May 262016
 


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May 262016
 

characters-redA pastor friend of mine recently observed that there is a lot of anger in America. Many Americans are deeply aggrieved by many issues, and their anger is palpable in current political discourse. I couldn’t catalogue all the grievances in a single article, but I can identify their root cause: sin.

When someone sins against me or someone I care about, that sin arouses my zeal for justice. If that zeal isn’t quickly satisfied, I get angry. Yes, I’m aware of Paul’s admonitions at the bottom of Romans Chapter 12 (e.g., “leave it to the wrath of God” (v. 19)) and of how God has appointed governing authorities to bear the sword on my behalf (Rom 13:4-5). However, God doesn’t work on my timetable nor does He weigh the scales of justice in accordance with my wishes. So, where can that leave me? Angry and in unbelief.

I’ve experienced my share of time absorbed by anger. Anger is debilitating, especially at night. Have you ever lay awake at night angry, dwelling on something or someone who has hurt you? Replaying grievances in your mind, how things might have played out differently, if…? Imagining revenge or justice on the offender? I’ve been there. My reward was a lot of missed sleep and self-inflicted separation from God.

Anger is a curse of the Law

Anger returns me to the curse of life under the Law, from which Christ died to set me free. In my unbelief, I reason that if God won’t fix the injustices which are vexing me, then I will judge them myself. I will deputize myself as God’s under-judge and vent my judgment in anger. I will usurp God’s role as judge and the role of the governing authorities who God has placed over me, because He or they are not getting the job done. Unchecked anger can lead to full blown rebellion against God.

I can read God’s Word about anger: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Eph 4:31) God’s Law is very good at telling me what I ought to do, and pointing out where I am failing to obey Him. The Law itself is spiritual, but I am flesh (Rom 7:14). As a result, the Law is the power of sin (1 Cor 15:56). Reading or memorizing more Law verses about anger will not help me.

Eventually I found freedom from anger in the Gospel. Freedom from anger is the fruit of freedom in Christ, a topic I wrote about in a prior article.

All sins committed by and against other people ultimately are sins committed against God.

God is not disinterested or aloof from injustice. Our sins against one another are sins against God. David illustrates this principle in his Psalm written after being confronted by Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah:

“For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment.” (Ps 51:4-5)

All sins committed by and against one another are going to be dealt with by God, one way or another, temporally and/or eternally.

 “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus took away (i.e., took up on the cross) all the sins ever committed by every human being. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Knowing that all sins, even the ones committed against me, are ultimately committed against God and that Jesus suffered and died for all of them, frees me from having to bear them myself. My indignation is no match for God’s, and my suffering does not compare with the suffering of Jesus for the very same sins. Jesus freed me from both the guilt and shame of my own sins and from bearing the sins of others committed against me.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

Depending on the nature of the transgression and whether or not the offender is repentant, it is not always possible or advisable to attempt reconciliation with an offender. This is not an article about the complex (and important) topic of reconciliation. My sole motivation here is to shed light on the problem of anger and reflect on how the Gospel has helped me address anger in my life. According to Mark 11:25, if someone sins against us, we can forgive the sin directly to God. This may be all that is possible or advisable under the circumstances. However, this prayer is effective to release that sin into God’s hands for ultimate resolution and frees us from bearing it.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:43-45a)

All Christians share the vocation of a royal priesthood to the world, including unbelievers and our enemies. Unbelievers do not have access to God and are completely lost and children of wrath. But Christians, on the other hand, have access to God, as Father, and can call on Him in Christ’s name. Therefore, Christians intercede with God for their enemies, praying that God would be merciful to them, bless them with their daily needs, bring them to repentance, and save them through the power of the Gospel.

Perhaps the most vivid illustration of Christian intercession for his enemies was Stephen’s prayer made during his martyrdom: “And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)

Freedom through Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer includes this petition: “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Jesus gave us this petition, so that we can pray to our Father for our fidelity to His will, but also against the many violations of His will that we see around us. For example, if someone attempts to redefine God’s created order regarding sex or marriage, Christians pray for God’s will to prevail. Similarly, if government fails to protect the citizens entrusted to it, Christians pray for God to enlighten our leaders, so His will for good government will prevail. By committing these matters into God’s care through prayer, trusting that He hears our prayers and is sovereign over His creation, we are set free to serve in our vocations in God’s grace free from anger.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

May 252016
 

rdozlerDoveThis is the “East Coast” pastors conference and it’s taking place now.

It has become fashionable to have “Q & A” sessions at these gatherings now and they had one here as well.

I was going to go through and chart each lie as it was told, but it’s really not worth my time or yours anymore to do so.

I will note a couple that stand out…

The opening remarks always begin with the foundational lie, that lie being that Chuck Smith really wanted this group to govern Calvary Chapel after he was gone.

All you need do is search this site for “CCA” for the truth about that one.

The truth was that Smith was ambivalent at best about this set up and many observers (including myself) believe he wanted “the movement” to die with him.

Still, the lie has been told so often that I suspect even the liars are beginning to believe it and the rank and file seem to swallow such tales without need for water to wash them down.

The second lie is that “nothing has changed” since Smith’s death.

Nothing except that Smith is gone, the national pastors conference is gone, “affiliation” is now done on the East Coast, and the movement is now run by the CCA and by regional leaders who no one has any idea how they are selected.

There is no process for their selection and there is no structure for any accountability.

The move out of Costa Mesa and it’s demotion to another “regional” conference has nothing to do with anything but minimizing the influence of Brian Brodersen and his contingent.

The one thing that has not changed is that there is absolutely no accountability standards in place for anything other than a violation of “the distinctives”.

Even that process that has no formal structure and when someone asks how someone gets removed from the movement, the answers are purposefully vague.

While the rest of evangelicalism wrestles with how best to protect children and hold leaders accountable, Calvary Chapel still thinks that abstinence from alcohol while waiting for the Rapture is the critical cutting edge concern.

So yes, in some ways…nothings changed.

May 252016
 

5632ff059f1fb.imageSo… another sports story. 

As long as Michael let’s me write what I want, you guys are stuck with them.  It’s what I know.  You don’t want me writing about art or poetry or quantum physics.  Fine subjects all of them along with many others.  But if I’m going to keep a shred of credibility around here, writing about such things isn’t going to do it.  So I go with what I know.

The man’s name is Elliot Uzleac.  I had never before heard of the man when he was the main focus of a feature story on ESPN’s SportsCenter.  Uzleac was a lifelong football coach who had been an assistant at multiple high profile college programs and also the head coach at a couple mid-level college programs.  He even spent a year in the NFL.  Six years ago he retired.

However, in 2015 and at the age of 74, Uzleac decided that retirement didn’t fit him.  He decided he wanted to coach again, but this time was different.  He pursued a high school head coach opening.  And not just any high school.  A high school in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a town that once had a strong manufacturing industrial base but has fallen upon some harder times.  A high school football team that did not have a single win each of the last two years, a total of four wins over the past eight years, and had never made the playoffs in the school’s history.

When going through the interviewing process and displaying his passion for coaching, Uzleac said that he did not want to collect a salary but rather wanted it put back into the program to help improve the team equipment and facilities.  At that point, the school administrators were sure they had found the right man.

Uzleac got the job and going into the season he told his team that they were going to make not just the playoffs, but the state playoffs.  As the season played out, Benton Harbor managed to make the district playoffs for the first time in school history.  As the underdog, they won their first playoff game and advanced to the district final.  The winner would advance to the state playoffs and Benton Harbor was playing the defending state champs.  As the huge underdog in this one they ended up losing and falling just short of the coach’s goal of the state playoffs, but accomplished far more than anyone else would have ever imagined.

What this coach did for the morale and confidence of his players and everyone associated with the football program was likely immeasurable.  A man who had attained position and been successful at much higher levels reached down to a lower level to help those who were really struggling.  He forewent any salary and gave of his time and abilities when he just as easily could have been spending his time on the golf course or in some retirement villa getaway.

Often times here we bemoan the antics of some megachurch pastors and various other Christian “celebrities”. 

How they seemingly orient their time and attention around activities that will bring them more notoriety or influence or pleasure or money.  How it so often seems to be much more about “them”, than it is about their congregants or followers or people in need.

Now, we know that we are all fallen and nobody is going to do everything right and we shouldn’t be too greatly surprised by the carrying-on of these Christian “leaders”. 

However, there are so many more pastors and others in Christian service (formal and informal) who carry themselves as this football coach did. 

Those who sacrificially give of their time and abilities.  Some who could achieve “success” at “higher” levels, but instead choose to serve where there is need.  There are perhaps even some who gained lofty status and financial success but have now stepped back and are giving of their time and abilities and finances.

There are plenty of these stories out there.  They are just not well known and most aren’t glamorous to tell.  There is no ESPN SportsCenter to broadcast their stories to millions of people,  but they are out there.

Just in my own life I can think of so many examples of pastors and church leaders and family members and friends and associates who have and continue to diligently work and serve where God has placed them.   Serving where there is no noteworthy award for pastoring a small church for many years, or tirelessly working a hard job to provide for the family, or regularly taking time to serve others or meet them in their time of need.

The stories that so often catch the attention of both the media and ourselves are the exploits of the rich and famous. Sometimes there are justified reasons for why those stories should be told and brought to light. 

But for every story we hear of a megachurch pastor getting rich off the church, let’s keep in mind that there are many more stories of pastors who are working for little, many who need to work a second job just to make ends meet.  For every story we hear of a Christian celebrity saying or doing something outrageous, seemingly just to gain more attention for themselves, let’s remember that there are so many other Christians earnestly serving behind the scenes with little motive but to help others and to do what God would have them to do.

So for all of you out there who are steadfastly serving people and serving the Lord with little to no fanfare….. thank you. 

Be encouraged and stay the course.  You are much appreciated.  If I could do a big media feature story on you, I would.  But then again….. maybe you’re better off without it.                  

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

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