May 242016
 

timthumb.phpCalled to be a troublemaker…

Matt Redmond reviews “Engaging Motherhood”…

Everything I know about worship I learned from a prostitute…

Did God intend death?

Where the icons aren’t yet dry…

The shame game vs. inner transformation…

Church vigil ends after 11 years…

Methodist conference confuses even God…

A serious question about the meaning of transgender…

What is a denomination?

Megachurch leaders meet with Trump…

Childrens pastor caught in sex trafficking scheme…

Charismatic nonsense on volcanoes…

If that didn’t scare you, how about “contagious” demon possession?  What’s really scary is how stupid some people are…

10 thoughts on the scariest verse in the Bible…

A brief film about Dr. Packer…

Is the Bible a magic book?

Piper defines sin…

Six pieces of weird Christian baggage worth redeeming…

The church is not a triangle…

Why Bonhoeffer preached on Memorial Day…

Why I support women in church leadership in 30 seconds…

What to do when you stop liking your church…

Who may preach and administer the sacraments?

The shameful secret of Christian domestic abuse…

Matt Walsh says the church is at war…

Race, history, and Baptist reconciliation…

Are you a closet annihilationist?

The ever broadening role of the pastor…

Huge thanks to my friend and publisher EricL…support him at top right!

May 232016
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251.The inevitable decline of American evangelicalism is being exacerbated by the intense division politically in this country. We no longer care if we offend, insult, or enrage our brethren because Christian community values have almost officially been relegated to minor concerns, if any is given at all.

 

The post election carnage will be more than the institution can bear and leave it little more than a war zone of competing zealots.

Yes, I’m pointing out the obvious, but you’d think we would care…

2. Thinking about praying is like almost calling some one…

3. The older liturgically based churches will come through this season well because their service is not based on the whims of the senior pastor…

4. Warren Throckmorton has this story about how many staff have left Gospel For Asia in the last year. There is nothing more odious to me than the fact that former board members like Skip Heitzig refuse to speak to these matters and by their silence affirm evil.

5. Baseball has become a cultural fossil. The game is one of pace, patience, layer, and nuance…none of which fit the current cultural temperament. That is sad, indeed.

6. Baseball and reading a real book have the problems…

7. Roger Oakland and the traditional wing of Calvary Chapel want a piece of Brian Brodersen bad... and this video won’t help CCCM’s case. 

8. The part of the bible that teaches about youth pastors is right next to the part about which political party you must vote for…

9. Life changes dramatically when you realize that you’re living in your personal end times whether the world is or not…

10. When did this become optional? “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)

 

May 212016
 

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

(Psalms 139:1–24 ESV)

May 212016
 

bible-word-of-god_thumbMatthew 3:13-17

 

The Baptism of Jesus – ***a note, the LCMS does not practice infant baptism … we practice baptism – period. ***

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.

  • Jesus came with a purpose – to be baptized. It must have been important.
  • Question: What was significant about the site of Jesus’ baptism connected to His Hebrew name in the history of Israel?
  • In other words, why didn’t Jesus send for John to come baptize him in Galilee they have water there also.
  • Answer: Jesus’ baptism took place on the east bank of the Jordan across from Jericho near the site where the children of Israel camped before Joshua led them across the river from the east to the west into the Promised Land. After His baptism, Jesus had to cross the river from the east into west to return to Judea. He is the new Joshua, leading His people on a new Exodus that will result in the promise of entering the Promised Land of heaven.
  • This new exodus is the exit from the old Israel to the new Israel.

14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

  • This affirms that baptism is for sinners – John knows his status.
  • He also seems to know that Jesus does not need to be baptized for repentance.
  • If John feels inadequate to carry Jesus’ sandals, imagine how he feels about his standing to baptize him.

15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

  • Jesus has come to take our place
  • Water baptism is what we do to fulfill all righteousness.
  • Righteousness or any form of it is code for Faith.
  • Jesus’ human nature is being identified with us – and he uses another human to do it.
  • Jesus being baptized by John is “fitting” and “righteous” because John and Jesus are submitting themselves to the Father’s will in fulfilling this aspect of God’s plan of salvation. (note that it is a ‘wet’ plan of salvation.)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;

  • In a technical way, heaven has been closed to man since the Fall – Adam & Eve’s sin.
  • So this begins a new era – the heavens are opened to us.
  • What happens when you, as an individual are baptized? The heavens open up to you.
  • Note the direction of our contact with God – God comes down to us.
  • We do not work our way up to heaven.
  • Genesis 28:10-17 – Jacobs dream – Jacob’s ladder
  • 10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
  • Question: What is significant about the Spirit of God taking the form of a dove? See Matt 3:15; Mark 1:10; John 1:32). What does the event in Genesis 8:8-12 prefigure concerning this event in Jesus’ baptism?
  • Answer: God sent the waters of the Great Flood to address man’s sin, cleansing the earth of the contamination of man’s sin, to give mankind (through Noah’s family) a new beginning (Gen 6:5-8, 11-13). The Fathers of the Church interpreted the cleansing waters of the flood as prefiguring Christian baptism. At the end of the flood, Noah released a dove. The dove flew over the waters of chaos but found no place to land. The second time Noah released the dove, it returned to him with a green sprig in its beak from an olive tree, a sign that the renewed earth was habitable again. When Jesus came up out of the water after His baptism, God the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove and remained with Him. This event signified and prefigured the new creation that the sacrament of Christian baptism will confer upon believers when the Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized .
  • For Christians the dove has become a sign of the Holy Spirit, and He is always depicted this way in Christian iconography.
  • Even Calvary Chapel iconography.

17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

  • Who is speaking?
  • How do we know that this is the Father speaking?
  • “My beloved Son.”
May 202016
 

Calvin's Corner headerIt’s tour season again.

While many of us are trying to make ends meet, your favorite celebrity pastor is either on your in Europe or the Holy Land or planning one.

For only three or four grand you too can post to Facebook from the streets of Rome or Jerusalem… the pastor went for free because enough of you signed up to go with him.

When he gets back, he may just stay home long enough to go to one of the myriad conferences that it is now “important” to attend.

I’m not a big fan of either the tours or the conferences…and that’s the subject of this weeks Calvins Corner with my friend Phil Naessens.

Download the mp3

May 202016
 

IMG_0027She let me know that something hurt.

Miss Kitty had leaped into my lap (as was her custom after dinner)and I absent mindedly stroked her head while paying attention to my email.

My attention was diverted quickly back to the cat when she wrapped my hand up with her front paws and pressed into my arm with the back claws while almost biting me.

Almost…because she has learned not to bite or scratch me.

This was a warning and a statement… don’t do that again.

Don’t touch where it hurts.

Once I carefully extricated my finger from her open mouth, I wanted to inspect her to see where her head was afflicted.

Something had ripped the top of her ear, but when I tried to look closer she fled.

She didn’t want me to tend to her wound.

When she came back in the house she wanted me to ignore the injury and pretend it wasn’t there.

She would tend to her own wound and if I tried to minister to it she would threaten me and run.

Miss Kitty still does not understand that I have no desire to cause her further pain, but only to facilitate healing.

We’ve been through enough medical crises together that you would think she would.

I would help her if she would let me, but she would have to face the imaginary risks involved in trusting me with her pain.

Despite this, she sleeps soundly on my bed with a still mangled ear as I write this.

I don’t think this can heal on it’s own, though she hopes it will.

Miss Kitty reminds me a lot of me…and a lot of some of you.

We are navigating life with wounds unseen but real, and sometimes we even forget they exist until someone touches the spot where it hurts.

Then we react…often with anger, always just to protect ourselves.

We run away from the source that reminds us we are hurt and if we return we expect others to pretend there is no injury at all.

We do the same thing with God.

We try to hide our wounds from Him because we don’t trust Him to heal without hurting us more.

We could be healed if we would allow Him…but we won’t.

The risks are too great, or so we think.

We’ve been through enough together that you’d think we’d trust Him…especially because He has wounds of His own.

The wounds are not cat scratches, but nail marks received on our behalf.

We’re safe with them.

We can be healed by them.

We won’t heal on our own.

Perhaps it’s time to stop running and tell Him where it hurts…

Make your own application…

May 192016
 

melting-potA Better Melting Pot

Depending on your background, particularly whether or not you’re a minority in any major category of individual identity (such as religion, race or ethnicity), the idea of a “melting pot” – of being assimilated into a pre-eminent and pre-existing cultural identity – may be something you heartily desire or something you find repugnant. The latter group may view the image of a “salad bowl” or even separation more agreeable.

My first experience of a melting pot was in the U.S. Air Force. I remember marveling at how effective the Air Force was at assimilating a very diverse group of young men into a cohesive unit of airmen. Entering Basic Training, we were as different a collection of young men as I could have imagined who in our prior civilian lives shared little in common and ran in very different social, geographic and economic circles. But by the time of our graduation, the survivors had been successfully assimilated into the Air Force and, as a result, we viewed each other as comrades.

Christ’s Melting Pot

 Most people never experience the military melting pot. In the civilian realm, the concept of a “melting pot” appears out of vogue. Many people today identify themselves more by their personal feelings and close relationships, rather than by group identities fostered by participation or membership in large institutions. Therefore, unless and until a major cultural shift occurs, don’t expect America to function as a melting pot via military or civilian institutions.

However, there remains a melting pot far greater than anything man could create. The melting pot that I am staking my future on is the one that Jesus Christ created for us. Jesus alluded to it in John’s Gospel: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (10:16)

Jesus forged His melting pot out of His own flesh and blood, which He sacrificed on a cross for our sins to reconcile us to God. “[I]n Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). This reconciliation becomes ours personally through faith in Christ. It is our entry point into Christ’s melting pot, which I am using as a metaphor for His new eternal family. In Christ’s family the pre-eminent identity is not a set of principles or founding documents, but Christ himself. In Christ’s family we are not conservative or liberal, male or female, gay or straight, citizen or illegal; “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

Christ’s melting pot is strange because all the folks in it endeavoring to be like Him formerly rejected and crucified Him. Therefore, God has to draw us to Christ. (John 6:44) Another unique aspect is that there are no background checks or entrance exams to get into Christ’s melting pot. Oh, wait, I’m wrong about the entrance exam. There is an entrance exam, but I failed it miserably and I sincerely hope you fail too. Christ only admits failures. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17b)

Where is Christ’s Melting Pot?

Here on earth, Christ has assembled his family into one Holy Christian Church. When I capitalize the “C” in Church, I am referring to a fellowship that all Christians enjoy on the basis of their faith in Christ, regardless of small “c” church affiliation. Regardless of your church affiliation, if you are a Christian, you are a member of His body the Church.

In many churches today, especially liturgical churches, you will even find a tangible representation of Christ’s melting pot – which is called the Baptismal Font. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27) Baptism is both a sign and a summary of Christian life in Christ’s melting pot.

The Church as a Melting Pot?

Unlike military or civilian melting pots, which are focused on assimilating people into shared principles, mission and values, the focus of the Church is on the person of Christ, our Redeemer – in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col 2:9) Through His gifts, Christ conforms us to His image (Rom 8:29). As we begin to reflect the mind of Christ (Rom 12:2; Phil 2:5), we begin to recognize each other as family.

How Does Christ Melt Us to Himself and to One Another?

Christ forms us through His Word. When Christ’s words of Law and Gospel are proclaimed by the Church, seeds of faith are sown into the hearts of the congregation, and the weeds of our sin are rooted out. Even among Christians, if sin is not addressed regularly through the proclamation of Law and Gospel, sin becomes like weeds in the heart that grow up among the good seedlings (of faith). If left unaddressed for too long, the weeds threaten to choke off the good seedlings. But hearing God’s Word renews and strengthens our faith and helps us to see ourselves and the world around us through the eyes of faith.

By hearing from Christ in preaching, teaching and in the liturgy, the sheep learn the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. (John 10:1-18) Christians must listen to Christ, so we recognize His voice and can distinguish it from other voices (often evil) which compete for our attention and allegiance.

In His Word, Christ gives us the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-16)

Jesus gave us His prayer: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven….’” (Matt 6:9-13) Jesus wants us to pray not only for ourselves but for each other. “Our Father” means we share the same God, the same salvation, as family. When I ask for my daily bread, I ask our Father that you be fed as well. When I ask that my sins be forgiven, I am also interceding with our Father for the forgiveness of your sins.

Jesus also gave us a tangible Word. Through the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives us Himself and the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:26-28) – in, with and under bread and wine. This holy meal also is a communion of believers: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor 10:17)

Conclusion

We are living in a time of anxiety, but also of great opportunity in which Christians, living out our individual vocations, can be good leaven which benefits the whole lump of our society. Our society needs good leaven. I have described the place of our preparation as Christ’s melting pot. This is not a ‘to do’ list; we are not the cooks. Christ will prepare each of us through His gifts and service to us – in His melting pot.

Lord, preserve us in Your Word now and forever. Amen.

May 182016
 

JoePaternoStatue2-300x201The Penn State child sex abuse scandal came back into the headlines in the past couple of weeks. 

New information has gained public awareness and it was reported that one of the claims that Penn State settled with a victim dates abuse all the way back to 1971.  This was forty years before longtime defensive coordinator and convicted child sexual abuser Jerry Sandusky was arrested.  Another report claimed that one of the victims informed legendary head coach Joe Paterno of abuse in 1976.  Other reports claimed that a couple different assistant coaches were aware of Sandusky’s abuse in the 1980’s.

With the new exposure of these allegations, Penn State has taken to denying and deflecting.  It is pretty much the same tactic they took the first time around before the plethora of evidence became so great that they had practically no choice but to be humbled.  Evidence that showed that the university and its leaders had not properly handled what they knew about Sandusky.

At least when Penn State finally took responsibility for their wrongdoing they undertook many actions apologizing for their past sins, made amends and reparations, and made changes to try to prevent any such scenario from ever re-occurring.  We do not know the truth of these new reports and maybe there is no truth to them.  Maybe the university is in the right to deny and deflect.  But their track record does not speak kindly for them.

When this scandal first became public several years ago, it was a punch in the gut to myself and many other Penn Sate fans.  I imagine it was only worse for those who were alumni and/or employees.  While realizing that there is some manner of sin and darkness to every individual and every institution, this….. was unexpected.

The Penn State football program had always prided itself in doing things the right way.  Coach Joe Paterno had little patience for those who wouldn’t comply with doing things his way.  Yes, in some ways he was antiquated and unnecessarily conservative.  But he also kept things on the straight and narrow.  With all the cheating scandals and illegal benefits to athletes and recruiting violations that are so prominent in big-time college sports, there was never a hint of such around the Penn State football program.

Then the Jerry Sandusky scandal came to light.  Something far more heinous than manipulating any classroom grades or “loaning” a car to a star athlete.  This was abhorrent.  What Sandusky did to all those innocent children over all those years was pure evil.  That university leaders knew at least parts of what was going on and took minimal steps to do something about it was disgusting.  That Joe Paterno, who was the most powerful person on the campus, could and should have done more and didn’t was very discouraging.

We would expect better in the church…  and yet, are we really better? 

The uncovering of the Catholic church clergy child sexual abuse scandal was horrific.  Responsibility and justice and redress for the Sovereign Grace scandal has yet to be nearly fully taken, if it ever will.  Just look at C.J. Mahaney’s most recent appearance at the Together For The Gospel Conference.  Boz Tchividjian, founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), is quoted as saying that he thinks evangelicals are even worse on sex abuse than Catholics.

There are some who read and/or participate here who know far more of the details of these and other abusive situations than I could ever imagine or have the knowledge to write about, including many situations that may not involve children, but are abusive nonetheless.  Many scandals that involved sexual abuse or improprieties or other types of abuse have been written about here over the years.  How many more are happening and we just don’t know about them because they haven’t been exposed?  How many with victims are suffering in silence?

It is saddening when the church is no better, if not sometimes even worse, than the world when it comes to such critical and harrowing situations.  Especially at a time when the victims are so much in need of care and help and Jesus.

Now assuredly not nearly all the church is guilty of such things.  There are many situations where church people and institutions have rightly reported and taken action.  Where they have provided aid to those in need.  Where they have gone to great lengths to try to bring about justice and accountability and care and healing.  Many noble actions have been taken by the church.

It’s just that every time I am reminded of the Penn State scandal, there is a pain that comes with remembering what happened.  I feel the same for within the church when circumstances bring about remembrances of terrible abuses and cover-ups that happened in the past, some of which are still unresolved.  This is often accompanied by an uneasy feeling that there are many more going on out there that we just don’t yet know about, or maybe never will.

Lord, forgive us for the times we have failed to act righteously and compassionately when presented with such dreadful circumstances and give us the courage to act rightly if and when coming upon such circumstances in the future.        

May 172016
 

timthumb.phpDriscoll says anorexia may be demonic...I say Driscoll probably is too…

What is the “hour of testing” in Rev 3?

Merritt vs. Brown on whether conservatives will lose the transgender debate…

Your kids don’t need a megachurch…

Stetzer headed to Wheaton

Church steps in when six kids orphaned…

Roger Olson asks why a Christian would support Trump…commenters answer

Does the Bible answer all questions about life?

The battle over Hell…

The rise of company chaplains…

Is God always gentle with us?

Do you even want revival?

Jesus was a guest…what if we acted likewise?

I hate it when Calvinists write stuff like this…

The power and danger of Luthers doctrine of work…

Megachurch can’t make insurance claim in child abuse case…

The churches first great sermon…

Homeschooling and Reconstructionism…

The problem is mindless sex, not gender identity…

The authority of the Bible…

10 things about the new charismatics…

30 pictures of bedrooms in the developing world…

The church as a formation center for public righteousness…

What is your storm?

Wenatchee snacks on Driscoll stupidity…

Calvin on the true church…

Roger Oakland calls the Jesus People movement into question, makes me laugh…

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

 

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