Friday, April 29, 2011

Looking toward the future through the words of Philippians 3& 4

Because I have been and will be among groups of Presbyterians, who are orthodox in their faith, are now in the midst of momentous change, talking about, writing about and attempting to find their place in the will of God in the midst of denominational disobedience, I am looking at some texts in Philippians. As I work through my thoughts using Philippians chapter three and some of four, I will post the thoughts on my blog.

Knowing who we are is an important beginning. The apostle Paul, in verses 1-6 of chapter three lays out the identity of those who are followers of Jesus, they are those who “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…” Looking at what seems to be three marks of identity they are basically one and have to do with the believer’s relationship to her Lord.

As to the words “worship God in the Spirit, John Calvin in his commentary refers the reader to John 4:23, the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshipers.” Those who belong to Jesus are united to him by the Holy Spirit, and it is in Christ that true worship is found. Through the Spirit, united to Christ, the believer presents to the Father what only Christ can give, acceptable worship.

Paul was writing against the rituals, including circumcision, continued by some Jewish Christians as a means of worship. That placed externals beside Jesus Christ. While the rituals pointed to Christ for Old Testament people, Christ was and is now here. Only in Jesus Christ is access to the Father possible. And so, only Christ may be gloried in-nothing else counts. “Putting no confidence in the flesh,” is the negative side of this affirmation about Christ. The believer’s confidence is only in Jesus Christ. So we glory in Christ; he is our whole joy and purpose.

In the next several verses Paul lays out what he has left behind, his past identity. I have in the past thought of this as Paul’s renunciation of his strict Jewish beliefs, but it is so much more than that. He is renouncing his ethnicity and culture, (of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews); he is renouncing his past religious views (a Pharisee); he is renouncing his sinful life (a persecutor of the Church); and finally he is renouncing his own righteousness (righteous because he was blameless in the law).

Paul will no longer glory in his past. And neither should we as believers facing an uncertain future. We must glory in Christ. Whatever we were in the PCUSA, we will no longer be that. But, without leaving, neither do we face the future as the minority, or those who are considered behind the times, out of step with the culture or even homophobic. No, we are those who glory in Christ Jesus and nothing else.

And remember, Paul stated that to the Jew he became a Jew and to the Gentile a Gentile that he might win them for Christ. (1 Cor. 9:19-23). We cannot be for any culture, for the sake of Christ, unless we have first laid our own culture aside and taken up only Jesus Christ. We cannot present Christ to any other religion until we have renounced all false religion. We cannot proclaim the saving, transforming death of Jesus Christ to sinners until we have renounced our own sin.

I will look at Philippians 3:7-16 for my next posting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A review of Love Wins by Kevin DeYoung-its good!

The review I mean...

Kevin DeYoung, of the Reformed Church in America, has written what I consider to be an excellent review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. And I say this, not having read Love Wins yet. I am saying this because DeYoung’s review is so very clear about orthodox Christianity and Reformed faith. And even if you do not read Love Wins you will nonetheless learn a great deal of biblical theology and church history by reading the review. Of course there is a catch. The review is very long.

What really surprised me since everyone is talking and writing about Bell’s controversial views of hell, is the poor Christology in the book. For instance DeYoung writes:

“Most readers of Love Wins will want to talk about Bell’s universalism. But just as troubling is his Christology. Bell has a Joseph Campbell “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” view of Christ. Jesus is hidden in various cultures and in every aspect of creation. Some people find him and some don’t. Some call him Jesus; some have too much baggage with Christianity, so they call him by a different name (159).

Bell finds support for this Christological hide-and-seek in 1 Corinthians 10. This is where Paul calls to mind the Exodus narrative and asserts that the rock (the one that gushed water) was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). From this Bell concludes, “There are rocks everywhere” (139). If Paul saw Christ in the rock, then who knows where else we might find him (144)? Jesus cannot be confined to any one religion, Bell argues. He transcends our labels and cages, especially the one called Christianity (150). Christ is present in all cultures and can be found everywhere. Sometimes missionaries travel around the world only to find that the Christ they preach was already present by a different name (152).”

That is found under the subtitle, “Christological Problems.”

So go to, “God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins” and read!

Hat Tip to one of my pastors Jeff Hoffmeyer

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Questions & bullying

This grew out of my feelings; if it offends some I am truly sorry:

What does bullying look like in the adult world of intolerance. Is it okay, as an adult, to complain against bullying that touches one personally? What if it is so bad one feels creepy and sick to her stomach? What if it is meant to shut one down, to keep one from writing truthful words?

What if the person doing the bullying is a Presbyterian writing comments on a Presbyterian Pastor’s blog, a pastor who agrees with and allows the bullying?

What would most conservative, progressive, moderate, Christians think about these words[1]

“Sometimes reading her [me] blog is like watching a Desmond Morris documentary.

This most recent post is an excellent example.

First she writes yet another blog post proclaiming her undying love for you. [John Shuck](What is this? Post 100? Post 1000?)

Then all her other boyfriends swarm around primping and preening to try to get noticed by her.

It's like a creep-tacular middle school dance, attended by senior citizens.”

First, two things, the above by Alan was written because I wrote this, Confessing what!? and yes the above quote is horribly embarrassing and should be hid in the darkness of everlasting hell as far as I am concerned. Nothing about it is true. But I don’t think I have to say that. So more questions so that you will know why I went to the embarrassment of placing it here.

Continuing questions: What if the person who wrote the insults is gay, and his partner is the author of a floor speech posted at the More Light page, “Yes on amendment 10-A?”

The floor speech for amendment 10-A posted there is entitled, “What Will Amendment 10-A Mean If Passed?. The speech sounds reasonable; it is just about equality. It is simply telling people that everything will be okay-don’t worry.

But is something deeper happening than just a push for equality? After all my blog posting that caused such vileness was not about homosexuality but about a pastor confessing his faith that there is no God. No other issue seems to matter; if LGBT ordination and same gender marriage is pushed by someone, pastor, elder, no matter their theology, their atheism, their morality or even their attitude towards others, they are allowed all vulgarities and freedom in the denomination. This is an evil situation. Once the door is wide open it will get worse.

The Scripture state that our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)

The denomination is in dire danger at this moment; the battle is spiritual-the weapons are the word of God, prayer and faith. Jesus Christ has already won the victory, but the walk is hard. As Aslan (the Lion who images Christ) tells Lucy as the Dawn Treader makes a final attempt to leave the Dark Island of nightmares, “Courage dear heart[s]”

[1]Scroll down

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jesus is risen

Rise heart; they Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him may rise:
That as his death calcin—źd thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake my lute and struggle for they part
With all they art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings , what key
is best to celebrate the most high day.

I got me flowers to strew the way,
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee

The sun arising in the East,
though he give light, and th’ East perfume ;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavor?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

By George Herbert.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday

Having been Tenant long to a rich Lord’
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And to make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small rented lease, and cancell th’ old.

In heaven at his manour I him sought:
They told me there, that he was lately gone
About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.

I straight return’d , and knowing his great birth,
Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks and courts:
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth

Of theeves and murderers: there I him espied,
Who straight, Your suit is granted, said & died.

By George Herbert (in the English of the 17th century)

Maundy Thursday

Today is remembrance of a group of Jesus’ followers who ate their last meal with the Lord of heaven, who was both God and human. He stooped to wash their feet as an example of how the disciples of Christ were to treat each other.

He who was the Bread of heaven served the first communion meal. He would forever nourish his people in their union with him in his resurrection. But his followers did not know this; they were to fall asleep in the midst of his agonizing prayers. They would desert him when he was arrested. One betrayed him, and one denied him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confessing what!?

John Shuck, A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Pastor confesses his faith thus :

“No deity exists. Not Jesus Christ, not Yahweh, not Baal, not Marduk, not Allah, not Zeus, not the Flying Spaghetti Monster, not the Wizard of Oz. None of them exist. All figments of imagination. They are fun. But none are worth the spiritual violence they cause.”

And it is faith because philosophically speaking there is neither an absolute proof for God nor an absolute proof that there is not a God. Of all the proofs that exist Anselm’s ontological proof is perhaps the nearest one to proving the existence of God, that is, if you believe that existence is an attribute. A perfect being that you conceive in your mind would then have to exist because your idea of a perfect being would include existence (and that existence must be a reality for it to mean anything) and therefore God must exist.

But then the scripture would need to fill in all of the details about such a God including the Incarnation and his redeeming grace.

But the truth is (and yes this is about truth) Anselm himself believed that one must have faith before he could really know any true thing about God. One of his prayers’s ended:

“I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.”

So in one sense John Shuck is right, he is writing about Lee Strobel’s little booklet “The case for Easter” and insisting that no one can reason another person into believing in God or the resurrection. And we can’t. Only the Holy Spirit can and will do that. Only the Father will draw us to his Son. Only the Son will show us the Father.

As John Calvin puts it concerning the Scriptures, “”it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. That it is cannot be known to be, except by faith.” Jesus speaks about the light that the eye receives which gives a person knowledge about the world around him. He says that through the eyes that are good the whole body is filled with light. But then he goes on to speak of that light with these words:

“Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illuminated, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.” (Luke 11:34-36)

In other words we can know all about the world about us, even about our inner self, but this light or knowledge can be darkness if we deny the true light which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus, speaking to his own generation, calls himself a sign like the sign of Jonah. Jonah was only in a large fish; he didn’t really die but the Ninevites believed his word from God. Jesus was in the earth, and truly dead, yet he, because he was both God and man was bodily resurrected. Jonah came from the sea and the fish undoubtedly trailing sea weed. Jesus came from the tomb trailing heaven's glory.

Jesus says that the Ninevites will rise up in judgment against his generation. Jesus’ generation is the whole of the church age from the time of his appearing. What will it be like to stand facing not only a holy God but a whole nation of ancient cruel Ninevites who repented at the preaching of a man who probably still had sea weed hanging from his ears?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A different ending

I was hoping for a different story, a different ending. This morning I picked up two tiny bloodied mangled baby doves hatched several weeks ago. Possibly they somehow fell in the night or the early morning. I wrapped them in napkins and some yellow tissue paper and buried them under my white dogwood tree.

When I finished the two parent mourning doves still stood confused on my air conditioner where they built their nest, where they laid their eggs and fed their hatchlings; where we watched with wonder as they cared for the birds. I wrote about them earlier, in March, “Mourning doves and the Church.

I wrote that the church sat in a precarious position like the doves, but that God still keeps her in the midst of weakness and suffering. Every so often I hear the mourning coos outside my window or in nearby trees. I do not know if they will stay and try again. I do know that they return every spring and build a nest somewhere near. They will build another year.

Like doves experiencing a loss they do not yet fully comprehend, everywhere the orthodox of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now gather,they speak of sadness and the future. In their own particular place and time they hoped for a different story, a different ending. But they have a very certain hope. A promise! The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.

There will always be a church that comes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ; that holds to the essentials of the faith, the apostolic teaching. There will always be the faithful who trust in his goodness and righteousness, not their own. There may be blood on the ground as there is on my driveway and in my garden but there is peace because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. There is joy because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is nourishment and safety in our union with the resurrected Lord.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lazarus Saturday & Palm Sunday: because of love

The Saturday before Palm Sunday is, in the wider liturgical church, “Lazarus Saturday.” It is the time of remembering Jesus’ call to Lazarus to come out of his tomb. And he came bound in his burial clothes. (John 11:1-44) The story of Lazarus is different than Jesus’ resurrection since Jesus in his resurrected body could not be bound by any earthly thing. He left his burial clothes behind. But, Lazarus came back to die again.

And amazingly part of the story of Lazarus’ rising is that the chief priests wanted not only to kill Jesus but also to kill Lazarus. Because Jesus’ friend had been raised from the dead many believed on Jesus and this not only angered the chief priests; they were afraid there were too many followers of Jesus. Because of Jesus they wanted Lazarus to die. And that is the story of all disciples, to receive goodness and transformation from Christ but to know that too many times, because of such goodness and transformation, there will be conflict and hatred.

Our walk is not different; Lazarus, after being raised from death, feasted with Jesus and the disciples six days before Passover was celebrated. His sister anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume wiping them with her hair. This was a sweet time of communion, remembering Jesus’ death before it happened. But during this time the betrayer, who was a thief, was scoffing while the chief priests were plotting. (John 12:1-9)

In the midst of a sinful dark world Jesus calls his disciples to communion. There is fellowship and it is sweet because it centers on our love of Jesus. We are called to life, called to obedience and called to death.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviors love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then Crucify! is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You celebrate: we will praise Jesus!

Has it occurred to John Shuck who posted this, Celebration Without Apology, that the orthodox in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will still go on being the orthodox even if 10-A passes.

What do I mean?

Well first I mean that the orthodox will keep loving John Shuck in Christ and praying that Jesus walks in on him someday and surprises him, just like he did to C.S. Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidson, who was a Jewish atheist. (Aslan treads the Tennessee hills not just England’s green glades.)

But what else does it mean, when I say that the orthodox will stay orthodox. It does mean that some will leave. That will be God’s judgment on a denomination that wants to cater to the decadence of the world. And it means that some will try to find a way to serve God within the denomination without feeling they have compromised their faith.

But what else does it mean. It means that the denomination will still be full of people that know what the Bible and the Confessions say and believe what they say. They know that the Bible says that same gender sex is sin. They know that the Confessions say so too. Yes the Larger Catechism does say that Sodomy is a sin and so is unnatural lust. And they will still insist that those who ask to be ordained live a righteous life repenting of the sin (any sin) in their life.

But what else does it mean. It means that the orthodox will be more clearly aware that once one particular non-Christian practice is allowed everything else is up for grabs because Satan is set on destroying any institution that has lifted up Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is Jesus that Satan really hates. He hates because Jesus has already won the real victory, the victory over sin and death. It is the orthodox who are aware that as sinners they have been redeemed by a loving Lord who will keep them in his care through everything that falls their way.

So John, and anyone else who wants to, celebrate, skip, dance, but be aware Aslan roams the hills everywhere. And although he is good, he isn’t safe.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clicking on hate speech-any other suggestions? Update.

Someone, named Sue, on the Israel/Palestine Mission Network Facebook, confirmed to a reader that she and Noushin Framke, communications chairperson for IPMN, places the links on their site. Today they linked to what appears to be a Palestinian site, Occupied Palestine which has a memorial to people killed in Palestine in 2011, supposedly by Israel, but it is hard to believe anything on this site. The reason is that when one scrolls down to the bottom of their page there is a long list of articles, videos and links which include one explaining the so called “Protocols’ of the Elders of Zion,” plus other appalling information.

I could place the video on my site as I did the Holocaust one, which was posted on the site they linked to this weekend. However I am reluctant to place so much ugliness on my blog so instead here is a link to that page, Protocols of Zion Explained. Another page is linked to what is called Jew Watch. That particular site is filled with many ugly articles.

Today I clicked on the “report page” on the left side of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network Facebook page. When the box came up I clicked hate speech. What else can anyone do except, of course, pray for the IPMN, Noushin Framke and Sue.

Update David Fischler of Reformed Pastor has placed an excellent post about this on his site and he added the offending video with interesting details that link it to the anti-Semite David Duke. "IPMN: Linking to Hate"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network-linking to Nazis

If you were a respectable denomination would you link to an article because it said something you agreed with even when the link was to an online paper so vile that it had a video attempting to prove that the Holocaust did not happen. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.) thinks it is just fine. Here is the video on the site.

Holocaust, Hate Speech & Were the Germans so Stupid?

The site is The Sabbah Report The article the IPMN is linked to is Judge Goldstone's wobble sends wrong signal by Stuart Littlewood who also writes for the vile Veterans Today. Veterans Today has articles suggesting that Rabbis be hung.

If you compare the two sites you will find they use most of the same writers and articles.

One of the damning statements in the article, which is meant to malign Goldstone, the Jews, Israel and Zionism, is "The chief violator [of the conflict between Hamas and Israel]was, and still is,the lawless Israeli Regime. Goldstone a Jew and described as an ardent Zionist was hardly the man to head the inquiry team. You ignore at your peril the First Law of tribal membership: don't crap on your tribes doorstep. There are bound to be unpleasant consequences."

I have given up thinking that the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA will be held accountable for their actions. I have given up believing that the leadership in the GAMC or the OGA will stop their continuing movement toward neo-Nazism. And I do not apologize for saying this. What the IPMN is doing is not different than what Neo-Nazi leaders do as a way to incite others to anti-semitism and even violence.

I have given up thinking they will change-but I have not given up my right as a Christian to stand up for truth and speak to and about religious powers that are endorsing evil. I believe in a Lord who is not only merciful and forgiving he also is just and judges those who make alliances with the wicked.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Janet Edwards asking about baptism and ordination

Presbyterian Pastor Janet Edwards asks a question, “Baptism—How important is it?” She gives the wrong answer because she asks the wrong question. She could have asked does baptism qualify Christians for ordination. And that is actually the question she answers and that wrongly. So I will look at how important baptism is, and then explore the issue of what qualifies the Christian for ordination.

Baptism is an ultimate issue, not because it saves or regenerates but because it is a sign and seals what God has done and what God will do as in the baptism of an infant who is included in the family of God.[1]

As John Calvin puts it, it is “an external sign, by which the Lord seals on our consciences his promises of good will toward us, in order to sustain the weakness of our faith, and we in turn testify our piety towards him, both before himself, and before angels as well as men. We may also define more briefly by calling it a testimony of the divine favour toward us, confirmed by an external sign, with a corresponding attestation of our faith towards Him.” But there is nothing in this that speaks of ordination.

Edwards uses Gal. 3:26 as her leading proof text, but that too is wrong. And 26 is helpful, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” The verses Edwards quotes are 27-28, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

If we are adults first comes our faith in Christ, (given by the Holy Spirit), and then if we have not yet been baptized baptism. We are clothed with Jesus Christ; he is our righteousness, our life. And we are made children of God because of what Christ has done for us on the cross.

Edwards writes, “The Presbyterian Church bases its practice of infant and adult Baptism upon references in Scripture. And Presbyterian tradition is clear that our Baptism is the primary qualification for service in any office of the church.” Edwards’ first sentence is true. Her second one is not. I wish she had referenced that because others have stated that also, but I do not believe one can find it in Scripture, confessions or the Book of Order.

The Book of Order in G-6.0106 states that those called to ordination, “in addition to possessing the necessary gifts and abilities, natural and acquired, those who undertake particular ministries should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world.” This does not leave out moral or faith issues. To call Christ Lord implies obedience to his word which includes all of Scripture. To demonstrate the Christian gospel is to live lives changed by the renewing work of Christ on the cross. Those espousing sin of any kind as good are not demonstrating the Christian gospel.

In G-6.o202, which gives the names of the various expressive duties of the ministry, this is included, “As it is his or her duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he or she is termed presbyter or elder. As he or she is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God, through Christ, he or she is termed steward of the mysteries of God.” One cannot be an example nor declare the will of God to sinners, and at the same time insist that any sin in their life is not sin.

In the Book of Confessions of the PC (U.S.A.) in the Second Helvetic Confession it states; “Not anyone may be elected, but capable men distinguished by sufficient consecrated learning, pious eloquence, simple wisdom, lastly by moderation and honorable reputation, according to the apostolic rule which is compiled by the apostle in 1 Tim., ch. 3, and Titus, ch. 1.” (5.150b)

In the same section the Confession explains the difference between the priesthood of the believer and those who are ordained to office:

To be sure, Christ’s apostles call all who believe in Christ ‘priests,’ but not on account of an office, but because, all the faithful having been made kings and priests, we are able to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ (Ex. 19:6;1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6). Therefore the priesthood and the ministry are very different from one another. For the priesthood, as we have just said, is common to all Christians; not so is the ministry.” (5.153a)

I should add that standing against LGBT ordination is not telling others to go away as Edwards insists. Instead it is insisting that those who function under ordination as servants for the church must be willing to be examples of living a Christian life. When they sin, and they do sin, they must call it sin and repent.

Baptism is a sign and seal of what God has done in the life of a person. The Holy Spirit illuminates the work of Christ to us and woos us to the Father and the Son. The Father reveals the Son. The Son reveals the Father. It is a dance, but the dance does not end in sin but in forgiveness of sin. Those who are called are not only given gifts but also duties one of which is to live before the church and the world as a demonstration of Christ’s cleansing and forgiving power.

[1] Calvin sees faith planted as a seed in the infant which will grow with maturity. But it is nonetheless the faith that regenerates not the water which simply seals God’s action and becomes a sign to the baby and the community.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Light sown like seed

Light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.” (Psalm 97:11)

I love to think about this verse because I love planting seeds and watching as each unique plant emerges and grows. But more so because this is a promise of what God will do for his Church. It is not new light but a light that has already existed before time. Light from light as the Nicene Creed puts it.

Christ is the church’s gladness and his joy will be given to her in abundance. Christ is her light and that light grows as his church grows. And that growth is a growth of conforming to his life, suffering, death and resurrection.

Psalm 97 begins with images of the glory of God. He reigns over all. Two important images of the Lord emerge in this Psalm. God is veiled in clouds and darkness. He is there but he does not reveal himself in every way. He is transcendent. Everything else is beneath him, and separate from him. Worship is demanded of all, even of those that are called gods.

On the other hand, from this Psalm we understand that God’s throne, his authority, is founded on his righteousness and justice. He judges and demands worship. We do know something about God from this section of his word. And the Lord gives warning.

“Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; Worship him all you gods.”

Two other images emerge. Idolatry and wickedness are contrasted with hating evil and (being glad in) loving the Lord. God’s people are to hate what is evil, which in this text is idolatry, serving and boasting about anything which takes the place of God. The believer in this psalm is called to a life given over totally to the Lord. They are told to be glad and give thanks. But creation is also included in this contrast of evil and goodness.

The earth and the islands rejoice. “The heavens declare his righteousness and all the peoples have seen his glory.” But it is his people that receive his promises just as it is the idolaters who receive his judgment.

Another Old Testament picture of his light and his gladness is the latter part of Malachi. It also makes a pointed distinction between “the righteous and the wicked” and the “one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”There God promises he will write in his book the names of those who fear and esteem him and speak to each other about him. The picture could be of God reading Facebook busy with his pen.

In chapter 4 God speaks of the arrogant and of judgment but also promises his children healing and joy: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

But notice in this that it is those who fear his name. That is those who understand their need of the Lord, their need of forgiveness. They see the difference between wickedness and evil and find their needs are met in him.

And taking this further in the New Testament there is still that division of the wicked to be judged and the righteous to receive gladness and light, yet now it is made very clear that light is given to those who walked in darkness and goodness belongs to those who were once the wicked.

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the light consists in all the goodness and righteousness and truth,) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”

In Christ, the Light, we can walk with gladness because it is his righteousness and his goodness that cover the church. His is a steadfast light that grows in the faithful church of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

But His name is Jesus

Every word I write seems empty of usefulness.
But his name is Jesus and he is exulted to his Father’s throne.
He is the Word-confess him.

Every thought I have lies silent, unshaped.
But his name is Jesus; all things were created by him and for him.
He is the Word-confess him.

Everyplace my hands move grief follows hope.
But his name is Jesus; he saves his people from sin, giving a new name.
He is the Word-confess him.

Perhaps, because it is Lent, darkness rides on our shoulders?
But he, Jesus, King of peace rides into Jerusalem on a donkey,
And the children outdo our stony hearts; they cry hosanna.
His is the word-praise him.

Perhaps, because it is Lent, we sleep, over our meatless words?
But he, Jesus, the Bread of God, feeds the hungry with his flesh.
He wakes the sinner and tells them eat and drink.
His is the word-praise him.

Perhaps, because it is Lent, tomorrow is unwelcome?
But he, Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father loves us from eternity,
And will love us in all tomorrows.
He is the Word-love him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Review of 'A Time of Departing'

A Review of
A Time of Departing: How ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World’s Religions by Ray Yungen

Ray Yungen’s book A time of Departing is supposedly about a connection between New Age Mysticism and Evangelical ministries. The author believes that the new age is infiltrating the church through some pastors and their methodologies or spiritual practices.

But the book fails on several levels. Many of the Evangelical ministries Yungen points to do not fall within new age thinking. And the extreme problems with new age spirituality are belittled by connecting the movement to Evangelical ministries. Additionally it turns the Christian reader away from material that would be beneficial to their growth in Christ.

Many of the problems in the book occur because Yungen fails to use primary sources and instead uses the scholarship of writers who are new age. Such new age scholars often attempt to use Christians and their past writings to bolster their own new age belief systems, thus adding their own views as a gloss to the Christian works.

For instance, in an early section of the book Yungen attempts to connect the Desert Father’s ‘Jesus Prayer’ to Gnosticism and Hinduism.(42-43) Historically there is no connection. And in fact one of the great church Fathers, Athanasius, who fought valiantly for the deity of Jesus Christ, was a friend of one of the Desert Fathers, St Anthony.

Another example of improper research is the chapter on Pastor Rick Warren, “America’s Pastor.” I will quote a section and then explain what is wrong:
He [Warren] says that a relationship with God will never happen by just attending church and having a daily quiet time. He then offers an example of someone who learned this secret and had an intimate relationship with God. This person was a Carmelite monk named Brother Lawrence.

The fact that Brother Lawrence was in the Carmelite order means his spiritual practices were derived from or heavily influenced by Teresa of Avila who reformed that order in the previous century.

In a book titled Christian Mystics, Professor Ursula King makes the startling revelation that: “[G]iven her [Teresa of Avila ] partly Jewish background her thinking was also affected by Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism, elements of which can be detected in her writings.” (146-147)
Yungen is writing about the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. There is nothing in it that has to do with new age thinking. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle is not at all like Brother Lawrence’s book. His is simple and practical while Teresa’s is complex and difficult. Of Brother Lawrence and his small book A.W. Tozer wrote and quoted him:
Brother Lawrence is well established in the affection of spiritual souls of all denominations and every shade of Christian thought. As a cook he learned to turn the modest service into a kind of worship. "We can do little things for God," he said. "I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him who has given me grace to work. Afterwards I rise happier than a king."
It is nonsense to call him new age or to even suggest that he has any kind of connection to Cabbalism.

Teresa of Avila is not easy to read. Her book The Interior Castle is definitely mystic, but it is Christian. Yungen uses a professor who specializes in Teilhard de Chardin to explain Teresa of Avila. I also had a professor who specialized in Teilhard. She turned all Christians into panentheists which is Teilhard’s worldview. An apologist for Christianity must read the works he is critiquing and not use secondary works as primary.

Since Ursula King, the professor who Yungen quoted is involved with comparative world religions she has attempted to give The Interior Castle a Jewish Cabbalistic slant. It isn’t true. But even so it has no connection to Brother Lawrence. And finally Yungen, by linking all of this together, is trying to make it seem like Rick Warren has some connection to Jewish Cabbalism or some sort of new age mysticism. Yungen hasn’t proved anything.

While Yungen writes about many new age gurus and spiritualities which the Christian should be aware of and concerned about there are better books to read. Here are several:

Revealing the New Age Jesus: Challenges to Orthodox Views of Christ by Douglas Groothuis

A Crash Course on the New Age Movement by Elliot Miller

On witchcraft-Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality by Edwards Sanders

Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin De Young, …

On Sue Monk Kidd see my article, “A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to The Sacred Feminine

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Something new about the Goldstone Report

I have not seen this article on the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Facebook site. (Although they do put up article after article about the evil of Israel.) So, because it is very important I will.

The Washington Post yesterday in an opinion column featured Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunals, who was the head of the committee that wrote the damning ‘Goldstone Report’ for the United Nations. That was the report that accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the Gaza conflict. The piece is entitled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes.”

In the article Goldstone begins:

"We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

Additionally he writes:

“The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Goldstone slams Hamas for their refusal to investigate their own crimes. He writes, “That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.”

He does condemn Israel for not being more open about their investigation but then once again points out the bias of the UN’s Human Rights Watch. He writes:

“Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”

I would hope that this report would show up on the IPMN site … perhaps that is too much to ask, they like the Human Rights Watch are also biased.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A movement of Reformed music

I have written in the past about being a part of the Jesus Movement in the seventies and early eighties. That was a time when many hippies came to know Jesus Christ as Savior. My memories of those days are of friends who God called out of many horrendous life styles. I can think back now about wiccans, new agers, prostitutes and drug dealers who were grabbed by Jesus. And yes there were some whose lives seemed to be what others saw as ideal and even righteous. They like Nicodemus of old also found new life in Jesus Christ.

I have placed music videos from that time on my blog and it is fun to share them. Not only did they create Christian folk and rock, they were the first to begin singing praise songs in church. And at first many of those praise songs were filled with scripture.

But not many years ago, on the web, I began noticing young music groups forming who were singing the old hymns, which I love, but with different tunes. They were also creating a new kind of Christian music, and most of it was very reformed in its theology. The first group I discovered was Red Mountain Music. And they have one particular CD that is exclusively concerned with older hymns with new music, The Gadsby Project.

There are other groups; Indelible Grace is one of my favorites. In a section on their site they explain why they rewrite music and also their desire to reintroduce old hymns that have been forgotten. I was struck by this particular bit of information:

Many wonderful hymns have unfortunately fallen out of use and part of our love is searching old hymnals for hymns and hymnwriters that have been forgotten. How many today have heard of Anne Steele? She was the first female hymnwriter, the first to write hymns of lament without happy endings, and the first to meditate on the inadequacy of human language to express our love to God. Her hymns are incredibly relevant to what we often consider very modern issues and yet most hymnals include almost nothing by her. But when students read her words, now set to music that connects to them, they are blown away. They are able to have the incredible experience of communing spiritually with a saint who lived and suffered 300 years ago in a little town in the English countryside. All of the sudden, the kingdom of God grows bigger for them. They see that the Body of Christ is huge! We hope that you too can experience the "mystic sweet communion" with those who have gone before us.

The Lord is always working in his people. Here are a few examples of the music.

That is a very old hymn. Now here is a new and creative, but faithful piece by Sandra McCracken: