May 312017
 

As usual, I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about Calvary Chapel and how the split is working itself out.

I don’t have any inside info for you today.

Because I just don’t care.

For years I have maintained a large network among CC people in order that I might provide some truth and insight into how and why this group of men operated.

Despite all sorts of accusations about the veracity of my work, we all know where Calvary Chapel people went to try to find out what was going on in their own non denomination.

They came here and they came here because there was nowhere else to go…their leaders lied to them and kept them in the dark, not believing that they were capable of rightly parsing information.

They still come for that, but it’s not my focus anymore.

I’m weary of doing for timid men what they won’t do for themselves.

The split was a perfect opportunity for CC pastors to demand accountability and transparency from their self appointed leaders.

The split itself was created through lies, slander, and innuendo, that should never have been allowed to take root and fester…but men who prefer to be led won’t challenge those who demand to lead in this dysfunctional troupe.

The few who have stood up have found themselves alone as the main conviction in the CC DNA is the conviction that authority, (legitimate or not) is not to be challenged.

They have either been ignored or had more smoke blown at them from those who will not answer to “lesser” brethren.

Today the group engages in dueling conferences, colleges, and bible schools, and is a bleary echo of what God did back in the day.

That day has passed for this group…and they have no one to blame but themselves.

We’ll still be here for the big stuff…but we’re going to be about better things than old men clinging to illegitimate authority unchallenged.

The rest of the rank and file seem to prefer eating cake…enjoy.

May 312017
 

Phil and I on whether our political values reflect our Biblical beliefs…do we really believe the Beatitudes are the standard, or is  it “blasted are the peacemakers”?

Download the mp3

 

 

May 312017
 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

This past Monday we observed Memorial Day.  It is a day where we remember all those who died in war while serving our country in the military.

I am not sure where to glean the “official” military casualty counts for every war and skirmish in which the United States has been involved, but the following counts are recorded on Wikipedia:

Civil War (Union & Confederate)     750,000

World War II                                     405,399

World War I                                      116,516

Vietnam War                                      58,209

Korean War                                        36,516

American Revolutionary War             25,000

War of 1812                                       15,000

Mexican-American War                      13,283

Iraq War                                               4,497

Philippine-American War                     4,196

Spanish-American War                        2,446

Afghanistan War                                  2,356

Other smaller wars and skirmishes collectively account for thousands of more deaths.

More than one million souls have lost their lives fighting to protect their fellow man in our country and to preserve the freedoms with which we have been blessed.  Those who have been wounded in war would number more than another million. Countless others have suffered PTSD and other conditions and afflictions after their calls of duty, many carrying these harrowing ailments to their graves.

Within and without Christendom, there is much debate as to the morality of the wars that our country has engaged in, some with a hotter focus on them than others.  Some believe most, if not every war that we have engaged in has been wrong in some manner or another.  Additionally, some within this group believe that engaging in war itself, for any reason, is wrong.  In the Christian world, there can also sometimes be some delineation between what the secular government is allowed to do and what Christians can participate in in regards to the military and law enforcement.

I am not writing here to give an apologetic for or against the wars the United States has involved itself in, or for or against war, itself, or for or against Christian participation in combat.  Those things have been and will continue to be vigorously debated with legitimate arguments on all sides of the issues.  There are plenty of good people who think differently on these things.

Rather, I want to recognize a genuine encompassing motive shared by most, if not all, of those who have served in the military. That is they are willing to risk their lives for their country and all who live within it.  And as seen from the numbers listed before, more than one million in this country have seen that risk come to bear.  No greater love than that shown by those who would lay down their lives for their friends.

Yes, from some aspects and circumstances, there can be question as to whether or not those who serve in the military should be doing so, with a specific focus for us on those who are Christians.  And yes, we can question other motives some may have in in entering the military or wanting to fight in war, and some of their accompanying actions in such.  Certainly not all motives are pure, and some can possibly be quite dark.  And then there is the aspect that can be questioned on a whole different level of those who have been made to serve unwillingly, or close to unwillingly.  But for those who have freely chosen to serve, we cannot question their great virtue of being willing to die for others.

We will often castigate here those who use the guise of “ministry” to cover for their own insidious motives of greed and personal gain and hiding of sin.  Where on the surface it’s made to look to be all about God’s glory, but underneath the motives are rotten and it’s really so much about the glory and gratification of the individual or individuals.  Where there is a willingness to lay down the lives of others in order to prosper in their own.  (Maybe not literal life and death of others’ lives, but manners that can and do have significant impacts on their lives.)

Conversely, it is restorative to reflect upon the brave men and women who voluntarily risk their own life for others, more than a million who have ended up paying the price for doing so.  Regardless of how we may personally think and feel about the wars of this country or war as a whole, may we remember those who have sacrificed and given their lives for the benefit of others. 

They couldn’t have given anything greater.        

May 302017
 

The hardest job of an Air Force chaplain…

Adam and the Genome…

A dangerous moment for Christianity…

Four practical threats to the church today…

If you’ve ever walked away from church,this guy wants to hear your story…

Does God want mere obedience?

Seattle reboot: Life after Mars Hill…

Moral outrage in America is now for everybody…

The invisible heroes of the persecuted church…

Keep Christianity weird…

The #1 reason missionaries come home…

To evangelicals,Trump is the whirlwind and they’re fine with that…

Ten things your missionary won’t tell you…

How has the church explained the “violence passages”?

Should you make your children go to church?

Three ways Jesus cared for women…

Why we don’t pray…

The silent drug that killed our marriage… 

Texas governor signs sermon non disclosure law…

Struggling to find a church fit…

Creation: what the world is…

What do you tell people who already know the Gospel?

Is there meaning and purpose to life?

Which view of origins would you choose?

Measurable data misses the point of church…

Go in action, go in peace…

Shame, guilt, and fear…what Americans avoid the most…

Radio host says we need a “more violent Christianity”…

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

 

May 292017
 

We remember those today who gave their lives to preserve our freedoms and shared ideals.

We mourn with those who came home knowing that one who served with them gave their all.

Some background on this holiday…

 

May 292017
 

Worship and the Glory of God

Why do we worship?  

It is a fundamental question.  

We could say that we worship because it is a commandment. “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”  Yet, is this why we worship, in obedience to a law that says we must? I don’t believe so. 

I think that worship is a movement of the heart.  It is something that arises from our innermost being and, upon occasion, allows us to glimpse, like Moses, the glory of God in a single moment that is filled with the eternal.  Owing to this, that vision of God may come to us in solitude or in the company of others.  It may come to us in a cathedral with a thousand others by our side in cascading sound and melody, or it may come to us in a hermit’s hut in silence.  As each of us worships, it is as though we are a singular figure kneeling before the manger yet representing all of humanity.  

As we worship, however, we join a current of others, from all places and all ages, and that powerful current carries us together, and alone, into the presence of God.  As our worship is offered in Christ, it becomes an act of his whole body.  So, it reaches out and incorporates all those who are his.  Even the housebound, the elderly in the loneliness of a nursing home, the prisoner in his cell are caught up with us in adoration.  As we worship, we are joined by all those who have gone before us in faith and the whole company of heaven are as close as the neighbor at our side.

Yet, worship is more than an ethereal experience, for we are not gnostics.  We recognize that we are made up of body, mind and spirit.  The incarnation is rooted in the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Our worship, therefore, would be incomplete if each part of what constitutes our humanity did not contribute.  The whole person is called upon.  Perhaps this is why we take a certain posture when we pray. In scripture we can find a basis for standing and lifting our hands in prayer (1 Tim. 2:8). I can also find the example of Christ kneeling in prayer (Luke 22:41) and yet other references of lying prostrate (Matt. 26:38-39).  We can even take the example of David and sit as we pray (II Sam. 7:18). To insist upon one or the other posture for prayer, however, is to miss the point.  In our worship, we bring our bodies with us and there is an innate sense that our bodies should reflect our attitude of worship.

In worship, we also bring our voices.  There is a kinship between the human voice and the Word.  There is a kinship between our every breath and God’s Spirit. In the very acts of speaking and singing we may bring what is profoundly human into contact with that which is eternal. Whether in choruses, hymns, choirs in harmony, or chant, that which is most human may rise in praise to that which is eternal.  We express this as well, with both mind and voice, in corporate prayer.  

Now, I realize that there are many, who object to the idea of corporate prayer.  I’ve always found this puzzling.  It seems obvious, at least to me, that when Christ was teaching his disciples how to pray, he began with corporate prayer. “This then is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven…” (Matt. 6:9) To pray together – “Our Father” – requires the attention of the mind and the activation of the voice.  It also allows us to reflect our unity as the Body of Christ in its very opening words, for he is not only “my” Father in heaven, he is “our” Father.  In our corporate prayer, with voices joined, we not only pray, but we reaffirm in our prayer that there is “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:6)

As we bring the fullness of who we are to our worship, we bring new possibilities.  With the creative choice that belongs to art, in our worship we select essential symbols, substances, words and actions to bring before God – fire and water, bread and wine, stillness and movement, spoken words and silence, music and contemplation.  As we worship, these elements carry with them the whole of God’s creation in its rich variety, finding their true place and worth in service of him.

If I were to ask what I could do or say to truly worship God, I would be reduced to silence.  Perhaps I might venture to lie prostrate and mute, for I am unable to worship God as I should.  Maybe it would be best to leave it to a silent gesture or the flame of a candle, for I have no words, no thoughts, no actions that are adequate.  Yet, Christ is the Word made flesh and we must worship with our lips as well as our lives; and it is our worship, however fragmentary, partial or inadequate, that allows us to glimpse, if only for a moment, the glory of God.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

May 272017
 

“Lord, I fight, together with my comrades, loyal to my movement and to my organisation, united in the struggle for a life that is more just and more human. But the battle is hard and very often I’m afraid of being in it without you.

Lord, I’d like to be sure that you’re with me in the struggle. 

Alas, people are needed to stand up for the cause when a war is raging. Perhaps all of them will retire one day, refusing to become involved, but that won’t happen tomorrow.

And today there are many causes to defend and there are wars to mobilise the combatants. People are needed to care for the wounded and to bury the dead, because the victims are legion and they call on us to look after them. People are needed to sign the treaties when some battles are over. But many more people are needed to avoid wars by building peace, the peace that flourishes when justice reigns. I hesitated for a long time before becoming involved in this peaceful struggle. Along with some of the other shirkers, I calmed my conscience, holding forth learnedly that one person alone cannot lift up the world. I kept away from suspect groups of the revolutionary type. I thought that the worlds of economics, trade unions, politics were polluted worlds and I was afraid that plunging into them would mean dirtying my hands. But I wasn’t at peace, Lord. And weren’t you there, challenging me constantly through what was going on around me? For you have told me that I must love my brothers and sisters. But loving them is not only offering them a smile or holding out a hand. If they have nothing to eat, if they are ignorant and exploited and above all if they are deprived of bread, of dignity, can I send them back home with my hand closed on my money, saying to them: ‘I love you’ or even: ‘I’m praying for you!’

I became involved but you know it’s hard, because while those who struggle and serve amid the ravages of war are admired and decorated, those who struggle to change this unjust and cruel world into a world of peace and harmony are often criticised and sometimes judged severely. You pushed me into it, Lord, so I ask you not to leave me alone, because when I become very involved I find myself in the thick of the struggle, attacked… with blows raining down from adversaries and sometimes from friends; misjudged… I’m considered too right wing, too left wing, too much to the centre and everyone paints me in a different colour.

I search, and I search for myself, and I have doubts sometimes. Because the struggle is not straightforward and I suffer as a result. And the battles are so tough that I often lose sight of you, I admit it. Alone in the evening, before you, I regret this. I’m ashamed of it and I ask for your forgiveness. Because if I want to struggle, I want you to be with me.

Hear my prayer, Lord, for I know that our human constructions are not the Kingdom. I know also that the yeast needs the dough to make it rise. And the dough needs flour, and the flour needs wheat, and the wheat, the flour and the dough require the work of our hands so that the bread may be baked and justly shared out, and so that from this bread that is offered you may make your Eucharist. Lord, give me, I pray, the yeast of your love! Help me not to judge and condemn the people who sit calmly on the sidelines, discussing, watching us as we battle in the arena. And take away the jealously I feel when I see them profiting without a qualm from our victories, forgetting that they owe them to us.

Help me to understand, to accept, that people of the same faith profess ideas that are opposed to mine; let me be able to receive communion at the same table with those who are on the other side in the fight. Let loyalty to my movement, to my party, never be an absolute for me; for me, whose involvement in the struggle is a matter of conscience, who while accepting its instructions and obeying faithfully frequently rebels when your Church speaks and sometimes refuses to follow its directives. Give me the strength, the strength to say no when my conscience refuses to say yes, and the courage to accept the reproaches of friends who accuse me of treason, even though for me it is a matter of true loyalty. Help me to know your Gospel, not to look for prescriptions that can’t be found in it, but to be nourished by your Word so that this good seed may sprout from my well-prepared ground, may bloom as good news for my brothers and sisters and may ripen for them as fruits of justice and peace. Finally, Lord, grant me that supreme grace, the grace that only you can give, to love my adversaries as well as my allies, not only in the secret temple of my better feelings, but by listening to them, respecting them, trying to understand them; and the grace to believe that sincerity and generosity are not reserved for me, but can be found in others, even if they are enemies. For you know how I get carried away, Lord, and how I tend, too quickly perhaps, to refer to this as my passion for justice!

Sometimes I am so anxious to get my own back and to hurt those who have hurt me that I find it hard, yes, very hard to forgive. Lord, give me the strength to forgive.

I am with you, says the Lord, I am with you in your struggles, because I am with all those who fight to defend their brothers and sisters, even when they venture onto battlegrounds far from the protected enclosure where the fearful lie dormant. But look at what is going on in your heart, my child, because I cannot be present where there is hatred and only love can ensure your victory while at the same time ensuring mine. Why do you doubt, you of little faith? Happy are you! Happy are all of you who have the courage to risk getting your hands and your feet dirty in the struggle for justice, because I didn’t come for those who stayed clean by remaining seated with their hands in their pockets. Don’t be afraid of anything! I washed the feet of my disciples, and if the feet of the combatants are covered in dust, I’ll wash them too.”

Quoist, Michel (2014-09-05). Keeping Hope – Favourite Prayers for Modern Living: Selected Inspirational Prayers from World-Renowned Theologian Michel Quoist (Kindle Locations 666-667). Gill & Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

May 272017
 

MLD will return soon with his studies in Matthew…this weekend we take a more Anglican look at things…

In the light of the meaning of the words truth and wisdom in the New Testament, the nature of the Church’s doctrine and authority becomes plain. These facts emerge inescapably from our biblical study.

(1) The Wisdom of God is working through all created life, and far and wide is the sustainer and the inspirer of the thought and the endeavor of men. The Church will therefore reverence every honest activity of the minds of men; it will perceive that therein the Spirit of God is moving, and it will tremble lest by denying this, in word or in action, it blaspheme the Spirit of God. But Wisdom cannot be thus learned in all its fullness. The mind and the eye of man are distorted by sin and self-worship; and the Wisdom that the Spirit of God unfolds throughout the world can lead to blindness and to deceit unless men face the fact of sin and the need for redemption.

Hence, (2) the Church proclaims the Wisdom of God, set forth in its very essence in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a Wisdom learned when men are brought to the crisis of repentance and to the resulting knowledge of self and of God. The Wisdom of the Cross seems at first to deny the wisdom of the Spirit of God in the created world; it scandalizes men’s sense of the good and the beautiful. But the Christians, who have first faced the scandal, discover in the Cross a key to the meaning of all creation. The Cross unlocks its secrets and its sorrows, and interprets them in terms of the power of God.

Thus (3), the Wisdom uttered in the Cross has created the Church and is expressed through the Church’s whole life as the Body of Christ crucified and risen. The Church’s work in thinking and interpreting and teaching is inseparable from the Church’s life in Christ. Its authority is Christ Himself, known in the building up of the one Body in Truth and in Love. Hence “orthodoxy” means not only “right opinion,” but also “right worship” or “true glory,” after the biblical meaning of the word doxa; for life and thought and worship are inseparable activities in the Body of Christ. kai etheasametha ten doxan autou. In these three ways the Church will be faithful to the biblical meaning of Truth, by reverencing the works of God everywhere and the Spirit of God manifested in the endeavors of men’s minds; by keeping before itself and before men the scandal of the Cross; and by remembering that orthodoxy means not only correct propositions about God, but the life of the one Body of Christ in the due working of all its members.”

Ramsey, Michael (2010-01-18). The Gospel and the Catholic Church (Kindle Locations 1875-1880). Hendrickson Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May 252017
 

In Jesus’ Name

“ ‘In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

 I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.’

 His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.’ ” (John 16:23-30)

How do you picture the Gospel? Is it like a Christmas tree with one big present under it, addressed to you? Or is it more like a Christmas tree with a whole bunch of big presents under it, all addressed to you? If you have the former picture in mind, you might feel like a friend of mine who once told me that to him the idea of hearing the Gospel proclaimed on a regular basis sounded repetitive, if not boring.

If the Gospel ever becomes repetitive or boring, then we need to repent. Here I am not calling out ingratitude; there is a more serious issue. The Gospel bestows many wonderful gifts. The Evangelist John calls them “grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) But if we are not hearing the Gospel proclaimed for us in its fullness and regularly, we risk failing to apprehend and appropriate in fullness the manifold gifts which God gives us in the Gospel. For His desire for each of us is: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b).

Undoubtedly we all could agree that the forgiveness of sins and eternal life are the chief gifts given in the Gospel. However, the Gospel also confers many other integral and interconnected gifts, each of which blesses us and is beneficial for our spiritual wellbeing. In the gospel text this week, Jesus promised the disciples the gift of direct access to the Father in His name.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23b)

Jesus was returning to the Father. “In that day,” that is, following His resurrection and return with the Holy Spirit, His disciples will pray directly to the Father in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit will dwell in us as our Helper; Jesus will intercede for us as our Mediator at the right hand of the Father; and the Father will love us and grant our petitions, because we have faith in Jesus: “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” (John 16:25)

Jesus does not give us the use of His name as a formality. Jesus gives us His name so the Father may grant our requests and make us joyful: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24b) It a type of joy that cannot be taken from us: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22)

Our Father gives us joy (another gift), which comes from faith in the resurrection. What is true for Jesus will also be true for us! The world knows nothing of Christian joy. The joy the world grants, regardless of wealth or status, is temporary and only distracts, at best, from the ever present fear of death. Moses understood this: “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ … You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” (Ps 90:3, 5-6) No matter what joys or sorrows we may experience during our earthly lives, our Father gives us an inward joy. This inward joy in the midst of sufferings produces endurance, patience and hope (Rom 5:3-4).

Therefore, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit (another gift), to teach us from His Word “plainly about the Father” and to “guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13), so that we may use His name correctly and beneficially. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)

“for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)

Jesus consoled the disciples by teaching them that the Father’s love for them does not depend on their righteousness or worthiness or from any other inward measure, which they might have imagined. The Father loves us solely because of our belief in Jesus: “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Therefore, when we pray, we have only these two unshakeable considerations: (1) God’s promise to hear us for the sake of His Son; and (2) Jesus name.

Even our belief in Jesus (another gift) is bestowed by the Helper in the Gospel: “I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” We have two examples of this enacted by Jesus on Easter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus:

First through the Word: “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while [Jesus] talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ ” (Luke 24:32)

Second through the Sacrament: “When [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:30-31a)

The Gospel is like a beautiful wildflower. If we continue to hear and ponder the Gospel, this implanted wildflower will grow into a great big beautiful meadow in our hearts. Amen.

“We give thanks to You, our God, who hitherto graciously and mightily helped us in all our needs. Be our refuge and our help, and when our last day comes, grant that we fall asleep commending our souls into the hands of Your Son, Jesus Christ, confident that through His name our death is precious in Your sight. Amen.” (Martin Luther, prayer accompanying Psalm 116)

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