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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.