Feb 252017
 

Lord, give me I pray:

A remembering heart for the things that have happened

An attentive heart to what I have heard

A forgiving heart for what has hurt

A grateful heart for what has blessed

A brave heart for what may be required

An open heart to all that may come

A trusting heart to go forth with You

A loving heart for You and all Your creation

A longing heart for the reconciliation of all things.

A willing heart to say “Yes” to what You will.

LEIGHTON FORD, American evangelist/spiritual mentor (1926–present day)

Bjorklund, Kurt (2011-09-27). Prayers for Today (Kindle Locations 569-574). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Feb 252017
 

Matthew 17:14-27

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him,

  • They came down the mount to the reality of life.
  • A grumbling crowd and the disciples fighting with the religious leaders.
  • * Note the posture of the man. Respect!

15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

  • Other translations – seizures – lunacy

16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

  • Was this just the remaining 9 disciples who did not go up the mountain?
  • They did not have that ‘mountain top’ experience and failed?

17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

  • Who is Jesus addressing?
  • The crowd? This man? The disciples? All of them?
  • Are these ‘little faith’ disciples?

18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.

  • Jesus rebukes his people, then turns and rebukes the demon who left ‘instantly’
  • Sounds much like the gospel of Mark who wrote in terms of things happening ‘immediately’.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

  • Now they come privately
  • What did we do wrong?

20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

  • Jesus can move mountains – nothing is impossible for God.
  • He seems to be giving that power / authority to those who do have faith.

No verse 21 – explain

*** NKJV = However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,

  • Jesus gathers them together again to deliver another sermon.
  • Son of Man is that Daniel 7 talk
  • The divine son of man – this is the divine, the messiah who will rule and has a kingdom that will last forever.
  • If you were a Jew in Jesus’ day and you know this Daniel prophecy – you are making this association – they are thinking great things
  • ) overthrowing the Romans
  • ) They think of Jesus as some great community organizer – messiah, where he will transform not only society but the whole world and make it into a Utopia.

23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

  • What??? They will do what?
  • Note that this time they were distressed, but they did not speak out as Peter had in Ch 16
  • They were distressed because that is not supposed to be the end of one who has a kingdom that will last forever.

The Temple Tax

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”

  • Temple Tax collection = all Israel males 20 yrs older had an obligation to pay the tax.
  • This is not a Roman tax.
  • The Jewish leaders say “if you are going to be Israel, you must pay this tax” – but…
  • Jesus says “if you are going to be Israel, you must believe in me.”

25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”

26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.

  • This again is Jesus set aside for himself a new Israel.
  • The sons of the king are free
  • Jesus, not the Jewish leaders, is king and Christians are the sons.
  • The New Israel.
  • You are sons, you are the New Israel – you are free from the old system, free from them because I am here.
  • I am the temple, I am the sacrifice, I am the high priest …. For salvation!

27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

  • This reality is the Mt Transfiguration thing – but not on the mount but down by the sea.
  • Not to give offense – because Good Friday has not yet happened.

 

Feb 242017
 

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

(James 3:5–10 ESV)

I was on one of my infrequent passes through the land of cursing those made in the likeness of God, also known as Facebook.

One of my Facebook “friends” (who doesn’t like me at all) was joining in the popular chorus railing on undocumented migrants.

“Wetbacks” was the term he used.

Evidently, one of the ways some are making America great again is through the renewed use of ethnic slurs.

I could’ve been shocked, but nothing shocks me any more when it comes to how we use our tongues, or how our tongues express themselves through our communications.

Other friends  (some who like me, and some who don’t) spend large chunks of their days posting curses against those who disagree with them politically.

Christians are upholding the faith once delivered by creating labels for people they don’t want to share space with that don’t contain profanity, but in reality are as profane as hell.

They are “godless” or “enemies of God” therefore anything goes, unless you cuss.

We’re too holy to cuss, but not to curse.

The world, the flesh, and the devil have conspired again to make Christianity and Christians less than they are.

They have sold us the lie that “those people” were not created in the image of God, that they are the work of Satan and they deserve whatever scorn we heap on them.

We demand the upholding of our sexual and social ethics by violating biblical ethics taught in passages we’d rather avoid.

Passages like this…

Brothers (and sisters), these things ought not to be so.

You can’t spread evil and poison mixed with the Gospel…the poison will kill both the Gospel and the hearer…and you.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

(Proverbs 18:21 ESV)

Our “enemies” are people created in the image of God, people Christ died for.

Our job isn’t to make America great again, but to represent the kingdom of God and our King and His greatness.

We need to repent.

I’ll go first…

You should see some of the stuff I’ve deleted.

Make your own application…

Feb 232017
 

Parable of the Sower

“ ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’

As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’

 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:5-15)

In his Things I Think column dated 1/30/17, Michael wrote: “I don’t recognize the Jesus of some as the one I worship, nor do they recognize mine.” Does God’s Word present us with different Christs? Or do some Christians remake Christ in their own image? Instead of finding their identity in Him, do they fashion a false Christ who shares their identity?

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ ” (Luke 8:10)

Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries were so certain about what they expected from their Messiah that when they met Him face to face they did not recognize Him. Seeing, they did not see. Hearing, they did not understand.

  • His own kinsfolk in Nazareth rejected Jesus because they only saw Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22).
  • The scribes and the Pharisees rejected Jesus because they did not acknowledge His authority on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5:21), He dined with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30), and He healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:11).

These groups saw, but did not see the Kingdom-In-Person in their midst. They heard, but did not understand the grace of God. Therefore, Jesus warned His disciples: “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18)

“Are you the one who [has] come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19)

This is a question for our day too. Who is Jesus Christ? What will He do for us? Will He affirm our life choices? Will He condemn our enemies? Will He bless us with success? Does He share our political ideology? Will He show us a sign?

Our situation today is different than it was for Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries. Jesus preached a pure Word and presented them with a binary choice – acknowledge Him or deny Him – as the Messiah. However, after 2,000 years His Word has been massively “trampled underfoot.” The result is that the world is now filled with false teachers preaching a variety of false Messiahs. To find the true Word of Christ preached is the exception today, not the rule. Some false teachers are more honest than others. Some of them admit they do not consider the Bible to be the Word of God for people today. But others who claim a high view of the Bible nevertheless distort the Word of Christ through false interpretations.

Worshiping a false Messiah may seem life affirming and comforting. But just like Jesus’ contemporaries, what will you see, hear or understand should a true preacher of Christ scatter good seed before you? Where will the seed land? If you are committed to a false Messiah, then good seed may land on the path and the devil will come and snatch it away. On the other hand, maybe you are just infatuated with a false Messiah; then perhaps good seed will land in rocky soil or where the thorns grow. But neither of those places produces the fruit of eternal life.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4)

In our day and age when Christianity is presented as a salad bar, we should recognize that much of the greens and vegetables at the salad bar are poison for the soul. Many of the false Christs being preached in churches today to enthusiastic crowds are making the hearts of people dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

But not all of Jesus’ contemporaries were hardened against Him. The four gospels identify many people (in addition to His disciples) who believed in Him. They were the ones who did not reject him on account of His humble birth, itinerant lifestyle, or compassion for sinners, Samaritans and Gentiles. They had ears to hear, and they listened.

Therefore, we must take Jesus seriously when He says “Take care then how you hear….” For His Word is always perfect and effective, but He (i.e., the Christ of the Bible) must be heard if we are to believe in Him. Moreover, Christians with ears to hear should not endure the preaching of a Christ which runs contrary to (or different from) the One portrayed in His Word, because such false teaching damages our hearing and our understanding. Instead we should go to where He and His Gospel are preached according to His Word. This saying is trustworthy: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

Lord Jesus Christ, make our hearts good fertile soil for your Word. Establish enduring roots in us. Protect us from the devil, false teachers and our own itching ears. Create in us an honest and good heart. Bear fruit in us that leads to eternal life and which reaches out in love for our neighbors. Amen.

 

Feb 222017
 

Last week, Michael provided us with an update on the latest news of Saeed Abedini. 

He posted the story of Saeed being sentenced (although ever so lightly) for violating the restraining order taken out by his estranged wife, Naghmeh.

In Michael’s article, he posted a picture of Saeed with Franklin Graham and was questioned as to why he did so.  When I read the question, some thoughts came to my mind and I commented accordingly.  Throughout the whole Saeed Abedini imprisonment ordeal, Graham was Abedini’s most well-known supporter and was very public in his advocacy and also in working with Naghmeh.  When Saeed was finally released from Iran, Graham very publicly was the first to welcome him back to the U.S. and hosted him at his conference center.  This welcoming occurred after the allegations of Saeed’s ongoing abuse against his wife and the revelation of his previous conviction of domestic violence.  In fact, Graham even publicly defended Saeed soon after the allegations came to public awareness.  We have many records of him supporting Saeed.  To this point in time to my knowledge, he has yet to utter one word publicly in the negative against Saeed in regards to the abuse allegations, his criminal convictions, his filing for divorce, and his continued drive to establish himself in a position of spiritual leadership and influence.  Thus by omission, Graham sends the message of continued support for Saeed.

Meanwhile, we know that Calvary Chapel Boise was the home church of the Abedinis before and during Saeed’s imprisonment.  Although it appears that the church did not officially sanction or commission Saeed for his work in Iran, there also seems to be no known record of them having been against it.  It is also believed that some within the leadership of the church knew of Saeed’s past domestic violence conviction.  Bob Caldwell, who we now know has his own big problems which have disqualified him from the pastorate, was the senior pastor of CC Boise during this whole ordeal.  Unless someone knows otherwise and can correct me, I don’t believe Bob Caldwell or anyone else in leadership at CC Boise has ever publicly addressed the abuse allegations or convictions or Saeed’s continued claim to be a pastor and attempts to position himself as a spiritual leader.  Thus, they too, avoid addressing publicly that which is a very public issue even though they have close ties to the situation.

This blog has a history of addressing church scandals.  Many of the scandals occurring within Calvary Chapel, but plenty of other ones, too.  Some known on a national level and other ones much smaller.  One of the common threads, however, on many of these scandals is that those who had power and influence directly or tangentially to the circumstance, whether formal or informal, chose to stay out of the fray.  In some cases, they may have even provided cover for the wrongdoers.  Contrarily, they could have stepped in and used their power and influence to provide warning to the masses or to help rectify the wrongs, if not even put a complete stop to them.  But nay, that is not what happened.

We know that our leaders are fallible and we should not be surprised when they don’t always do things right.  But it is still disheartening in situations like these when they cannot step up and do the right thing on very public matters in which they are involved.  Especially in our current day church and world where so many events and circumstances become public knowledge.  So many people who shouldn’t, yet gain or maintain followings, or shenanigans that shouldn’t, yet gain positive attention, could be minimized if not completely shot down if people were willing to speak up and speak out.

I am not calling for a heresy police who are out to make a ruckus about every single thing they see as wrong, even often times making a bigger deal of something than it deserves.  The ODM’s and the like certainly aren’t my cup of tea.  But when there are legitimate and significant wrongs publicly taking place within the realms of church and spiritual leadership, then the onus is on people who are connected to the circumstances to step up and say that this is not right and we do not condone it and it needs to stop.  Most especially those who are church and spiritual leaders.  So much harm is allowed to perpetuate when this doesn’t happen.

When I had seen the news of Saeed Abedini’s latest sentencing, I posted it on my Facebook page as a reminder warning about the man.  I received some pushback as if I was being silly or going over the top in warning about him.  In return I explained that I warn against the man since I previously had been a big advocate of his as the “pastor” wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.  And since we now have learned that Saeed should have no business being a pastor or spiritual leader, I feel it is my responsibility to let people know the rest of the story.  Even though my circle of influence is quite small compared to many others, if I could prevent even one person from mistakenly following after or supporting the man after I had previously helped make his plight known to them, then it was worth my while.

I tell this little personal story not to proclaim how good I am as Lord knows I’m just as big of a sinner as the next guy.  But to give picture to what in many cases could and should be done.  Now, this situation is hardly any skin off my back as there really is little personal involvement or attachment for me.  I’ve never met the Abedinis or even communicated with them in anyway.  The strings of personal and emotional attachment can be much greater in some situations and so it is understandable that there are times when it can be much harder to step up and say something.  But that still does not excuse behavior, or lack of it.  Especially from our leaders who have greater responsibility by virtue of their position.

We know there are times where our leaders step up and do the right thing.  Quite possibly more times than not.  But for as often as we see the type of scenario play out where the wrongdoers are not held accountable by the leaders who could do so, it sure seems like there is opportunity for this to happen even much more.  What if a Franklin Graham had stepped up and said that while he had supported Saeed Abedini to free him from his wrongful imprisonment, that he could not support him in his current ministry and spiritual leadership efforts?  What if more of those who were on the board of Gospel for Asia or who were big influential supporters of the organization stepped up and publicly declared that GFA should no longer be supported due to its now known significant corruption?  What if those who knew of Tullian Tchividjian’s past discretions had spoken up before he continued on in leadership and prowled on more people’s lives?

How much more harm could have been avoided?  How much harm is still occurring because people haven’t stepped up?  People who are being taken advantage of and following after charlatans and giving money to those who should have no business receiving it.  Lord, have mercy on those who suffer because of our own failure to act.          

Feb 212017
 

The lost soul of evangelicalism…

Justice, mercy, and humility…

Church wants it’s own police force…

How social media can ruin the best moments…

No stranger thing than baptism…

Baptist mega church withholds funds to protest Russell Moore…

The destroyer of the gods…

On dying…just a “shell”?

Can N.T. Wright save Christianity?

Americans warming up to all religions…except evangelicals.

The fiftieth anniversary of the greatest movement few have heard of…

What Americans actually abstain from during Lent…

How race complicates the latest Lifeway ban…

Eight leadership lessons learned from Trump…

A welcoming church…

Does the New Testament church exist today?

Why be an Anglican?

Your pastor is broken…

F-bombs and bikinis…what it really means to be a Christian…

You’re a Christian…start acting like it online.

Why I support capital punishment…

Why I oppose capital punishment…

Kari Jobe’s ivy in the garden…

The typographical revolution…

Living in the mud…

Getting what we don’t deserve…

Self care as a spiritual discipline…

Big thanks to EricL for all the link help…support his business at top right!

 

Feb 202017
 

And then there were 11…

The CCA website tonight is absent two more pictures of council members as the photos of Wayne Taylor and Skip Heitzig have been absorbed into the ether.

What started with 24 men (allegedly) chosen by God and Chuck is now down to 11.

No explanations have been given, no hint of thank you notes or nice parting gifts for playing.

I do not know tonight why Heitzig decided to leave, but I surmise Taylor was finally forced out.

We’ll update as we know more…

Feb 202017
 

I was in email correspondence with a friend.

We were discussing matters of Church polity, practice and doctrine. He made the comment that many of his views had changed since his early days as a Christian. “It’s natural, I’m a different person than I was back then. I’ve matured a bit, I’ve learned, I’ve developed and I don’t think the Holy Spirit is through with me yet, I’m still learning who I am and what I’m supposed to be, but I’m not quite sure how to describe myself these days…”

Reading this, I could do nothing but agree. We take it as a matter of course that as we grow older we change. Yes, we still have the “inner core” of who we are, but we also refine our thought process, our judgements and, hopefully, we recognize our innate prejudices and seek to temper them accordingly.

This is especially true, I think, when it comes to the issue of identity. As we develop, it is a continuing search for “self-description”.

For instance, in a recent discussion, we tried to define the term “evangelical” (a term which many apply to themselves) and found it to be a difficult task. There are few clear markers that all might agree upon. Secular survey companies come up with an essentially sociological/political definition. Denominations who claim the term, place it within their own particular set of self-defining statements of faith. So called “online discernment ministries” set the term within a narrow definition of their own making, surrounded by the paranoia that is symptomatic of the deluded who believe that they alone know the truth. Some, who actually carry many of the distinctions associated with the term “evangelical” – high view of Scripture, conversion, mission oriented, substitutionary atonement – still reject the term out of hand as not being descriptive of their faith.

Now, if this is the case with the term, “evangelical”, how much more difficult is it to deal with the far more basic description, “Christian”? As an adjective, it’s used with all the abandon of ketchup at a roadside diner… you can put it on everything. So now we have “Christian radio”, “Christian movies”, “Christian books”, “Christian music”, “Christian counseling”, “Christian festivals”, “Christian social action”… you name it and we can add the adjective. Rather than helping to define the term, however, its diffusion has only added to the confusion of what it really means. In politics these days, you often hear that America is a “Christian nation” founded on “Christian values” (never mind that most of the Founding Fathers were actually enlightenment Deists). Then again, on the other side of the divide are those who claim the name “Christian” in arguing for a more inclusive approach to LGBTQ rights (in the Church and society at large) along with a whole host of other social issues upon which there are widely diverging opinions.

Try as we might, however, it seems we cannot claim the description as exclusively our own.

Scripture indicates (Acts 26:11) that believers first acquired the designation in Antioch. Interestingly enough, however, it does not seem to be an appellation that they claimed for themselves. We are simply told that it was first in Antioch that they were “called Christians” – that is, others applied the term to them; they didn’t take it on themselves. The term literally means “follower of Christ”. Something about the life, teaching and conduct of this small group of Jews and Gentiles was extraordinary enough that those who knew of them simply called them, “followers of Christ”.

Maybe, however, that is the point – It’s not about us, it’s about who we follow.

In the mid to late second century, a Christian named Mathetes, sent a letter to Diognetus (possibly the tutor of the emperor, Marcus Aurelius) in which he gave a description of what he understood it meant to bear the appellation, “Christian”. In our current day and age, we might do well to give it consideration…

“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

To sum up all in one word–what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position…”
Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
The Project

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