Michael

Sep 202014
 

thumbnail.aspxFor the mystery of the text, and for the history of eyes to see and ears to hear the text, we give you thanks.

Our eyes are scaled and our ears are uncircumcised and we are children of another world.

We pray for the gift of perception.

We pray for energy and courage, that we may not leave the text until we wrench your blessing from it.

 

Amen.

Walter Brueggemann. Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: The Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (p. 82). Kindle Edition.

Sep 202014
 

Calvin's Corner headerOur long time friend Phil Naessens and I are working on a weekly podcast now.

It’s called “Calvin’s Corner” and we’ll be talking about …well, whatever is on our minds.

This week it was Adrian Peterson and Mark Driscoll and how we respond to both.

I think we mentioned Calvin too…

You can download the mp3 here.

Sep 182014
 

imagesAdrian Peterson has finally been suspended by the Minnesota Vikings with the co-operation of the National Football League.

This has been taken as a sign that both are now taking the high moral ground.

This is, of course, a lie.

High ground in this case is provided by all the cash they stand on and when sponsors threaten the elevation they dwell at, actions are taken.

The Peterson case, (and the Ray Rice case before it) are further proof that we no longer have any capacity to engage difficult situations with anything but voyueristic rage.

When the rage is vented, or transferred to the next delicious object of scorn, the problems still remain.

Peterson, who likes to post Bible verses on Twitter and invokes religious inspirational messages, is alleged to have seven children with at least four different women.

That means there are six more children in danger of “discipline” that would horrify us if applied to an animal.

The victims have gotten little attention in these scandals, as they aren’t celebrities.

The real scandal here is that the story is always about the celebrities, not the victims.

We demanded that the NFL take action.

We are idiots.

Professional football is a business and a game, not an institution that should define moral and ethical righteousness.

We have one of the those already, though it has its own problems now.

We want Peterson, Rice, and others who have shamed themselves to lose their jobs.

I want them to be able to afford child support and therapy for all their victims.

I want them to trot out to work to a chorus of boos that remind them and the culture that these things are not acceptable in a civilized society.

More than that…I want us to decide that when we’re done venting our rage, we do more than find someone or something else to rage against.

When we’re done breaking people down, what do we do to rebuild them?

How do we turn these situations into opportunities to not only rehabilitate them, but a culture that is laced with the same evils they committed?

Will we be content to scorn, without dealing with the underlying issues that perpetuate these crimes?

I already know the answer…I’m waiting to see who we’ll hate next week.

We’ll ignore the fact that domestic abuse is happening in our own neighborhoods, churches, and communities.

In the meantime, battered wives and broken children will be left to deal with their pain on their own.

They’re last weeks news.

 

Sep 152014
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. If you’ve been wanting a way to help the people in crisis in Iraq, here you go;

“If you’ve been watching the news coming out of Iraq, and wishing for a way you could help, please consider this. There are more than 1.5 million refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Kurdistan now. In a place with a population of 4.5 million, it’s not hard to imagine the struggle it is to care for everyone who needs help. There are big NGOs moving as quickly as they can to put up tents and bring supplies. But the need is massive. Overwhelming.

A little group of us here have been helping 23 families in a town nearby. We’ve gone to visit twice now with supplies: basic food, a change of underwear for the ladies, balloons for the kids. The money has come from family and friends in Chile and the US (thank you, friends!!!). We will continue to help as we are able. They aren’t getting any other aid yet, they’re just hanging on as best they can. We can’t supply all of their needs, but for these 23 families, we can do something.

If you already give to a relief organization, thank you! Your funds make a difference. If you haven’t given and feel that you’d like to join us, to buy some potatoes and eggs, bread and tea, you can send funds to the website below. If you’re American, you can get a tax receipt. If you’re not American, a virtual hug from me will have to do.

Please keep the people in Iraq in your thoughts (and prayers, if you’re the praying type).”

You can send your help to: www.mrds.org

Account designation: Irq-P.008

2. The domestic abuse cases involving NFL players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson simply expose the deeper truth that spousal and child abuse are interwoven into our culture. Because we saw the video of Rice knocking out his wife and the pictures of what Peterson did to that child, we are enraged. We should be upset…but equally upset about all the abuse we don’t have visual evidence of that takes place all around us. Ask a local law enforcement officer what he spends most of his time dealing with…and what he hates dealing with the most. The answer will be the same…domestic violence.

3. The most shocking part of the dialog, especially involving Peterson, is the number of people who are defending his right to “discipline his child”. That’s not discipline, it’s violence against a defenseless child.

4. The second most shocking thing about the Peterson case is that he is genuinely surprised that he’s in trouble. He was beaten in a similar fashion as a child and comes from a culture that believes such “discipline” is an effective means of child rearing. In reality it simply passes on violence, rage, and anger down through the generations. The scars on that child’s legs will heal much more quickly than the ones on his soul.

5. Peterson acknowledged to police that he “may have gone a little too far”, but he would never “spare the rod’ with his children in the future despite this. The Bible is true…withholding discipline will spoil a child. Discipline doesn’t involve beating children until they bleed. Biblical discipline is loving correction meant to change behavior, not physical violence meant to break a body and a spirit.

6. I’ve heard that some folks want to boycott the NFL over these cases. You’ll have to boycott the rest of life as well, then. This behavior is in our churches, our neighborhoods, and in our homes. Take this as an opportunity to address it wherever it is…especially if you’re involved in it. Get help. Report any suspected abuse. 1-800-4-A-CHILD

7. Two things that trouble me greatly…we’ve become very good at expressing justifiable outrage over injustice, but we are pathetic in finding solutions…and our outrage only lasts until the next thing to be outraged about comes along in the “news” cycle. Thus, nothing ever gets solved, but we’re always in a rage.

8. The difficult truth is that the NFL is simply a reflection of the society that supports it…and it is far and away the most popular sport in this country. It’s a mirror, not a microscope.

9. If you need a break from all of this and want to read a good book with Jesus at the center, my friend Chris Canuel has a collection of six sermons  that lift up Christ and Christ alone. Gazing at Grace is free on Kindle today…and worth a great deal more than that. Pick it up and clear your spiritual palate…because Jesus is the only answer to all of the things that concern us.

10. Finally, I’m taking a few days off of social media to address some pressing personal concerns and hopefully, “get better” in a few ways. I’ll be closing comments on the blog as I need to focus on things elsewhere. Lord willing, I’ll be back in a few days.

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

Sep 132014
 

thumbnail.aspxThe intrusion of pain,

the eruption of anger,

the embrace of rage,

and then bewilderment and wonderment and awe.

Our lives in faith are situated among the poets:

The poet talks about, swords to plowshares,

spears to pruning hooks, and unlearning war.

But answered by a shadow poet who bids us,

plowshares to swords,

pruning hooks to spears, be not a weakling! (Joel 3:10)

The poems conflict us, as we are conflicted, sensing and knowing better,

Knowing better, but yielding.

Do not deliver us from the clashing poems that are your word to us.

But give us courage and freedom and faith … 0 Prince of Peace.

Amen.
Walter Brueggemann. Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: The Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (p. 77). Kindle Edition.

Sep 122014
 

angry.thumbnailI had just finished up the work on my last message on “The Beatitudes” and I was feeling holy.

I would speak of being blessed for being persecuted for righteousness sake and warn of getting no blessing for being persecuted for being a jerk.

I would speak of not making messes for Jesus to have to send others to clean up and about how our repentance should be as well known as our sin.

Good stuff.

Completing that task meant I could get some errands finished, including exchanging a screen protector I had purchased.

It was the wrong size, though the box said it was specifically for the tablet I bought it for.

We’d be in and out in five minutes.

The customer service agent greeted me and after I explained what I wanted to do, he informed me that I had bought the wrong thing, for the wrong product, in the wrong size.

Not so, I said… showing him the label and the packaging.

He then continued to argue…which made me mad.

He then turned and walked away…which made me explode.

I followed him, cornered him, and nothing from that point on resembled any Beatitude.

The other employees fled my wrath and Trey asked if he could possibly browse another section of the store.

Having no escape route available, the now nervous clerk decided to help after all.

I was relishing my victory when the Lord interrupted my touchdown dance.

He mentioned something I had written about proud jerks making a mess for Jesus that others would have to clean up and if I knew if anyone was available to clean up the one I had just made.

I began to apologize profusely to the clerk, who looked at me as one would look at someone who had just been relieved of demon.

I confessed my pride and ill temper and asked for forgiveness.

There… I repented.

“Your repentance should be as well known as your sin”.

Now I get to apologize to everyone within earshot.

Painful, but better.

Not finished yet…

I get to apologize to Trey for my pathetic example.

Finally done.

Not quite….the sin was against God first.

Now, I’m done.

Except for writing this…

I think I prefer shopping online.

Make your own application…

Sep 112014
 

CalvinGeneva was governed by city councils, not by John Calvin.

The councils ran the churches as well, with approval authority over everything from the liturgy to church discipline.

The latter was the first bone of contention between Calvin and the councils.

Calvin wanted the churches to have the right to deny the Lords Supper to unrepentant sinners.

The councils refused .

Calvin made a huge issue of this.

The councils threw him out of town.

So ended John Calvins’ first stay in Geneva.

He took refuge in Strasbourg with Martin Bucer…and there learned from a seasoned Reformer the people skills and methods to reform a city.

The Strasbourg years were the happiest for Calvin…but Geneva beseeched him to return and with great reluctance, he did.

His job was to bring reformation the not only the church, but the city and the daily lives of the citizenry.

American evangelicals would have hated it.

Because the church and state were utterly intertwined, sinning was not only a church issue, but often against the law.

Those caught sinning would appear before the “consistory”, which met on a weekly basis.

It was composed of pastors and councilmen and it would prescribe pastoral counseling or punishments meant to lead people to repentance.

Continued open sin and rebellion could lead to jail or expulsion from the city.

The objective was to create a truly “Christian” and reformed city…and to some measure it was successful, though never to the level hoped.

Michael Servetus 02Michael Servetus

Despite their wars with each other, Roman Catholics and Protestants agreed on one thing for twenty some years.

Michael Servetus was a damnable heretic.

Servetus denied both the Trinity and the deity of Christ and he did so loudly, profanely, and often.

He was wanted throughout Europe, not for speaking engagements but for the stake.

Servetus was particularly obsessed with Calvin…they exchanged numerous letters and correspondence that ended when Servetus sent a marked up copy of the Institutes to Calvin showing less than polite disagreement.

He was finally captured by the Roman Catholics in Vienne and was held for trial.

The night before the execution he requested to be taken to the outhouse…which he somehow escaped from.

He went straight to Geneva, where he was recognized and arrested while attending church with Calvin preaching.

The council put him on trial for heresy, with Calvin being the chief witness for the prosecution.

He was found guilty, but his sentencing took a couple of months.

The council wanted the input of the other Swiss Reformed cities and even gave Servetus the option of being sentenced in Geneva or Vienne.

In the interim, Calvin visited Servetus in prison on many occasions in an attempt to bring him the Gospel and to persuade him to recant his heresies, but was rudely rebuffed.

Servetus chose Geneva…and the rest of the Reformed cities demanded his execution lest it become known that they (the Reformed) were soft on heresy and give place to Rome.

Calvin asked that Servetus be executed by beheading (which was considered more merciful than the fire), but his request was denied.

Servetus was executed by the state on Oct 27, 1553, the fire started in a pile of his books at his feet.

While it utterly and justifiably offends our modern sensibilities to read of the execution of a heretic, it is an odd and unfair twist of history that Calvin has borne the weight of this matter for 500 years.

In the 16th century, all of Europe, whether Catholic or Protestant believed heresy was a crime against the state as much as the church.

Calvin had no authority to condemn anyone…he wasn’t even given citizenship until a few years before his death.

The lessons to be learned here have little to do with the character of John Calvin…and much to be learned about the proper relationship between church and state.

Sep 102014
 

daddydriscollThe statement for 2013 can be read here.

As noted by others who have read this, the church has to keep close to three million dollars on reserve to satisfy the loan requirements of the lenders.

That money can’t be touched for operating expenses.

I’m not a CPA, but it seems that if giving continues to drop, and more importantly, if giving doesn’t return to prior levels, they are in danger of defaulting on some of their debt.

While Warren Throckmorton is reporting that eight of nine signatories of the letter asking Driscoll to step down have been let go, the back story seems to be that more staff are going to leave voluntarily.

The Catch-22 for Mars Hill now is that the only one who can reverse the trends is bunkered down in his Seattle mansion for five more weeks by which time the damage might be irreversible.

My best guess is that he returns sooner than expected, while there is still something to return to.

As a matter of fact…I’d bet on it.

Sep 092014
 

iWatch-options-980x651Yesterday Apple launched it’s newest technology, the Apple Watch.

It was the headline on every news show and it blew up Twitter and Facebook.

Everyone was talking about it.

Most of us haven’t seen one in person.

We haven’t worn one.

It’s not even finished yet and it won’t be available until next year.

Despite this, people are reviewing it and forming opinions about it, based on what  little they have seen and a few demos.

Some folks are excited about it’s potential, some have already rejected it.

None of us can make a valid judgment on it…it’s a work in progress.

We don’t know how this is going to turn out…we are judging prematurely.

We make the same judgments about people…and ourselves.

We judge and are judged…some are excited about foreseen potential, some have been condemned already.

We’re all works in progress and our Creator isn’t finished with us yet.

“For we are his workmanship,”

(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

The difference is that when God is done with you and me, He promises a perfect product.

Better than even Apple can make.

Just thought I’d remind you…and me.

Make your own application…

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