Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Christianity Should Die...

Reasons why Christianity should die...

Reason #1: Jesus and the first Christians were lunatics. Jesus claimed to be one with God, able to forgive sin, and preexistent to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. The early Christians claimed that a crucified Jesus had resurrected and appeared to many, including 500 people at one time. They died (some murdered even) professing this to be true, even claiming Jesus was a divine being worthy of worship (something no sane Jew would ever do). They even put these ideas in stories Christians call the New Testament, which leads me to reason #2...

Reason #2: The New Testament is full of contradictions. One gospel account says there were 2 angels at the resurrection of Jesus, another mentions only 1. Some gospel accounts have Jesus having supernatural abilities to read minds and predict the future, others depict Jesus as ignorant of future events and unable to do miraculous works. Clearly, the lunatics (see reason #1) did not sit down to collaborate and ensure we'd have a consistent story-line. If they were smarter, they would have worked out these kinks in the first century to ensure consistent ideas and practices. This naturally leads to reasons #3...

Reason #3: Christians are inconsistent practitioners. Christianity is a divided mess. They have pacifists and war-mongers. They have Mary-worshipping Catholics and Bible-worshipping Evangelicals. They allow Mother Teresa and George W. Bush to both claim to be Christians. In history, the Catholics kill Lutherans, the Lutherans kill Baptists, and the Baptists kill liberals (at least in the voting box). Why does such a divided, confused, and inconsistent religion still exist in the 21st century? Why hasn't this thing died off yet? It almost proves Christianity's belief in sin, ignorance, and the fallenness of humanity (but we can't give them that). It's almost as if something (or Someone) is behind all this. This makes me think of yet another reason...

Reason #4: Christians believe God is the power behind everything. Christians believe God created the world. Christians believe God is the ultimate cause behind all that happens in history (some Christians even say, God plans and purposes the evil actions of humans and demons). Such backward, pre-scientific, premodern, neanderthal ideas should have died. Surely, science and human thought can work out the origins of the universe, morality, and human dignity without looking to answers outside of space and time. Who needs God to know what's right and wrong? Hasn't all the wonderful things of the 20th century proven that science and atheism make countries more wholesome and peaceful? (Just don't look at the Soviet massacres, the evolutionary morality that propelled Hitler's Aryan race and the Holocaust, or the horrors of communist China and Vietnam, or the culture of death that has slaughtered millions of babies in the name of progress in the "enlightened" nations of the West.) Keep pointing those fingers at the lunatic Christians and their belief in a single deity who rules the cosmos. Such idiocy...oh, and one final reason.

Reason #5: Christians will never know till death if they are right. You can't test their beliefs in a laboratory. All their ideas are "pie in the sky," hopes of heaven. They think future happiness is to be postponed, that personal sacrifice and acts of love now are the way to ensure long-term, eternal joy. Such fools turn away from certain forms of physical pleasure and sexuality. They miss out now on what could be theirs, putting all their hopes in a future they won't even know is true until they die. They prize martyrs who gave up their lives for love and religion, but we know those martyrs were just lunatics. Mother Teresa was a fool. Eric Liddell an idiot. Christian doctors giving their lives among Ebola patients are crazy. Missionaries who give up the bliss of Western civilization to feed the hungry and share the message of Christianity don't have a clue. Darwin is right: it's all about survival of the fittest. The way to honor my species is to grow strong, populate widely, and ignore the weak. Let science be king and all else proven liars.

#satire


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke


Neil Postman’s classic on the nature of television received the intriguing title, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985). Jacques Ellul penned The Technological Bluff (1990). Now in 2017, Tony Reinke writes a fantastic book, filled with penetrating theological insight, rigorous research, and probing analysis on the nature of the smartphone and its users, and the only thing that falls flat is the less-than-alluring title, Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

In 2016, Time magazine declared the iPhone as the most influential gadget of all time. The world of smartphones is far different from the world of silent movies or Atari. To minister in such a world, the church needs an army of servants, teachers, and shepherds who can personally find freedom from lurking smartphone dangers. Only then can we assist others to handle these amazing gadgets to the glory of God.

But what if you struggle with smartphone abuse as I do? For instance, my smartphone overuse at home is the most common argument between my wife and me. My kids will sometimes stand in front of me and say, “Dad, I thought you weren’t working today,” while I sneak in a quick email. Quite unconsciously, in the middle of meetings (that in my pride I have determined as boring) I will pull out my phone to check my favorite teams’ sports scores.

To whom shall we go? Answer: Jesus, and Reinke’s book can help. This book cannot save you, but the God to whom this book points can.

Each chapter stirs our affections, challenging us to look away from our device and instead toward our satisfying Redeemer and Creator. In the end, Reinke’s counsel related to the smartphone turns out to be a tutorial on human engagement with all technologies.

With compelling sentences, Reinke forces theological inquiry in the face of technological temptation: “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?” He offers a well-crafted turn of phrase, one after another, such as, “The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”

Later in the book, Reinke argues, “It is better to lose the capacity to scroll for pornography than have your whole body thrown into hell.” Fitting words for someone like myself, greatly thankful that God freed me from a pornography addiction before the onset of smartphones. Sadly, this dark sin still shackles others with Tinder, chat rooms, and images squalling feverishly for lost souls in cyberspace. Others racked with crippling loneliness turn to their phones to deal with relational fears, believing the lie that through a few million microprocessors and network connections isolation will end.

So, read the book. Find freedom in Christ. And Crossway, after this book goes through its first printing, consider a retitling of the book (the existing title can serve as a subtitle), such as, Swiping Our Souls to Death, Seeking a Screen Savior, or iSwipe Therefore iAm.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Review "Revenge of the Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter"

In 1989, I spent hours playing "Think Quick" on my father's new computer (the Atari got put aside to investigate this new game fought out on keyboard instead of joystick). This adventure/learning game captured my attention. It was the dawning of digital for me personally. It promised adventure, excitement, and the thrill of victory. I mastered the game, tasted sweet victory, and now almost 30 years later, I wonder if I was the thing mastered, if the technology took more than it gave, if it over promised and under delivered?

These are the running concerns in David Jax's 2016 work Revenge of the Analog. Jax's journalistic talents show up throughout the book. You feel the tension of the digital download generation. You feel the sense of lostness in a world of constant streaming sound. Soon you too see the hope of owning a record player, touching the plastic mold, marveling over the album cover, and placing that needle carefully upon the record so that sound flows forth.

Jax includes the insights of technology gurus such as MIT Professor Sherry Turkle who observes, “It [technology] promises friendship but can only deliver performance.”

He takes you on a tour of the famous Camp Walden, where technology is still nearly banned for weeks of a kid's summer. Then, he askes the Camp director why technology is at odds with the purposes at Camp Wadlen. “[Sol] Birenbaum [head of Camp Walden] didn’t hesitate to answer. ‘We look at the heart of what we do, and it is interpersonal relationships.’” (page 236, epilogue)

Sure, the iPhone has it benefits, but to bow before its (near-idol like) promises and power can only mean a loss of humanity. Life was meant to be felt, shared, and experienced with human persons. Or as Jax explains, “Ultimately, analog pursuits connect us to one another in a vastly deep way than any digital technology can. They allow bonds to form in real time and physical spaces, which transcend language and our ability to communicate with just words and symbols.” (239, epilogue)

Jax's book is a fun tour of several aspects of life (schools, work, music, games, films, etc.) that all show that digital cannot and should not be received without a wary eye. What Jax's book lacks is thoughtful theological and philosophical reflections on why digital doesn't satisfy (Turkle is one of the few exceptions).

For those looking for deeper answers than a journalistic tour of the world, you'll need to turn to the likes of Neil Postman's classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) or Jacques Ellul's The Technological Bluff (1990). And there's a fantastic new book (2017) by Tony Reinke (don't let the less than thrilling title fool you) Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

Here are a few nuggets to encourage you to read Reinke's book:

 “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?”

“The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”

Jax's book is a fun snapshot of culture. It's the other books that better ask and answer why culture and souls cannot find hope or salvation in the promises and patterns of digital living.













Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Quote of the Day: John Chysostom (349-407)

“The gospel produces the exact opposite of what people want and expect, but it is that very fact which persuades them to accept it in the end."

Monday, May 01, 2017

A Review "For the Glory"

Duncan Hamilton's 2016 biography of the famed Olympic great, Eric Liddell, For the Glory details a modern tragedy in the vein of an ancient Greco-Roman demigod.

Like all great tragedies, the life behind the tragedy speaks volumes for centuries. Liddell gave up a near certain 100 meter gold in 1924 to honor his views of the Christian Sabbath. He gave up future Olympic glory to keep his vow to missionary work in a dangerous mission in late 1920s China. He honored his missionary agency's request to stay in enemy occupied territory when WWII erupted. Like other non-combatants, he was held in a war camp for simply being British when Japan was at war. He sacrificed for the sake of other inmates day in and day out for over 18 months. He loved, he forgave, he served, and 5 months prior to his war camp's release, he took his last breath.

Eric Liddell (immortalized in both athleticism and character in Chariots of Fire) was a full soul, not just a great body. His dedication to excellence, service, and humility comes across as an act, but it's near perfection for 4 and 1/2 decades has no holes, no guile, no gild. In fact, the one missing piece of Duncan Hamilton's rich story is the power behind the life. Hamilton paints Liddell as a saint, and surely he was. But saints aren't built by human hands. Truths Liddell conveys over and over, but truths that get lost in Hamilton's account.

Hamilton notes that Liddell based his life on the Sermon on the Mount. Liddell even penned a short devotional work on the truths of the Sermon. The secret to his whole life (and the life of any who would follow after God) was summarily described by Liddell as "knowing God." One quote in a work by Liddell noted this, "A disciple is one who knows God personally, and who learns from Jesus Christ, who most perfectly revealed God. One word stands out from all others as the key to knowing God, to having his peace and assurance in your heart; it is obedience."

The centrality to Liddell's life was focusing on Jesus Christ, the one who perfectly revealed God. Only in Jesus Christ can someone have peace and assurance in the heart. Obedience will follow, indeed. But obedience flows from faith. We don't obey to be saved, but we obey because we're saved.

So read Hamilton's majestic book on a majestic person, but know that the power, peace, and assurance, the fueled Eric Liddell was Jesus Christ--his life, his death, his resurrection. As I read Liddell's life, I saw a life of glorious renewal and the power of God's grace. It exposed that I fell short of God's holy standard. But the solution isn't to lace up and try to run like Eric. The solution is to know the God that Eric knew.

This God allowed Eric to write these words, the very last words to come from his pen, words that speak to hope beyond this life, hope procured by Jesus Christ's bloody death and glorious resurrection, words that can be true for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. These words: "All will be well."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Being Gay is Not a Sin


You can quote me on this...but do read the whole post first.

Gay is a physical and/or emotional and/or erotic attraction to a person of the same gender. This is similar to a definition I found on the online Merriam Webster dictionary that reads, "sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex."

Are people born gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some are, and probably some aren't.

Do people choose to be gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some do, probably some don't.

The condition, feeling, and experience of being gay is not sin. Anyone who is gay or has a close friend or family who is gay knows that many who are or feel gay wish they didn't. It's a difficult cross to bear, even in a permissive 21st century culture. Who wants to be the topic of every other media post and social media interaction?

I have friends and family with both unwanted same-sex attraction and others who welcome their orientation. I love them both and pray my friendships deepen.

Let's move on...

The condition, feeling, and experience of being straight is not sin.

Now, it is possible for straight people to sin. It is possible for gay people to sin.

A straight person is sinning if they engage in a sexual relationship with their sibling, no matter how consensual the action is done, even by adults. Even if they say they are naturally attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they say, they are born attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they find it pleasurable, say it is not harming anyone else, and take measures to prevent pregnancy...still sin.

Likewise, a straight person is sinning if they engage in a polygamous relationship, no matter how consensual. A straight person is sinning if they engage in an adulterous relationship, no matter how consensual.

These are moral positions held by most people for centuries. These are moral positions held by Christians for centuries because they are the plain reading of Scripture in both the Old and New Testament. We could add bestiality and pedophilia as other practices that are sin regardless of consent, feeling naturally attracted to, and arguing no one is harmed.

In a similar manner, because I believe the Bible is more sane, trustworthy, and sure than the changing waves of culture, I also think when gay people engage in consensual sexual activity they are also outside the moral bounds set by God and Scripture. This activity (not their condition or feelings or attractions) is what the Bible says is sin. (contrary to new attempts at interpreting the Bible, the Bible does not condone homosexual practice...see Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?)

Throw in Jesus' warning that lusting sexually is also our hearts engaging in adulterous sin, every person reading this post is guilty before God. No one (NO ONE) is sexually whole. All are broken, struggle with seemingly natural desires that go beyond moral bounds, and thereby hurt others, hurt themselves, and sin against God.

Three responses are in order. We must first turn to God for forgiveness of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He alone can atone for our sin. He alone can give us the Holy Spirit to enable repentance from sexual sin and dangerous attractions outside moral bounds.

Second, we must continue to uphold moral truths for our lives (first! to avoid hypocrisy, see Matthew 7:1-2) and then for others as well. God's Word is light. We do no one a favor by consenting to the dangerous darkness that always hides the truth. Paul warns us in Romans 1 (a passage that mentions the sin of homosexual practice beside envy, greed, and gossip) that we should not approve of any moral transgression that keeps people from God and the truth.

Three, we must treat people engaged in sexual sin with love, respect, and honor because they are made in God's image. Yes, we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ and invite people to repentance. This will involve years of welcoming them into your home and life, lots of listening, and lots of prayer. Many will refuse to see what seems plain to you in the Bible, but don't forget, you too resisted God and re-read the Bible to make it say what allowed you to keep on doing what you wanted to do (and if you're like me are probably doing this very thing in some area of your life right now). Only God's penetrating and illuminating grace can free people from sin to see and live the truth. Only God saves, and praise God, He saves sinners like you and me.


Monday, April 17, 2017

An argument for being a "Late Adapter"

Definition: A late adapter is somebody who is slow to embrace a new product, technology, or idea.


Let's be honest, if you're involved in technology, social media, and popular idea conversations, it can be very embarrassing to "not be in the know." 10 years ago, you were mocked if you said "I just posted on Twitter," and quickly corrected, "No, buddy, you tweeted." Technological snobbery is as ripe as an October apple. 

And so, we're tempted to try and embrace all new technological tools, Apps, and online networks, just to avoid the fear of being "on the out." So an invitation to LinkedIn, requires an immediate new account. An invite to Snapchat requires your humble submission. 

You go out and buy the newest I-Phone, Amazon Echo, and GalaxyS-400, just in case this new technology turns out to be the sliced bread you've been missing.But if you're anything like me, 3 days later, you're hundreds of dollars poorer, and your life is as full or empty as it was a week ago. 

Oh, and did I mention the accumulating paper weights of technological devices that we're not sure if we're supposed to throw away or donate to charity.

With this in mind, let me offer 3 arguments for being a late adapter (whether it's the next App or next device):

1. Old things have proven value. Many "new" items turn out to be a big bust. Also, new stuff have glitches to be worked out. My touch screen PDA of 2004 was useless in under 12 months. My 2004 myspace account lasted less than a year before Facebook proved its superior value. My Kindle e-reader of 2011 had a 6 month shelf-life before I could achieve everything and more with a different device. I wasted time and money purchasing and learning a device that turned out to not serve me well. Let a device or app be proven of its value before you attempt to adapt it to your life. 

2. There is nothing new under the sun. The deepest longings of human souls have never been met nor will be met by human ingenuity. Our hearts long for what only eternity can satisfy; the next gadget will never measure up.

3. Eyes on the future, betray our responsibility for the present. If you're always looking for that new thing, for a new experience, to solve those new problems, you'll miss the responsibilities facing you today. Not to mention, most of these responsibilities are solved through the ordinary actions of love, communication, forgiveness, hard work, and emotional presence (things that devices can't conjure up if they tried). 

So, be a late adapter...and just so you know, being a later adapter doesn't mean you go out and buy a rotary phone. It might look like this:

1) Wait for a new device or APP to be in the market 6-12 months before reading reviews and considering to purchase it.
2) Find wise, responsible, successful people, and ask them what Apps they use and avoid.
3) Talk to these same people about how they manage their technology overall. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Embrace Your Weakness

"Our problem is not our weaknesses; God's grace is up to the task. Our problem is our delusions of strength that keep us from seeking the grace that strengthens us in our weakness." - Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

As I lie horizontal in bed with intense back pain...

Thomas Watson (1620-1686): "It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Temporarily Abled

I am one of those red-blooded Americans who only gets sick a few days a year, has only broken a few bones in the midst of sporting activities, and been blessed with fully functional arms and legs since birth. I have never been called "disabled" or "handicapped."

But in reading Andy Crouch's 2014 book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, I was struck by the reality that I am only "temporarily abled." That is, like many, one day my back will ache, my knees will deteriorate, and my functional arms and legs may cease to function. My heart will one day quit beating and my lungs will take in a final breath. Then, death.

So, how should I use my season of temporary ablement? Should I squander it on reckless eating, drug use, and dangerous activities? Or just maybe, is this temporary season of strength for the benefit and stewardship of others less abled?

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Easter and Good Friday Services in Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I hope you can join us for our 2017 Holy Week celebrations with Cornerstone Church.

Good Friday April 14, 6:00PM: We will be doing a combined Good Friday worship service with the congregation of Northbrook Baptist Church at our location, 925 Blairs Ferry Road, Marion.


Easter Sunday April 16: See all the festivities below that will take place at The Warehouse (925 Blairs Ferry Road) on Easter Morning!
    9:00AM: Easter Brunch (no cost)
    9:25AM: Resurrection Sunday Worship Service


May God richly bless Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa this Easter Season.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

C.S. Lewis on the Fall of Humanity into Sin...

Once again, the great Oxford Don summarizes well difficult theological topics:

God might have arrested this process by miracle: but this - to speak in somewhat irreverent metaphor - would have been to decline the problem which God had set Himself when He created the world, the problem of expressing His goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents, in spite of, and by means of, their rebellion against Him. The symbol of a drama, a symphony, or a dance, is here useful to correct a certain absurdity which may arise if we talk too much of God planning and creating the world process for good and of that good being frustrated by the free will of the creatures. This may raise the ridiculous idea that the Fall took God by surprise and upset His plan, or else - more ridiculously still - that God planned the whole thing for conditions which, He well knew, were never going to be realised. In fact, of course, God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula. The world is a dance in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God's own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces. The doctrine of the free Fall asserts that the evil which thus makes the fuel or raw material for the second and more complex kind of good is not God's contribution but man's. This does not mean that if man had remained innocent God could not then have contrived an equally splendid symphonic whole - supposing that we insist on asking such questions. But it must always be remembered that when we talk of what might have happened, of contingencies outside the whole actuality, we do not really know what we are talking about. There are no times or places outside the existing universe in which all this 'could happen' or 'could have happened'. I think the most significant way of stating the real freedom of man is to say that if there are other rational species than man, existing in some other part of the actual universe, then it is not necessary to suppose that they also have fallen.

Chapter 5, "The Fall of Man," in The Problem of Pain (1962).

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

I was born this way...

I was born with a short temper.

I was born with an appreciation for sports.

I was born with a tendency to overeat.

I was born with a love for nature and the great outdoors.

I was born with sexual attractions for women besides my wife.

I was born with a love for excessive TV watching.

I was born with a love for knowledge acquisition, preferably through reading.

I was born with a desire to be in control and to overpower people.

I was born with a penchant toward sarcasm and cruelty.

Which of these natural tenancies should I develop? Which should I restrain? Which are morally and socially beneficial?

Being born a certain way in no way determines its goodness, so I've decided to turn to Holy Scripture and to be guided by its teachings, as revealed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ (see this post for those who wonder how Christians determine which laws from the Old Testament are still in play).

Beware of arguments that suggest "how I feel" means "how I should act." Moral philosophers call this creating "ought" where there is only "is." Morality stands outside of nature (supernatural). Any morality that shifts with culture ends up not being morality at all because it's been relegated to a natural entity. But when I allow an outside morality to serve as the standard of moral actions and behaviors, it is certain that I will fall short, experience shame, and feel guilt.

Turns out, contrary to modern ears, shame and guilt are exactly how you should feel when you go against morality. Shame and guilt are gifts, designed to send us toward healing, hope, and forgiveness. And where can we turn to feel this way, to know this forgiveness? Only Jesus. He identified with those most shamed and most guilty in his day (prostitutes, criminals, sexual deviants). He loved them; extended them forgiveness; invited them to repentance; and said that surely the kingdom of God is for such as these. And so I come with all my deviant natural tendencies...O Lord, receive me again, through your cleansing and sacrificial blood.




Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is THE WORK to be done?

Quote of the month:

Samuel Davies (1723-1761): "It is an easy thing to make a noise in the world, to flourish and harangue, to dazzle the crowd and set them all agape; but deeply to imbibe the Spirit of Christianity, to maintain a secret walk with God, to be holy as he is holy--this is the labour, this is the work."

From Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism (1994).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The (Pied) Piper or Mr. (W)Right?

There's an ancient legend about the city of Rome involving two mysterious characters.

The first was named Mr. Right. He was a bishop from a far away land. He came to explain an ancient document in the land of Rome. It had been penned by a martyr about two millennia prior.

For many years, the people of Rome had come to believe the letter spoke about how a person was to be brought into a right relationship with the King. They believed it expressed hope in someone who had purchased justice for them at the price of his own blood. They thought it described them as guilty and needing to be declared innocent. They thought it was a story about another doing a great work that could be credited to their account.

But Mr. Right arrived to correct them. Instead, he said, no my friends, this is a story about exiles coming home. It's a story about enemies of the people, enemies that have been defeated. All you need to do is come home through the work of the enemy-killer. When you get there, he'll put a sign on you that says "you're in." There's no transaction, no credit, to purchased justice. It's a declarative statement that you're already in.

Moments later, a mysteriously dressed Piper, arrived and bellowed out a tune unsuitable for most ears, but compelling to some. This Piper said, "If all that occurs is a declarative statement, that "you're already in," then why do you need to come in at all? Beware of Mr. Right, warned the Piper. You are guilty, and the King is angry. You're worse than exiles; you are enemies. Either you die for your enmity or you believe in the One who died for your enmity. This One is the very Son of the King. Either you take what He earned or get what you earned. There must be a transaction, a gift of credit, and purchased justice. Listen to this tune. Do not tune this out.

As the legend goes, Mr. Right led some on a journey far from where any had traveled before. In like manner, the Piper convinced some as well. Where these mysterious figures will take their convinced crowds is only known by the great King. All that's left is that ancient Roman document...how will we read it? What does it really say? You too can study it's contents: The Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Can you believe such ideas? From crawlers to soarers!

"Ridiculous, just ridiculous," muttered Chris, the caterpillar, to his neighboring companion Stu. Chris continued, "Caroline, up there, has been going on and on about this great change she's going to have for the last 3 days. She says, she'll crawl into a little ball of silk, and a few weeks later, says she'll be soaring with wings."

Stu in his slow and southern drawl, "I reckon she's been duped by them relig-i-ous fanatics who keep saying the same thing. But everyone of them soon disappears. I wouldn't trust any ol' cult that promises to soar and then lo and behold, they's gone in a blink of an eye."

"Yep," Chris commented with the nod of the heard, "Keep your thoracic legs on the ground is what I always say. Hmph, flying, soaring...we're caterpillar's for god-sake, we're bulky, pedestrian beasts who should keep our heads on the ground not in the clouds."

"I'm fixing to stay on God's green earth as long as I can. You won't get me crawling into one of them's cocoon. Who knows what happens in there...most of the time, I finds one of thems, cut open with no caterpillar left inside."

"Yeah, Caroline keeps saying, we're not meant to stay as caterpillars, that we were meant to fly. She says, it's our destiny, and only fools would choose the ground over the sky. Who's the fool? I've got all the grass I need; what am I going to find to eat in midair? And she keeps babbling about beautiful wings and breathtaking views; why can't we just be content with who we are? We're fine. We're fine."

"I feel so judged when I listen to her," continued Chris, "Her holier than thou attitude makes me bristle. She says, the change is all done by the Creator and Metamorphesizer, but that's just her way of saying, I'm special and you're not. We'll see who has the last laugh."

-----------
13 days later

"Stu, how you been? It's been a while, eh? Have you heard the news, Caroline up and disappeared into that silk ball, and then this morning there was a break in the ball and she's nowhere to be found."

"Is she okay? What did they do to her? I miss her so."

"Crazy religious fanatics; we gotta stop these guys."

"Stu, Chris, look up here..."

Stu and Chris struggle, but are able to turn their heads just enough clockwise to peer upwards.

"It's Caroline!! The change is complete; I'm a new thing. Isn't it amazing!"

"Caroline? What? Who are you really? What have you done with our friend? Did you eat her? Get away from me."

But then Chris looked over and Stu was marveling wide-mouthed at the flying creature above him. "Is it really you, Caroline? Is this what happens when you crawl in?"

"Yes, Stu, it's available to you. You have to give up that life to get this life, but it's worth. The Creator and Metamorphesizer is no respecter of bugs. You just have to trust His ways of death to life."

"Liar! You just want to eat my friend and ruin his life. Stay away you flying vampire. Take your lies and your wings elsewhere."

"O, Stu, don't listen to Chris. He does not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy and whole, you must die and be reborn."

Friday, February 10, 2017

Evangelical Mom sues Fitbit for her lack of fitness

Newark, NJ: "I just don't want other women to experience the anguish I did in 2016," says Carolyn Jones in response to our inquiries to her recent court action. "Several of the "If" speakers had on a Fitbit; why did it work for them and not me? I'm not a bit fit," says Jones, "Talk about false advertising. I wore that thing every waking hour of every day in 2016, and I'm still 30 pounds overweight."

Sarah Gillespie stands with her friend. "We were praying for Carolyn all year, read two Christian dieting books, and even had a healing service. We did everything to ensure Carolyn's success, but another piece of overpriced technology failed us again. I hope she gets every penny."

Fitbit has attempted mediation to settle out of court. They claim their devices simply track fitness, not ensure fitness. 

"Well if that's the case," responded Jones to our questions, "they shouldn't use phony advertising of healthy individuals donning a Fitbit."

Jones says she will not be fooled in 2017. She has joined a Christian essential oils club that offer supplements to cure the appetite.

#satire

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Listen to Maya

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

Contra: The famous athlete caught cheating, says, "I'm very sorry; I wasn't acting like myself." The cruel adolescent after smearing a person's good name, "Nah, man, I was only joking."

There is always a place to apologize, confess a wrongdoing, and say, "This is not the person I want to be." Such a response is more credible. It affirms our actions reveal our character. It is who we are. But it acknowledges we fall short of the moral bar, and we are willing to accept the consequences of past actions and the sacrifices necessary to never repeat them.

If you've been wronged by someone, be leery of empty promises. Wait for change.

If you keep doing the same thing, don't believe your own hype, this is who you are. God can change you. There is hope at the cross. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

What we know in our 30s that we hope you'd learn at 18...

Innovation is not original.

Hmm, but innovation means a new idea or a new method, and to be original refers to something inventive or unusual.

Yes, but the stark difference is that originality cannot be copied, imitated, or improved upon.

What I wish every kid approaching 18 would know and what many in their young 20s could gain from understanding is that innovation for innovation sake is not only unoriginal, but often times a dangerous turn away from beautiful originality.

Some things cannot be improved upon. Innovation only tarnishes. For instance, a walk amid the colors, smells, and temperature of fall is simple fare. The only way to ruin such a walk is to try to capture the moment with your smart phone. Your innovative device serves as a vacuum cleaner sucking up all that was perfectly common. (Read more on the danger of such devices here: digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/)

Much could be said for all the innovative religious practices. Jesus on the cross, dying for sinners, is the original idea. But new ideas ask questions like, "Did Jesus really die?" Or "Who is really a sinner?" Immediately the original work of beauty is tarnished by this banal innovation. Or maybe we play rock music so loud that we "awe" the audience. Two problems here: first, it's a congregation, not an audience. Second, congregations are supposed to participate and sing, not just listen. No thank you innovation. What about a Bible preacher who is now simply a "Speaker" or "Communicator" who uses an electronic tablet? The medium is the message...we no longer revere the Word, we revere the worker. We no longer evaluate the message based on Biblical fidelity, but on communicative flare.

Innovation is not original.

Beware the substitutes.

Find the real.

Settle there.

Pax.


Psychoanalysts Finally Know Why Tim Keller is Smirking



​Manhattan, NY: You have seen that smirk on the back cover's of books. It's been seen on television, at conferences, and on myriads of church curriculum. But why, just why does Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City carry his trademark smirk? A team of psychoanalysts (don't worry readers, these are Christian psychoanalysts) have finished their ten month research project and finally know why. 
"Behind that smirk is a convincing, 'Nah, nah, nah, boo boo,'" explains chief researcher I.M. Wright. "Dr. Keller's east coast civility does not allow him to stoop to the petty behaviors of certain evangelical superheroes (cough), I mean pastors, but he nonetheless is fully aware that no matter how smart you think you are, he's got you beat."


Other researchers explained that Keller's brain is actually addressing the weaknesses of Einstein's theory of relativity, while preparing to answer the sharpest arguments from proponents of the New Atheism. One unproven hypothesis is that Dr. Keller's brain is actively cataloging the near 10,000 footnotes of his previously published books.

Know this readers: if Dr. Keller is smirking at you, you might as well crawl into a hole and read the Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards in order to avoid a prevailing sense of ignorance.

#satire

Friday, February 03, 2017

New Canon Committee Formed

Many of our readers are familiar with the various translation committees (NIV, ESV, NLT) that meet regularly to bring the sacred Scripture's original languages into comprehensible English. Proctor's Postings has just been made aware of a New Canon Committee being formed by the likes of Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn.

Osteen remarks, "After reading and rereading the Bible in my possession, I've become convinced that certain ideas have seeped in from medieval Roman Catholicism and are not meant for true Christianity."

Entire books under dispute include the Book of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations. "There is just too much doubt, suffering, and despair in these books," comments Hinn.

"But it doesn't stop there," explains Copeland, "We believe the imprecatory Psalms, laments, scenes of Jesus' suffering in the Gospel, all mentions of martyrdom, and all details of judgement, should be looked over with a scrupulous eye. People might begin to think it's the common lot of God's people to suffer."

The New Canon Committee feels they are in a much better position than the 1st century Apostles and early Church Fathers to discern the nature of God's revelation. All admit to hearing from God quite regularly, and certainly these new voices trump the voices of the past. In fact, there is strong consideration for adding Osteen's "Your Best Life Now" and Copeland's "How You Call It Is How It Will Be" under Wisdom literature. 

The New Bible will be done in honor of the life and legacy of Pat Robertson who will serve as chief editor.

#satire

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Age of the Universe...

So, some of my EFCA brethren listened to Al Mohler and Jack Collins debate today in Deerfield, IL, on the age of the universe.

Here are my 2 cents...

Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?
By Matt Proctor

                I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I also believe that Jesus affirmed every person and event in the Old Testament as being historical events. So with Jesus I believe in a massive worldwide flood in the days of a historical Noah (Matthew 24:37-38). Likewise, with Jesus I believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament (cf. Luke 24:44 where Jesus affirms the Torah as coming from Moses).[1] With Jesus I believe Jonah spent 3 days in a gigantic sea creature/fish (Matthew 12:40, τοῦ κήτους). I believe God placed two human persons, Adam and Eve, in a garden on this earth in real time and space. I also believe in God’s creative work occurring in six literal days.[2]    
I believe all of these things, and yet, I am a convinced agnostic regarding the age of the universe. Here are my 3 reasons:
#1: Gaps in the genealogical record: Overly simplistic Biblical mathematics (gymnastics?) does not work with the Bible. Any amateur Bible student notes the differences of genealogies in the life of Jesus Christ and the different genealogies of David and other Israelite kings. Only studying the intent behind each genealogy can help a student ascertain the purpose of each record. Additionally, if a name is left out on one list and included in another, it makes sense that there are some names not mentioned at all.[3] These gaps allow for decades or hundreds or (tens/hundreds of?) thousands of years between one significant historical person to the next (the lists in Genesis 4-5 documenting technological advances, growing moral decay, and population expansion of the earliest dwellers on the earth, indicate a lengthy series of events). As such, our universe is certainly older than adding numbers in the Bible to get to ~6,000 years.
#2: The weakness of scientific theories: To my Christian brothers and sisters who are quick to adopt a dating of the universe from Stephen Hawking or other “scientific authorities,” let us not forget many of these people refuse to submit to the authority of the Triune God. They build their theories on one human authority after another (often culminating in their own). The Bible presents a fully functional creation in six days. Many of the scientists behind Intelligent Design are quick to point out that the foundational principles of life are irreducibly complex and the position of the earth and other galactic properties are perfectly (divinely) calibrated for life. Why would God dance around for billions of years without organic life or image bearers present, when He is a God of life, personality, and love (especially when He has it in his power to bring forth such things quickly)?
I fear that many “old earth creationists” hold their old earth theories more out of fear of being discredited in the scientific academy than out of rigorous scientific research or Biblical exegesis (this goes even for the heroic and brilliant Princetonians of the 19th century, of whom I am unworthy to tie their shoes). Jesus’ affirmation of the Torah (and particularly his own consistent literal hermeneutic of the Torah) prevents me from interpreting six days any other way than six days. In the beginning, there was Adam, so says Jesus (Matthew 19:4). It goes against logic to refer to Adam ‘at the beginning’ (the Greek word ἀρχή  used in the LXX in Genesis 1:1) if Adam is billions of years after the beginning (I think he would be at the end of history, not the beginning if that were the case). Christians should allow Scripture to be the foundation and starting point of ongoing scientific research. No scientific theory can arrive at true knowledge if the knowledge of and from God is not its first principles.
#3: Human weakness and the call to love: We are all under the admonition in Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (NIV). First and foremost, this passage tells us that truth is primarily a clarion call to worship and obey the LORD. Whether we have special revelation or general revelation, all such knowledge should lead to gratitude and humility before the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Any truth claim that does not do this should be suspect.
Second, certain things are unknowable. Moses did not put a Captain Kirk-esque time stamp on the origins of the universe. We also do not know the nature of God’s special creation. Clearly, the amount of power, force, and energy necessary to produce something out of nothing will be hard to categorize or recalculate in scientific models. Such scientific endeavors are like using thimbles to measure the volume of the Pacific Ocean. I believe philosophers and scientists (Christian believer or not) do their research honestly, and as such, we should listen to their discoveries with the respect image-bearers deserve. Yes, sin blinds many (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4-5) and rebellion hardens others (cf. Romans 1:18ff), but this means they are victims, not enemies. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, philosopher or scientist, but against demonic principalities that prolong unbelief (Ephesians 6:12). Such principalities and strongholds will only come down through a proclamation of the Gospel. Then eyes will be opened; then they will see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In the end, the exact age of the universe will continue to be as controversial as any other thing that can only be known in part. Therefore, the call to love becomes all the more important for Christians as we engage with the world and one another (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). Victory rests in weakness, frailty, service, sacrifice and love, not in winning arguments about a definite date that seems as elusive as Jesus before crowds seeking to make him king of their preconceived notions of Messiahship.
               




[1] Elsewhere Jesus quotes the Pentateuch and consistently attributes its content to Moses--Matthew 19:7, referring to Genesis; Mark 10:5, quoting Deuteronomy; Mark 12:26, citing Exodus; John 7:23, referencing Leviticus; in John 3 Jesus confirms the accounting of the bronze snake in Numbers.
[2] Otherwise Moses’ understanding of days can switch between Genesis 1 and Exodus 20, and we could not read the rest of Genesis, or any other Biblical literature, without constantly asking, “So does he mean day or age, 24 hours or 2.4 billion years?”
[3] It is unlikely that an ancient person wrote their genealogies expecting to deal with theories of evolution in a secular age thousands of years in the future.

Book Review: C.S. Lewis' "Four Loves"

In preparation for a message on "Love" for college students, I picked up C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves to drink once again from this seemingly endless aquifer of theological insight.

The quote that summarizes the whole book for me was this:

Man can ascend to Heaven only because the Christ, who died and ascended to Heaven, is ‘formed in him.’ Must we not suppose that the same is true of man’s loves? Only those into which Love Himself has entered will ascend to Love Himself.

Lewis places humanity in dependence on God. Salvation and eternity hang in the balance apart from God's intervention. Similarly, the ability to love hangs in the balance apart from God's intervention.

Certainly, humanity is capable of a form of love, just as a toddler does a form of walking. Personally, I've been known to do a form of singing. But it's not quite the real thing. Outside influence, further development and refining are all necessary to go from the form to the reality. Lewis says this comes from God because God is love. His reasoning could easily be based on the New Testament passage 1 John 4:7-12.

This sort of Divine-influenced, divine-like love must be king in a person's heart before they can navigate the other "loves" that stir in their lives. Whether it's a love for chess, white mice, a blonde beauty, or an old book, all such loves need to be ordered under the King of Love--Charity herself, the love marked by personal sacrifice and goodness for another, most of all goodness toward God.

With Charity-love (A.K.A. God-like love) at the helm, we can now love chess without it destroying the lives around us. We can keep mice and go on a date with the blonde and curl up with that book. None of them will take center place, nor will we abuse either gift for our own advantage. We neither make those things gods nor treat them as if we're gods.

So for instance, romance, or erotic love, (what Lewis refers to as Eros), can be a very demanding, god-like love. It moves us to make promises, overhaul convictions, and express things beyond human ability. Or as Lewis explains, “Eros is driven to promise what Eros himself cannot perform.”

We've all read of or seen people "in love" with things they ought not (the neighbor's wife, the bad-boy hooligan, and the like). What would ever break this erotic love? Answer: a stronger love, a king love, a chief love, divine love. Then and only then can Eros be deposed. Then and only then can we follow Lewis' counsel: “Eros driven to a forbidden object, may have to be sacrificed [in light of Charity/Divine Love].”

Pastor John Piper describes our lives as a solar system. With God and His Love at the center of the solar system, the planets (loves) of our lives can be properly ordered. But if something else seeks to control the system, chaos and disorder erupts. This is the lot of natural humanity. We're born in the chaos of disordered loves and disordered lives. Until we see Jesus' Christ death for sinners as the focal point of history and the most grounding reality of the universe and our only hope of salvation, we remain hopeless in a universe of disordered loves.

Monday, January 30, 2017

MacArthur's Ministry Crumbles as Miracle Interrupts Sermon

Sun Valley, CA: Grace Community Church was stunned this past Sunday when their long-time pastor John MacArthur did the miraculous. He said,  "I don't know..."

MacArthur has long held that the miracles of the 1st century are no longer present today, but now Grace Community Church's cessationism stands in doubt. "If Pastor John can say, 'I don't know,'" observed one congregant, "Who's to say there can't be prophecies, healings, and all manner of modern day miracles?"

In past years, miraculous happenings were dubbed 'strange fire.' "But this is the strangest fire of all," noted a staff member who desires to remain unidentified. "Pastor John speaks of bringing heat from the pulpit, and seeing people on fire for Jesus, but I just don't know what would happen if our people had to live without the sure certainty of every verse of the Bible being completely explainable by Pastor John."

Some of MacArthur's critiques have also jumped in. Wayne Grudem, professor of theology at Phoenix Seminary and strong proponent of the gifts ongoing nature, wrote in his blog yesterday, "Pastor John should take his doubts into the prayer closet. He can lift up with unintelligible sounds his confusion and the Spirit will undoubtedly clear things up for him and God."

Grace Community Church is offering counseling ("Biblical counseling without any connection whatsoever to modern psychology," the website indicates) to anyone suffering traumatic doubts regarding God and the Bible.

When asked what spawned MacArthur's, "I don't know," Julie Dickson noted, "Oh, he was teaching on the logical order of God's divine decrees."

#satire

Sunday, January 29, 2017

5 Steps for First Year Pastors

Do you want to succeed in your first church? Do you want your first year to become 50 years in ministry? Then, look no further...

1. Whatever you do, don't keep things the same. People love variety and change. You were hired to bring that change. Change the service time, service order, and service elements. Sing all new sings, select a new Bible translation, and nod your head apologetically for all the years the church existed prior to your arrival.

2. Run with the horses. Only the Puritans ministered to hurting sheep, and where are they now? Dead, that's right. If you want a thriving ministry, book deal, and expanding platform, find the smartest, wealthiest, most gifted young adults and spend all your waking hours with them.

3. Copy the clothing, mannerisms, and styles of TED Talk speakers. The world listens to these people, and if you want the world to listen to you, it's about time you humbled yourself and put on a new self.

4. Keep your people busy. The reason sports teams excel is because they never rest. If you want to be a Next Level Church, you can't let your people sit on the bench. The Sabbath might have flown in the first century, but we're in the 21st century and it's high octane ministry or extinction. 

5. You must nail social media. Martin Luther might have spent 3 hours praying before his day of ministry started, but that was at the dawn of printing. We're in the digital age, and to digital our souls must go. Spend those 3 hours planning your strategic engagement with Instaface, MySnap, and Pintawitter. Your people don't want you to visit them or pray for them. They want a witty pastor, mocking worldly ideas and worldly people on social media. 

So get to it...seriously, now, don't pause, pray, reflect or contemplate. The devil's busy. Shouldn't we follow his example and get busy too?

#satire

Monday, January 23, 2017

God doesn't need focus groups.

Paul's letters in 1 and 2 Timothy warn about people who quarrel with words and distort truth. If any preacher or teacher feels like God needs an editor or innovator to improve upon His Word, they are unfit for office.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

The greatest tragedy...

The greatest tragedy is to be deceived by our own deceits.

   Only the truth will set us free, and yet, to let go of one's own deceits is humanly impossible.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why I'm deactivating Facebook

So, I'm leaving Facebook...soon.

My 5 reasons:

1) I want to read things that have been proven by time to be worth reading.

2) I get sucked into drama that distracts me from the drama that deserves my attention (my wife, my kids, my friends, my family, my church). I don't want my kids to have to ask me to turn off my phone.

3) I worship at the idol of fame, and too often that idol takes the form of social media. Why do I care so much? A wise man once said, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you." The wisest man, Jesus, said, "It's better to rip off a sinful thing, arm, eye, in your life than to go to hell with it still there."

4) I looked at Facebook for 2 hours total between Jan-October 2016. I was more productive, less distracted, and better relationally. I came back to it fully for 2 months and I got addicted to "it" again quickly. I'm not even sure what "it" is, but whatever "it" is, "it" has taken my affections away from Jesus. And affections for Jesus are the sweetest things in the world.

5) This will help my prayer life. I said I wanted to be on Facebook to see how my friends and family were doing to pray for them. Turns out, I spend more time scrolling and less time praying. Hopefully, if the scrolling is absent, I'll just do the praying regarding the many concerns I receive in more personal ways.

More spiritual people than me use this tool effectively. God bless you and may God use you on a medium that ate my lunch. If others are like me, feel free to join the club.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you hope to maintain contact with me. We'll figure out a way to share personal information.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Vindication

If you care more about your name, family, or country being vindicated than the name of the LORD, you will face a similar decimation as the people of Israel.

God is willing to destroy us and our false desires in order to save us.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Thinking about it...

The Law of God exposes our true nature.

The grace of God exposes His true nature.

A Pro-Choice Story - The Year 2035

"Joyce, you're not going to believe this, but I have a daughter."

"What are you talking about, Laura? That's crazy! Wait a minute, how would you not know you had a daughter?"

"Turns out, three years ago the doctor performing my abortion at 35 weeks, didn't actually abort the fetus, but took the thing and put it up for adoption, unbeknownst to me."

"No way. What a lying, SOB. That's got to be illegal."

"Oh, you think that is bad, the adoptive family just died in a massive car crash, and it turns out there isn't any extended family willing to take her. The state just called me because they pieced the whole story together and want to know if I want her back."

"Have you considered utilizing Protocol 45?"

"You bet I have. To think I was lied to and am now put in this position; it's so unfair. Protocol 45 seems like the only option. Otherwise, I'll live my whole life wondering what happened to that girl."

"Yeah, talk about emotionally draining. That's why they implemented Protocol 45. Children can really suck our careers and finances. The last report says a kid costs almost a half a million dollars to raise. The state knew our future depends on Protocol 45. Otherwise our choice and freedom are at risk."

"And to think, Protocol 45 almost got overturned by the Supreme Court last year. It would have cost our country millions to care for and raise all those unwanted kids. Think of what we might lose if tax dollars went to these unwanted organisms? We'd lose our rights to education, health care, and unemployment subsidies. And for what?"

"So, how does it work?"

"Well, I just tell the state I'll take her. Then, I go to a clinic and they euthanize her right there. I hear it's totally painless. They even have fun games and beautiful colors everywhere so the children end their lives so happy. It's such a relief to know how safe and humane this will be."

"Yeah, it's perfect. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. You had nothing to do with this, and then boom, such a burden put on your neck. You shouldn't have had to deal with this in the first place. That do-gooder doctor needs his own trip to Protocol 45."

"Yeah, too bad, he's over 10 years old, huh?"

"Someday, we'll figure out how to go after these haters of freedom and life."


Ways to respond:

1) Personally recognize that we (I) are part of the problem. I want things and my wants sometimes suffocate (sometimes literally) the needs of others for life. We have maimed our friends, hurt our loved ones, and caused others to suffer because we wanted things.
2) Receive God's forgiveness. God sent His Son to die, to be killed, because we have killed our sons and daughters. 
3) Those freed by God's grace are called to help others find freedom. Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

    Psalm 139: For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand

    when I awake, I am still with you.