Mar 212016
 

wmns_gfaWarren Throckmorton has the story of Gospel For Asias public donation to save the Ganges…while a child died for want of far less.

Jesus wept…

This is a must read story…and it should create a demand for action.

Mar 212016
 

Steve“We’re not here because we’re good, but because we’re yours.

Forgive the one who teaches his sins, for they are many.

We would see Jesus and Him only…amen”

I’ve heard Steve Brown pray that prayer  hundreds of times now, but the first time I heard it I was shocked.

I was not yet a “Calvinist” and it blew the paradigms of my faith up and me with it.

 

I thought I was good…Lord knows I was trying.

I thought preachers didn’t have many sins.

I thought good preaching was about what I should do,not what He had already done.

It seems funny to think about it in retrospect.

The shock wore off as I kept listening and the Holy Spirit used Steve Brown to change my faith, life , and ministry.

“Make sure all your heroes in the faith are long dead.

You will already know all the dirt on them.”

That was another Steve Brown rule and I made him one of the few exceptions to it…so it’s been a hard weekend.

The story we are following says that Steve Brown and two elders confronted Tullian Tchividjian about his infidelity two years ago…then covered it up from both his wife and the church.

We don’t know what Tchividjian “confessed” to, nor do we know why these men would think it good to cover it up.

We know that it was wrong to do so.

This morning the online memes are about what a scoundrel both Tchividjian and my hero are.

They make me flinch in pain when I see them.

My friends and brethren in blogging will show Steve no more quarter than we have any other.

I have wielded the sword that cuts me so deeply today.

It must fit my hand for a former hero as well.

Perhaps… they will allow me to drive the ambulance as well.

He really did change my life.

You think about that…

Steve’s response…

Mar 192016
 

O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
And use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.
Amen.

Alan Paton, South Africa, United Methodist Hymnal #456.

Mar 192016
 

Word of GodWe finish the book of Hebrews this week…but there is more good stuff on the way.

MLD has graciously agreed to take us through the book of Matthew in similar fashion.

Hebrews 13:15-25

 

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

  • Remember, all we do as a Christian is in Christ and through Christ

 

16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

  • We have direct access to God – we are all priests. (we are our own priest not the priest of others like the clergy.)
  • There no longer is a need for sin offerings
  • So what is the sacrifice we offer? – Our spiritual offering
  • Giving thanks – offering of praise. (15)
  • How do we give thanks and offer praise? By repeating back to God what he has promised us – as we do in the Collect during the liturgy.
  • Doing good works (16) For we Lutherans = vocation.
  • Not a salvation issue – Eph 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
  • Paul speaks of other spiritual offerings Phil 4:18 “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
  • Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

 

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

  • What is the role of the church leaders … if we are all priests?
  • Watching out for your soul – make it easy for them
  • How does the pastor watch out for your soul?
  • By protecting you from false teaching – In the old days false teaching was delivered by traveling preachers – such as the Judaizers in Paul’s day – circuit riders in the old west – today false teaching comes to us via books, in Christian Bookstores – tapes – the internet.
  • Our pastors must always point out the wolves.
  • Sadly many / most not only don’t, but refuse to. I myself will always call them out.
  • This is the correct method used in the Book of Concord that not only confesses what we believe, but boldly states what we are against.

 

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.

  • This is a good example of a leader who knows how to care for his people through prayer. Briefly and beautifully he sums up the epistle in a prayer for them.

19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

  • A personal prayer request
  • Where is he? We don’t know

 

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,

  • In this one sentence (20-21) he summarizes all that Christianity has to offer.
  • Peace with God – not a peace so you can sleep at night … but God is no longer at war with you.
  • Throughout Hebrews there has been much talk about sacrifice – not much talk about the resurrection – but here it is.

 

21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Equipping – teaching – Exactly what we do here.
  • What work is God doing in us? – He is directing what you do with your life for his glory.
  • You, me and future generations becoming Christians is what pleases God.

 

22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.

  • That’s a LOL for us – but he was probably dead serious.

 

23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.

  • I always wondered when Paul would say this if it was a warning – perhaps this writer picked up the same tactic.
  • Watch out – don’t let me catch you … or, stay on your toes.

 

24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

  • I would think that the letter went to the leaders and was handed down – like greet your congregants.
  • Those from Italy. Are these Italians (Romans) living in exile?
  • Paul was in Rome Italy. Again, a who’s who mystery.

 

25 Grace be with you all.

  • Amen and THE END!
Mar 182016
 

headerEffective tomorrow, I’m taking a partial sabbatical.

 

I’ve never succeeded in completely “retiring” so I won’t pretend I can now.

 

The blog will stay up and we will continue to post the weekend Bible studies and prayer requests and an occasional article.

I want to still have the capability to cover the trial in the Philippine orphanage scandal and other issues if need be.

We will continue the podcast as long as Phil will do so, and I hope Kevin H keeps writing for us as well.

Most of the time I will be offline for at least a season, however.

Running the blog has always taken a toll…and I can’t afford the toll fee right now.

It’s time for me to “number my days”.

I don’t want to be held to a schedule here, nor do I want to be constantly “moderating” the activity.

My focus will be on completing my book and my health and that of my family.

When I do write here, I hope to write some things to edify and encourage faith, not fuel more division and conflict.

Looking back over the last fifteen years online our best work wasn’t exposing bad guys, but encouraging broken people.

My hope is that we can do more of that at some point.

We earnestly covet both your prayers and support.

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

 

Mar 172016
 

IMG_0975The cat has me well trained.

I have come to understand how she communicates…what the various sounds she makes and her body language are trying to say.

If Miss Kitty comes in the door with loud and repeated “meows” and walks right past me, that means it’s raining, she’s wet, and I’m to follow her into the bathroom to towel her off.

She has taught me when to understand when she’s hungry, tired, angry, or wanting attention and affection.

 

She has also painfully instructed me on when she does not want attention or affection….

My favorite communication from her comes when she sits just outside the door and and calls to me.

That means she wants me to come sit in the sun with her for a bit.

I’ll go out and sit on the sidewalk and she will come and sit on my lap and we enjoy the warmth together.

Yesterday, she beckoned me out.

This made no sense to me as it is winter still here…it has been cold and rainy and the sun has been hidden.

I ignored her and closed the door to keep the cold air out.

Still, she kept calling.

Finally, I went to the door and walked outside to see if there was something else troubling her.

She trotted in front of me to her spot…the one spot anywhere around us where the sun had feebly broken through and was warming a sliver of sidewalk.

I grabbed a sweater off the bed and joined her for a few minutes until the clouds came and took our spot again.

Grateful for what we had received, we walked back in to the house together with lifted spirits.

Thus came another lesson learned from Miss Kitty.

Amidst what seemed like the constant cold and darkness of winter, she was still looking for a little light.

When the light came, though small and slight, she reveled in it.

The little light she found, she wanted to share.

There is no  greater joy than finding light in the darkness…except for sharing it with someone else who has also been waiting in the dark.

Make your own application…

Mar 172016
 

logoFor many years I’ve been a subscriber to Dan Woodings Assist News Service.

Loosely associated with Calvary Chapel, the donor supported subscription service sends out news reports on the persecuted church as well as puff pieces on “Christian” celebrities.

Wooding also has a program on Calvary’s KWVE radio in Southern California and a television program on hischannel.com

He describes himself as a “journalist”…and that’s where the problem begins.

The service has been sending out “news releases” from Gospel For Asia that look more like paid advertisements.

There have been no stories about the myriad controversies surrounding the charity.

No, not one.

This is the latest…complete with a short bio of the group and an email address to inquire about setting up a presentation.

I have sent numerous emails to Assist via the “contact me” feature of their website asking if these are paid releases and if so why they are not labeled as such.

This is the latest;

“This is the last of multiple emails I’ve sent inquiring about your relationship with GFA.
I will be running an article on this matter and would like a statement.
The question is this.
Why are you running paid stories as “news” in the light of the fraud and abuse allegations surrounding this organization?
I hope to hear from you soon as to how you justify potentially defrauding your readers.”

Crickets…there has been no response to any of my inquiries.

I do not know if Wooding is paid to post these missives or not.

I do know that (allegedly) there is no way of knowing where money sent to GFA goes.

I do know it’s not journalism to post these pieces without posting coverage of the controversy.

If the allegations against Gospel For Asia are proven true, Wooding is giving his readers just enough information to get robbed.

In these days when it’s so hard to determine what is really “news”, Christians should expect better.

Update: The former head of GFA communications has affirmed that Wooding is paid to post these “reports”.

Mar 172016
 

Pastor-Saeed-Abedini-family-couch-FacebookThe Abedini turmoil has dominated a substantial part of the conversation here over the past couple months and especially the last couple weeks.

Let me state right off the bat that I really wish it could all go away.

 

I wish this topic wouldn’t be a spectacle here, among other places. I wish I wouldn’t be writing about this. I wish Saeed and Naghmeh could address their issues in private and completely out of the public eye. For their own sake, and for the sake of all of us who get drawn into the soap opera, and for their family members and friends, and most especially their children.

The problem is, I believe this story needs to stay public for two reasons.

I’ve expressed this before in comments on this blog and other places, but not in an official article.

First, we all know by now that we were given a false narrative during the large majority of our advocacy for Saeed’s release from Iranian prison. Driven by Naghmeh’s writings and communications, we were regularly told of the pains of Naghmeh and Saeed and their children in their inability to communicate with Saeed. Our hearts were wrenched when we were repeatedly told of the separation of husband and wife in their great love story and the children growing up without ever being able to see or talk to their daddy. We now know by everybody’s admittance of a regularly used cell phone that this part of the story was a sham.

Now, it is understandable that the presence of a cell phone was not publicly made known out of concerns for Saeed’s safety. Although it would seem quite plausible that Iranian leaders were already fully aware of the phone and the conversations taking place on it, there would still be some consideration for keeping quiet about it. It is certainly understandable that Naghmeh would do whatever she thought she had to to get her husband and the father of her children safely home. It does not make it right, but there surely is a serious measure of empathy in such a situation. If I ever were to be in a similar situation, I cannot say for sure what I would do.

Where the rubber hits the road on this false narrative is the role of the American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ). The ACLJ was a main driver in bringing awareness to Saeed’s case and raising funds around it. The ACLJ is to be commended for taking on Saeed’s advocation. The dilemma that comes into play is with the false narrative. The truth of who was the main culprit behind creating, directing, and/or demanding the false narrative, we may never know. At the very least, what we do know is that the public was given the narrative by way of Naghmeh’s writings and communications, some of which were used and highlighted by the ACLJ. For example, see here and here.

Now, I am far from a legal expert so I do not know what all the potential legal and ethical ramifications are or are not in a case like this. But when a big Christian organization knowingly uses false information to help further a cause and raise funding around it, then I have a problem. Even more so if they were the main driver behind the false information. And I think the public should have a problem, too. Especially for those who were led to give to the ACLJ based on the pleas given about Saeed. There needs to be some accountability. How or in what manner, I’m not sure. But I don’t think it is something that we should just act like never happened. The same would apply to any other organization that may have raised funds when knowingly pushing a false narrative.

The second reason I believe the Abedini case unfortunately needs to remain public revolves around the allegations of abuse. I do not want to turn this into a big fight as to who is telling the truth between Naghmeh and Saeed. I have already stated in the comments of this blog that my own personal inclination is to believe Naghmeh. This is my own opinion and I write this at my own volition.

This does not mean I know a lot with certainty or that I believe Naghmeh to be definitively 100% accurate and truthful on all her charges and details. The only thing I know with certainty, because it is officially documented, is that Saeed plead guilty to domestic assault of Naghmeh in an incident that occurred almost nine years ago. Yes, the details of the assault describe a situation not as bad as some assaults can be. But what is described is still completely wrong and Saeed did plead guilty to such. No amount of abuse of any kind is acceptable.

The reason I believe the current charges need to remain public is because of Saeed’s stated desires to write a book and go around the country speaking in churches. I have very little doubt if Naghmeh hadn’t already spoken up that Saeed would already be hot on the church speaking trail all over the nation. He had the makings of the perfect Christian hero and celebrity. He had the right connections in place to make it all happen.

But at the very least, we now know there are serious issues in his marriage and so we know that is where his focus should be. Knowing this much, churches and other Christian organizations should be given to much pause before lining up to have Saeed speak. If Naghmeh had not spoken up, the scenario would be very conceivable where Saeed would have gone full bore on the speaking circuit without ever acknowledging any serious issues in his marriage.

If the allegations of abuse are true, then churches and other Christian organizations should have nothing to do with giving Saeed the pulpit or a platform to speak. Christians would need to really question if they should buy any potential books Saeed would write. The Church would need to know these things so that they would not be giving a position of influence to such a man. Again, if Naghmeh had not spoken up, then the exact opposite would be happening in regards to his speaking and book writing opportunities.

Now, if Naghmeh is lying about these charges, then a great shame on her. If she is making up all these things and destroying this man’s life for whatever sinister reasons, then that is just horrible. She would need to be held to account and should be held liable for his loss of livelihood.

We all know there have been instances of false accusations where innocent men (and women) have been taken down by malevolent reasons and circumstances. We also know there have been plenty of times where abusive men have kept their victims quiet (or unbelieved) and go on to maintain their respected status in society. And far more times than we would like to know where these abusive situations happen in the Church and Christian leadership.

Many times abuse occurs behind closed doors and we never know about it. The fire is hidden and the smoke rarely escapes to be seen. It takes a lot of courage for the abused to speak up. In this case, Naghmeh has drawn our attention to a lot of smoke. Not always, but often times when there is smoke, there is fire. At the very least, we now know there is something acutely wrong. We should proceed with much caution before propping up Saeed as a leader and authoritative figure.

If Naghmeh is speaking the truth about abuse, then it is good and necessary that she has spoken. In most abuse situations, it would be unnecessary to tell the world, nor would the world much care because it would not know who the involved people are. The Abedinis are a different case than most.

I really wish this could all go away from the public arena. I really do.

But for the given reasons of the ACLJ’s complicity in the false narrative and Saeed’s spoken desires to obtain a platform of influence in the Church, it can’t. I wish it weren’t so.

Mar 162016
 

rdozlerDoveIn a new article on calvarychapel.com, Kellen Criswell does a state of the union report on the health of Calvary Chapel.

His opening paragraph takes a shot before getting into the meat of the matter…

“Fringe personalities and opportunists instantly went to work in the wake of Pastor Chuck’s passing predicting everything from a rapid splintering of the movement to a large-scale fall into liberalism.”

I’m not sure which category I fall into, but I’ll comment none the less.

Criswell paints a glowing picture of the movements health based on numerical growth.

His conclusions:

“Calvary Chapel exploded in the 60s, but we are still expanding today.
Calvary Chapel has arguments, but we are still a committed family today.
Calvary Chapel is aging, but we are still training and deploying new leaders today.
Calvary Chapel has roots that are American, but we are still going global in more ways than ever before today.
Calvary Chapel is vintage, but the planting of more local Calvary Chapels is still in high demand today.
We still have a lot to work on, to be sure. But I for one think it is safe to say that things are looking strong for the future of Calvary Chapel.”

It’s hard to argue with the numbers.

Despite the denials however, there are still issues under the surface.

There has been splintering as there is still opposition to Brian Brodersen and many who believe that the “movement” has lost it foundational theological moorings, especially in regard to eschatology.

One need only watch the recent prophecy conferences and discussions at CC Cypress to hear this.

There has been discontent among some over the Calvary Chapel Association, particularly in regard to Skip Heitzig’s involvement with Gospel For Asia.

Who are the leaders of the leaders accountable to?

The answers at the national level are the same as at the local level…they are accountable to no one they don’t choose to be.

What Criswell is doing is actually reporting on the state of the brand.

It is hard to argue with his conclusion that despite the issues we and others have reported online and the death of the founder, that the brand is healthy.

That may say more about the state of evangelicalism in general than the movement itself.

Mar 162016
 

tullian-tchividjian1Tullian Tchividjian has been removed from ministry…again.

He has been removed from his new job at Willow Creek Presbyterian Church and much of the Liberate Network board has resigned.

Both entities have received (or have been been forced to acknowledge) new information that could lead to new allegations about the defrocked pastor.

 

 

Tchividjian had recently had a couple of speaking engagements and it appeared that his parachurch ministry Liberate Network was taking on life again.

Now that Christianity Today has run the story, people will consider it legitimate news.

In reality, the heavy lifting on this story was done by bloggers again, particularly Julie Anne Smith of the Spiritual Sounding Board, along with the eminent Mr. Throckmorton.

Smith has paid for doing her work.

Tchividjian supporters, in particular Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio, have questioned her motives, her sources, and her character.

Rosebrough basically condemned her as a “witch hunter” yesterday, exclaiming that he had “primary source material” that vindicated Tchividjian and refuted Smith.

I’ll be interested to hear his program today…

What often happens in these situations is that the more mainstream media have access to the celebrities, but bloggers have access to the victims.

For many bloggers, the story is about those who have no voice, not those whose voices have given them wealth and power.

Because of the imbalance of both, many victims cannot or will not come forward…but the stories they tell are true and worthy of attention.

It puts us in a very difficult position to tell those stories without creating further harm to those already wounded.

Credibility is earned over time…and Julie Anne Smith has once again proved to be a credible reporter.

The Tchividjian case opens up the whole issue of when, how, and if fallen pastors should be restored.

Those answers will still prove difficult to discern…but in this case, we now have much more information to work with.

%d bloggers like this: