“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Into The Abyss

This is wrong on so many fronts that comments by me are unnecessary!

Apparently no one actually checked what the Word of God has to say about these type of things. Of course, the Book of Discipline (whatever that means in a denomination that has denigrated to this point) says nothing about this.

So, with that in mind, I nominate Mr. Ed for a position within the Episcopalian or UMC denominations. Work has been slow for him since the late '50's. Even Tominthebox's satirical nomination seems tame!

Romans 1:21 - 25 -- For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Amazing...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ANOTHER Update on Eyes!




So, I went in for a 1 month check-up -- they found that the hyphema had caused PVR, which is problematic for the retina in my right eye. Therefore, on Tuesday I had to have another surgery to fill the eye with silicone oil. Good news though:

1) My left eye is coming along very nicely and I have very good vision out of it.

2) My right eye surgery was successful and the retina is now going to be able to heal properly. It may take 3+ months, but the pieces have been put in place to make it successful.

Thanks to all my friends for your prayers etc.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled ramblings!

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Pastor?

As I pondered some of the interview with Osteen, I was brought back to something he said. This is not a post specifically about him, but about a mentality.

When Osteen was being interviewed, he was pointing out all of the lives that he had touched, and then he said something that bothered me from the moment I heard it. His statement was something like I have helped so many people, not me, but God. I don't even know these people.

What struck me was his admission that he had no idea who the people were that he had 'helped'. Now, I understand that he wrote a book that sold thousands (millions?), and he can hardly be expected to know everyone who bought his book. I am not making that statement, but I am talking about the fact that a 43,000 member church is one that CANNOT be pastored effectively.

The concept of a pastor as a shepherd is throughout the Bible, and if you contemplate that for a minute, you will realize that a man cannot be called a pastor if he does not know his flock. Even the reporter called Lakewood a 'family business'. Yes, I know there are men that I respect who have large churches, but I remain unconvinced that a pastor can be effective without knowing his flock, or having a leadership structure which enables true pastoring to occur.

The structure that places a plurality of elders at the head of the church is one that enables a church to grow larger, and still retains the context of 'pastoring'; elders can be responsible for portions of the congregation without requiring one man to be the center of all care and feeding of the flock.

However, with the mindset of the mega-church today, most of these structures are business-like: that is, they have a CEO (Hybels, Osteen, Warren et al), and then a board that is elected or hired by the CEO - (usually his confidants and/or family). This board serves at the whim of the CEO, and their primary function is to propagate the plan of the 'boss', as opposed to minister to the flock. Many of these people are paid big salaries to ensure that the agenda of the specific church runs according to plan.

What happened to elders standing AROUND their flock, with rod and staff at hand -- to protect the church from predators, false teachers, from each other? In a mega-church environment, there is little that the supposed leaders can do -- they simply cannot know the flock, and sadly, many of the leaders of these churches are the ones their flock need to be protected from! Where is the accountability of an Osteen? A man who can get on Larry King and make the statements he makes, equating Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism, a man who is unable to even provide a rudimentary articulation of the Gospel? Where is the accountability of a Warren who goes to Syria and praises their human rights and freedom of religion, where is the accountability of an Ed Young Jr. who can not only put together an obscene sermon series on sex, but then sell the series, slides, ppts and all?

These men do not have others to whom they are accountable -- they have things like 'team creative' which is nothing more than a bunch of people who sit around and dream up new and novel ways to push the same old self-help message. They have boards that assist them in their business ventures, but what about men who will hold them accountable to what they are teaching and preaching?

Why is it that these men who run large churches never seem to feel the need for accountability until they get caught doing something untoward? Then they come running for 'accountability', and I believe that this is often a ruse to get them back 'in the business' sooner rather than later. "Hey, I need accountability so i can return to the podium soon"

In today's church we have far too few pastors, willing to take on all dangers for his flock, and far too many businessmen who have been hired in to 'cast a vision'! Below are a few Scriptures that describe how God feels about false shepherds -- one from the Prophets one from the Epistles.

Zechariah 11:16, 17 -- For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!

2nd Peter 2:1 - 3 -- But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

LX Minutes

Today on LX Minutes we are interviewing an up and coming star of the Galatian church, Yoal bar Yohanan. Since Yoal has come into town and begun preaching his flavor of 'The Way', his synagogue has grown by leaps and bounds.

Reporter: "Yoal, what is your secret? How do you 'pack 'em in?"

Yoal: "Well, I don't sit around explaining a bunch of Scriptures to the people, that is not my gift; I just tell them that they need to get circumcised, do their best, follow the instructions that God has given them in the Torah, and He will make their lives successful. If You do your part, God will do his part. If you will simply obey his commands, He will change things in your favor.”

Reporter: "Well, isn't that contrary to what others have taught these people; that Jesus Christ came into the world to take upon Himself their sins, making these outward signs no longer necessary, as Jesus Christ has paid it all in His life, death, and resurrection?"

Yoal: Beginning to weep, "Do you know how many lives I have touched... I mean, God has touched in my ministry? It is very humbling!"

Reporter: "humbled by having them perform circumcision?"
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We then went to talk to Paul of Tarsus, a well-known conservative rabbi, and opponent of Yoal bar Yohanan's methods.

Reporter: "Paul, how do you feel about the happenings in Galatia? It seems that Yoal bar Yohanan is drawing quite a crowd. Could it be his looks, you know, he is much better looking than you, or is it that his message is more culturally relevant?"

Paul: "Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Reporter: "Uhhh, OK -- well, could you tell me what you think Yoal's appeal is?"

Paul: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

Reporter: "OK, well Paul, do you have a message for the church in Galatia?"

Paul: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed! O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain? Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for The righteous shall live by faith. But the law is not of faith, rather The one who does them shall live by them."

Reporter: It seems Paul that you are either intolerant or jealous of Yoal's success, but we thank you for your time."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Give us this day our daily bread?

This past Sunday I spoke on this petition in the Lord's Prayer. This seems a strange petition to offer up in a land that is suffering from obesity! How many Christians in the US actually have to pray for their next meal? Most do not have to.

And herein lies one of the problems with Western Christianity -- we are so confidence in our self-sufficiency that we no longer feel the need to pray for provision, be it bread on our table or a roof over our head. The prayer life of many a Christian resembles an inflated Neiman Marcus Christmas List as opposed to a humble petitioner approaching a Holy and transcendent God. When we do pray for our provision it is often in a flippant and casual way -- Our attitude seems to be one of -- "I paid for the meal before me, why should I thank God for it?"

You may laugh, or be totally disgusted by Will Ferrell's prayer in Talladega Nights, but the sad truth is, it is not far off from the truth. Many so-called Christians give God a nod when it comes to provision, but they really don't consider Him to be THEIR provider -- maybe some of those 'poor orphans' in Africa, but not THEIRS. Like Ricky Bobby in the clip, they portray Jesus in a comfortable image, and flippantly give Him a 'shout out', but the entire time, their actions belie their true attitude.

One day God will remove His blessing from this land: many feel it has already begun, and when that occurs many who claim the title of Christian will show their true colors. It should ever be in our mind, as Paul said in 1st Corinthians 4:7 - "What do you have that you did not receive?" We who live in this land have been given a gift; what are we doing with it? I fear we are forgetting the Provider!

When the most popular 'pastor' in the land is one who teaches self-sufficiency, are we surprised when his church grows to 43,000+ attendees? The US Christian no longer believes that it is God who provides their basic sustenance and necessities, instead, He is that 'special' relative with all the money who gives us the really good stuff we can't afford on our own.

And you know -- Israel has been here - go read through the Prophets -- how about Amos 4:1, 2 -- Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, Bring, that we may drink! The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks., or

Amos 8:4ff -- Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat? The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? And on that day, declares the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land — not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. In that day the lovely virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst. Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria, and say, As your god lives, O Dan, and, As the Way of Beersheba lives, they shall fall, and never rise again.

A chilling indictment, and one that echoes the situation in our society -- just as the Israelites despised God's Sabbath and waited until the very minute when they could begin conducting business again, we have people who go to church ONLY to network amongst business colleagues; just as the rich were haughty and abusive to the poor, rich Christians in the US often live and play within the safety of their uber-rich Mega-Church, all the while the surrounding community is untouched by the church; just as Israel was to suffer a famine in the land, a famine of the Word of God, there is definitely a famine in our land for the Word of God (witness the 60 Minutes piece on JO).

I fear that the US Christians will only recognize God as their provider when He stops providing! Actually in many ways, He is allowing us to kill ourselves with our affluence -- much like the Israelites in the wilderness -- they ate quail till it came out of their nostrils, and we now suffer death from mostly diet-related diseases.

At what point will US Christians come to recognize God as their provider; what will it take?

May God have mercy on us all!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things I don't Understand

Our society is so confused, or is it just me?

It seems that Politicians want to ban smoking EVERYWHERE! Yet, the Dems recent plan to fund children's healthcare by taxing (once again) smokers seem to send a confusing message. I don't get this -- now, I am not a smoker, nor am I even advocating it, but I am very confused. We want to have the smoking community sponsor everything, and yet we want to ostracize them to the point where they no longer exist. Who will sponsor healthcare when the smokers are gone?

Likewise, everyone wants to be safe when they fly, even giving up some of their rights to do so, yet we see that people are shocked when a unruly passenger is dealt with in a quick and decisive manner. I am in no way saying that what happened to this woman was OK -- I think it is tragic, but what do we expect our law enforcement officials to do? A person is at the airport, they are rowdy, and everyone tenses -- so, the police could have (a) given her a hug; (b) arrested her; (c) ignored her. Which one would you have them do? And what if you were wrong, and the person was sporting a weapon? She does harm to one or more people, and now you have people lining up to sue the airport, airline industry and the police department.

Our society (in the USA) is in a mess -- we are fractured with the multitudinous 'special interest' groups, the increasing rift between haves and have-nots, the lack of a common cause and culture, a disturbing rise in racial unrest, and the polarizing effects of a political system that is in the business of winning constituents by alienating or coddling various groups.

I know that I normally do not comment on societal situations, for one, I am no expert, but I am increasingly confused by our inability to think logically about ANYTHING!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Struggle

While I was blind, I made a promise that I would not grow weary of leading my wife in morning devotions, of consistently being the Spiritual Leader in our home, giving her proper attention, and of being more consistent in my overall walk. I thought nothing would shake me from that, but I find that, only one month after gaining vision my attitude often sinks back into the pre-blind arrogance of my past!

When I was helpless, I made many promises; and I was (and am!) sincere in these promises! It is not that I am slipping into some tortured existence without God, but I find myself listening to the siren song of 'busyness' that calls from work, and church and even from this machine on which I type! When I made the promises, I had no doubt that I had changed, and I have, but sad to say, I still have that old man creeping in and bowing up on me!

With all of that being said -- I am reminded of Paul's words -- Romans 7:15ff - I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Now, it is not that work, or busyness at church etc. is necessarily sin, but in my case, it can lead to sin -- I find myself neglecting things that ought not be neglected, and I can find myself sinking into worldly thoughts and actions.

Many in the modern evangelical world people believe, (although they may not necessarily word it this way), that Jesus died for all their sins UP TO their conversion, but from there on out, they must maintain their own sin balance. So, in some circles, when one sins, they MUST start 'all over again' as it were. Yes, a repentant heart is part of being a Christian, but Christ died for ALL my sins -- past, present, and future. This should not make one cavalier about their salvation, rather it should humble us.

I am humbled. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Hallowed be Your Name?

This Sunday I spoke on the Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6 -- specifically "Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done On Earth as it is in Heaven."

I also reviewed the passage "Hallowed Be Your Name", and was struck by this post on Steve Camp's blog. (I have not been to Steve's blog in ages)

How can a person who claims to be a Christian, much less a pastor, be comfortable using this type of language to describe Christ and His story? Have we truly lost all sense of reverence for who He is? Now, I know that many think Mr. Driscoll is A-OK, because his doctrine 'matches' theirs, but let me ask you -- does it really? Can a man who believes that God is Holy and Other, and that Jesus Christ is the very incarnation of God, truly speak as this man does? I do not know Mr. Driscoll, and I have read or heard only a bit of his stuff, but for the life of me, I cannot figure why he thinks that this type of thing is 'relevant'.

As we progress through the first portions of the Lord's Prayer, I am struck by how little the words in the prayer seem to mean to the modern church -- and I am not simply targeting Mr. Driscoll here, I believe that we are all guilty of not glorifying God in our lives, speech, and actions.

Rather than simply target a prominent, and somewhat controversial pastor (frankly, that is an easy task!), what if each and every one of the pastors in this land asked these questions -- Does my life glorify God; can I honestly say that I am hallowing God's name in my life? Does my congregation KNOW the holiness of God, and could they tell I know it from my actions? Does my speech betray a desire to elevate myself above the sacred text, making me hip, relevant, or any number of other things that subordinate the Word of God?

I fear that pastoring in today's world is more about being 'cool', (maybe a dated term, but you know what I mean), structuring the church service around the lost and their desires, and less about shepherding and discipling the flock that has been entrusted to our care. When numbers and relevance are our idols, then God's Word and God Himself will be relegated to the cheap seats -- may He have mercy on us all!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Desire?

I received a flyer in the mail the other day, from an ostensibly conservative local Christian bookstore, and was struck by the advert for one of the books -- To quote the popular author -- "Contrary to what you may have heard in church, desire is the key to the Christian life"

Is he right? If desire is the key to the Christian Life, then it falls into the same bucket as a pagan life -- is not desire the key to a pagan's life? What about everyone else, isn't desire the basic motivation for all?

Western Christendom is rife with inane sayings like this -- we speak of faith and desire as if they are our goals, but both of these have an object -- we are to have faith IN Christ, our desire is to grow IN Christ. These terms without an object upon which to focus them are simply man-centered actions.

Now, I understand two things: (1) Questioning a wildly popular author's statement is bound to cause people to go into defense mode for their author, and (2) the comments should be taken in the light that the author is giving them.

However, being curious, I went out and read a portion of this author's book, and, like another of his books that I ALMOST made it through, this is based around us and OUR feelings, OUR desires, and only marginally concerned with God, although he uses a lot of phrases with 'religious words'. He also makes this statement -- "You've heard this teaching before -- sublimate your desires and replace them with obligation (sanctification). Would you be surprised to learn that Christ calls us to embrace desire, not to suppress it?"

The author says that the church has killed our desires, and has replaced it with moral obligation and called it sanctification. Is that our choice? We either are legalistic automatons, or truly alive people pursuing our desires? And of course, this author asserts, our desire will be to pursue God, right? -- Funny, that is not what Paul says -- In Romans 3 Paul makes it clear that we are not seeking God.

Also, what about 'dumping' that 'moral obligation'? Paul's Epistles are full of moral obligation -- what this author seems to have forgotten is that our desire, if we are truly regenerated, WILL be for that moral 'obligation'. Some of Paul's writing on this -- Ephesians 5; 1st Corinthians 6; Galatians 5.

This author is well-known as one who likes to promote the 'if it feels good, it must be right' psychobabble mentality. I was so unimpressed with the first book I read by him that I only made it 3/4 of the way through it. And that book had been recommended by a friend who I have (still) a lot of respect for!

It is precisely this type of pulp fiction that causes pastors to constantly be grappling with people who are mired in the muck of the therapeutic gospel, dealing with their 'hidden languages', 'woundedness', and 'pursuit of their manhood'. These people WILL NOT turn to, or listen to, the Scriptures on this -- they constantly get out their dog-eared books written by people who selectively quote the Word, whose appeal is blantantly to the basest nature of man.

Listen to Paul -- Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Over and over Paul says that we are to put off our old self and put on our new self that is being forged into the image of Christ. It seems that this author with his "Mortal Obligation" statement has overlooked what true regeneration is.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Marital Roles Reprise



This is my beloved wife!

I am reposting this with some additional commentary. Originally I posted this before my eye issues, but it is even more important to me now. My wife, just so that everyone knows, was a champion during my illness. For over two months, she did everything in our home, without complaining. It is in her honor that I repost this now:

1. Men are often told that they are the master of their home, and therefore, their needs are the most important. This is where the whole 'male headship' aspect of Christian homes can be taken out of context. Yes, wives are to submit to the male headship in their homes, but, as I posed in the previous post, men have the greater responsibilities towards their wives.

2. Notice that Paul directs men to love their wives as they love themselves; if we ONLY did that, we would see a tremendous difference in our wives! But then he goes on to say that we are to nourish and cherish our wives. As the last post noted, one aspect of nourishing our wives is to be the spiritual leaders in our home, spiritually nourishing them with a steady diet of the Word, and prayer.

NOTE: During the time of my physical blindness, while my wife still looked to me as the spiritual leader, she was the one who prodded me to maintain that role, even though I felt like a useless lump of dirt, and whined a bit about it!

Another, and I feel equally true aspect is to provide for our families physical needs. Many men today allow their wives to be the primary breadwinner in the home, even if they have children that need to be tended to! Men are to provide for their wives. This is not a statement about women working outside the home, rather it is an observation regarding the number of women who provide the primary income for the family. I realize that I sound like a Luddite, and maybe I am, but I know that the Bible speaks of men providing for their families, and while you can examine Proverbs 31 and see an industrious and productive woman, I think that it is imperative for men to be the one who provides the leadership, not just in the home, but in getting and keeping a job!

Many men today are content to let their wives do the work, and they can be housedads. I disagree with this -- children need to see a home where leadership and sacrifice are modeled by the father. This provides a healthy image of our heavenly Father for children. You would not believe how many people I have counseled at church who cannot fathom God as their heavenly 'Father'. This is so often due to the fact that the father they knew was lazy, self-centered and ofttimes cruel to his family; frequently forcing mom to be the one doing all of the sacrificing. This should not be!

I also recognize that there are times when a man may be unemployed while his wife retains her job, but this should be a situational issue, and not the normative pattern. Men need to provide for their wives.

3. Now notice that a man is to cherish his wife! Do you cherish your wife? Does she know it?

NOTE: Never has this meant as much to me as now -- DO YOU cherish your wife? I do more than ever!

Our wives need to know that we cherish them; they should have no doubt about this! Proverbs 31:10 - An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. How many of us think of our wives in that manner? Is your wife more important to you than your job, your bank account, your buddies, your life itself? Why not? When a woman is cherished, she will respond.

Men, I challenge you to love and cherish your wives, sacrificing your wants and needs for hers, and ensuring that she knows you are providing self-sacrificial love and leadership to your home. Drop the machismo act and the swagger, and begin leading in the manner of Christ! You may be surprised at your wife's response!

I state here publicly that I try to love and cherish my wife to the best of my ability. There is no one I want to spend time with more then her. We share everything in our life, and she is both a sincere critic, and ardent supporter. We have a marriage that is truly made in heaven!

And that is my prayer for all Christians!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Nope, we are not shallow and superficial!

RANT

So, we have Israeli IAF forces bombing buildings in Syria, a full-blown war in Iraq, Myanmar in serious lock-down, presidential hopefuls all over the place, a brewing war (again) between Southern and Northern Sudan, and the top news stories at CNN?

1. Miss Moneypenny actress from James Bond films dies.
2. Pamela ANderson is getting married (again).
3. Navy fixing building shaped like swastika (a normal dorm layout, that from the air looks like a Nazi swastika).

Amazing!

And we wonder why our politicians are shallow?

/RANT