Michael

Jun 132018
 

I’ll keep saying this until people listen…while I vigorously applaud groups doing events such as “For A Time Such As This”, until the issue of financial liability for the denomination (or non denominational denomination) is addressed there will be no teeth in any “resolutions” passed.

Some courts have already held state conventions in the SBC liable for the actions of member churches even with the loose affiliations of that group. The fact that no one has yet addressed the liability/accountability issue tells me that the reformers don’t understand the issue…trust me, the leadership does.

 

The newly elected SBC president is already apologizing for  Vice President Pence’s appearance at the conference…“I know that sent a terribly mixed signal. We are grateful for civic leaders who want to speak to our Convention—but make no mistake about it, our identity is in the gospel and our unity is in the Great Commission. Commissioned missionaries, not political platforms, are what we do.” Partisan politics and the gay rights agenda are crippling the church…kudos to the SBC for ignoring the latter…

I wonder if Pence is going to affirm the excellent resolution on immigration that the SBC passed? Thank you, SBC…

The United States Catholic bishops are also convening this week…and they made a strong statement regarding immigration reform also…thank you to them as well.

For some of us this is as much of a moral issue as abortion…and thus should be addressed with the same vigor.

I’ve been meaning to get to this for a while now…what would you have said to this little boy?

Jun 122018
 

Richie Furay back on the road…

Gender roles are not essentials…

The restless, raging, fury they call the love of God…

Did God the Father turn His face away from Jesus?

Federal judge sanctions GFA…

Five things egalitarians believe…

Measuring our greatest achievements…

The Trinity, the image of God, and how women have been left out of the picture…

Twitter CEO chewed out for eating at Chick-Fil-A

What do black evangelicals think of the Masterpiece Bakery case?

Charisma rag mag divided on Duplantis jet… nay, yea

Christ centered theology of trauma…

Five reasons we sing in Christian worship…

Will covetous believers go to heaven?

Is it time to bury the term “evangelical?”

Georgia church expelled from the SBC over racism…

The seven deadly sins of insecure people…

Solzhenitsyn’s prophecy…

Mending mens ministry…

Sexual struggles and the Great Commission…

A better kind of love…

A rhetoric of love…

Our God: the God of failures…

Prayers and protests: The SBC in a #metoo world…

Fauxnerability in the church…

The ecclesiology of wells…

Love hurts…

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

Jun 112018
 

1. The Dallas Star Telegram is reporting an estimated attendance of 35,000 for yesterdays Greg Laurie crusade, down from the almost 100,000 it pulled two years ago. I’m not sure what this means, if anything, but I suspect the days of this kind of event are passing away…

 

2. I didn’t watch the crusade,but did note that it was preceded that morning by a visit by Laurie to an SBC church and some reporters positioned it as preceding the SBC conference. It looks like Calvary Chapel is in Laurie’s rear view mirror…

3. Robert De Niro dropped an F bomb on Trump at an awards ceremony last night. While I appreciate the sentiment, such is utterly counter productive and simply reinforces hate on both sides…

4. If the only way to read the Bible was with a “literal” hermeneutic, I’d be an agnostic…

5. Being the cheery sort of fellow that I am, I’m listening to a (very) lengthy audiobook biography of Adolf Hitler. The author notes more than once that it seems uncanny how many times Hitler escaped death before he rose to prominence…almost supernatural. I have no idea what the hell to do with that…

6. Lebron James coming out wearing a cast after the sweep was a really bad optic. That’s a sentence that wouldn’t have passed an editors eraser ten years ago…

7. How do you decide what is “normative” in Scripture? …

8. Sunshine is the best anti-depressant…

9. I’ll keep saying this, (not to be a wet blanket but to ground people in reality)…when the Paige Patterson furor dies down and this convention is over, the SBC will be fundamentally unchanged. Nothing changes in an institution until you change the structure itself…

10. “Yes, immigration is a tricky issue…but using the separation of families as a threat and a tool is not. We can (and must) do better” Ed Stetzer…and me…

Jun 112018
 

Bad Days and Heresy

One of the best existential, proto-theological books to come out of the 1970s was written specifically for… seven year olds.  It was entitled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  You see, Alexander is a young man for whom, on a particular day, everything goes wrong.

 

 

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

After a terrible day at school, a horrible visit with the dentist, ands a no good stop at the shoe store, Alexander slumps in his chair at the supper table.  His troubles continue.

“There were lima beans for dinner and I hate lima beans.  There was kissing on TV and I hate kissing. My bath was too hot, I got soap in my eyes, my marble went down the drain, and I had to wear my railroad-train pajamas.  I hate my railroad-train pajamas. When I went to bed my brother Nick took back the pillow he said I could keep and the Mickey Mouse night light burned out and I bit my tongue. And the cat wants to sleep with my stupid brother Anthony, not with me.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Now, I suspect that we have all had days like that.  Maybe not quite so terrible, horrible, no good and very bad as Alexander’s, but we know what he is talking about.

My particular problem is that, as a theologian, bad days of that sort tend to turn me towards heresy.  You see, I become convinced in the midst of such a bad day of the reality of evil.  I go one step further, however, and I convince myself that there is some sort of conspiracy of evil directed against me, personified by the Devil and represented in the materialism, selfishness, corruption and self-destructiveness of everyday life.  Like a cloistered medieval monk, unconvinced of the goodness of God, I envision a pessimistic, dualist construct of the world as the scene of an eternal struggle between good and evil.

Now, it may seem to you that this is not an altogether unrealistic representation of the way things are, especially as we consider both Church and State in 2018.  Pushed too far, however, such a theology can result in a heretical Manichean doctrine of the existence of two gods – a god of light and a god of darkness.  Suddenly the Devil is not a fallen angel, he is an anti-God, slugging it out perpetually with Christ, the good god.  Suddenly, evil is not a perversion of God’s good creation or a falling away from His original intent or an act of outright rebellion against God but, rather, it is “anti-matter”, a stain of darkness that covers the world and blocks out the sun.  Now, before we make light of the attraction of such a vision, perhaps it would be well for us to remember that a number of Church Fathers, including Augustine of Hippo, were attracted by such an idea for at least some part of their careers.

When I become submerged in such a heretical vision I begin to believe that the only escape is by finding delight in the small flowers that I find growing in the undergrowth of the darkness of a frightening forest.  These are the small things that make me “feel good” – my favorite music, a walk in the country, the power of a painting, the escape of a well written book. Being thus encouraged, I once again go out to do battle and slay the dragons that I know lie in wait.  Yet, might I suggest that all of this misses the point of what we as Christian should believe concerning the goodness of God and the Incarnation of Christ.

You see, it is to those of us who have been driven to the edge of a heretical vision of life and the cosmos, that Christ comes, changing our vision of all that He encompasses in his Incarnation.

Behold my servant… I have put my Spirit upon Him… He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench… He will not fail or be discouraged… I am the Lord… I have taken you by the hand and kept you… New things I now declare.

Looking forward in time the prophet tells us that God will do something remarkable, that He himself will appear among us and that because of this all life – yours, mine, the life of the whole world – will be changed. It is, in fact, the coming of Christ among us that the prophet foretells.

We catch glimpses of this changed world in the birth in Bethlehem.  We catch glimpses on the banks of the Jordan River, where the promise of the coming of this servant is made real – “This is my beloved Son”.  Because of the Incarnation, because he sees God with us, sharing our humanity in the person of Jesus, the Messiah, the

Christ, John the Baptist knows that a new day has dawned, a new age has begun. The voice from heaven tells him, and all of us, that whatever may happen in the future, it has all changed, for God is among us.

The battle between light and darkness no longer rages outside our doorstep. The battle is already won – not by the might of spiritual armies or secular politics, but by the great and awesome mystery that God has dwelt among us, that our lives are caught up in His life.

We find ourselves now to be sculptors like Michelangelo, not seeking to create a statue of our own devising but, rather, extracting from the stone the finished sculpture that already lies hidden within.  We are like Mozart, not laboriously putting pen to paper as Salieri, constantly revising notes and orchestrations to our liking, but, rather, we hear the music that surrounds us and we quickly set it down that others may know the joy of it.  We are in Narnia, the mythical land of C.S. Lewis, but it is not the Narnia of the white witch where it is always winter and Christmas never comes – no, Aslan, the son of the Emperor From Beyond the Sea, has come among us and the signs of Spring are everywhere and the more that we notice them the more that they appear around us.  By Christ coming among us our warfare is ended.  Evil is conquered.  Joy is come to us despite the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days which we all know.

Yet, for many of us, this vision, this truth, remains hidden away in a small corner of our lives, simply waiting to be found.  Often, however, we find this hidden theological treasure in circumstances which are unexpected.  

It happened to me.  

Over twenty years ago this summer, I sat alone during the night by the bedside of my father in the intensive care unit of a mid-western hospital.  A progressive cancer which had sapped his strength and will for over a year was now it its final stages.  My father was dying and had now, mercifully, lapsed into unconsciousness.  The low rhythm of the machine sustaining his breathing masked the other sounds of the night.  The dim green glow of his monitor provided the only illumination.  I sat, helpless, with his hand in mine, hoping for some response, or a miracle, or, perhaps, just the opportunity to tell him what I had so often not said… that I loved him.  The frustration, the sense of wasted years, the pain of a fallen world began to overwhelm me in the silence and darkness of that place. Then it happened. As I felt his hand in mine, the reality that God had come among us transfixed me.  I can’t explain it, others have experienced it, but the curtain of darkness slipped away and I was “surprised by joy”. Suddenly, it was all so clear.  Because Christ took upon Himself true humanity, our lives, and yes, our deaths, were not locked in the fatal embrace of some unending conflict.  The hand that I held in mine, the flesh that pressed against my flesh, had been transformed by the Incarnation and made one with Christ because it shared in His Life, His Death and His Resurrection.

My father died the next day, but in the midst of the sorrow and the grief, I felt my life transformed by a moment of theological revelation.  I discovered that in our distress and in our joy, in our bad days and in our times of delight, because Christ has come among us, all has been transformed and the words of the prophet are not merely poetry, but truth… “I am the Lord, I have called you… I have taken you by the hand and kept you.”  

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Jun 092018
 

Revelation 10:1-6

The Angel and the Little Scroll

1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

  • “Mighty Angel” – While some interpret this to be an actual angel from the presence of God, this is none other than Christ Himself. Once again, Christ appears as an angel guiding the vision of events. It is Christ who accomplishes the mission of the Church – He works through us to accomplish His will. It is His mission, not ours. Thus, it is only proper to have Him appear to lead the way here in the vision. He is “Mighty,” for He has defeated sin, death, and the devil and now rules over all things.
  • Rainbow over his head = Rev 4:3 // face was like the sun = Rev 1:16 and the Mt of Transfiguration // legs like pillars = pillars of fire Ex 13 & Rev 1:15.
  • Clouds play a big role surrounding God – we see the pillar of cloud in Exodus – the cloud filling the temple – the cloud at Jesus’ baptism – the cloud at the transfiguration – Jesus ascended into a cloud – he will return in the cloud. The cloud is equal to the presence of God.

He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land,

  • The scroll takes us back to chapter 5 where Christ is the only one worthy to break the seal and open the scroll. The “little scroll” here is one and the same scroll. It contains what must take place during the entire church age.
  • This revelation is for the whole world (sea & land). Jesus shows ownership and authority over all creation. This is important for later we will see who comes out of the land and the sea — the two beasts.
  • Jesus, whether he has a foot on the land or a foot on the sea of if he is asleep in a boat – he stands as Lord over all.

and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded.

  • Picture Jesus standing with a foot on the sea and a foot on the land roaring like a lion. The lion of the tribe of Judah Rev 5:5 – The Lord roars from Zion and thunders his voice from Jerusalem. Amos 1:2
  • Note how Satan likes to ape Jesus – 1 Peter 5:8 “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
  • What is being described by the seven thunders? Exodus 19 speaks of the thunders on Mt Sinai.
  • This is the very presence and voice of God. It is majestic and holy and powerful, so much so that sinners cannot bear to hear it. So it is that, as Christ speaks, the Father’s perfect voice accompanies His, for He and the Father are One, and share the same mission = “seven thunders” = Father’s perfect voice.

And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

  • John was going to write, he had pen and spiral notebook in hand ready to go, but the voice from heaven said no. This seems a bit ironic as this book is to reveal things.
  • So what is going on here? Some interpreters have a lot of fun with this, claiming that the “seven thunders” spoke something very secret that is not to be revealed to the world. You can imagine the many different ideas about what that ‘secret’ entails. And for a price, they will tell you.
  • John is not told to seal up and not write what the “seven thunders” spoke because there is something to hide, but rather because this is the unveiled perfect voice of the Father, which no one can bear to hear.
  • What the Father – the seven thunders – utters are holy things of His heavenly glory that are too sacred and beautiful for anyone to hear and understand while still on earth. Only those who enter His eternal kingdom can hear such things. This is not unfamiliar as we have been taught from Deut 29:29 – “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
  • We should also take this as a warning for us not to delve into the mysteries of God which He Himself has not revealed to us. There are simply some things He hasn’t told us and we must not try to decipher those things using our own sinful human reason – such as Where did God come from? How can God predestine the saved, but is not, at the same time, responsible for predestining the damned? How can God be human and divine at the same time? How can Christ give us His very Body and Blood in the Holy Supper? And the list can go on.

And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven

and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay,

  • When you see Jesus swear an oath you know there is certainty. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
  • The time has come. What time? The End.

The text says there will be no more delay, but I must break this off at this point and pick up next week.

Jun 082018
 

The famous chef and raconteur Anthony Bourdain died by suicide last night.

Bourdain was a celebrity that I actually found to be interesting, a coarse, intelligent, iconoclast who offered something worth thinking about while also providing entertainment.

His friends do not know why he chose to end his life at this time.

He (obviously) suffered from depression.

As is always the case in these tragedies, some Christians see an opportunity to preach.

“If he’d only known Jesus…”

“The suicide epidemic is because we’ve fled from God…”

On and on.

There is some truth in these cliches.

There’s also a big lie hidden in them.

That lie, that damnable, destructive, lie… is that Christians are somehow immune to clinical depression.

We’re not.

Christians suffer from depression too.

Christians are at risk of losing the struggle and dying by suicide .

We’re no more immune from mental illness than we are from cancer or diabetes.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, nor should it be suffered in secret.

You are no less “Christian”, no less beloved by God because you carry this affliction.

To be honest, I’m struggling with it myself.

My friends are making sure I get through it.

I’m doing what I need to do medically.

God is with me, though sometimes it seems He seems cloaked in silence and shade.

For me, this too shall pass.

For others it won’t.

My friend Christine Scheller lost her son to suicide and this is what she said this morning:

“Listen, I get tweeting out the #suicideprevention hotline # but please check on your loved ones. Ask specific questions if you are concerned: “Are you thinking about killing yourself? Do you need help?” Make these OK questions in your family and circle of friends.”

Suicide prevention begins with you and I recovering the true meaning of being friends and family.

Ask, then act accordingly.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline # is 1-800-273-8255

Make your own application…

Jun 072018
 

Accountability is finally getting its fifteen minutes of fame.

Unfortunately, that time is almost up.

To explain why I think this, we first must take a side trip to Mexico.

The drug business down south has always been dominated by a few cartels…”denominations” if you will.

The leaders of those cartels cut deals with each other and the authorities to minimize violence and maximize profit.

A few years back, someone got the bright idea to take down those leaders in the belief it would shatter the cartels.

What really happened was that the cartels split into factions, violence soared, and Mexico is two shakes away from being a failed state.

The drugs have flowed north unimpeded…while the politicians hold a few famous scalps and hide.

Taking down a few big names didn’t change the culture or the structures that enabled them.

In our free market religion where the pastor is an entrepreneur of an independent business instead of the leader of a family, numbers and profile are going to be the dominant motivating factors.

Independence will trump accountability and “vision” will relegate faithfulness to just a religious term used by old folks.

The same methods that denominations (and non denominational denominations) use to shield themselves against financial liability shield them from real accountability on anything but a very local level.

Our minuscule attention spans keep us from caring unless it’s our proverbial ox being gored.

The bigger the name the greater chance that attention will be paid, but the structures and the cultures will remain unchanged.

The “fame” clock will not be reset until they are…