Jan 182017
 

We have confirmed through multiple sources that there have been three more resignations from the Calvary Chapel Association “leadership council”.

Sources tell us that Damian Kyle, Wayne Taylor, and David Guzik have all left the groups leadership.

This implosion is in addition to those who have already left the organization competing for the mantle of being the one,true, Calvary Chapel.

The corporation itself is still in suspended status according the California corporations website.

We will have more commentary coming in later articles…but these losses may spell the end of the CCA as a viable organization representing more than one mans quest to take the place of Chuck Smith…

Correction: Wayne Taylor has not resigned, though he has been asked to do so by some of his peers on the council.

 

Jan 182017
 

Warren Throckmorton reports that a judge in Arkansas has ruled that the lawsuit by former employees of Gospel For Asia can go forward.

So far, all the parties accused have employed the well worn but effective tactic of remaining silent about the matter, thus having the matter lost in the continually changing news cycle.

What this means is that there will be a discovery phase now…and former board members Gayle Erwin, Skip Heitzig, and Damien Kyle will be deposed.

Look for all three to get lawyered up…and keep your eyes open for the depositions they will be forced under law to make…

Jan 182017
 

So what does one write when they are not a quick or proficient writer, nor are they abounding with ideas? 

I am certainly not one who can just whip up a masterpiece in a few quick brushes of the pen stroke (or more to reality, taps on the keyboard).  It usually takes several passes to make my ramblings semi-cogent and not too clunky in wording.  And my self-absorbed, low IQ dog just does not give me the same inspiration as Michael’s cats do for him. 🙂

When I started writing here, I thought I was going to run out of ideas in a couple months.  It didn’t take much longer than that for me to work through my pre-writing ideas and since then I’m left with many weeks hoping that something comes to mind.  So I guess we can blame either God or the devil when something has popped in my head to keep me writing each week.  Michael said I could write whenever I wanted, there would be no set or expected schedule.  I did settle rather quickly, however, into a once a week routine.  Routine fits me much better, and so that is what it is.

I don’t have the theological depth and expertise to write a significant series on any such topic.  I don’t have a treasure trove of creative ideas.  And my sports teams can only give so many metaphors before all of you become sick to death of them.  Although, it’s awfully tempting to write about the Dallas Cowboys losing this past Sunday.  How they went into the playoffs as a number one seed and yet failed to win even one game.  How they have won only two total playoff games over the past twenty years.  How it’s not quite as joyful as an Eagles playoff win, but it sure is awfully close.  But I digress……   

And yet, here I still am.  Typing away at something that I hope has some kind of worth or meaning.  I keep writing not to bestow my immense knowledge or shrewd insights on any such topic, because those things usually don’t exist. 

But rather, I guess I like to try to get people to think through things.  That many times in life, issues aren’t as black and white as we would like to think, and the answers aren’t as simple and obvious as we would like them to be.  That perhaps our words and behaviors can sometimes end up being more Christ honoring if we take a moment to step back from our automatic assumptions and go-to reactions and consider the thoughts and feelings of those who think differently on an issue or contemplate the various different angles that may come into play on the matter at hand.

I need to practice this as much as anybody else so I’m certainly not coming at this from a position of superiority.  But that would seem to be part of the trick.  We recognize in life that some positions carry more authority than others.  Additionally, some people are able to gain influence and authority by the manner in which they conduct themselves.  And that we all have strengths and weaknesses and some of us are better at or know more on particular subjects while others are better on other subjects.  Yet, no matter how good we are at something or how much authority we may have, to regularly assume that we have it all figured out or that our way is always the right way leaves us on dangerous ground where we are more likely to hurt others and bring dishonor to the name of Christ.

Just last week we discussed the essentials of the faith.  Truly there are some things that are essential that we must believe or we really are not of the faith.  Beyond that, there are some precepts of morality that are truly black and white, that are fundamental and shouldn’t be questioned.  And of course, there are other essentials of life that we must believe or abide by or else we’re going to have it pretty rough.  I can’t question the law of gravity and jump off a tall building and expect everything will be okay.

But once we get past these things that truly are essential and black and white, we are left with a whole host of things in life that aren’t quite as clear and obvious.  At least they shouldn’t be at first glance.  When circumstances dictate that we really need to dig in to glean perspectives and find facts and understand nuance before we can even entertain coming to any righteous or reasonable conclusions. It’s in these many moments and issues of life where I think we should be more apt to stop and think before we just automatically default to our favored dogmatic positions.

I leave you with these words from Scripture for your consideration:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” – Proverbs 18:17

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.” – Romans 12:16 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” – James 3:13

Jan 172017
 

Phil and I discuss why it’s so hard to understand the Trinity and how often we should go to the Lord’s table…

Download the mp3

 

Jan 172017
 

How should we interpret the Genesis flood account?

It works…on the sacrament of baptism…

What you’re angry about is not why you’re angry…

The big picture of the Pentateuch…

Creatively outrageous congregations…

Top 50 countries for Christian persecution…

Teenagers sold like pizza…

Who were the first Protestants?…

Trump bringing Graham family back to White House…

How injustice remains hidden…

Eddie Long dead…

How much do top Mormon leaders make?

Jesus didn’t believe in original sin?

When the seeds of hate land on your doorstep…

The pastor in the batters box…

Public theology in a digital age…

Beauty in continuity…

The lost art of creating margin…

Why social media is toxic…

The Bible isn’t a personal letter to you…

The falling abortion rate…

Why we shouldn’t long for a state church…

Carl Trueman’s book of the year…

Best church history book of 2016…

Are Christians redefining sin in the name of love?

How black and white Christians do discipleship differently…

Trump and militant evangelical masculinity…

What Jesus talked about when he spoke about enemies…

Thinking about hell…

Church is supposed to be messy…

God’s strangeness…

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

 

Jan 162017
 

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats

Robert Webber, for many years, taught Theology and Church History at Wheaton.  His evangelical credentials were flawless, from his undergraduate years at Bob Jones University to his doctoral degree from Concordia, St. Louis.  He even had the great fortune to marry the daughter of Harold Lindsell, the long time editor of Christianity Today.   I first met Bob in 1979, shortly after he had written his classic book Common Roots, exploring the call of the Early Church to modern evangelicals.  We became friends and occasional correspondents over the next number of years.  He was a force of nature.  Visiting his office at Wheaton, a window looked out on onto the Billy Graham Center… except Bob had surrounded the window with icons! Curly hair, mustache and a mischievous smile, he was clearly on his own journey. It was a journey back and forward, to what he termed an ancient-future faith.

Robert Webber died in 2007.  His last book was, Who Gets To Narrate The World?.  I have to take Bob at his word,  that “… this book is primarily about the face off between Islamic and Christian ideology” (p. 102) which he believed would be the struggle of this century.  Yet, however much I am willing to allow Bob or, indeed, any author to lay out in plain terms the intent of their writing, I have to take issue with Bob’s perception, at least in this case.  Moreover, as a result of the Pew Research Study of 2007 and the more recent exhaustive study America’s Changing Religious Landscape (May 12, 2015) it has become abundantly clear, at least to me, that this book was really about something that transcends the mere geopolitical/theological confrontation between Islam and the West.  Rather this book sought to explore the nature of a Christian community and theology that is, literally, “adrift”.  It is a community (across almost all denominations and faith traditions) that is no longer anchored to the cosmic redemptive narrative which Webber’s book considers essential to confront the dual challenges of Islamic fundamentalism and secular humanism.  It is my conviction that this drift has become accelerated in the course of the last forty five years with a marked decline in denominations and Christian faith traditions across the board in America and in Europe. We may rejoice that in the latest Pew study, evangelicals seem to have somewhat held their own, but in a time of population growth, they have actually suffered a loss as well. If we also include in the Pew analysis that the evangelicals surveyed included numerous faith communities whose theology can only be described as “Christianity light”, the picture becomes even more sobering.

I have hinted at what I believe is the cause of this acceleration in referencing the poem The Second Coming, written by Yeats in 1919.  “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…” and “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”  Within numerous denominations and faith communities, the center has not held – whether that center consisted in confessions of faith, standards of ministry, training and/or pastoral care, or the idea – yes, even the mere idea – that the Church holds a cosmic redemptive narrative separate from the contemporary post-modern secular construct.  Yes, in many denominations and numerous independent faith communities there are those who are “the best”, that is, men and women of faith who cling tenaciously to that cosmic redemptive narrative, but often without “conviction” as they look to the practical realities of “paycheck and pension” or, perhaps even worse, cast a jealous eye at the full parking lot of the megachurch down the street that has embraced an entertainment/consumer approach replete with the latest audio-visual equipment, well rehearsed praise bands and development professionals on staff.  Then, of course, there are the “worst”.  Denominational leadership has, in many cases, been taken over by people far more doctrinaire on “issues of the moment” (for instance, LGBT marriage, ordination, etc.) than any Biblical fundamentalist discussing Genesis. On the other hand, megachurch pastors across the United States and in some parts of Western Europe enjoy what is considered “success” in local “church plants” or “worship centers”, or on television, YouTube and internet streaming, promoting a consumerist, individualistic, and, in this last year, a political approach to Christian faith wholly divorced from history, tradition, or community.  Moreover, both of these sets of leadership do what they do with “passionate intensity”, and dare I say it, on occasion, with a degree of ruthlessness.

All of this is to say, the center has not held. Indeed, there is no longer a center to hold in much of what we see in church life today.  With apologies to Robert Webber, it is not that the Church no longer provides the world with the revolutionary narrative of creation, fall and redemption with all that it entails; the sad fact is that this narrative is either no longer held, or has been lost, by many, if not most, Christian denominations and communities in 2017. The narrative is no longer, as Bob wrote in 2007, “held dear by every Christian body” (p. 117) apart from cultural or civic formulations.

To use a modern reference, it is as though we are Peter Jackson, the famed New Zealand director, and we have decided to film The Hobbit and The Lord of  the Rings, but we have decided that the idea of a gold ring as a main character is too abstract a concept for audiences to grasp, so we film the cycle without it. We have the actors, the costumes, the special effects, the script writers, the New Zealand locations, but the story – the narrative – is gone, so the film no longer makes sense. It no longer makes sense to the participants in the film; it no longer makes sense to the audience that comes to view the finished result. The film is beautifully shot, the actors are superb, the special effects are stunning, but the story – the compelling narrative at it’s heart is gone.  It is a mere one time “event”, (similar to youth oriented “worship events” that are now in vogue) devoid of meaning and without any lasting significance.

Webber always asserted that the “path to the future runs through the past”.  Let us, however, be clear – Our calling is not to be antiquarians, or curators of a museum.

Rather our calling, as I have said elsewhere, is to “authenticity”; to find the central tenants of the Christian narrative in Scripture, Church History, the Creeds, the Church Year, Worship, Social Justice, and Polity and to give them an authentic life in 2017. It is a daunting task of recovery. It is not for the faint of heart and, apart from the promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” the Church, there is no promise of success.  We may hope with Yeats, that “Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”  Yet, perhaps that revelation may be our own renewed commitment to that ancient-future faith, which my friend held so dear,  and the discovery of a new, but ancient way to “narrate the world”

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Jan 152017
 

God of the seasons, God of the years, God of the eons, Alpha and Omega, before us and after us.

You promise and we wait: we wait with eager longing, we wait amid doubt and anxiety, we wait with patience thin and then doubt, and then we take life into our own hands.

We wait because you are the one and the only one.

We wait for your peace and your mercy, for your justice and your good rule.

Give us your spirit that we may wait obediently and with discernment, caringly and without passivity, trustingly and without cynicism, honestly and without utopianism.

Grant that our wait may he appropriate to your coming soon anal very soon, soon and not late, late but not too late.

We wait while the world groans in eager longing.

Walter Brueggemann. Prayers for a Privileged People (pp. 117-118). Kindle Edition.

Jan 152017
 

Matthew 15:10-28

What Defiles a Person? – (before God)

What defiles a man before men? Smoking – Eating saturated fats – Drinking 32oz Cokes – anything the food police deem bad.

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand:

  • When Jesus says this, you had better pay attention and not just blow it off.

11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

  • This is in total contradiction to what the hearers think – They think it is following the dietary laws — eating only kosher.
  • I can’t eat or drink certain things (being a vegetarian for religious purposes).
  • This is the excuse that my sin, my problems come from the outside.
  • Jesus blows the lid off that. You are your own problem.

12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”

  • Does anyone think that Jesus didn’t know who his audience was?

13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

  • Man-made doctrines can be ignored and the makers of man-made doctrines will one day get theirs.

14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

  • Jesus is saying don’t follow those who teach false doctrine.
  • Today we think doctrine is too divisive so folks want to avoid it.
  • We say “doctrine should not divide anyone – therefore we will overlook doctrinal differences. Then we make up categories like primary and secondary issues / doctrines. Who gets to make those 2 lists?
  • Did Luther say “hey, the Pope’s a nice guy, give him a pass.”?

15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.”

  • Peter just comes up and says “Hey Jesus, quit beating around the bush – just explain this to us. We don’t get it.”

16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?

  • “Duh?
  • Is Jesus playing with Peter? I think so.

17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?

  • Is this part clear enough?

18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

  • Have you ever hurt anyone by what you have eaten?
  • Have you ever hurt anyone by what has come out of your mouth – words?

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

  • A good list – and from my point of view, no one accidently does these things – we usually think long and hard, even planning these sins.

20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

  • But some folks are tied up in the rituals
  • It was for sayings like this that made Jesus so dangerous to those in authority.
  • We are all Pharisees at heart / by nature. I am.
  • I just think if I can control my outward actions that I will be pure and righteous before God.
  • No, the sewage comes from within – every time I open my mouth reveals more fruit of my sinful condition.
  • To change takes the Holy Spirit.

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman – here we will have a shift of scene

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

  • Jesus leaves the offended Pharisees – Those who represent the old Israel – he is beginning to do the separations.
  • He is now off to pagan land.

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

  • I will give away the punch line here – this woman will be the beginning of the description of the new Israel.
  • Now to be one of belief.
  • As we go along, compare her to the Jews who refuse to confess Jesus as Lord and this woman who does.
  • This woman has 2 strikes against her – (1) she is a Canaanite – the Jews were to have driven them all out of the land and (2) she is a woman.
  • But she knows exactly who Jesus is.

23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”

  • The disciples have a pretty good self opinion – she is crying out after “us”
  • What would we think? I would be so done with him.
  • He surely can’t be my God – what do we do when we don’t get from God what we want? We put God on trial
  • Think about it – she does everything right – she calls him Lord – recognizes he is the Son of David and she petitions for others, not herself – and she blames the devil for the problems not God.
  • And what does she get – silence – and the disciples are no help.

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

  • What is he saying to her since she is a Canaanite?
  • “Hey, I’m not here for you honey.”

25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

  • She pays no attention – she does not go away.
  • She believes she is a dear child of the heavenly father in spite of what she hears.

26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

  • Jesus replies – “I do not share the good stuff with outsiders.”

27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

  • Note that she always calls him Lord and admits to being a dog
  • Yet we go on saying “O, my God would never say that / do that!”
  • This woman is much smarter than the Pharisees and teachers
  • She can yes lord, but I know from the OT that you have promises out there not just to Israel but to the whole world.

28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

  • She trusts and Jesus delivers
  • She lives by faith – an example to Israel to trust in the Messiah – and they failed.
  • An example to us – it is not just the church. This is the same pattern we see at the end of Matthew where the disciples are sent out to convert the whole world – but they still went to the synagogues first
  • To the Jew first until rejected.

 

Jan 132017
 

“To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.”

Buechner

There are a multitude of reasons we can find ourselves in the wilderness.

Sometimes, it’s because of our sin, sometimes, it’s the result of the sins of others.

Sometimes, it’s by choice.

Sometimes, the wilderness is safer than being inside the camp.

Sometimes, if you want to see the stars you must leave the lights of the city and go into the darkness of the wilderness to see them shine.

Sometimes, in order to see Jesus and love Him, you must leave those who claim to love Him too.

For me, this is such a time.

The divisions among us are now so deep, so entrenched in temporal politics, that I can no longer see Jesus clearly among the saints.

The Jesus of social media is primarily interested in the defeat and humiliation of His political opponents.

Sin and sanctification are measured by political ideology, not necessarily biblical standards.

The Sermon on the Mount is for the weak or another dispensation when voting wasn’t an option.

We are not known for our love, but we’d better be known to uphold specific political principles.

I don’t have what it takes to participate in such anymore, nor to debate with those who do.

Add to that the corruption of too many leaders, the abuse of the sheep by the shepherds… and it easily becomes too much to bear.

You run to the wilderness.

The great challenge of the wilderness is not to love Jesus in your isolation…that’s the easy part.

Once you see Jesus clearly above all earthly powers, once you see Him in the reflection of the Cross again…your heart is instantly renewed.

No, the hard part is to love the ones who are glad that you’re no longer among them.

The hard part is to not prefer division and give up on the hope of reconciliation with the family.

The harder part is to follow Him back where you came from…because He loves the people you left and because He does, you do too.

The brokenness you take into the wilderness is the healing you bring back home.

When you’re ready…

I’m not yet…

I will be.

Make your own application…

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