Michael

May 302016
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. Today is Memorial Day and we honor the sacrifice of those who died in battle for our country. I wonder if as the WWII generation passes this day will start to fade in importance and reverence…and I wonder if those vets would recognize what they died for. It will be a shame to us all if we fail to honor those who sacrificed post WWII. It is already a shame how we treat those who have survived their service…

2. Evidently, Jan Crouch had a massive stroke and may not survive. I had some one write me and ask if I would pray…and I haven’t yet answered. I’m not sure how to pray for someone like that…

3. The prayer requests on Crouch’s Facebook page look like an “introduction to heresy” handbook…

4. There is little that concerns me more than the lack of prophetic voices in the church…

5. The one thing that does concern me more is that we have such a fear of being a “remnant” instead of a majority. For reasons known only to God the Gospel is more effective when it is utterly counter cultural. We have gone from being the ones who would not offer a pinch of incense to Caesar to being those who desperately want to be Caesar…

6. It is probably more sinful than I think that I have an easier time loving people outside the church than in it. I feel more comfortable with honest sinners…

7. When Jesus announced that one of His disciples would be betray Him, they all asked if they were the one. May God remind me that there is no sin I’m not capable of committing…

8. Patriotism no longer comes naturally to the youngest generations… I do not know what this means, I only know that it is so…

9. I wish I was intelligent and educated enough to have an informed opinion on everything like so many of my Facebook friends…

10. There is an ODM group forming an online church. You can have church online about as well as you can have sex online…it may be momentarily fulfilling, but it ain’t the real thing…

May 292016
 

I bind unto myself today

The strong Name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.

By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan river;

His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spicèd tomb;

His riding up the heavenly way;

His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power

Of the great love of the cherubim;

The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,

The service of the seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,

The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,

All good deeds done unto the Lord,

And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,

The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

The whiteness of the moon at even,

The flashing of the lightning free,

The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

The stable earth, the deep salt sea,

Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

The power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need.

The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, His shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,

His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,

The vice that gives temptation force,

The natural lusts that war within,

The hostile men that mar my course;

Or few or many, far or nigh,

In every place and in all hours,

Against their fierce hostility,

I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,

Against false words of heresy,

Against the knowledge that defiles,

Against the heart’s idolatry,

Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death wound and the burning,

The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,

The strong Name of the Trinity;

By invocation of the same.

The Three in One, and One in Three,

Of Whom all nature hath creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:

Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

St. Patrick

May 282016
 

Word of GodMatthew 4:1-11

The Temptation of Jesus

So much of the world doubts the existence of Satan. Have we lost a sound doctrine of Satan?

 

 

When you talk about Satan, you must talk about hell – and since everyone is going to heaven … well that is a fly in the ointment.

So Jesus was baptized – Heaven opened up and a grand declaration is made! What should happen next? Cake – Balloons – A post baptism party?

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

  • You would think, Jesus of all people, would be raptures right up to heaven.
  • The last verse of ch 3 “my beloved son…”
  • And Satan says “oh yay??? Let’s see.
  • Why led by the spirit? Deut 8:2
  • “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
  • This is not accidental – Jesus did not come out of the waters of the Jordan, get confused and make a wrong turn and say “darn, how did I end up here in the wilderness.
  • We have seen this with the Israelites in the desert. In a way Jesus is reenacting their wilderness time.
  • The Israelites did not succeed at all – in fact only 2 of the original travelers went into the Promised Land.
  • Jesus is now Israel reduced down to one – Jesus accomplishes what Israel could not do – the salvation of the world.
  • What about us? This is what happens to all the baptized.
  • Now you begin to fight against the devil. Now the target is on your back.
  • The Christian does not go onto the battlefield – the Christian becomes the battlefield.
  • How is this played out in the Holy Baptism liturgy? When the pastor asks, “Do you renounce the devil and all of his works and all of his ways?”
  • Is the devil happy to hear an affirmative response?
  • After baptism, we & are standing in the wilderness – with the devil prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to devour you – the baptized believer.

2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

  • For any of you fasters – what is your longest fast?
  • He fasted 40 days and 40 nights
  • If you were a Jew you would fast 40 days but not at night
  • See how the Muslims fast at Ramadan.
  • 40 days and 40 nights … hmmm, sounds like a flood of hunger. LOL

3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

  • Jesus is almost dead – hungry, thirsty and THEN the devil shows up to tempt him.
  • The 1st temptation was physical – food after 40 days.
  • How did the Israelites react when they were hungry and running out of food? Grumbling – whining – complaining
  • Jesus could have sat up there with Satan, having a donut and coffee saying “I’m good for now.”
  • Note the wording – If you are God??? Just like the Garden of Eden – you can’t trust God’s word.

4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

  • How did Jesus respond? – with scripture – “it is written”
  • Note that Jesus did not say “well let’s talk about this Satan.”
  • You need to look at this first and foremost as a gift from Jesus, not as an example … although that can come later. But the gift is this – we can learn to pray.
  • “Lord, when we are in the wilderness, help us to trust the Father’s word.”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple

  • What do you think was going on here?
  • Almost seems like a scene out of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”

  • 2nd temptation – testing God.
  • How did the Israelites act when they were stuck in the desert?
  • Discouraged and started taking things in to their own hands.
  • The Golden Calf – idols – looking to surrounding gods.

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

  • Again Jesus fulfills what Israel could not.
  • Look at us today – the marketing that comes to us and says “you can do it yourself – take control!”
  • Jesus is Israel reduced to one – what Israel could not do, Jesus did.

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

  • 3rd temptation = Power, Riches and Possessions

9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

  • Worship another god – even if it is just a little pinch of incense to Caesar.
  • All that the Caesars ever asked was that his citizens, people of all religions, once a year offer a pinch of incense and declare him god – once a year.
  • You didn’t have to give up your religion, just acknowledge him

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’

  • Satan acts only at the will of the true God.
  • This is a good Bible verse to memorize to fight off temptation – “away with you Satan – I shall worship the Lord MY God and him only shall I serve.”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

  • If Christ was tempted, then we shall surely be tested.
  • Temptation is not sin … giving in to temptation could be sin.
May 262016
 

panhandlingfreeze1As you turn into the little strip mall that harbors the McDonalds here, you must drive past the prime piece of panhandling real estate in town.

There is always someone there, always holding the cardboard sign that briefly describes why they are there and that anything can help.

 

As usual, there was someone there the other day  when Trey and I drove past to get some morning hashbrowns for him and strong coffee for me.

I usually pay little attention as there is little separating me from holding a sign myself and there’s not much I can do for those who are holding one now.

This beggar caught my eye though.

Actually he didn’t grab my attention, his dog did.

The dog and the beggar both looked as if they had seen better days and were both of questionable parentage.

That dog though…that dog was not embarrassed to be standing alertly and expectantly with his master.

That dog had this look of both unshakable dignity and love for his ragged owner and I saw both of their heads drop when we drove past.

That dog was faithful and good and that dog broke my heart.

We went through the drive up and I was getting ready to pull out and drive past them again on our way out.

That was when Trey remembered the bag.

A couple in our church love Jesus and dogs and because Jesus said they had to love people too, they came up with a great idea.

They would prepare paper bags with a copy of the Gospel of John, a couple healthy snacks, and a couple of 2 dollar bills…and some doggie treats.

When they come upon a homeless person with a dog they bless both of them with one these bags.

We had one in the backseat and Trey scrambled to retrieve it.

“Remember to tell him there is something in it for the dog, too”, I reminded him.

We pulled up next to them and Trey handed the man the bag and delivered the message.

I drove away, watching in my rear view mirror.

What I expected to see was the man rifle through the bag for whatever would help him and give the dog his treats as an afterthought.

What I saw was a man who sought the doggie treats first and his countenance light up as he fished them out of the sack.

Then I saw a man and his dog embrace each other in pure joy.

What I saw was holy.

What I saw blinded me in tears and I had to look away to be able to drive.

I hope that man got something to eat and some encouragement to keep on trying.

I hope he reads that Gospel of John and gets to know Jesus.

I hope he is thankful, not to me or to Trey, or to my wonderful friends that put that bag together…I hope he is thankful to Jesus for giving him that wonderful dog.

God loved him that much…and a God that loves you that much might be a God worth loving back.

Make your own application…

 

May 262016
 


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May 262016
 

characters-redA pastor friend of mine recently observed that there is a lot of anger in America. Many Americans are deeply aggrieved by many issues, and their anger is palpable in current political discourse. I couldn’t catalogue all the grievances in a single article, but I can identify their root cause: sin.

When someone sins against me or someone I care about, that sin arouses my zeal for justice. If that zeal isn’t quickly satisfied, I get angry. Yes, I’m aware of Paul’s admonitions at the bottom of Romans Chapter 12 (e.g., “leave it to the wrath of God” (v. 19)) and of how God has appointed governing authorities to bear the sword on my behalf (Rom 13:4-5). However, God doesn’t work on my timetable nor does He weigh the scales of justice in accordance with my wishes. So, where can that leave me? Angry and in unbelief.

I’ve experienced my share of time absorbed by anger. Anger is debilitating, especially at night. Have you ever lay awake at night angry, dwelling on something or someone who has hurt you? Replaying grievances in your mind, how things might have played out differently, if…? Imagining revenge or justice on the offender? I’ve been there. My reward was a lot of missed sleep and self-inflicted separation from God.

Anger is a curse of the Law

Anger returns me to the curse of life under the Law, from which Christ died to set me free. In my unbelief, I reason that if God won’t fix the injustices which are vexing me, then I will judge them myself. I will deputize myself as God’s under-judge and vent my judgment in anger. I will usurp God’s role as judge and the role of the governing authorities who God has placed over me, because He or they are not getting the job done. Unchecked anger can lead to full blown rebellion against God.

I can read God’s Word about anger: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Eph 4:31) God’s Law is very good at telling me what I ought to do, and pointing out where I am failing to obey Him. The Law itself is spiritual, but I am flesh (Rom 7:14). As a result, the Law is the power of sin (1 Cor 15:56). Reading or memorizing more Law verses about anger will not help me.

Eventually I found freedom from anger in the Gospel. Freedom from anger is the fruit of freedom in Christ, a topic I wrote about in a prior article.

All sins committed by and against other people ultimately are sins committed against God.

God is not disinterested or aloof from injustice. Our sins against one another are sins against God. David illustrates this principle in his Psalm written after being confronted by Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah:

“For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment.” (Ps 51:4-5)

All sins committed by and against one another are going to be dealt with by God, one way or another, temporally and/or eternally.

 “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus took away (i.e., took up on the cross) all the sins ever committed by every human being. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Knowing that all sins, even the ones committed against me, are ultimately committed against God and that Jesus suffered and died for all of them, frees me from having to bear them myself. My indignation is no match for God’s, and my suffering does not compare with the suffering of Jesus for the very same sins. Jesus freed me from both the guilt and shame of my own sins and from bearing the sins of others committed against me.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

Depending on the nature of the transgression and whether or not the offender is repentant, it is not always possible or advisable to attempt reconciliation with an offender. This is not an article about the complex (and important) topic of reconciliation. My sole motivation here is to shed light on the problem of anger and reflect on how the Gospel has helped me address anger in my life. According to Mark 11:25, if someone sins against us, we can forgive the sin directly to God. This may be all that is possible or advisable under the circumstances. However, this prayer is effective to release that sin into God’s hands for ultimate resolution and frees us from bearing it.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:43-45a)

All Christians share the vocation of a royal priesthood to the world, including unbelievers and our enemies. Unbelievers do not have access to God and are completely lost and children of wrath. But Christians, on the other hand, have access to God, as Father, and can call on Him in Christ’s name. Therefore, Christians intercede with God for their enemies, praying that God would be merciful to them, bless them with their daily needs, bring them to repentance, and save them through the power of the Gospel.

Perhaps the most vivid illustration of Christian intercession for his enemies was Stephen’s prayer made during his martyrdom: “And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)

Freedom through Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer includes this petition: “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Jesus gave us this petition, so that we can pray to our Father for our fidelity to His will, but also against the many violations of His will that we see around us. For example, if someone attempts to redefine God’s created order regarding sex or marriage, Christians pray for God’s will to prevail. Similarly, if government fails to protect the citizens entrusted to it, Christians pray for God to enlighten our leaders, so His will for good government will prevail. By committing these matters into God’s care through prayer, trusting that He hears our prayers and is sovereign over His creation, we are set free to serve in our vocations in God’s grace free from anger.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

May 252016
 

rdozlerDoveThis is the “East Coast” pastors conference and it’s taking place now.

It has become fashionable to have “Q & A” sessions at these gatherings now and they had one here as well.

I was going to go through and chart each lie as it was told, but it’s really not worth my time or yours anymore to do so.

I will note a couple that stand out…

The opening remarks always begin with the foundational lie, that lie being that Chuck Smith really wanted this group to govern Calvary Chapel after he was gone.

All you need do is search this site for “CCA” for the truth about that one.

The truth was that Smith was ambivalent at best about this set up and many observers (including myself) believe he wanted “the movement” to die with him.

Still, the lie has been told so often that I suspect even the liars are beginning to believe it and the rank and file seem to swallow such tales without need for water to wash them down.

The second lie is that “nothing has changed” since Smith’s death.

Nothing except that Smith is gone, the national pastors conference is gone, “affiliation” is now done on the East Coast, and the movement is now run by the CCA and by regional leaders who no one has any idea how they are selected.

There is no process for their selection and there is no structure for any accountability.

The move out of Costa Mesa and it’s demotion to another “regional” conference has nothing to do with anything but minimizing the influence of Brian Brodersen and his contingent.

The one thing that has not changed is that there is absolutely no accountability standards in place for anything other than a violation of “the distinctives”.

Even that process that has no formal structure and when someone asks how someone gets removed from the movement, the answers are purposefully vague.

While the rest of evangelicalism wrestles with how best to protect children and hold leaders accountable, Calvary Chapel still thinks that abstinence from alcohol while waiting for the Rapture is the critical cutting edge concern.

So yes, in some ways…nothings changed.

May 252016
 

5632ff059f1fb.imageSo… another sports story. 

As long as Michael let’s me write what I want, you guys are stuck with them.  It’s what I know.  You don’t want me writing about art or poetry or quantum physics.  Fine subjects all of them along with many others.  But if I’m going to keep a shred of credibility around here, writing about such things isn’t going to do it.  So I go with what I know.

The man’s name is Elliot Uzleac.  I had never before heard of the man when he was the main focus of a feature story on ESPN’s SportsCenter.  Uzleac was a lifelong football coach who had been an assistant at multiple high profile college programs and also the head coach at a couple mid-level college programs.  He even spent a year in the NFL.  Six years ago he retired.

However, in 2015 and at the age of 74, Uzleac decided that retirement didn’t fit him.  He decided he wanted to coach again, but this time was different.  He pursued a high school head coach opening.  And not just any high school.  A high school in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a town that once had a strong manufacturing industrial base but has fallen upon some harder times.  A high school football team that did not have a single win each of the last two years, a total of four wins over the past eight years, and had never made the playoffs in the school’s history.

When going through the interviewing process and displaying his passion for coaching, Uzleac said that he did not want to collect a salary but rather wanted it put back into the program to help improve the team equipment and facilities.  At that point, the school administrators were sure they had found the right man.

Uzleac got the job and going into the season he told his team that they were going to make not just the playoffs, but the state playoffs.  As the season played out, Benton Harbor managed to make the district playoffs for the first time in school history.  As the underdog, they won their first playoff game and advanced to the district final.  The winner would advance to the state playoffs and Benton Harbor was playing the defending state champs.  As the huge underdog in this one they ended up losing and falling just short of the coach’s goal of the state playoffs, but accomplished far more than anyone else would have ever imagined.

What this coach did for the morale and confidence of his players and everyone associated with the football program was likely immeasurable.  A man who had attained position and been successful at much higher levels reached down to a lower level to help those who were really struggling.  He forewent any salary and gave of his time and abilities when he just as easily could have been spending his time on the golf course or in some retirement villa getaway.

Often times here we bemoan the antics of some megachurch pastors and various other Christian “celebrities”. 

How they seemingly orient their time and attention around activities that will bring them more notoriety or influence or pleasure or money.  How it so often seems to be much more about “them”, than it is about their congregants or followers or people in need.

Now, we know that we are all fallen and nobody is going to do everything right and we shouldn’t be too greatly surprised by the carrying-on of these Christian “leaders”. 

However, there are so many more pastors and others in Christian service (formal and informal) who carry themselves as this football coach did. 

Those who sacrificially give of their time and abilities.  Some who could achieve “success” at “higher” levels, but instead choose to serve where there is need.  There are perhaps even some who gained lofty status and financial success but have now stepped back and are giving of their time and abilities and finances.

There are plenty of these stories out there.  They are just not well known and most aren’t glamorous to tell.  There is no ESPN SportsCenter to broadcast their stories to millions of people,  but they are out there.

Just in my own life I can think of so many examples of pastors and church leaders and family members and friends and associates who have and continue to diligently work and serve where God has placed them.   Serving where there is no noteworthy award for pastoring a small church for many years, or tirelessly working a hard job to provide for the family, or regularly taking time to serve others or meet them in their time of need.

The stories that so often catch the attention of both the media and ourselves are the exploits of the rich and famous. Sometimes there are justified reasons for why those stories should be told and brought to light. 

But for every story we hear of a megachurch pastor getting rich off the church, let’s keep in mind that there are many more stories of pastors who are working for little, many who need to work a second job just to make ends meet.  For every story we hear of a Christian celebrity saying or doing something outrageous, seemingly just to gain more attention for themselves, let’s remember that there are so many other Christians earnestly serving behind the scenes with little motive but to help others and to do what God would have them to do.

So for all of you out there who are steadfastly serving people and serving the Lord with little to no fanfare….. thank you. 

Be encouraged and stay the course.  You are much appreciated.  If I could do a big media feature story on you, I would.  But then again….. maybe you’re better off without it.                  

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