May 212018
 

1. I realized this morning that we’re no closer to solutions to the school shooting crisis than when these atrocities started. We want something or someone to blame when the answer probably starts with a cultural brokenness we refuse to acknowledge. Changing architecture, pharmacology, or laws won’t fix us…I’m not sure what will…

2. I didn’t watch the Royal Wedding, nor did I object to it…it seems refreshing to see a man and a woman getting married in a church while modeling dignity and decency. Yes, that money could have been spent on the poor,but sometimes symbols are worth paying for…

3. The homily by the Episcopalian bishop has raised the ire of many…he spent a whole 13 minutes talking about the love of God at a wedding but because he neglected to speak of sin,hell, and the cross he is being roundly scorched. Was he supposed to give an altar call too?

4. There are times when I can’t help but think that some church folks are ashamed that God loves sinners…

5. One of the main teachings of the Older Testament is that God loves very dysfunctional people in the midst of their dysfunction…

6. Years and years of interacting with bad eschatology have left me with no expectation or even interest in the Second Coming…I probably should repent…

7. The Royal Wedding reminded me that I don’t have to have an opinion about everything…there’s a reason why there are 500 channels on TV…

8. If you’re partisanship demands that you always toe that line, you will end up sounding like an idiot about half the time. The MS13 gang are not the El Salvadoran Boy Scouts and you really don’t want your favorite coffee shop to be the “go to” bathroom for the homeless because that coffee shop won’t stay open very long. I like to consider myself an advocate for the immigrant, the homeless,…and sanity…

9. The only thing that made me uncomfortable about Bishop Curry’s message is that he preached it from an iPad…seemed a bit out of place…

10. While I would love to live in a culture dominated by “biblical” values, I also know that’s never going to happen. That means we have to live as that same Bible tells us…as “exiles” and “peculiar people” in a hostile land, living out and demonstrating the differences between the two kingdoms. “Peculiar” means I qualify for residence…

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

May 192018
 

The Death of Outrage and The Sickness in Our Soul

Yesterday, ten lives were lost at Santa Fe High School in Texas.  Since the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, it counts as the seventeenth school shooting. This time, however, the weapons used were not assault rifles or semi-automatic handguns, but a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver. These are the sort of guns many of us grew up with.  They are the sort of guns with which we might have actually learned to shoot in many parts of the country.  While I certainly believe in stricter gun control, universal background checks and all the rest, there is something else going on here and it involves us.

We are slowly learning not to be outraged by such tragedies.

We are increasingly becoming inured to the rising tide of violence that surrounds us.  It is not, however, merely violent acts such as school shootings that we now accept as commonplace or normal.  It is the violence of speech from politicians.  It is the violence of families separated in deportations.  It is the violence of intolerance from both the right and the left witnessed in street demonstrations.  It is the violence of men who exploit and abuse women. It is the violence of economic inequity where working families find it hard to make ends meet and frequently have to choose between food on the table and paying the rent.   It is the violence of demeaning an opponent with the casual cruelty of insults.  It is the violence of poverty in the abandoned industrial towns of Appalachia. It is the calculated violence of discrimination whereby another person created in the image of God is made out to be less than human because of their color, their national origin, their faith, their gender or their politics.

Now, with increasing regularity, that violence is put on display in the form of an alienated angry teen with a gun in his hands in a school hallway.

Oh yes, we will try to establish the individual motive of the shooter, or we will debate the availability of guns, but I think something more is going on in our society and it seems to be getting worse.

Meanwhile, as the Church, we are debating what it means to be the Church.  There are numerous church leaders, seeking political and policy advantage, who seem willing to accept the current state of affairs.  Using golf metaphors, they are willing to give certain political leaders “a pass” when it comes to blatant immorality, or to mocking a disabled reporter or a continuing stream of lies and insults.  They condone the violence of speech and, at times, amplify that speech.  Then there are others struggling to understand how the Church is to function in the current atmosphere.  Yet, even here, we find it hard to reach consensus.  We debate the relevance of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes to our current lives as believers.  We parse the words of Matthew 25 hoping that it might say something different from what it actually says.  In any case, we’re more interested in the latest denominational  (and non-denominational) scandals and we would rather discuss the finer points of soteriology or eschatology.  

We are no longer outraged by the violence of thought and action that surrounds us… and that is a problem.

The early church recognized that it bore a special responsibility toward the world. As the letter to Diognetus says:

“[Christians] pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life…To sum up all in one word–what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world.”

If, indeed, we are the soul, we cannot afford not to be outraged, no matter what that might cost us.  Yet, in my darker moments, I fear that a sickness has entered that soul… and we stand in need of healing.

Duane W.H. Arnold

The Project

May 192018
 

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May 192018
 

Revelation 9:1-12

1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.

  • We ended 8:13 with the triple woe – coming judgment
  • This blowing of the trumpet brings about a star falling from heaven – Isaiah 14:12 – “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!”
  • We will see a further description in verse 11 (Satan).
  • The bottomless pit = the Abyss – A place that is forsaken by God – Demonland – Hades (6:8).

He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.

  • The Bottomless Pit – The word literally means “without depth.” And seems to play a fairly prominent role in scripture. From several biblical references, it seems the “abyss” is a place reserved for the demonic angels. The demons expelled from the Gadarene begged Jesus “not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8:31). In Romans, the abyss is the abode of the dead (Rom 10:7; see also Ps 63:9; 71:20). In the epistles, evil angels are in “chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). In Revelation, the abyss is the origin of the beast (11:7; 17:8) and the place of Satan’s temporary incarceration (20:1-8). Here, this bottomless pit appears to be the home of demons shut up until they are released at the proper time.
  • Smoke filled the air in such quantity, it blocked the sun.

Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.

  • Think back to the plagues. This is the 8th plague on Egypt – Ex 10:4.
  • Joel 2:2-5 uses the locust as a description of the Assyrian invasion.
  • Locust Joel 1:1-12 – a description of the invasion and v.13, the purpose – repentance — sound familiar?
  • You must understand Joel to understand this Rev 9 passage – judgment is brought for the sake of what? People repenting – turning from their sin and believing in the lamb who has been slain.
  • If you do not see this as a call to repentance, it really skews your view of our Father. Rather than the one who loves and desires to save his dear children, he is vindictive – he is judgmental.
  • Now this is a divine event – it is not some natural phenomenon that can be explained by global warming or global cooling, as I am sure many today would attempt.
  • Note that this began with a star falling from the sky. This star is given the key to the bottomless pit. This is not something to be explained away – but it is an unexplainable event
  • These are demonic hoards sent by God as his agents, his instruments to do his work.

They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

  • This is not a judgment on the earth but on man – unbelieving man – worshipers of the beast of all times – past, present and future.
  • Notice how those who have God’s seal are spared? Just like in Egypt as the Israelites were not harmed by the plagues that attacked Egypt – see Ex 8-10.
  • To me, this is another anti rapture passage. Those with God’s seal and those without are still living on earth side by side.
  • God protects his own from his wrath – he does not need to remove them.

They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.

  • Five months – what is happening here? How long does the average locust live? Up to 5 months.
  • This is partial judgment so 5 months = limited time.
  • It is interesting to keep in mind how God is in charge. He sets the parameters – do not harm the grass – time limit, 5 months – all of this as he keeps focus on his work.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (but read the broader statement v.8-10.

And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

  • The people will be tormented and tortured but cannot die. They will wish they could, but they can’t.
  • Is this not a description of how despairing people are? People who believe the satanic lie that you can be as God, knowing good from evil and that you are in charge?
  • The grim wages of lusts and additions. Tiger Woods could tell us much about living under the addictions of pornography and sex. Living under the burden of sin, living with the sting of the scorpion – that fiery burning that just will not die.
  • When your false gods crash you wish you were dead.

In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,

their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;

they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.

10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.

  • After detailing their origin and their mission, John next attempts to describe what he saw in his vision. In one of the strangest passages in the entire Bible, he writes verses 7-10.
  • John saw what looked like locusts to him. He describes them in words built on real locusts but his description goes far beyond reality. This nine-fold description of the locusts in the verses above stretch John’s own apocalyptic imagination. Note the struggle with John’s continual use of the word “like”.

11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

  • They – who are the THEY? This refers to the locust like beings, but we must also apply it to the unbeliever – all unbelievers of all time – those without God’s seal.
  • Satan is their leader. How does John handle the description? With great emphasis John states his name in both Hebrew and Greek – the Destroyer.

12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.

  • Literally ‘went away’ – the idea is that the first woe has come and gone – we will see the same in 11:14.
  • This is a transitional verse between the 5th and 6th We know that these are woes as the text tells us so.
  • The next woe will run from 9:13 to 11:13 … this is a lot of woe.
  • Where is the 3rd woe identified in the 7th trumpet? It is not. Instead, John records another scene of heavenly worship at 11:15-19.
  • So the function of the 3 woes is to form a link between the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls which begin in Rev 16.

 

May 182018
 

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 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. 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! 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.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.

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.”Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”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.

(Genesis 28:9–17 ESV)

If you want to make a cat panic and feel utterly abandoned and without hope…go in the bathroom and shut the door.

Chester is sure that all who enter therein are lost forever.

He’s sure of this despite the fact that he’s seen me safely enter and exit the room a thousand times.

He sits outside the door and howls in emotional agony, occasionally gathering himself to try to ram the door open.

He does this until he can do it no more and resigns himself to fate.

When he can’t see me or see what I’m doing, he believes he’s all alone and life as he knew it is over…until he sees me again and all is well until the next time nature calls.

Sometimes I feel a lot like Chester did when I went in and showered this morning.

I can feel the same way when it seems God is silent or absent.

I think Jacob was in a similar state of mind in the story above.

He had screwed up his life, people were angry with him, and he was on the run and alone.

The potential for metaphors is rich here…

Alone.

In the desert.

In the dark.

A rock for a pillow.

Can I get a witness?

God responded to Jacob’s plight by opening his spiritual eyes to see that even though he felt abandoned and alone, in reality he had a bunch of heavenly company.

God was there with him and so were the angels…working on his behalf between heaven and earth.

The “gate of heaven” wasn’t that particular geographic location,but would be wherever Jacob was…because God was always with Jacob.

He was shown that the spiritual reality was much different from the one he could see with natural eyes.

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

My prayer this morning is that for those of us whom those metaphors resonate loudly in our spirits can have our spiritual eyes opened to these same realities.

God is with us.

He will never leave or forsake us.

He and the hosts of heaven are working for us.

His promises are true…true for me and true for you.

I pray that soon we can say with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

We didn’t know it.

We will.

He promised.

Make your own application…

 

May 172018
 

The Calvary Global Network released it’s first official podcast today…“What Is the Calvary Global Network?”

After listening, I still don’t know…

 

 

In reality, it seems to be more of an idea than an identity…which is not a bad thing, but without an identity you have nothing to belong to.

We’ll see if the concept is getting any traction by how many pastors show up for this summers conference…

Almost every day I get an email from “The Elijah List”, which is a bullhorn for the “prophetic” movement.

I’m alternately amused and disgusted by the nonsense put forth as “from God”.

This is an expose from someone who worked there…not very well written, but interesting nonetheless…

This anti “social Gospel” resolution will be offered at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention convention…

If you’re interested in helping support us now would be a good time…

 

May 172018
 

Michigan State University settled it’s sexual abuse scandal for 500 million dollars.

While we rejoice at the fact that an institution has been held accountable, we also need to look at the implications for other institutions.

My Twitter feed was full of folks warning the Protestant churches that they were “next”…after the Roman Catholic church has already made many similar, large, settlements.

What will happen in reality is a lot different…let me explain.

The people most impressed with the size of this settlement are lawyers, as they stand to be the ones who will profit the most from the misery of others.

The only churches they will attempt to “hold accountable” are ones that can line their pockets.

That means large churches or entire denominations.

Small churches simply aren’t worth their brand of justice or accountability.

The end result will be that in the broader evangelical community there will actually be less accountability.

Let me give you an example.

When Chuck Smith was still alive and in charge of Calvary Chapels, he had a disciplinary arm of the non denominational denomination call the Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship, or “CCOF” for short.

Ostensibly the office that did affiliations, it also served as the doctrinal and moral police agency for the movement, working out of the Costa Mesa church.

The existence of that office and the fact that they enforced “discipline” in the field made Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa legally liable for the misdeeds of all the affiliates.

They paid for a bunch of them…Costa Mesa had really deep pockets.

A few years ago, Smith wearied of paying for the sins of people he didn’t know and disbanded CCOF in an attempt to cut that tie between the affiliates and the mothership.

Henceforth, Costa Mesa would only pay for their own issues.

When his brother Paul (who was running CCOF) continued to enforce (mainly doctrinal) rules, he fired his brother.

Today, neither side of the CC split will exercise any control over the affiliates other than adding or removing their names from a database.

It’s all about liability.

If there is no accountability at the local church level there will be none above it either.

Most churches in this country have shallow pockets and aren’t worth the attention of the tort vultures.

Those that do have resources…might want to make sure they have air tight child protection and hiring standards in place.

It’s all about liability…

 

May 152018
 

I’m back…with a solo effort.

I’m using the Anchor app to record and it’s available on both iTunes and Google Play for Android.

Hopefully, it will also be available on all the other podcast services by the end of the week.

This week. I’m doing a mini bible study from Genesis and telling you why the Paige Patterson debacle doesn’t have legs…

May 152018
 

When God leaves you in the pit…

You missed the Rapture, again…

What was missing from Paige Patterson’s apology…

Faith as union with Christ…

Why happy Christian moms still feel guilty…

How to stand where Jesus stands…in the messy middle…

Seminary students leave the MDiv behind…

The benefits of failure…

Check your idols at the church door…

Four ways to join Jesus in intercession…

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that you can’t use it…

How not to be an online troll…

Superheroes, vigilantes, Jesus…

Tearing families apart at the border…

Superheroes saving us from ourselves…

Have we gotten “render unto Caesar what is Caesars” all wrong?

Andy Stanley’s modern Marcionism…

Prayer isn’t serious, (contrary to what we’ve been told)…

Nature is not your friend…

The Great Physician’s bedside manner…

An appetite of the heart…

How to waste a $1000…the American history version…

The creation, care, and feeding, of church planters…

Are my friends really my friends?

The Palestinian Christians: strangers in a familiar land…

Making sense of Israel in Christian theology…

The real reason young people are leaving the church…

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