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.

 

May 162016
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. In light of the new uproar over transgender people and bathrooms, I don’t think it’s helpful to keep quoting Genesis; “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”(Genesis 1:27 ESV)

 

While I do believe that passage is true, it neglects to mention or take into consideration the fall.

The fall twisted, bent, and marred, every aspect of what it means to human and our sexuality was not spared in the wreckage.

It shouldn’t surprise any of us that a lot of people have issues involving sexual identity.

There is only one cure for any and all the wreckage of the fall and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ…and our main concern should be how to deliver that Gospel in a way that it can be heard.

2. I have a Facebook feed full of pastors doing tours of Israel and other foreign lands. I sure hope they all find a way to get home and get some rest before they have to go to another conference…

3. The call to boycott public schools assumes that everyone can afford private schools.  A cruel assumption for many…but not for those who can go with their “pastor” to Israel, I guess.

4. Every time evangelicals call for a boycott that never really materializes, it simply confirms the idea in the mind of corporate America that they can do what they will without consequence.

5. The early church consistently engaged a hostile culture with love and sacrifice in the face of oppression and opposition. I’m thinking that the only way they were able to do this was by being more concerned about advancing the kingdom of God than preserving or protecting those of men. I could be wrong…

6. I also had this thought that maybe if we quit lusting for temporal power the power of the Spirit might be manifest again. I was probably drunk…

7. Now that we have embraced the categories of narcissism and other personality disorders when speaking of fallen or rogue leaders we have effectively eliminated the category of “sinner”. I’m not qualified to make psychiatric diagnoses so I’ll just continue to call for repentance, not therapy. Therapy might help…after they repent and seek new professions.

8. Just as a programming note, we will be following up with more on Saeed Abedini. I think he’s in the running for being the biggest fraud in evangelicalism and as soon as I find some energy I’ll be setting forth the evidence for my assumption.

9. Heaven will be a bummer for some because I understand that there will be nothing to be pissed off about…

10. If the “gates of hell will not prevail against the church” even in in the face of cultural decline, we’d probably better start planning for the future…

 

 

May 142016
 

Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom

According to the Hours of the Day and Night

1. O Lord, deprive me not of Thy heavenly blessings;

2. O Lord, deliver me from eternal torment;

3. O Lord, if I have sinned in my mind or thought, in word deed, forgive me.

4. O Lord, deliver me from every ignorance and heedlessness, from pettiness of the soul and stony hardness of heart;

5. O Lord, deliver me from every temptation;

6. O Lord, enlighten my heart darkened by evil desires;

7. O Lord, I, being a human being, have sinned; do Thou, being God, forgive me in Thy lovingkindness, for Thou knowest the weakness of my soul.

8. O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy holy Name;

9. O Lord Jesus Christ, inscribe me, Thy servant, in the Book of Life, and grant me a blessed end;

10. O Lord my God, even if I have done nothing good in Thy sight, yet grant me, according to Thy grace, that I may make a start in doing good.

11. O Lord, sprinkle on my heart the dew of Thy grace;

12. O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, Thy sinful servant, cold of heart and impure, in Thy Kingdom.

13. O Lord, receive me in repentance;

14. O Lord, leave me not;

15. O Lord, save me from temptation;

16. O Lord, grant me pure thoughts;

17. O Lord, grant me tears of repentance, remembrance of death, and the sense of peace;

18. O Lord, grant me mindfulness to confess my sins;

19. O Lord, grant me humility, charity, and obedience;

20. O Lord, grant me tolerance, magnanimity, and gentleness;

21. O Lord, implant in me the root of all blessings: the fear of Thee in my heart;

22. O Lord, vouchsafe that I may love Thee with all my heart and soul, and that I may obey in all things Thy will;

23. O Lord, shield me from evil persons and devils and passions and all other lawless matters;

24. O Lord, Who knowest Thy creation and that which Thou hast willed for it; may Thy will also be fulfilled in me, a sinner, for Thou art blessed forevermore. Amen.

May 142016
 

Word of GodMatthew 3:7-12

 

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

  • See how John is talking to the masses but then he singles out a particular group who now stand as his congregation.
  • Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees?
  • (Here you will need to Google or study on your own as I don’t have enough space to elaborate – but we can discuss in the comments.)
  • Then follows a confrontation. I find it interesting that John didn’t begin with “we would like to welcome our honored guests this week – some fine leaders in our community.” – nope, not gonna happen.
  • Brood of vipers – what is a viper?
  • What brought you out of your holes? He is asking “What is your real motive for being here?”
  • What was the wrath? Where did they hear of this wrath to come?

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

  • Acts 2:37-39 – When someone comes with a troubled heart. What is the solution offered by Peter? “Repent and be baptized”
  • Why? For the forgiveness of sin and to receive the Holy Spirit.
  • Who is this for? ALL
  • What is the result of being repented of your sin? Forgiveness; Receiving God’s Grace and Bearing Fruit
  • He sees these Pharisees coming but how can he judge the genuineness of their action? “Show me the fruit!”
  • What is Bearing Fruit? What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit? Gal 5:22-23.
  • What are the works of the flesh? Gal 5:19-21
  • Something to think about – we do not produce our own good fruit. It is not if we try harder to live the good life that these fruit will just appear. It is Jesus’ good fruit which He brings forth in us and through us.
  • Who controls the bearing of the fruit? – A must read – John 15:1-6
  • We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to produce fruit.

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

  • Now we come to the beginning of the condemnation
  • “And do not presume to say to yourselves …” don’t you just hate it when someone reads your mind?
  • In general give this a thought – Matt 21:23-27
  • “And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
  • This often gets passed over because of the bigger question of authority
  • Note that Jesus was not asking “what do you think of John?” – but what do you think of the Baptism of John?
  • What do you think of baptism? Is it from man or heaven above?
  • This is a discussion we have with our Baptist friends and all those who hold to decision theology and believer’s baptism.
  • Abraham as our Father – In this instance your lineage does you no good.
  • The Jews did not think that they needed to be baptized because they had Abraham – this definitely was not going to be an easy sell.
  • There are only 2 religions in the world
  • ) The religion of Human Achievement = Pharisees & Sadducees
  • ) The religion of Divine Accomplishment = Jesus
  • To them they were saved by the delivering merits of their Fathers.
  • They had their own Treasury of Merit.

10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

  • Even now you are being judged – judgment is present – not just some far off time.
  • The king comes for 2 purposes – to save and to judge
  • Is it possible for a good tree to not bear fruit? (hint: NO!)
  • “into the fire” – hell
  • Judgment – in case it slipped by you, this is a very strong statement.
  • Who is getting cut off here? A Christian?
  • The good fruit does not come from your good works but by Christ’s work through you
  • “In Christ” you are connected to the vine.
  • Not “in Christ” = not connected to the vine – no fruit
  • Now we see the fire – v. 10 – 11 – 12 end with fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

  • What does the scripture say? Baptism is for repentance – it repents you.
  • The coming king is greater than me (John)
  • In comparison, I am not even of a servant’s status.
  • There are not 2 different baptisms – one of water one of the spirit
  • There are 3 elements in the ONE baptism.
  • ) John’s baptism = preparation
  • ) Holy Spirit baptism = Christ’s coming, he baptizes the Church
  • ) Fire = The result of his return.
  • Is the power in the water? NO!! it is in the word. This is how the word is applied to the person – physically.

12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

  • “…and gather his wheat into the barn,” We have this consolation
  • Note that this very much sounds as if baptism is that winnowing. That somehow through baptism this separation is made.
  • What is winnowing? Separating the good from the bad.
  • Why would you want to separate? Because you want to save the good – put it in the barns / silos.
  • The good grain goes into the granary = heaven
  • The bad grain and / or the chaff goes into the fire = hell.
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