Aug 112017
 

Late yesterday afternoon I had a telephone conversation with a good friend.  He’s awaiting surgery.  His gallbladder is inflamed and there is an issue with a kidney stone as well.  When I asked him when the surgery would be scheduled, his reply was that although he is in line, if there was someone else in worse condition, he was willing to wait and have them go first.

 

The conversation moved on to theology.  We talked about theologians we love and admire – +Ramsey, Packer and a host of others.  He told me that he was becoming much more interested in the lush grass in the pasture where he was feeding than in the fences others put up to define the space.

We discussed my friend’s blog.  I mentioned a recent posting that had caused a good deal of reaction.  He replied that he liked to post things that would allow people to reflect and, most importantly, ask questions.  Asking questions, he felt, was really the way we had to approach theology in a meaningful way.

As we talked, I heard the sound of car doors and beeps in the background.  My friend was picking up his godson from work.  With real pride in his voice, he told me how the fifteen year old was learning about what it meant to work and be responsible in a job.

Finally, we had a chance to talk about the future, ours and the Church.  My friend indicated that no matter what came his way, he was looking forward to future ministry. We both agreed that while there are no guarantees for the future at our respective ages, there are always opportunities for ministry.

We said good-bye and God Bless.  I had the feeling that I had spoken with a Christian.

As my friend likes to say… “Make your own application…”

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Aug 102017
 

The Sanctified Life

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:12-13)

In Proverbs it is written: “the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Prov 22:7) Paul urges Christians to be wise debtors, not to our old nature, which was crucified with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:6), but to the Spirit. This is because if we live according to the old nature, we return to slavery to sin, damned by debt we cannot repay. On the other hand, debt to the Spirit makes the Christian a wealthy heir. This is because if we live according to the Spirit, He will lead us to everlasting life as adopted heirs of our Father in heaven and fellow heirs of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

One of the fruits of Spirit debt is “sanctification” (Rom 6:22). The word, “sanctification,” means to be set apart. The Spirit’s ongoing work in the life of Christian is to separate the old nature from our new life in Christ. He works our sanctification (or separation) through confession and prayer.

CONFESSION

“if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13)

The Spirit works through God’s Word to reveal the deeds of the body. This includes everything in our old nature which is hostile to Christ and the Gospel, including unbelief and distrust, carnal security and presumption instead of the fear of God, coldness and laziness with respect to God’s Word and prayer, impatience and murmurings under suffering, anger and vindictiveness or envy and hatred against our neighbor, greed, sexual immorality, etc.

The Spirit then enables us to mortify sin (i.e., put it to death), first by recognizing sin, at once repenting of that sin, and then, remembering the Gospel and through faith in the forgiveness of sins, strengthening ourselves against sin, so that we can resist it in order that we do not consent to it or permit it to manifest itself in deeds. This putting to death of sin is a lifelong, daily, work of the Spirit.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:14)

The Spirit separates our new life in Christ from our old nature by leading us in an entirely different and new direction. The Spirit gives us a heart which gladly hears God’s Word and believes that in Christ it has grace and the forgiveness of sins; a heart which confesses and proves its faith before the world; a heart which seeks, above all things, the glory of God, and endeavors to live without giving offense, to serve others and to be obedient, patient, pure, humble; a heart which, though at times will stumble, soon rises again by repentance, and ceases to sin. All these things the Spirit teaches one if he hears and receives the Word, and does not willfully resist the Spirit.

PRAYER

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:15-17)

The Spirit separates our new life in Christ from the old nature by taking the promise of adoption made by Christ and teaching us to pray as children of God. But why is it a cry to “Abba! Father?”

  • At times it may be a cry of dereliction, as though God has deserted us in our suffering. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children, enabling us to persevere in prayer, like the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), until God comes to our aid. “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Ps 22:24)
  • At other times it may be a cry of suffering from dying to old habits, or extricating ourselves from damaging relationships. Martin Luther said that the first death – the death to sin – is the most painful death, and that the second death is by comparison just a going to sleep in anticipation of the resurrection of our bodies.
  • A third type of cry may be one of fear of the unknown. Being led by the Spirit, trusting in God’s grace, at times may feel analogous to Noah floating alone on the sea with no land in sight, or the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, not knowing who or what was on the other side of the next hill or mountain. Will there be food or water? Are there unfriendly people or poisonous serpents? Has God finally had it with us?

The prayer of faith takes the promises in God’s Word and uses them to call on Him for help and, through the Spirit, strengthens us to suffer with Christ in the Spirit’s work in our lives.

Heirs of God and Fellow Heirs with Christ

The Spirit’s separating (or sanctifying) work is toward one purpose: to make us heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. This is the highest honor of the Christian. Should we not marvel at this, that a poor, miserable sinner should obtain such honor with God as to be called, not a slave nor a servant of God, but a son and an heir of God? But Paul declares here that we who believe in Christ shall be not God’s servants, but His own sons and daughters – His heirs. Who can sufficiently magnify or apprehend God’s grace?

Therefore, may the Spirit of adoption keep us steadfast in Christ and His Word, in confession and prayer, and uphold us with a willing spirit, while He leads us as children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”. Amen.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom
and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen

Aug 092017
 

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…now the upcoming solar eclipse is a sign of God’s coming judgment on America.

Of course it is…one of Billy Graham’s kids says so.

There is something incongruent about people that wrap themselves and their religion in the flag and carry on as if America is the new Israel always declaring judgment on the country they idolize at the same time.

We’re the hope of righteousness in the world, but God’s ready to nuke us.

We’re God’s new chosen people that He’s about to destroy.

You betcha…

The only people that scare me more than these doomsayers are the people that believe them…

Aug 092017
 

A few weeks ago I wrote about the troubles of Lenny Dykstra, one of the iconic players on my beloved 1993 Philadelphia Phillies.  A decade prior to Lenny Dykstra’s arrival to the team, the Phillies had acquired another player who played with the same all out hustle – get the uniform dirty – desire to win. 

You may have heard of him, a man named Pete Rose.

Rose, obviously, is even more famous than Dykstra.  He built his fame not only through his style of play, but also from many all-star appearances, multiple World Series championships, and ultimately becoming baseball’s all-time hit king.  Pete Rose was a favorite player of many, including mine as a young boy.  Rose, of course, also gained infamy for his troubles, even more so than Lenny Dykstra.

As baseball has slightly loosened it’s grip on Rose’s lifetime ban from the game, Pete has been allowed to participate in some ceremonial events.  This upcoming weekend, the Phillies were scheduled to induct Rose into their Wall of Fame.  Except that recent court documents were made public last week where it was revealed that Rose is accused of statutory rape from the 1970’s.  While this type of accusation has been made publicly of Rose a time or two in the past, the charge is more substantial this time as it is being made through the justice system by an alleged victim.  The Phillies, in turn, decided to cancel the induction ceremony due to the current circumstances.

This adds one more black mark, and a very grave one, to Rose’s list of transgressions, proven and accused.  Even if the rape charges are incorrect and the girl was of legal age (16 in Ohio), Rose would have been still carrying on a sickening affair with a teenager while he was a married man in his mid 30’s with children of his own.  Not a whole lot better.

As I had explored in my writing of Dykstra, we realize that none of us are good, even if we’re not as “bad” as a Lenny Dykstra or a Pete Rose.  We all have our shortfalls for which we need a Savior.  We desire, and righteously so, to be good and to do better than we have done.  But ultimately, we rely on God because we’re not going to make it on our own.

At the same time, we must use judgment in how we handle people in some manners as we cannot just treat everyone the same.  Yes, we are all fallen and all equally need a Savior.  But there is also a need to fulfill roles and responsibilities during our work here on earth.  When there is a need to teach and care for children, we dare not give that responsibility to someone who is a convicted child sex-offender or one who knowingly struggles with pedophilia.  Baseball has decided that Pete Rose can no longer be involved in the game in any consequential manner due to his gambling on the game, because it says this poses a significant risk to the integrity of the game itself.  And Scripture gives us a lists of qualifications that pastors and elders and deacons must meet.  While not one of us fulfills these lists perfectly, they still serve to direct us towards who should be serving in such roles.

We are susceptible to unevenly applying these judgments and discernments.  For those we didn’t like much at all in the first place, we are quick to lay down the law.  Those who we don’t really know or have no affection for one way or another, we are often apt to follow an unbiased just judgment.  And those for whom we have a special affection and/or have been our heroes, our judgment can often get quite clouded.  I loved Pete Rose and Lenny Dykstra.  I didn’t want to see the dirt that came out about them, and still continues to come out in some cases.  There is nothing wrong at all with not wanting to see one’s heroes fall.  But when one starts unrighteously defending them in the face of significant proof and evidence of their wrongdoing, then we’ve got some problems.

For the longest time, I had wanted to believe and probably did believe Pete Rose’s claims that he hadn’t bet on baseball.  Unfortunately, if I had ever seriously examined the evidence in the first place, I would have seen the proof of his guilt.  As time has gone on, Rose has piece by piece admitted to the gambling charges he was convicted of by the game’s leadership.  Each step of the way, Rose would admit, that yes he did X, buy not Y.  Later on, he would admit that, yes, he actually did Y, but he certainly never did Z.  And so on and so on.  Over the last few years, he has gotten to the point where he has now admitted to the large majority of baseball’s charges.  Throw in some of his other criminal and immoral charges, and I have come to realize over the years that Rose has been a pretty wretched person and one who can not be trusted.

We do best when we can recognize our biases and work to overcome them when in need to make judgments.  As hard as it may be, this best happens when we can overcome our instinctive reaction to incontrovertibly defend our heroes and loved ones when charges of substance come, or alternately to automatically convict our enemies when those same charges come, and instead think with an equitable mind and heart.  In dealing with people on a personal level, we need to show care and compassion.  But when dealing with the rightness and wrongness of situations and circumstances, we need to do our best to judge based on the facts and evidence along with the directives and guidelines we’re given in Scripture.  

We need to do this because our judgments matter.  In the whole scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter much whether or not I believed Pete Rose.  For those in charge of the game of baseball, it mattered significantly more.  All the more so when we are making a decision on who is going to teach and take care of our children.  Or who are going to be the pastors of our churches or the spiritual leaders that we’re going to follow.

One would think we would no longer be shocked when our heroes fall, because it has happened so many times.  Be it a sports star who cheated the game, or more seriously, a teacher who sexually abused one or more of their students or a pastor who falls to infidelity.  Even more so when charges of wrongdoing continue to come out years later, sometimes even worse than the original charges.  Yet we still often find ourselves shocked.  Maybe that’s a good thing in some ways.  But what is not a good thing is when we cast unrighteous judgments and make foolish decisions that put people in harm’s way because of unhealthy biases.

Lord, help us to overcome our faulty tendencies and give us wisdom when dealing with circumstances where there may have been significant wrongdoing and subsequently our reactions and decisions could have meaningful impacts on not only ourselves and the accused, but potentially many others, too.                    

Aug 082017
 

State of the missional movement…

Of creeds, cults, and Google…

Kendrick Lamar’s real God…

Why Christians should avoid watching rape scenes…

Is your Christianity a box or a path?

What happens when an artist is invited into a church…

Greg Boyd’s problem with God…

Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

The #1 reason churches end up in court is no longer child abuse…

What is “liberal” Christianity?

The drug dealer of choice for anxious pastors…

Perry Noble returning…

The blessing of Jesus…

Malls, small stores, and churches closing…

Being people of truth in a world of fake news…

Joel Hunter stepping down…

I suck at not believing in God…

5 challenges to staying Christian…

8 thoughts on staying Christian anyway…

Not an arbitrary or capricious God…

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

 

Aug 072017
 

1. I’ve been in the grip of a gall bladder attack since 1:30 this morning, so most of my real thoughts are unprintable. I’m going to be out of the loop on and off today…

2. If you follow college basketball at all you’ll know that the name of Dave Bliss is a curse word among those who care about ethics and decency in athletics.

 

He’s also the new basketball coach at a Calvary Chapel high school. Here’s an article from a secular reporter who is also a Christian, (he has actually worshipped at this church) who was trespassed off the property for asking questions about the hire. The only thing greater than the ethical hypocrisy in this matter should be the outrage over letting this guy influence young people again. Well, at least he’s not gay…

3. Speaking of gay…I taught Genesis 2 last night. The argument that homosexual practice is compatible with the Christian faith completely fails when measured against Scripture, tradition, and reason. There remains grace for the sinner, but we can’t compromise the truth. Unless the sinner has a very good record in sports, of course…

4. Back to sports for a moment…Adrian Beltre of the Rangers collected his 3000th hit last week. This is quite a milestone. The next day, he was accused of cheating to gain that milestone on a national radio show. Now, there is not a shred of evidence that Beltre used drugs to help him…even the accuser acknowledged that fact. However, the accusation made for a “hot take” that would inflame emotions and drive ratings, so the man was accused anyway. There is no greater sign of the degradation of our culture than the fact that this is now our standard means of public discourse. This…will bury us.

5. When we worship the god of pragmatism  to the point where the means are irrelevant to the end (hiring a scoundrel because he’s a good coach, covering a scoundrel because he’s “such a good teacher”), we worship a false god and teach others to do likewise…

6. Poetry seems to be a dying art…perhaps because reading is as well.

7. There is no greater joy than that which accompanies the alleviation of pain…

8. I’m so grateful that I live in these horrible “end times” when medical and scientific advances against pain and disease are greater than at any time in human history…

9. I’m having a tough time getting around, but I’m still going to go take T to work…because my pride in him swells up and swallows any discomfort I might be in…

10. I’m persuaded that one of the worst of sins is ignoring all the beautiful in life and creation…

 

Aug 052017
 

There is a book who runs may read,

Which heavenly truth imparts;

And all the lore its scholars need,

Pure eyes and Christian hearts.

  The works of God, above, below,

Within us and around,

Are pages in that book, to show

How God Himself is found.

 The glorious sky, embracing all,

Is like the Maker’s love,

Wherewith encompassed, great and small

In peace and order move.

 The moon above, the Church below,

A wondrous race they run;

But all their radiance, all their glow,

Each borrows from its sun.

 The raging fire, the roaring wind,

Thy boundless power display;

But in the gentler breeze we find

Thy Spirit’s viewless way.

  Two worlds are ours; ’tis only sin

Forbids us to descry

The mystic heaven and earth within,

Plain as the sea and sky.

 Thou, who has given me eyes to see

And love this sight so fair,

Give me a heart to find out Thee,

And read Thee everywhere.

John Keble

Aug 052017
 

Matthew 24:36-51

No One Knows That Day and Hour

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

  • How many times has someone predicted the day & time of the end?
  • How many have tried to predict the timing of the rapture? Annual Revelation seminars with charts, graphs and much more.
  • Who? William Miller 1847
  • The Jehovah Witness leaders … several times.
  • Harold Camping – up to just a couple of years ago.
  • Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel 1981
  • Hal Lindsey of ‘The Late Great Planet Earth fame
  • Several had 1988 as the year (40 yrs = 1 generation from the establishment of the nation Israel) with the Rapture in 1981 (7 yrs before the 1988 end).
  • Why is it in the face of Jesus’ very words people still want to crack the code?

37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

  • Jesus had previously taken us back to the days of Daniel – and now we travel with Jesus back to the days of Noah.
  • They lived as if nothing ever was going to change or happen. There will be no judgment.
  • People may not be aware of Daniel – but everyone knows the story of Noah.

38 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,

  • Just going along in their day to day life. This is the same crowd that we witness to today.
  • People will be going about their lives as if the end will not come – as if what Jesus says is not true. Then they will be caught unaware.

39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

  • The building of the ark was their object lesson – Noah preached and built for 120 years – and the people scoffed, just as they do today.
  • “so what are you doing Noah?” or “Noah, what a waste of time and wood.”
  • How about the false christs in Noah’s day? “Don’t listen to him folks, he is coming to you with a false word – listen to me.”

40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.

41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.

  • 37-41 are being told in support of no one knows the day or the hour. That you cannot calculate – look what happened – the flood came and swept them away in judgment before they knew what was happening.
  • Here is another place where our rapture friends get it wrong – who is taken and who is left. The unbelievers are taken away in judgment and the believers are Left Behind.
  • We see this throughout- the weeds were taken and burned and the wheat was left in the silos and barns.

42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

  • You do not know and I will add this – you will not know.

43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

  • You won’t know that, but I want you to know this.
  • Stay awake

44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

  • Jesus’ number one theme in Matt 24 – be ready!
  • He is coming when you when you don’t expect it.
  • This is the reason for telling of Noah, the 2 men in the field, the 2 women grinding – and here the master of the house.
  • No excuse at judgment day – “Lord, how was I to know you were coming back??”

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?

  • What kind of person should you be? 2 Peter 3:11; “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness…”
  • Faithful – Holy – Ready
  • We live this life not because we have a harsh master, but because Jesus came, dies, provided me with baptism, his body and blood and has promised to come again.
  • It is simple – it is this 2 fold shape of the Christian life and this is where our liturgy helps us. – when we pray the collect.
  • Then, having received the Lord’s Supper, we might live in faith towards God and in fervent love towards one another.
  • This is the life of the Christian – this is the daily life of the baptized. A daily repentance, when God repents us daily – we then live our life in Christ for the sake of the neighbor.

46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

  • Who is that faithful and wise servant? The one who is ready.

47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.

48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’

  • Now the contrast back to the wicked servant – the one who is not and will not be ready.

49 and begins to beat his fellow servantsand eats and drinks with drunkards,

50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know

  • There are consequences to not being faithful and not being ready.

51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • What about the theology that everyone goes to heaven?
  • What about those who do not believe? And those who are not expecting Jesus – what becomes of them? We are talking eternal separation from God.
  • Faith in God / Love towards neighbor – fully expecting Christ to return at any time and not worrying “is it today?” Is this the hour?
  • Rather, the true and faithful servant just lives this way — Ready.
  • I am in Christ therefore I will just be about my task – Christ has it handled and I will commend all things into his hands.
  • The Christian lives this way because they have heard the last day judgment verdict rendered at Calvary – “it is finished.”
  • They have had that verdict revealed to them – “it is finished” in holy absolution – we hear it personalized and we hear it in the preaching of the gospel and in the Lord’s Supper.
  • A Christian knows that they are good in Christ – forgiven – a certainty.

 

Aug 042017
 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been exposed to many of the miracles of modern medicine.

The most impressive by far is the CT scan.

A few seconds in this machine gives the doctors a detailed view of what is inside you, what’s working, and what’s not.

It’s quite a machine…and I hate it.

You see, it doesn’t just show them what they were looking for to begin with, it shows them everything.

You go in thinking you had one problem and you come out ready to buy burial insurance.

This problem is enhanced by the fact that they send you a report that is the same one the doctor got…and you interpret it without the aid of a physician who could tell you that all the findings aren’t fatal.

It’s hard to keep in mind that the test is meant to help you get well.

After reading the report, you may think you’ll never be well again.

This, of course, brings me to God.

Before the CT scan, there was the Holy Spirit.

Without the help of a machine (or a massive bill), the Holy Spirit scans the soul looking for what ails you…and Him.

Like the machine, He sees everything.

You think you had one (small) problem and it turns out that you’re in far worse shape than you thought.

To make matters worse, God often uses the delivery of a physical CT scan to get your attention for his soul scan.

This…is a very effective technique.

In both cases, the results cannot be ignored if there is to be life.

While both the earthly and spiritual tests results may call for surgery, as with most medical procedures, the difference is in the doctor.

My earthly doctors will remove what ails me and hope for the best.

The Great Physician will not only remove what is sick, but guarantee the prognosis.

Life, and that eternal.

There may be pain involved, but the promise stands.

Submit to the surgeries…you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

Make your own application…

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: