Jun 302017
 

I had a prostate exam yesterday.

I know…thanks for sharing…

The location of the prostate is an obvious design flaw in the creation…it should have been located in some place with easy access and no embarrassment or discomfort.

Perhaps on top of our heads or behind a knee…anywhere except where it is.

It’s like God had this extra part He had to stick some place…so He stuck it some place…so to speak.

My doctor hates examining them almost as much as I hate being examined.

Almost…

Unfortunately, it is both prudent and necessary to do the exam once a year, so after ten years I conceded to having it done again.

Early discovery can save your life…

After the ordeal was over I commended myself on my bravery and humility.

You’re never more humbled or brave than when you’re bent over a table with nothing on waiting for the sound of your doctor slapping on a latex glove.

It occurred to me on the way home that this probably isn’t a design flaw after all.

I think He did it on purpose.

God has a history of going after the most sensitive and private parts of a person…a prostate exam is a day at the ballpark compared to what an adult male convert to Judaism endured.

I’ll take what I went through yesterday over circumcision every time.

Just as a side thought, if God still required circumcision for converts to Christianity, my guess would be that it would have a chilling effect on crusade evangelism.

I digress…

God is always probing those places we want to cover up out of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, not physically, but spiritually.

He’s finding the cancers to our souls before they grow and bring death to us in the places they’re hiding.

It’s always painful and we put off the exams even when we know we have the symptoms that say something is wrong.

He is relentless because He loves us too much to allow us to be consumed by our sin.

My exam at the doctors office showed no problems.

The one with God did.

For my sake, I need to drum up the bravery and humility to let Him continue the exams.

Actually, He will provide both…and His tool of choice is grace, not a knife.

I just have to show up ready to be exposed again.

Early discovery can save your life…

Go and do likewise…you have symptoms too.

Make your own application…

 

 

 

Jun 292017
 

Rich Man & Lazarus

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers— so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:19-31)

A prominent feature in this story is Jesus’ use of barriers, two types of barriers, one temporal and the other eternal. Using spatial imagery, Jesus presents us with a stark contrast between two types of barriers, two types of people, and their two profoundly different destinies.

“And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,” (Luke 16:20)

The first barrier is a gate which separated a rich man from a poor, hungry and lame man, named Lazarus. On one side of the gate, a rich man lived opulently every day. On the other side, Lazarus suffered horrible deprivation every day. The only care Lazarus received was from dogs, which came to lick his wounds.

Spatially, the gate depicts a very short and easy crossing between the rich man and Lazarus. The gate was passable during their lives. The rich man knew Lazarus by name and likeness. He or his servants could have passed through the gate to Lazarus, or someone could have brought Lazarus to the rich man. But the rich man ignored the plight of poor Lazarus who was laid at his gate. He showed less concern for Lazarus than the dogs.

“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” (Luke 16:26)

Jesus describes the second barrier as a great chasm, which after their deaths also separates the rich man and Lazarus. On one side of the chasm, in heaven, Lazarus has found comfort at the side of Abraham. On the other side, in Hades, the rich man is now in constant torment and anguish.

Spatially, the chasm depicts a great distance. The chasm is eternally fixed and impassible. God determined the destinations of the rich man and Lazarus. As for the rich man, he exhibited no fruits of repentance in the use of his wealth: “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”

“He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:31)

Once the rich man realized his destiny was fixed, he became concerned for his five brothers. How can they (and all of us) avoid the rich man’s fate? Jesus diagnosed the rich man’s fatal problem: “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ ” Even in Hades, the rich man despised God’s Word. The rich man wanted his brothers to receive a word from someone else. But Jesus says no other word than His will be effective to save a person.

Jesus told this story before the New Testament was written. Moses and the Prophets contain the Gospel of God’s grace through faith in the promised Messiah. However, we also have additional revelation in the New Testament, which testifies to the fulfillment of the promised Messiah in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should hear the entire Bible referred to in the phrase: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

The story does not tell us about the beliefs of Lazarus, but because he was carried by angels to the side of Abraham, who was saved through faith in God’s promise of a Savior, we may infer that Lazarus also was saved through faith in that promise.

“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’ ” (John 10:7)

Hidden underneath his poverty, hunger, foul sores and suffering, Lazarus was a beloved sheep, who waited patiently for his Good Shepherd to deliver him. He received his good things in the afterlife.

By contrast, hidden underneath his expensive clothes, daily feasting and outward righteous living, the rich man was a heathen. The imagery of Lazarus lying at a gate reminds me of Jesus, who refers to himself in John’s gospel as a door. Before the rich man, every day, at the gate (or door), was one of Jesus’ sheep. The rich man could have entered the sheepfold to help poor Lazarus, but he despised God’s Word. Without the illumination of God’s Word, the rich man was spiritually blind. His blindness caused him to see Lazarus as unclean, despised of God and deserving of his wretched plight, when in reality Lazarus was clean, beloved of God and saved for eternity.

“He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” (Luke 4:18b)

God’s Word and Gospel announce the grace of God in Jesus Christ who gave himself for us and by His blood has ransomed us for God. Jesus procured for us the forgiveness of our sins, life and salvation as a free gift for everyone (rich and poor) who believes in Him.

One of the many gifts that Jesus gives us is the recovery of our spiritual eyesight. May we use our new spiritual eyes to see the Lazarus who has been laid at our gates. The name Lazarus means “God has helped.” May it be our privilege and joy to be the masks behind which God helps the poor, lame and hungry who are laid at our gates. Amen.

Jun 292017
 

When Greg Laurie announced his new partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, he wasn’t just announcing a new affiliation.

What was unspoken was that he was announcing that the Calvary Chapel brand was no longer sufficient to contain and support him because it had been diminished through split, scandal, and endless internal bickering.

 

It was also, I believe, the final split from the hold that Chuck Smith had on Laurie and that still grips many in the group with.

Nobody felt that grip to the degree that Brian Brodersen has and he too has now finally found release from it.

This conference has been all about the present and the future, not the past.

It’s taken a few years after Smith’s death, but the split from him and the split in Calvary Chapel is now final for this group.

While many of the unspoken rules have been jettisoned, what remains is Smith’s original legacy of freedom in the Holy Spirit to follow God where He leads.

Brodersen’s rambling introductory talk didn’t set the tone of the conference and throw the last shovel of dirt on yesterday, but Greg Opean’s did.

He honored the past and it’s leaders, but also spoke of moving forward in unity not just with fellow CC’s but with people from other traditions who are invested in bringing the Gospel.

That is the mindset of virtually everyone I’ve talked with who attended this conference.

There is a freedom in worship and a freedom in the Holy Spirit that has been quenched in years past.

There is an openness to learning from others and cooperating where possible while still being uniquely Calvary Chapel, or now, Calvary Global Network.

Ironically, this atmosphere is more like how it was in the early days…Chuck might have been proud of what his bickering kids did this week…

Jun 282017
 

Calvary Chapel pastor Mike Neglia of Cork, Ireland was struck by a car while running this morning in Orange County.

Keep him in your prayers and his family as well…

Jun 282017
 

Well, we’re three days in and still no one has prayed for Chuck’s widow, his children, his grandchildren, his postman, his favorite clerk at Safeway, or the families pets, if any.

Mike Macintosh undoubtedly has the vapors…

Despite this bone of contention and the failure to place a statue of the founder at the entrance to be touched by the assembly before worship, the Calvary Global Network conference seems to be doing well any way.

The numbers are down, but that was to be expected in light of the split with the Calvary Chapel Association and the uncertainty that many in the fractured “movement” still have about the ongoing rift.

Some missionaries are still afraid to appear to be taking a side as they receive support from both entities.

The fact that Greg Laurie has built a bridge to the SBC and walked over it has opened the possibility to both sides of that “dual affiliation” as well.

Others object to “outsiders” speaking at the conference, especially from Reformed influences.

Having said all that,there is a vibrancy to this conference that hasn’t been seen before.

The ones attending are younger and more open to different ideas and different associations.

There was even a theology panel where they actually discussed theology that wasn’t about drinking, cussing, or women preachers…they discussed current theological issues.

There are still battles ahead, but the CGN may have accomplished addition through blessed subtraction…

Jun 282017
 

The Cosby Show was one of my favorite television programs when I was a kid.  For a period of time, it was probably my absolute favorite.  Of course, created by and starred in by Bill Cosby, the show for the most part was good wholesome family fun.  As with anything, there were always elements that could be nitpicked or criticized, but on the whole, the program was very humorous and successful.

Bill Cosby was known as America’s Dad.  His role as the father of the Huxtable clan on this family sitcom, the number one rated show on tv for several years, forged his reputation.  Cosby was beloved for his humor and devotion to family and generally wise advice about life and parenting and relationships.  He was a revered American folk hero.

Undoubtedly, you know where this is going because Bill Cosby has been in the news the past couple years for entirely different reasons.  Last week in suburban Philadelphia, a mistrial was declared as the jury could not come to unanimous agreement as to Cosby’s guilt on charges of sexual assault.  Prosecutors want another trial while reports are that Cosby wants to start a speaking tour, tutoring people on how to avoid accusations of sexual assault (insert your own snide remark here).  The whole thing is quite demoralizing.

When accusations first came out against Cosby, I hoped them not to be true.  Bill Cosby was a man whom I had long liked and thought of well.  I enjoyed his humor and entertainment and he seemed to get the importance of life and family and responsibility.  I did not want the allegations to be true.  If the same accusations were made of many other famous people, I would probably hardly blink an eye.  But with Cosby, I thought he was different than the norm.

As the number of accusers continued to grow and grow, my hopes became less and less.  Some people came to his defense saying that it was all a liberal conspiracy to take down an African American man who spouted many conservative values.  Was such a thing possible?  I guess so.  However, there was just too much forebodement of guilt for me to sign up for any conspiracy theory.

I was not in that courtroom and I have not done any thorough investigation of the details and circumstances of all the accusations, but I am inclined to believe that Cosby is guilty of some, if not most and possibly even all of the accusations of sexual misconduct against him.  And this is the reason why:

I have seen this type of scenario play out so many times over the last so many years and the accused almost always end up being found guilty.  And this scenario is where an individual, or group of individuals, or organization has partaken in some type of sexual misconduct, sometimes over long periods of time, and have managed to conceal and cover up that wrongdoing by measure of their power and influence wielded over the victims.  From the Catholic Church priest abuse scandal to the Penn State football program to the various other stories covered in the media, including many church-related cases covered here, the story is remarkably the same.  Someone or some group that commits these terrible crimes, along with support from their close allies, collectively shame and manipulate and pressure their victims into silence and have been able to keep control over the situation for a long time.  Finally, and thankfully, enough circumstances and details eventually escape the control of the controllers and slowly but surely the wrongdoers are found out.

The advent of the internet and social media probably has much to do with this.  While these things can be a double edged sword and much harm can be brought about by false accusations, it has also given a voice and a conduit to be heard to those who previously had none.  Sometimes it takes only that first person to speak about what happened to them.  Then someone else out there in the world happens to see what that first person said and it hit homes with them because they experienced the same.  They are encouraged and emboldened by that first person speaking out and so they speak up, too.  Then another person sees those first two people speaking out and so on and so on.  What starts as a trickle can sometimes quickly turn into a deluge.  When these types of things happen around false accusations and nefarious motives, they are terrible incidents.  But when they revolve around the truth-telling of terrible past happenings, they are helping to bring justice to situations that otherwise would have never been resolved or even known.

In Cosby’s case, there have now been more than 50 women who have spoken out.  Very few or none who even knew each other, but just about all with very similar tales of what he allegedly did to them.  Yes, it could be some great grand conspiracy.  Or much more likely it is that Cosby is a dirty old man who long had been able to use the power of his celebrity to get away with sexual assault.  Adding to the accusations, there is Cosby’s own past deposition where he admits to drugging women and committing some pretty creepy sexual behavior toward/with them.  And finally, according to the reports, ten of the twelve jurors on this one case that did make it court thought he was guilty and wanted to convict.  All in all, I am very inclined to believe the alleged victims.  Sadly, it would seem quite probable that the real Bill Cosby has a very dark side that betrays his former fame as America’s Dad.

For those of us in the church, we should take heed to learn from and be aware of such situations.  We well know the church is not immune.  We should not be quick to believe every accusation thrown against our pastors and leaders and other fellow believers and even unbelievers.  But we also should not be so quick to dismiss the accusations, especially when there appears to be potential substance to them.  Our acumen and own sin nature should tell us that all of us, even our spiritual leaders, can be just as vulnerable to harrowing sin.  And our observation of other similar cases should tell us that it is far from abnormal for a person or group of people to use their position of power and influence to constrain and conceal their sins and their victims.

May God give us wisdom and compassion and a sense of justice if and when encountering such potentially traumatic situations.

 

Jun 272017
 

The revival of civic religion…

The tragedy of Asa…

A brief thought about mass evangelism…

How Jay Sekulow makes his big bucks…

Free textual criticism class…

The turquoise table movement…

The reason for Christian higher education…

On the side of truth…

The churches biggest challenge in 2017…

Is there a new form of lynching in America?

Most Christians have non-Christian worldviews…

Giving and getting numbers…

Five things egalitarians believe about gender differences…

The sickness killing the church…

10 reasons Mormons dominate multi level marketing…

How religion contributes to the economy…

The dangers of faking it in ministry…

Anxiety by Levi the poet….

Tracing grace in the contours of my face…

The growing generational gap on same sex marriage…

Does your church have the right model?

Tucked inside…community in the worn and used…

Is penal substitutionary atonement necessary?

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

Need low cost web hosting with personal service? Use the company I do…

 

 

 

 

Jun 272017
 

Linkathon! and other…stuff….will be late today as I have some medical stuff to deal with this morning.

Hopefully, our regular content will be up around noon…

Jun 262017
 

The Calvary Global Network side of the Calvary Chapel split begins its pastors conference today.

For some, this is a blessing if only for the fact that the barrage of invitations and exhortations to sign up for the conference will mercifully end.

For Brian Brodersen, this conference will show the viability or lack of same of his fledgling version of Calvary Chapel.

For the Calvary Chapel Association, it will undoubtedly provide more fodder for their increasingly vicious opposition to Brodersen.

We’ll be watching as we can and hopefully, we will have some boots on the ground in Costa Mesa reporting back.

Stay tuned…

 

Jun 262017
 

Things I Used To Think

(With Apologies to Michael Newnham)

I used to think that theology could be argued and by such argument, one could convince another person of the truth of a position.  Now I know that whatever is not presented in love to another person will be seen as having little, if any, value.

I used to think that preaching could change people’s lives. Now I know that while a sermon may entertain, educate and/or inspire, it is only the life of the one behind the sermon that can touch another life, for good or for ill.

I used to think that there was value in absolute certainty.  Now I know that uncertainty leads to further questioning, further knowledge and a deeper appreciation of those who think differently than oneself.

I used to think that people in a congregation were there to be spoken to and led.  Now I know that, in the words of Chrysostom, “Sometimes the ears of the people are holier than the mouths of the priests…” and some of them may know more of God than myself.

I used to think the Bible was a single book to be outlined, categorized and interpreted. Now I know that the Bible is a collection of history, poetry, chronicles, laws, memoirs and letters, all of which combine to form a unique and singular narrative of God’s revelation and his love for the world he created.

I used to think that the Church was the creation of the Bible.  Now I know that God used the Church to assemble the canon of writings we know as the Bible.

I used to think that Tradition was restrictive and dead.  Now I know that Tradition can be liberating and alive.

I used to think that no one had struggles and disappointments like myself.  Now I know that everybody has struggles and disappointments like myself, and many have far worse.

I used to think that God would eventually bring all “true believers” into my particular Church tradition – Evangelical, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Reformed, Baptist, etc.. Now I know that Our Lord has “other sheep… which are not of this fold…” and he leads each of us to places best suited to who we are as individuals.

I used to think that there were answers to all theological questions, you just had read enough, study enough, pray enough and/or work hard enough to find them. Now I know that we indeed “look through a glass darkly”, and some answers have to wait until we “see face to face”.

I used to think that there was some God given meaning in all tragedies. Know I now that we simply live in a fallen world and tragedies come with the territory and many cannot be explained.

I used to think that with enough theological education and learning, we could arrive at definitive answers.  Now I know how much I don’t know and that, if we are theologically and intellectually honest, any definitive answers will likely lead to yet more questions.

I used to think that The Beatles would get back together….

I was wrong about that one as well…

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

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