Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christ=The Main Thing

John Calvin had it right. Jesus Christ is the "Main Thing". Not his attributes, not love, not justice, but Him alone. For from him flow love, justice, freedom, grace, mercy and Salvation. And when we live in him, the outflow of that relationship are the above and many other things. Read what Calvin said on this. He was right.

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is "of him." If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other. (Inst. 2.16.19)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

From The Cradle to the Cross

I'm sure that sometime during this Christmas season, at one time or another, you have heard or sung the carol, Good King Wencelas. Now, you may know who King Wenceslas was, but if you don't let me fill you in. He was a chap of the 10th Century. He was also known as Vaclav the Good but this poor Duke of Bohemia ended up being assassinated by his wicked brother, Boleslaw the Bad. Hmmm, I wonder how he got that name? I know I'd be bad if I had the name BOLESlaw. Anyway, because of his holiness, the good guy, Vaclav, now known as Wenceslas, had his bones interred in St. Vitus's cathedral in Prague. I wonder if that's where the dance stared. But that is another tragic sad story that many today are afflicted with.

On with the story, The song named after Good King Wensaslas was written by J. M. Neale (1818-1866). It has nothing to do with Christmas really, but is based on a story about Wenceslas who befriended a peasant. This poor peasant lived on the edge of a forest and so touched the good king, that he felt impelled to give this poor man a pine log. Now why a peasant would need a pine log is not told. But logic would tell me that probably the forest belonged to the king and anyone who chopped down the kings trees could probably have his head chopped off...or something like that, I surmise.

Nor is there any explanation of the footprints in the snow. But the verse I find interesting is the reference to Steven. What was this "feast of Stephen?" Those of us in the "free church" tradition relegate saints to a dusty corner of our library shelves, but most of Christendom has celebrated this "Feast of Stephen" from the earliest centuries. It is also known as Boxing Day in Europe and England and is celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church on December 27 instead of today. It was a day when gifts were gathered and given to the poor, hence, Boxing Day. And since Stephen was noted for his ministry to the helpless in the New Testament he is honored with this tradition.

The other thing we know about Stephen is that he was the first martyr of the church. But why in heaven's name do we celebrate this event the day after Christmas? Well, here's where tradition and the teaching ministry of the ancient church kicks in. One of the teachings of the church down through the centuries has been that Jesus, the babe born in Bethlehem, was born to die. He came to this earth, lived 30 or so years, and then fulfilled his destiny on the Cross in a horrible execution. His life was given in order that we might live. The sin that broke our relationship with God with Adam and Eve was forever destroyed by the death of Christ so that we can have eternal life with God. That has been the teaching of the Church.

And what the church wanted to show was that we too, who have been redeemed by Christ, also go through hardship. What the church is telling us is that the message of Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection is filled with similarities for us. Jesus himself warned,
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you...Remember the word I said to you; a servant is not greater than his master: If they persecuted me they will persecute you."

This has been the story of Christianity from day one. Good old St. Augustine said, "Every age is an age of martyrdom...Don't say that Christians are not suffering persecution; the Apostle's words are always true...: All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12) All, with no one being excluded or exempted. If you want to test the truth of this saying, you only have to begin to lead a pious life and you will see what good reason he had for saying this."

Jesus said, "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."

St. John Chrysostom, the great preacher of the fourth and fifth century wrote: "Don't say that they didn't suffer, but that they rejoiced to suffer. We can see that by the use to which they instantly put their freedom: immediately after the flogging they gave themselves up to preaching with wonderful zeal."

Today, persecution still goes on. Look at the house churches in China. Weep over the Christian Palestinian, Arab, Jordanian churches and all of the churches in the middle Eastern region who are suffering at the loss of their pastors and churches due to persecution. Many of these poor folks have suffered horrible crimes perpetrated against them. And remember, war has also brought pain and suffering to these folks. Yes, even some of our own bombs.

Persecution goes on around the world. It may be the greatest argument for the sinful state of man that I know. Man needs a saviour. I know, I know, this is a message that falls on many deaf ears. But folks, how many of you are suffering from isolation for your faith? The words of Jesus are being fulfilled in our own country. Christianity is still, the most hated and despised religion in the world. How many news reports have you heard about complaints about crosses in public places or in places that can be seen by the public? How many displays of the 10 commandments are pushed into the shadows?
How many of your friends have ignored you on Facebook because you are open in your faith? What about those subtle little references like, "Oh, you STILL believe in a God and go to Church? How ignorant you are to be call yourself a Christian.

Now to be honest, those of us in the church have earned a lot of that scorn for trying to be something we aren't to take credit for the piety we exhibit. But the fact remains, there is a concerted effort to push Christianity back into the home and out of the public sphere. Oh, we can celebrate the muslim days, or the Jewish days, or push all kinds of new age spirituality on the unsuspecting public, but God forbid you wear a cross to work or have picture of Christ in you cubicle at work.

We can be encouraged, and in some companies, compelled to take meditation courses or new age self help classes at work but God help you if you want to have a private Bible Study or Prayer Group in your office. Why, that's a violation of church and state. I'll use my favorite theological term. HOGWASH!!

Face it folks, Christianity will never be popular. I don't care how much you try to package it into theatrical productions, the majority will ignore anything that bases its foundation on the message of the cross of Christ. And as time goes on and our nation sinks more and more into apostasy, we'll be the pariahs of humanity. As long as our churches continue to try to make our services more and more like the local nightclub we'll continue the downwards slide.

The church of Jesus Christ is different. It is counter cultural. It is not like the rest of the world. It is a haven for the lost. A hospital for sinners. Sinners belong in the church because that is where Christ is. He loves sinners. We are all sinners and if we Christians will finally admit to that and realize Jesus Christ is the source of our hope, love and living, then we'll quit trying to be Christians and instead let the Grace of Christ make us the kind of people he wants us to be.

So on this day of St. Stephen, take heart. If you are suffering, your consolation is in Jesus. Your suffering may not end until death, but you will have the hope of his presences with you daily and for eternity. Sing the song Good King Wenceslas on this day and remember Stephen who showed us the cost of being a Christian. It's a life from the cradle to the cross.

One final word. I know some of you will be appalled by what I've just said. Yes, I actually agree with you. The Cross is ugly, was then and is now. Suffering is awful and not to be desired. But it's life. And how you decide to live that life depends on whether you are willing to obey Christ by trusting in him as your Savior.

God bless you and have a Joyous Christmas Season...yes..the season extends into January. And have a blessed New Year.

Good King Wencelas

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas-Joy To The World

Joy To The World

Merry Christmas to Everyone



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Those in Christ Are Beloved

This is a great nine minute presentation. Watch it and be encouraged. You are loved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Prayer by Ian Oliver

Ian Oliver, pastor for the University Church at Yale University wrote a marvelous prayer for Christmas I'd like to share with you. I ran across it in the Magnificat Magazine this month. It's a prayer for the December 24th prayer readings, but it was so good I thought I'd share it with you.

A Christmas Prayer

On that holy night,
Somehow
It happened.

Somehow,
God took a handful of humanity:
Proud, petulant, passionate;
And a handful of divinity:
Undivided, inexpressible, incomprehensible:
And enclosed them in one small body.

Somehow, the all too human
Touched the divine.
And was not vaporized.
To be human was never the same,
But forever thereafter,
Carried a hint of its close encounter with the perfect.
and forever thereafter,
God was never the same,
But carried a hint of the passion of the mortal.

If God can lie down in a cattle-trough,
is any object safe from transformation?
If peasant girls can be mothers to God,
Is any life safe from the invasion of the eternal?

If all this could happen, O God,
What places of darkness on our earth
are pregnant with light waiting to be born this night?

If all this could happen, O God,
Then you could be, and are, anywhere, everywhere,
Waiting to be born this night in the most
unbelievable places,
Perhaps even in our own hearts. Amen.

Ian Oliver serves as pastor fo the University Church, Yale University

Monday, December 21, 2009

This Is A Grand Slam Home Run Program

I listened to the pod cast this morning of the White Horse Inn and thought it was a Grand Slam Home Run. The program was recorded yesterday December 20th and is titled The Word Made Flesh. The last ten minutes or so is worth the wait. So for those who are tired of milk toast Christianity, here's some good red meat. Just clck on the link and...Enjoy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is it me? Or is it something else?

I don't know about you, but I've notice that the older I get, the more I study and think about life, I realize I know nothing and that life is not about me. Now some of you may agree with the first statement regarding my lack of knowledge. I was always a late bloomer. I don't think I grew up until I was in my thirties and at that, only because I was forced to recognize that I wasn't in control. My college years were, to say the least, less than stellar. I learned how to study long after I was out of school.

But, there were some foundations laid that have carried me through all my rabbit trail theologies. One of those foundations was that there is only one message we have as Christians and that is Christ and the Good News of his victory over death through his death, burial and resurrection. Paul the Apostle said, I preach Christ and him crucified. He said, "For me, to live, is Christ."
It wasn't about Paul, it was about Jesus Christ. It wasn't about what Paul did or didn't do. It was about Jesus Christ working and living and loving through Paul. Christ and the cross was the source of everything in Paul.

So that is the first foundation stone I've always believed in my Christian life. Now, have I lived that? No. All too often I've tried to be rather than obey. Did you get that? When Christ is not the foundation of our life, we try to do something to become like Christ rather than letting HIM be the source of my being. If I focus on being all I can be, I end up with a false works gospel. If Christ is my life then I become like him by his action in my life. He provides the faith to obey. He provides the ability to become what I am and he provides the action to do what he commands.

The second foundation stone I've never abandoned was a firm belief and trust in the validity and authority of the Holy Scripture, The Bible. I believe in the verbal, plenary (complete), inspiration of the Scriptures as given to the authors and assembled by the church. My trust is in what we Protestants hold to as the 66 books of the Bible. As for the Deutero-canonicals, I agree they are important and valid for study, but lack the authority of the rest of the sixty-six books. I firmly hold to what the leaders of the Reformation taught, Sola Scriptura. I know the doctrine of Sola Scripture is debated but I'll just let the debaters debate. I'm not into that dog hunt. It's not up for debate with me.

Now what has all that got to do with me. Well, here's where my use of the term curmudgeon comes that I referred to on Facebook the other day. I'm getting sick and tired of watching the church descend into a works theology. I studied Catholicism for ten years and came to the conclusion it was largely a salvation by works theology. Despite all their protestations to the otherwise, that is the fact. They have confused the works of salvation and sanctification and made them mean the same thing. I fear we Protestants are headed in the same direction.

When I came out of the bins of Catholic theological studies, blew off the dust and brushed the cobwebs of history off my clothes, and stepped into the sunshine of the twenty-first century, I was blinded by what I saw. I had to rub my theological eyes and put on sunglasses to see more clearly what was going on. And what I saw confused me at first, but then as my eyes adjusted I began to wonder, "What is this church I've claimed to be a member of all my life?"

Oh, I've been faithfully attending church, gleefully participating, grousing about cosmetic changes, but mostly chalking it up to my growing older and less flexible. But I'm an introvert and love studying, so I started reading again. And boy, did I get an education. New terms I'd never heard of like, Emergent Church, Emerging Church, Life style evangelism, Ten steps to Holiness sermons, How To Be All You Can Be programs. I heard preached Be The Real You if you just do...You fill in the blank.

I sat back and scratched my bald head and thought...man...what is this. I just left this stuff behind in the church history section of my library. It's the same mistake the Catholic church made, only now in new terminology. And then to boot, I see syncretism seeping into the old theologies with ancient Bhuddist and Hindu practices of meditation being practiced. The reason given is that this is how the early Christian fathers practiced their faith.

In a strong theological term...BALONEY!!! I don't know of any early church father who practiced Bhuddist practices. Yes, they practiced contemplation and meditation, but I just don't see where far Eastern practices were a part of their worship. I know some of my Reformed brethren may disagree with me here because any form of contemplation is held in suspect by many of them. But trust me, I've done my homework on this. I may be wrong, but I don't think so.

But back to my main point. Go online and read through the titles of most of the sermons you find. How many emphasize some kind of verbal statement like, what must I do, or How to (you fill in the blank)? Or "You Can Be A Better Saint by...." Or, Six Ways to Become..., or How to Pray? Or "You Can Be A Better Saint by..." I saw one today called Red Neck Christmas. The lead line was, "We Must Understand God's Holiness and Admit Our Sinfulness"
Now, that sounds innocent enough and it may be a good sermon. But if the lead verb is "I must" or "I need to" rather than how Christ does his work in us to accomplish what we are to be, then you've entered a works theology. And that is a false theology.

Pay attention to what is being preached in your service this Sunday. Make a list. How long did it take for the pastor to say Jesus? Do you know I've sat through an entire sermon without hearing the word Jesus once? What is the lead verb in the message or points of the message? Is it Jesus doing something or is it what you must do or can be? Is the work of the cross in relation to the subject ever discussed? Did you know the cross is swiftly becoming the most despised word in Protestant preaching? (An aside, is it even present in the place of worship) Did you know the cross is off limits because many pastors and church leaders believe that it's too offensive to the one visiting for the first time?

Well, shut my mouth! That sounds like something I read in I Corinthians 1:18 about the cross being foolishness. So, what's new? Of course the cross is foolishness and offensive. But without the cross, we have no message.

Let me expand on one of my questions regarding verbs in the sermon. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs. If he isn't you may have a salvation by works statement or sermon. And here is a bigger question. Are they verbs of Jesus or verbs of pop-psychology?
We are having more sermons based upon psychology than Bible. And that is dangerous. I think, far too often, topics germane to psychology are brought to a text and the text becomes the foundation of the topic brought to it. That is, in my way of thinking, a misuse of scripture. As it's been said often, "A text taken out of context is a pretext". I'm hearing a lot of pretext sermons today. And our people are hurting for it.

Biblical ignorance is at an all time high today. The Bible is no longer given the respect it once had. Church has become a country club rather than a gathering around the altar, the word and sacrament. It's time we return to the preaching of the cross and how Christ is our source of becoming, the one who is the source of our value, love and strength. I believe the most powerful way we can do this is to bring back the readings in the services of the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, Gospel and the creeds. When done right, you give the congregation a foundation of belief that provides a source of strength for every day.

One other point and I'm done with being the curmudgeon...at least for today. I want to harp on Discipleship for a moment. We are being bombarded today with the phrase, "Jesus-Follower." People are dropping the word Christian because it is so misunderstood by many and replacing it with "Jesus-Follower." Folks, that is a works based belief. The action of the verb is on me. It is something I do. I am a Christian, pure and simple. You want to know what it means? Ask me. I am one bought, sealed and delivered by Christ. He makes me what I am. That's where the verb belongs.

I am a disciple of Christ. Oh..that makes me a Jesus follower doesn't it? Well, wait a minute. What is a disciple? If I look into my hand dandy little Greek Lexicon I read, disciple, from the word "mathetes" It means pupil. It is one who is taught. And the command in Matthew 28:19 is to go into the world and make "mathetes" pupils. Today, we have added a second meaning to something that is not inherent in the original. We've added follower. What Christ is saying, He the teacher (didaskalos) teaches us "methetes" to go into the world and make "mathetes", students.

We've turned the great commission on its proverbial ear and made it into a works based faith. If we follow Christ we will be rewarded by him. But what he's really saying, is since we are taught by him through the word, we are then to go and teach others, make pupils.

Maybe I'm belaboring the point. Yes, we follow Christ. Of course. But only because he is the source of our life. There is no way I can do enough to totally please my Lord. He told me to be perfect. Well, from this blog, you know that ain't happening!
So I rely on his grace, his cross, his power because on the cross, he made me perfect in him. And while I don't see the full effects of that today, I know he is using daily living to mold me according to his purposes. Sometimes he chips, sometimes he molds, sometimes he stomps, but since I'm his child, it's his work of love to make me like him. As a result, I slowly become more like him. But it's all grace. By grace alone, folks. It's his work.

I'm done.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Eve Confession

Now THIS is a real Christmas Eve story worth passing on thanks to Orrologian and Richard Wurmbrand.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My New Five Pound Brick

I finally did it. I just received my new five pound brick. It's called the ESV Study Bible. For those of you less interested but curious, ESV stands for English Standard Version. It's one of the best versions of the Bible I've seen. And this ESV Study Bible is a gold mine. I love the ESV translation. I've had a regular ESV Bible for a few years now as well as ESV cassette tapes. (remember tapes?) I've never seen so much information packed into a study Bible like this one. It will take years for me to absorb all that is in it.
Why did I buy this particular Bible? Well, first of all, all my other study Bibles, while good, are rather dated. New archeological studies as well as new insights in the original texts have made a new Bible almost a necessity for the student of the Word. Plus, I like some of the reformed thoughts contained in the notes of the Bible.
Am I finished. No, I'd like to add to my collection a Lutheran Study Bible. From what I've seen it contains some great stuff as well. But that won't be for a while. I'd like an Orthodox Bible simply because of the historical insights of the Eastern church that you won't find anywhere else.
Now...I happen to know Santa has also set another Bible under my tree this year. You know how Christmas goes once it's just you and your wife alone at home. She doesn't know how to buy my books so I give her hints, or ...uh...I buy it and she puts the wrapping on it. Ha Ha. Come on now...don't tell me you don't do the same thing. I've talked to enough of you to know this happens all the time.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to studying the Bible in Chronological order in the very near future. Thanks Thomas Nelson.

Well, that's it for now. Not much news. It seems time is slipping away. My time is so limited on the net anymore. I have little time for my blog. But I'll keep up on it now and then and try to stay in touch with my limited contacts. You'll probably find my name on blogs of others more often than not as I try to reach out to others.
In the meantime...get into the word. The Bible is God's love letter to us.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Real Santa Claus

Rev. Ken Klaus (yes, that's his real name) presents a marvelous video on the Lutheran Men's Network of the real story behind Santa Claus. St. Nicholas was his name and this video is one of the best I've seen. Enjoy. St. Nicholas.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Love - Jaeson Ma

This is a great video. Watch Love by Jaeson Ma

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Know What You Believe and Why

Recently, I have taken a bit of a curve. I am on a quest to see the love of God active in my life. But I also know that love is based upon truth. That's the whole idea unsaid in the great commandment of Christ to love God, love others. The premise is first to love God, we must know Him. And to know him we must know what the scriptures say about him. That's the first half of the love command. He brings to fulness of meaning to all the scriptures, the law, the psalms, the prophets, what we call the Old Testament. In order to know him, we learn...learn about him from these scriptures. And the New Testament highlights the old by completing the picture and showing how what we know in Christ is practiced. Without the Scriptures, we are blind to the particulars about God. Without the Holy Scriptures we cannot grasp the fullness of the love of Christ.
So in light of that, I remember an old title I read many years ago early in my journey by Paul Little called Know Why You Believe. It's a classic and a master piece. It's still available and can be purchased at Amazon.
Today, theology and doctrine have been cast into the shadows and as a result we are casting around a lot of shallow experience related belief systems. Just love and others and God will take care of the rest. Well, a half truth has caused a lot of bad doctrine to be taught. Love is the primary focus of the gospel. But that truth is based upon important truths that keep the idea of love in harmony with the love of God. So as a result teachings bordering on outright heresies are being taught.
I know that's not popular, but truth sometimes is hard to take. So, what's my point? Take time to think and don't get sucked into this idea that doctrine and theology are not important. Turn off the television, your computer, your Ipod, or whatever and do some hard thinking. I'm doing that only because I realize the we live in a world that is crumbling into major confusion and disintegration. I know I must know why I believe what I believe.
So, long story cut short. Go to the New Reformation Press and listen to to great lectures. Craig Barton Esq. gives a great lecture on Why Defend the Faith At All. It's a block buster.
The second is an Introduction to Apologetics by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt. It is one of the best talks I've heard on the subject. Both these guys are Missouri Lutheran guys and are dead on.
If you are not used sitting any longer than 15 minutes listening to talks, stop every 15 minutes and try to write down what the guys just said. If you don't understand listen again. These aren't "Dick and Jane" first grade books. They are meat not milk. Folks, it's time to grow up in our faith. These guys will provide good stuff to grow on.
Enjoy.

Thanksgiving Prayer and Videos-My Gift To You Today

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Lord, so often times, as any other day
When we sit down to our meal and pray

We hurry along and make fast the blessing
Thanks, amen. Now please pass the dressing

We're slaves to the olfactory overload
We must rush our prayer before the food gets cold

But Lord, I'd like to take a few minute more
To really give thanks to what I'm thankful for

For my family, my health, a nice soft bed
My friends, my freedom, a roof over my head

I'm thankful right now to be surrounded by those
Whose lives touch me more than they'll ever possibly know

Thankful Lord, that You've blessed me beyond measure
Thankful that in my heart lives life's greatest treasure

That You, dear Jesus, reside in that place
And I'm ever so grateful for Your unending grace

So please, heavenly Father, bless this food You've provided
And bless each and every person invited

Amen!

--Scott Wesemann



\

Johnny Cash sings a Thanksgiving blessing.

Who can ever forget this?


Thanksgiving sounds and sights by pianist George Winston

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More links To Challenge Us To Think

Some blogs really challenge my way of thinking. The following are prime examples.

Check out...
The Gospel, Old and New

Evangelicals and Catholics...a very good presentation on the similarities and differences. Chris Castaldo presents a very good arguement and one in which I find similar to my own. Read the follow on comments as well as they are thoughtful.

Feeding On Christ...If you love Reformation thinking, here's a gold mine for you to dig around in.

Required Behavior Modification and the Gospel...And how can I not bring a little balance here with my favorite Internet Monk...who is not a monk, by the way...Michael Spenser. Follow the links he suggests. It is great reading and listening.

Change of pace...
Want to listen to some music? Try Steve McCoy's suggestions at Reformissionary for some good Five dollar CD's.

That's all folks...until next time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miscellaneous Postings

Greetings on this day in which much of the Christian world ends the liturgical year with Christ the King Sunday. I hope your day was filled with appreciation for the one who is King.

Today, I list some of the sites I found interesting today. I hope you do as well. Enjoy.

From the Protestant World

1. Ben Witherington on the Bible and Culture, SBL Lecture---Wise and Sagacious Vistas on Matthew.
2. An interesting sermon from one of my favorite Protestant bloggers, Michael Spenser, The Internet Monk. His article On Christless Preaching is a home run in my book.

From the Catholic World

1. From the New Liturgical Movement, Architectural Imagination: Russian Churches
2. If you've never heard these guys sing, you've missed out on a treat. Read about them here in the article on the World of Mysteries website, We trust in the Lord but we still take pills for our health, say classical stars The Priests.
3. From the Vivicat blog, Today's the Solemnity of Christ the King. (some interesting historical explanations here.

From the Anglicans

1. Want an Advent tag for your blog? Try this at Liturgy by Bosco Peters.


Well, that's it for today. It's a slow day today. But this will keep you busy for a while. In the meantime check also check out, The White Horse Inn, one of the best Reformed sites I've seen. Listen to the podcasts and read the articles. It is filled with rich, rich stuff. In the same vein check out Stand To Reason a great site by Reformed apologist, Greg Kouki. One more on the new Reformed views, Reformation 21. These guys will challenge you to think. Great meaty stuff. On this site, particularly check out, Is Idolatry the New Sin? -Reformation 21. It is a blockbuster article and one that needs to be read more than once. I know that I've made some of the mistakes this author spotlights. This is a good one.

As you can see there are tons of choices here. My intent is to find common ground. It's not easy, but it's there.
Enjoy

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nagging Thoughts

Every once in a while I get the nagging thought that maybe, just maybe, God isn't going to do things the way I think he should. Or could it be, others just don't seem to understand that I'm right? Don't you question yourself, at least a little bit? I do. I'm always asking questions of myself.

Like, if Jesus says we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and then love our neighbor as ourselves, then.....why the heck can't I?
I mean, it's so easy to love my wife, my friends and my church but to love my neighbor? Come on...have you seen that jerk?

How can I love a guy I don't agree with? Doesn't he know he should think like me?

Then I get this thought, If I say I love God and don't love my neighbor then the whole mess falls apart. No unity is possible. No harmony is possible and furthermore, I don't love God. I shudder when I think that not to love my enemies tells me I really don't love God.

But...when I know they are wrong and committing grave and serious sin...in my opinion...then how can I love them? Well, does God love them in their sin?
Uh...yeah.
And doesn't God consistently try to reach out to them?
Uh...yeah.
And shouldn't they repent before they are forgiven?
Uh...uh oh...Forgiveness took place on the cross didn't it? Repentance is simple their choice to respond to God's forgiveness through Christ by turning to him.

Folks, I don't love God. I'm learning that to love God means I take on his nature to love others. But in order to love others, I need to fall in love with the Lover.
God is love. I can't make anyone else love. I can't make anyone else be lovers. I can't make anyone become what I think they should become. My job is to be what God wants me to be and that's to be His lover. And when I become his lover, he becomes my lover enabling me to love others. I repeat, my job isn't to MAKE someone love. My job is to love.

I'm not there yet. You'll know when I am before I do, I'm sure. But until then, be patient with me. I goof up.....a lot.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Look

As those of you who visit my blog, I've changed the look. Hopefully, it will be easier to read. I'll be making more changes over the ensuing months. Time is my biggest enemy. I only have a few hours a week to spend time on my blog and the bulk of that is early Saturday morning when all is quiet and I have no interruptions. The rest of the week is hit and miss as I'm still working 40 hours a week and then have little time in the evenings due to the necessity of family time.

My plans are to develop everything to match the title of my blog which is I Am Loved. The chief commandment of Christ was to Love God and Love Others and as a result serve the world. I'm woefully deficient in the latter two, so will be addressing those changes as time goes along. I realize that all the talk about loving God is useless unless I love others, friend and foe. That ultimately means sharing that love by touching the lives of others using the gifts given to me.

I'll never be a polished academic author but in my own simple way, I'll use what gifts and writing skills I have to touch the common man. Love does that. I've always been someone who will fight for what I believe. But I've also come to the belief that doctrine and creeds do more to divide and cause division than they unite. Love teaches me that God is more concerned that we share his nature which is love and try to find common ground between the various understandings of truth. It's our understandings of truth that divide us. There is one truth we can rally around and that is Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It is in Jesus that we learn who the Father is and it is Jesus that we gain an understanding of love, for he is the reflection of the love of the Father and the Trinity. Trusting in the Holy Spirit, I learn that the Holy Spirit enables me to love, teaches me about love and guides me into love. Jesus prayed that we might be one with the trinity. There is nothing more important.

Jesus is my main focus. Love is the expression of his life. If I focus on Jesus, love will be the result. Sometimes that love is tough, but still, it is love. A.B. Simpson said it well in his great hymn Himself which reads,

HIMSELF

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the vail.

Chorus: All in all forever...Jesus will I sing
Everything in Jesus and Jesus everything.


Jesus is the source of true love. If love is to be our message then we begin with Jesus who enables us to love. There is no other message.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Contemplation...AT WORK???

If you have ever studied and practiced meditation and contemplation, I'm sure it has been in relation to solitude, adoration, quiet places or just simply being alone with God. But have you ever realized that work can be a place of contemplation? Yes, I mean bringing Heaven down here, as my pastor puts it, right into the chair I sit at in front of my computer at work. Or maybe you're driving a bulldozer ripping out the walls of a building that is being destroyed. One of my favorite author's St. Josemaria Excriva, founder of Opus Dei, gave his life to making "Heaven Come Down Here." His books illustrate over and over again that Christianity is not just a look into the Heavens for inspiration, but that it is also a mission here on earth. Our daily activities are an act of worship. Read this article Work and Contemplation that appeared on the Opus Dei website a few days ago on November 4th. It is very well done and can be helpful to Protestants and Catholics alike who want to put feet to their faith. Enjoy...and contemplate.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Musings etc

It's no secret when you read my blog that I love our Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ. Oh, we have our differences, of course, but if there is one prejudice we Protestants need to get over is our Anti-Catholic prejudices. Most of what I read that condemn Catholicism are rehashes of partial truths and downright lies. Once you research what they actually believe, you find we are more in harmony than not. And my big God sized prayer is that we someday be one in unity and love.

Having said that, I've also said that Catholics couldn't teach their faith out of a paper bag. They are horrible communicators. Their books are dense, full of Catholic shop talk that no one but them understands. And I doubt most of their parishoners understand them either. Just look at the dropout rate from Catholic catechism classes as well as major seminaries and universities. And when you figure that, in their own words, seventy five percent of their parishoners don't attend mass, you know something is wrong in their education.

But there is a slow shift occurring. In the acedemic world there are lights on the horizon that show promise. Former Presbyterian Scott Hahn is the behemoth on the block leading the way. Rather than me writing on the promising future of literature, read the Musings of a Pertinacious Papist. The blog on November 9th describes some of the bright advances that are taking place through Ignatius Press in San Francisco. You'll find this incouraging.

I would continue to argue that most of the books are still above the average reader, but that is slowly changing. Enjoy this blog.

The IMonk and Cowards

If you haven't read Michael Spenser's blog today, you gotta read this one. He is spot on. Three cheers for saying it right. Read, Gospel Cowards.

If you were brought up in a church that gave you a long list of do's and don'ts to prove your faith,like I was, this is a must read.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Personal Repentence and the Ft. Hood Shootings

I must admit, I need to repent. As one who has faced losing friends in a violent shooting at my former company in the late 1980's I've always held a bit of bitterness toward mass murderers. Some of you may remember the shootings at ESL in Sunnyvale, California on February 18, 1988. I was just a few buildings away when those shootings occurred that took the lives of some of my friends. It's something you'll never forget. And this bitterness always simmers in the back of my mind especially to those who are Muslims since 9/11. But the article below is one that poked at a little chink in my armor that I know has been festering and bothering me for a long time. Do I really love my enemies? Do I lump all people different than me into the actions of one individual who has committed heinous crimes.

Read this article and see if you face the same questions. The Fort Hood Shootings and The Privelege of Disassociation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 50th Anniversary Fr. Groeshel

Happy 50th Anniversary Fr. Groeshel, you are a blessing and an example to all who follow Christ.

Let us all celebrate a man who was a personal friend of Mother Teresa and who most exemplifies the kind of life she led. Fr. Groeshel is a modern day living saint whom God is using in New York and around the world through his exposure on EWTN Catholic TV and radio networks.

May God bless this humble man on this special day. Enjoy this tribute.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Great Video

Here is a great video that supports my earlier cry.

Do You Know What Solo Scripture is?

Do you know the difference between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura? Here's an interesting article on a Catholic response to R.C. Sproul on the Called to Communion, Reformation meets Rome blog. This is something I think we need to quit fighting over. I know that will raise the hair on a few people's back, but if we can't get over these biggies, we'll never be united. I think this guy makes some sense when he points out the circular reasoning of the thinking of the Reformationist crowd. But, right or wrong...and by the way...I'm not in full agreement on his conclusions either...we need to get past this argument somehow. I don't know the answer unless it's to agree to disagree and still love one another and respect our differences over this issue.

I Get Passionate

I get passionate about my beliefs. Gee...no kidding eh?

I make no bones about it. I'm human. I have clay feet. I make mistakes all the time. I goof up, make a fool of myself, slobber when I should spit, bellow to relieve the pressure instead of swallowing my pride. Yep, I sometimes make a fool of myself.

I get passionate about Jesus. He who is love is my love. I'm not ashamed to say that. He is more important to me than any thing in this world or out of it. Jesus is more than a belief to me. He is a person who loved me. Hence the title of my blog. When I screw up, he loves me. When I get angry, he loves me. When I get hurt, he loves me. When I do wrong, (sin) he loves me. And when I recognize that my sin has made me less of a human, he's there to love me and remind me I was made for his love and that repentance needs to be made. There is nothing to stop him from loving me. He is real, he is alive and I love him. Is that schmaltzy? No, simple fact. I know him and love him, period.

I'm also passionate about the church. The church is Christ's body, therefore, I love it. The church is both the invisible universal (Catholic) body of believers and is a visible body of local believers who meet in a specific location. Jesus prayed that we be a unified church. He abhorred division. In his high priestly prayer he prayed that we might be one as he and the father are one. John 17:21-23. I get passionate when I don't see that prayer answered.

Don't think I'm pointing anyone out. When I point my bony broken finger at something, I have three pointing right back at me. I know that I'm contributing to disunity as much as the next person. And I don't love that.
I think this is Jesus' most important prayer. If he prayed for unity then I should pray and strive to make that the number one goal of my Christian life. That's why I harp on this again and again.

We are a broken body. We are divided into thousands of different denominations. We fight over theology, the Bible, each other, liturgy, worship styles and anything else that reinforces what we believe at the moment. And you know what? The rest of the world see that disunity and laughs at us and increasingly considers us irrelevant.

Folks, if our churches are not striving for unity in Christ, then we may as well forget all other programs. If we are not one in Christ or striving for that unity, then all the great preaching we here in the pulpits, all the evangelistic outreaches we ripple out to the community will be worthless.

We need to quit fighting and come together, with all our theological differences and unite under the banner of Jesus Christ. The world will never never take us seriously until we do. Now, the down side of that is, most likely, the world will attack us even more vigorously. I've heard it said the closer you get to God, the more likely you'll get burned. That's the hard part of being unified in Christ. All this talk about love without suffering is nonsense. If we follow Christ, are unified with him and each other, then his love will permeate our churches. It will be a strong love that is exhibited best in suffering and hardship. And it's when the world sees us willing to suffer for the love of them, then we'll see souls come to Christ in abundance.

That's why I get passionate. I don't care a wit about sola scriptura, solo scriptura, infallibility of any magisterium or whatever other doctrines we admire. If we are not seeking unity in Christ and coming together to discover what we have in common and then partnering on those common beliefs, then we are wasting our time. All the mega-churches in the world are nothing if we can't be one in Christ. I keep praying for the day when a Catholic priest can speak in a Protestant church and be loved and accepted as a brother in Christ rather than the enemy. I realize the difference between the Catholic service and the Protestant services. The whole purpose of meeting together is different in a mass. It is not a service but a meeting together for mutual prayer and participation in the Eucharist. The two can't be compared. But, but, somewhere, there should be a place for the Protestant to participate in the mass and not be considered a schismatic.

Now, this is all fine and dandy. Nice thoughts, but utterly impossible for little old me to bring that about. I know, I think that too. But, but..I can find one person to love. One person who is searching. God said not to cast our pearls before swine, meaning, we don't just throw out a big net and hope to build a strong church on whatever the net has entrapped. I think he's implying that he is preparing someone out there for the gospel, and when that one person comes across our path, then there is our ministry opportunity.

My personal prayer is always, Lord, show me that one person who is searching in their own heart for meaning and love and acceptance. That one person who has realized that all the world has to offer just doesn't answer the hunger in their soul. That's the person who has been prepared for me...and you. There is where the rubber meets the road. There is where the church is most effective.

I'm just a lonely voice out here in the blogging world with little or no readership. But, I hope that somewhere, someday, some lonely soul, looking for something different, something with meaning will notice something I've written and will be drawn to Christ as a result. Then, I will have accomplished my goal.

That is why I'm passionate. That is why I bellow and rant now and then. I think the church today has forgotten what the main thing Jesus asked for in his High Priestly prayer. May God do a miracle, for that is what it's going to take, to bring us back together into a fully functioning body of Christ.

Until next time....Be one in love.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Go To Hell!!!

There are times when my blood boils to over flowing and I want to tell all Christian theologians, pastors, philosophers and faux Christian experts to go to hell!! I don't know if I'll post this or not, but let me tell you. I'm really, really pissed.

Oh...Richard....Christians don't say that word! Christians don't get angry.

THE HELL THEY DON'T!!! This is one who is angry right now.

I just read some blogs of some Frank Viola fans along with other blogs from Catholic to Reformed, from free church to liturgical leaders. From Scot Mcknight to Fr. Thomas Hopko, Orthodox priest. Ana Baptist or wanna be Ana Baptists, (misspelled on purpose) to Reformed Lutherans including one my favorites, Michael Spenser the Internet Monk.

All I read are "everybody is wrong from the first century on, and our group/theology/view of church/the body are the only ones that are/is correct. Rome went wrong with Ignatius so we kick them out of heaven. The reformers were wrong because they carried on the tradition of Rome. The new evangelicals are wrong because they have abandoned the liturgy.

A pox on you all. Not one word of how we can unite under Christ Jesus. Hell, even the liberals who try to make church look like the latest theatre production are more honest than most of our so called worship leaders. At least they admit they want to look like the world to bring in the world. Let me tell you a little secret sports fans, I've seen all this garbage in one form or the other for the last 65 years. There's nothing new under the sun and all this "new" stuff is just rehashed self worship of some kind or another.

Where is Jesus in all this. Sometimes I just want to leave Christianity and throw excrement on it but there's no need because the smell of today's church is sometimes worse than the excrement. I'm sick and tired of a Christianity that doesn't have teeth, a Christianity that is anemic when an honest question comes from a non believer. If they ask at all. Christianity is so irrelevant to the world today, it's no wonder nobody listens to us.

How can we be so dad gummed arrogant to assume we know more than those first century writers?? Do we have some secret time machines where our theologians are traveling back to view the ignorant church fathers who somehow screwed up their understanding of the Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew languages. You mean to tell me that when someone said something that was wrong in that first century no one spoke up and said, "I sat at the feet of the apostles and they didn't mean that."? Phooey!! Take all your degrees and bury them. I think ya'll are nuts.

And don't get me going on the worship wars of "how I can't worship" unless we sing in my tradition. (spit) Or even worse, right wing vs. left wing political nonsense in the church.

Harummph!!! O.K. I've ticked off enough of you to win the Outcast award of the month. I'll just go kick around a few boxes, punch a few holes in the wall, sit in my corner with steam coming out of my ears and pout. Leave me alone, I'll have my pity party by myself. Nobody reads my drivvel anyway.

Maybe someone will appear to me who will look like Jesus. Hmmm, I wonder what THAT will look like. He certainly won't come with the line, "our view is the right view." If he does, I have a size 14 boot that will leave a nasty smear on their backsides.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Important Views

It is no secret I'm an enormous fan of N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham. But I also am very aware of many of the controversies regarding his views on Justification. This week the Euangelion website had Michael Horton's review of Wright's book on Justification. It is very, very good. I encourage you to read it.

It is also Reformation Day, the 492nd anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther's 95 thesis. I've said in the past that this is a sad day as it is a day that began all the church splits we've seen since then. But, it is also a day when one man, followed by others, had the guts to stand up against the sins and evils practiced by the Roman church at that time and say "ENOUGH!" Luther didn't want to split from Rome but truth was more important than error. Some stayed with Rome and began the Counter Reformation which continues today with marvelous Catholics who strive for truth. But today, we remember the man who stood in the face of error and, for all his own personal faults, can be considered a saint to remember Sunday on All Saints Day. Thank you Martin.
Listen to a marvelous presentation of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God sung by Steve Green at The Gospel Driven Church website. It will send chills up and down your spine.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Final List 95 Theses

Here are all five lists of the 95 Thesis For the American Church that Jared Wilson has posted this week. I hope you enjoy them.





N.T. Wright Invites The Pope To Durham

I am thrilled that N.T. (Tom) Wright Bishop of Durham has invited the Pope to visit the Durham Cathedral. It's no secret my prayer is for unity with the Catholic Church with Protestants. Tom Wright is one of the world's leading Bishops in the Anglican Church and has a profound respect with Catholic and Protestants alike. His books are some of my favorites. I pray the Pope will accept the invitation and that much will come from this event, should it happen. See the news at Jeffrey Steele's blog de cura animarum.

The Rest of the 95 Thesis

Today, I finally refer you to the last of Jared Wilson's 95 Thesis for the American Church - Part V. Tomorrow I will repost all the links given this week so that you can copy them all together. This is an excellent list which will bring much discussion and reflection. You may disagree with some of them, but I found them very thought provoking. Enjoy.

That's it for today. Short and sweet.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Continuing the Blitz....

Today, I continue linking you to Jared Wilson's The Gospel Driven Church. His 95 Thesis today speaks to the role of the pastorate and will create some waves. I find myself agreeing with him. Enjoy and be challenged.

It's Halloween this weekend. For those of you in the Los Angeles area, The 1920's flick, The Golem will be shown at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre. So for a classical fun and scary evening go and enjoy a great movie.

Growing babies from test tubes with no mommy or daddy? If this is article is true, I see some major ethical issues. Read No men OR women needed: Scientists create sperm and eggs from stem cells

Well, that's all for now...short, quick and sweet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

95 Thesis Part III (and others)

I'm continuing to point you to Jared Wilson's website this week as he continues his 95 Thesis For the American Church Part III. Here are 19 more on the Evangelical Church and its congregations. Enjoy...again

Once again I turn you to Michael Spenser and his Internet Monk website. Today he tackles the big problem we have in many of our churches as well as in society. Men who abuse women are on the rise everywhere. It's all too often seen in our churches, especially those who misinterpret the scriptures that talk about the husband being the head of the wife. This article is hard hitting and to the point. Men, if your are belittling your wives...stop it. Stop it and get help. There is no excuse for a woman/wife/child abuser. Read When Bad People Need A Crutch. It's good.

Can Protestants learn anything from Catholics? You bet! Read this article and listen to Mark Brumley on the Ignatius website. Mark discusses The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. I have an earlier edition of this book and it is good. Enjoy.

Finally, a bit of non-religious techy stuff. I own a 24" IMac at home and absolutely love it. Now Apple has gone one step better and come out with a well priced 27" inch model that makes mine look like an antique. Well, not really, but with the new LED screen it "looks" really, really good. Read about it, especially if you want a great trouble free computer. Go to the Mac Daily News link here and read about it, if you haven't already.

That's it for today. Until tomorrow where I'll contine bringing you the 95 Thesis list.....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

95 Thesis Continued

Yesterday, I linked to Jared Wilson's blog The Gospel Driven Church where he began his article, 95 Thesis For the American Church Part I. Today, He continues with Part II. I encourage you to pick up on where he left off. He has some good things to say.

For some years now, I have questioned the young earth theory promoted by many evangelical creation research folks. For many, it has become a measure of your faith. I've heard comments saying our Christianity should be held in question if we believe in evolution or an old earth theory. Well, I'm not a scientist so won't make scientific claims, but the young earth theory just doesn't make sense to me. I'm one of those who believes the Bible is wasn't meant to be a scientific text book but rather, a book revealing God and his encounter with us to restore us to himself. I don't believe the Bible and science conflict with each other when read correctly, and I believe they complement each other. I am firm in my belief that God created the universe. He spoke it into being. The process or how things developed is up for question. Again, this is my personal opinion.
Today, Scot McKnight reviews a book on this subject which you I find intrigueing. The title of Scot's blog today is Evolution and Evangelicals...What Are The Barriers? I encourage you to read this most interesting blog as he reviews a survey done by Bruce Watke, an Old Testament scholar. I hope you enjoy it.

Have you ever wondered what Pope Benedict is all about? What is he really like and what does he really believe? Carl Olson, a reviewer and apologist for St. Ignatius Press highlights the introduction to the book Christ Our Joy, The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict is one of the leading theologians of our day who has received a lot of negative press, but continues to have tremendous influence. He is making enormous strides toward bringing the church back together as seen in recent moves with Anglicans. Read and enjoy.

Then, there is one of my favorite writers Michael Spenser. He always challenges me, entertains me and when he has me laughing sticks in the pin to bring me back to reality. Today, he highlights Three Push-Button Words that get him going. Enjoy the Internet Monk. He's worth listening to on a daily basis. Download his Imonk broadcast on Itunes and get a Kentucky accented dialog on what is happening in today's world. Read his blog today and get all the links needed.

Finally, maybe, I don't like Reformation Sunday. Rather than being a triumphant celebration we Protestants celebrate on our separation from the errors of the Catholic Church, I see it as a prime example of failure. We failed to maintain unity in the gospel of peace. And we have been dividing ever since, fighting amongst ourselves over our personal denominational "traditions". Stanley Hauerwas, the Gilbert T. Rowe professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School speaks to the failure of the Reformation. His message on the tragedy of the Reformation is highlighted on the Call to Communion blog. Before you crow about being a reformed Christian read this article. It may make you angry, but it ought to make us all, Catholic and Protestant, hang our heads in shame for the splintering that has occurred as a result of the reformation. God have mercy on us for our constant fighting amongst our selves. We need to repent and seek unity with Rome where we are all one with Christ, with the liberty given us in Christ. Read...for God sake...read this one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One More On Celebacy

Celebacy. Why in the world does the Catholic church insist on celebacy? Jeff Penyan tackles this subject today on his blog, The Cross Reference. While I don't think celebacy is necessary, Jeff presents us with an explanation that makes helps us understand the reasoning behind the this seemingly sexist rule. Remember, you cannot equate the Protestant pastor with a priest in the Catholic church. They are completely different roles. Jeff brings all this out in his article The Church and Priestly Celebacy. Read slowly and try to understand. You still may disagree with his conclusions, as I still do, but you'll have a better understand.

Three Different Sites To Enjoy

Some links I found interesting today.

1. Jared Wilson gives those of us in the American Church something to think about on his site The Gospel Driven Church today. He reposts his 95 Thesis for the American Church, Part I. It's worth reading.

2. Why would an Anglican Priest want to convert to Catholicism? Jeffrey Steel provides that answer in his interesting article on his blog De Cura Animarum. So if you wonder what drives a man to leave what he loved, read Jeff's reason which is probably multiplied by hundreds of Anglicans now contemplating leaving their church for Catholicism.

3. The next link is one that links to a pair of sermons heard on the Ancient Faith Radio programs heard on the internet. Fr. Stephen, an Orthodox priest refers to a pair of sermons (homilies) by Fr. Thomas Hopko, one of the leading Orthodox scholars and priest of our day. Fr. Hopko presents a fascinating discussion in two sermons on the Wrath of God. Listen to these sermons and be challenged to a viewpoint few of us ever hear. Go to Fr. Stephen's blog Glory to God For All Things and follow the links there.

That's it for now. That should keep you busy.

Enjoy until next time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Look and Listen

I am listening to a marvelous message by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt from the New Reformation Press. This is a message on the challenges to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America entitled How the ILCA Got Off The Track. Dr. Rosenbladt is a leader in the efforts for a new Reformation, especially in the Lutheran Church. This is a message that speaks to all Protestants as we face enormous challenges today. I have found much to agree with in this recording. I'll bet you will too or you will react against it. Listen closely and ask yourself if any of this applies to your parish or congregation.

Secondly, I've just finished another book, Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli, Senior Editor of the Christianity Today Magazine. This powerful little 142 page book is filled with explanations and examples of the history and foundation of the liturgy of the church. It traces the origins and reasons for the liturgy and why it is making a comeback today in both mainline churches and many of the new Emerging churches. If you are tired of mindless worship services in your church, take a look at this book. It is easy to read and will fill you with wonder at the majesty of real God focused worship. I think Galli hit a home run on this book. It is a way of worship the many youth are embracing and finding that it pays to leave the common noise of the world to enter a sanctuary apart from daily living that give stability.
Enjoy.
That's it for now.
God Bless

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Blog

Occasionally, I love to tweak the noses of my fellow Protestant brothers and sisters by highlighting Catholic and Orthodox blogs. I know some feel I'm too Catholic friendly by that's O.K. One of my personal missions in life is to bridge the gap between my Catholic friends and Protestants to develop a positive dialogue and foster (here's the nasty word) ecumenical understanding. The latest First Things magazine has a great article highlighting this effort to find common ground on the subject of Mary, the mother of our Lord. Read it, it is quite good.

But the blog I'm highlighting today is a new one to me. It is called The Catholic Key Blog. It is often filled with ensightful stuff and worth looking at from time to time. This blog is one of the voices in the Kansas City/St. Louis diocese which is noted for its conservatism and faithfulness to God and the church. Folks, there are some fantastic born again brothers and sisters in the Catholic church and they deserve our ears. So enjoy the blog and let them know your thoughts.

And, just leave a note here to let me know you have read my little blatherings. That's what the button is for.

Time for me to move on....God bless!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Help

I need your help in some research. Recently I finished an interesting book by the home group guru, Frank Viola called From Eternity to Here. It is a book that is challenging and contains many wonderful ideas and thoughts. Frank has also co-written an earlier book with George Barna called Pagan Christianity. I have found this book quite disturbing as it seems to attack and undermine all, and I mean all, branches of Christianity except his own brand which is small group house churches. He is devastating toward the Roman Catholics and the Reformation maintaining that all of our worship in the church today is based upon pagan resources rather than the New Testament. I've only done a cursory reading of it, but it is filled with so many footnotes, it would take a month of Sundays just to research them. My initial observation is that he has taken a portion of facts and built an entire thesis around partial truths. I may be wrong and will be the first to admit it if I am.
His followup book, called Reimagining Church is his view of what the real church looks like, or so he thinks.
I wonder if anyone of you have read the book by Viola and Barna and have any other background stuff that critiques his works.
Thanks for your help.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Study Philosophy and Theology?

I urge you to read this article by Peter Kreeft, one of America's leading Christian Philosophers of our day. Peter is a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and is popular amongst Protestants and Catholics alike. He's a profound thinker and well worth reading. This article, Why Study Philosophy and Theology?, is thought provoking and challenging. Take time to read it, absorb it and think about where your son or daughter may be attending a school of higher learning.
Find a school that emphasizes the kind of teaching Dr. Kreeft is talking about. You won't regret it. I wish I had paid more attention to my philosophy professor when I was in college. I'd probably be farther along than I am.
Enjoy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Adding To My Wish List

I have a pile of books to read, not counting the free ebooks I've downloaded from the web. I love to read. It's a source of relaxation and recreation for me. I also have a wish list. These are a list of books I hope to read someday, but since I don't have direct access to the gold at Fort Knox (I don't know if there is any of that left there or not), I must put the purchases on hold. Plus, I think my floor and wall are already under tremendous strain from the weight of all my books already. Time to cull the chaff and keep the kernals.

My latest additions to the wish list are two books on the book of Revelation. If you know me well, you know I have little patience with the mythology and fantasy of the "Left Behind" series. I'm definitely not a "pretribber". Go look it up if you don't know what I'm talking about.

The two books I've added to my wish list are intriging books. The first is The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham. Bauckham delves deep into history to give a fresh study of this very difficult book.
The second book is Revelation And The End of All Things by Craig R. Koester. Koester is a professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He weaves both current thoughts on Revelation and current events into his historical study without the excesses of so many of the books we have today in the prophetic arena.

I look forward to adding these books to my library. They appear to really avoid the wild speculations you see in so many of today's books on Revelation and prophecy. I'll let you know down the road someday if I really enjoyed them or not and whether they are relative to anything.

Until my next...irregular post....God Bless

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Lesson For All Jesus Followers

Frank Viola has written a great blog today so I urge you to go to it and read Reimaging Church. It's too good to pass up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wrestle Some With This

I'd love some of my Protestant brethern and sisters to wrestle with this blog and come back with some good rebuttals, if any. This brother is a Lutheran who has recently become Catholic. Visit his blog and read it. It's interesting. Visit Beatus Vir and then dialog with this gentleman.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taking A Rest

Well folks. I'm taking a bit of a break. I'll be around and will post little items now and then, but for now, I need to do some serious reading. I don't spend much on time online and with the books I'm reading, I want to spend some more time reading than generating ideas. Plus, I want to study up on how to add readership to my blog. This is still a new science for me and so need to read up on how to be more effective. Plus, I have a lot of sites on my blog that I haven't been able to read lately. I want to communicate with my friends on those blogs too so that I can know them better and they me. So, for now, my entries will be short and not as often.
Take care and for those few who have written...like Pennyyak and Howard, I'll be on your blogs little more...hopefully. One of the things I promised my wife is I'd never allow my computer to take time away from her. So...need to make sure my priorities are straight.

God bless....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ignatian & Sulpician Methods of Meditation

Now, I dare any of you interested in meditations to chew on this little treatise by the great Adolphe Tanquerey. This is an excerpt from one of his books that will wrap you around the mental axle for quite a while. I love good tough readings and this one is one of those. I like to work and wrestle with an author to squeeze out as much as I can in order to understand these great minds. There is much to learn and much more from where this came from. Enjoy the Ignatian & Sulpician Methods of Meditation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shifting Tides

Once in a while I hear a message that is one of those that carries a great deal of significance.
If you are an evangelical, you NEED to listen and watch to this message. We had an unusual service last Sunday when our pastor John Ortberg shared the pulpit with one of the most influencial men of our generation, Gary Hamel. Gary is a member of our church and recently spoke at Willow Creek for a major conference on church leadership. In a time when the Christian church faces unparalleled challenges this message is a must. Whether you agree with Gary or not, you have to admit we are facing the greatest crisis in since, perhaps, the reformation. I've mentioned often how the evangelical church has lost it's identity. Gary backs that up. So enjoy this message "Shifting Tides". Click the link and sit back for a rough ride.
If you are one of my Catholic friends, come along and listen over my shoulder at something that you are facing as well. Masses of Catholics have left your church to join the Protestant church. I know many Protestants are moving in direction of the Catholic church as well for its richness of tradition. But the numbers of those joining the Catholic church can't compare with those leaving your church simply due to the enormous size of the mother church. You are in crisis too. Your parishes are suffering for the lack of priests. We all face this together.
So let's all listen to Gary's message and then probe our hearts to see what the Spirit is telling us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Correction

I made a correction on today's post regarding the author of Did Hitler Win the War? The correct author is Alice Von Hildebrand, not Adrienne Von Speyr, another great philosopher of the last century. Ms. Hildebrand was the wife of the late great Dietrich von Hildebrand, the great Catholic theologian and philosopher of the last century.

Think Out Of Your Box

One of the reasons I blog is to get people to think out of their own personal little box. All of us are shaped by what we read, think, listen to and watch. People shape us, events shape us, and our thoughts shape us. For many of us there comes a point, either sooner or later, when we get locked into a way of thinking and our learning stops. Oh, we keep reading, listening, watching and living, but, for Christians in particular, we stagnate. I know personally people who have stopped growing theologically and spiritually and are locked in their traditions.

We accuse Catholics of being bound to traditions which blind them to "what the Scriptures really teach." Or we accuse them of never growing spiritually because they can't do anything without checking with "Mother Church." And so many Protestants consider Catholics spiritual babies...always having to be told what to do.

Well, folks, it "ain't" just Catholics. We who call ourselves Protestants are just as married to our personal traditions as any Catholic is to theirs. We just don't call them traditions. We give them names. I'm Presbyterian, or I'm Baptist, or I'm Lutheran, or I'm Pentecostal, or, how about this one, I'm Non-denominational. God help us if a Calvinist Presbyterian is confronts an Armenian Assembly of God member. Whew...feathers fly. Both will say, "well, the Bible doesn't support your premise..etc...etc...etc.

And it gets worse. Many of us, without any former Biblical training, get locked into a tradition of someone who has impressed us most. Listen to them and you'll hear something Chuck Swindoll said, or John Ortberg, or T.D. Jakes or the latest cult hero, Joel Osteen. Their whole theology is based on what they've heard or read from these men (and women, Joyce Meyer). People get locked into these teachings and, folks, they quit thinking.

I discovered this in myself many years ago when my life fell apart. I saw I was locked into one way of thinking. My little theological world was so tight, I couldn't imagine that there was anyone else out there who had a better theology than mine. But when my world crashed, so did my belief system. Fortunately, one thing held me together and that was the Scriptures and a few friends, some special people who surrounded me during my pain. Singing with them wasn't easy. Often I clouded my feelings with other activities with them and alone just to ease the pain.

But then, I met some friends outside my circle. Later I was introduced to the woman who literally shook my world. Through her love, I discovered a whole new world. I began to challenge my beliefs. And I haven't stopped. Over the years since those days of turmoil, I have held loosely my belief system. Oh, there's one thing I have held on tightly to my chest and that is a rock solid belief in Jesus Christ and a profound appreciation for the Scriptures. But, I keep challenging my theology. For I know that no theology born in the heart of man is perfect.

Then I discovered the great Catholic mystics and I became hooked. I had been taught nearly all my life that the Catholic Church was the great whore of Babylon. But what I began reading sure didn't look like the writings of a whore. I was aware of all the mistakes in the history of the Catholic Church, but I soon became aware of a lot of our own sins in the Protestant world too. My soul became fed from Catholic writers. Nothing I'd ever read in all my formal and non-formal Protestant training ever came a light year close to some of the rich red meat I got from Catholic writers. And so my prejudices began to erode.

Today, I don't agree with the Catholics any a number of issues. I haven't become Catholic for many other reasons, which I'll not venture into here. But, my spiritual life has been enriched by their writings, obscure as many of them are. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Catholics can't teach their way out of a paper bag but if you work at it, you'll find great truths hidden in their odd way of saying things.

So, having said all that, I encourage you to think out of your little box or tradition. Read some good Catholic stuff. Last week I wrote about magazines I've enjoyed. This week I want to highlight one and challenge you to learn something that may cause you to think a bit. I've picked some great articles in This Rock magazine that you may find different, yet helpful to you. Read them and think. The first is "Did St. Paul Invent Christianity?". This is a major argument between many liberal and conservative scholars today. This article delves into the issue and presents some powerful statements that a good evangelical can buy into. Enjoy.

The second article from This Rock is written by my favorite currant Catholic philosopher, Alice Von Hildebrand, entitled "Did Hitler Win The War."

I'm going to stop there and will continue later. (Time marches on and I've got to get ready for a contractor)
See you at another time.




Think,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Great Magazines

Greetings again. I'm back from a delightful and restful week at Lake Tahoe. My wife and I spent most of the time visiting a few of the tourist shops on the North Shore and then the rest of the time was spent doing absolutely nothing. I had lots of opportunity to get some reading which for me is a vacation in itself. We had a great time visiting the beach where all we did was read and relax. Is there anything better?

Well, I'm not going to share what I read on vacation, but I do want to share some good reading. But this time it isn't books. I want to recommend some great magazines that are well worth your time. The first I want to mention is the leading evangelical magazine, Christianity Today. This is the first Christian magazine I subscribed to when I was in college. There is no better magazine for reading on what is happening in the Christian community. It is well written and covers a broad range of subjects. It is the magazine to go to when you want to know the latest in theological thought, church growth and evangelism. If you are a Catholic, they are largely Catholic friendly, at least many of the authors reach out a warm welcome to Catholics, although you will find it is largely critical of Catholicism. Christianity Today is evangelical as opposed to fundamentalist although there are writers who one can call fundamentalists.

The next magazine I highly recommend is a little known journal called Credenda Agenda. This is a very intelligent magazine, highly intellectual with a distinct classic Protestant understanding of the faith which is mainly Reformed thought. It is a publication with authors primarily from the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. So it's theology is very much filled with reformation theology. It is tough stuff to read, but well worth your time. It is a good source for all those interested in good solid reformed theology.

The next magazine is a Catholic theological and philosophical journal called First Things. This superb periodical was founded by the late great, Fr. John Neuhaus and is the premier Catholic voice addressing the theological and philosophical issues of our day. It is very much for the serious student of religion and is a very accurate and fair journal. It is the Christianity Today of the Catholic world, only more theologically oriented. Protestants and Catholics alike read this journal for it is Protestant friendly. Fr. Neuhaus and Chuck Colson worked tirelessly together for many years to provide a bridge between Catholics and Protestants. It may be hard to find on the newsstand. I've have seen it at Borders and Barnes and Noble. This really should be on your coffee table.

Another magazine I read is one published by the giant Catholic Apologists out of San Diego, Catholic Answers. The magazine is called This Rock. It is perhaps the foremost magazine on Catholic apologetics and evangelism in the nation, if not the world. Folks, these guys are good and do their research. This rock covers a multitude of topics from a Catholic perspective. It will absolutely destroy many Protestant myths regarding Catholicism. Protestants would do well to read this magazine as we have many incorrect ideas of what Catholics believe.
You'll find their faith thoroughly biblical and sound. I'd include any of the authors who write as profoundly Christian, born again believers. You may disagree with them on the finer points of doctrine, which I do from time to time. They post all back issues after a few months delay. Visit all the years and enjoy. Karl Keating is the founder and has surrounded himself with the best of the Catholic Authors of our day.

I haven't mentioned any of the Charismatic journals, primarily because there is so much error taught in those circles. Almost any of the early church heresies that forced the formation of the early church councils can be found in the modern charismatic community. I realize there are many good sound people in that world and I will highlight some of them from time to time. But for far too long we have tolerated teachings that rip apart the soul of the gospel in this movement. In particular, the health and wealth gospel commonly taught in some major churches of our day. I choose not to give them a spotlight, at least not in this blog today.

Well, there you have it. I've tried to be fair and balanced...to quote some obscure news network...
Catholics need to learn that not all of us Protestants are antagonistic toward them and we Protestants need to learn that much of what we believe and the Bible we read came directly as the result of the hard fought battles and bloody sacrifices of the Catholic church. I hope you read some of these magazines. You will be richly rewarded.

Until next time...love in unity amidst our diversity.