Saturday, May 31, 2014


Comic Art

Artist Gil Kane 

Friday, May 30, 2014



FOr two very contrasting take son the same issue (The PCUSA dropping a hymn from the hymnal based on issues surrounding penal substitution) consider this from First Things and this from Todd Rhoades.

There is about 10,000 ways one could discuss this issue - and Rhoades has a heck of a point - who cares about hymnals anymore? But when "worship music" contains lyrics like this:
Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Above all
Christ thought of me above all? Yeah, uh-huh. Penal substitution is looking like a minor issue here.

I don;t agree with the PCUSA committee's decision, but I am most grateful there is someone charged with checking things out and making a decison.


Friday Humor

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Important Questions

Todd Rhoades:
We all know the Bible sets up specific courses of action when we have something against a brother.

And an even more stringent set of guidelines applies if an accusation is made against an elder.

So… is it ever right to be a church whistleblower?

Let’s say you’re on staff at a church and you discover your senior pastor is having an affair. You’re the only one that has this information. What should you do?

Or, you’re on staff at a church and you and another person (maybe it’s you and your wife) know of a sin issue that needs to be addressed.

There’s just one problem: confronting the issue with the senior pastor will most definitely achieve just one thing: your quick and unequivocal firing.

Is there EVER a time that you should go to the church board or elders BEFORE you go to the individual? For employment reasons? For physical safety reasons?
Important questions, but easily answered.

First, a pastor involved in an extra-marital affair is besmirching the church and GOD. It cannot be allowed to continue. Secondly, and practically, if you whistleblow, you are out of your church job. It is going to happen either way - going to the miscreant or going to the church authorities - makes no difference. If you go to authorities, after it is over you will be in a politically untenable position.

This second consideration is why such sin is far from "victimless." It is about far more than two consenting, if sinning, adults. Which is, if you think about it really the first consideration.

Finally, any pastor that does these sorts of things is abusive. They are, by definition, abusing their position and authority. The citation of this scripture in such circumstances is not the proper use of scripture, it's more abuse.

Of course you turn them in. The consequences will be devastating no matter what, so brace yourself. But you will come out on the other side better.


Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014


From Whence Authority?

Mark Roberts on authority:
It’s no wonder, therefore, that people were amazed by the teaching of Jesus. He spoke plainly of the approaching reign of God, calling people to turn their lives around in response to this good news (for example, Mark 1:15). Jesus taught, not in the mode of the rabbis of his day, but in the dynamic, confident voice of the prophets. Yet he did not preface his instruction with “Thus saith the Lord.” Rather, Jesus spoke with the Lord’s own authority.
I've heard a lot of preachers rely on their own authority when they preach and most of the time, I tune them out when they do. I bet you do too. Anytime anyone starts claiming "A word from the Lord" or otherwise speak on God's behalf without some citation of authority, m skepticism meter goes bonkers. One must ask how Jesus got away with this?

To pull this off, there must be something in the life of the speaker that makes the authority apparent. Miracles can do that, but they are so easy to fake that one must be cautious with that as well. And in the modern age, the line between miracle and science can be quite hard to discern.

I know what attracts me - character rooted in humility. Not merely virtue, but deep character, and again rooted in humility. Such a person will rely on their authority to be apparent - they will not have to tell you about it and they will be hesitant to admit to it when it you ask them about it.

And we cannot know such character outside of relationship. I do not think it can be communicated on a TV screen at first viewing or on a visit to a church for the fist time. It requires intimate knowledge of the individual.

What would a church built on establishing authority based on relationship look like? Not sure, but very different than it looks now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Cue Carly Simon

Matthew Block:
That analogy is something we’ve probably all experienced to some extent in our own lives: reading a poem, seemingly at random, we find the words written there aptly suited to our own situation. Many’s the intro-to-English-literature college student who, while pining away over a classmate, found this or that love poem far too apropos. We feel, almost instinctively, that this line, or this verse, “is about me.” We know, of course, that Vindicianus is right—that it is merely by chance that the words fit us; that they were likely written about a situation completely different than our own.

And yet we still can’t help but read ourselves into the text from time to time. It seems to me that some of this might be attributable to our desire to examine our own lives and beliefs (and test out other potential lives and beliefs) through literature; we take Bunyan’s advice and lay our head and heart together with the book. We know it’s not about us literally; and yet we believe, innately, that it has the capacity to become “about us.”


While this is a valid and important way of reading the Psalms, it should not become the sole way we read them—something Jonathan Kraemer discusses in his article “Praying the Psalms with the Body of Christ.” After all, while this or that Psalm may seem to fit how we’re feeling on any given day, there are many more which will not. What good is it then to read “Psalms that have us lamenting when we feel like praising; and praising when we feel like lamenting?”

Kraemer explains that the answer comes in remembering that the Psalms are not simply a prayer book for individuals; they are rather the prayers of the entire Church. “As wonderful as it is to have the Psalms that express in words what we feel so deeply,” he writes, “there are also great blessings that come from praying Psalms that do not fit the way we feel, when they seem like someone else’s prayer.” Because in fact, that’s what they are: “the prayers of the body of Christ”—the whole body, and not just me.
In my elder and curmudgeonly years I have come to conclude that the ubiquitous Bible study question, "What does that mean to you?" has done far more harm than good. It is meant to ask someone to re-express what a passage is saying in their own words - to grapple with the ideas and concepts sufficiently to be able to restate them. But over the decades of this questions ubiquity I think it has come to teach people that the Bible was written for them and is in fact about them.

It's not, it is about God. Of course it talks about God's people, but it does so when discussing how God works amongst them - it's about God's actions, not theirs. It is hubris to think the Bible is about us.

I really hate the Carly Simon song, it makes my ears bleed, but there is something deeply insightful about human nature in its lyrics. We are just vain enough to think the Bible is about us. Maybe we need to fight that.


Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, May 26, 2014


No Excuse

Barry Cooper:
In the last three posts, I’ve suggested four reasons we don’t disciple, despite Christ’s command to the contrary.

The fifth and final reason we don’t disciple has been bubbling underneath everything I’ve written so far: our churches are too often ashamed of the gospel and therefore assume the gospel.

Not long ago, I was invited to speak at a church near London. Numbers had been dropping, so the church was going to significant lengths to attract young people. They’d added another service at a more convenient time, they were getting in guest speakers from all over the country, they were spending money on marketing, and they had paid a worship band to come from 100 miles away.

I got chatting to a delightful congregation member about the reasons for their flagging, elderly attendance. “This may be a sensitive question,” I said, “but how’s the preaching of the gospel going?” His response came with a knowing and faintly embarrassed smile. “Well,” he said, “we have to give people what they want.”
I am not real fond of the language in that quote; "gospel" is a very plastic word. But what I Can agree with completely is the the idea of preaching aimed at "what people want to hear" is aimed wrong.

The essential question is "Why don't people want to hear it?" It's because the truth of it is not evident. Ask them, go ahead. People talk about how the church does not live up to what it preaches. It may come out lots of different ways - "judgmental" = "hypocritical" - "I can't tell the difference between people in the church and out of it" - so it goes. The point is promises come from the pulpit that are not evident in the congregation.

I am doing some electrical work around the house right now. You go to the hardware store and light switches come in two basic varieties - toggle switches and rocker switches. They look really different, They operate slightly differently, but they function in exactly the same way. Now here is the thing. If a light switch is not working and you replace it with a toggle switch and that does not work, then trying a rocker won't help. The problem is not the appearance of the switch - it is the underlying function of the switch.

So my question is this - if a church is flagging, what is wrong functionally? Things like music and worship times can affect the rate of growth, but not generate growth proper. Neither a rocker or a toggle works when the problem is the circuit.

Preaching is part of the circuitry of the church, but it is also much deeper. In the situation described, I would not ask merely about the preaching. Has the Holy spirit taken root in the congregation? If not, why not? Fix that and other stuff will take care of itself.

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