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#JesusMovement#Laurie#JesusPeople

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I was born in 1952 (that puts me at a soon-to-be 68 for those counting. October 9 to be exact. Money accepted. 🙂 )  so I was in my teen years in 1965-1970. I wasn’t very world savvy (translation: not at all) so I knew very little about what was going on in Vietnam. I did not follow the hippie movement; Haight-Ashbury; LSD and the pharmacy; Nixon; Woodstock; Altamont; nor any of the movement called the Jesus Movement (JM). My music at the time was Tommy James and the Shondells, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, mostly bubblegum music. But then Tommy James did Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion (still my all-time #1 song). My senses began picking up vibes of another world. I began working and heard about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Still I had not heard of the JM or the Jesus People. I came from a pretty conservative church. I know of the One Way sign and once flashed it to a military vehicle in front of us and promptly got back a middle finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was giving him one or if he was letting me know what he thought of Jesus. I rude awakening for sure. I had never heard of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire Chuck Girard and Love Song, or any of the other seminal artists in what was then a fledgling Christian music genre. And I for sure had never heard of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel, or one of Chuck’s protege’s, Greg Laurie. Too bad. But even then that was West Coast and I lived in PA.

This book, Jesus Revolution, by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn was a great way to do an interstate tour through a state route roadway. I learned about Greg’s early involvement in drugs and the counterculture, but also with JM/JP after God got a hold of his life. But I also learned far more. I love history and man this book gives a breezy, Clif Notes version of the JM. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane-a lane I have no memory of…except some of the world events (which I now know about). But I loved hearing about history and how the JM intersected the world; how Chuck Smith opened his neat ‘n tidy church to the young hippies who were seeking meaning to their emptiness. Chuck pointed them to Jesus. One of those burned out people was Greg Laurie. It was fun reading of Greg’s “rise” from a 17 y/o hippie to preaching at Riverside (an effort blessed and encouraged by Chuck) at the age of 19. God began to use Greg to where they eventually had to begin meeting at the Riverside Municipal Building with no A/C! It was nicknamed the Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven.

This book included stories of Greg; his marriage to Cathe (which is about 8 months shorter than mine); his “rise” as a pastor; his influence in people’s lives; the tragic and untimely death of his son, Christopher, in a car accident; the renewal of his son, Jonathan as a result of the accident; his Harvest Crusades and his move back to Orange County to start a church. It also included some great round-ups of world events during the ’60s-’79.

This was a wonderful book!! If you like history, especially contemporary church history, you will want to get this book. You will not be sorry. It makes me want to read more about the JM and more of Pastor Greg’s books.  And just to be clear: this is not a book going on and on about how great Greg Laurie is. I suspect he would eschew that in the highest order.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today

#ThrowingStones

Friday, September 11th, 2020

Have you ever played darts?  I have played at it but have never played it for “blood.” I know there are tournaments all over creation for dart throwing, but I also know that just throwing darts can be big time in small venues, i.e. bars, etc. The goal, of course, is to hit the bullseye. But as you can imagine there are those whose aim is slightly worse than terrible. One dart may hit the round target but then the next one might be the wall or the floor.

That is a perfect picture of the way we throw stones at each other. Verbal stones have the tendency to hit all over the place. Sometimes they are deadly accurate, but sometimes it makes you wonder, “Where in the world did that come from?”  In today’s world, and even more sadly in the church, this idea of throwing stones is far too common.  It is almost like it is seen as “sport.”

The Bible is very clear how we are to treat each other, how we are to talk about others. In my new series (this is week #2) called Q & A, this sermon is entitled What about Stones? My Scripture is Ephesians 4: 25-32. The outline is extensive but simply follows Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus.  When I was in college I had never heard of a man named Francis Shaeffer when I read a little booklet written by him called The Mark of the Christian. His whole premise is that love was that mark. May that be true of us, especially in our words.

I would appreciate your prayers for me, for us, as we worship and study. Thanks.

 

#SoulCycle#Wellness#Prosperity(un)Gospel

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

I’m continuing with my discussion on this book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

Today’s installment is a bit more understandable than the last one here.  One of the most famous phrases used in today’s world is “It’s all about you.” “Seek your goals. Strive for the best. Do your thing.”  Now, understand I am not against setting goals and reaching for a dream. On the contrary, I think it is important to have goals and a place you want to strive for.

But I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.  No matter what an advertisement may say. No matter what an exercise lifestyle may tell you. Hence, the mention of SoulCycle. It is much more than physical transformation. It is more like a double whammy: material improvement and spiritual transcendence.  You aren’t just pedaling a bike to lose weight and become healthier in the process, but you are pedaling to become a better person. Their moniker: You are a Renegade, a Hero, a Warrior.  That sounds all well and good until SoulCycle begins to be seen as an emotional and spiritual outlet. Yeah…”God is a woman, and she’s a SoulCycle instructor.” Say what?

But it is more than SoulCycle. It is the whole Wellness Culture. Their philosophy can be summed up in a war between the authentic, intuitional self-both body and soul- and the artificial, malevolent forces of society, rules, and expectations. We are born good (Ahem!), but we are tricked, by big Pharma, by processed food, by civilization itself, into living something that falls short of our best life.  Hmmm. Maybe they can get Joel to teach them about their best life being now.  (Yeah…that is snarky…but true).

Folks, if there is ever a sense of hypocrisy, it is in this scene. They tell you things like “You are you.” “There is only one You.” “You are beautiful just as you are.” But then they turn around and offer you tricks (and I might add expensive ones) to better yourself, to make yourself more beautiful (at least according to what they think is beautiful).  The author gives so many different examples of this C**P that I can’t keep it straight. And, of course, neither can anyone else. If this one doesn’t work, I can always try something else. Then I can say, “Hey, I’ve tried multiple diets and they didn’t work. I found myself being like a yo yo until I tried Product XXX.”  And please don’t get me started on WW and its spokewoman! (I’ll reserve what I really want to say).

This whole scheme is what is called New Thought. But like many things,  New Thought is not new, nor is it thought. It’s a bunch of gobbledy-gook dressed up as intellectualism. It is called Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, and others).  It found its way into religion (I hesitate to say church) through a man named Phineas Quimby until one of his patients and disciples, Mary Baker Eddy,  founded a “church” called the Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science).

And here is where New Thought gets really warped or is that wrapped into the church world. Ever heard of a man named Norman Vincent Peale? One of his disciples: Robert Schuller?  And then a plethora of others:  Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, the Bakkers, Benny Hinn, and other Word of Faith false teachers; and now the current batch of false teachers (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Todd White, Bill Johnson (actually all of Bethel), ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

I’m not making this up folks.  And you may think I have an axe to grind.  I guess in a very real sense I do. I see so much damage being done to the proclamation of the Gospel and the spread of the real message of Jesus and His life-giving death on the cross that it turns my insides. Jesus  is not for sale.  He is not some magic genie who can be conjured into blessing us because we declare it to be so.

Discernment. Discernment. Discernment. And do what I John 4:1 says to do: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

#Work

Friday, September 4th, 2020

In the late ’60s I purchased an album by Chicago Transit Authority. They had a song on that album called Questions 67 & 68.  There weren’t that many questions in the song so I had no clue why they named a song by that title. Thanks to the internet I recently found out that the song actually referred to the years 1967 and 1968.  Of course if you follow the name change and their next album, they never did learn the answer because a year or so later they asked another question: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”  🙂

I start a new series this Sunday called Q & A. They are questions people have asked or are asking and I hope to give Biblical answers to those questions. The first in line is one tied to this weekend’s holiday. I thought I would try to answer the question “What about Work?” I think it is a fair question to ask, especially since the whole virus mess has caused many to take stock of why they do what they do.

Speaking for myself: I love doing what I do. I love my job. I love the people I work with on a daily basis.  However, I am also aware my job is different from many.  I work for the Lord as the pastor of the church so I don’t face the daily influences many of you do.  But I still feel there is common ground we can stand on.  There is another issue we all face. Many today find it more convenient to stay home and collect than to work. There are cases where that is good, but tragically we face a scourge of laziness to just stay home and not work.  There is a difference between will not work and cannot work.

My purpose this week is to show how work has been given to us by God as far back as Genesis and there is value found in working.  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for those who listen.  Meanwhile, have an enjoyable Labor Day holiday.

#Religious#Intuitional

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

I finished reading Strange Rites this past week and have struggled with how to do a review. The book is basically a “future book.” What I mean by that is not that it is a futuristic book (predicting the future),  but that it takes godlessness and shows its present but mostly future influence on our culture. Some observations the author made and included were eye-openers, while others were stomach-openers (i.e. kicked in the gag reflex and it was all I could do not to…you know).  While it is an important book, it is not a book for everyone. I can’t say it enriched my life but it did help make sense of some things. It also had me rolling my eyes (as well as my stomach). I thought what I might attempt to do is to take a chapter at a time. Give the basic belief of that particular godless system and then share how I think it will affect our culture.

I wrote about the opening salvo of the book elsewhere on this blog. You can find it here. As a further expansion of that thought it is important to add this to the mix: the author talks a lot throughout the whole book on what she calls (and I think very appropriately) intuitional religions. Not institutional. Intuitional.  She defines that as “their sense of meaning is based on narratives that simultaneously reject clear-cut creedal metaphysical doctrines and institutional hierarchies and place the locus of authority on people’s experiential emotions, what you might call gut instinct.” (p.33)  My translation: what you feel is all important.  Who cares what the Bible says or truth says; how you feel is the all-important line in the sand.  The author quoted that 3/4 of the millennials and 67% of the religious Nones now agree with the statement “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know.” (p.33)

Sound familiar? It should. It is the old “whatever feels good do it” philosophy we have had through time immemorial.  It came to the forefront when Post-Modernism hit the church in a big wave. It found its way through the attractional church model (Willow Creek and others like it).  What is interesting is how some things have shifted though and I never thought about this until I read what the author said. She wrote, “If ‘sex sells’ was the unofficial advertising mantra of the Mad Men era, then ‘spirituality sells’ is the slogan for post-2016.” (p.33)  That explains the rampant rise of spirituality as it is called by Oprah and Osteen and Rob Bell and others.

Chapter 2 (which I will skim through here) take us on a ride through intuitional religion in America.  She shows its growth and development through Deism (Someone-possibly God-created the earth then took His hands off it).  She then follows it into Transcendentalism (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, and others); to Spiritualism; to Universalism to New Thought (precursor to Peale, Schueller, and Osteen); to the Social Gospel; then onto liberalism/ecumenism.  The precise target in all of this was the Judeo-Christian outlook, which they said only offered imposed guilt, inhibition, grimness, and anti-life repression.  She finished the chapter with a sad, but scary statement: “Almost one in five Americans was raised in a religion {My note: referring mostly to Christianity}, only to leave it to join the ranks of the Nones.” (p.52)

I’ll share more in the next installment and also begin the godless religions the author includes. Hope you will join me for that.

#Memories#BookReview

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

Caution: this is a fairly long post.

I grew up in a church tradition which was somewhat mixed. Part Baptist. Part Christian Church/Church of Christ. Mostly the former, at least for the first 17 years of my life. That all changed when we got a new pastor who then encouraged me to attend a Bible college in KY. I made a real spiritual decision to attend there…they said I could play basketball.  🙂 After a few games I was starting as a Freshman. Goal accomplished. While there I became exposed to what was called the Restoration Movement (RM).  I had never heard of that until my Senior year. But after 3 classes I was hooked. Hook, line and sinker as they say.  I became almost rabid in what I “preached” as doctrine.  Baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit was the only valid baptism. All others were lost.  Non-eternal security. The evil of denominations. Among others. I became very legalistic.

The founders of this movement were Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W Stone and Walter Scott, with Alexander becoming the figurehead. Think Martin Luther. John Calvin. John and Charles Wesley. All men whom I honestly feel never wanted to start something that would become isolated from the norm. They became known as the Reformers, hence the Reformation Movement. Their goal was to reform the church, to shake off the shackles of Catholicism with its abhorrent practices, and present something different. Campbell’s movement was called (by him) the current Reformation. By others it was called the Restoration Movement because it was seen as an effort to restore the ancient order of things.

I left that movement/denomination years ago. I have no allegiance to it. But I have to admit some curiosity when I saw a book recommended on one of the blogs I read:

A Life of Alexander Campbell (Library of Religious Biography (LRB))

I decided to buy it since I tend to be a somewhat eclectic reader.  Granted there are some books I avoid like a plague (anything with Bethel or Hillsong involved); any name it/claim it book; any “God wants you to feel better about yourself” book; or an out and out “secular” book.  I do like to read biographies from time to time as a change of pace, so I bought this book.

WOW were my eyes opened!

When one learns of another initially, there is almost an aura which surrounds the “hero.” Further study dims the halo. Even further study takes the halo away. While I was grateful for my time in the RM when I was there, I have been away from it long enough to be somewhat jaded. When I read this book,  I found myself having mixed feelings. While awed by Alexander’s mind, I was somewhat taken aback by his attitude.  He was often arrogant and condescending to anyone who disagreed with him. He was (are you ready for this?) somewhat of a white supremacist (not the KKK kind but the kind who believed the white race was superior). He didn’t have slaves and thought slavery was abhorrent, but did not see the Scriptures as denying the right to have them. He lamented the Civil War.  He was opinionated and had a brilliant mind to support that. He was also benevolent and untiring in his effort to further the cause of Christ and the “ancient order of things.” He loved to debate and was involved in several.  It was actually during one of his debates that he cemented his belief in baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But he was also open to “brothers in error,” those who were not immersed and had never been taught of its importance/”essentiality,” who could be considered his brothers.  I found as I read an exasperation developing because he could be inconsistent in his teaching.  He could appeal to both the sectarians (we are the only ones) and the ecumenist (everyone will make it) depending on how one took his writing.  He could preach on immersion in water as the point of forgiveness, yet also preach the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice as the only requirement for salvation. 

Foster summed him up with these words: “AC was a complex, brilliant, indefatigable, arrogant, racist, aggressive, prolific leader who made a lasting impact on the Christian world. He was a man whom God used and whom God chastened. His spiritual descendants have inherited every one of his characteristics. They have been passionate for the truth of Scripture and the will of God. They have been tempted and have often succumbed to the arrogance of believing they alone were legitimately struggling to follow God (a belief, however, not unique to Campbell’s heirs).  A dominantly rationalistic approach to truth resulted in internal divisions within the movement whose name he now shares, ironically, with Barton W. Stone.” (p.331)  {My note: It is sometimes known as the Stone-Campbell Movement} 

Further note: in 1906 a split occurred  when the church of Christ (non-instrumental) wanted to be known in a census as separate from the movement. A further split occurred in the late 1920s when the more liberal side known as the Disciples of Christ decided some of the core doctrines were not true, like the Virgin Birth and others).  

Jo wondered why I was reading this book- “You aren’t in school anymore.”  I told her I feel I am because I can never stop learning. At times I slogged through this book (especially the earlier part) because of some details the author needed to give. But at other times I didn’t want to stop reading.  AC’s sharp mind deteriorated into dementia, a sad ending to a shining light. I don’t know that I will ever read this again, but I do know I will keep it in my office for possible future reference.  If you like biographies, especially of religious figures and figureheads, you will enjoy reading this. I have a greater appreciation now for my past, but more so for my decision to pursue another path.

#Remixed#Nones

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. We have a guest from the church camp we support, Hilltop Christian Camp, in Columbus, IN. Hilltop took a hit this past summer, as did all summer camps. I believe this ministry is so important I am willing to give my preaching time to the director to inform us of the camp’s next moves and how we can support them.  So this post is entirely non-related to any sermon.

I’ve been reading a book over the past week or so that I know someone recommended but I’m not sure who or where. The reason I say that is that it does not seem to be a book I would just up and buy.  That is a nice way to say the jury is still out on this book. 🙂 The premise sounded good.  Oh, but first the book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

As you can see it is called Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World by Tara Isabella Burton. Since I believe it is important to know the culture to which Christ-followers are to relate, I thought this would be a good book to get a handle on it.  I can’t speak as to the author’s religious leanings even though she is a columnist at Religion News Service and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford.  I can’t even tell if she is a Christ-follower or one who writes about religion. One thing I do know is she is knowledgeable and a student of the “Nones.”

The “Nones” have been described (in my very simple way) as a generation of people who have no desire for religious affiliation with the God of the Bible or its teachings. They may have been raised that way; they may have been raised in a church home but walked away from it; or may have even been in the ministry in some way (pastor, youth pastor, etc) and “deconverted.”  Here is the author’s explanation of what she calls a “Remixed” person:

Today’s Remixed reject authority, institution, creed, and moral universalism. They value intuition, personal feeling, and experiences. (p.10)

I live near a university (Indiana University) with two others (Indiana State University and DePauw) not far away.  So I can attest to this philosophy as being very rampant in the minds of many, especially young people. They demand the right to rewrite their own script, their own history, and their own morals. They want to be able to define and describe how the world should operate and turn out.  They have turned their backs on historic, orthodox Christianity and are into making their own rules. 

It’s not pretty now; nor will it turn out pretty in years to come.  You simply CANNOT make your own rules and moral law and see any good come of it. That is especially true when we can’t decide on what’s right and wrong.  (Can anyone say today’s world and uproar?)  We can see or hear the daily devastation of those who want to make their own rules and then try to impose them on someone else. The senseless beating of an innocent truck driver; the beating of a retired police detective; or the senseless beating to a pulp of an innocent white man by a mob. But that is what happens when we have no moral base on which to build. And please don’t get me started on the irreligious and Marxist-leaning BLM organization or the senseless killing of unborn children! And the NONES will find that out. Our world will not be a better world by the lack of moral absolutes and failing to follow the Bible’s advice on how to treat another. We even had a “pastor” (notice the quotes) who tweeted following the death of President Trump’s brother that “#thewrongTrumpdied.” Seriously? That is Christ-like? I think not. I don’t care who it is: death hits us all and there is sorrow and hurt with it. I don’t wish the death of a loved one on anyone- be they atheist, someone I love, or my worst enemy.  That is one of the most un-Christ-like tweets or statements I have seen in a long time…and that man is supposedly a man of God? Give me a break!

I’m going to keep reading this book and will keep posting my thoughts. Agree or disagree you are welcome to respond as long as it is civil. If it is not, I can disapprove your comment.

 

#Beirut#PrayerRequested

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

It is easy to get so myopic that we can’t “see the forest for the trees.”  There is no question our country is in an upheaval (and I certainly have my thoughts about it and when it will end), much of it total garbage. The wanton destruction and taking of lives, especially Law Enforcement, is not the way to get things done.  There is absolutely no call for what is going on in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York and others. It is utterly ridiculous. And please don’t tell me it is advancing the cause of BLM (which I won’t get into).

Then there is Beirut. Half way around the globe and barely a peep from those who want us to think they really care about others.  I have watched several clips of the explosion and am just dumbfounded at the power of it. Jo showed me a video of a bride in her wedding dress blown off her feet while having pictures taken.  And to see the pictures of destruction is just mind-blowing.

To be honest, I had no plans to post anything about the explosion.  Sadly, and admittedly, it was not on my radar. I stand guilty of caring but not caring. Until…UNTIL…I read this article. I have linked it so you can read it in its entirety. It is from a pastor in Lebanon who went there to plant a church. It should rock your world and stir your heart to do one thing he has asked:

P.R.A.Y.

Here is the link to the article.

How about doing two things for me…for this pastor and his people in Lebanon? First, pray for them. Second, pass this article along to your readers.

#ConversionStory#KeepitReal

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading the three accounts of the conversion of Saul/Paul- Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26.  Paul is efficient in each of them. Consistent in each of them. In other words, he doesn’t embellish, add to or take away a particular thought or action to make a stronger point to his audience. He doesn’t heighten emotion to make a stronger point to his audience. He says nothing more to Agrippa in chapter 26 than he does in his defense before the people in chapter 22.

Some people like to do just the opposite. In an effort to be relevant (whatever that may mean) or to present a more enthralling conversion experience, they embellish their story. I’ve read and heard some whoppers in my days. Mine is simple: I was 8 years old; fell under conviction that is what I must do; went forward on Palm Sunday; and was baptized (with others) on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960. No big sin. I wasn’t a drug user, a pill-popper, a rebel (except as a sinner against God), a murderer, a rabble-rouser, or an obstinate, extremely disobedient child. I was simply a young boy who realized he was a sinner and wanted to accept Jesus. (I also confess I wanted to take communion but that’s a whole ‘nother story).  🙂  No confetti. No big brass band. No one lining up to hear my stirring story. The only sound heard was angels singing, rejoicing, as Luke 15 says.

Every man’s experience is different. No conversion stories are the same. I did not have a “Damascus Road” experience, but that makes mine no less important or special than someone who is radically saved and tells others. Here is what I think: You tell your story. Tell it truthfully. Who knows who may be listening?


#Security#Fear

Friday, July 17th, 2020

If there is one thing I am sure of these days is there is a lot of insecurity among people. We live in unsure times. What started out to be the year that would be (2020) has now become the year that “could have been” or depending upon your perspective, the year that “has become.”  The economy was firing on all cylinders when COVID-19 happened. That was usurped by the unrest, turbulence and violence following the death of George Floyd. Now we are back to the spike in COVID cases.  There is no question we live in an age of upheaval. The big “C” church is under attack. We speak up and we are called homophobic, bigoted, opinionated, etc. Stay silent then we are accused of bigotry, pride,  prejudice, and a lack of compassion. Many live in fear of the future. Truth be known: many live in fear of the present.

My sermon this Sunday is from what I would consider one of the most poignant passages in all of Scripture on the security we have in Christ. This is not a sermon on “once saved/always saved” vs “one can lose their salvation.” This is a sermon on the steadfastness of God’s character and love for His children.  I’m approaching Romans 8: 31-39 with three thoughts:

  1. God is for us
  2. God defends us
  3. God battles for us

Psalm 27:1 tells us, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” With that promise in mind, I hope to give clarity and strength for whatever may come. Not because we strive in our own strength, but because we KNOW and TRUST the One whom we can lean on.

Your prayers would be appreciated. And I’d love to welcome you to listen online at the church’s FB page or the church’s YouTube channel.  You can find more information at the church’s website