lead to the CCA having as clear guidelines on child protection measures as they have on required doctrinal matters…

 

 

Dec 222017
 

Christmas may be the single greatest stressor in my life, even in a life filled with too much stress year round.

It’s come to represent every emotional wound I’ve collected over the years and I’m miserable in spirit from the end of Halloween to Dec. 26, when the whole thing is mercifully over.

This year is worse than most, for reasons that are pointless to recount here.

 

 

(We must, of course, must also pile on some guilt for being a clergyman who has such issues during a “religious” time of the year. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a hoot at Easter.)

It’s best to keep these things to yourself and let the rest of world celebrate as there is such little real celebration at all these days.

My cats can tell, however, and one cat in particular tries to make it better.

Sleep runs from me in winter and I grow exhausted chasing what should refresh me.

Miss Kitty seems to know this.

Every night this week she has waited until I lay down, then laid beside me and purred until I fall asleep.

Cats don’t just purr to calm and comfort themselves…they will do so to comfort you.

After I fall asleep she leaves to sleep in my chair.

If I get up in the middle of the night the process repeats itself.

She knows something isn’t right and though I’m sure she has no understanding of what those things are, she wants to help the only way she knows how.

It helps.

A lot.

She doesn’t know she’s practicing the ministry of quiet presence.

Her gentle purring is worth more than a thousand lectures on how I should feel or any medication to help me feel that way.

She cares, she’s present, and she’s consistent.

May God grant me the grace to be the same.

There’s lots of arguments about whether our pets have a soul…all I know is that they often have bigger hearts than we do.

I think God made them that way to enlarge our own…

Make your own application…

 

Dec 212017
 

Psalm 145: Praise to God, the King! – Part 3

This is the concluding article in a 3-part series on Psalm 145. In Part 1, I included some brief but helpful introductory remarks about the Psalter in general, followed by a look at the opening three verses of Psalm 145. In verses 1-2, David praises the universal reign of his God the King over all creation.

 

In verse 3, David proclaims the greatness of the Lord.

In Part 2, we examined verses 4-7, which praise the wondrous works of God on behalf of His people, and verses 8-9, which proclaim the grace of God.

This week we pick up Psalm 145 at verse 10:

“10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”

After proclaiming the grace of God through faith in the promised Christ in verses 8-9, David returns to praise. In this section David praises the glorious splendor of his Lord’s universal kingship and kingdom.

This section has an eschatological perspective. “All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord” anticipates the day when: “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21); and “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)

Although every knee will pay homage to Christ the Lord at His return, His saints (i.e., believers in the Gospel) shall “bless” Him and celebrate the “glorious splendor” of His kingdom. At His first advent, Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom of grace. Upon His return, Jesus will consummate God’s kingdom in its full glory and raise His saints imperishable.

“13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.”

In this section, which runs through verse 20, David returns to proclamation of God’s kingdom. It is “an everlasting kingdom.” David is referring to “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 2:11). Of His kingdom, the holy Christian Church in the Nicene Creed confesses: “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

The Lord is “faithful” (i.e., trustworthy) “in all his words and kind in all his works.” The psalmists knew of One alone in whom we should trust, as well as those in whom we should not place our trust: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps 146:3) Only a King who is the Alpha and the Omega, who reigns eternally, and who alone is the “gate” and the “Good Shepherd” of an everlasting kingdom, is trustworthy. As Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matt 24:35)

David proclaims the kindness of his most trustworthy King: “The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” For this help, Jesus teaches us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13) Verse 14 may also be read as a warning to those who are not afflicted by temptations and the weight of sin, to those who say: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11).

“15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.”

The saints in Christ all look to our King for our food in due season. For food and other temporal needs, Jesus teaches us to look with eyes of faith and pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). Upon His return in glory, “the eyes of all” will look to Christ and He will “satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

“The Lord is near to “all who call on him in truth,” who “fear him.” Jesus is the Truth, as it is written: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) His saints call on God through Christ alone.

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. To hate evil is to live in, but not of, this world; it is to enter into conflict against the values of the world, the devil and our own sinful flesh. Yet, we have faith in Christ, who won the battle for His saints, making satisfaction for our sins with His own precious blood. He “hears their cry and saves them.”

Although Psalm 145 is focused overwhelmingly on the grace and mercy of God, there will be a judgment. For the sake of His saints, Christ on the last day will eternally judge and destroy the remnants of evil and the wicked: “The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” For this final judgment and purge of evil, Jesus teaches us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Included in the proclamation, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways,” are His judgments.

“21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.”

David concludes this psalm where He started – vowing to publicly praise the Lord, his God the King. “[L] et all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” Amen.

Thank you for reading. This concludes this series on Psalm 145. Amen.

Dec 192017
 

Phil Naessens and I talk about the perils of Facebook, injuries in the NFL, and the Book of Job…but not at the same time.

We also have special music from “The Martyrs Project” that redeems the time you spent listening to us…

Spotify link to Poets Fall by The Project:

https://open.spotify.com/album/1sOs0gFaZbUeZi4n1dMxiz 

YouTube music video link to Poets Fall:

https://youtu.be/UTA3bjW9VqM 

The Project’s social media links:

Website for The Project:  http://themartyrsproject.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MartyrsProject 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/The-Project-298784103566399/

Dec 192017
 

Can evangelicalism survive Moore and Trump?

Why evangelical women leaders don’t talk about politics…

A new Daily Office booklet…

We need to talk about sex…

Can Scripture speak for itself? A look inside the Museum of the Bible…

Why is loneliness a thing?

The changing global religious landscape…

Why following your heart can’t make you happy…

Not all evangelicals are seeking Armageddon…

Blue Christmas services…

Christianity Today’s 2018 book awards…

Telling the story to every generation…Psalm 145…

The God Who Came…

The theology of Star Wars…

Advent: a time to lose your trust in princes…

Missing the fight on Christmas day…

Who is Christmas for?

Christmas is wherever Jesus is…

Is unity with diversity even possible in the church?

Winter inside the church and the hope of Christmas…

The real war on Christmas…

The Missio Alliance reading list for 2017

400 years of silence?

As always, support EricL at top right…

Dec 192017
 

1. I think it’s time for all of us to view each other as people again, not as unofficial representatives of a political entity. We have systematically removed personhood from each other in favor of partisan labels..

2. Nothing but depression will result from desiring sanctification without suffering…

 

3. I’m tired of being sanctified… 🙂

4. In my opinion…one of the biggest lies of the church is that pastors are experts in matters beyond biblical teaching and pastoral care. The bigger issue is that pastors like to spread that lie…

5. Christ’s desire for unity in the church evidently didn’t mean that we’d all join the same sect…so I wonder what it does mean…

6. If someone made an icon of the Grinch, I’d prominently display it for meditation purposes…

7. One of the great messages one takes from the life of Abraham is that you’re never too old to be used mightily of God…so stop believing you are…

8. It’s not a sin to hope that God is more gracious and merciful than we are…

9. When it’s this cold, only heat from a wood fire can reach the bones…

10. There is nothing that makes me sadder these days than an inability to rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit in places outside our own tradition…especially when I can’t or won’t…

 

Dec 182017
 

Essentials

Tertullian

The Apology

For pastors, they can be a blessing or a curse. I’ve experienced both. They can build up and strengthen a local church, or they can split it in half.  They can be your closest confidant in a congregation, or your most bitter adversary. 

 

They can end their time lauded and honored within their community of faith, or they can abandon their fellowship in search of something “more pure”, “more correct”.  I’m speaking, of course, about the theologically well read lay person.  Ask any pastor or priest and they will have stories to tell, although they may be guarded in what they will reveal.  Get together a group of clergy, speaking honestly with each other, and all the stories will come out.

Now, I happen to be an advocate of the theologically well read lay person.  Indeed, it was originally my intent as I was reading for my PhD to simply be a lay theologian, which I considered to be an honorable calling, but other forces intervened.  In every parish or church in which I have served, I’ve always initiated a program of adult Christian Education, using the very same notes that I used for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in university settings.  You see, I believe that we often don’t present adults with the level of Christian education of which they are deserving.  We gather together a group which is comprised of adults. Some lack formal education, but through years of accumulated experience in the home or work place, they have a native intelligence, curiosity, and a vast store of wisdom and discernment.  Others in the group are university graduates. Still others are professionals. They are doctors, lawyers and teachers.  Yet, so often, the material they are often offered in the name of Adult Christian Education is simplistic, or experientially based, or the “what do you think of this passage?” approach. Too often, we sell them short. They deserve better.

There is, however, the other side of the coin.  That is the theologically literate lay person who makes himself or herself the arbitrator of all that is correct within the life of a local congregation, without, of course, any pastoral responsibility.  Whether it is liturgy, theology, preaching, teaching, music or, indeed, even pastoral practice… they are the expert on what is right or wrong.  Moreover, what is “correct” often changes according to the latest book they are reading or the latest interest they have engaged.  In my experience, such people tend not to mellow with age, recognizing nuance, but rather become even more insistent on a narrower and narrower view of what is correct, in both doctrine and practice. Most often the pastoral implications and problems engendered by their views and judgements are ignored altogether, at least by them.

The subject of our study today, may perhaps provide a case in point.

 Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus was born of pagan parents in Carthage (north Africa) in circa AD 160.  From his writings he appears to have been trained as a jurist or an advocate in the imperial Roman legal system.  Tertullian converted to Christianity in about AD 193.   St. Jerome suggests that Tertullian was a priest, although this is not indicated in any of Tertullian’s writings or other literature of the period.  Recent scholarship suggests that he was not ordained. He claims no pastoral authority nor any attachment to a particular ecclesiastical community.  Moreover the way in which he deals with theological subjects is slanted to be of interest particularly to the laity and generally reveals the attitudes of a highly educated layman.

Tertullian began writing soon after his conversion, with his most important work, The Apology, being written in AD 197.  His literary career would span almost twenty-five years. Most commentators on Tertullian break his numerous writings into three distinct periods: The catholic period, from AD 197-206, in which he promotes standard, orthodox views; The semi-Montanist period, from AD 206-212, in which he begins transitioning to the sect; and The Montanist period, from AD 213-220, during which time he fully embraces the tenets of the sect.  After AD 220, we hear nothing more of Tertullian.  Jerome  tells us that he lived into old age, dying in the 240s.  Other sources relate that he may have died as a martyr, although this is not a generally accepted position.

With Tertullian, we not only encounter one of the earliest Christian authors writing in Latin (the new vernacular of the empire) but we find an individual who embodies the theological developments and struggles of the early Church.  As a convert, he is different from those we encounter in The Didache or in Ignatius of Antioch. He is from an affluent family, well educated and used to the rough and tumble of arguments in formal litigation.  Tertullian is a man of his time. In his writings we find sarcasm, logic, plays on words and scant regard for authority as an end in itself – in other words, a lawyer.  Even his journey from paganism, to orthodox Christianity, to the Montanists, tells us something of the tensions and pressures of the Church of his day and, indeed, may well speak to some of the issues of our own time.

In the space allotted, it is impossible to give a complete description of Montanism, but an outline may be helpful.  Named after its founder, Montanus (c. AD 170) this was essentially a charismatic/eschatological movement, that initially was considered a sect of Christianity rather than an heretical movement.  They exercised extreme rigor in terms of morality (no second marriages, even after the death of a spouse) and in terms of other church practices. Long fasts were obligatory.  Flight to avoid martyrdom was prohibited. Even the length of women’s veils was specified.  There was an anti-clericalism built into the movement as all believers were considered to be priests, for all could receive charismatic revelations, the gift of speaking in other languages, and prophecies and visions.  Women, such as Maximilla and Priscilla (companions of Montanus) exercised the role of prophetesses, apparently along with others.  Even Scripture – especially prophecies – could be interpreted in a form of “charismatic exegesis”, in which the ecstatic utterances would provide the eschatological keys to interpretation.  Writing in 1881, the German scholar, G. Nathanael Bonwetsch, provides perhaps the best description of early Montanism:

It was an effort to shape the entire life of the church in keeping with the expectation of the return of Christ, immediately at hand; to define the essence of true Christianity from this point of view; and to oppose everything by which conditions in the church were to acquire a permanent form for the purpose of entering upon a longer historical development.

(Now, please note, I have quoted from a nineteenth-century scholar lest any one would accuse me of presenting a contemporary ad hominem argument regarding any particular contemporary group.)

That Tertullian would be attracted to such a sect is not wholly unexpected.  In his writings, we can see, from one work to the next, the tone of rigor setting into his thinking.  It is obvious that he felt the clergy were failing in their duties in terms of morality and pastoral practice, as he saw it. The only place left to go was a stricter, narrower definition of the faith which had the added benefit of immediate revelation and experience that confirmed his particular view of the Christian life.

The Apology, however, was written during his time as an ordinary catholic Christian and is a careful and polished apologetic filled with treasures.  About the same length as Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, it can easily be read in an evening or two.  There are fifty short chapters, each one consisting of a few paragraphs.  While the overall shape of the book is apologetic in nature, it is also an evangelistic document calling on his readers to embrace the faith.  Again, at heart, the apologetic, like that of Irenaeus, is based upon what can be witnessed in terms of how Christians live and conduct themselves:

Among us there is nothing to be said, nothing to be seen, nothing to be heard, of the madness of the circus, the immodesty of the theater, the brutality of the arena, and of the vanity of physical culture. (38, 4)

Now I will explain the practices of the Christians… (39, 1)

What is perhaps the most extraordinary, is that all this is written in elegant Latin prose to the very people who are dragging Christians to the arena in Carthage to meet their deaths as martyrs.  Yet even the persecution of the Church can be used by Tertuallian  to provide an iconic phrase for the ages:

The more we are cut down by you, the more numerous we become.

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church… (50, 12)

If Tertullian had written nothing but this in The Apology, it would be worth its weight in gold.  Yet, there is so much more to be discovered here… 

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Dec 162017
 

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient
to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Dec 162017
 

Revelation 1:1-6

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

 

  • The revelation – not the revelations. The apocalypse = Greek = revelation.
  • So many think this is the revelation of anti Christ -Sadaam Hussein – Osama bin Laden, Donald Trump, (fill in the blank for the current bad guy.)
  • What is a revelation? It would be the revealing of something that is already there. Picture this; a dark room where you see nothing – but as the lights are slowly brought up you start to make out the outlines of some furniture, and as more light is brought in you see the entire furnished room.
  • Even in the pitch black, everything you now see has always been there.
  • ‘Gave him’ = gave to Jesus. God the Father throughout all of scripture has given his word to Jesus to bring to the world.
  • If you hear God’s word it is Jesus speaking.
  • God is funny in this way – he reveals himself by being hidden – he hides in the flesh of Jesus Christ.
  • So Jesus sends an angel to speak to John – Jesus is the mediator between God & man.

who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

  • John was faithful in what he was given – he gave it to everyone he came in contact with.
  • What did John say at the end of his Gospel? ‘all these things are written that you may believe, by believing you have life in his name.”
  • This is why he wrote all of this down – just like his gospel.

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

  • Prophecy is what is now and what will happen – but it is always about Jesus.
  • What already is – is prophecy that has already has happened / is happening.
  • Foretelling and forth telling – proclamation of God’s word for today – the past for us, he shed his blood, he rose and he now reigns.
  • In chapters 2 & 3 we see Jesus presently reigning in his church.
  • In the future we expect “behold, I am coming soon.”
  • This Revelation of Jesus Christ (not a narrative about Jesus Christ), is that he died for you, he rose for you, he loves you, he gives you eternal life, he is going to take care of you no matter what.
  • Jesus keeps his promises despite what persecutions and trouble you are going through in this life.
  • In spite of everything that seems to the contrary, God is in control of world history – and the climax was Good Friday.
  • We are to proclaim Jesus Christ for the sinner – The “for you”.
  • When you go to church and you hear the pastor say “Jesus died for you.” Or at communion and you hear Jesus’ own words “this is my body, ‘given for you’… this is my blood, ‘shed for you’ – this is a revelation.
  • This is his kingdom and he reigns over your sin and death with his own body and blood in his death.
  • Also, not to be missed – his kingdom is on this earth – and Jesus comes to us.

Greeting to the Seven Churches

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,

  • Greetings from John – was John that well known or would a brief introduction be given by the reader of the letter to the crowd?
  • Asia = Asia Minor = Modern day Turkey
  • Grace / Peace = very similar to the Pauline greetings.
  • This is a word from God – not John. It is a word of God to be read during the Divine Service.
  • This is a message from God the Father, who is, who was and who is to come.
  • This is also from the Holy Spirit – the 7 spirits – 7 = God – 7 = divine completion.

5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

  • And Jesus Christ – John has the Trinity covered.
  • Jesus is the faithful witness – he is the martyr. Faithful even unto death – this is important to me, as I am not a faithful witness.
  • Look what we have here – a vision – a letter – a sermon from the Trinity.
  • This is for those in John’s age and those for us in this age – but we must read it first in their day.
  • Note – his blood freed us from our sin. This is not that he made us capable of being free from our sin – No! We are actually freed.
  • Something to think about – who are the kings Jesus rules over? Are they Caesar, Hitler, Stalin, Trump?
  • Or are they us, the Christians, those who gained our crowns through his ascension? Ruler of the kings, we who reign with him – saints who later take our crowns and cast them at the feet of Jesus as we realize our crowns are because of him.

and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

  • Has made us – not a future tense – this is already done.
  • This is not something that is to be fulfilled later in some future kingdom.
  • For those who believe that the kingdom of God has not yet come – that some future priesthood will be set up, waiting for some millennial age – believe me, Jesus the King has come.
  • Jesus, the high priest has come – Jesus is the lamb, the whole sacrificial system is fulfilled in him. Jesus is the temple; he is God with us.
  • The Apostle Peter himself has picked up on this in 1 Peter 2 recognizing we are the New Israel – the Church. We who are baptized – we are NOW a kingdom and we are priests. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
  • Jesus reigns among us – he put his name on us and dies for us and reigns among us sinners.
  • We are his priests – not high priests – but on top of all, we are the New Israel.

 

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