Friday, February 13, 2015

How does a bruise mean?

Now and then events occur that destroy any familiar schedule or the usual thought processes.

In the middle of January I had a heart attack and a quintuple bypass. I am doing very well but it was my coming home that bothered me—for one thing I did not want my great grandchildren to see me. They would have been traumatized. With both legs and one arm black from bruising, as well as the other arm with a long gash I didn’t think they should see me. And that says nothing about my neck and chest. But my condition did start my thinking processes. I was reminded of a book, How Does A Poem Mean? by John Ciardi and Miller Williams. The book covers all of the ways, reasons and meanings of poetry. One need not be misled. So how does a bruise mean?

My body looked like I had met an uncaring thug in a dark ally, but in reality I had encountered some very caring surgeons, doctors and nurses who saved my life. The bruising did not occur because of evil but because of good. The bruising meant life not death, and this led me to thinking about the Church in the Western world, the Church that too often seems like the dying Church.

There is a sickness in the Western Church. There are many reasons, but undoubtedly the most basic is a lack of love for the Lord Jesus Christ which entails a denial of his authority and word. We may think that the Lord of the Church stands aloof from this sickness but no, like the surgeons and other medical personal he applies his own will to his Church. Listen to his words to the Church of Thyatira:

But I have this against you that you tolerate the women Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and leads my bond servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. Behold I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of her deeds.

In Thyatira’s case Christ brings sickness that he might see wholeness in his Church. Repentance is his goal. We may think that the institutions we are watching move away from their biblical moorings will simply redo themselves and continue on. But no, the Lord of the Church has promised to either turn them back to himself or bring them to nothing. This is the Lord of the whole creation we are kicking against—the Lord whose word so many have chosen to ignore.

Jesus is aware that there are still some in Thyatira who have not agreed to the immorality. He promises them no other burdens. But simply hold onto the things that belong to Christ.

Hold on—he wounds to heal and anchors the faithful in himself.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A good spark: our feelings about the defrocking of a godly pastor and renewal leader

It isn’t anything new, really it isn’t.

Unquestionably, the Church’s greatest concern for fellow believers is for those being tortured and killed by the radical arms of another religion. Radical Islam is surely controlled by the evil one who longs to destroy the work of Jesus. And many in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, etc. have loved not their lives unto death. But there is another kind of persecution that springs from religion—the kind that is kindred to those who are persecuted. It happens within the Church, and it occurs when officials and leaders have forgotten to love Jesus and kneel before the authority of his word.  It happens when Satan is allowed to manipulate a denomination. It happens when hearts become cold and hard.

It has barely began in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but it has begun. As the Layman has reported in their article, “PCUSA defrocks nationally recognized renewal leader,” Joseph B. Rightmyer, has been defrocked by Grace Presbytery. There were eleven charges made against him; he has been declared guilty of eight. But what they all boil down to is, as intern pastor, Rightmyer helped Highland Park Presbyterian Church leave the PC (U.S.A.). But he did not renounce jurisdiction of the PC (U.S.A.) so they basically took his title away. They cannot take his calling and gift away, those are God given.

Rightmyer has been a renewal leader for many years. As the Layman points out, “From 1995 to 2004 he served as the Chief Administrative Officer of Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR).”

I only met this godly man once. I was giving a workshop on a racist pagan group for the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions which was meeting at the Baptist Seminary in Louisville and I had no way to get from there to the Confessing Church Celebration in Atlanta. Through the ministry of a friend, I got a ride with Rightmyer. I was a bit nervous; I had just started writing for Voices of Orthodox Women and I didn’t personally know any renewal people. This Christian gentleman was such a blessing and a storehouse of information, not only about the renewal movement, but about the wonderful scenery we passed through.

Having read many books on the Confessing Church in Germany and all of the manipulations carried on by the German Christians against them, I am not surprised by what is happening. The German Christians were more concerned with upholding the culture of their day than proclaiming Jesus as the one Lord and Savior. They put Confessing pastors through all kinds of trials because they despised the Confessing Churches and their free Synods. It is no different today when Presbyteries look the other way when teaching elders un-biblically marry same gender couples but penalize those who wish to leave the denomination.

Martin Luther during the Reformation wrote probably his most moving work when eulogizing his friend Friar Henry, who had been burned at the stake in the Netherlands. He was addressing Henry’s church and encouraging them to use this as an occasion to bring others to conversion to Jesus. He wrote of the death, “For I hear that many are incensed beyond measure at the monks for bringing this outrage upon their land. That is a good spark, kindled by God; it will surely spread into a fine flame, if you treat it with kind and gentle spirit, so that it be not quenched.”[1]

This is undoubtedly a good spark, this defrocking of a godly preacher and our feelings of sorrow and, yes, outrage. Pray that it will spread into a fine flame, a flame of the Holy Spirit that will bring us all to that place of total commitment and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.


[1] Martin Luther, “The Burning of Friar Henry (1525)”, The Works of Martin Luther, vol iv., (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press 1931) 187.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A letter & racism: how to respond

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, on his blog Pure Church, has placed a letter from his niece Niecie, who was badly treated when she and her friends had a non-violent silent demonstration with signs that held up both the black community and the police. It was a tribute to all who had died. Niecie is an amazing writer as she expresses her feelings: her hurt and anger. Anyabwile's answer to her grief and anger is kind, pastoral and full of the gospel. I think it would be good for all of us to read this exchange of letters. The words will help us understand what it is like to be an African American in this country in too many places and how our faith could possibly, prayerfully, hopefully change that.

Here is a section from Niecie’s letter:

“As you can imagine, things took a turn [after people got out of their New Year’s parties]. As more people flooded the street from the New Year’s parties, they began to slow down at our vigil, then stop. Some were respectful, dropping their voices and even nodding in approval. But then people began to comment. Some were saying things like “F- the police!” Others then joined in with “F- Mike Brown.” Before long what started as a peaceful silent vigil turned into an ugly shouting match with drunk people staggering around and a lot of people getting in each others faces.

But the worst part was some of the racist things that were said. We were called all kinds of names. “Black monkeys.” “Nappy-haired B-.” “Go back to Africa!” One man in his 50s shouted, “Black lives only matter if they’re picking my cotton!” He called us “obsolete farm equipment.” One girl about my age went on with “Nigger” this and “nigger” that. It was bad enough being called that, but the way she spat the words was filled with the iciest hate. The mocking in fake “black voices and slang” was relentless.”

Here is part of Anyabwile’s answer:

“The problem is the racist and their heart of hate—not you. And that’s why you must never hate them. Returning hate can feel so logical, so natural a response to what you’ve received. And you can feel so justified because you’ve been mistreated. But it creates a vicious cycle, an unending loop of barbarity between people. Racists are to be pitied and loved, resisted and instructed, but never hated.”

Sunday, December 28, 2014

1001 Worshipping Communities: yoga & and the good news of Jesus Christ

Several days ago the Sacramento Bee published an article on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 1001 Worshiping Communities by focusing on the Presbytery of Sacramento’s share of the communities. The article, “New Worship lets the spirit move them in novel ways,” by Anita Creamer, looked in particular at A yoga class at Esparto’s Countryside Community Church, WordHouse pastored by Rev. Jeff, Richards, (they meet in various locations in downtown Sacramento,) and Eventide Community, under the leadership of Jeanie Shaw, whose members participate in relieve work in various places in the world.

These are not the only members of the P.C. (U.S.A)’s 1001 Worshiping Communities in the Sacramento Presbytery. With this posting I want to add some information to what I have already written about the 1001 Worshiping Communities, and then comment on a worshipping community that is based simply on a blessing and a yoga class.

First, some good news! Earlier I had written about a 1001 Worshipping Community that was named, “Kindred Spirit Retreats.”[1] That was simply a web site and Facebook page with information about retreats and seminars for gay men. It was not a Christian organization and some of the pictures were raunchy as were some of the connections. Whether the owners of the retreat site chose to leave or the leaders of the 1001 Worshipping Communities decided it was not an appropriate “worshipping community” I do not know, but it is gone. I am thankful.

Next I want to mention that there are some of the new communities formed to minister to ethnic communities. And many of these are centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not only interested in helping the needy in a material manner but in proclaiming the gospel. That is another blessing to bring rejoicing.

And then there is the worshipping community meeting in the Esparto church. The yoga class is led by Candice Schaer who is both a masseuse and a yoga teacher. On her web site she states that she not only has a BS in plant Science from the University of Davis, but has also been trained by the Body Mind College in San Digeo, which has closed, and by Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine Institute in Ashland, Oregon.

Doing some reading at the Energy Medicine site one finds constant New Age and Eastern terminology. It is mostly about so called energy flows in the body and uses such eastern terms as chakras and occultic terms like auras. In one paper about the different energies an aura is explained this way:

“Your aura is a multi-layered shell of energy that emanates from your body and interacts with the energies of your environment. It is itself a protective atmosphere that surrounds you, filtering out many of the energies you encounter and drawing in others that you need. Like a space suit, your aura protects you from harmful energies. Like a radio antenna, it brings in energies with which it resonates. The aura is a conduit, a two-way antenna that brings in energy from the environment to your chakras and that sends energy from your chakras outward. When you feel happy, attractive, and spirited, your aura may fill an entire room.”

Needless to say this is not the kind of training that helps one introduce another to Jesus Christ. And while Creamer does not describe the “blessing” that is said with the children or the adults there are several yoga blessings that have nothing in particular to do with the biblical Lord.

The whole idea that somehow these classes minus the word of God will help to form a Christian worshipping community are more than troubling. Classical yoga arose out of Hinduism and is very religious; a more western version has been shaped by the New Age Movement. Sometimes yoga minus its religious implications is simply used for exercise, but a teacher trained in Eastern and New Age methods can only lead others to a vague spiritual awareness not to the Savior who shed his blood for the sinner.

Good works, special classes, simple friendship, long talks in a home or even a pub, are all bonuses in leading someone to Jesus. But the Bible is very clear that without faithful proclamation of the good news whether in sermon, teaching or friendly discussion, the work of birthing new believers and growing disciples will not be done.

[1] See Kindred Spirits Retreats-1001 Worshiping Community- " have mercy on some" 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas memories

Christmases, for me, a long line of memories. There are the long ago shadowy ones so ancient that all I remember is my old doll with new clothes made out of the stuffing from the living room chair and a small can of talcum powder that would find its way to every corner of the house. And the Christmas that Dad’s back and ribs were so broken, he could hardly walk.

“Don’t go to work this Sunday,” my mother had said. “Something bad will happen on that tractor.” “Nah,” Dad said, “We just had it fixed.”

But that Sunday, at Happy Holme Dairy, a hay bale fell from the top of a huge stack and hit the tractor and my Dad. Even the steering wheel was broken. 

Happy Holme Dairy
But there were dolls under the Christmas tree and candy, oranges, apples and nuts.

With the five thousand dollars, given to compensate for a broken body we bought the old 80 acre farm in Northern Missouri.  Christmases there were unforgettable. Snow, always snow then. A ride in the wagon across the icy creek to cut a Christmas tree. Colored construction paper chains and silver shimmering paper to guild the tree. A sled and a nurse’s kit!

And then a move to the little town of Pattonsburg. I ruined the Christmas play one year. The measles came to town via me! The chiropractor who came to our house because I had a fever said it was just my back. (The doctor was out of town.) But finally, someone decided I had the measles.  I just wasn’t breaking out. And I still remember the ongoing cups of whiskey, honey and tea, to make me break out. My head still spins when I remember.

God broke through in a lot of those Christmases. Country school was full of Christmas. Stories, carols and the radio program, Back to the Bible; we listened as faithfully as we listened to the Long Ranger and Red Skelton. Sitting watching the snow blow across the road our world opened to the gospel.

My Mom, Maxine Attebery Trotter
But it was back to California, watching my Dad’s body grow worse and my Mom start down a long road that would take her home. God was in that mix and although the Christmases were hard there was a light for me that had not been there before. Jesus was entering my world in a real way, not just as a babe in the manger, but as a Savior who died on the cross.

I worked away from home, some of the time as a live in housekeeper, but there was the day mom called me home because she thought she was having a heart attack. She wasn’t, but she gave me my present before Christmas a beautiful gold bracelet. And because there wasn’t a lot of money I bought a small Christmas tree and we had Christmas. I was fifteen, and I came back home and stayed there until the next summer. And that was the year, in the spring, that Jesus entered my life. Funny how God plans all of those details.

Jesus was always there, He is present, and He is coming again. He is the great gift of Christmas.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The CIA Torture Report: Our need to turn away from evil Update

I am totally unsettled and ashamed of what members of the CIA have done to other’s who are created in the image of God. Back during the time of the Soviet Union I remember reading stories of Christian prisoners who were tortured in some of the same ways, standing for days in one spot without sleep, being put into cold rooms and having cold water thrown over them. To use a phrase of C.S. Lewis’ are we becoming monsters that one would only meet in a nightmare? It is confession time for the Church and the United States government.

There are several good articles, written by Christians, deploring the CIA’s use of torture.  

Rev. Joe Carter has written, “7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture.” It is on the Canon & Culture site of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist site. The article gives definitions about torture and information about what the United States has adhered to in the past.

A good Catholic writer, Leah Libresco, on her blog, Unequally Yoked, writes, Torture Report Details Wounds to Prisoners and Guards. This is an important posting because not only do we see the great hurt to the prisoners we read of those who objected and how badly their souls were hurt. For instance Libresco writes:

“The victims of the abuses we’ve committed aren’t limited to the people who were tortured, though they are certainly the most grave examples.  There has been violence done to every person asked to carry out illegal and immoral orders, from the Navy nurse who refused to carry out force-feeding to the CIA interrogators who, according to the report, cried when asked to administer waterboarding and asked to be transferred.”

Another Catholic, Father Dwight Longenecker has written, The Terrorism of Torture, where he compares torturers to terrorist. Longenecker writes:

“The victims of both the terrorist and the torturer does not know truth anymore. He has lost all bearings. He does not know trust or hope. Truth has been destroyed and all is awash in a sea of uncertainty, fear, confusion and pain.

By condoning torture, therefore, we are condoning terrorism. We are saying that any means is appropriate to achieve the ends.”

I have written many times of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his confession of sin for the church. It is found in his Ethics. I do not believe I have quoted this part until now:

“The Church confesses that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people [and there were, according to the report some prisoners that were innocent], oppression, hatred and murder [and some died under torture], and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid.”

Update: Here is an excellent article on Breakpoint Commentaries by Eric Metaxas "The Torture Report" For some reason I can only get this to go to the comments. Just scroll up.

Here is Senator John McCain on the release of the CIA torture report: