Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Word of This Voice

This Voice does not sing off key.
This Voice does not deceive.
This Voice is never dull.
This Voice is not too busy.
This Voice is not adulterous.
This Voice is not dark and accusatory.
This Voice does not do autotune.
This Voice does not offer gilt, but gold.
This Voice rings clear.
This Voice calls my name.
This Voice wraps me in a beautiful Word.
This Voice is a true love.
This Voice never abandons me.
This Voice sings over me.
This Voice brings me peace.
This Voice turns pain to joy.
This Voice is my strongtower.
This Voice is beautiful.
This Voice forgives me.
I have ears to hear.
Praise Him.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Confession is Good

Why people confess things to me, I don't know.  Maybe it is because I make a conscious effort not to repeat what is confessed.  Maybe others think I am safe.  I am not safe.  And I will use what others have told me without revealing who, in order to write this post.  Unsure of how to respond to some of these admissions, I often feel like a cow staring at a new gate. 

One Christian confesses, "I am reading 50 Shades of Gray.  I love it.  That is how twisted I am."

Another bashfully chuckles to me, "What if I like my sin?"

I listen dumbfounded.  I want to tell them both to go take a long walk off a short pier.  I want to tell them to repent.  Maybe I should do both of those things.  I wonder if Pastors think the way I am thinking.  I become angry and have to confess my own sin.  

These are confessions that tell me these statements are not of faith.  They are admitting to rebellion and lawlessness; faithlessness.  On these admissions, they have believed the lie of Satan that Christian freedom means abandonment of the bounds of love; choosing self justification instead of love of neighbor.  It is hard to listen to because it is on these points that relationships are severed, as it breaks our unity in Christ Jesus.

Be sure you hear me on this:  I am not saying they are not Christians.  I am saying on these admissions, they need Christ's absolution.

One good brother, gave me this advice:  Tell them the gospel of forgiveness of sin.  They will either receive it, or stop making confessions to you.

Thank you, brother, for teaching me how to hear these things from others; and how to minister to their unbelief by pointing them back to Jesus.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Continuous Line

While lolling about and watching a movie, we were practicing our abilities at blind line contours.  We laughed at the results.  Many cyclops, monkeys, and Punches of Punch and Judy fame emerged on our papers.  Then something clicked for me.  Line contours made me think of the continuing existing self.

The continuing existing self is our attempt to clean up our old nature and make it behave in order to please God, it's a feeble attempt at not needing a Savior to rescue us.  A line contour is an art exercise where your pen never leaves the paper and your eyes look only at the subject you are attempting to outline.  Both of these have one continuous line, both end up with non perfect results.  One practice is more deadly than the other. 

The Holy Spirit kills that continuing existing self in order to create a new creature of faith.  It is wonderful to reckon onself dead to the law so that one can be hidden in Christ.  I have a new master who loves me, not the old master that has pointed bony fingers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blazing Clear Like Oedipus Rex

It is our human condition.  Pagans know it.  We all know it.  We all try to run and hide from it. We run and run, sometimes exhausting ourselves.  Rushing to and fro until we can rush no longer.  But there is nowhere to find shelter.  We are in a flight situation.  Fleeing without destination.  Fleeing for life and limb.  What are we trying to hide from?

 It is guilt and shame.  We all have it because we are all guilty.  We all have pasts we would like to erase.   Even the goody two-shoes have guilt and shame.  Oedipus, the pagan king, had guilt and shame.  He tried to outrun it by gouging out his eyes.  That did not absolve Oedipus from any of his actions, though. Oedipus knows that he is the man.  There is a deeper, underlying question that pagans cannot answer.

Who are we trying to hide from?  We are trying to hide from the true God.  Sophocles, the author of Oedipus, just like all of humanity, had God's law written on his heart and knew right from wrong as is evidenced by the play.  Here are some excerpts:

"My birth all sprung revealed from those it never should; myself entwined with those I never could; and I the killer of those I never would."

Oedipus rips the golden brooches she was wearing, holds them up, and rams them home right through his eyes.

"O yes, I pierced my eyes -- my useless eyes --why not?  When all that's sweet and parted from my vision."

Sophocles lived before Jesus' incarnation, and it was the Jews that had prophets proclaiming the revealed God of promise.  Today, unlike Sophocles' day, we have more preachers who can deliver to us the justifying God.  You do not have to be like Oedipus, beating yourself up, exhausting yourself, damaging yourself because you know that you, too, are the guilty one.  You can find your rest from your guilt and shame that continues to haunt you.

The promise of God has come.  Jesus, the one true God, has forgiven you your sins.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kickback for Defending Marriage

Mark 6 tells us the gift received by St. John the Baptizer when he defended the biblical idea of marriage.     The adulterous Queen Herodias required of him his head, and her daughter wanted it delivered on a plate.  I imagine so as not to get her hands bloody.  Mark 6:18 tells us that our beloved brother, St John the Baptist, was imprisoned for pointing out sin.

It is no wonder the world becomes angry, much like Queen Herodias, when they hear of biblical marriage.  We sinners always want things our way.  We are like three year olds throwing a tantrum.  But with political power and money we become more like bullies, threatening, if Christians do not agree that men can marry men, and women can marry women.  The culture can call that a marriage, but it does not make it so.  It is only God who can define what is a marriage.

Even facing all the spittle that comes our way when we defend marriage, Jesus died for the spitters too.  They, too, can become free with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Praise Him.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Category errors

While talking with some brothers and sisters, they were believing that laying on of hands is where one receives the Holy Spirit.  They were also calling laying on of hands a baptism.  Laying on of hands is nowhere referred to as a baptism in scripture.  Thereby, making the error of multiple baptisms.  Speaking of "water baptism" and distinguishing it from "baptism with the Holy Spirit".  "We receive the holy spirit in the laying on of hands." These statements made it clear that they believed the error of multiple baptisms.   Laying on of hands is not where the Holy Spirit is promised to us.

In the great commission, Jesus tells us to go and baptize, thereby making disciples.  He does not tell us to go  and lay hands on others to make disciples.  Also in Jesus' own baptism we see the Triune God, with the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus.  Our own baptism brings the Holy Spirit to us, as well as remission of sins.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!  Amen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Who Is Predestined? Part 1

As humans we become so self-focused that we automatically think predestination is about us.  Jesus is the one that is foreknown because he is God, the second person of the trinity.   Jesus is the one who was predestined for us and for our salvation.  Believers are placed in Jesus, the predestined One.  Jesus was chosen before time to be our salvation.

Many Christians talk about themselves and God choosing them as if they existed prior to being born.  That is what mormons believe, that they were "spirit babies" floating around, waiting to be born.  That is not Christian belief.

Who is the one that is predestined?  Let's look at two passages.  

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.    ~ Eph 1:4, ESV

but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you   ~1 Peter 1:19-20, ESV

It is clear it is Jesus who is the predestined One.  When we are in Him, we, too, are predestined.  Father places us in His Son, by using various means.  Those means are preaching of the Gospel, or baptism when the name of the Triune God is placed on us.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Look! Over There!

Ever listen to that old song, "Lookin for Love in All the Wrong Places"?  The title alone tells of a common human error.  We look for love in the wrong places, and we look for God in the wrong places.  Some Christians will look for God where He does not reveal himself.  They will try to seek God in election, or in predestination.  God has not told us to look for him there.

It is in Christ that we are to look to for understanding.  We see Father in Jesus, when he heals the sick; and when he chastens the pharisees.  We see Father in Jesus, when he spends time with sinners.  We see Father in Jesus, reconciling the whole world to himself while on the cross.  We see Father in Jesus, triumphant and resurrected.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blame the Scapegoats

Life sucks.  There is no doubt about that.  People close to us hurt and wound us.  They will wound with a word, without a word, with several words, with looks, with behavior, without behavior.  Yep, life definitely sucks.  

When the pain comes from one you cherished, nurtured, bonded, taught, loved, we want to blame others.  It is the government's fault.  It is the school system's fault.  It is the police's fault.  It is the friends' fault.  It is the parents' fault. It is my fault.  Reality check.  It is the fault of the one making the choices to say and do what hurts.  Government, schools, police, friends, parents cannot be blamed for the sins of the other person.  It is their own  responsibility.

There are some theologies that blame God for their sin.  God is sovereign and predestines all things, they teach, believe and confess.  By confessing this, they confess that their own sin is God's fault.  God cannot be blamed for their sin.  Our Loving Father is not a deceiver, and gives good gifts.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Robert Barnes, One of the Cambridge Germans

Robert Barnes, who is in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, was one of the foremost Reformers in England.  He became the leader of the White Horse Inn, which was also called The Cambridge Germans.  They were called Cambridge Germans because they were Evangelicals (or Lutherans), not Calvinists (or radical reformers).

Here are some quotes of Robert Barnes, "the most troublesome heretic of that time", on Sola Scriptura while fighting for a bible in the common language:

"St. Augustine moves men to read holy scripture; and you command them not to read it.  St. Augustine says:  'They shall know in them what to do and what not to do,' and you say they shall learn nothing therefrom but heresies.  St Augustine says: 'a man without learning of scriptures,is no more than a brute beast'; are you not good fathers that will make all your children no better than beasts?

"If you wish that your children shall be obedient ... give them the words of God.  But you shall not say that it belongs only to religious men to study scriptures, but rather it belongs to every Christian, and especially to him that is wrapped in the business of this world."

"If you do not revoke the condemnation of the New Testament, and ordain that all Christian men may read holy Scripture, you shall have the greatest shame that ever man had in this world ... You worms' meat, you stinking carrion, you nourishment of hell fire, how dare you thus presume against your God omnipotent."

"Before the dreadful throne of God shall the council be judged by Christ's holy word, and Christ shall not be judged by the decree of the council, but shall be the council's judge."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Syllogisms and Sillyisms

Logic and reason.  Plato and Aristotle.  Men esteemed by many followers of Jesus.  So esteemed that they give these pagan philosophers weight to interpret God's Holy Word.  Are logic and reason the keys to God's Word and understanding? 

We cannot abandon logic and reason, but it must be subject to scripture.  Many believers have placed scripture in subjection to logic and reason.  That is a horrifying error.  

Logic 1o1, one can have a valid or invalid syllogism.  The truth contained in a syllogism is not related to it's validity.  In other words, you can have a valid argument that contains untruth. A syllogism that is valid does not assure us of truth.  Here is the formula for a syllogism:  IfP, then Q.  If Q, then R.  Therefore, if P, then R.

If it rains, we will not go on a picnic.
If we don't have a picnic, we will not need a basket for our picnic.
Therefore, if it rains, then we will not need our picnic basket.

Roman Catholic Church teaches truth.
The protestants are opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.
Therefore, Protestants taught lies.

That is the argument used by Sir Thomas More, while he was Lord Chancellor for King Henry VIII.  It is not a valid argument.  Do you see why?  

There is a strong love among the Calvinists for pagan philosophy.  It also exists in Roman Catholicism.  You can hear it in their arguments when you listen closely.  Both streams of thought, even though they differ theologically, rely heavily on pagan philosophers to get to where they want to go.

Here is an example of what I hear among Calvinists:

Jesus died only for the sheep.
If the sheep are all believers, the goats are all unbelievers.
Therefore, if Jesus only died for the sheep, the goats are undied for.

The doctrine of TULIP is heavily influenced by syllogisms which must ignore scripture.  Nowhere does scripture teach that Jesus died ONLY for the sheep.  The word "only" is out of place, it is not in scripture, and the sheep and goats image is only used in scripture by Jesus on judgment day.  The whole argument is untrue because of four letters:  only.  

Read scripture carefully and let the Holy Spirit defend it and teach it. He will guide you into all truth, as He promised.  Pagan philosophers can err; the Holy Spirit cannot.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Serving Neighbors

 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs,  for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.  Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may nowreceive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.  For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

God has mercy on all, not all receive that mercy.  Why?  God knows.  He tells us so in the passage that follows the one above.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out! 
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?” 
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?” 
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. 
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

We like to have things all buttoned up and finished.  We do not get that option when it comes to our neighbor and their relationship with God.  God knows the outcome, we do not.  We are not given that privilege.  Much like a television show, and at the end of the show comes the dreadful words "To be continued...."   Aaargh!  It is unfinshed business!  We must tune in to the show again to see the ending.

We can leave our neighbors in God's capable hands.  He will deal with our annoying, sinful neighbor.  Often times He will deal with us first by humbling us and giving us new insight into our own sin.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Third Use of the Law

Down I went.  Crashing, desperation swelling, anger and tears.  Away!  Jesus is this so?  Away!  Turn my eyes around! Presumptions triumphed. I do not want this!  Reject it all!  Away!  Angry, hiding, tearful.  Days of slumping shoulders, days of downcast.  Hours ticking painfully by, minutes of torture.  Temptations to reject faith.  Jesus help me!

No more no more  
             wash my eyes
                     wash my thoughts
                              more washing wash please
                                             scrub and rescue me
                                                                 He is faithful. Loved.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Images from Nature

People think of rabbits as quiet, nice, shy creatures.  Those of us that know more about them realize that The Killer Rabbit in Monty Python and The Holy Grail can be truer to a rabbit's nature.  There are some bunnies that are like Bugs Bunny, divas.

We have one bunny who is pretty relaxed and laid back until you enter his territory.  Then I guard my hand and moves closely!  The new bunny we have is a little diva.  She is petite and a minx.  We are trying to make them a bonded pair.  What a job that is!  You'd think you just put any two together and they'd be fine.  Not so!  They choose who they like, and you know who they like!  Even though they like each other, they will nip and bite one another until they are comfortable with one another.

Those two little rabbits remind me of life in the Christian family.  We are siblings and we have the same Father, but we still nip and bite one another.  Even when I do not want to be the one nipping or biting, I am!  It is out of my control, revealing my sin nature.  Those are the times I want to run away from myself.  Funny thing is, everywhere I go I am still there!

I am grateful we have a Savior who chases us down, and doesn't allow us to hide.  He tells us we are forgiven and loved.

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.  So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. ~ Matthew 18

Friday, April 27, 2012

Marcion of Sinope

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  Jude 1:3, ESV

Marcion of Sinope

Marcion of Sinope is a key figure in the early church.  Today, we have a good idea of what Marcion taught because of the writings of Tertullian.  Marcion’s canon consisted of 11 books.  He had problems with scripture, and decided to discard the parts that troubled him.  Marcion rejected the Old Testament, claiming that this God was a different God from that in the New Testament.  Marcion also believed that Paul was the only true apostle.  Yet, even to Marcion, Paul was too Jewish, so he edited Paul’s epistles.  Marcion’s legacy is to be declared as an heretic. 

E.H. Broadbent in The Pilgrim Churchsays, "Any error may be founded on parts of Scripture; the truth alone is based on the whole. Marcion’s errors were the inevitable result of his accepting only what pleased him and rejecting the rest".  Today, we can still hear the voice of Marcion crying out in disbelief, “God did not truly say that!”  It is the same doubt that we see in the Garden of Eden when the serpent whispered to Eve, “Did God actually say that?”(Genesis 3:1) 

Santa Cruz is a university town, so we have many speakers wanting to present us with their ideas.  We should never assume that because Jesus’ name is in the title of an event, that the speaker is presenting to you a biblical Jesus.  There are many groups today that hold similar views as Marcion.  I believe, teach and confess that Holy Scripture is God’s Word, unbroken and delivered to you for your life and your salvation. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Suffering for Others

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,   of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,   the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  ~ Colossians 1 24-26

I kept reading "filling up what is lacking in Christ's affliction for the sake of his body, that is the church".  I read it over and over.  Read the whole chapter, the whole book, and that phrase still stuck in my head. I could not understand it.

Then I sought God over the passage. There are times when I forget the obvious.  I suspect that I am not alone in that forgetfulness!

Paul is talking about how we are united in sufferings.  We are united to Jesus, and we are united to one another.  Some Christians seem to have ease, others have much tribulation.  All of us are united by that tribulation, and by that ease.  We depend on one another to minister the mystery hidden:  the gospel.

The church grows on the blood of the martyrs.  Have you heard that before?  How about Jesus' words that we will suffer for his name's sake? It is a joy to come, a joy to wait for when we suffer.  Jesus endured the cross to receive His joy:  His Bride, the church.   It may be through our suffering the church will grow, the gospel be heard.  Praise Him.

 Even in our suffering, Jesus is not unfamiliar with our sufferings.  He was forsaken, tortured, beaten, persecuted.  Do not be surprised, dear saints, when these things happen also to you.  You belong to Jesus, and will be treated no differently than He was.  Run to Jesus with your woes.  He will hide you.  You are safe in Him.  Cry out to him, He listens and knows.  Remember, too, you are minstering the gospel to others, even in your afflictions.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fruit for You

Colossians 1:5-7  Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. 

 The gospel comes to us personally.  It comes to us one by one.  The whole world is bearing fruit of the gospel and increasing.  How exciting is that?  It also does this among you.  Wow.  It is the gospel that increases our fruit and our understanding of the grace of God.  The church at Colossae learned this from Epaphras.

We hear the gospel in the mouths of others.  God used Epaphras at Colossae, and Epaphras learned from Paul. Paul learned from our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Today we are learning from Jesus, who spoke through Paul's hand.  We are connected to one another.  We are connected to Paul, Epaphras, and to the Colossians.  We bear fruit for the benefit of others.  We do not always see that benefit, but God has told us that we are bearing fruit.  We are bearing fruit to gain one more person.  Do not be shy with the Gospel.  Sow it liberally, that Christ's body may continue to grow.

 Do not doubt that you are bearing fruit, you can believe it.  God has said so.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two Kinds of Righteousness

"We set forth two worlds, as it were, one of them heavenly and the other earthly.  Into these we place these two kinds of righteousness, which are distinct and separated from each other.  The righteousness of the law is earthly and deals with earthly things; by it we perform good works ... But the righteousness (of the gospel) is heavenly and passive.  We do not have it of ourselves; we receive it from heaven.  We do not perform it; we accept it by faith, through which we ascend beyond all laws and works."  Luther, "Lectures on Galatians"

"This is our theology, by which we teach a precise distinction between these two kinds of righteousness, the active and the passive, so that morality and faith, works and grace, secular society and religion may not be confused.  Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their limits."  Luther, "Lectures on Galatians"

Thank you, Luther, for clearing away some cobwebs for this reader.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ex Fear Factor

"You can't believe that!  That is not true!  I thought you were smarter than that!"

Have you ever been afraid of telling others your beliefs?  Holding your tongue for fear of the reaction you will receive?  There was a time in my life when I would hold back on telling others what I believe about God.  My fear of their reaction kept my tongue paralyzed.  How did that change?  How did I get over the fear factor of what others will say?  Let me share with you what I have learned.

There is this call in protestantism of "Sola Scriptura!"  It's a famous call from a famous era in church history.  Some define sola scriptura thusly:  Scripture has the final say-so, over custom, tradition, opinions.  Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?   Here's the problem with it:  most who talk about it, do not do it.

There are descendants of the reformation that proclaim they are sola scriptura, yet they make requirements of scripture.  The demand placed upon the bible is logic.  It is a form of doubt.  It is humanism disguised as godly interpretation.  It is saying, in essence, our finite brains can understand the infinite wisdom of God.  It is not sola scriptura to require scripture to fit into our understanding.  It is prideful.

"Let God be true though every one were a liar."  Read that again and let it sink in.  It is from Romans 3.  That, in essence, is Sola Scriptura.  When the bible tells us baptism doth now save you, it does.  Shocking?  Read that bit from Romans 3 again.  When you come to a passage of scripture that someone has told you is not true, turn to Romans 3.  When you come to a passage of scripture that you find shocking, read Romans 3.

This is sola scriptura.  It does not take away God's word by tradition, opinion, custom, or logic.  It receives God's word by faith, even if it is not understood right now, today. It is true because God tells us it is true.  That is how I removed the fear factor when talking to others of shocking topics. It is shocking that I can believe that baptism saves because the God of the universe tells me it is true.