Michael

Nov 102017
 

I just got out of bed after another night of little sleep.

Part of that is physical problems, some of it mental stress, but most of it is Chester.

As has been noted previously here, Chester wants to go outside.

Chester wants to do so as much as he wants to breathe.

Especially at night…

To facilitate his desire, he cries.

He howls.

He occasionally gets on my bed and screams in my face.

When he’s not doing those things, he’s looking for secret exits.

Perhaps there’s one behind the TV.

He pushes the TV on the floor to find out.

Perhaps there’s an opening behind the bookcases.

This necessitates pushing all the books, pictures, and knick knacks on the floor for a better view.

Maybe behind the headboard…which is also full of books.

Those fall on my head.

Could be in the bathroom…where I found all my toiletries in the toilet this morning.

Failing to find an opening, he resumes ripping up the carpet to tunnel under the door.

This happens every night, all night, except for the three or four hours he sleeps.

This morning, about 3:30 AM I informed him that I was getting rid of him as soon as I was awake enough to drive.

Enough is enough.

He’s out of here.

Except he isn’t.

While I will keep looking for solutions, I’ll never get rid of him.

I chose him, I adopted him, and for better or (God forbid) even worse, he’s my cat.

He’s also a living picture of my relationship with God.

I am Chester.

About the only time I’m not sinning is when I’m asleep.

I’m always looking for an out to escape some holy precept when I’m awake.

I’ve been known to leave a trail of carnage where ever I go.

I don’t think I’m worth the sacrifice or trouble, but He does.

He has chosen me, adopted me, and I’m His kid.

He will never leave or forsake me.

My name is written in the palm of His hand.

All of this applies to you.

Chester too…

It’s not about your performance, it’s about your relationship…

Chester just laid down…I’m grabbing a nap while I can…

Make your own application…

 

Nov 092017
 

Romans 12:1-2 is perhaps one of the best condensed passages that describe what it means to live out the gospel. 

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

You have the living sacrifice of the cross as we are in Christ. You have a life that is in, but not of, this world. You have the old life becoming new as the result of new thinking.

You have all of this then put into practice in such a way that it’s a demonstration of the good and complete will of God.

Very heady stuff. Sounds amazing, but how do we do this? What does it look like? It isn’t a list of “do these specific actions” and “don’t do these.” It’s about new patterns. It’s about learning how to evaluate your everyday actions in light of these things. 

To help me remember a way to make these evaluations, I came up with an acronym based on the word RENEW that encompasses these two verses.

Release

This has to do with presenting our bodies, ourselves. The word “present” in context means to present and keep on presenting. In fact, the rest of this passage is a description of what it looks like to present ourselves. We need to look at what we need to release to the Lord as a sacrifice. Most of the time we don’t know we are holding something back that we need to Release. I’ll bet if we ask Him He will tell us.

We can ask ourselves, “What did I keep back from The Lord this week that I need to make available to Him?” 

Evaluate

“Do not be conformed to this world.” I love that word “conformed.” It’s a word picture of a malleable material like Pla-Doh. Pla-Doh can be conformed into just about any shape. The world has a shape. If we are intentionally or otherwise being pressed into the world, we will take on the world’s shape. Paul tells us to not let that happen. 

We can ask ourselves, “What about me this week was shaped more like the world and less like Jesus? Can it be reshaped, or do I need to get rid of it?”

Notice

“But be transformed.” Instead of being Pla-Doh we are to be transformed into something else entirely. The classic illustration of this is a caterpillar into a butterfly, which to me is still an amazing thing to watch. It’s noticeable. Maybe not immediately, but over time it becomes very apparent.

We can ask ourselves, “What did I do this week that was less like the old me and more like Jesus in me?”

Exchange

“By the renewing of our minds.” The mechanism of our transformation is the renewing of our minds. As we Exchange old ways of thinking for God’s new ways of thinking, as we Exchange how we process the events in and around our lives, we are being transformed into something new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

We can ask ourselves, “How was my thinking changed this week and how was that reflected in changed actions, or reactions?”

Walk

“That you may prove and do the will of God.” To prove something means to demonstrate the truth of the thing. It means to live it out because it’s true, not try to find evidence and academically provide proof of it. God’s will is good. God’s will is perfect, complete, not lacking anything. Paul is telling us that our lives are to be a demonstration that God’s will is good and lacks nothing.

We can ask ourselves, “What does God want me to learn from Him and then live out this week? How can I demonstrate the reality of what God is doing in me?”

Hopefully this helps provide others with some practical tools to live out the gospel. 

RENEW is a part of the Sunday process found in The Rhythm Journal which is something I originally developed for myself and decided to share with others. It is currently on Kickstarter, but the campaign ends Friday, November 10th and Noon Pacific time. If you are interested in more patterns and rhythms you can develop in your life, please check it out and consider backing a journal or two. Thanks, Michael, for the chance to share again.

Nov 092017
 

Durable Faith (John 4:46-54)

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.” (John 4:46-53)

In this story, the Evangelist carefully recorded the faith of the official at three different times, to draw our attention and teach us the nature of faith and how it grows.

Faith through the Gospel fully brings Christ with all his gifts home to each individual. There is only “one faith” (Eph 4:5), which is given not in parts but as a whole to every Christian, whether a child or St. Paul. This faith receives the same grace of God.

Yet the Bible distinguishes between strong and weak faith, between having something and firmly keeping hold of it. For example, Paul singled out Abraham as a man who grew strong in faith (Rom 4:20). Conversely, Jesus frequently chastised His disciples for their weak faith (e.g., Matt 8:26). The difference between strong and weak faith is not whether strong faith receives the gift of salvation while weak faith does not (both receive the same salvation), but whether or not faith is durable enough to withstand the trials of life.

“When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” (John 4:47)

The official had heard the Gospel that Jesus had compassion for His people and willingly helped every person brought to him. His faith laid hold of that, and was the reason he went to Jesus. The journey from Capernaum to Cana was about 15 miles, which the man himself made while his son was gravely ill. He would not have left his son and made the journey unless he believed that Jesus would help him. The man’s faith was strong enough to believe that if he could bring Jesus into his home, Jesus would heal his son.

“So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4:48)

The man must have been distraught by the harsh rebuke from Jesus. Although His answer was not absolutely “no,” Jesus at first showed no compassion for the man or his son. The man’s affliction, however, was not without purpose. Jesus dealt severely with him to show him an imperfection in his faith, that it was still weak. The man had faith only in what he could see and experience in the presence of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus exercised his faith to bring it to a stronger level.

“The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ ” (John 4:49)

The man confessed belief in Jesus, but admitted his faith was tied to what he might see from the presence of Jesus. If Jesus did not come with him into his home to help his son, he would die. In other words, the man’s faith still grasped only what it could see.

Probably greatest example of the disciples’ weak faith is Thomas, who despite many witnesses said: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25) Jesus knew that if He was going to the Father’s right hand and His Church was to proclaim the kingdom of God to all nations, He would have to give us firm faith in what is not seen. Such a faith does not come all at once.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” (John 4:50)

The Word of God is not a human word, or rather it is a Divine word wrapped in human words. What distinguishes God’s Word from purely human words is that it accomplishes what it says. Therefore, when Jesus said “Go; your son will live,” His Word accomplished two ends: it healed the man’s son; and it raised the man himself to a stronger level of faith: “The man believed the word….”

If we want to know Christ and the grace of God, we must seek Him in His Word. Similarly, if we want to lead someone to Christ, we must lead Him to Christ through His Word. Through the Gospel, God grants to faith all His gifts and promises, including faith itself; it is a faith which does not rely on our senses or subjective feelings.

Faith in the Gospel promises is superior to faith in our feelings, because God’s Word is trustworthy and unchanging, whereas feelings are untrustworthy and subjective. As human beings, it is true that emotions are a gift from God and part of our humanness, which we can enjoy and should not repress. However, emotions have a proper lane, just as faith also has its lane, and our emotions should never cross over into the lane reserved for faith. In the lane of faith we should cling solely to the Gospel.

The Gospel, for example, says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God loved the world (which includes you and me) by sending Jesus to die and atone for the sins of the world, and there is nothing our feelings can add or subtract from this objective truth. Moreover, whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. The “whoever” also includes you and me, and, again, there is nothing our feelings can add or subtract from that objective truth. As if that were not clear enough, Jesus expressly desires to save all of us: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3)

So despite what our feelings may tell us at any particular time about ourselves or God, we must ignore them when it comes to faith and trust the Gospel alone. The Gospel says that everything required for our salvation has been accomplished for us solely by Christ. We did not earn it; we do not deserve it; and we cannot undue it. All we can do is believe it: God your Father now forgives you all your sins!

“As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he himself believed, and all his household.”

The Evangelist tells us that the man again believed after he learned that his son had recovered and that the healing occurred at the moment when Jesus said: “Your son will live.” Here the man experienced the further strengthening of faith, which follows suffering, when God comes to our aid and confirms our faith in His Word. This strengthening of faith then prepares us for the future, to believe and fully expect God’s help again when the next trial comes or at the hour of death. Paul, no stranger to suffering, also saw its benefits for faith: “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4).

The man’s entire household also believed in Jesus. The man went from a believer in signs to a strong believer in God’s Word. He now had the faith to share the living and active Word with His household, and it accomplished its purpose in them as well. May the Word of Christ dwell richly in each of us, both now and forever. Amen.

[T]hese are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) Amen.

Nov 082017
 

Last night we had a difficult conversation with T.

He’s fifteen and fifteen is hard.

You don’t know who you are yet, but you’re not wanting anybody else to define your identity…especially parents.

You look at everyone around you and you look at the culture to help you make your own choices.

Our conversation was around video games and what loosely passes for “music” these days.

He wanted to play a game that his friends all play online.

They really want him to play with him.

He wants to be accepted by his peers.

The game is nothing more than virtual murder practice.

“You only shoot bad guys…”

I felt defiled even hearing about it.

We said no…what you put in in your mind is what comes out.

Murder in, murder out.

The music is worse.

“Gangsta” rap is not some celebration of ethnic culture as much as a tool to totally destroy any culture, youth first.

I don’t give a damn who that offends…

You can’t put violence, disrespect, and misogyny, to music and expect a non violent, respectful, response from those who ingest it audibly.

We said no, again.

In doing so we pretty much isolated a kid who already feels alone.

When I got home there came the news from not far away of a 16 year old boy who slaughtered his family.

He shot them.

16.

He may as well be 100 because his life is now every bit as over as those he killed.

We will have more discussions about the guns and we should.

People will want to know if he was medicated with psychotropic drugs and that’s worth discussing.

What we won’t ask is who his favorite musical artists are or what his hobbies were.

We won’t even consider what impact the things we glorify as entertainment and cultural expression did to help bring him to this moment.

We won’t ask because the answer might indict all of us.

Maybe a lot of us have blood on our hands.

Maybe a lot of the things we celebrate are as deadly as assault rifles.

Maybe we really celebrate violence as a culture.

Maybe we need to ask different questions…

Nov 082017
 

Sometime in the near future (I’m working on the paperwork) I will be applying for 501(c) 3 status for this site and the other ministries I’m involved in or hoping to be involved in.

Phoenix Preacher Ministries will include our online presence and (God willing) the start of a new Anglican community here locally.

There are some other plans in prayer as well.

That will mean if we’re granted non-profit status that donations will be tax deductible.

I’m hoping we’ll have this early next year.

God has granted us a platform for over 15 years and this is the best way to grow that platform and make it possible for me to keep it thriving.

In the meantime, we can really use your help now.

Support our advertisers…especially when they are part of the online community.

EricL features his books and services up on the top right side of the blog and helps me often with our Linkathon.

We have a “trilogy” of devotional books based on my Friday TGIF columns available now.

“Make Your Own Application” Vol 1-3 can be purchased through iTunes,  Amazon ,and  Barnes and Noble

You can also make direct donations via PayPal using the “donate” button on the top left side of the site.

We covet your continued prayers and participation for what we do here.

Thank you for your help and support.

I can always be reached at phoenixpreacher@gmail.com with your questions or concerns.

 

Nov 082017
 

The Calvary Chapel Association International Pastors Conference is taking place as we speak at CC Golden Springs.

People have been checking in to see what I have to say about the gathering.

The truth is that there is not much more to say than I’ve already said.

 

 

The first piece I listened to was a panel discussion to kick off the event…which exemplified the theme of the event “Old Paths & Good Ways”.

Emphasis on the “Old Paths”…

They want the clan to believe they are the group that Chuck Smith anointed to take the reins.

They added more stories about the origin of the council to back their claim.

The distinctives are non negotiable.

They are of Chuck and they are Chuck to the rest of their share of the movement.

To be honest, I’m not going to listen to much of this conference.

I’m not going to comment on much of it, as I’ve already documented why the rank and file should have healthy doubts about the integrity of these leaders.

This was a split that never had to happen.

There was a time when I truly believed that there was value in finding and reporting the truth to those gathered at conferences like this.

Time has proven that they can’t handle the truth.

Perhaps we’ll all get raptured before that matters…

 

Nov 072017
 

1. I think we live in Babylon and believe it to be Jerusalem…

2. Our estimation of the character of the brethren is too often based on their political affiliations, not who they may truly be…

 

3. If God raises up another prophetic voice or voices to the church, they will end up as all prophets do…

4. If my personal beliefs and ethics contradict that of the church, it’s not the church that is supposed to change…

5. The “inclusive” churches are dying. If faith is truly that important to the LGBTQ crowd you’d think they’d pack them out. They don’t.

6. The holiday season is my annual recreation of the Bataan death march. That’s the last time I’ll mention it…

7. I prefer the company of those who are a little strange…

8. Christianity always suffers from syncretism with the surrounding culture…finding the Gospel requires parsing between the two…

9. “They will know us by our love” is a continual indictment against me…and I’m not alone…

10. That indictment is followed by “if you only love those who love you,what benefit is that to you?”…thankfully, He said nothing about those who only love their cats…

Nov 072017
 

The necessity of community…

Should you pledge allegiance?

What is legalism?

Toward a recovery of Christian dying…

The faith of the killable people…

Luther goes global…

Governmental theory of atonement…

The world is ruled by violence…

Heaven is earthy…

The canons of Elvira and the Nashville Statement…

The marks of a Christians mind…

How the largest white Presbyterian church turned multi ethnic…

How to find a great small church…

Texas churches may put armed volunteers in the pews…

Easy believism?

Why writers write…

Is it primitive or infantile to believe in God?…

Our misguided war on legalism…

Billy Grahams birthday…

Can we transcend the Reformation?

Gods love must be earned and other lies we believe…

Blessed are those who mourn…

The church as mother…

How domestic violence threatens the church…

Questioning hell…

False dilemmas between faith and science…

Who needs church membership?…

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

 

Nov 062017
 

Dreams and Visions

…Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions…”

Joel 2:28

“Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”

Sen. Robert Kennedy

 

I have a good friend who likes to dream.  When she was a young girl, she somehow captured a small room under the stairs in her parents’ house.  It’s where she went to create. There she would do drawings, design clothes for herself and her friends, read, and clip illustrations from magazines and pin them to the wall.  Always, though, she would dream – dream of what she would create next, dream of the future and what it might hold for her.  Today, with a busy life as an executive, she finds it more difficult to find the place and time for dreaming.  She recognizes, however, that dreaming is not a luxury but a necessity. So, there is one place that she has found suitable – in the air.  On an airplane, with no distractions, flying 30,000 feet above the ground, she can once again dream and she knows that those dreams will help to shape the future. 

Note that I say her dreams are oriented toward the future.  My dreams are all to often oriented toward the past (a failing of church historians), but, then again, I’ve always considered my friend to be smarter than myself. 

Might I suggest, especially to the more mature (I hate to use the word, “old”) readers of this article, that these days we are sadly lacking in dreams.  The quotation from Robert Kennedy (cribbed from George Bernard Shaw) seems to apply to many of us these days… or at least the first half of the quote – “Some men see things as they are and say, why…”  We are constantly looking around us at what is happening, from the profound to the mundane, and asking, “Why?”.   Evangelicals and Trump… Why? The loss of a younger generation in the Church… Why?  The decline of so many religious institutions… Why? The failure of church leaders… Why? The breakdown of moral standards… Why? 

Indeed, if one wishes to have a successful blog, you should ask all the “Why?” questions you are able to summon… and you should be angry when you ask them.  You will attract an audience.  People will be more than willing to share comments, as they will share in your anger or your outrage. A slight problem with this model, however, is that for such readers you must continue to serve up “red meat” on a continuing basis.  Now, admittedly, there is much that can be served up out of the present cultural milieu.  Yet, I wonder, are we missing something here?

There are many blog sites in which it seems that at least every other article is a denunciation of same sex marriages, LGBTQ issues, financial miscreants, denominational misconduct, or the sexual transgressions of church leaders.  Maybe there is value in looking at all these issues and asking, “Why?”. Yet, might I suggest that the value is limited.  The New Testament Church was born and grew in a world of rampant immorality, political violence, gladiatorial games, cruel public executions, theistic pluralism and religious persecution.  Also, it is without doubt that some of the early Christian communities had real internal issues with regard to moral issues, false teachers and all the rest. Yet, while certain of these subjects are touched upon in the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, they do not form the core of the New Testament. Instead, we see the presentation of Christ in all his glory in the Gospels, a history of the growth of the Church in Acts, the pastoral guidance of early believers in the Epistles and the glorious consummation of the Revelation.  There is actually very little asking, “Why?” when it comes to the surrounding culture.  They knew “why” – it is a fallen world.  They had moved on. They were looking for a new creation. They realized, as my old friend Larry Norman used to sing, “This world is not my home.”

“I dream things that never were and say, why not.” 

J.I. Packer famously wrote, “You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.”  I would expand that thought slightly to include the Church as the primary vehicle to disseminate that knowledge.  The apostolic writers dreamed of something that never was and said, “why not?”  They lived their lives and, indeed, gave their lives, for Christ and the Church as the unique vehicle of that knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.  

Now, obviously, there is much more that could be said and discussed concerning the central message of the apostolic writers, but, nevertheless, almost two-thirds of the New Testament is directed toward the Church… or local churches… or individuals involved with the Church.  Moreover, for every reference to the culture of the day there are twenty references to how Christians were to interact with each other and, indeed, the world at large and very little had to do with the issues that provide “red meat” for so many blogs today.

My wish, my hope, my prayer, is that those of us who are mature in the faith (whether old or young) might turn ourselves from the “hot button” issues of the day, constantly asking, “Why?”, and begin to dream of something better, asking, “Why not?”.    Moreover, just as the first generation of Christians dreamed their dreams of the spread of the Gospel throughout the world, their followers in the second and third generations were given a vision to do just that. Our faith is a faith of both dreams and visions.

I wonder, are we, like my friend, taking the time to dream?  Are we passing those dreams on to those following behind us so that they might have the vision to make those dreams realities.  Perhaps even more to the point, are we acting on our dreams?  If we dream of the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer for the unity of the Church, what are we doing to promote that unity?  If we dream of a Church in which Biblical literacy is the norm, rather than the exception, what are we doing to make that happen?  There are so many dreams to be dreamed – dreams of Christian compassion, a rebirth of Christian charity in thought and deed, the fostering of a knowledge of the rich history of the Church and so much more. Yet, instead of dreaming and acting with the future in mind, all too often we spend our time, energy, intellect and passion on momentary “hot button” issues. All too often, we wait to have our anger and indignation aroused by the “red meat” offered day by day, week by week and year by year, presented by those who are content to keep us in the fruitless pursuit of asking “Why?”.

For myself, I know the clock is ticking.  There are many fewer years before me than behind.  Like my friend, I want to dream and as I dream say, “Why not?”

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

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