Contending or Contentious?

linebacker

Legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary…look at his eyes

If the last 5 years have taught me anything, it is that how we say what we say about the Bible and Jesus is very important…and very delicate. Note that I did not say that the Gospel or the Bible are delicate. No, I said how we come across as we attempt to communicate these timeless truths in an era of increasing lawlessness is of major concern.

I am remembering a guy from the seminary I attended who was formerly a linebacker on his college football team. He was extremely ‘ripped’ as the saying goes. He probably had a body fat index that would rival Olympic athletes. He also had an intensity about him that often came across as a menacing countenance. I knew him and I was intimidated by him sometimes.

A christian music artist (who was attending the seminary at the time) planned an outdoor concert in Los Angeles… right in the heart of Watts. We were at Will Rogers Park…right at the epicenter of the terribly destructive riots that had taken place just a few years prior. Donn Thomas, an African American musician, had invited a number of us to go along and minister to those who would respond to his altar call. My linebacker friend, let’s call him ‘Bill’ joined us as Donn began to play “Can’t Nobody Do me like Jesus…He’s my friend” and “Ain’t no Rock Gonna Shout in my place…Long as I’m as I’m Alive to Glorify His Holy Name…”

Donn ministered powerfully and he gave an altar call. Bill and I and the others began to pray with those we hoped to lead to the Lord. Bill (I forgot to mention that he also spoke in a very loud voice) was ministering to a young boy about 13. I watched as Bill got closer and began to speak louder. The boy began to back up and Bill continued to advance….

Finally the boy ran away. Bill chased him to the edge of the park and with one last attempt… he yelled at the top of his voice “Hey!! Jesus Loves You….”

Discernment type ministries are needed as never before. The very notion of objective, absolute truth is under continual assault, and the culture around  us is careening down the “Great Down Grade” Charles Spurgeon warned us about. We need as never before to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude verse 3)

A friend did me a great favor a while back. She read one of my posts and reflected back to me that my tone was a little harsh. (She was kind) In point of fact, as I reread what I had written, I would describe it as shrill and confrontational. How, I have been asking myself for months, can I communicate the passion I have about what I truly believe is necessary for the church to hear, yet not succumb to fleshly enthusiasm that is off-putting?

The King James version of the Bible uses the word contend in Jude 3 to describe the assignment we as believers have to hold true to the scriptures. The Bible also, however, uses the words contention and contentious to describe less than godly approaches that some well-meaning apologists are accustomed to exhibit.

“A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city and contentions are are like the bars of a castle” (Prov. 8:19)

In Romans, Paul concludes his letter with this directive…

“Now I urge you brethren note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them.”

The Greek word translated divisions comes from two root words meaning literally ‘two stances’ ( hence the idea of division of something that was intended to be ‘one’.) The word offences describes a young sapling, bent for use of becoming a ‘trap stick in a snare’ (see Strong’s Concordance Greek Dictionary # 4624 and 4625) I’m not stretching the meaning to say that this word suggests “tripping someone up” by means of a snare.

Remember Paul is saying ‘Avoid them.’ (the ones coming causing divisions and offences) What then is the meaning of Jude 3 in which Jude is pleading with his readers to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints”? Again, the original language yields a rich meaning that changes everything. The word Jude used is a  derivative of a word from which we get our word “agonize”  It can mean to “struggle for” to “earnestly contend for.”

Elsewhere in the New Testament we are exhorted to ‘not be that guy’. What guy? Maybe our linebacker friend Bill who thought he had to tackle someone…to win a battle… in order to represent the truth. Paul wrote to Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work. to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle,  showing all humility to all men(Titus 3:1-2) The word peaceable in the King James version means “don’t be a brawler” The same word is used in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he lays out the qualifications for leaders A bishop must be….not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous…” (I Tim: 3:3)

Here is what I gleaned from this brief study. To contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints is arduous, and frankly agonizing at times. What I/we need to guard against, however, is the tendency to adopt an attitude of combativeness with others in order to arrive at the truth. I don’t want to be a brawler. I don’t want to be ‘that guy.’ I don’t intend to ever back down, but I can pray, even agonize in prayer… that I contend for something rather than against someone.

Something to think about…

Dr. J.

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True Truth

On trial for his life, Martin Luther is reported to have said, “Peace if possible…The truth at any rate.”

The other day a famous preacher appeared on a talk show. He was apparently trying to rehab his image. He had been accused of having numerous sexual encounters with young men in his mega-church. After some long awkward silences, the host asked him, “What is your stance on gay marriage?”

The man gathered himself… looked straight into the camera… and said “I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman…that being said, that is my truth. And other people have their truth and that’s o.k.” It was an artful dodge, but his defense was flawed by definition.

The Greek word that we translate as “truth” in the New Testament literally means “nothing hid or concealed.” I take that to mean that truth is either true or it is not. There is no room for nuance here. Jude verse 3 (the guiding scripture of the Jude 3 Fellowship) reads “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” From this verse I conclude:

  • Truth, (as Paul put it)“The truth as it is in Jesus”–was a ‘once for all’ proposition
  • It is one truth for all people and for all times
  • It had and has been delivered ‘once for all’ to the saints.
  • To treat truth as such is something that will involve contending (the Greek word is agonidzo—we get our word agonize from it.

One could rightfully ask, contend against what or whom? I will tell you that Jude’s epistle as well as the epistles of Peter and John deal with people in the church who have caused strife and confusion by distorting or tinkering with the Gospel. In every generation there have been those who took it upon themselves to adapt the gospel to their current culture. It is no different today. The preacher I mentioned earlier illustrates this point. His “this is my truth” remark was really a tacit acknowledgement that others’ truth was par with the truth as it is found in Jesus.

People have literally stopped their ears when I say “Jesus said that “all who came before Him were liars and thieves.” It is written “There is no other name under heaven by which men shall be saved.” One really has just a few options when it comes to the claims of Christ. The very notion of propositional truth—that is, there is one truth that is to be either accepted and believed, or rejected—is under assault today.

You need a thesaurus to decipher and parse the various ways that pubic figures disguise lies. One of my favorites was when the then Presidential candidate John Kerry was caught repeating again and again a statement that he knew to be false and misleading. One of his surrogates came up with this creative defense. “Secretary Kerry is one of those rare men possessed of a fluid consciousness. Intellectual fluidity was this man’s actual wording.

I remember hearing once, “In war, the first casualty is always the truth.” We need as never before to be convinced that the Bible is ‘true truth’ as Francis Schaeffer put it. By all means, we are all free to obfuscate redefine, speculate. bend tear and mutilate as much as we please. If, however, something is universally true and based on the very Word of God, then we have a dilemma. The Bible states in no uncertain terms that not all will be saved. It also makes it crystal clear that you can be sincere and at the same time sincerely wrong, and that there is judgment involved.

I remember my Apologetics teacher, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery said that “a universe in which both Unitarianism and Roman Catholicism could both be universally true would be a mad house!” Does this mean that I have the right to tell people they are going to hell? I wouldn’t treat it that way. But neither do I have the right to eliminate my uncomfortableness by saying that the Bible is wrong about Hell and that no one is going there…

I guess Martin Luther had it right

Peace if possible…the truth at any rate. I can say and I do say right now that no one HAS to go to Hell. Anyone reading this can right now repent, confess that they have sinned and offended God and that they believe that Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, He died for them. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

Now there is some true truth.”

Dr. J.

 

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Let’s have Chinese tonight

cookie

“The wheels are coming off!” Think of children in a homemade cart careening down a steep hill. To your horror, you notice the wheels begin to wobble. The steep down grade, the laws of physics and the shoddy construction of the vehicle are about to produce a predictable result.

A few days back I picked up a copy of The Oregonian newspaper. These were the headlines on the first two pages:

Transgender teacher sees victory as a wider win

‘Wall’ builds only unity

Methodists postpone LGBT discussion

                                                                                  Trudeau apologizes for throwing elbow

In the same paper, there was a Washington Post story, ‘China disputes strange cannibal-related food export rumors.’

Now for the back stories behind those slug lines…

A fifth grade teacher in a suburb of Portland was paid a $60,000 settlement by the Gresham-Barlow School District after this individual complained of harassment. You will note that I didn’t say the teacher was a man. Leo came out as transgender last spring after surviving breast cancer. You see Leo Soell “identifies as neither male nor female, and goes by THEY (emphasis mine) instead of he or she.”

Regarding Wall builds only unity, this story had to do with another suburb of Portland in which hundreds of students from 6 high schools left school and took to the streets in protest. The crowd carried a jubilant vibe with chants that included “Yes we can!” What caused this spontaneous, curiously very logistically coordinated event? One student posted a banner which read ‘Build the Wall.’ One politician’s slogan (Obama’s mantra ‘Yes we can’) was described as a jubilant vibe, while the other admittedly political statement ‘Build the wall’ was characterized on the evening news as hate speech.

The Global United Methodist Church General Conference met “to vote on potential changes to church doctrine and rules…the church’s stances on gay clergy and gay weddings are the most contentious issues…” They kicked the can down the road and basically failed to make a decision. The headline in the commentary piece, however, spun it in such fashion as to communicate that it is inevitable that they will endorse the LGBT agenda.

The third piece really caught my eye. I pastored in Canada for twelve years. Newly elected Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau admitted to and apologized for disrupting a session of parliament by grabbing one MP and elbowing another female MP in the chest. Ostensibly this action was justified because a crucial vote to close debate on the liberals’ agenda was threatened.

The head of state literally threw an elbow to push through his agenda. The boorish bully behavior was the subject for all the talking heads, but almost as an after- thought the pundits were forced to identify what the issue was. Trudeau’s government was trying to literally push through physician-assisted euthanasia (NOTE: THE WORD EUTHANASIA…NOT DEATH With DIGNITY) Translation?…this open ended-language opens to door for a scenario where a government panel will decide who is euthanized, and the criteria that will inform those decisions.

After taking an antacid pill, It hit me what these stories have in common. They were crafted by professionals to create a narrative. The facts were bent folded and mutilated to produce an impression.

In my book Fatal Drift – Is the Church Losing its Anchor? I talk a lot about the phenomenon of Narrative creation and maintenance.  There is a concerted, scientifically-based (behavioral sciences) highly sophisticated machine that is dead set on creating entire generation that will be shaped and brainwashed into accepting a false narrative that will result in the following

  • The elimination of even a hint of the created order of God to do with gender
  • The loss of good order and discipline in the schools in favor of indoctrination to a globalist agenda
  • Politics reduced to street fighter tactics
  • And the elimination of any theology that would dare to affirm that God’s Word is the final authority in manners of  doctrine and practice in the church.

You may have noticed that I didn’t say anything more about the article about ‘cannibal related food export rumors.’ Does China, as the article posits, actually ‘take dead bodies, marinate them put them in cans and sell them in African supermarkets?’ Who is to say?

My question is, why did this tabloid-worthy drivel make the cut and appear in a major newspaper? I do know that the other major Newspaper in Oregon, The Register Guard ran an article a while back featuring recipes for women… to facilitate them… to eat their placentas! Is it a stretch to say that the progressives might promote the Chinese rumor and feature articles on the value of human flesh as nutrition in the third world? Kind of adds a ghoulish overtone to the phrase “Let’s have Chinese tonight.”

The narrative barrage in the Oregonian appears to have been unleashed to plant and reinforce the following thoughts

  • The teachers in PUBLIC a.k.a. TAX FUNDED schools have the right to self-identify as “they” to fifth graders
  • It is noble and good to shut down PUBLIC a.k.a. TAX FUNDED schools to promote illegal immigration
  • The new normal in politics is a scorched-earth a bare-knuckles PUTSCH style brawl
  • The value of human life and the notion of man being created in the image and likeness of God is to be jettisoned in favor of a more enlightened, progressive view…i.e.  the flesh of man as a source of nutrients.

Is it time for people who claim to be believers in Jesus and the Bible to push back? You (at least for now) have the right to press the school district and the editor of the paper to account for this stuff. Think about it…Oh, and by the way, the next time you are out at a Chinese Restaurant…think twice before saying “Lunch is on me…”

Contending,

Dr. J

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Nudge Not Lest Ye Be Nudged

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The Word of God is Clear…Until it’s Not

I love Fridays. There are predictable events. They will offer clam chowder at your favorite restaurant. Perhaps it is pizza night. School’s out for the weekend and…The Mullahs are whipping up the obligatory “Death to America” chants at Friday prayers. Oh, and the Federal Government will announce its most odious dictates just in time to catch everyone distracted.

President Obama, who is ostensibly responsible for protecting the United States (while Russian and Chinese fighters are buzzing our Naval Ships unchallenged) ‘ordered’ (another report used the word ‘decreed’) that public Schools (those that receive federal funds) to immediately make the necessary adjustments to see to it that the bathrooms are accessible to any student who self-identifies as the opposite sex.

There was an immediate, albeit tepid response from someone claiming to be a spokesman for Evangelicals that, “We haven’t given the process enough time. He went on, “Why, we took longer to decide on what should be included in the Food Pyramid.” Note, he didn’t say this is wrong. Merely that he and others like him weren’t quite ready for the inevitable blowback.

Pictured above is an announcement of an event which took place at Fuller Seminary in 2014. The ONETABLE group–a recognized student group of LGBT students, advertised its event by starting with the trailer. The Word of God is clear…until it’s not.

For a number of years now, I have been trying to get people to realize that there is an inevitable trajectory to this relentless onslaught of lawlessness. “The love of the many will wax cold” said Jesus in Matthew 24. This He said would be the direct result of “the increase in lawlessness.”

I want to first of all acknowledge that people like Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, and Paul Smith New Evangelicalism New World Order and others were prophetic when they predicted that we would end up here, once we abandoned the centuries old belief that the Bible is inerrant. How else could the largest evangelical seminary in the world countenance an event of a student organization which posits that the Word of God is unclear when it comes to something as basic as gender?

What I say next could be dismissed as some sort of conspiracy theory. Let the reader decide. The very verbiage of the ONETABLE emphasis mine organization at Fuller belies the fact that there is collusion and social engineering going on in our culture at such a breathtaking level that we should all be alarmed. Here are some facts.

The Obama administration has used more social scientists and behavioral psychologists than any administration in history. “President Obama has announced a new executive order on Tuesday which authorizes federal agencies to conduct behavioral experiments on U.S. citizens in order to advance government initiatives.” Chuck Ross, Daily Caller 9/15/2015

The new program is the end result of a policy proposal the White House floated in 2013 entitled ‘Strengthening Federal Capacity of BehavioraI Insights.’

The initiative draws on research from University of Chicago economist Richard Thayer and Harvard law school professor Cass Sunstein, who was also dubbed Obama’s regulatory Czar. The two behavioral scientists argued in their 2008 book ‘Nudge’ that government policies can be designed in such a way that ‘nudges’ citizens towards certain behaviors and choices. The desired choices almost always advance the goals of the federal government.” ibid

Back to the wording of the Fuller LGBT group…I knew something about the ad sounded familiar. Do you remember when all the children from Central America showed up at the southern border of the U.S.? Remember how it was touted as a humanitarian crisis and that there just happened to be a number of church groups that took in the children? The Obama administration had reached out years before to a group of self-appointed Evangelical leaders. I remember the chill I got when the president had a press conference and said “I don’t know what the big deal is, law enforcement is on board with it… the military is onboard…and we’ve got the Evangelicals…”

The name of the group of so-called evangelicals was The Evangelical Immigration Table. It was headed up by the likes of Jim Wallis, a radical leftist crony of Obama whose organization Sojourners got grant money from none other than George Soros.

Around the same time this occurred, I heard something streamed from the convention of the denomination I served for over thirty years. A pastor got up and declared (he had actually mailed it in it before the convention) that he had a Word from Jesus. He was allowed to give it at a plenary session of the convention. In essence he said “If the group did not welcome the LGBT community to the table that Jesus would withdraw His presence from them.

The next day an elder stood up with the man with his arms around him and said “We really don’t want to damage this man’s growing influence or diminish his voice. In his zeal, he just ‘over-spoke.’ Can you in good conscience deny that the progressives have not only infiltrated the church, but that the church has become an echo chamber for ‘Nudges’ in the direction of apostasy?

The ‘Nudge’ crew clearly thought the image of the Table was a winner. You know, like the communion table. They will not stop until they declare that God created homosexuality and that the Bible is merely a genre of literature that has evolved.

The Word of God is clear…until it’s not?

No.

“The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of joints and marrow, soul and spirit and discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.”

Dr. J

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And So it Begins

loyolaI remember the first time I got “the look…”

I was having a conversation with another pastor about my book, Fatal Drift, Is the Church Losing its Anchor? I was reiterating my strong conviction that once we treat the Bible as mere literature and deny that it is (all of it) God-breathed, then we are rejecting God’s Word… It was then I got “the look.”

It was as if he was saying, “Gee, I thought you were o.k..” or perhaps “I didn’t know you were one of those” He seemed to be intimating that I was either a “knuckle-walking Neanderthal” or that I was just not very bright.

Once, I got “the look” for pointing out that we are living in a time that the very notion that believing there is such a thing as absolute truth is somehow proof that one is a hater, a bigot, or worse.

I am going to buy a small stopwatch, and keep it in my pocket. When  I begin to discuss abortion, gay rights or anything else that runs contrary to the progressives’ narrative. Typically all I do is state my belief that the Bible is true. Within minutes (sometimes seconds) the tone of the conversation changes and I am attacked personally. (ad hominem) I imagine myself quietly stopping the stopwatch in my pocket…pulling it out… and congratulating the individual. “Wow, that’s a new record! You went from a respectful dialogue to an ad hominem attack in 30 seconds!”

Think I’m overstating this? Try it.  I told friends about the time I was preaching in Canada, in which I made reference to one scripture that had to do with gender. My friend who hosted me told me later. “F.Y.I.  If someone with a smart-phone took offense at your citing that verse you could be prosecuted for a hate crime.” I learned later that they use  the word “Tribunal” to describe the people who would be judging you.

Since then, I have made mention of this incident and gotten “the look” from incredulous people who think “That could never happen here…” Read the following,

An unnamed employee at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles has been suspended and is currently being investigated for a “hate crime” by the university’s Bias Incident Response Team and the LAPD for “denying transgenderism” when she stated that there are only two genders, reports The College Fix.

http://www.dailywire.com/news/5338/catholic-college-employee-investigated-police-amanda-prestigiacomo

Loyola Marymount is a CATHOLIC university! They have a Bias Incident Response Team that in tandem with the LAPD is investigating (she is suspended now) an employee for committing a Hate Crime for merely pointing out that Catholic Dogma states that there are only two genders. “Male and Female He created them.”

I am already prepared for the next time I get ‘the look” when I say the following,

If you name the name of Jesus as your Savior, and you are raising your children to trust that the Bible deals with absolute truth, then F.Y.I., the Bias Incident Response Team’s next raid may take place at your home. How you answer the question, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God and that belief in his sacrifice on the cross for sins is the only way of salvation?” is taking on some Orwellian aspects.

Before you change the subject to the playoffs or what Kanye and Kim wore on the red carpet…Let me put it to you squarely

Not to choose…is to choose. I was holding my newest grandchild the other day, overwhelmed with emotion at how pure and innocent he is. I don’ t want one day for him to think “Papa Jim, why didn’t the Christians speak up?”

Dr. J

 

 

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One Way…Or Something Else?

bono peterson

Someone could justifiably say to me, “You just have one string on your banjo…all you talk about is how the church is surrendering to the culture.” It’s true…try as I might, I keep coming back to this issue. In researching my book, I mentioned an encounter I had with member of a scholars’ blog. The topic had to do with engaging  the culture.

In my post I pointed out something I felt was germane to the discussion. I mentioned that Bono, lead singer for the rock group U-2, was an example of how cultural icons were influencing the church. I related the true story of an Episcopalian church that was so enamored with Bono that they advertised an upcoming communion service in which U-2 music would be played. They called it—are you ready—a U-2charist!

I posted this in the blog and was immediately chided by another Christian scholar, the official historian of his denomination, who replied, “What’s wrong with that? Bono is a very spiritual person.” I was stunned. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, in that progressives have been making inroads in heretofore evangelical circles for quite some time. Many Christians assume that Bono is a Christian because he appears on the platform with Christian leaders like Rick Warren.

Fuller Seminary recently announced with great pride the launch of their new FULLER studio,

“Dear Alumni and Friends of Fuller

I am beyond delighted to announce that after years of planning, and cultivating support for FULLER studio. This robust online site of resources officially launches April 26th, 2016!

FULLER studio has been given an extraordinary opportunity to premier an exclusive 20-minute short film…Bono, Eugene Peterson and Psalms, documenting the unique relationship between this notable musician (of the band U-2) and the author of The Message revolving around their common interest in the Psalms.”

When I read this email, I was reminded that the previous President of Fuller observed Ramadan “in solidarity with our Muslim friends…”

Note the raised index finger in the photo of Bono and Eugene Peterson, and listen to his quote by a reporter covering one of Bono’s concerts

At a recent U2 Concert, One writer (who is called a christian) discussed her turmoil in hearing Bono point to the Cross, the Star of David and the Crescent Moon on his bandana and repeat: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true.”

bono headbandI can resonate with a little “discomfort” at the words “all-true,” but I was more unnerved by a Christian being “devastated,” as she put, at the thought that other religions might have something in common with Christianity. We may not believe in Mohammed, but we certainly worship Allah (despite the differentiation K-Love and Focus on the Family try to make – historically, He is the same God, and if you want to say the God of the Jews and the God of Islam and Christianity are all different, then so is the God of Catholics, the God of Baptists and the God of Pentecostals). http://www.emergingchristian.com/2005/12/bono-and-antichrist-allegations.html

Make no mistake,  when Bono displays the One Way sign he is not confessing Jesus as the only way of salvation. He is rather co-opting the symbol to his stated view that Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha are the same God.

The other day I was reading through my Facebook friends’ posts and read what I believed to be a currentnews item from the online version of The New York Times (I neglected to read the date…I saw the word April and assumed it was current. Someone apparently re-posted it)

By MARGALIT FOX

APRIL 17, 2013

George Beverly Shea, who escaped a life of toil in an insurance office to become a Grammy-winning gospel singer and a longtime associate of the Rev. Billy Graham, appearing before an estimated 200 million people at Graham revival meetings worldwide, died on Tuesday in Asheville, N.C. He was 104.

Shortly after reading this, I learned that the rock icon Prince had died. Surely you caught some of the 24-hour news coverage. It rivaled the coverage usually afforded the death of a head of state. Listen to what the New York Times published

Let me tell you why “Adore” is the central song in the Prince canon. Because in “Adore” you get the commingling of two keys to understanding the man and his music: his sexuality and his spirituality.

In the second verse he paints the picture: “When we be making love / I only hear the sounds / Heavenly angels crying up above / Tears of joy pouring down on us / They know we need each other.” They’re having sex under a sprinkling of angel tears, which are flowing because of the angels’ admiration of their love. This is the erotic intertwined with the divine…

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/opinion/sunday/princes-holy-lust.html

After reading seeing footage of some of Prince’s onstage antics, I was appalled that The Times saw fit to run this opinion piece. As if to complete the trifecta, I noted just one more posting. A friend posted a quote from the late Erma Bombeck. April 22nd is the anniversary of her death in 1996.

Here is the quote,

Don’t confuse fame with Success…Madonna is one Helen Keller is the other.’

I came away from this experience with a renewed vigor to speak out against what I believe to be a seduction of the church by progressives who blur the lines, and promise fame and acceptance to those who sidle up to celebrities.

George Beverly Shea sang the praises of his Lord to over 200 million souls and slipped off into eternity with little notoriety. A rock singer whose hyper-sexualized music earned him fame and fortune is spoken of in reverential tones.

I agree with Os Guinness who wrote in his book, Prophetic Untimeliness—A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance

We therefore need to examine the modern promise of relevance and reinvention. Could it be the means to advance the good news to a confused weary battered world that is hungry for news that is genuinely good? Or a Trojan horse that we wheel into the camp at our peril?”

If I have but one string on my banjo, I plan to make sure it is in tune with the truth.

Dr. J.

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bonhoeffer

Seventy one years ago this month, a quiet theologian who was designated a ‘special prisoner’ of the Fuehrer, heard his name called. He knew what it meant. He was forced to strip naked and was marched to the gallows. He was by all accounts one of the most promising theologians of his day. He was engaged to be married.

One of the last official documents Adolf Hitler signed before he killed himself, was the death warrant of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was part of a group who conspired (and failed) to assassinate Adolph Hitler. It’s complicated to weight whether or not it was right for man of God to participate in a plot to kill someone. I have often thought of Ehud the ancient Judge in Israel who used deceit to get close enough to stab Eglon King of Moab.

The thing I remember when I think of Bonhoeffer though is the fact that he put his life on the line. The doctor at the prison camp where Bonhoeffer was killed confessed that he had never seen man face his own death as Bonhoeffer did.

In his final letter from Tegel prison, he could write:

Please don’t ever get anxious or worried about me, but don’t forget to pray for me – I’m sure you don’t. . . You must never doubt that I am travelling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I’m being led. My past life is brim-full of God’s goodness, and my sins are covered by the forgiving love of Christ crucified. I’m most thankful for the people I have met, and I only hope they will never have to grieve about me, but that they, too, will always be certain of, and thankful for, God’s mercy and forgiveness.

We have one last glimpse of Bonhoeffer on April 7th 1945, in the
schoolhouse at Schönberg in the remote Bavarian hinterlands, where he had been brought after a two months‚ stay in Buchenwald. Here he and a group of other prisoners, including the British Military Intelligence officer, Captain Payne Best, celebrated the Sunday after Easter with a short service. Bonhoeffer read the set texts: Isaiah 53:5 “With his wounds we are healed”, and 1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

But then two guards arrived to summon him to leave. There was only time to ask Captain Best, if he survived, to take a short message to England, and to remember him to his ecumenical partner and friend, Bishop George Bell of Chichester: “Tell him that for me this is the end but also the beginning – with him I believe in the principle of our Universal Christian brotherhood which rises above all national interests, and that our victory is certain.”

He was then taken back to the notorious concentration camp Flossenbürg, where on the same night he was to be arraigned, convicted, condemned to death, and in the gray dawn of the following morning, April 9th, executed by hanging.

Bonhoeffer has no known burial site. But his courageous faith in the power of God’s forgiveness has proven in subsequent years to be an inspiring source of healing and cure for the sins of his nation and his church.

http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/akz/akz2602sp.htm

Lord give us all the courage to speak truth to power and then entrust our very lives to you…

Amen

Dr J

 

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Don’t Forget

I believe it was Augustine who wrote in his Confessions,

“Too late too late have I loved thee oh God…alas memory is indeed a sad privilege…our hearts oh God are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”

Today I was reminded of how good the Lord is and how faithful He is despite the fact that I have been so faithless at times. An old friend posted a remembrance of the day he was baptized.

His story is similar to mine and we had many shared experiences, I couldn’t help but look back to where I was when the Lord saved me, and what took place over the years, good and bad—happy and sad. As I let myself go back in my mind, I was alternately exultant and ashamed. Exultant as I recalled all the miracles and grace poured on my family. My heart swelled with gratitude. Ashamed as I recalled all the times I went back to Egypt…the old ways… the old sins and the self-pity.

Moses continually was forced to remind the people of both the Lord’s faithfulness and their own penchant for rebellion. From the fiery mountain and the tablets written by the very finger of God…to the elimination of an entire generation in the desert because of their repeated ‘turning back.’

Your Bible is filled with stories of this awful cycle…revival…forgiveness…backsliding and out and out rebellion …devastation and consequence…brokenness…turning again to God.

Jeremiah wrote not only the book that bears his name but also one called Lamentations. He witnessed the worst things that any prophet could imagine. He saw the siege of Jerusalem. He saw women eating their children. He saw the priests slaughtered. I feel it in my gut every time I read his recollection.

“The wormwood the gall and the bitterness…my soul continually thinks of it and is bowed deep down within me…”

If that was all he wrote, we would be right to be depressed. But he went on,

“But this one thing I call to mind…and thus I have hope… The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases. His mercies are new EVERY morning. Great is THY faithfulness Oh God…” (emphasis mine)

The Lord forgave and continues to forgive me. He healed and He continues to heal me. He has provided and continues to provide for me. His faithfulness is indeed the portion of every generation who seeks His face.

Today I will be with my wife, my children and my grandchildren. I could never have imagined I would enjoy the life I have. I am not done praising him for all He has done. As long as I have breath I will praise Him for all he has done for me.

This world is in great turmoil. Anxiety is poised at the door to rob of us of our joy. When I rose very early this morning I was reminded yet again. His mercies are new every morning including this one. To God be the glory great things He has done. If you are ‘continually thinking’ of the bitter things, and memory is for you a ‘sad privilege’, perhaps it is time ‘to call some things to mind’.

Dr J

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As You Fill out Your Brackets

Clyde Sr

March Madness…I love it. The odds makers in Vegas are sharpening their pencils and the teachers and mill workers and nurses, red and yellow black and white…all God’s people are filling in their brackets. Seriously, there is a sort of cease fire from all that divides us when March Madness rolls around.

I love documentaries and I am particularly enamored with sports stories. What I love most about this season is that the sports programs often tell the back stories of the athletes that make it to ‘The Dance.’ What did they overcome to even make it this far? Who helped them…trained them… sacrificed for them so that these elite athletes can wow us with their exploits?

Today as I fill in my bracket (look out for the Oregon Ducks!) I am remembering a man I never met. Please take a minute and read what I wrote a while back.

Of all of the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, for some reason I only remembered one name. I had heard the stories and prayed with over 350 families, yet the only name I remembered was Clyde Frazier.

The mayor’s office had decided to set aside a number of passenger ferries for the express purpose of escorting family members to actually see Ground Zero. After a short ferry ride the family members would walk to a staging area prepared for them.

It was on the very first trip that I met Clyde Frazier Sr. When he saw the burning Pile he went weak in the knees and I truly feared he might be having a coronary. On the return trip he told me about this son Clyde Jr. The following excerpts are from an article by New York Times Sports writer Harvey Araton. He captured the essence of the man and the pathos of that first Christmas after 9/11.

Sports of The Times; Recalling The Assists From Clyde

By HARVEY ARATON  Published: December 25, 2001

OVERFLOWING with holiday cheer in recent days was the New York sports stocking, as Michael Jordan graced Madison Square Garden with another winning jump shot, the Olympic torch was placed in the guiding hands of Giuliani and Torre, and the Giants and Jets invigorated their playoff possibilities with late touchdown passes.

Yet this Christmas Day, far more than reception, is for reflection. It is for too many families to assemble one last time this cursed year, together but incomplete.

‘I sit here still dazed by the whole thing, by the loss of my son,’ a father says from his home in Queens. ‘If I had one gift to get for the rest of my life, it would be to have him back.’

The father’s name is strangely famous but he is not, and his story has become devastatingly common, post 9/11. Clyde Frazier lost the oldest of three sons at the World Trade Center. Clyde Jr., a state tax investigator, was 41. He worked on the 86th floor of the south tower, and his last words to a friend via cellphone — minutes before his building was hit — were: ‘Gotta go. . . . Gotta go.’

He was a fire warden on his floor and his last moments were spent helping people escape. His father knows this because Clyde Jr.’s boss told him so; Clyde Jr. had issued an order at 8:55 a.m. to hang up the telephone and get out. The boss, Clyde Sr. said, survived the planes and died of a heart attack a few days later.

‘Clyde was always a good kid with a big heart,’ the father said. ‘Except we always called him Kippy, seldom called him Clyde.’

Thirty years ago, the neighborhood kids in Harlem found it hard to believe he wasn’t related to the Knicks’ Walt Frazier, whose nickname, Clyde, was the signature of his urbanity. With a name like his, growing up when he did, why wouldn’t Clyde Frazier Jr. have embraced the game? He played a year at the state university in Albany before turning it into his prize avocation…

His good friend, whom he met in college, Dwayne Sampson, remembers how even as a student, it bothered Clyde Jr. that the women’s basketball program was minuscule compared with the men’s. ”Clyde helped organize intramurals for the women,” Sampson said. ”And then being involved in that aspect of the game became a way of life.”

In 1994, Clyde Jr. started a tournament for high school girls out of pocket in a tiny public school gym on 144th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem. It was all in the neighborhood and all in the family. Clyde Sr. had gone to that school, P.S. 194. Before long, the Slam Jam Women’s Basketball Classic, operated by a nonprofit group called the Friends of Frederick E. Samuel Foundation, had grown to five events a year at places like St. John’s, Fordham and Riverbank State Park.

The article continues

‘Started out mainly for inner-city girls, so college coaches could see them,’ Clyde Sr. said. ‘Then it became for teams from all over. One game, the gym would be all black. The next game, it would turn all white. My son loved that it was just about the game and helping these girls get to college.’

I promised Clyde senior that as often as I had the opportunity I would tell his son’s story on the anniversary of 9/11. I choose to remember a guy I never met who loved basketball and loved people.He came to mind today and I honor his memory. As you fill out your bracket think about Clyde Frazier? Thanks

Dr. J.

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Postmodern Airlines

duct tape

In my last post I brought up what many feel is the spirit of our age…Postmodernism. In my book, Fatal Drift…Is the Church Losing its Anchor? I cited the following definition of Postmodernism:

What does postmodern mean anyway? I came across this insightful description of the term.

A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.

For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

In order to contend for the faith once for all delivered (another translation uses the word ‘entrusted’) we would do well to understand what we’re up against. That Postmodernism requires some serious inquiry is putting it lightly. Whole curricula in seminaries have reflected the sea change occurring in both academia and in the parish. One presupposition that has gained traction goes something like this. Post Moderns are different. It just won’t do anymore to approach them with propositional truth or moral absolutes.

I was stunned when the current Pope answered a question about homosexuality with this ambiguous remark. “Who am I to judge?” Mind you there is still a dogma in the Catholic faith that says that the Pope is infallible on matters of doctrine when he is seated on the throne (Chair) of St Peter (Ex cathedra) Who are you to judge? The head of over a billion Catholics looking for answers.

Let’s go back to our definition of Postmodernism.

Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.

Reality is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.

Is there such a thing as the ’law’ of gravity?’ What if I say “no”? What if I want to start Postmodern Airlines? We’ll do some focus groups to find out how to fly. We’ll hold a few town halls to decide on a design. We’ll get out the duct tape and bailing wire, and perhaps some chewing gum. My personal reality demands that I be the pilot. After all I am one of the smartest people in the room in that I have ‘conversations’ rather than insistence on absolutes.

My experience with a balsa wood toy plane when I was five ‘felt good.’ Any takers for seats on the maiden flight? What? You say that won’t fly? My mind in ‘trying to understand the reality’ of flight has led me to believe that my Postmodern design will succeed.

You mean to say that you have your own ideas on how flight works? Well then—Who is to say what is the right way? Who decides?

One of the founders of Postmodernism, Francois Lyotard, was a revolutionary who almost brought down the French government during a general strike. Anarchists are fond of pointing out that they have no restraints. I had to laugh when I saw the Anarchists Convention announced in Oregon a few years ago. I asked myself, ‘Who sets the agenda?’

No, Postmodernism for all its claims to individual autonomy has a whole set of agreed upon constructs. If you don’t think that’s true, just speak up against some of its theological conclusions and watch the fur fly. They will and do treat their own presuppositions as universally true.

One of my favorite professors in seminary, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, once quipped “A universe in which Roman Catholicism and Unitarianism could both be universally true would be a madhouse.” Is there one truth that is absolute? Is there one way to salvation? Is there a reliable book from God that tells us the answers?

It’s worth the uncomfortable work of seeking an answer to these important questions. The answers will not be the result of ‘group think’ or subjective surmising. They will be found in God’s Word

Dr. J.

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