Feb 292016
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. It’s been said on these pages that the label “evangelical” has so broad a meaning that it no longer has any real meaning at all.

I would now suggest that the label “Christian” has no real meaning culturally and Christians are the ones to blame for it.

 

The mating of the ancient faith with American politics has left “Christians” accepting the testimony of an adulterous strip club owner as being that of a real “Christian”.

I suppose if we can continue to accept the testimonies of narcissistic thieves in the pulpit this is no great stretch for us…

2. The Gospel of American religion is not  that of Jesus Christ, but some nebulous concept of “success”enabled by an equally nebulous definition of “God” splashed with situational pietism. It is a false Gospel led by false teachers leading false Christians to a hell on earth and in the afterlife.

3. The ODM’s have really fallen down on the job. Here we are with millions of people falling for the lies of a “strong man” and they don’t see an analogy to the anti-Christ. I do…

4. The essence of the Christian faith is to love your God and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s hard to love your neighbor while also calling him or her names online…

5. For the Christian, nothing should be more important than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and anything that diminishes, dilutes, or defiles the Gospel should be considered despicable.

6. The people of God have always been given “boundary markers” top distinguish them from the rest of society. In the older testament they were circumcision, food restrictions, and the Sabbath. In the new covenant, there is only one…love. We are close to being indistinguishable from the culture around us…we just hate different things.

7. I gave up watching the NBA years ago… Trey’s love of Steph Curry made me look again. The sheer joy that guy has in excelling at what he does makes it worth watching again.

8. The same folks that yell at charismatics and the renewal crowd for “over realized eschatology” are the same ones that think a fallen sinner can bring about a semblance the kingdom of God politically…

9. There was a time when argument and debate was meant to convince someone else of a given position. It was a good and healthy way to discern truth. Now the objective is to demean and destroy those who disagree with you. We are devouring each other…and because we can’t exchange facts with each other we are far from the truth on most things. There has to be a way to turn this around…

10. I’m glad that there is no one I can vote for with a clear conscience in this presidential election…it frees me to be concerned with the only kingdom that matters and to try to learn to love people who I passionately disagree with.

I will be offline for most of this week as I will be having a medical procedure tomorrow that has an indefinite recovery time.

Thankfully, Kevin H has provided us with some articles and I’ll be back when able.

Feb 272016
 

O Lord, Thou knowest what is best for us, let this or that be done, as Thou shalt please.

Give what Thou wilt, and how much Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt.

Deal with me as Thou thinkest good, and as best pleaseth Thee.

Set me where Thou wilt, and deal with me in all things just as Thou wilt.

Behold, I am Thy servant, prepared for all things; for I desire not to live unto myself, but unto Thee; and Oh, that I could do it worthily and perfectly!

Amen.

Thomas à Kempis

Feb 272016
 

Word of GodHebrews 12:12-21

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,

  • This follows talking about the chastisement
  • The idea is to strengthen ourselves – not our neighbor – not physical frailty.

 

13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

  • Smooth paths – so you don’t trip
  • When the emperor would come to town, you would smooth the road – remove all rocks and bumps.
  • Isaiah &John the B talk -For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

  • What is a roadblock to striving for peace with everyone?
  • It depends on me AND the other guy.
  • Are there road blocks in striving for holiness? No, It only depends on me.
  • Again, we are not all God’s children – we are all God’s creation
  • But to be God’s child you must be born again.

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

  • “no one fails” = no one falls short
  • “root of bitterness” = unforgiving.
  • An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction of terms – Matt 18 speaks of forgiveness – how many times to forgive 70×7.
  • Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation – although it could lead there.
  • Forgiveness is not a choice – it’s not a feeling, like I will when I feel like it.
  • Forgiveness is for your benefit.

16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

  • To pursue holiness is obvious.
  • I find this fascinating what is comparable – as one sin to another.
  • Why was Esau unholy? Selling the birthright – the gift of God.
  • This is the will of God that you refrain from sexual immorality.
  • But we don’t – we are all sexually immoral at times – if only in our minds and we are all unholy and continually sell our birthright … by the deeds we do.
  • This is where we all get stuck in the Romans 7 situation.

17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

  • Was he seeking the repentance or was he seeking the blessing?
  • What is the “it”? This is what makes this passage so difficult.
  • Gen 27:34 Esau says “bless me – me too, my father”
  • Gen 27:36 “haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”
  • Surely Esau will get what he wants … won’t he?
  • Luke 13:23-24 “And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

Even though there is still another chapter, this is really the concluding thought. The remainder of Ch 12.

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest

19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.

  • Not a temple – but a mountain – an altar.
  • Think about this – Not how can a holy, right and just God send people to hell BUT…
  • How can a holy, right and just God allow us into heaven?
  • Mt Sinai is the place where God tried to keep people at arm’s length.

20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.”

  • Is our God that terrifying?
  • No, our God is a God that comes to us in Grace and Forgiveness – In Jesus Christ!!
  • But if you return to Temple Judaism, that is a description of the God you will face.
  • If you do not believe, you need a God of salvation or you will face the terrifying God.
  • Come with Christ as your mediator or come naked and totally exposed.

21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

  • But this is the God of Mount Sinai
  • We want and need the God of Mount Calvary.
  • A note to something we should study one day is the purpose of the 3 mounts in the Bible – Sinai – Zion & Calvary.

 

Feb 262016
 

Before I hand it over for the weekend, I want to highlight these videos available from The Bible Project.

These are really well done.

Here’s a sample:

Good stuff…now it’s all yours….

Feb 262016
 

walk-on-water“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

 

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.””
(Matthew 14:22–33 ESV)

Like most well known Bible stories, this one has lost it’s bite for the retelling.

In the spirit of “making my own application” I’ve had to revisit it and see if I can get it’s teeth back.

“Walking on the water” is simply a metaphor for “stepping out in faith” which is Christianeze for “taking a chance in which the odds are against you, but God will hopefully save your backside”.

As I feel like I may need to do this, it’s best that I replicate the conditions under which it was successfully done once.

The first condition is a storm.

A “storm” is a metaphor for a really difficult situation.

Water walking does not happen on placid waters in lovely weather.

Check.

Got it.

Multiple choice storms if need be.

The second condition is trying to get out of the storm on your own for an extended period of time and failing.

Check.

Practice makes perfect.

The third condition is having tried and failed to get out of the storm on your own for an extended period of time you are now utterly exhausted and think your boat is going to capsize and you’re going to drown. “Drowning” is a metaphor for “drowning”.

Check.

Once again, practice makes perfect.

This is where things get tricky.

This is the point where Jesus shows up to save the day, but we don’t recognize Him…because His presence is in the problem.

He arrives on the storm and in the storm and sometimes He looks like another problem.

This is where you must carefully listen for the voice you recognize as His.

Once you do, once you have His word, He bids you to act.

He calls you to act personally personally…water walking is not a team sport.

There are many people observing however.

You will still be scared.

You will still be exhausted.

You will be unsure it’s really Him you heard.

Act anyway.

When you sink, you won’t drown.

He will catch you.

He will calm the storm.

I have to go get my feet wet.

Make your own application…

 

Feb 252016
 

MYOA Book3 Cover-3Make Your Own Application Vol 3 is on sale…

Only .99 of your own personal cents for the Kindle version…

 

 

 

We moderators of the “Free Saeed” Facebook page got a surprise earlier this week.

Saeed Abedini sent us a thank you note along with an expressed desire to know us.

Naturally, I asked him for an interview.

Crickets.

Evidently, he knows me enough already…

My mailbox was stuffed with free books from a publisher yesterday.

If any of you need a “vision” for your church just let me know before I run out of Charmin and put these volumes to proper use…

Just saw this on the GFA scandal…

From their PR firm…

“Gospel for Asia is 100% focused on continuing its work around the world while working very hard to put an end to the false accusations being continually made against the ministry. Gospel for Asia can document the legal and ethical use of funds donated and clearly answer every question,” he noted in an email to CP. “Thankfully, many of Gospel for Asia’s friends and supporters have chosen to stand with the organization and provide greater and great degrees of prayer and support as the ministry works to put this all to rest, for good.”

Unbelievable…

 

Feb 252016
 

Piano-+-CrossThe Linkathon! article on worship created some interesting thoughts…especially this from a very gifted friend.

So, I look up a person that I want to hear our project.

The person is at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. I look at his bio on the website. He’s born in 1973. He attended Calvary Chapel’s elementary school. No high school is mentioned, but for he goes on to Calvary Chapel’s Twin Peaks Bible College. He takes up his first job at another Calvary Chapel in California, before ultimately taking his current job at – yes, you guessed it – Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

So, I try to engage the interest of a Roman Catholic. I look at his bio. He’s about my age. He attended an RC parochial elementary school, a Catholic college and then went on to graduate work at a Roman Catholic seminary. His subsequent career is near the place of his birth and education apart from a brief stint in Rome, back to his hometown and then finally raised to the episcopate.

We then consider trying to get more effective distribution, perhaps through a Christian label, only to find that essentially all Christian labels are now under Capitol Christian Music Group (a subsidiary of Universal Music Group). The two lead executives for CMG are Bill Hearn (son of founder Billy Ray Hearn) and Chris York (son of former president, Peter York). I guess it’s all about keeping it in the family, sort of an evangelical tradition.

We turned to radio only to find that 96% of Christian radio is owned by one of two entities – the politically right wing for-profit Salem Media (which also owns and operates CCM magazine) and Air-1 a not-for-profit radio ministry. Both choose music on a national basis from an approved list of about 100 label signed artists. Essentially, two program directors are responsible for what is heard in 96% of the national US market.

Finally, we look a Christian music festivals to do second stage performances. We find that 90% of the events are run by the same promotion company and headlining the same 10 bands/artists all from the same label.

What do all of the above have in common?

They are closed systems.

If you are not fully immersed (or approved by background, education, etc.) in the closed system, then you are on the outside, with no entry possible.

The mega church has it’s own praise band, so no other music is needed.

Roman Catholics think “special music” in a service is someone singing ‘Ave Maria’ at a wedding or a funeral.

The label(s) wants everything to sound the same, as do the two radio conglomerates.

All this not only stifles creativity, it stunts growth – both in terms of people and organizations.

So, what do you do?

Sing covers of James Taylor songs at a bar until your soul is destroyed?

Just random thoughts… Would love to have some answers…”

Feb 242016
 

ring-kissing1-croppedThe Gospel for Asia scandal has been a big story.

It’s an issue which had brought about my most active and consistent participation here at the Phoenix Preacher. This story hit home to me because I had personal connections to it. Gospel for Asia (GFA) long had a significant presence in my church. My wife and I had supported GFA for several years. I have friends who also had been supporting GFA.

Thus, when I saw Warren Throckmorton’s first posting about GFA last year, I became concerned. I researched some on my own, including speaking directly with GFA, and as time went on more and more disconcerting information about them kept coming to light. The truth became painfully obvious that GFA was a very corrupt organization, primarily, if not solely due to its top leadership, most especially K.P. Yohannan.

It has been encouraging to see some bloggers, pastors, Christian leaders, and others stand up and say this is not okay and sound the warning about GFA.

What Gayle Erwin did was especially encouraging.

On the other side of the ledger, it has been dismaying to see the response (or lack of response) from others, as has been lamented before on these pages.

The silence has been deafening from Francis Chan, board member of GFA and famous for his call to Christians to live radically for Christ and to reject comfortable Christianity. The “we don’t really know if GFA did anything wrong” response from the camp of Skip Heitzig, former longtime board member of GFA, has been documented here on this blog.

There are plenty of other pastors, Christian leaders, organizations, media outlets, etc. who have had involvement with GFA.

They implicitly support GFA by remaining silent when they know there is something wrong.

The Gospel for Asia story has gotten a good amount of play because of the mountain of incriminating evidence exposed by the relentless work of some like the GFA Diaspora and Michael and most especially, Warren Throckmorton. The proof of definitive and likely wrongdoing by GFA has become very hard to ignore, although some still hold out.

However, I believe the attention given to this story has been more exception than rule.

Maybe it’s just me, but why does it seem that we regularly get more concerned about what’s wrong in the world than we do about what’s wrong in our own house?

We seem to have much greater concern when our country is legalizing gay marriage, than we are about the significant numbers of divorces in the church or about pastors who divorce and re-marry under unbiblical circumstances yet remain in the pastorate. It often seems we’re more troubled with the shenanigans and abuses of power we believe President Obama has committed than we are with the same types of wrongs being carried out by our Christian leaders and organizations and churches. We’re more disturbed by the cultural ambition to enforce “tolerance” and political correctness than we are about the culture of keeping the victims shamed and the tolerance that exists in many situations where church and spiritual abuse occurs.

Even when the problems in our own house are spoken about, there often seems to be a bigger focus on items like theological differences or the latest thing Rick Warren is up to rather than on the gross sin that sometimes exists and is accepted in our own camp. (When I talk about “our house” or “our camp”, I am referring to Christianity in general, and more specifically at least for me, conservative evangelicalism.)

Even with the GFA case, there appeared to be some who were more disturbed by GFA’s theological changes than they were with the financial or spiritual abuses.

So while GFA may be the exception to rule to at least some degree, there are so many other misdeeds that occur in the church and Christian organizations, especially within leadership, where we convey the impression that we just don’t much care. I’m not talking about needing to nitpick at every single existent sin,but rather when a person or organization has become seriously corrupted and potentially disqualified in their behavior and actions.

If objects of our own admiration commit wrongdoing, we will find ways to look the other way.

We must keep our hallowed ones propped up and their reputations are to remain spotlessly clean (and our own by proxy).

Our love for celebrity in this culture does not help us in this matter. However, if someone on the outside, especially if they are the “enemy”, commits the same or similar transgressions – watch out!

Now, maybe I’m wrong in my perceptions that we are often more concerned with the sins outside of our house than within. Others may have different impressions. And I know not everybody is routinely guilty of acting like this.

Nevertheless, this is how I see things.

It is not wrong to be concerned about sin and wrongdoing outside of our house. Many times the misdeeds of the “outsiders” will effect us along with many others. Sometimes it has a direct effect on us.

However, it is a matter of priorities. Let us first be concerned with our own personal sins and problems. And then with those in our own house. And then finally with those who are outside of our brand of Christianity, or who aren’t Christians at all, or of our governmental leaders, or of other cultures, etc.

Let’s first worry about our own house before we worry about the houses of others.

Feb 232016
 

timthumb.phpJesus is big on forgiveness…

Time to boycott worship industry?

David Jeremiah gaming the best seller lists…

Gothard suit expands…

Noah’s Ark park nearing completion…

Jack Hibbs endorses Cruz…

Brian McClaren rewrites “offensive” hymns…

Balancing sermon and liturgy…

Fighting poverty with hope…

Nine Christian myths about suffering…

Denominational cross breeding…

The breath of mercy…

How “Spotlight” missed the story…

What “evangelical” means in the South…

On Polycarp…

Nagging questions about observing Lent…

Reading the Bible on a tablet or on paper…does it matter?

The SGM mess gets wider and deeper…

Another stupid article on the “sheep”…

Is non violence an historic Christian value?

What is a “Spirit filled” church?

Is Trump a Christian?

U.S. religious groups and their political leanings…

Secularization and the sexual revolution…

On the balance between caution and compassion…

Just say no to March madness…

God is big enough for our hardest questions…

Thanks again to EricL for the link help…support him at top right.

 

 

 

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