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#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Troublemakers#WhatToDo?

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Charles Schultz had a Peanuts cartoon where Linus was watching TV when Lucy demands that he change the channel to what she wants to watch.  He says, “No” and she threatens him again.  He then looks at her and says, “What gives you the right to come in here and demand your way?” She says to him: “See these five fingers? Separate they are nothing. Weak. But curl them together and they become a force powerful to behold.” To which Linus answers, “What station do you want?” As he walks away he is shown looking at his hand and asking, “Why can’t you guys get together like that?”

There is no worst kept secret than a church filled with fighting, or even specifically one or two people whom we will label as troublemakers.  In fact, someone has said, “Where there’s light, there’s always bugs.”  At some point in our lives-as a business, a church, a school, even personally-we will have to deal with troublemakers. But it just seems like the church troublemaker speaks the loudest, shares the widest, and spreads the farthest than any of those other examples.

What is a church to do? That is the title of my Q & A series question this week: What about Troublemakers?  I’ll be giving several examples of troublemakers this week and then use Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) as a main example of what is suggested we do with them (besides toss them out).  I’d appreciate your prayers this week. They mean a lot. 

#AnotherGospel#Review

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

When I first moved to Spencer to pastor Owen Valley Christian Fellowship (11/05), I was quite ignorant of a “new wave” that had struck the Christian landscape. It didn’t take me long to acclimate myself to this new teaching since a former staff member ascribed to it.  Even as I say that it wasn’t a “you are here now so I want you to know what I believe” type of situation. It unfolded over time until it became a full-blown storm.

First, the names. Rob Bell. Brian McClaren. Tony Jones. William Paul Young. Richard Rohr.

Second, the movement.  I soon found out the movement was known as Emergent.

Third, the teachings. Pure heresy. Questioning the Virgin Birth. The Bible’s Inerrancy. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience. The Atonement. Penal Substitution (The cross was cosmic child abuse). And others.

Fourth, the response. Rob Bell disappeared off the face of the evangelical planet to become Oprah’s guru. #terrible loss#sarcasm.  And to my delight I thought it had disappeared off the face of the planet and had gone the way of the dodo bird.

Fifth, finding out I was wrong about #4. (not RB but the disappearing act of Emergent).  It went underground and since has become more known by another name-one that sounds much more “Christian”- Progressive Christianity. Doesn’t that sound like a cool-sounding name? It sounds relevant (whatever that is supposed to mean). It sounds…woke. (Can I tell you how much I dislike that term in any way, shape or form or use?).  I use that term to mean I got out of bed. I woke up.

Anyway, I thought Emergent was dead and buried but Alisa Childers has shaken my comfortable world with the revelation that, no it hasn’t died, it has just been repackaged with a new name. Same old garbage just a new name. Alisa has a history with this movement. As a member of the seminal girl group ZOEgirl she traveled the globe singing about Jesus, but it wasn’t until she attended a class (albeit it innocently) taught by a progressive pastor that her house of cards almost came tumbling down in a heap. Fortunately, the Spirit who lived in her was waking her and stirring her to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” (I John 4:1)  She almost deconstructed (the term used for evangelicals who toss the historic Christian faith aside to often become an agnostic or atheist, aka woke).  Her experience led her to study and ultimately write a book called Another Gospel? She pulls no punches on truth. She pulls no punches in exposing the false teaching of Progressive Christianity. In fact, it is her life’s mission.  Her review of Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl Wash Your Face, went viral as did her review of Jen Hatmaker’s latest book.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Words fail. I picked last year’s Book of the Year (Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity). I personally feel this is worthy of being considered in that class for 2020.  I’ve been listening to Alisa’s podcasts as well and find them a rich source of information and thought.  I might suggest you consider checking that out as well.  You can find her at alisachilders.com

Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity

#SticksandStones#Words

Friday, September 18th, 2020

There is absolutely no doubt, and I mean NO DOUBT, that words affect us. Call someone a name and it sticks.  We used to say the old adage to make people think we weren’t affected by their words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  The only way I want to respond to that ditty is “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Someone has said the average American speaks about 700 times per day. If that sounds high, chop it in half (350). If that still sounds high cut it in half again (175). Face it, there are very few things we do 175 times a day, at least voluntarily. I’m sure I blink or swallow or breath more than 350 times a day but that is all part of God’s magnificent creation called the body.

Harmful words damage relationships and reveal a heart out of tune with Jesus.  Physical wounds often heal before emotional wounds. There are words said to us in the past which still haunt us.  Our heart flutters and our stomach turns when we hear them or think about them. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue holds the power of life and death.”

This Sunday my question is What about Words? (as if you couldn’t tell).  Prayers would be appreciated for this Sunday. Consider this quote by Ben Franklin: “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” ‘Nuff said.

#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.

 

#PowerofOne#Stand!

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning about the power of one. So I began to ponder it more. Much is said about the difference one person can make-good or bad. Consider some people who made a difference, even though they sometimes stood alone:

  • Patrick Henry- “Give me liberty or give me death!”
  • Henry Ford- He believed in the automobile and wanted to see everyone have one (as long as it was basic black). 🙂  I’m sure glad that changed!
  • MLK, Jr- His “I have a dream” speech has inspired millions of people of all races that equality is possible.
  • Jackie Robinson- Baseball and sports is what it is today largely because of his persistence and talent. When one talks about Jackie you also have to include Branch Rickey, the man who took the chance (in spite of the fact some accuse him of a publicity ploy).  He still took a chance.
  • Martin Luther and other Reformers- “Here I stand. I can do no other.”  What a powerful stand he took against the monster of the Catholic Church.
  • Winston Churchill- he took an unpopular stand-at first- against Nazi Germany. He certainly proved PM Chamberlain wrong.
  • Abe Lincoln- need I say much here?
  • John MacArthur- agree or not he has stood on his conviction and was willing to risk fines and criminal charges.

There is also the other side of the coin-those who stood on the wrong side. Benedict Arnold (the opposite of Patrick Henry). Billy the Kid.  Jesse James and the James Gang (not the motorcycle guy nor the rock group). ANTIFA. Rogue cops. Hollywood elite who cave.

But let’s focus on the ones who make a positive difference-that first list. I’m sure you could add more to that list. Go ahead and do that. We are all called to make a difference. Maybe not in a big way…but to make one where we are. We, as Christ-followers, were never to just put our head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend a challenge is not there. Each challenge we are presented with is specifically designed for us. Our response will determine the outcome. We can take a stand-even if it is alone- or we can go along with the whims of other people.

CHOOSE.  But make sure it is for a righteous cause and has God’s stamp on it.