Archive for March, 2008

Friends,

Terribly disconcerting quote this is:

If we believe that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we shall neither reject nor despise the truth itself, wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to insult the Spirit of God…All truth is from God, and consequently if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it, for it has come from God.”The Institutes II, ii, 15 translated by John Allen. 2 Vols. Philadelphia Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1909 and Commentary on Titus, 1:12; as quoted by David Seamands, Healing Grace, 187)

Now I am really, really afraid.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I have written a post at my other blog A Pastor’s Prayer Journey on the subject of Silence and Envy. These are reflections on the recent death of an acquaintence of mine. If you are interested, here’s the link: It’s My Silence You Detest: Reflections on Envy.

Thanks,

jerry

Friends,

I am currently preaching through the Epistle to the Colossians. The series of sermons is called The Supremacy of Christ. Here is the third in the series. I may well post the other two, but they are rather long so I’m trying to decide if I want to scale them back first. (The first sermon ended up being about 58 minutes long, the second was 43.) Anyhow, here’s the third in the series based on Colossians 1:24-2:5. I welcome all feedback. jerry

The Supremacy of Christ
Colossians 1:24-2:5: The Supremacy of the Riches of Christ
Sermon #3: March 30, 2008

Introduction

To introduce today’s sermon, I would like to read the text of our selected verses from three different translations. But I have factored this into our time, and it will not add to our allotted 78 minutes we have reserved for the sermon by one second! Anyhow, to the work!

New International Version

24Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

The Message

24-25I want you to know how glad I am that it’s me sitting here in this jail and not you. There’s a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church’s part of that suffering. When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God’s way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth. 26-29This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

1 I want you to realize that I continue to work as hard as I know how for you, and also for the Christians over at Laodicea. Not many of you have met me face-to-face, but that doesn’t make any difference. Know that I’m on your side, right alongside you. You’re not in this alone. 2-4I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.” 5I’m a long way off, true, and you may never lay eyes on me, but believe me, I’m on your side, right beside you. I am delighted to hear of the careful and orderly ways you conduct your affairs, and impressed with the solid substance of your faith in Christ.

New American Standard Version

24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

________________

We are in danger on every side. Here’s a press announcement from a popular book and video that has been touted by everyone—including Oprah. According to a biographical sketch at the website, the book alone has sold 7.5 million copies. It’s author, Rhonda Byrne, was one of last year’s 100 most influential people in the May issue of Time magazine. Maybe you have heard of…The Secret:

The Secret reveals the most powerful law in the universe. The knowledge of this law has run like a golden thread through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages and saviors in the world’s history, and through the lives of all truly great men and women. All that they have ever accomplished or attained has been done in full accordance with this most powerful law.

Without exception, every human being has the ability to transform any weakness or suffering into strength, power, perfect peace, health, and abundance.

Rhonda Byrne’s discovery of The Secret began with a glimpse of the truth through a 100 year old book. She went back through centuries, tracing and uncovering a common truth that lay at the core of the most powerful philosophies, teachings and religions in the world.

What Rhonda discovered is now captured in The Secret, a film that has been viewed by millions around the world. The Secret has also been released as an audio-book and printed book with more than six million copies in print.

The Secret explains with simplicity the law that is governing all lives, and offers the knowledge of how to create – intentionally and effortlessly – a joyful life. This is the secret to everything – the secret to unlimited happiness, love, health and prosperity.

This is the secret to life.

Well, that sounds impressive doesn’t it? Sadly, many Christiansbuy into this sort of malarkey and in the process they shipwreck their faith or deny it altogether. Secrets abound in our world and everyone has them. The Secret is just one example and I’m sure if time permitted I could give you 10 or 15 more. We are in danger on every side from this sort of stuff. We have to be cautious (because a lot of these so-called versions of the Gospel purport to give you better life, better goals, peace, happiness, and much wealth.)

So what did the apostle do? Well, his times were no different from ours. There were teachers and preachers who sought the easy way of doing things: Mystery religions abounded, secret philosophies made the day, gnostic Christianity was most likely, at least, in its beginning stages. It was all around. Even Jesus warned that in the last days there would be all sorts of false prophets rising up to take us hostage, or worse, rising up to kill us: “…and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But my sheep will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Paul said it this way elsewhere in his Corinthian correspondence:

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Paul begins by noting that it is his responsibility, a charge and commission given to him by the Stewardship of God, to proclaim the fullness of God’s mystery: “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.” Well, he doesn’t leave it at that. He gives several reasons why it is necessary to preach the fullness of God’s word, the mystery, which Paul says is Christ. God has revealed in the Gospel that it has been his intention all along to include you and me in the plan of salvation. Let’s examine the reasons why Paul says he must preach the Gospel in it’s fullness.

___________________

First, Paul preaches the fullness of the Gospel so that we might know the glorious riches of this mystery which is Christ in us, our hope of glory.

But how can we get along without Christ in us? Is He not our strength, our hope, our glory? Is His presence a mere good feeling or His presence the very hope that we cling to? And is His image not showing through in our lives? Christ in us is our hope. It means that we have been invaded. It means that not only have we been transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of the Son he loves, but it also means that the reign of darkness in us has ended and is being overtaken by Christ. He is taking back the ground that was given up to sin. Christ is reclaiming that which is His. It means that we are consumed outwardly (‘in his kingdom’) and inwardly (‘Christ in us’). It means that we are surrounded on all sides, and in all dimensions. It means that we are defined by Christ and not he by us. Christ in us! Imagine, he lives in us!

Second, Paul preaches the fullness of the Gospel so that we might be presented to Him perfect. Here is true wisdom and knowledge. Here is the goal of the proclamation of Christ, here is the goal of correction and teaching: That we might be presented perfect in Christ. Proclamation of Christ has this as it’s goal. Perfection here means ‘complete’ but it also can mean ‘without blemish.’ But again how is this accomplished? Paul says it in a word: We proclaim Him. Him! We preach Christ! Do you want to be perfect in Christ, ready for your presentation to him? Learn Christ. And he says it in Greek very uniquely by repeating the phrase ‘everyone’ three times so that verse 28 actually reads this way: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” What else can we preach that will perfect us? I hear it all the time that we need to learn about this or that or study this teaching or that and Paul says: We proclaim Him! We proclaim Christ. I want you to be perfect in Christ on the day you stand before Him so I will not shortchange you or give you anything less than Him who is able to enable you to stand before him: Christ!

And Paul labors at this with the energy of Christ. He struggles not only for the church at Colossae, and the church at Laodicea, but also the all who have not met him: This includes us. This is why we teach, preach, study, learn, and proclaim Christ: So that even we will be able to stand before Christ in perfection.

Third, his purpose is stated again: That we may be encourage in our hearts and united in love. United in love here is poetically stated: Knitted together in love. We are like a fine fabric, carefully knit together in love. Well, how else can we have this unity of love? How else can we be knit together if not in Christ? So Paul preaches Christ, the fullness of the mystery of God’s Gospel so that you and I will be completely one in Him. He proclaims Christ so that we will be encouraged in our hearts to persevere in the midst of all sorts of destructive forces that still encroach upon the kingdom of God, hoping to take captives. But we will stay encouraged in our love for one another, and the unity we have in Christ.

Fourth, he preaches the fullness of the Gospel of Christ so that they will know the mystery of God, namely Christ. Paul wants us to know Christ! Dare I say that he wants to know Christ to the exclusion of all else? Here’s what Paul wrote elsewhere:

2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

John Calvin said this: “Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ.” Paul also wrote to the Corinthians: “I resolved to know nothing among you except Christ…” We have to seriously ask ourselves this question: Why do we study, learn, preach, teach? What is the ambition of our listening to sermon after sermon after sermon? To know Christ! Why do we keep on keeping on? To know Christ! What is the goal and ambition of life: To know Christ! What else could possibly be of value in this world save for knowing Christ? John Piper said it this way:

Therefore, all knowledge and all wisdom and all riches originate in him, and are held in existence by him, and are for the purpose of making him known. Therefore, Christ is the final and ultimate meaning of all reality. Which means that nothing can be fully or rightly known that is not known in relation to Jesus Christ.

I think this is yet another failure of the church and of much of the preaching that goes on in churches: People do not teach or learn for the sake of knowing Christ. Christ is not our ambition and I’m not talking any Christ, but the complete message of Christ contained in, and exemplified by, chapter 1:15-20. We should want to know nothing more or less than the full picture of Christ Paul writes of in those verse. One writer said it this way: “It is not surprising, therefore, that Christ embodies allGod’s wisdom and knowledge as well. There is no need for the Colossians to look beyond Christ; there is no purpose in pursuing other systems of thought; there is no value in secret initiations. Christ is all and in him are all things.”—47

Fifth, Paul preaches the fullness of the Gospel so that we will not be deceived by fine sounding arguments. Everything that we study must conform to the image of God in Christ. That is, he talked about Christ. Keep fixed on Jesus. Stay focused on Jesus. It is only when we keep ourselves fixed on Jesus that we are truly going to remain undeceived. The words matter, and the content matters. We must be careful people who weigh each and every syllable that comes from our teachers. We must be careful not to merely surround ourselves with teachers who have only their own interests in mind. This is why we preach the Gospel even to people who are saved. It is terribly easy for the word of God to be distorted to serve the ends and purposes of people.

But the Word of God does not serve our interests, but those of God. There are many, many dangerous teachers in the world now, and in the church, and we have to be careful of them. Scripture serves one end: To make known Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus said in John 5, and Luke 24. This is the point of the book of the Revelation, to make known Christ. This is the clear point of the Gospel: To teach us about Jesus Christ, the Mystery of God now revealed. And I do not mean: 15 helpful tips from Jesus the Great teacher of morality. I don’t mean that we study the stories of David or Moses in order to learn fine tips for a better psychological profile: I mean we study Christ Jesus and him Crucified.

Paul means this: We are only kidding ourselves if we think we need something more than Jesus or some teaching more than Christ. Paul here is pointing out the supremacy of the Riches and wealth that are found in Christ Jesus alone. I have argued this point with others at my blog. They tell me about the beauty of math, to symmetry of biology, the grandiose nature of chemistry. They tell me how wonderful people like Einstein and Darwin and Jefferson were. They tell me about all the great teachers of the world: And I laugh because apart from Christ Jesus those men and their teachings are worthless dead-ends unto themselves.

I’m telling you that if you want to succeed in life, if you really want to have a go at what matters: Learn Christ. Learn what was hidden from generations, and angels, and prophets. Learn the mystery of God which is Christ in you. Learn Christ! The full wealth of our Gospel, the completeness of the Gospel is Jesus Christ. Here’s what Lucas wrote:

“Here then Paul answers the demand for the richest experience of God that is permissible for human beings to have. When we have begun to grasp the greatness of Christ, and then grasp the closeness of the union we may have with him, he in us and we in him, we can ask of God no more.”—75 (Lucas)

Because what more could possibly be needed? You want to be sure? Learn Christ, live Him, breath him, commune with him. You want to understand the mysteries of this world, understand Christ in you, and you in Christ. You want to remain clear-minded, sober, in touch, relevant—free from the deception of false teachers whose only ambition is your harm: Stay with Christ Jesus and Him Crucified.

__________________

I think it is safe to say that because of this insistence on the proclamation of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ the church at Colossae remained steadfast in their faith. Their faith was orderly and it was firm. I read a sermon and the author said this:

“The resources of the Christian life, my friends, are simply—Jesus Christ.” Quoted in Greathouse.

Yet another author expresses it with a few more words than this:

“Obviously, if less than the Christ of 1:15-20 is believed among the churches, there will be no gospel to preach, no good news to offer. What is not quite so obvious, but is equally important, is that the united front so essential for convincing evangelism will be threatened when there are those in the churches teaching more than this Christ. We need to take very seriously Paul’s claim that all our spiritual treasures are found in Christ alone if the powerful witness of a united band of Christian churches is to be exercised in the world.”—85 (Lucas)

This is the richness and wealth we seek: Christ Jesus. Maybe you tire of hearing it, but what else do we have? What other claim can we make on this world? We are strangers, sojourners, pilgrims Peter said in his letter. We have no claim here, not stake. So there are hundreds of preachers who are going about saying things like, “God wants you to be rich! God wants you to have! God is not interested in his people living in poverty!” And you know what, I agree with them.

Mark this day on your calendars: Jerry preached the health and wealth Gospel. It is there, or here, in the Scripture I agree. The only difference there is is this: The nature of the riches and wealth He wants us to own and be owned by. Paul wrote:

2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Here is your health and wealth Gospel! Paul wants you to be rich in Christ. And to make certain you are, he labors and toils and struggles, literally, he agonizes over this work of the Gospel. He agonizes over the church he serves. He said to the Galatian Church: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”

Paul says this mystery of Christ has been revealed to us! TO us! TO us! We are the recipients of the greatest riches and wealth imaginable—and do we settle for less? Worldly treasures are less! Paul says the greatest treasure is Christ in Us, the hope of glory. The hope that we shall not remain unchanged, the hope that we shall not remain defeated, the hope that Christ indeed is our hope—the goal of all history, and creation, and life. The riches of Christ are far supreme over anything this world can offer—and do we settle for less? It think many preachers miss the mark on this very point: Why settle for paper and chains and things that break, when God has given us the fullness of his wealth in Jesus Christ?

So Paul says we can rejoice. He begins 1:24 with rejoicing and he ends 2:5 this way: Rejoicing. We can rejoice in sufferings, we can rejoice that the church is strong in faith even if the church is weak other areas. We can rejoice because we know that what we possess, and what (who) possesses us is beyond compare. We rejoice because of Christ! We rejoice in Christ! We rejoice because whatever else the world tells us we don’t have matters little to us: We have Christ, and Christ has us. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us: The Hope of Glory! The hope that this world will not have the last Word. The hope that our treasure is Christ and there will our hearts be.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

A reminder for you:

New American Standard Version: Colossians 1:24-2:5:

24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,

26that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

Here are some stories and brief commentary that might hold your interest for a minute or two.

First, at the height of today’s absurdity: Earth Hour

At 8 p.m. local time today, some of the world’s most iconic landmarks will disappear from city skylines as millions of people all across the globe take part in Earth Hour.

At the last count, there were around 380 cities and communities supporting the event. Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, and San Francisco are all set to take part, along with London, Manila, Sydney, Bangkok, Vancouver and Tel Aviv, among other cities.

“Earth Hour shows that everyday people are prepared to pull together to find a solution for climate change,” said James Leape, the general director of World Wildlife Fund International, the global organizer of Earth Hour.

“It can be done, but we need to harness some of the cooperative spirit we’ve seen with Earth Hour to find a global solution,” he continued.

“The challenge now is to build on the momentum Earth Hour has created, to use it to propel us forward.”

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do at 8:00 PM tonight: I’m turning every light on in my house, every appliance, and running the furnace 5 degrees warmer. I can’t begin to tell you how absurd this idea is. Join with me in turning on your lights!  I wouldn’t be surprised if this actually backfired because at some point all those lights will have to be turned back on and if everyone who turns them off at 8 turns them on a 9–well, won’t that overload something, somewhere? I better not miss COPS.

Second, evidently, ‘Religion’ is not helping Barak Obama. Here’s a couple of excerpts:

Unlike many Democratic candidates before him, Obama speaks with ease about his faith. He attends Sunday worship and knows his Bible. His supporters believe he can pry some committed churchgoers away from the GOP.

The Illinois senator has held faith forums, created a grass-roots support network of “congregation contacts” and has spoken at evangelical churches that Democrats had rarely visited.

His strategy is rooted in the Christian faith he found as an adult through Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ, a predominantly African-American megachurch. Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope” was inspired by a Wright sermon.

Well, the problem is that his campaign is about ‘religion’ and not Christianity. This is why his ‘religion’ is not helping him among ‘Christians.’ Furthermore, as I have demonstrated here on more than one occasion, the assertion that Barak Obama ‘knows his bible’ is patently false. If he knew his Bible he would not support gay civil unions, abortion, or raising taxes.

Third, it appears Jesus is on the way out as the ‘face of Christianity.’ It’s true:

“The new face of Christianity will be the black woman,” said Dr. Kwok Pui Lan to an audience at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Kwok, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., is a pioneer in Asian feminist theology as well as postcolonial theology.

Kwok explained that as of last year, Europe still had the largest number of Christians in the world – 532 million. It is followed by Latin America with 525 million and then Africa at 417 million.

But by 2025, Africa is projected to shoot up to 634.6 million Christians, followed closely by Latin America at 634.1 million, while Europe will fall to 531 million Christians.

The United States had 223 million Christians mid-2007 and is predicted to grow slightly to 252 million by 2025.

“The challenge,” said the William F. Cole, professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School, “is to re-imagine Christianity in the 21st century.”

Well, that’s all fine and dandy isn’t it? The problem is that as humans continue to put the face of man on Christianity, the face of Christ diminishes. And as long as it is man who defines Christianity, we will continue to be plagued by the sort of things that Pastor Obama’s pastor (the Rev Dr Jeremiah Wright) spews from his pulpit: Class envy, racism, bigotry, etc. Certainly, as long as Christianity is defined by anyone other than Christ, the church will continue to be a colossal failure. I agree with Cole: Christianity must be re-imagined in the 21st century. Where we disagree is how to re-imagine it. He thinks in terms of humans; I think in terms of Christ.

Fourth, apparently the Bible as it is is not quite good enough so they must be re-written from a different perspective:

The Rev. Robert Harrison of St. John’s Church in northwest London is behind the reworking of the top 10 Bible stories that were chosen by a poll conducted by the Christian charity Scripture Union.

In Harrison’s book, The Must Know Stories, the tale of David and Goliath is retold from the perspective of Goliath, who is portrayed as a “depressed alcoholic” who is hung over on the day of battle with David, according to the U.K.-based Telegraph newspaper.

Meanwhile, the well-known story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is twisted so that Adam expresses his obsession with Eve’s naked body. The nativity story is also changed so as to have Jesus born in an overcrowded house instead of a manger, amid family tension stirred by Joseph’s aunt who is upset that Mary and Joseph are not married.

Harrison explained that he began the book by asking people which Bible stories they think must be passed down to the next generation. From the responses, the Anglican priest gathered the most popular stories and rewrote them from the perspective of the non-believer.

He said his purpose in rewriting the stories is to make them more accessible, and not to promote Christianity.

Harrison said that “because we’re so uneasy about things religious, these stories are slipping silently out of our consciousness,” according to the Telegraph.

I’m just going to take a chance here and say this: This man is an idiot. Why would the stories need to be re-written from the perspective of a non-believer? One thing is probably sure: Harrison has the necessary credentials to understand how a non-believer would think. Also, of course he is not writing to ‘promote Christianity’, but who cares if the stories are ‘accessible’ if they do not promote Christianity? Those ‘stories’ are not in the public domain; they belong to the church. As such, they exist only to promote Christ. Telling these stories for any other purpose is rather meaningless. Finally, the reason they are ‘slipping silently out of our consciousness’ is because there are few preachers who have the nerve to actually read them to their congregations on Sundays.

Fifth, from the world of ‘I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV and therefore have a right to tell all you non-doctors how smart I am’ comes actress Kate Walsh who plays a doctor on a television show that I have never watched. Evidently, telling young people and un-married people to abstain from sexual relations is actually the causeof rising STD’s. That’s right, read it again: Not having sexual relations actually causes teenage pregnancy and the spread of STD’s. Well, imagine how low those rates would be if people did have sex outside of marriage:

Actress Kate Walsh, who plays a doctor on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” television series, is receiving criticism from pro-life advocates for faulting abstinence education for the rising pregnancy and STD rates among teen girls.

Walsh, a member of the board of advisors of Planned Parenthood, attended a congressional briefing on sex education on Capitol Hill on Thursday, during which she advocated cutting out all government funding for abstinence education, according to the D.C.-based Family Research Council.

FRC President Tony Perkins disagrees with her position on abstinence education.

“Contrary to what Walsh and her liberal friends believe, doing away with abstinence education won’t lower teen pregnancy rates,” he wrote in an e-mail about the event on Thursday.

“Instead it would squelch one of the most effective methods of reducing teen sexual risk,” Perkins added.

. . .

Walsh also took her sex education campaign to airwaves on Friday’s CBS The Early Show, where she told co-anchor Julie Chen, “Abstinence-only is not working. It’s a $1.5 billion program over the last ten years that has, quite frankly, failed.”

She attempted to link abstinence-only education to the rising STD rates among teens by citing the recent Center for Disease Control statistics which showed that at least one in four teenage American girls has a sexually transmitted disease.

The actress called for more government spending on sex-ed, noting that private foundations and parents should not be trusted sources.

. . .

Walsh spent the remainder of Friday campaigning throughout eastern Pennsylvania for democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, whom she has described to The Washington Post as “pro-Planned Parenthood, pro-choice and pro-women.” [Ed note: It’s too bad she didn’t campaign for someone who is ‘pro-all the people he represents.’]

I do agree with Ms. Walsh on this one point: It is sad that the government has to spend that much money to tell people: “Hey, not having sex until you are married will significantly decrease your chances of getting pregnant, transmitting sexual diseases, and catching sexually transmitted diseases.” Used to be that people had parents who told them for free. Then again, used to be that people had parents. But that’s OK. Just keep on screwing, and sleeping around, and divorcing, and I’m sure that teen-pregnancy rates will come down, I’m sure the spread of STD’s will be curbed, and I’m sure we will have more stable families in the US! How stupid does one have to be to make the statement that ‘abstinence increases teen pregnancy and STD rates’? What sort of logic is that?

Finally, I saw this at Christian Post:

 

Friends, with all due respect to the need for generating advertising dollars, the Bible doesn’t say anything about Jesus crying at Calvary and even if He did cry, it’s not the tears he shed that will save you: It is only the blood he shed. Well, that’s enough for now I suppose. Please visit the sponsors of the Christian Post where I dug up all this garbage. Have a nice day.

jerry

Friends,

I updated my Photo page tonight with photos from a recent day off that my wife and I spent in beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Among the attractions we visited: Station Square, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden, Heinz Field, and the ever spectacular Fort Pitt Tunnel–THE best way to enter any city in the world!

Access the photos here, it’s the first slide show you will see.

jerry

‘For Noah’

for-noah.jpg

Friends,

I recently had a couple of days off from my work, so my wife and I packed up the van, dropped off the kids, and went to Pittsburgh for a day. We stopped at Station Square where I snapped this photo on my Blackberry Pearl. I have titled it: For Noah.

Enjoy!

jerry

Friends,

Well, Obama is at it again. According to The Christian Post, Obama has commented on the salvation of his mother:

While answering a question about his Christian faith, Obama said he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sins and through God’s grace and mercy he could have “everlasting life,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

But he also believes Jews and Muslims and non-believers who live moral lives are as much “children of God” as he is, according to The Associated Press.

As an example, he spoke about his late mother who was “not a believer.”

“[S]he was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known,” Obama said, according to the Times. “I’m sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.”

Well, I’m not going to comment on the eternal destiny of his mother, but I am going to say this to anyone else who may happen by: That is not what the Scripture says gets us ‘into heaven.’ It is an absolute contradiction in terms to say that we can ‘have everlasting life’ through ‘God’s grace and mercy’ and in the same breath say that a person is also in heaven because they are the ‘kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known.’

The Bible is rather clear on this point: Kindness, decency, generosity do not matter a lick when it comes to heaven or everlasting life. All that matters is grace–God’s grace. We are told to have faith in the work of Jesus Christ. We are told that He is the Only Way. There is no other way. It cannot be both our kindness and God’s grace. It cannot be our generosity and God’s grace. It is either one or the other.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, NIV)

It cannot be both ways and to teach it any other way is to preach a false Gospel. I know we all want to believe that we can behave, act kindly to others, save a dog or a cat from misery, plant a tree, give generously to the poor, or blow ourselves up in a cafe in Jerusalem and that that will be sufficient in God’s eyes to gain us eternal or everlasting life. But that is wrong and not the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel says we are helpless to do anything in God’s eyes that will make up the deficit of our sin. The only way we can be saved is by the grace of God–Him reaching down and offering us forgiveness of our sins because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is only God who justifies us; we cannot justify, in any way, shape, or form, ourselves.

I’m not opposed to Mr Obama’s candidacy necessarily. What I am opposed to his is continual mangling of Scripture, and I will continue to point it out every single time he opens his mouth to say something about Christianity or the Scripture. It’s a good thing that he is not really a preacher because he has no idea what the Scripture really says about Christian faith. If being nice or generous gets us ‘into heaven’ then I think, and I say this humbly, someone has a lot of explaining to do for the testimony of the Bible. God, to be sure, wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). But this salvation is God’s gift to us, not a wage we earn. God does not delight in anyone spending their everlasting life in hell, but the truth is that many, most, will  do so precisely because they reject God’s free gift of salvation. Fact is, furthermore, we cannot earn our way into heaven; it just will not happen. We can never make up the deficit of our sins.

That’s what grace is all about in the first place. It’s free and cures us of the guilt and power of sin.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

PS-I realize these are hard truths to come to grips with. I’m sorry to point this out to anyone who reads it and thinks that their good deeds towards dogs and cats and trees will be enough to earn them salvation. I’m sorry to point out the truth concerning hell. However, I am thrilled to point out to you that Grace is free and God is willing to save all those who call on His Name (Romans 10). Hell doesn’t need to be a reality for anyone. Put your trust in Jesus today.

Friends,

Should Christians be involved in politics? Well, I suppose that depends on what one means by ‘be involved’. We are necessarily involved in politics if we vote in any election. So, at least at this barest minimum, yes: we should be involved in politics. Here’s part of a conversation concerning this issue:

Dr. Frank Page, president of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), discussed politics and American society during an interview with Donald E. Wildmon, the founder and chairman of the American Family Association, in a video made available online Tuesday.

Wildmon recalled growing up being taught that politics was “dirty” and that, as a Christian, he should stay out of it. The prominent pro-family leader then asked Page what he thought about Christian engagement in the political sphere.

“I believe Christians should be involved in the [political] process – not only because of our spiritual obligation but because as active participants in a democracy we are required to be participants,” Page responded without hesitation. “You cannot complain and you cannot whine about things if you’re not part of the process.”

He also recalled how Christians are called to be the “salt and light” in the world, and that through political involvement believers can make an impact on the culture for Christ.

In particular, Page urged Christians to vote this November for the next U.S. president whether their favorite candidate is on the ballot or not.

“Unfortunately, you’ve got a lot of foggy notions out there that electing the right person is going to change everything,” Page observed, according to OneNewsNow, the website of the American Family News Network (AFN). “The reality is we’re in a system of checks and balances, and not one person can do everything.”

He warned against the thinking of not voting in the presidential election because of problems perceived in the three major presidential contenders.

“There is no perfect candidate; you must vote – and particularly this fall,” Page urged. “Whoever the next president is going to be is most likely going to appoint at least two Supreme Court justices.”

You can see the entire interview here although I tried to watch it and it appears to require some sort of registration which I was not willing to do.

Anyhow, allow me a couple of thoughts here based solely on what Dr Page has said that has been quoted in the above piece.

First, Page said this: “You cannot complain and you cannot whine about things if you’re not part of the process.” Actually, this is a weak argument. People can do whatever they want in this country. I used to buy this argument that people shouldn’t whine or complain if they do not vote, but I have changed my mind. Sometimes, the very fact that people do not vote is whining and complaining. Still, the Scripture says that we should do ‘all things without grumbling and complaining’  (Philippians 2:14). So even if we vote that doesn’t somehow give us the inherent right to complain. We are to submit ourselves to those who rule because they are, whether they acknowledge it or not, God’s servants. (See Romans 13 for more.) Voting or ‘participating in politics’ so that one may secure the right to complain and whine is a pathetic reason to participate in the process.

Second, Page said this: “I believe Christians should be involved in the [political] process – not only because of our spiritual obligation but because as active participants in a democracy we are required to be participants.” But what exactly is this ‘spiritual obligation’ that he is speaking of? When I read the Scripture, in particular the book of Acts, I do not see anywhere that God said it is our ‘spiritual obligation’ to participate in politics. In fact, I do specifically recall reading that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ that we cannot ‘serve two masters,’ and that those who are friends with the world ‘cannot be friends with God.’ On the other hand, those who crucified Christ said, ‘we have no king but Caesar.’

But let’s draw this out a little more: What about those Christians who live in nations that prohibit the involvement of the people in the ‘political process’? For example, what if I were a Christian living in a Muslim country where I was specifically denied involvement in the political process precisely because I was a Christian? What then would my spiritual obligation be? What obligation can there be if in fact such a privilege is denied? I think it is very, very dangerous to equate the Christian faith and political privilege. We are politically privileged in the United States, but such is not true in all places and at all times. So the political privilege we enjoy cannot be a ‘spiritual obligation’ at any level.

Now this is not to say we should not participate in politics. As I said, when we do something as radical as participate in free elections, we are participating in the process. But that is not a spiritual obligation. God’s Kingdom and God’s Sovereignty does not hinge on the participation of Christians in a general, free election. Should we participate: Yes. Is it a spiritual obligation: No.

Third: “He also recalled how Christians are called to be the “salt and light” in the world, and that through political involvement believers can make an impact on the culture for Christ.” I think this is naive at best. First of all, Jesus’ command for Christians to be salt and light has nothing to do whatsoever with political participation and it is dangerous to co-opt the Words of Christ in order to make people feel a twinge of guilt. Besides, what does he think this means? Second, there are a lot of Christians who think that voting for conservative candidates is equivalent to being ‘salt and light’ and there are other Christians who think that voting for liberal candidates is the same ‘salt and light.’ This is a meaningless application of Scripture and demonstrates what happens when Scripture is pulled from its context, stripped of its intended meaning, and used for political purposes instead of to lead someone to Christ. Come on, Dr Page. This is a careless and reckless application of Scripture.

Fourth, Page is right that we are living in a checks and balances world and that ‘electing the right person is going to change everything.’ Fact is, as much as I am in favor of a conservative candidate, there is not one running who will change anything for the better. All they all want to do is raise taxes, strip us of rights, and impinge upon our freedom. Maybe we are too worried that things ‘need to change.’ Maybe voting for anyone just because they promise change is another terribly wrong reason to vote.

Finally, “There is no perfect candidate; you must vote – and particularly this fall,” Page urged. “Whoever the next president is going to be is most likely going to appoint at least two Supreme Court justices.” I have to tell you: He is right, there is no perfect candidate which is precisely the reason I am thinking of not voting. But whatever I decide to do in the long run, I am voting for a president, not a supreme court justice. This is fear-mongering. Christians have to get out of this silly idea that any politician has the interests of any particular group in mind. The fate of this world does not hinge on the mental capacities of those nine people in the supreme court. Again, God’s sovereignty is not going to be overturned because a liberal ends up on the Supreme Court.

God is in control, and he will remain in control. This will not change and I think Christians need to stop fretting about such things because it is not really helping matters. We go through this every time there is an election: Christians need to vote because if you don’t the world will fall apart when a liberal gets elected because you didn’t vote. Seriously folks, do you think we could have a little more confidence in the power of God? Do you think we can trust the God who promised that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus’? Do you think we can have just a little less fear, a little more love, and a lot less worry about elections?

Should Christians participate in politics? Sure, if they can and if they want to. Will it help? Sure, at some level, I suppose. Is it an obligation? No, not at any level. Is it Scriptural, no. Will it help God? Probably not.

Isn’t God still in control? Isn’t that really what Scripture says? Can we have a little less abuse of Scripture and trust that God is in control?

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

I am a huge fan of books, and anyone who has spent any time here at all knows this to be true. So I have a tendency to get rather worked up when I read about people who are in favor of, for lack of a better term, censorship in reading.

I should also point out that I am a preacher. To make that point clear, I study Scripture and expound upon it for a living. It is my job to know the culture, to know the Word, and to make sense of the former in light of the latter. I do this day in, day out, 24/7.

I should point out one more fact: I am a dad. That’s right: the Lord has blessed me with three sons. I love my sons and do all that I can to help them understand their position in Jesus Christ as baptized believers saved by God’s grace.

All three of these are tough jobs. It’s a lot of work choosing which books are worthy of my time and dedication. It requires a lot of dedication to read all the books that I must read for Seminary, preaching, entertainment, and studying. I read a lot of books and a lot of journals (like JETS, BibSac, Modern Reformation, Books & Culture, Touchstone and a few others). I also read several blogs on a fairly consistent basis.

It’s a difficult job to be a preacher too. Those who do not preach have no idea what it is like to spend enough time to produce an 8-10 page sermon every single week (and on top of that, to prepare Bible School lessons, Bible Study lessons, in some cases a second sermon for the evening, to visit, preach the occasional funeral, and still have time for a family). A lot of reading goes into preparing the sermon too: commentaries, theologies, etc. Reading the right books is vital and I do not choose which books to read capriciously.

Being a dad is the most challenging of all my responsibilities. On the one hand, convincing my sons that reading is a useful expenditure of time is one challenge. On the other hand, being knowledgeable enough of the books they have to read for school in order to explain he difficult parts of the books, and be conversant about them, is quite another challenge altogether. (Recently, my high school  freshman aged son read Of Mice and Men. I had fun trying to recall what I learned when I was a freshman in college so that I could explain parts and help his own studies of the book.)

Well, this is all prefatory to let you know that I do not speak in this post of things with which I am unfamiliar or without knowledge of; these are my credentials. I understand books. I understand children. I understand Scripture. Not perfectly in any of the three cases, but well enough to know that Harry Potter books are not the dangerous rantings of a satanist whose ambition and goal is to warp the minds of all the children that Jesus loves; Rowling should not have a mill-stone tied around her neck and be cast into the sea. I do think perhaps the fear-mongers among us, the graceless among us, and the legalists among us really need to tone down their rhetoric or show us book, chapter, and verse where it says that interaction with (i.e., reading) is dangerous to the soul, the faith, the body, or justification by grace.

This is not to say that the seven books by Rowling about Harry Potter are perfect. They are flawed in some places, dull in others, repetitive in still others. There are times when lines of morality are not in perfect accord with what some people perceive as perfect, error-less, pristine Christian theology. But, neither was Bunyan’s (A Pilgrim’s Progress), neither was Lewis’ (Space Trilogy, Narnia), and, lest we excuse Christian novelists, neither, by a long shot, are Lahaye and Jenkins (Left Behind) or Peretti (This Present Darkness, etc). I read the first 8 Left Behind books and I am frankly stupefied that people rage against Harry Potter and not against Left Behind. I have never had a parent tell me, “My child is having nightmares because he read Harry Potter,” but I kid you not I had a middle school English teacher tell me that of one of her students was terrified (and not in a good way) because of the Left Behind teen novels.

The irony is, for example, that people say: “Harry Potter is not Christian.” The other irony is that people say, “Lord of the Rings was Christian.” A further irony is that the authors of the books have said exactly the opposite. Rowling claims that her books are Christian in nature and Tolkein denied that his was. I love irony. Tolkien is revered; Rowling is vilified. I love irony. We embrace the ones who rejected the label and reject the ones who embrace it. Talk about shooting your own wounded! Sometimes Christians are the most backward people on the planet: Raging against friends (those not against us) and welcoming those who hate us (those not for us). By this logic, we should not watch any of the Star Wars movies either because we might all start believing in Wookies and Yoda and Greedo!

My point is that people should, really, if they want to be consistent, rage and rant against those insipid Left Behind novels which are so rife with theological error it is beyond comprehension. I mean if we are setting some sort of standard by which to measure what is Christian what is not, then Left Behind fails miserably next to Harry Potter. It is profoundly ironic the things that Christians rage against at times.

So Yale Divinity School is now, evidently, going to offer a class on Harry Potter. And of course, all the intelligentsia are being quoted as authorities on this matter–as they always are: From James Dobson to the Pope (is it any surprise they have this in common?) Here is a lengthy section from the Christian Post article:

The trend to offer Potter-themed courses was embraced by some readers and strongly rejected by others, according to comments posted in response to the article.

One reader by the name of “Blue Sky” wrote, “I think we should steadfastly resist any attempt to ‘Christianize’ Harry Potter.”

Another by the name of “Stan” said it’s a “sad state of affairs when Harry Potter is being ‘studied’ in colleges and universities throughout the USA.”

“No wonder the USA is declining in so many areas and is no longer the moral or technology leader,” the reader wrote.

The majority of Christians, especially those in the evangelical community, remain strongly opposed to the book, which they say promotes witchcraft, the occult and defiance against authority to children.

A number of prominent Christian leaders, from family guru James Dobson to the pope, have publicly denounced the series. They have either urged a boycott on the books or strongly advised parents to exercise caution when letting their children read the books.

Matthew Slick, the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, which reports on cults and other religious movements, said in a review that he found “no Christian principles at all” after reading the books.

Unlike some who have drawn parallels between Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Slick argued that the books taught anti-biblical principles.

In “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” he said that the “failures of the occult side were demonstrated against the power of grace, love, and truth of God, though done through metaphor,” where as the Potter books don’t.

He added that the books do not condemn lying and deception, justifying the vices as a long as they meet the ends of the characters.

Richard Albanes, author of “Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings: What You Need to Know About Fantasy Books and Movies,” also rejected the comparisons drawn between works of Christian authors like C.S. Lewis and “Harry Potter.”

“There is this whole movement within Christianity where people are trying to say that the Harry Potter books are Christian novels. And that is just untrue,” he told Christian Broadcasting Network in a past interview.

Albanes said that while kids cannot replicate the magic in Lewis and Tolkien books, they can “really copy” the witchcraft that appears in the Rowling’s books.

“There is this crossover where the Wiccans know it, the occultists know, the practitioners of all these things know it, and they are using that curiosity that kids have for all of this stuff now through Harry Potter to attract readers to their real world how-to manuals. I think many parents just don’t get that. They don’t understand,” he said.

He further advised readers, especially parents, to use discernment in choosing fantasy novels.

“We need to not just cut everything out but to take care to look at what is good fantasy and what is bad fantasy.”

Allow me a few remarks here, but first I must say this. My concern here is not whether or not it is a good idea for Yale to offer such a course as part of their curriculm. I have no particular problem with it one way or another.  If a young person wants to go to Yale, spend that much money to study Harry Potter, then they obviously have more time and money than they know what to do with. Harry Potter does not require a college degree or a college classroom in order to be understand. Be that as it may, my comments are reserved here for those who feel that the world of Harry Potter is ruining the church and Christian faith and American youth and authors like Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins and John Hagee are not.

First, I agree. We should resist any effort to ‘christianize’ Harry Potter just as we should resist any effort to ‘christianize’ any book except Scripture. When the final page of Harry Potter is read, it is no more Scripture than the first page. The author never made an explicit overtures claiming that it was Scripture. So what’s the point? It is a STORY! It is a story that takes us into a fantasy world where characters from someone’s imagination work out difficulties and issues. We understand it as fiction. Yet, I have never understood why these ‘anti-christian’ Harry Potter books celebrate things like: Self-sacrifice, love, Christmas, Easter, friendship, hatred of evil, love of good, and suchlike. Perhaps one of the esteemed cultured despisers among us can enlighten me. Yet I know plenty of people who quote Left Behind as if it were Scripture, and others who have ruined churches because of The Purpose Driven Life and still others who quote Joel Osteen as Scripture.

Second, why is this a ‘sad state of affairs’? Stan must never have been to college and seen the things that are passed off as ‘of educational value.’ I had to read a book, actually a play, in college called ‘The Frogs’ by a fella named Aristophanes. This book featured: Zeus, Pluto, Charon, belching Frogs, Hermes, Pan, and much more. Still, I have never felt the urge to start worshiping any of them because I read the play. I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe but I didn’t start believing that lions talk, that wardrobes have magic back doors, or that beavers might actually invite me in for tea. I had to read some Hindu Myths, but I have never felt like becoming a Hindu. Although someone did point out the other day that after listening to ‘Christian’ professors at college he essentially rejected the Biblical Jesus and continues to write books and train young people in ‘Christian’ studies based on his rejection of said Jesus. More irony.

Third, what does reading Harry Potter at college have to do with being a leader in technology and morality in the world? I can make a case that America has never been a leader in morality and perhaps only mildly a leader in technology. But reading books causes a decline in technology and morality!? Stan, have you watched television lately? I’d rather my sons read a book called Harry Potter than to watch 98% of the garbage on television. Really Stan, whoever you are, you need to rethink your approach here.

Fourth, what is this nonsense that the book teaches ‘defiance against authority’? Frankly, if our nation ever becomes as corrupt as the world of Harry Potter I hope the children will be defiant. Someone will need to because it evidently will not be the adults. The children in Harry Potter respected those in authority who exercised their authority within the boundaries it was meant to be exercised within and rejected the authority of those who were evil and did not. (We can learn from children in that regard.) And they should have. I don’t think any one who has read the books will agree that the books teach children to defy authority; that is simply fear-mongering hyperbole at best, and stupid at worst. But a little child will lead them…you see, in the books it was only the children, and a few adults, who recognized the growing threat of Voldemorte and it was only the children who were willing to do something about the growing threat–often at great risk to their own lives. The children in the books did the right thing while many of the adults simply turned a blind eye. You would have to be rather obtuse to miss that point. It is in the real world where adults have not taken the call to arms against evil and injustice seriously. It is in the real world that adults still prefer to simply raise taxes to solve problems instead of warring against that which is wrong or dealing with it on a hands on basis.

Fifth, the books do not promote ‘witchcraft’ or the ‘occult.’ When the author of the books specifically says that ‘I go to church myself’ she cannot simultaneously be promoting that which the church is opposed to. I can make the case that ‘magic’ isn’t really a major theme in the books at all but rather a vehicle. It is incidental to the stories and the children in the stories often have to accomplish their goals by using their heads or by going to the library or by being a team; but always it was because of love and the author made that clear in vol 1 of the series. Nothing that is accomplished in the books is accomplished apart from love. Would that more adults understood this.

Sixth, who cares what James Dobson or the Catholic Pope have to say? What weight does their opinion carry? Are they God? Are they Scripture? Are their words binding? I think not. Who cares what they say? Certainly not I, but will I be accused of promoting defiance of authority? I hope so.

Seventh, to Mr Matthew Slick who, after reading the books, ‘found no Christian principles at all.’ Sir, are you mad? How can you say the books do not ‘denounce deception and lying’ when it is clear that books do precisely that very thing in their condemnation of Voldemort? If evil is condemned, and it is, then how can all evil not be condemned? Voldemort was evil and all of his evil was denounced by the author and her characters. She left nothing out of the picture. I remember that the book of Moses (Exodus) reports two mid-wives lying to accomplish their own ends. The Bible is silent about their ‘lying’ too and actually states that God rewarded their ‘lying.’ Should we quit reading the Bible now? Only a legalist/perfectionist can make the claim that the books do not denounce evil as evil.

Eighth, to Mr Richard Albanes who thinks we should read Tolkien and Lewis but not Rowling: Here’s someone who disagrees with you and gives ample evidence to support his claim. (For the record, I happen to disagree with Mr Barger, the author of the linked essay, at nearly every point, but my point in linking to him is because I agree with him that people who condemn Rowling should be consistent in their reasoning and condemn Tolkien and Lewis too.) I’m not sure what ‘movement’ he is talking about within Christianity, but I have noted above that I agree that the books shouldn’t be ‘christianized’ by which I define ‘christianize’ as ‘canonize’ or ‘inscripturate.’ They are stories for crying out loud!

Finally, Mr Albanes said this:

Albanes said that while kids cannot replicate the magic in Lewis and Tolkien books, they can “really copy” the witchcraft that appears in the Rowling’s books.

“There is this crossover where the Wiccans know it, the occultists know, the practitioners of all these things know it, and they are using that curiosity that kids have for all of this stuff now through Harry Potter to attract readers to their real world how-to manuals. I think many parents just don’t get that. They don’t understand,” he said. 

Sir, what is the witchcraft that you are referring to? Polyjuice potions? Gilly-weed? Mermaids? Fireworks? Invisible cloaks? Magic Mirrors? Talking pictures? Flying broomsticks? Has it ever occurred to you that this might just be satire? You know, taking every sort of witchcraft stereotype known to humanity and mocking it? Or is it Quidditch? Oh, I must say, last week I went to a Quidditch match myself. It was quite amusing. All the local witches were there, even though they had cast a lot of protection charms and hexes and spells, I still saw the quidditch matches being played. I saw some house elfs and some werewolves and goblins and a couple of blast-ended skrewts and a giant three-headed dog and a unicorn. And there were others playing with their magic wands. Oh, seriously man. Copy? The other day one of my sons cast an ‘avadra-kadavra’ spell on me and you know what? Nothing happened! Do you have an imagination?

Seriously, the only comparison that exists between Harry Potter and real witchcraft is in the minds of the paranoid. And for the record, I have read all the Harry Potter books, so has my eldest son. Neither of us have decided to stop being loved by Christ or to stop loving Him. We have not been converted to Wicca.

Well, that’s enough of a rant for today. What I think is that people should read and make up their own minds. That is why God gave us minds in the first place: So we would think. I am reminded of Daniel the prophet who went in to Babylon and was immersed in the Babylonian culture: He learned their language, studied their writings, even took on the name of one of their gods. And yet Daniel, for all that, remain a Christian and was used by God in a powerful way. I remember Paul the apostle quoting from Pagan poets to make his point while preaching. I think that Potter will serve a similar purpose. I may not be able to go into the local school and talk to kids about Jesus, but I cannot go into the school (where I work) and talk to kids about Harry Potter. I can plant seeds or water seeds. I think rather than Potter being a mess that will lead people away from Christ, it can be a tool used to lead them to Christ. It is no more perfect a tool than Paul’s pagan poets, but it is a place to start. I think Christians need to get off their morality high-horses and stop being so opposed to books.

It is a story. Brooms cannot fly. Goblins are not real. There is no ministry of magic. There is no Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, there is a Voldemort. And if we are careful, we can see him weaving his evil spells all over. The battle is not against Potter or Rowling any more than it is against Charles Schultz and Snoopy. The battle is against the powers of darkness in the present darkness. Christians really need to wake up to this and soon because I fear that in many cases Christians are simply fighting the wrong battle if not the wrong war. I leave you with the words of Dumbledore:

Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

Imagine that! Love! And sacrificial love at that! And Matthew Slick said there were ‘no Christian Principles’ at all in the books. Will not Right triumph over evil soon? I don’t think he read them.

jerry

PS–I will correct any errors as I find them. I welcome all comments and discussion on this post.

Friends,

I just want you to know that I have arrived! After 13 months of blogging here at wordpress my moment is finally here: I have been linked at Wikipedia! That’s right, Wikipedia! I wrote this post about an Iranian film that is a sort of ‘response’ to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and it was linked at Wiki. In honor of this special occasion, I have a few people and things I’d like to thank. This is a special day for me and my family and I don’t want it to pass by without recognizing the people who have gotten me this far. (Any offers to write books can be sent to my email which I’m sure you can find somewhere on my blog.)

I’d like to thank my mom, my dad, my wife and sons, my dogs, my cat, all those who through the years have put up with my sarcasm and mood-swings, attempts to learn guitar, and preaching. The church I serve which tolerates my use of blogging conversations as sermon illustrations on Sundays. And, of course, Nader Talebzadeh for making such a ridiculous piece of film. I’d also like to thank my mother in law for buying our family a PS3 for Christmas this past year. Our PS2 was on the blink and wouldn’t play my Resident Evil (from the PS1) games any longer. Thanks to Sony for producing such an amazing machine as the PS3 which is backward compatible all the way to the days of Atari and Colecovision.

I’d like to thank the members of my band Mustard Seed for their undying patience while I took a 30 day hiatus from the band (we should be on Behind the Music soon). The break gave me time to think and blog. I’d like to thank BlackBerry for producing the amazing BlackBerry Pearl 8130 which enables me to check my blog’s hit count several hundred times a day. And I should also thank Verizon for packaging such an amazing price for all the features I enjoy: Unlimited texting, Internet access, free calls to other Verizon customers; and my son’s texting habit (that alone is worth the price).

At this point, you probably think I am merely rambling on, but I have a few more ‘thank-yous’ to mumble. I’d like to thank the Internet. If the internet didn’t exist I wouldn’t have all the stress I have in my life that comes from the pure pleasure of blogging and justifying to my wife and sons the time I waste doing it (not to mention the sex with my wife that I give up so that I can blog 🙂 ). I’d like to than Al Gore for inventing the Internet and for bringing to our attention the plight of the polar ice caps. I’d like to thank Global Warming for giving me the opportunity to blog. I’d like to thank all the Darwinists and Atheists who make me laugh. I’d like to thank Barak Obama for continuing to quote Scripture during his circus campaign for presidency as it gives me a lot to critique these critiques becomes eye-candy for all the word voyeurs around the world who care what an insignificant nobody like myself has to say about something so significant as a presidential election. I’d like to thank the 150-200 people who visit here every day and pump up my ego a little more. Imagine, several billion people in the world and I get a thrill when 200 of them happen to visit my blog each day. What a loser!

I’d like to thanks the House of Representatives of the United States and the Senate of the United States for continuing to do nothing about the price of gasoline in this country. It has given me much more time to stay at home and blog about things like Iranian Hollywood’s production of blasphemous films about Jesus (can you imagine the outrage and the bombings that would take place around the world if someone produced such a film about Muhammed?) I’d also like to thank them for not renewing President Bush’s tax cuts and yet still managing to pass a budget worth several trillion American Dollars. (That was smart!) That will give me even more time to sit at home and blog since I won’t have any money to spend. (Hey congress, you want to boost the economy? Do something about the price of fuel for our vehicles!)

I’d like to thank all my friends out there in the blogosphere who have intentionally or inadvertently linked to my blog either to criticize a post or in their blogroll. I am truly humbled and honored that you think so highly or lowly of me as the case may be. Truly, blogging has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life and I graduated magna cum laud from college, have three sons, a hot wife, and a well-paying job. Is this really what it has come to? Is this really my life?

I’d like to thank WordPress. I used to have a blog at blogspot, but moved here a little over a year ago. For the first 5 months, I probably didn’t have 300 hits. Then, in the sixth month this blog went off. (Of course, it was about then that I learned what a ‘tag’ was!) I owe it to a tight marketing campaign by wordpress–they got my blog out there–google, mama, dogpile, etc. I should also thank technorati, Digg!, and Del.ic.ious (whose widgets I never did learn how to use.) (Also Slide.com and myspace.com.) I love the wordpress interface, the layouts, the widgets, feeds, and stats page. I appreciate that I have so much free space to write and post pictures and link to important stories. I love that I can do this for free and not get paid. Thank you wordpress. I’m sure somehow or other you are making a buck. I’m glad I can help.

Finally, I’d like to thank you, the intrepid reader of all things blogged. You have an amazing ability to sift through the muck and develop a solid opinion of life based upon what you read at unchecked, non-refereed, non-peer reviewed essays, articles, and editorials. You sort through the blogs and separate the real from the fake, the ham from the spam, the worthy from the unworthy. You make blogs successful or consign them to the rubbish bin (or compost heap–a little ‘green’ lingo there). You blessed web-surfer, internet troll, drive-by comment poster–you are the ones who keep this business alive and well. You feed our addiction and we are addicted to the rush (Daryl, I miss you and love you man!) you provide when you raise our hit count! You are the ones who make blogging the joy that it is even if your voyeurism adds significantly to our stress levels (Gotta post! Gotta post! Need new material! Gotta post! Need fresh stuff!). All of us who blog thank all of you who read. We’re glad the American Education system has done so much for you. We’re glad that words on computer monitor screens are more vital to your life and worldview than a good hardcover book from the library. God Bless You, blog readers.

Oh, and to the person who linked me at Wikipedia…*sniff*…thank you. Now I can die.

your blogging friend for at least today,

jerry aka dangoldfinch

**Warning: Political rant ahead. You have been warned.** 

Friends,

Many of you have no doubt seen the recent tirade by the preacher at Barak Obama’s home ‘church.’ I won’t replay it here. You can see it here. Anyhow, Mr Obama has been answering a lot of really tough questions about this ‘sermon’ that Mr Jeremiah Wright ‘preached’, and now hopes that it will all soon go away. (Turns out Mr Obama also called for Don Imus’ termination when he fouled up a while back and Fox News is reporting the difficult hypocrisy of this decision.)

Well, Mr Obama gave a sermon speech today (I think) concerning, at least in part, this issue of Mr Wright’s message of racial reconciliation divisiveness in our country. Here’s what Mr Obama had to say in part:

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

Rant #1: 

Again, Mr Obama is quoting from Scripture and again he is wrong. The bottom line is that this: It is simply not true that “all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” In fact, it is only Christianity that demands such a thing and to take the words of Jesus Christ and put them into the mouths of every other world religion is downright stupid and ignorant. Mr Obama I plead with you: Stop quoting Scripture in your sermons  speeches. Please stop taking Scripture out of its context and applying it to your obscene campaign. Please Mr Obama be a politician and stop being a preacher. The Scripture is for Christians not politicians running for office. Please stop. Quoting Scripture out of context in order to justify yourself is not going to win the hearts of those of us who know Scripture and live by it.

Rant # 2:

Here’s what Mr Obama really wants: “We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.” If this is true, then why also say this:

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

You cannot have it both ways Mr Obama. You can’t say: ‘Stop playing Rev. Wright’s sermons’ and ‘we cannot afford to ignore race right now’. Wright is part of the problem, not the solution. For crying out loud, Hilary dumped Geraldine Ferarro for less! But isn’t this what he really wants? Doesn’t Mr Obama really, honestly, just want this to go away so that he will not have to answer any more questions about it, so that his candidacy, run as it is on the assumption that he is the Messiah, can get back to making speeches filled with empty promises and campaign rhetoric? Isn’t Mr Obama pulling a Clinton and trying divert our attention from things that are substantial issues in this campaign to something that is not? (I think so. Think about it for a minute. Are we supposed to stop thinking about a racially divisive sermon and startthinking about ‘the issue we cannot afford to ignore right now’? And how shall we do that Mr Obama or Mr Obama’s supporters?)

Rant #3: 

And what is really, terribly offensive is not his words. What offends me is the word ‘Rev’ before his name (Wright’s that is) because he is a man who ought to know better. Here is a man of the Word, entrusted with a pulpit where he can preach peace, reconciliation, and unity and he used his pulpit to preach hate, politics (the politics of self-destruction), and intolerance. I don’t blame Mr Obama; I blame ‘Rev’ Wright. He sounds no different in that clip than Fred Phelps from Westboro Baptist and everyone knows how quick people are to condemn Fred Phelps (and rightfully so!) for the insipid, hateful, devilish content of his ‘sermons’. Wright is a man who must have read this:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29, niv).

This would be a much, much better message for the ‘Rev’ to preach. In Christ is the message of racial reconciliation!

Rant #4: 

On the contrary Mr Obama. I think this needs to stay in the loop. We need to know exactly the sort of people you are associating with because these are the type of people you will associate with in your White House. If George W. Bush can be condemned for hanging around with ‘oil people’ or ‘Haliburton people’ then shouldn’t you be held accountable for hanging around with preachers of hate? I think Mr Wright’s sermon tirade invective ought to be played day after day after day until the election and, if you happen to win, every day after that for the next four years.

No. I don’t think that at all. I think Mr Obama ought to denounce the ‘Rev’, remove his membership from the ‘Rev’s’ ‘Church’, and stop quoting Scripture in his campaign sermonsspeeches. Has anyone heard if Mr Wright has apologized to anyone for this speech? Has Mr Obama called for Wright’s board of elders to terminate his employment as he did for Don Imus? Has Mr Obama called for Mr Wright’s unconditional resignation and public humiliation? Has Mr Obama called for Mr Wright to invite white people to his ‘church’ on Sunday for a public apology? Has Mr Obama called for the same standard to apply to Mr Wright that he asked, demanded, apply to Mr Imus?

Rant #5:

But, besides all this, Mr Wright should stick to preaching the Scripture. If it is not fair for Mr Obama to quote Scripture as a politician then I don’t think it is any more fair for Mr Wright to be a politician from the pulpit. These two men need to learn the role they have chosen and stop mixing church and state (many atheists have told me here that there is no room for religion in the state, no room for God in Washington, no place for God in the state). Mr Obama: Please stop quoting Scripture in order to justify your meaningless campaign promises. Mr Wright: Please start quoting Scripture in order that people might hear the good news and turn to Jesus Christ, not Obama, and be saved. Obama will not give people hope; Jesus will.

On this I agree with the atheists (I realize it is a difficult position I am in here. Agreeing with atheists is, well, odd. But I hope some of my atheist friends out there also call for Mr Obama to stop quoting Scripture.): There must be separation of Church and state because the Word of God, the Scripture, does not exist and was not written and preserved, to justify the political campaign of any politician. Not Obama. Not Hilary. Not McCain. Not Bush. Not Huckabee. Not any of them. It exists for God’s pleasure and will in order that we might know Jesus Christ. That is all. And if such things as reconciliation takes place they take place because of Christ Jesus, not because of a politician or a campaign promise or a hate laced tirade filled with bigoted invective and stereotypes.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I suppose that is enough ranting for an evening. In conclusion, I want to summarize my two major points.

First, Mr Barak Obama needs to stop quoting from the Bible in order to justify his political campaign or a plank in his political platform because he continues to misuse Scripture when doing so.

Second, Mr Jeremiah Wright needs to start quoting from the Bible in order that people might hear the Good News that in Jesus Christ race is no longer an issue.

Third, this one is a necessary corollary of the other two, all of us need to humble ourselves under the mighty right hand of God, submit to his will which is to believe in the One He sent, namely Jesus Christ, and be reconciled to Him through Christ.

jerry

Friends,

In my judgment, this is one of the most important blog posts I have read in recent days (aside from my own, of course 🙂 ). It is posted at Slice of Laodicea here. This is precisely the point I have been making in several posts of my own, and in the course of my regular preaching in my own congregation:

For those in an area without a biblical church, worshiping at home and availing yourself of the solid preaching available through media is sometimes the only option. Far better, I think, is to try to find other like-minded believers to meet with you at home. If there are so few biblical churches today, it’s time to begin some. Perhaps it’s laziness that keeps that from happening. It’s easier to just show up at a church someone else has poured their heart and soul into. We cruise in, we cruise out, and it requires nothing of us. Having godly men who object to the Laodicean churches actually seek God about providing alternatives for their wives and children is the need of the hour. Are there any godly men out there who will rise to the occasion?

The author of Slice is commenting on statements made in an online essay by Jim Elliff here: Home Alone: Do We Still Need the Local Church?

Just for the record, I made a post last evening concerning something I read at Christian Post. It had to do with how to ‘market the church at Easter.’ A new friend of mine, who happens to be an atheist, and who has a blog of his own, responded to my post with these words:

Wow, who would have thought that there were people in religious organizations out there making such cynical calculations about how to best manipulate the people attending services.

Sarcasm aside I do have to confess that I admire your devotion and outrage at what seems to be a deceptive ploy that disregards what you view to be the true message. You’re clearly doing what you believe is right and that deserves some respect. We of course disagree on most all theological points, but I respect you just the same as you have far more integrity than the people who sent you that memo. Kudos my friend.

As you likely get this kind of mail frequently it’s a wonder you’re not more jaded about religion than I am.

Here’s what I wrote back:

To your point, it is terribly disappointing and outrageous that there are people who seek to manipulate and deceive people; and worse that people will. Yes, I am outraged, but even more I am sad; terribly sad. I hate that people think this is what I have to do in order to introduce you to the Jesus of Scripture. We live in a world and culture that is full of propaganda and deception and politicians. I think people want to hear the truth and see the truth backed up and confirmed and honored. In other words, there is something more to ‘church’ or ‘christianity’ than ‘me.’ It is above me, it is more than me, and it overwhelms me. Paul said it this way, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” I don’t think people are hearing that message, or seeing it.

To be sure, I am jaded about religion which is why I have given it up for something better. Paul also said, “For me, to live is Christ.” In my estimation, there is not much at all that passes for Biblical Christianity. It’s not that I have it nailed down perfectly–but grace is amazing. It is the manipulative, deceptive, disgraceful, televangelist, money-grubbing, thieving, graceless church that I cannot stand; nay, I hate. It is that church that I believe turns people away from the good news. I believe in the local church: A group of people who grow together, live together, suffer together, rejoice together, and love one another. This is the church I preach to and in and the church I love and that loves me. I think if you could find a church like the one I belong to, you would understand where I come from.

I disagree with much that the author of Slice writes; I agree with more. On this particular point, we are in perfect agreement. The local church takes priority. Elliff writes in his essay:

Forget the flash and the showmanship. Don’t even try to compete. Leave that to those media churches enamored with such surface concerns. They soon lose meaning to true believers anyway. Pare away all that is trifling—especially the traditions that have lost their meaning because they were only the last generation’s attempts at being up-to-date. Do what is biblical even if it means changing everything. And then you will have meaning. You will be the local church that nobody can think little of anymore.

The local church is needed now more than ever–and for perhaps even more reasons that are listed. Elliff lists some good reasons, but I think even more than his reasons is this: It is in the local church that the Word of God is preached and the grace of God dispensed to the community at large. (Not to mention that when the television preachers do their thing and beg for money at the end of the broadcast, they steal resources from the local church. This prevents, or at least inhibits, the local church from doing its work locally. I’ll say this: The church in Ohio does not need preachers from Texas or California telling us how to do what needs to be done. And the preachers in Madison do not need the preachers from Columbus telling us how to do the work God has called us to do. He established local churches for a reason. STOP STEALING FROM WIDOWS AND ROBBING FROM THE POOR! That’s all that happens.)

Thanks to Jim Elliff for writing this essay and the author of Slice for bringing it to our attention. It is a sorely needed message. And I for one will continue to preach it here and to my congregation. I suspect that when all the televisions in the world finally break, it is the local church that will survive.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

I wish I hadn’t come across this article at Christian Post because it really, really ruined my afternoon: Easter Checklist: 18 Factors For a Successful Church Outreach. Here’s how it all begins:

Easter Sunday is less than a week away and most churches have already laid out their strategies on how to reach the unchurched and non-believers during arguably the most important Christian holiday.

But in case a little help is still needed, C. Michael Johnson, president of Breakthrough Media, suggests 18 factors that can “really” impact a church or ministry’s Easter outreach efforts in a recent “Mindstorm Idealetter” from Breakthroughchurch.com.

To start off, churches need to set real and specific goals that they are firmly committed to bringing to reality. Next, they need to measure their progress in short increments towards reaching the goals. So whether the goal is to see the church packed with 500 people or to transform congregants, the planning committee needs to first set a goal. [Here’s a goal: to faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people going to hell.]

Friendship is another key factor. Johnson reminds church and ministry leaders that the goal of marketing, in the simplest term, is to develop conversations and create friends. The Kingdom is “all about” friends – “finding friends, being a friend, leading friends to be friends of God.” He suggests churches plan and measure how they are making progress with the friend factor.

After working on the friendship factor, churches need to be prepared to answer the relevancy question – “why should I give you the time of day?” People have spiritual needs and the church should find creative ways to promote how they can help meet these needs for non-churchgoers. The Easter program should not just focus on “us” if the church plans to use the service as an outreach opportunity, but make sure that it stays relevant to even newcomers. [What is more relevant to people going to hell than: Jesus died for the sins you’ve done and paid the penalty for your transgressions?]

Once the unchurched arrives for the service, Christians need to use the language of dreams to explain what they believe in and invite the visitor to participate in the dream of God for this world. [I really wish I had some idea what this paragraph even means. Seriously, can someone explain to me what this means?]

“The language of dreams (purpose, identity, passion, heart) defines the most relevant, responsive message you can ever use to build lasting relationships with the unchurched,” Johnson wrote, noting that God “wired us” to dream.

OK. So let me get this straight. Once a year or so people, in this case unbelievers, open themselves up to church. Here’s what the article says: “Easter is a rare occasion when many non-churchgoers open themselves up briefly to the Gospel and hearing about the life of Jesus Christ.” So, on this rare occasion when many are opening themselves up, we ought to talk in ‘dream’ language, and we ought also to tell them that the kingdom is ‘all about friends’? (Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I say.” Other than that, we are his enemies. See John 15:14.) The article concludes this way:

Combine the Friend Goal with the Dream Goal and you have the basis of what we call a ‘Community of Dreams,’ which is a pretty good definition of a church,” Johnson wrote, “a community of friends nurturing and releasing God’s dreams into their transforming place in the world.” [Sounds like something I heard on the Electric Company as a kid: Meaning, Less: Meaningless. Point, less: Pointless.]

Churches are also encouraged to move away from predictability and include an unexpected factor in their program. The Breakthrough Media president noted that Jesus in his days did the unexpected and even surprised his mom. [I agree, let’s surprise the people who come through our doors on Easter Sunday by not preaching some mindless gibberish about how Jesus wants to be our friend or ‘come into our heart’ and instead preach a hard hitting sermon about Justification by Grace through Faith. Or perhaps a sermon about how Jesus propitiated God’s wrath. Or how God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness. Or how about how Paul says in Romans that all are without excuse before God. Or how about God so loved the World that He gave his son to be crucified for our sins. You know, that would really surprise people.]

Other helpful suggestions to improve church outreach include raising awareness about the church, using word-of-mouth church marketing, delivering a good community experience, and following-through with trying to bring people to Christ.

Easter is a rare occasion when many non-churchgoers open themselves up briefly to the Gospel and hearing about the life of Jesus Christ. Churches, as a result, should take advantage of this precious opportunity to reintroduce or introduce someone for the first time to the Gospel and the core tenets of Christianity – the cross, the resurrection, and salvation through Jesus Christ.

So, let me get this straight. After everything else is done, the dreams, the friends, the surprises, etc., only then are we to really get into the nitty-gritty of the core tenets of Christianity. Loosely translated this means: Sucker them in with a bunch of hype and then teach them something else. Or, Hide your true identity until they get in the door and then wow them with your orthodoxy.

I didn’t see preaching of the Gospel at any point in this article. And yet: “Faith comes by talking to people in the language of dreams.” (My loose translations of Romans 10:17.) OK, here are the 18 ‘Factors’ we need to bear in mind when preparing a Resurrection Worship:

1. Goal Factor
2. Friend Factor
3. Relevancy Factor
4. Dream Factor
5. Media Factor
6. Unexpected Factor
7. Awareness Factor
8. Viral Factor
9. Experience Factor
10. Harvest Factor
11. Time Factor
12. Development Factor
13. Numbers Factor
14. Synergy Factor
15. Trust Factor
16. Withreach Factor
17. Community Factor
18. Body Factor

I don’t even know what any of this means. This is from here. Ironically, at the same Christian Post website, the main story on the front page is this: Foolish Preaching of Cross Needed in Churches, Speakers say. Says the article:

“If we don’t understand the harsh reality or theological significance of death, we will never truly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Mahaney stressed.

Just ahead of the start of Holy Week, which marks the last week of the earthly life of Jesus and is considered the most important week of the year for believers, speakers at the Orlando conference spent three days expounding on Scripture passages that spoke of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

Bluntly stated, the cross is bloody, it’s an offensive message and it’s a shameful death in the ears of the world, said Steven J. Lawson, senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., during the Ligonier conference.

The word of the cross is foolishness. In other words, it’s nonsense, pointless, idiotic, and mindless. “That is what the cross is to the natural man,” Lawson noted.

Even though foolishness to many, a straightforward delivery of the message of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus is power to those being saved, and it is desperately needed in the church today, he added.

“It is a distasteful announcement that the herald brings and yet, he is responsible to God to discharge his duty to bring the entirety of the message,” Lawson said, noting that heralds are marked by the straightforward delivery of the message regardless of what the results may be.

“We need heralds. We need to come back to the foolishness of preaching,” he emphasized to hundreds as he denounced modern trends of replacing theology with theatrics and expository preaching with entertainment.

And the article concludes thus:

So as Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday approaches, Mahaney reminded believers about the significance of this holy week.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ “is not merely a point of doctrine,” he said. “It’s the most gracious divine solution to the problem of sin and death and judgment.

“Easter reveals the divine provision for sin and death and judgment. Easter proclaims that sin and death and judgment don’t have the final words because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death.”

“The forgiveness of sins has been secured and salvation has been secured,” he highlighted. “That’s what Easter announces.”

If I have an audience once per year that I do not normally have the other 51 weeks I preach, I am not going to stand up and tell them, “Jesus wants to be your friend.” Frankly, that is hogwash. Instead, those who are not Christians and who feel like they need to make their yearly haj to their local church need to hear about the coming wrath of God and their destiny in hell because of their lack of faith in the work of Christ. I’m serious about this and preachers need to be serious about it too. What is at stake here is the souls of lost people. What’s more is the integrity of the Gospel message. The above list of 18 Factors is a joke, and, not to put too fine a point on it, bulls***. (I don’t mean that in a vulgar way. I mean that is what it is.)

Preach the Gospel! Preach Christ crucified! Preach Christ’s triumph over the powers of death and hell! That’s what the lost need to hear on Easter Sunday.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

PS-I hope later to publish the first in a short series of blog posts I have titled: Lament for the Church: Reflections on the Church in America

Friends,

I know this blog is about the Scripture, mostly, but I have to take just a minute of time, a mere byte or two of space to acknowledge that Tiger Woodsis a freak. That thing he did yesterday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational was…wow, I simply do not have words for it. Congratulations to Tiger Woods. Friday afternoon I said, “Well, there’s no way he is going to catch Vijay–he’s too far out and it doesn’t look like his swing is on this week.” Saturday evening I checked the scores and could not believe he was tied for first. This guy is just a freak. I am so glad to be living while he is playing golf. What a treat it is. He has won 64 times in only 219 professional starts. Can you believe the putt he made on the 72nd hole to win??? I’ll put it to you this way: I only watched NASCAR during the breaks so that I could watch Tiger play golf. Wow!

jerry