May 062016
 

When I received my medical diagnosis, I set about to do what I thought was the right thing.

I began preparing to die.

My father died after the same surgery I will have to undergo, so I figured time was short.

Because I’m a pastor and a family man, I had to get this right.

I’m supposed to demonstrate how to croak well.

There was all manner of spiritual and emotional work that had to be done.

There were projects to finish as well, things I didn’t want to leave undone.

I did all this pretty well.

Too well.

I was so busy  preparing to die that I forgot that I was still alive.

I was living as if I was already gone.

As with most things in my life, I took this dying thing too far.

Upon recognizing this (with the help of godly counsel and a foot in my backside) I made a course correction.

I’m still here and God willing, will be for some time longer.

I’m here, by the grace of God, to live life as fully as possible.

Still, there are some things I learned about living while getting ready to die.

We’re all dying, only some of us are really living.

As Bowden wrote;”some of the dead are still breathing”.

God is faithful.

Life is precious.

Life is good.

I will be remembered by those I hugged, not those I debated.

I don’t regret anything I gave away… except time to foolish people and diversions.

Time is your most valuable currency…spend it wisely and mostly with people who are your treasures as well.

Today is a gift.

There is always something to give thanks about.

Always.

I wouldn’t mind staying a while longer…

Make your own application…

May 052016
 

Our dear friend Nonnie’s grandson Bennet is in open heart surgery as we publish this.

The whole family covets your prayers for the big little guy.

We join in with prayers for a successful surgery, complete healing, and God’s peace for all involved.

May 052016
 

flag_and_Bible-300x199The single biggest lie that American evangelicals believe is that the United States is their home and birthright, covenantally given to them by God.

The truth of the matter is that no country has had such a covenantal application since ancient Israel.

 

God’s people are, in reality, a people in exile no matter where they live today.

Stephen Grabil articulates the reality well;

“Being in “exile” means that God’s people live somewhere other than their true home. For example, God’s people were in “exile” when they were banished from the Garden, lived as slaves in Egypt, and were carted off to Babylon. Similarly, after the resurrection of Christ, God’s people were scattered throughout the world to live as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11). So, too, for Christians today.”

We are no more called to “take America back for Christ”, than our ancestors were called to take back Rome or Babylon.

It will be the sad lot of those trying to take America back for Jesus this year to leave the task in the hands of a misogynist owner of casinos and strip clubs who they believe has a credible profession of faith despite much evidence to the contrary.

Praise the Lord, double down on black, and make it rain for the ladies…

Some of us are exiled twice…because we don’t line up completely with the views of the “Christian” party, our brethren consign us to a category of lesser believers, if they consider us brethren at all.

This is a good thing…it keeps one from their form of idolatry.

My soul will not be troubled by the prospect of either candidate, nor will I baptize them as Christian flag bearers.

I will live as an exile while looking for a city not built with hands.

Living as an exile does not mean living as one oblivious to the culture…it is living in such a way that the kingdom of God is infused into that culture.

““Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

(Jeremiah 29:3–7 ESV)

Living as an exile means knowing what nation you belong to…and which nation does have the promises of  God.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

(1 Peter 2:9–17 ESV)

Empires come and pass…but the Word and promises of God are eternal.

May 042016
 

gun-control-210x210So, I’ve taken on politics several times. 

I’ve done drinking and just last week touched on the transgender issue and restrooms.  

Hmmm….. what can I write about next? 

How about guns?  🙂

In all seriousness, however, my thoughts were spurred by this recent terrible incident in my local area.

A little over a week ago on a Sunday morning in a suburban evangelical church as people were gathering for the start of the service, there was a disturbance regarding seating.  Apparently a man became upset when told he was sitting in a seat reserved for somebody else.  Another man observing the disturbance reportedly decided to take the situation into his own hands and approached the upset man and indicated that he had a gun.  The upset man punched the man with the gun who in turn shot and killed the upset man.

This is a preposterous tragedy no matter how one looks at it.  I have not seen details as to whether or not the gun was legally owned or carried (although reports seem to indicate that it was all legal) or if the shooter and victim had a bad history with each other or if the shooter had a criminal and/or mental health history.  In the end, it was a senseless act of deadly violence that has left families and a community grieving.  In a church, no less.

The gun issue is undeniably divisive in our country.  Every time there is a shooting that garners national attention, the polar opposite sides of the argument rage at each other.  Attacks and insults and accusations of heinous motives are thrown from one side to the other.  Those who are pro-gun are labeled as hateful, violent, immoral, morons.  Those who favor stricter gun control are labeled as delusional, elitist, autocratic fools.  And these are the nice terms.  The pejoratives have no end.

What people often fail to acknowledge when they get caught up in this argument, whether intentional or not, is that the other side is usually trying to accomplish a pretty similar end. 

Now, the means are quite different, but most times the main goal of both sides is to reduce the occurrences of violent and deadly tragedies.

But no, we can’t admit this while attacking the other side for their foolishness.  We cannot admit whenever they have a legitimate point.  We must just keep blasting away at their real or perceived weaknesses.

No, we must never acknowledge that many of these mass shootings have occurred in gun free zones and potentially could have been stopped or reduced in size (or some maybe never would have even happened in the first place) if people would had been allowed to carry or armed security had been in place.  And no, we must never acknowledge that many of the foolish shootings like this one in the church may very well never happen in the first place if we had stricter gun controls and more gun free zones and far fewer people carrying around guns.  No, we must win this argument and so we can never cede any ground to the other side.

I don’t know how many times I have seen articles posted on social media with completely misleading, if not libelous headlines.  I rarely take the time to actually read the articles as the headlines are telling enough.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen articles where President Obama any day now is going to declare all guns illegal and the government is going to come and confiscate all our guns.  Conversely, there are articles that seemingly portray all would be right with the world if we just got rid of guns and locked up all those gun enthusiasts. 

What is most discouraging is when I see Christians displaying the same behavior on the issue.  When winning the argument trumps any tactic we take to win the argument.  When the right to own guns with little to no governmental oversight is treated like it is some kind of God-given directive.  When uninhibited gun ownership slides in just behind Jesus on the importance scale.  When the need to condescend to pro-gun advocates ranks right up there with the need to condescend to child molesters or serial rapists.

Now certainly there are many people who handle this issue maturely.  Not nearly all act like I described in these scenarios.  It is more than understandable that an issue like guns can raise passions.  There is nothing wrong with passion.  But it cannot be an excuse to act wrongly.

In the end, I believe most people are trying to achieve the same ends.  That being of reducing unnecessary and wrongful deaths and violence.  I know there are governmental rule implications, too.  Philosophies that will butt heads in these regards.  I still see the overall goal for both sides is to accomplish the best for the citizens, and that would include a heavy emphasis on their safety and protection.  And yes, there are plenty of ulterior motives that come into play in all this debate and argumentation.  Some motives purer than others.  But again, I see the overall desired end of both sides as being the same for the most part and at most times.

Maybe if we’re more willing to acknowledge, listen, and understand the other side rather than always trying to attack and demonize them, we will actually get somewhere in progressing toward a safer society.  No, we will never reach a panacea.  We wait for Jesus for that time to come.  In the meantime, we surely can do better.

I write this article not to argue about guns.  Rather to talk about how we talk about guns.  Or really any divisive issue for that matter.  Although we often fail, one would hope that Christians would be able to model honorable behavior in this debate.  Let us aim to be fair and just and compassionate.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:17

May 032016
 

timthumb.phpThe church is for losers…

The importance of the ascension…

Good News Club bullies?

Was the Apostle Paul a male chauvinist?

How to become a heretic…

Was the Tower of Babel a historical event?

13 end times errors to avoid…

Orthodox churches being targeted?

The United Methodist church in freefall…

Escaping Scientology…

Couples that pray together,stay together…

Six qualifications for elders that Paul neglected to mention…

K-LOVE making bank…

What’s your label?

What is fundamentalism?

The dysfunction of the charismatic church…

Taking on the Rapture…

Beyond spiritual hoarding…

Chinas plans for Christianity…

An American war on Christianity?

Wenatchee on the prophet/priest/king model…

Inside Bethel…

Puritans on the Potomac…

Does church architecture matter?

Excellent bibliography on Saeed Abedini…will come in handy when the other shoe drops.

Is America a Christian nation?

Huge thanks as always to EricL…support him at top right.

May 022016
 

_end-of-the-world_2433119bGreg Laurie has written yet another piece on the “end times” for the Christian Post.

“Pastor Greg Laurie pulled no punches in his warning to congregants of California-based Harvest Christian Fellowship Church Thursday night, explaining that Christians are living in the last days and tougher times lay ahead, in a message based on the Bible’s book of Revelation 6-19 titled “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

“We are living in the last days and, yes, the worst is yet to come,” said Laurie, listing major signs of the end times: “Antichrist. Armageddon. The great tribulation period. The four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

The historic Doomsday Clock is ticking ever closer to global catastrophe, Laurie explained, saying according to scientists, it registers “3 minutes ’til Doomsday,” when it says the world will experience a nuclear Armageddon.”

The main evidence given by Laurie is that of the Iran-Israel conflict.

This pretty much ignores the fact that Israel has the ability to nuke Iran into the Stone Age should the need arise.

Are things today worse than they’ve ever been?

Let’s look at another year…1918.

The world is at war.

Technology has enabled weaponry advances that create casualties at a rate unknown before in history.

By the time the war is over at least 15 million people are dead.

The seeds of future conflicts, including those in the Middle East, are planted.

Those war numbers pale in comparison to the 50 million people who die in a worldwide influenza epidemic.

Antibiotics and modern surgical techniques are still decades away from common use…so the death rate from (now) curable disease is off the charts.

Freedom of speech is legally curtailed by Congress to suppress criticism of American involvement in the war.

German immigrants are looked at with hostility and suspicion; “In the wake of the declaration of war, Wilson classified German immigrants over the age of fourteen as enemy aliens who had to surrender all firearms and wireless radios, as well as register for Selective Service so the government could monitor their whereabouts. They were also prohibited from living next to military installations. Schools banned German-language instruction, orchestras stopped playing German music in public, and towns drew up laws that prevented aliens from voting.”

The traditional Christian church is at war with German higher criticism and the historic mainline churches are abandoning the “fundamentals” of the faith.

It was a difficult time in history…but Jesus didn’t return.

The Apostle Peter said we were already in the end times 2000 years ago.

I believe that.

I also believe there have been much more difficult times to live in, with much greater “signs” than we see now.

Might I suggest that instead of trying to convince people of how bad things are that we give thanks for how incredibly good things are in comparison?

Granted, it won’t sell books or generate click bait, but it may please Jesus enough to come pick us up sooner than later…

May 022016
 

jesus_walks_on_water-300x200Stay in the Boat!

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matt 14:28-31)

It’s amusing that the disciple whose name means “rock” thought he could walk on water. What was Peter thinking? That would have been quite an achievement, if only…. Peter ate some crow that evening.

But, someone might protest: “Jesus said ‘come’. Surely Jesus would not give Peter a command unless He also gave Peter the ability to keep it.” Should we pin failure on Peter’s lack of faith? Or, did Jesus command the impossible from Peter? But commanding the impossible is unjust; isn’t it? Surely God is not unjust!

There’s one other factor to consider. Only the right material can stay above water. It must be lighter than the water to stay on top. Peter wasn’t the right stuff to walk on water. He wanted to be the right stuff, or maybe he thought he already was the right stuff, so Peter asked for the command – to show commitment to Jesus and maybe show the other disciples who was the greatest among them. Jesus went along with Peter, and in the process taught Peter and all of us a couple valuable lessons.

We are not the right stuff.

We are like a feather with a giant rock inseparably glued to it. The rock is our sin. Our human nature is thoroughly corrupted by sin. If we attempt to come to God, we only sink under the weight of the rock of our sin. The Bible is chock-full of commandments. God’s commandments show us his holy character and perfect will for us. If we could carry out God’s commandments, we could bring ourselves to God. But, we can’t cross the water that separates us from God. We sink because of our sin. We are not the right stuff.

But there’s good news in this lesson. God’s commandments also show us something else; they show us our sin and need of a savior. When we realize that we can’t cross the water and give up trying, then we cry out for the One who can. “Lord, save me.” Once we realize we are not the right stuff, Jesus calls us blessed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3) Jesus wants us to stay in the boat where it’s safe and leave the water-walking to Him. He will come to us. He will still the wind and calm the sea.

Jesus is the right stuff.

Jesus came to save sinners. He loves to save sinners. When we feel the weight of our sin pulling us down and under, Jesus reaches down into the water, takes hold of us, and pulls us up to Him. We can’t cross the water, but Jesus can…and does…for us. He is the right stuff. In this life, we hunger and thirst for righteousness, and Jesus calls us blessed. Why? Because Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Cor 1:30) So, we can stay safely in the boat.

The Blessed Exchange.

Jesus eternally saves sinners through a blessed exchange effected through the incarnation, cross and preaching. In this exchange, Jesus takes our sin so that it cannot accuse us and gives us forgiveness so that we have His righteousness to boast in, not our own. Also called the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:13), this righteousness is outside us. We do not possess our own righteousness before God. Jesus is our righteousness. Therefore, we must stay safely in the boat. “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19b)

How do we stay in the boat? We stay in the boat by remaining in Christ and His Word. Where is the boat? His Church is our boat. Jesus will pilot us across the water to dry land. Through storms and tempests, winds and rain, He will keep us safe. So, fellow travelers, let’s rejoice in our Captain and enjoy the boat ride together.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a

May 022016
 

Bowdendrawing.jpgFebruary 3, 1959 has been immortalized as “the day the music died”.

That was the day that Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash.

For songwriter Don McClean the tragedy symbolized the “loss of innocence” of early rock and roll.

For me, August 30, 2014 was the day that journalism died.

That was the day that Charles Bowden passed away.

It was also the day my heart stopped functioning properly, quite literally broken by the news.

Bowden hated the term journalist…he was a reporter.

“I don’t keep a (expletive) journal”, he would growl.

He had contempt for American corporate journalism and “journalists” because they were mouthpieces for power…while in Latin America reporters were giving their lives to speak truth to power.

Bowden reported what he saw and he sought the truth no matter the cost to himself.

He was unafraid of those in power and he couldn’t be bought…he died almost penniless.

He raged against falsehood and injustice…”attention must be paid” he said, echoing the words of another writer.

His concern was for the victims of power, not power itself.

He was, I think, the last of his kind.

That is why my mourning has known no end.

I mourn especially because the Christian community has never had a Bowden to lose and we are “informed” by spineless toadys whose only goal is to create web traffic, sales, and income.

Christianity Today, The Christian Post, and the Assist News Service, are just a few examples of the baptized media whores who prop up and protect the wolves that are eating evangelicalism from the inside out.

They do so to protect the bottom line, not the people of God.

“Investigative reporting” is left to that most loathsome of creatures, the blogger.

Contrary to popular belief, bloggers don’t have “organizations”, nor do they have expense accounts, nor do they profit from their work unless they sell out the same way that “legitimate” journalism does.

They don’t often do so…they rarely have the opportunity to do so if they wished to.

When the last stories about Saeed Abedini and Gospel For Asia are finally written they will be an embarrassment to power and those who wrote about it in the mainline Christian media.

Those stories will also be an embarrassment to all those in power who covered for them.

I believe they are already an embarrassment to God.

In the end, it will have been the blogger who uncovered the truth and wrote the real stories.

Their work will be stolen and unaccredited to them,rewritten and published in corporate media when safe and profitable to do so.

It will have been written out of a love for truth and the people of God who should have been protected.

It will have cost the writers, not profited them.

Perhaps “journalism” isn’t dead yet after all…God bless my fellow broken hearted bloggers in arms.

 

Apr 302016
 

Grant, O Lord, that I may face all that this new day is to bring with peace of mind.
Grant that I may dedicate myself completely to Thy holy will.
Every hour of the day, instruct and
For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things.
Whatsoever I may receive during the day, teach me to accept them tranquilly, with the firm conviction that everything cometh by Thy holy will.
Govern my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.
When unforeseen things occur, do not let me forget that everything cometh from Thee.
Teach me to behave sincerely and wisely toward every member of my family, not embittering or embarrassing others.
Grant me strength, my Lord, to bear the fatigue of the coming day and all that it shall bring.
Guide my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love, and pray Thyself in me.

Amen.

Metropolitan Filaret

Apr 302016
 

Word of GodMatthew 2:19-23

So the king has come to Bethlehem as Micah said. He has gone to Egypt as Hosea said. And he has caused weeping in Ramah by Rachel, just as Jeremiah said. Finally, in Matthew’s various presentations of pictures of the coming king from the prophets, he includes one more – Nazareth.

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

  • Josephus in his Antiquities –says he died of this: “Ulcerated entrails, putrefied and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to recovery.”
  • I would say a rather fitting end for that kind of a man.
  • How long was the holy family in Egypt? 6 mo – 3 ½ yrs.?
  • Joseph was told to go to Egypt and wait … he did.

20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

  • Back to v.13 – when the angel had said “until I tell you…” – now he is telling them.
  • Apparently, Herod wasn’t the only one. There were some others involved, and the Lord had set them aside also. We don’t have any word about that, but its plural here. “You can go back now. They are all dead.”

21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

  • Moving day!
  • Think about this – if Jesus came to die, why wasn’t he allowed to die with the massacred children? Could he have died as ‘the child/God’ vs man/God?
  • Note that there is no specific place. They just came back to Israel, undoubtedly coming from the direction of Egypt, they probably came up through the south and they would have come to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Perhaps in their thinking, that would have been the place to stay.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.

  • Son of Herod – obviously not the threat his father was.
  • I wonder how Archelaus was spared execution?

23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

  • We don’t seem to have a direct passage saying this.
  • However, all of the geo political activity was used by God to put the pieces in place … as the prophets spoke.
  • Now here’s another element in the prophecies surrounding his birth to show he was born a king. He was to go back to Nazareth. By the way, this was Joseph and Mary’s original home, wasn’t it? According to Luke 2:4, they were from Nazareth. They were to return to live out the prediction of the prophets who said he would be a Nazarene.
  • The term “Nazarene” – this statement “He shall be called a Nazarene” appears nowhere in the Old Testament.
  • Let’s read it again – “so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, – plural – ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’ ” – Where is that found?
  • If you are looking in the Old Testament for the prophets who said it, you won’t find them.
  • Some will go far and wide to try and make a connection to Isaiah 11:1 where it talks about Christ being a branch netser, which is Hebrew, and they say netser and Nazareth – it’s a bad connection.
  • Besides, you still need to deal with the prophets, plural, not just Isaiah 11:1. It is very remote that anyone would make the connection.
  • Matthew says “the prophets.” – How would you explain this?” It is simple to explain – the prophets said this. It just never got written in the Old Testament until now and it finally got written by Matthew. “- But he means the Old Testament prophets said it.
  • So the question is presented – Did the prophets say some things that didn’t get written down?” Yes, there are plenty of things that were said that weren’t written down in the Old Testament.
  • Jude v14 = “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
  • Enoch did not say this in the Old Testament. It isn’t there. How do we know he said it? Because Jude said that Enoch said it. How did Jude know? Because Jude was what? … Inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.
  • So guess who said that Jesus would be a Nazarene? The prophets said it.
  • This is beautiful – Matthew doesn’t even give a bit explanation. He just says “the prophet said, He shall be called a Nazarene,”
  • This tells me that it was common knowledge among the people – that the prophets said this about the Messiah.

 

 

 

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