Archive for December, 2007

Friends,

Ask yourself into which category you happen to be:

Are you:

A) A bright light shining in a dark place, or

B) Darkness in a bright place.

The former understands and lives by grace; the latter understands and lives by law. Grace and truth came through Jesus. I’m done blogging for today. In the new year, consider carefully how you will serve Christ: Be a light burning in the darkness; do not be darkness crowding out the light.

Thanks to everyone who has visited my blog this year. It has been real fun learning how to do this and making so many new friends. I have learned something from all of you who have visited and left replies. I still cannot believe how many hits I have had since I started this.

May God be praised in all things, by all people, in all places, at all times. Come Lord Jesus!

Happy New Year!

Soli Deo Gloria! 

jerry

(aka dangoldfinch & dongoldfish)

PS–for extra credit, check out this brilliant post by William Willimon in which he writes,

“John did not know the complete shape of that hope. John was a voice, a voice into the darkness, telling people not to give up hope, telling people that their yearning was not mere wishful thinking, that their longing was an act of faith, a deep and abiding belief that God cared, that God would come and deliver.”

. . .

We gather on this night as those who yearn, who desire, who are not yet fulfilled, but who are confident that light breaks into the darkness, and we shall see, and we shall know, and we shall be filled.

The light, the world’s light, our light, has a face, a name, Emmanuel.

To which I add a loud, “Amen!”

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Friends,

Something I did not do in my original post was give a fair amount of space to Tim Reed. I regret that, as there are always at least two sides to every story. This brief update is merely so that you can read a little more on this story from his point of view. A healthy conversation has been taking place at CRN.info & Analysis today. I encourage you to investigate it on your own.

jerry

Friends,

I have been involved in a sort of discussion today. It has been enlightening to see the various opinions and to hear different voices. Thankfully, God’s grace is big enough to encompass us all puny minded individuals. I hope maybe the lyrics to this great song will be beneficial. The song is by Casting Crowns.

“Stained Glass Masquerade”

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay.

This is what I have been getting at and I suspect a lot of others have been too. If only…

jerry

Friends,

I realize that I am running a great risk posting the comments I am about to make. I realize well that it is not wise to cross certain Defenders of the Faith in the world of blogs. I realize full well the power of blogdom to ruin lives and to be judge, jury, executioner, prosecuting attorney all in one. But I recall that somewhere in the Scripture that Christians claim to live by, we were told to be full of grace. Oh, I have no doubt that we are to make judgments about one another to a certain degree (see 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). But I think it is this very Scripture that bugs me a little when it comes to some comments that I have been reading about a certain preacher named Tim Reed and a certain blogger named Ingrid Schlueter.  

Evidently, there have been some barbs tossed back and forth between the two. Also included in the mix is Ken Silva at Aprising Ministries. Oh, and there’s also a rather lengthy post here at Old-Truth. I have a couple of thoughts about this since Tim Reed and I share a similar heritage in the so-called Restoration Movement churches. In fact, I went to college just up the road from the church Reed preaches among.

First, let it be stated that I am in no way defending Reed’s ‘drive-by’ comments or his use of derogatory language to designed to insult Ingrid, Ken or the author of Old-Truth. If in fact Reed is saying such things, well, he should be ashamed of himself. I preach in a Restoration church and I am only too aware of how difficult it has been in the history of our denomination to get our message across to people and to be accepted as sincere disciples of Jesus within the evangelical world. The last thing our denomination needs is set backs. I fully understand Reed’s point, but I think there is a better way to dialogue with those whom we disagree. So, I am not defending him in that respect.

Second, on the other hand, neither am I calling out Schlueter or Silva or Old-Truth for pointing out his (Reed’s) apparent lack of class (although, to be sure, I don’t see where in Scripture a lack of class is considered a sin or even name calling. I did read something about unwholesome talk, but none of them are quoting Scripture). It is one thing entirely to point out that some bloggers are beyond arrogant in their presumptuousness and in their judgmentalism. It is something else to merely ridicule them with salty language and other verbiage that does not befit a minister of the Word of God; Reed should hold himself to a higher standard even if he is a self-proclaimed watchdog of the watchdogs. Old-Truth is right that Reed doesn’t advance his cause by being immature. I have read some of Reed’s blog posts and he seems to be rather intelligent–someone with whom I could have a great conversation about aspects of the church that need to be changed, corrected, or otherwise done away with entirely. For that matter, the four I have mentioned so far have a lot to talk about in this regard. However, and here’s the point…

What is wrong with this picture? Ingrid at Slice of Laodicea has, in my opinion, really stooped to a new low in her recent post concerning Reed. I don’t know how she found it, but she dug up some post that Reed evidently made at some Gaming message board. I seriously wonder how much effort went into digging up the quote–which is a rather ridiculous quote from someone claiming to be a minister of truth. But what is worse is that she says, “If you want a taste of the new pastors today, here you go.” She then reproduces the quote.

Why?

Here’s the rest of her post sans the quote by Reed (I have linked it, so you can check it yourself):

A pastor, friends. He calls himself a pastor who sends out “vulgar missives” where he insults another with a claim of having had sex with his opponent’s mother, using what he calls “anatomically correct terms.” I understand Pastor Tim Reed’s vulgar attacks on me and Ken Silva in a far clearer light after reading this. We now have men in the pulpit who are showing by their fruit that they are enemies of Jesus Christ. Why are they enemies? Because they embrace the moral filth that Jesus died to save us from. Those who love Christ and His true church will warn about “pastors” like this.

Now, she is writing about one person, one man, one pastor, one preacher, and yet she says, ‘We now have men in the pulpit who are showing by their fruit that they are enemies of Jesus Christ.” No, you don’t know what men in the pulpit are doing. You have no idea what it means to stand in a pulpit week after week and preach the Gospel. You sit behind a mic or a computer monitor and contend for your versionof the truth from the relative safety of your home or office (did I read that you don’t even consider yourself an evangelical Christian; yet you judge it? Did I read that you criticize Britany Spears and the Church that decided to write her letters to tell her about Jesus? Can you have it both ways?) You have a man who has made some poor decisions with respect to his language and the manner in which he uses it. You don’t have men who have somehow failed in their calling. It is a terrible thing you have done to judge any or all of the ‘new pastors’ because of one man’s transgression (s).

Men, friends. Is ‘pastor’, ‘elder’, ‘apostle’, ‘prophet’ Slice really saying that the only menwho are in pulpits nowadays are those who are enemies of Christ? Is the Watcher saying that those who are imperfect by her standards are disqualified from preaching the Good News? (I wonder where Paul the Apostle would be in her book. He calls his former way of life in Judaism something equivalent to ‘crap,’ Philippians 3; and in another place told certain Judaizers that he wished they would emasculate themselves. Have you read Scripture and the language it uses?) Is Slice really suggesting that Reed does not love Christ because he insulted her? Is she really suggesting that the Lord’s servants stand and fall before her judgment? To his own master does a servant rise or fall! There is a big difference between taking someone aside and quietly rebuking them and telling them to grow up and something else entirely to call their salvation, which the Lord Jesus himself secured at the Cross, into question.

I like much of what Slice of Laodicea has to say. I visit the blog two or three times a day looking for updates and quotes. I enjoy reading much of what Pastor (I don’t know if the ordained Silva preaches behind a pulpit each week or not) Ken Silva has to say at Apprising Ministries. I don’t know Old-Truth (or whether [he] has a pulpit either) so I don’t know if I like [his] stuff or not. But I have a couple of questions for the three who operate these blogs and a couple questions for all parties involved.

First, to Slice. Are you now without sin that you have the right to cast judgment on Reed? Do you really have the right to cast the first stone? Are you really suggesting that you are the ultimate arbiter of who does and does not love Christ? By whose measuring rod do you make such a decision?

Second, to Pastor Ken. Because you seem so well acquainted with the Word of God: Isn’t it a blessing to be insulted for the Name of Christ? Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are you when people say all sorts of things against you because of me?” Are we now to return insult for insult? Or shall we now bless when we are cursed?

Third, to Old-Truth. Do you think that you have advanced the cause of Christ by printing the name of the Church that Reed preaches at and judging his entire denomination? Do you think that all the people whom he leads in worship are somehow guilty of his infractions; his sins? Do you think that his entire denomination is somehow demeaned by his behavior? (We should be happy that not all Baptists are guilty of the sins of Baptist preachers, and not all Presbyterians are guilty of the sins of Presbyterian preachers, etc.)

Fourth, to Tim Reed. Do you really think you are helping your cause by acting so immature? Do you really think you have a defense by using the language you use? I understand well the desire to connect with people at their level, but the sinners with whom Jesus ate came to Him and enjoyed His company. He elevated them; they did not lower Him. Maybe you should try to raise the standard of your conversation.

Fifth, where is the grace? Seriously. This is one of the main issues I have with all of blogdom–and especially this case in particular. I wonder what it is that the people who are not Christians who read these blogs of Christians think about Christians and Christ after they read these blogs? I can’t believe Reed publicly says the things he says about Ingrid, Ken, and OT. I can’t believe they have responded with nothing better.

Sixth, are there not people dying every day and going to hell? Is there not something better we can do with our blogs? Seriously?

What is all this hatred? (That’s what it is.) What is all this questioning of someone’s credibility or someone’s standing before Christ? What is all this childish name-calling? Why can’t there be honest, adult conversation and dialogue? Look, I’ll debate any of these people, for example, about Harry Potter books any day of the week because I happen to think they (at least Slice’s author) are wrong about them. On the other hand, Slice’s author happens to think I am wrong too. Or, I’ll debate the (de)merits of the Reformed doctrine of election (or any other aspect of TULIP Calvinism) which is absolutely horrifying and unbiblical. But just because I disagree with those who hold to it doesn’t mean we are not together in Christ. Nevertheless, isn’t there room for adult conversation? Isn’t there room for opinions? Isn’t there room for love? Shouldn’t all of our conversations be salted with Grace? Are any of us so without sin that we have a right to sit in the sort of judgment that calls one person who preaches the Gospel an ‘enemy of Christ’? Is that really what grace is about? Are either of us lost because we do or do not read the right books? Seriously, is there any room for grace among these watchdog types? I think God’s grace is enough for us all, but also think that we’d rather be right than for God to be Justified and Justifier. I really don’t think Christians like grace at all. For all we talk about being saved by it we sure don’t want to live by it when it comes to our theological mountaintops. We’ll die for our Calvinism, but nor our Arminian brothers and sisters. Sad. How did I hear it said? The Church is the only army in the world that shoots its own wounded. Sad.

Jesus said one time, ironically on the night he was betrayed, the night before he died for all our sins, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus could have mentioned a lot things in that space, but He chose to tell us, over and over again, to love one another. Well, if we demonstrate that we are his disciples when we love one another then whose disciples do we demonstrate ourselves to be when we hate each other? Here’s how Old-Truth ends [his] post:

 It’s interesting that a foundational slogan of the Restoration Movement of which Tim Reed subscribes is “In Essentials, Unity. In Non-essentials, Liberty. In All Things, Charity“. That kind of talk sounds good on paper, but when somebody doesn’t agree with where the essentials begin and end, then charity is quickly abandoned in favor of the pursuit of a pound of flesh. In the end – Tim Reed’s treatment of Christians who have differing convictions than his own, will likely prove to be his undoing. Aside from the obvious pastoral incompatibilities, his methods bring a more revealing spotlight on his own public behavior than on the behavior of those he calls-out, name-calls, and watches.

This is a danger that I think was understood early by the likes of Dan Kimball who is an Emerging Church advocate with similar complaints as Tim Reed, yet Dan seems to be able to eliminate his own conduct as a potential point of focus for his opponents. The Dan Kimball types do this through actually trying to follow the bible’s pastoral directives (ie: being self-controlled, kind to everyone, and not quick-tempered or arrogant). So while I usually disagree with Dan and the Emerging Church, I can at least listen to his views and appreciate his genuine attempt at humility. Conversely, I would venture to say that there are a good number of people who no longer even hear what Tim Reed is protesting against, because they can’t get over the glaring lack of the fruits of the Spirit that accompany his protest. (Emphasis mine.)

I think that is precisely Reed’s complaint. It’s not only Reed who cannot tolerate other people’s opinions, but it is the people he is complaining against who cannot, indeed, will not, tolerate others’ opinions. Honestly, there is guilt here on both sides. Reed, to be sure, needs to mature a little (or a lot). He needs to speak with no unwholesome language only those things which are useful for building up the Body of Christ. The rest need to speak the truth in love. All need grace.

None of this is doing anything to advance the cause of Christ or to build His Kingdom. In my opinion, both sides are doing all they can to tear apart the very fabric of that which Christ died for: Oneness, Unity, Love, and Truth; the salvation of the World; the Glory of God; the Exaltedness of Jesus Christ; the Triumph of the Lamb! If we cannot speak the truth in love, then we are mere legalists who have left no room for grace. And if we have love without truth, then we are mere sentimentalists. I’d sure like to see Bro. Reed use his creative energies to uplift people instead of tear them to shreds with his sarcasm and language. I’d like to see Slice and Silva use their considerable influence to train up people in the way they should go with grace and love instead of not.

jerry

ps–I know I’m setting myself up for a dismal day with this post. But I cannot help it. I’m not trying to pick a fight with anyone, but I’m trying to bring some peace to this part of the Body of Christ. I’m not saying I’m perfect; I’m saying none of us are. There is so much hatred in the world that I wonder why anyone would want to find refuge in Christ, let alone the church. If this is what the Church is to people, why would anyone want to be a part of it? There’s more love and grace in Elk’s meetings or AA meetings or a Major League Baseball game.

I’m calling on both sides to fix this publicly. There needs to be some growing up on both sides, some repentance, some forgiveness, and some clearing up of the real issue at hand which is: How can we best Lift up the Name of Jesus in this desperately, spiritually perverse world in which we live? Are not all sides involved concerned with the Gospel? Do they not all, in their respective ways, preach the Crucified Lord Jesus? Then why enmity?

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) For the sake of Christ, clear up this matter and end it. Let forgiveness and grace and peace reign.

“Let he without sin, cast the first stone…” And one by one, they started to walk away, the older ones first until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. I ask you sincerely, when it is all said and done, won’t it be us and Jesus, one on one, with no one else left? Won’t Jesus ultimately be our judge? “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Friends,

I’ll just post this without comment since it says all it needs to say:

“But the challenge is always this: Are men and women going to allow the Word of God to sit in judgment on their puny minds, or are they going to make their puny minds the judges of the Word of God?

We have taken the latter course as a culture. So there is mass confusion today—even in the evangelical church—over whether the Bible is true and over how far we should go in obeying it.” –Alistair Begg, The Hand of God

Snagged this one from Reformed Voices.

jerry

Great Quotes

Friends,

I nipped this from another blog: Always Ready:

“The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came…Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.”–R. A. Torrey

Then there is this from the same blog, the same post:

“Hell is larger today than it was yesterday, because many of us have failed to pray.”–David Smithers

I thought they were worth reproducing here, but you should visit the other blog too.

jerry

Hyalophora Cecropia

Cecropia Moths

Friends,

I took this photo outside my house a few years ago. I thought you might enjoy it as much as I did. These are simply gorgeous. Check this link for information about these spectacular creatures.

jerry

Friends,

Each year for the past 5 or 6 years my congregation has constructed a Christmas Drive Through, lighted, nativity. We have several different scenes that tell the traditional Christmas story. Some of the picture quality isn’t that great, but you get the idea. I’ll make another show in the next few days from pictures taken in the daylight. Enjoy! And have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

jerry 

Friends, here is part three of my short series on Grace. It is taken from Luke 10:25-37 and the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan.’ I hope it blesses you. 

Luke’s Gospel
Luke 10:25-37
Grace as Undiscriminating Love

Introduction

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We have been talking on Sunday mornings about grace. If I reckon correctly, this will be the fifth sermon that I have preached on grace in the last two months having interrupted my previous series on Suffering to preach two rather impromptu sermons on grace and how grace works itself out in the lives of those who call themselves and who are called to be the church in and to the world.

I saw a certain author’s work yesterday. He was attempting to interpret this parable of the good Samaritan for his readers. He said the parable teaches at least four main lessons. One of his points, the first one in fact, is this: The parable teaches the impossibility of earning one’s salvation. The standard, which is perfect love, is too high. Well, on the contrary, the parable teaches no such thing. Matthew quite specifically tells us that Jesus’ parable was designed to teach the man who his neighbor was.

So in fact this parable has nothing to do whatsoever with a doctrine of salvation. It has nothing to do, for that matter, with another of the author’s suggestions: that the parable attacks racial prejudice. It wasn’t merely racial prejudice that prevented one man from helping another. In fact it was much deeper than that and I’ll get to that near the end of the message. To be sure, this story really has nothing to with even answering the Lawyer’s question: “Who is my neighbor?” as a careful reading of the verses demonstrates.

Jesus doesn’t tell the man who his neighbor is. Jesus asks the Lawyer, at the end of the parable, what sort of a neighbor he is. Listen: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

The Lawyer replies, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.” So the point is clearly not who is my neighbor, but rather to whom am I a neighbor. Darrell Bock rightly comments, “By reversing the perspective Jesus changes both the question and the answer. He makes the call no longer one of assessing other people, but of being a certain kind of person in one’s own activity.” The parable is one that forces us to probe our own discriminating proclivities. In this context: Everyone is our neighbor. There is no discrimination to be shown, no favoritism, no partiality. This parable points the finger right back at us and asks: Who is not your neighbor?

____________________

I think one of the reasons why we are so afraid to be gracious to other people is because we are typically, absolutely, terrified of getting involved in the messiness of others’ lives. I know from my own life that being involved with difficult people, messed up people, people who can’t not be involved in controversy is draining. I remember going on a field trip when I was still in college. We went around for Church Growth class visiting churches that were successful and had otherwise successful preachers.

I specifically remember one of the successful ones telling our class that he purposely avoided getting involved with what he called ‘high maintenance’ people. That is, people who took up too much of his time, people who never contributed anything particularly useful to the congregation life. They are the ones who always need, always want, always take. I remember very specifically that conversation: ‘I don’t do it,’ he said. ‘I involve myself with people who will make my life easier, better, or more successful.’ Some of that is paraphrase, but it is true to the point.

How can I be gracious to those whose lives I am unwilling to participate in? How can I love the ones I would rather observe than touch? Here’s what I read:

“One of the most insidious maladies of our time is: the tendency in most of us to observe rather than act, avoid rather than participate, not do rather than do; the tendency to give in to the sly, negative cautionary voices that constantly counsel us to be careful, to be controlled, to be wary and prudent and hesitant and guarded in our approach of this complicated thing called living.”—Arthur Gordon, A Touch of Wonder as quoted by Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality.

Again the point becomes this: How can I be gracious to people if I am not involved in the messiness of their lives? How can I love the unlovely if I am not willing to risk being hated? How can I bring hope to the hopeless if I am not willing to risk being rejected? How can I carry the Gospel to those who haven’t heard if I am not willing to risk the very culture I inhabit being a barrier to communication? How can I have a conversation with those to whom no one speaks unless I open my mouth and initiate a conversation they may have no interest in? How can I be an agent of healing and reconciliation in the lives of broken and divorced people unless I am willing to touch their wounds, bind up their diseases, carry their infirmities?

Amazing thing about Jesus is that He spent a lot of time touching and being touched by people. People weren’t afraid to touch him; he wasn’t afraid to touch them. He wasn’t embarrassed by their diseases, their poverty, their shame, their guilty, or their age. He embraced and loved.

____________________

I’d like to share a rather lengthy portion of a book by Mark Buchanan. The book is called Your God is Too Safe. Listen carefully as Buchanan analyzes the problem and provides succinct solutions to it.

In order to escape borderland, it is not enough that you grasp a holy must, maintain faith, or forsake your pride. Living in the holy wild also requires a complete change of ethics…

A number of years ago, a wise man pointed out to me the root difference between the ethic of Jesus and the ethic of the Pharisees. Usually we think of the difference in these terms: the Pharisees had an ethic of externals, of ritual and rigmarole, and Jesus had an ethic of the heart, of the heart’s inner workings. The Pharisees were concerned about not committing adultery, while Jesus was concerned about lust, the root of adultery. He was concerned with adulterousness.

That’s true as far as it goes. Only it doesn’t go very far. The deeper difference between Jesus’ ethic and that of the Pharisees was this: The Pharisees had an ethic of avoidance, and Jesus had an ethic of involvement. The Pharisee’s question was not ‘How can I glorify God?’ It was ‘How can I avoid bringing disgrace to God?’ This degenerated into a concern not with God, but with self—with image, reputation, procedure. They didn’t ask, ‘How can I make others clean?’ They asked, ‘How can I keep myself from getting dirty?’ They did not seek to rescue sinners, only to avoid sinning.

Jesus, in sharp contrast, got involved. He sought always and in all ways to help, to heal, to save, to restore. Rather than running from evil, He ran towards the good. And evil, in fear, fled. Look at Legion, the man under assault by a demon mob. Everyone else fears Legion, tries to banish him to the tombs. But when Jesus shows up, it’s Legion who is afraid, begging Jesus not to torture him. Jesus has come to seek and save that which is lost, not to destroy. He heals Legion and restores him to community. Jesus is not the least afraid of Legion’s evil. Rather, the evil in Legion fears the holy power in Jesus and is subdued by it. Darkness always flees light.

Mark it well: evil isn’t safe in the presence of the God who is not safe. Nor—and this is the point—is evil safe in the presence of those who forsake the god who is too safe and follow the Christ. Legions all over the world live both in terror and in desperate yearning for those who dare to leave borderland and live in the holy wild. They’re the ones who set the captives free.

Jesus got close enough to unholy people for the spark of holiness in Him to jump. He took the tax collectors, the rough fishermen, the harlots, the demon possessed, and gave back to them dignity and life. He gave back to Legion his real name. The Pharisees avoided these people lest they were infected with their sin and were overwhelmed by their evil.

The problem is that we have often preferred the ethic of the Pharisee to the ethic of Christ. We have become self-obsessed in our doctrine of sin, as though sin were merely a personal flaw like acne, plantar’s warts, or crooked teeth. As those sin is merely about personal victory or defeat. We seldom see sin as a brokenness that’s bone deep and creationwide…

* * *

Jesus uses the marketplace to touch the sick with healing. There He is, Lord of the holy wild, iconoclast of the safe god, striding hugely, robes flying about Him, jostling with the crowds, spreading His hands wide, pressing those hands against flesh scalding with fever or icy with approaching death, letting clutching, disease-soaked hands grab hold of Him. That’s Jesus in the marketplace.

Then there are the Pharisees, lords of borderland, charter members of the safe god society. If they go into the marketplace at all, they take great and grave precautions. They avoid even the residue, even the shadow, of the sick people’s presence. There they are, prim mannered, mincing their steps, holding themselves tight, picking up items between the pinched ends of two fingers, rushing home to scrub up.

Jesus is about healing the sick. The Pharisees are about avoiding them and making sure, above all, that they themselves don’t get sick. (108-114)

_____________________

Neighbors take risks. We need to change our thinking about who we are neighbors to.

Craig Blomberg makes a poignant statement, “Grace comes in surprising ways and from sources people seldom suspect.” But should it? Isn’t Jesus’ point here that grace should not, in fact, be so surprising? Shouldn’t our neighborly proclivities be so abundantly clear that it is surprising when we don’t do something for the man laying in a ditch?

Should grace be so strange in this world? And if it is, why? How does grace play in ten thousand places? How does grace play itself out in real life when hate lives right next door, or walks hand in hand with love? How is grace stronger in the lives of the weak, in the lives of messy people, the lives of the decrepit and broken?

Is it possible to really love God if we do not love our neighbor? And is it really possible to limit who our neighbor is? Doesn’t Jesus dispel the myth that we have the right to discriminate who does and does not receive the efficacious side of our love and mercy and grace? So Leon Morris, “Our attitude to God determines the rest. If we really love him we love our neighbor too.”

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

____________________

The measure of the depth of our love for God is taken by the depth of our love for neighbors. Perhaps it is thus time for us to love our neighbors. Perhaps it is time that our neighbors knew that we loved them by our actions.

Perhaps it is time for God to know that we love Him by our actions towards our neighbors.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

In my ongoing public service blog posts, I am continuing to bring you timely updates on the religion of Islam. I fully realize you cannot define an entire religion by a few nut-jobs, but by and large these stories are representative of something much more insidious than appears on the surface of Islam. I wonder how long the peaceful Muslims will continue to stand by while their religion is defined by pure evil.

First, in a story that is making international headlines: Pakistan’s Bhutto Killed in [Homicide] Bomb Attack.

Bhutto had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18. On the same day, she narrowly escaped injury when her homecoming parade in Karachi was targeted in a suicide attack that killed more than 140 people.

Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban hated Bhutto for her close ties to the Americans and support for the war on terrorism. A local Taliban leader reportedly threatened to greet Bhutto’s return to the country with suicide bombings.

Mindless. Senseless. Murder.

Second, there’s nothing like living in a land where freedom of the press is rampant. How about, say, Malaysia where Christians are reportedly being banned from using the word ‘Allah.’

“We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people,” Malaysia’s Deputy Internal Security Minister, Johari Baharum, told the DNAIndia publication.

He said “only Muslims can use the word ‘Allah.'”

Now words are owned? Is this guy for real? Christian Post is reporting that some Christians are mounting a challenge to this, but I don’t know why. The Christian God is not named Allah, and should not be referred to by the name Allah. ‘Allah’ is not the name of the Christian God. And Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. The Christian God is named Jesus Christ:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”(Philippians 2:10-11, NIV)

He is our King!

jerry

Friends,

I have posted many thoughts about evolution and its impact on the general population of the world. I’d like to share someone else’s thoughts tonight. These thoughts concern how replacing the Creator with evolution has destroyed our understanding of sin. Consider:

The basic reason why our modern Western culture has lost the concept of sin is that the reality of the true Creator-God has been abandoned. The basic reason why all nonbiblical philosophies and religions lack a true concept of sin is that none includes the concept of a Creator-God whose will is law. The doctrine of ex nihilo creation and the doctrine of sin are thus inseparable; sin is a meaningful concept only in the light of the fact of creation. (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, 168)

. . .

Why is the denial of personal guilt such a widespread phenomenon today? As we have noted, the very idea of sin presupposes the existence of law, which presupposes the existence of a transcendent Creator-God; it also presupposes the reality of human free will. But these are among the very things that are most frequently attacked and denied in our modern world. The Creator-God is replaced by chance evolution, and various forms of secular determinism are constantly used to cancel man’s responsibility for his antisocial behavior. For example, son say that such behavior is due to childhood trauma and other forms of negative environmental conditioning. People are not sinners; they are victims. Others attribute it all to quirks in one’s genes or chromosomes or brain structure; thus we have ‘natural-born’ killers, alcoholics, homosexuals, and adulterers. (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, 193)

What’s worse is that this is how we train children from day one. Then we act shocked when they live out the realities of a life of no accountability to anyone other than themselves. But we should probably continue teaching children that they are nothing more than the chance configuration of randomly mutated selfish genes (uh, sarcasm alert.)

What I wonder is, how can children be taught accountability (to something higher than the pathetic standards of mere humanity) when they are deliberately not taught about God and are deliberately taught atheism (either by omission or commission.)

One wonders. Or not.

jerry

Friends,

About a month ago I finished FF Bruce’s book The Message of the New Testament. Near the end he has this quote:

In Jesus the promise is confirmed, the covenant renewed, the prophecies are fulfilled, the law is vindicated, salvation is brought near, sacred history has reached its climax, the perfect sacrifice has been offered and accepted, the great priest over the household of God has taken his seat at God’s right hand, the Prophet like Moses has been raised up, the Son of David reigns, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, the Son of Man has received dominion from the Ancient of Days, the Servant of the Lord, having been smitten to death for his people’s transgression and borne the sin of many, has accomplished the divine purpose, has seen the light after the travail of his soul and is now exalted and extolled and made very high (from This is That, p 21 as quoted on page 114 of The Message of the New Testament.)

And to think that in all of that, God Almighty was thinking about humanity. We are blessed. Thank God for Jesus Messiah.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

“We may feel frightened about this newly wakened enmity of a whole world; and people do not forget to tell us how few visible guarantees we have for the truth of our faith….does the Easter message…still hold good they wonder?”

-Martin Niemoller, God is My Fuehrer, 1941

Do we?

Jerry

Friends,

It is now post-Christmas 2007. The mail was back up today and I received my Dec 26-January 26 edition of the Family Christian Stores catalog. I do appreciate the inclusion of generous coupons each month; I detest the selection of ‘Christian’ products they hawk for profit.

I love to read. I have written here before about the nature of my reading habits and I try to include any updates on books that I find particularly helpful or meaningful. So when I opened my newest edition of the catalog, I have to say, I was terribly disappointed but not terribly surprised. Here is a selection of the titles being offered in the newest edition sans authors’ names (in order to prevent any unnecessary advertising):

  • Conflict Free Living (is such a thing possible if one claims to follow the Jesus who said he came bearing a sword? Matthew 10:34-39.)
  • What the Bible Says about Living Healthy (uh, does the Bible say anything about living healthy? I always thought the Bible was God’s revelation to man about such (evidently unimportant things) as sin, salvation, and Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1-4. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)
  • Self Talk, Soul Talk (I’m speechless. Really. Maybe this is why we only need Ten-Second prayer tutorials.)
  • Red Letter Christians (Despite the author’s undoubtedly good intentions, Christians are not called to live simply ‘by the red letters.’ We are called to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4. The devil too was fond of quoting only portions of Scripture.)
  • Do I Know God? (I sincerely doubt that any book will do it if the Bible cannot. I don’t care whose grandchild you are.)
  • 8 Steps to Create the Life You Want. (The Dr. author of this book has a flashy smile and nice cuff-links. I don’t imagine for a minute he has any biblical theology. I thought Scripture said that God was remaking us into the image of Christ. That he determines the life we should want. Colossians 3:85-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.)
  • Destined to Reign. (“The Secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living.” All you need to know.)
  • Become a Better You.(Joel Osteen. ‘Nuff said.)
  • Detox Your Spiritual Life in 40 Days. (Only 40 more days? Really?)
  • Church is a Team Sport. (Whatever.)
  • The Ten Second Prayer Principle. (Nice. Maybe it’s because we are spending too much time talking to ourselves that we only have ten-seconds to pray.)
  • The Elephant in the Room. (“Sharing the secrets for pursuing real Financial success.” The Son of Man had not place to lay his head.)

My new catalog is now in the garbage. Sadly, this is the sort of garbage that Christians are reading. How do I know? Because people are writing it, publishing it, and selling it. This means there must be a market for it. I didn’t see one single theology book in the entire catalog. Not one commentary. Not one classic book of Christian devotion. Nothing. Plenty of Veggie Tales and figurines. Plenty of other crap. Not much worth the church’s time.

And sadly these are the type of disciples that the world is meeting every day too. These are the types of disciples that are living in churches and firing preachers who are not ‘feeding’ them. “I just don’t don’t get anything out of his sermons,” they say.

Sadly, this is the sort of drivel that is being pawned off as good literature, ‘Christian reading,’ and time well-spent. What really happened to the discipline of reading? Let me conclude with these titles:

  • Never Say Diet
  • Empowering Your Health
  • Raising Fit Kids in a Fat World
  • Don’t Bet Against Me
  • Dangerous Surrender
  • Living Well
  • Perfect Weight
  • A New Kind of Conservative
  • Get Out of that Pit

Wow. That is deep, deep stuff. Like I heard someone else say, “The modern church is ten-miles wide, and a half an inch deep.” This is truly pathetic, mind-boggling. I cannot believe FCS is not embarrassed to publish this catalog. Will someone please publish a book worth reading already?

jerry

Friends,

Evidently, the Discovery Institute is fighting back. According to the Christian Post:

The Discovery Institute plans to post a slide show presentation critiquing the online materials from PBS-NOVA’s “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” documentary on www.judgingpbs.com.

According to the site:

Introduction.

PBS asserts that the evidence “unequivocally supports [Darwin’s] theory of evolution by natural selection.” Do all scientists who approach biology with an open mind believe that the data “unequivocally” supports Darwin’s view? The following slides show that scientists are increasingly skeptical that natural selection is the primary agent of evolutionary change. Moreover, key postulates of Darwin’s theory – universal common descent, the continuity of life, and transitions in the fossil record – have come under intense scientific scrutiny from a diverse array of fields, including molecular biology, developmental biology, genetics, biochemistry, and paleontology. Some of Darwin’s failed predictions include:

  • The failure of evolutionary biology to provide detailed evolutionary explanations for the origin of complex biochemical features;
  • The failure of the fossil record to provide support for Darwinian evolution;
  • The failure of molecular biology to provide evidence for universal common descent;
  • The failure of genetics and chemistry to explain the origin of the genetic code;
  • The failure of developmental biology to explain why vertebrate embryos diverge from the beginning of development.

Well, have fun. What is sad is that in this age of enlightenment and erudition and scientific progress there are people still clinging to such antiquated ideas as Darwinian Evolution. I guess we can only hope and pray for those tired souls who grasp at the illogical straw that is Darwinism. Here’s hoping…

jerry