Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Mystics Approach to Bass Fishing

Forgive the title!

I sometimes think of the pushback that some people must have to all of us loons who post selfies with fish pushed out to the camera to enhance the view. In a world that for generations has called all fisherman 'liars' this may be the last gasp effort to include the genetic need to embellish the story.

But very few, except hunters and anglers themselves, understand what that pose has meant- going all the way back to your grandfather and his black and whites of impossible stringers.



BASS FISHING AND FAITH

2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Bass fishing is one of the ultimate joys of walking by faith. Even though there are small moments of 'sight fishing' (that has its own exciting reward), there is a pure deep joy of having life bump your lure as it sinks into the unknown abyss.

As you are working the lure, you do receive 'information'- current, a sense of depth, rocks, branches.... but suddenly there is a tap.tap of life. It is exhilarating.

in mere minutes, the angler responds to that sometimes sublte 'hello' with a rather violent and explosive hookset that will result in 'game on' or the agony of defeat.

THE GOOD FIGHT

But that photo represents and even greater message- it is proof of victory. Bass fisherman in particular go through long lulls for sudden and swift battles to land the beast.

Years of experience and the expectations of competition can change the prolonged enjoyment of it all. In the past four or five years I have become better at using the rod and patience to enjoy the fight more than the landing.... but it is a core pleasure of the prize.

SOUL DEEP BEAUTY

Psalm 24
[1] The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
[2] for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

It would take a poet to truly capture the majesty of fishing. Wind, waves, clouds, birds, sunrise, deer... even the design of the fish and their lateral lines and muscular agility.... how can you capture a beauty that resonates deep in your innermost being?

Emerson came close.... (from Nature)- a few lines have been paraphrased....

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature....The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. 

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods (on the water), is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Creator circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, -- master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and waters minister, is the suggestion of an hidden relation between man and creation. I am not alone and unacknowledged. The creatures nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

So next time you see me post a picture, smiling, and holding a bass..just know... it isn't narcissistic pride as it well looks like...

It is a poor expression of the worship and beauty of this rich experience that is more than therapy to me.



P.S.- I enjoy seeing your pictures and videos as well LOL





Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Rise of the Elites


Strange and turbulent times indeed.

I recently read a series of replies to an article by a college student who wrote about a living a life of faith and loving others who see the world in differing lights. I was super impressed with his tone and approach.

The comments were not so kind.... the attack of the elites came in a full frontal force of mockery and criticism.

The author of the article was accused of everything.... the general opinion (not all) was that he was racist, homophobic, oppressive, intolerant, uneducated, and hypocritical.

This correlates with a lot of what we are hearing on college campuses nationwide where traditional speech is being blocked, shouted down...even to the point of violence.

I wish I had time to fully explore how Francis Schaeffer accurately predicted this in his writings before his death in the early 80's.

One of his main points included analysis that there will be a rise of elites who fill the vacuum left when a society abandons absolutes. (How Should We Then Live? pg. 224).

There always seems to be a group of individuals who honestly believe that they care more and know more and so should control our lives. They take away our freedom for our own good.

Jesus Himself had to deal with elites .......

MARK 12:18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.

CONTEXT
This account in Mark 12 is on Wednesday of the last week of Jesus’ life. The conspiracy that will lead to His arrest and crucifixion is growing. This chapter gives us snapshots of the conspirator’s tactics and attacks.
The Parable of the Tenants (vs. 1-11) provides the backdrop that people attacking God’s servants and killing them is a sad and consistent testimony of man.
He has already avoided the trap of the Pharisees and some of Herod’s representatives who wanted to paint him as a rebel against Rome (‘Render to Caesar’ vs. 13-17) and now he finds Himself confronted by the Sadducees.
 In my personal reading, I think it is easy to mischaracterize these ‘sects’ of Judaism and it is a mistake to lump them all together under one umbrella of faith.

PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES- The Elites of Biblical Times

Pharisees were everywhere. In the 400 year period between the Old Testament and New, the Pharisees grew in prestige and power. They roamed the streets, oppressing the people to follow all the mechanized dictates of their law. They had corrupted the Word of God by adding layer and layer of rules and regulations.
They used their teaching to indoctrinate the masses that God was pleased by their rule keeping. And as all religions of works do- created a spiritual class system of ‘compare and compete’. Pharisees were numerous, influential, and extremely proud and protective of their practices.
 The Sadducees were a minority. They were less visible, confining their sect to the Temple. They were strict constructionists… not accepting any text of authority beyond the five Books of Moses. They were the elites and in their aristocratic circles had found an ally in Rome.
Even though they were a minority, early historians comment that they were the most vile and ruthless in  fear and oppression. Pharisees were pragmatic and needed to get the participation of the people- Sadducees had the corner on the truth and did not care if anyone else followed- they had Roman firepower if they needed it.
Sadducees were most noted for their rejection of a resurrection because they could not find firm evidence for it in the Pentateuch AND they found the Pharisee’s fanciful speculation about it rather ridiculous.
 THE CONFRONTATION WITH THE CHRIST
It looks like the Sadducees are trying to kill two birds with one stone- take advantage of the Pharisee’s blunder (vs. 13-17 Questions “Render to Ceasar”) and show both Jesus and the Pharisees as ignorant of the true Word of Moses.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians: “we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
Intellectual elites tend to be engulfed in arrogance.
 Jesus’ response to their theoretical situation completely flies in the face of their self supposed superiority.
 “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” and again at the end of the passage, “You are quite wrong”.
To pile on, Jesus goes to Moses himself, to prove His assertion:
 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living.
He uses their own proof text to destroy a hallmark of their twisted theology.
C.S. Lewis has the famous quote in his book, The Great Divorce,: 
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell chose it.”
As I walk the aisles of Barnes and Nobel, I see rows and rows of writers who in arrogance proclaim that either God is not there or He is not needed. They are modern day Sadducees who deny the resurrection and use their proof text of reason.
The antithesis to this is to cry out to God for a heart of humility, a yielded spirit, and a will that is open to His rule.
And I fear those who clinch their fist- bow up and live according to the facts as they see them. Men are not omniscient enough to be that sure.
Now..one last reality... the adversarial wind of secular critics is not going away anytime soon. And I doubt you will ever WIN any arguments. The key is to follow the Lord's lead, love people, speak truth in love, and hope you win people in time.
  • Continue to challenge yourself to avoid the traps of intellectual elitism. Those who enter the kingdom of God do so in childlike trust and humility.
  • Don’t use your dogma to dominate others. This doesn’t mean you can’t take hard stands, but reason with others, winsomely persuade opposition, and diligently pray for those who resist. Hard to do on the internet.... take time with people.
  • Those who are MOST wrong are those who see no possibility of being wrong.
  • There are absolutes- even Jesus says the words, ‘You are wrong’.
  • That is the beauty of the gospel message- it is not about those who are right,  it takes care of the humble sinners who are wrong.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Church of the Real Jesus

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.  (John 8:58-59 ESV)
 I want to be SUPER SPECIFIC and CAREFUL here. There is really only 1 church- the triumphant invisible church that has been selected, saved, and sealed by the King.

"So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again." John 10
But there are MANY false teachers, false gospels, and we must always be careful to study and test for TRUTH. Are there true Christians in false churches? Yes. Are there false Christians in true churches? Yes.... Jesus covers this in the parable of the wheat and tares.
The internet hasn't helped 
So how do I know if I am in a congregation of truth? It takes time... because of human nature... it takes wisdom.
But is always BEGINS with Jesus Himself.... not theology. What do you say about Him?
And a good starting point with Jesus is to consider all of His "I AM" statements.
When it comes to Biblical ‘code’ (pardon the term), nothing identifies Jesus as God more than saying “I AM”. It was how God revealed himself to Moses and it is the identifying and unifying mark of Jesus to the Father.
This is a distinguishing characteristic of the Gospel of John that has, as its theme, the compilation and presentation of Christ as God. I have always been impressed by the beautiful compliment of John’s account with the other three gospel accounts  which we refer to as the ‘synoptic (same view) gospels’.
Now, how do you counter liberal theologians and their views that the life of Jesus has been twisted to fabricate events and statements that, they would say, He never made? A core principle of liberal theology is a dismissal of the miraculous and an academic interpretation of ‘the historical Jesus’ as a more likely scenario.
I have always said the premise should start with the possibility of the miraculous if someone like God is in the equation. And if God does exist, then all of the testimony  AND the protection of the narrative is very plausible.
If you remove the miraculous, even on ‘objective- scientific’ grounds- you have removed a huge variable AND you have to come up with a narrative that explains creation, life, and current human existence including love, language, logic, law- including  all of the ‘psychological’ factors of humanity- desire, significance, etc.
I have read some of those theories….. they take more faith to swallow than anything the Bible presupposes!
Why do I believe the gospel accounts of Jesus and the Spirit empowered teaching of the apostles as they proclaimed God’s covenant promises to the world?
Something VERY significant happened to change cowards into world changers.. to change the symbol of the shameful execution of criminals to become a symbol of hope found around the globe.
And something was SAID or done by this person for Him to be executed on the cross.
 See, whether you believe in Jesus or not, there are FACTS that are accepted by legitimate scholars of history on both sides of the debate. Jesus did exist…. He was crucified… He did die….. He was buried…. and His body was never presented after the claim of resurrection and His disciples gave their very lives to the testimony that He rose from the dead.
If you run into skeptics who do not accept those minimal facts…. then you are dealing with a dishonest person or an uneducated/deceived person.
Liberal theology, which I believe was a subtle slide into heresy, was a product of intellectual elitism- those who wanted to stay relevant to the world and who compromised difficult truth to acquire academic acceptance. It elevates man’s thoughts/wisdom above Biblical claims. And in the end, presents a false Jesus. A Jesus, they say, who did good, preached love, was a good teacher who did good things and whose example is good to follow.
They would say all of this supernatural, resurrection stuff was an add on years later to propagate the myth of the man. Or to interpret the resurrection as ‘figurative’ or ‘symbolic’ and not real.  And 2,000 years later we are smart and educated enough to sort out the real from the fabricated.
But they wanted to stone Him….. why?
Because HE did make the following statements and those around Him KNEW what He was saying.
 John 6: 35, 48 I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 I am the light of the world
John 10:9 I am the door
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 15:1 I am the true vine
 One commentator makes an interesting comment regarding the greek text here: 
When Jesus says, “Ego eimi,” Jesus refers to his divine being. Ego eimi is translated as “I am”—ego is “I” and eimi is “I am”. As you can see,ego eimi is an emphatic form. In Greek, to say “I am”, all you need to say is eimi. The proper way to translate ego eimi would be, “I myself am”. But when Jesus says those words, it means more. Earlier in John, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” When he said this, the Jews tried to stone him to death? Why? For what Jesus said spoke clearly, at least to the Jewish mind, that he was God. For God called himself, “I am that I am.” And Jesus presented himself as the eternal God by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” So when Jesus says in John, “I am [something],” his divine nature is implied. And when Jesus says that he is the good Shepherd, it means more than that he is a great leader of people; it means that he is God, who came to shepherd his flock.
 Friends…. never before has the foundations of faith been under attack. I spend hours reading and listening to Biblical analysis from all sides.
 The tragedy is saddest of all when those who claim to be ‘evangelical’ buy into the teaching and presuppositions that come from liberal traditions of Biblical interpretation.
If your church or teacher does not have a high view of Scripture as the the truth of God, given, protected, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit….
If they do not teach a high view of Jesus- THE Son of God WHO is the ONLY way to a Holy God….
If they do not teach a salvation that is by God’s sheer grace alone… not merited at all by our good works…..
If they seem to counter simple Biblical commands with all kinds of caveats and ‘ social updates’…..
Then it is likely they are not teaching  the “I AM” Jesus…
 If your church presents a ‘social gospel’ – do good things for good people to get a good grade by the good God….
If your church teaches a ‘prosperity gospel’- sow the seed of faith to be wealthy and healthy….
If your church teaches an ‘accommodating gospel’- live any way you want to- It’s OK…..
If your church teaches a ‘Wordless gospel’- don’t worry about reading the Bible- just be like Jesus….
If your church teaches a ‘Workless gospel’- don’t worry about holiness because Jesus is cool with you…
Then it is likely that they are not following the “ I AM” Jesus….
 So is there a way to KNOW you are trusting in the “I AM” Jesus?
 Is HE your bread of life? Do you have to feed on Him to make it?
Is HE your light and you see Him as THE LIGHT of the world? Our only true hope and truth?
Is HE your door to salvation? You only trust in Him to grant you access to God’s Holy throne?
Is HE your good shepherd? You read His word, listen to His voice? Follow Him?
Is HE your resurrection and the life? Do you see that He conquered death?
Is HE your way, your truth, and your life? Forsaking all others?
Is HE your true vine? You are merely branches? Apart from Him you can do nothing?

And if I am honest I will say….  I would like for all of that to be true, but I fall so short!
or
Maybe I am just ‘saying’ I want it to be true….but if I am honest, I have failed.
or
‘Lord, help me!”.. I am not even CLOSE to having this kind of trust and dependence on YOU!

And that is why the ‘gospel’ is GOOD NEWS. It begins with a simple realization…”I have failed!”…that results in a  trust in the Great I AM…it  means falling on His offer of forgiveness based on His sacrifice on the cross. It is proclaiming that He is God and He is trustworthy to do what He has promised. It is a willingness to  forsake of your evil heart desires and endeavor to follow Him as the lover and purchaser of Your life. It is a recognition of Him as the King and a trust that He has forgiven you and you are now His adopted son or daughter. And if that is true, it means a desire to live as a royal ambassador in a world that is dying in darkness, needing the same Savior that they naturally despise and hide from.

It is never too late..cry out to Him today! He is no mere ‘historical’ Jesus- He is the Living One- the Alpha and the Omega!

See the simple way His beloved disciple said it:

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his SonWhoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
(1 John 5:11-13 ESV)

It is simple…. Do you have the Son?

If you don’t know, ask Him to show you….

Please seek out Bible believing pastors, counselors, or friends to help you get grounded in your faith.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How We Often Get Matthew 18 Wrong




“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”


 I have spent all of my professional years in service of Christian Institutions. I consider it a great honor, privilege, and challenge to do so. There ARE MANY benefits and good that Christian Institutions do and the stability of an institution is a great benefit to a society that suffers the corrosive effects of sin.
And ALL of the institutions I have served in or visited contain policies that refer to the ‘Matthew 18 Principle’ of resolving conflicts or disputes.
The “PRINCIPLE” is sound and I will explain it. The problem is that like any good tool, it can be misapplied or misused. A good tool used in an improper way can have the unintended effect of a weapon… and this is where we have to be SO CAREFUL and thoughtful in working through conflict.
FIRST… THE CONTEXT OF THE ABOVE PASSAGE
A survey of the entire passage puts this text right in the middle of teaching on temptation, stumbling blocks, forgiveness, and mercy.
This is just a ‘guess’- but the fact that Matthew is the only gospel that records this specific teaching may be due to Matthew’s background as a tax collector. He understood temptation, sin, and mercy in a VERY personal way and he had great love for the tenderness that Jesus granted towards him!
All of this started with a ‘rivalry’ among the disciples on the question “who is the greatest in the kingdom”… might be good to study that at some point. Did the other disciples feel left out at times, like when Jesus took the top 3 to the mountain and they are being really quiet about it?
Jesus answers all of them by pointing out the innocence and humility of a child. He follows that with a big WOE… to anyone who causes one of these to sin. He comments on the inevitable nature of temptation and He teaches a fierce fight against personal sin.. using language like He had used in the Sermon on the Mount (cutting hands and gouging eyes). Sin is nothing to play with!
But as serious as sin is… God’s mercy is always greater. God’s grace is greater than dark sin! So Jesus follows up this condemnation of sin with the Parable of the Lost Sheep… God rejoices when a sinner is found and returned!
That leads us into Matthew 18…. the context is that the goal of this process is grace and restoration…not to the extent of excusing continuous sin…. but erring on the side of grace and letting the consequences grow out of an ever widening effort to restrain it.
AFTER THIS PASSAGE… THE CONTEXT STILL MATTERS.
Peter comes and asks about ‘often to forgive’ and Jesus gives His famous ‘seventy times seven’ response. He follows that up with the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The one who was forgiven, but refuses to show the same mercy to others- and then is thrown into prison. Jesus closes the account with “So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The BEAUTY of Matthew18

God is EXCEEDINGLY GRACIOUS:  Not only does He seek the restoration of sinners, He prescribes a process to protect the accused and the guilty. Notice the process…. it keeps the sin and information in the smallest possible circle it can.
If I go to my brother or he comes to me and there is confession, forgiveness...it should end right there. And the reputation of the offender is protected for the good of all.
This is why the sin of gossip and rumor spreading is extremely egregious. Notice, it is one on one… then 2 or 3 on one. The goal here is to protect the accused, even if he is guilty.
The Consequences Come in Time and Through a Process of Turning Points: We never go to the most extreme consequences at the beginning. Each step along the way is a loving confrontation and a chance for repentance.

The HARSHNESS of Matthew 18

There is ultimately a consequence for a sinner who will not repent. And if the process was pure, the punishment is proper. Notice, what the consequence is… the person in question is regarded as an unbeliever- and is not considered to be a part of the body of Christ.
Like all ‘unbelievers’ the offer of the gospel remains, but the fellowship is now broken with the community of believers.
Hard…but necessary for the purity and protection of the gospel.
This is how Paul stated it- pulling no punches:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)
 So, now that we have looked at this in concept and context….. how do we get this wrong?
#1 If your brother sins against you..... Some people use Matthew 18 as an excuse to file a grievance, or a personality conflict, when ‘sin’ is not clearly in the picture.
Matthew 18 is not meant to be a 'search out sin in a person to cleanse the church' text. This is in the matter where a sin has been committed against another Christian. It is a process for a remedy of restoration. It is about relationship more than righteous living. This doesn't mean that a church is not to practice discipline.... and there are 'principles' here for a wise process for going to someone privately and discussing differences. But this passage is about confronting sin… not a personality clash or difference of opinion.
I get frustrated at the small things that cause such big upheavals in supposed ‘christian’ relationships.
John MacArthur has written a helpful guide when considering whether to confront someone or ‘bear with it”.
“Let Them Know or Let It Go?”
 I especially like his first point:
 Whenever possible, especially if the offense is petty or unintentional, it is best to forgive unilaterally. This is the very essence of a gracious spirit. It is the Christlike attitude called for in Ephesians 4:1-3. We are called to maintain a gracious tolerance (“forbearance”) of others’ faults. Believers should have a sort of mutual immunity to petty offenses. Love “is not easily angered” (1 Cor. 13:5). If every fault required formal confrontation, the whole of our church life would be spent confronting and resolving conflicts over petty annoyances. So for the sake of peace, to preserve the unity of the Spirit, we are to show tolerance whenever possible (see 1 Pet. 2:21-25Mat. 5:39-40).

I wrote about this on May 18, 2014
And the ONLY way to maintain unity is a willingness to ‘bear with one another”.
The means sometimes we ‘overlook an offense’ or as I Corinthians 13 says “… Love does not take into account a wrong suffered”.
I was told that the way porcupines are able to sleep together is they ‘pull in their quills’.
In the goodness of the gospel, we need to be willing to lift up others, accepts others, encourage others, bear with one another- and we live with a mission to encourage others- even to the point of great hospitality.

I also believe this is in keeping with the CONTEXT of Matthew 18- forgive, show mercy… seventy times seven.
At the same time, I Corinthians 13 has a balancing verse regarding ‘love”.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)
This is what seems to be ‘counter-intuitive’ about the gospel. The good news is good news in the LIGHT of bad news… sin is serious and it causes serious problems. Lack of conformity to or transgression of God’s Holy and Moral Law causes pain, regret, emptiness, shame, and broken relationships. Though some may try and pass a blind eye to ‘victimless’ sins… there is no such thing.
This means that a loving confrontation of sin is NOT a lack of love or mercy… applying a process of discipline is a loving act if done in accordance with God’s Word. This leads to a second way we get Matt. 18 wrong.

#2 Matthew 18 requires initiation of the process in humility, love, and prayerful wisdom.
If you KNOW of a brother or sister who is sinning openly with no evidence of even a desire to struggle or seek help and you do NOT privately talk to them about the sin, you are enabling the sin as a co-dependent.
NO ONE likes to do this. And often this initiation will be received with anger and a charge of hypocrisy or ‘you think you are holier than thou’ attitude. It can mean the loss of a friendship or isolation. It may result in persecution.
 But the entire passage is based on a premise that unrepentant sin has possible deadly and eternal consequences. Sin IS SERIOUS.
#3 Matthew 18 is misapplied when we use it as a springboard for launching gossip and rumor.
Sadly, in Christian circles, bad information travels with the speed of the internet and the accuracy of a weatherman. I am saddened to have men and women express concern that a prayer meeting is just a mask for the current gossip line.
If you find yourself getting energized by rooting out sinful behavior and you HAVE to know all the details…. then you ought to be VERY concerned that you are just a busy body and by sticking your nose in all kinds of other’s business… you are only making things worse. You do not have love, mercy, and restoration as your motive.
I wish I could go into detail more about this- I’m just saying that anytime I get involved in a discipline case…the information that ends up going around about the case is almost always incorrect. The worst instances have been when a disciplined student or family goes out and tells their version of the information, but because of confidentiality requirements, I am not able to set the record straight.
We do this with public/media cases as well. Remember, if you do not have all the facts  you need to restrain from taking strong stances or voicing strong opinions.
#4 Seeking a confidential counselor or taking an intermediary to make the initial confrontation is NOT a violation of Matthew 18.
In fact, for protection sake, it is sometimes a very wise thing to do.
I get frustrated over this one. If someone comes to see me for advice on how to approach someone, they are not violating the Matthew 18 principle. No, the principle is violated when a conclusive verdict or decision is made before the one accused of sin is approached with the information in a timely and humble way, which allows the opportunity  for the accused to explain, defend, or confess.
This is especially true if the one about to be confronted is older, powerful, or a potential threat. When Jesus says to go with you and him alone, it does not cancel out his advice to be ‘shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves’.
I believe an explanation is due if the first approach in not one on one. But for the sake of security and common sense, it is always admissible to seek confident counsel or have a mediator(s) present if there is concern about security or safety.

#5 There can be NO fellowship breaking without giving the time to have solid evidence presented, a chance for response, and a chance for change.
Unfortunately, this goes with the nature of my job as I am charged to bring consequences of violations to our school’s handbook. The biggest issue is that I cannot give consequences without solid proof or reliable, eyewitness testimony. I say “there is what I think I know, and what I can prove”. And though it may not require a standard, beyond any reasonable doubt, I do believe that I need to err on the side of patience and precise information.
A rule of thumb is that if a person is bent on violating laws, standards, policies… they will give more evidence in time.
But I have people express frustration over the TIME it takes to bring meaningful consequences into a situation. Matthew 18 provides no framework for TIME except the process needs to move to each successive step.
Seventy times seven is a long time… but God has been patient with humanity for over 2,000 years.

#6 When the proper procedure has been followed, extreme consequences are NOT a lack of mercy.
When a church discipline committee has properly acted in doing due process, due diligence, and prayerfully seeking reconciliation, they are NOT violating gospel love if they give serious punishment.
I get asked many times after giving a punishment, “Where is the love? Where is the grace?”
And in my mind I say, ‘I just did it’ BECAUSE sometimes punishment is the only chance of seeing repentance take root.
The Psalmist says it well:
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.   (Psalm 119:71 ESV)
Paul agrees:
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV)

If I suspend someone, or even in the event of an expulsion…yes,  that is serious punishment- but nothing like the real world punishment that will come if that person does not change their attitude or behavior.
Final note:
The failure of Bible believing and gospel preaching churches to practice church discipline has had tragic results in our society. No doubt, when we practice Matthew 18 in an incorrect way, we also do much harm.
My prayer is that we will faithfully support and humbly work through these important issues for the purity of the Bride of Christ and the honor of Christ’s name.
Here are many good resources regarding this issue:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Conversations with House, M.D.

In 2011, I wrote a series of blog posts that were a result of watching many episodes of the popular T.V. show that ran on Fox. It received quite a reaction.... including one of my football dads who texted me and said he was praying for me and this crazy doctor I was talking to!

These posts only make sense if you watch the show, and I don't know the appropriateness of trying to engage in apologetics discussions with a fictional character- but I am always motivated by a simple truth.... all people need Jesus... we all have trials and sin.... God loves us no matter our condition... and the gospel is calling out to us even in our darkness and distance.

Conversations with House- The Breakthrough


I don't know how long it took for Greg House to finally allow me to converse with him. I knew it would be unlikely that he would ever respond to someone like me, and I had pretty much given up ever having the chance.

I am not worthy of this dialogue and I feel very unqualified to succeed- I'm not even a great representative of my faith. I often chided myself over my lack of prayer and I'm not one to fast (which is self convicting), which made Dr House's response more than a shock.

Of course- you can play endless mind games with House- is this really him? Is this a set-up for a take down? Is he intrigued or is he just going to finally let me have it with a venomous loathing? Why did I finally get through? What will be the medium of communication? Is this 5 seconds? 5 minutes? 5 years?

Many of you will ask why I chose to reach out to him. And I don't know why.  Is there a part of me that wants to be significant in a larger sense? Is it just another tribute to my selfishness and pride?

Deep down though- I feel honorable motives. Dr Greg House ultimately represents a world view that has connection with a large segment of power players in our culture. A large number of people are drawn to him, partly for entertainment, partly for intrigue. We think about him and empathize for him. But I also think there is a high regard of respect because he honestly endures pain, both physical and deeper wounds of the heart. Yes, he hides and uses pretense (like we all do) but he is honest in his openness of deceit. And this transparency only exposes how deep and complicated the human heart is and why relationships are tangled and intertwined in 'soap opera' type narratives. Life is indeed stranger than fiction.

Dr House is humanity and all humans need exposure to the gospel. A gospel that is often hidden and perverted by all three enemies: flesh, culture, and evil.

My smart phone buzzed- a text- "Your persistence has annoyed me long enough. How do I press CANCEL?"

I spent a good half day pondering it. He knew who I was. He responded. He had a large number of options including lawyers, police, hospital administration, changing numbers, but he responded in person.

My olive branch had been simple but continuous.

'Dr House, I am a coach and teacher, and have admired you from a distance. You have a articulated a strong view that God does not exist. I would love a short window of time to challenge that worldview- just one on one. I desire no publicity and it is unlikely I will persuade you- but I want to at least offer a friendly back and forth. I am your ally not your enemy."

I would change the wording from time to time to indicate that it was not a 'cut and paste' deal. One time I just texted, 'I'm not a robot- just thought about you today- and look forward to our conversation."

The weird thing is that he never replied. Had he texted even one time- 'Stop bothering me'- I would have stopped. He never texted 'How did you get my cell?'

So as long as there was no response, I just kept it up. Not everyday- no real pattern- just a quiet prayer that he was reading and deleting- and that maybe I would get a shot.

Now, one last weird premonition. I feel like he had been checking me out on the internet. I keep track of my page views and visits on my blog and website. There is a lot that can be found out about me just on a google search.

And for a week or so I have noticed increased traffic on my posts tagged 'apologetics'. This is not that uncommon- but the search source was a .edu and then came the text.

That evening I responded.

"Thank you for the response. I hope to prove to be a man of my word. All you EVER have to do is say STOP and I will never text you again. But the best thing you could do is have an initial conversation with me and then decide if this exercise has any benefit for us."

And now, I just wait- intrigued- and playing mind games. Whose voice is talking to me right now?- "You are such a hypocrite and self righteous fool- there are plenty of other people to reach out to and try to impress with your half-wit logic- but you are spending time on this dead end road."

I just push back in my thoughts- 'Nobody is hurt by this. I'm just following a heart hunch- which can be dangerous- but God can close any door he chooses. He can open them too."

Conversations With House- Peppered and Fried



My phone buzzed and I knew that the game was still on:

"I'm going to call you at 2- I need to hear your best southern redneck y'all."

I spent the morning wondering what was going to happen- this was an adventure for me as well. This is the type of exam you are never ready for- but my foundation has always tried to stay close to I PETER 3:15; "...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone that asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence..."


And I have spent a good part of the last 25 years trying to do that- preparing and sharing.

I had a light lunch and prayed, spending some time laughing at myself that I am excited about speaking to House but God is not a respecter of persons- I should be just as excited about sharing with my cashier at Publix.

2:00- 2:03- 2:05- 2:15 the phone never even flickered.

I went on the rest of my day wondering- it should have been so obvious....

My phone rang precisely at 1 o'clock AM - 2:00 eastern and it was somewhat obnoxious at the late time of night.

I tried to gather myself. 'Hello?'

"Did I wake you up?" It was him! He was short and already forceful and rude.

"Yes"- No need to lie now.

"Good. You need more drawl. Say something like 'nice white rice'"

I said it.

"I'm already disappointed- play it up a little for me 'niiiiice whiiiiite riiice'"

"Thank you for responding to my request."

"Well, I have no idea in hell why I decided to waste time on you. All you have done is annoy me. And you are wasting your time- but I thought I might as well spend a little time tearing your tooth fairy boring life view to shreds."

I started to reply when he boldly cut me off in mid breath..

"Here's the game. Time for me to annoy you. I will call you and ask you questions from time to time. No need for pleasantries. I ask. You answer. And I will stay on the line as long as you keep me interested. Do not call me in any circumstance. We will do this until you figure out that there is no God or I decide I am bored or I am finally convinced that you are too stupid to learn truth."

CLICK- He was gone. The game was on.

3:15 AM my phone rang. I pushed the answer button and without even hello he started.

"IF God is good and God is God why am I suffering in pain? Why are there children dying of disease? Why do most of the world not only live in hell but according to your dogmatic doodoo are going to hell as well because they don't worship a naked man on a tree?"

I replied as calm as I could:

"You aren't asking a question, you are making general and vague accusations. What do we mean by God? What do we mean by good? And who are we to judge where anyone is going- that is the duty of the deity?"

CLICK.

And that was what the next three weeks consisted of. My phone would ring 2-3-4 in the morning. He would pepper me with a question- mostly old school apologetics classics- found in any textbook. I would start to answer and he would shut it off. Sometimes in the middle, mostly right at the end of my quippy response.

The toughest thing was that I didn't feel good about sharing this with anyone- I knew he was going to check me out- and I wanted to assure him that I had not told a soul.

But I was beating myself up pretty good. He was now the one annoying me. I was his toy. The cynical side of me was beginning to convince myself that I was his new enjoyment. Let me pepper and fry this southern hick religious nut.

I imagined him sitting in his chair, with his glass of whiskey, trying to nod off in pain and I was his last little jolt of the day. I imagined that mischievous smirk staring through the ice as he laughed at new game.

My guess is that I received 20 or more calls. He had one a day for me.

3:15 AM BUZZZZZZZ- "Are gay people going to hell?"

"We all are going to hell if we stand before a holy God and no justification for our sin."

"That was your worst answer yet. You are so political. So safe. So polished. These things come out of your mouth like some differential diagnosis my staff throws out. You have no passion- you really don't care about anyone. And your logically flawed and silly philosophy is not even worthy to be sold as horse crap." click

His words stung me. I was no longer enjoying this. My cynical self was now lecturing me about 'casting my pearls before swine'.

What have I done? I just prayed silently, cursed the darkness, and felt my frustration build over another sleepless night.


Conversations With House- Miracle from Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital




I don't know if it was my answer or if he was growing bored.

I picked up the cell after it buzzed just after midnight- very early for him.

"Do you believe in evolution?"

"Yes"

It was an awkward pause.

"Why?"

"Because the science is sound. All species because of their genetic make-up and environmental factors undergo slight, successive variations over time."

"Are you reading these answers?"

"No, Dr House- but I am trying to be very careful and succinct when we chat."

"So you say the earth is millions of years old and young earth Christians are morons."

"No sir, I did not say that. To make that statement, you have moved beyond science in my opinion and become speculative- not illogical- but not provable beyond a reasonable doubt."

And then he lost his temper - for real this time. He was speaking so fast, so crude, and skewering me that I was having a hard time keeping up. It's funny- but before he had stung me- yet I was kind of enjoying this  rant.

I now know why- calling me passionless and safe hurt my pride. Calling him unscientific and speculative hurt his.

"Look, Dr House, I'm no scientist- I'm not even a true theologian, but from what I have read, all we can document is change in species within species but there are divided opinions as to whether there is proof of species transformation. Yes, birds beaks grow during long droughts, but they also trend back to average size when the rain returns."

It was the longest I had ever spoken to him without a hang up or cut off.

And next came the most unexpected bombshell, one I could have never guessed.

"I'm changing the game now."

I don't know how long the pause was, but it was riveting. My heart beat was audible in my ear and a surge of endorphins made me take quick crisp breaths.

"You are coming to see me. I am going to put you through a 5 day gauntlet. You will fly out next Thursday, you will stay at the Nassau Inn, and you will return to Alabama on Tuesday evening. And- this is almost a miracle of water and wine significance.... I'm going to cover the expenses myself. Someone from the hospital will call you in the morning to set up travel details. So you are going to at least tell your wife now that you have broken through and will personally proselytize the infamous House." click

What have I done now?

Conversations With House- Finally Face to Face


I arrived at the Nassau Inn on the campus of Princeton in no shape to spar with Greg House. I was tired and the trip had been more difficult than I desired.

I did feel a resurgence of anticipation when I saw how beautiful Princeton was this time of year. I was especially thankful to finally arrive at this historic hotel.

I guess I'm reeling as well from the initial uneasiness my wife and family had over the news and sudden trip. Does it ever turn out well when you tell people you love that you have been holding a secret?

My wife knows of Dr.  House well enough to be afraid of what shenanigans he may be up to. I have those same fears.

My guess is that a face to face with him means challenges of my personal faith- where will I compromise? Where will I show inconsistency? Will he ask to meet me in a strip club? Will he set up a game of shots? Will he bring me face to face with alternate lifestyles and make me sentence them to an eternity without God?

I'm praying for moment by moment wisdom and I just want to be me.

I laugh at my past failures of trying to play Christian and putting my righteousness on display to impress others.

When I review my last 30 plus years of talking to people about the Lord, I get embarrassed at all of my failures and know that only God's grace and control can salvage my foolishness. Too often I was trying to make myself look good and too often it was my stupid self righteousness that hindered the message. It has to be real and it has to be loving. I will never forget a powerful reminder from friend and pastor, David Filson, "Life is too short and the gospel is too good to spend time living as a POSER!"

If it was going to have any authenticity to it, I was going to have to live out the gospel with my flaws in view. I was going to have to take ownership of my sin. But I was also going to have to grow in grace and knowledge of truth. This lack of pretense is not a religious ritual to justify poor devotion- it just means that I am who I am- and it takes courage to live that way. And the sad thing is that I still don't live that way as much as I should.

The famous Dr. Greg House limped into the lobby of the Nassau Inn- cane and all- and seemed to recognize me immediately. I stood up and walked to meet him- a much bigger man than I had pictured him. There is something in man that elevates height. I should have known that such a commanding presence was going to be 6'2 minimum. This moment was larger than life!

He stopped, leaned forward on the cane, and looked me over. It was exactly like I imagined it to be. All the mannerisms were more pronounced in real life. He nods as he makes assertions. He looks down a lot and rarely catches your eye- not out of weakness- He is not afraid to look at you- it is more of the alpha male pretending not to notice and demonstrating that you are under him. He pressed me into immediate submission by his height and body language.

"Thank you for having me." I mumbled- we never tried to shake hands.

"Thank you for coming." It was quick- snappy- and totally shocked me.

He leaned away, nodded his head. and motioned- "Let's take a WALK". He said it kind of funny, almost weird, and it hit me right in the heart. Here is a man who lives in pain, it takes great effort to lean on that cane step by step- AND HE CAME TO ME! This was a sacrifice in a number of ways and I was getting more humbled by each hobble.

I was pleasantly relieved when I saw the Segway at the door.

"Sorry that there is only room for one, but I am handicapped you know."

He parked his cane on the handle. Stepped up on the platform, leaned forward and now I was the one who was sacrificing. I was at that awkward pace between a fast walk and slow jog. He knew exactly what he was doing.

"Have you seen the historic Princeton campus? Home of Albert Einstein? Pride of Presbyterian history?" The Segway was quiet and quick.

I was already breaking a sweat.

Conversations with House- Pain and Presup at Princeton


Day 1 with House at Princeton was adventuresome and fun.  No doubt it was House, but it was fun.

I was a little disappointed that none of his staff were in town and he was actually on a vacation. His department shuts down for 10 days each summer where he takes no patients at all.

So it looks like I was part of his holiday fun and his infinite appetite for distraction.

The man lives in serious pain. I admire his strength of will, his rare intellect, and his ability to function despite the pounding pulses of pain that surge through his thigh. No doubt that he is on edge due to that pain. But it doesn't take any time at all to see that it runs much deeper than anyone can decipher.

The first day, he called all the shots. He ran me around campus until I was sweating. We never stopped to eat- and though he wasn't serious about giving me the 10 cent tour, I was impressed about how much he knew about the history of Princeton. He rattled off chapters and verse of information- dates, significance- the weird part was that is was so non-chalant.

We finally stopped for coffee (He paid- which I am still most confused about and it seems most out of character for him) and sitting down I knew that there was finally going to be a meat and potato talk.

"Ok", he said, "Here you are. You wanted to be here. I have put you through some paces. Now go."

"I'm very surprised to be here," I answered, "because I have only seen you from a distance, there was always a part of me that wanted to get an inside look, get to know you better, and my heart tends to want to encourage people..."

"No, you already are dodging. Come on- you are hedging. What people call southern charm and grace I call wussiness. You are beating around the proverbial bush- I invited you here- you have my attention- GO."

"It's not that simple and I don't think you know my real motives."

"NO, You don't know YOUR real motives." He was very forceful- still closed and waterproof.

My head was spinning.

He was getting very impatient....

But suddenly I found a few words....

"You are right, no one can know the motives because I believe our hearts are deep and twisted- maybe too nuanced for words. But I am no charlatan and I don't regard setting context as wussiness."

I have no clue why, but that one comment, maybe it was a facial expression, maybe it was strength or transparent weakness- broke right through the veneer. He finally looked at me as a human being and not an oddball sideshow for kicks.

He nodded his head in approval. "Good". He then began that staring off to the side lean, eye flickering back and forth. as he held the coffee in both hands now. His can hung on the back of his chair and he pressed into me.

"I have read everything you have posted. And I do think you are genuine. Naive yes- simple yes- and you do have an agenda- you pick postings to persuade and because you do it publicly, you desire for them to justify you- you desire to be validated. You show a care for people- an olive branch- because it brings back affirmation and significance. You reached out to me because I am famous and if you can get a famous person to validate you, that is a big ole stamp of universal approval."

I interrupted him for the first time, "And does that put my faith as false?"

"Ah so you agree with my diagnosis?"

"Well.....I think about intrinsic motivation all the time. My question is more about how your evaluation of me connects to evaluation of faith."

He looked back at me. "You know my stance, I have no doubt that religion is delusional and likely harmful."

"You have no doubt that there is no God."

"YES"

"Pretty bold, I know you are a brilliant man, Dr House, but your faith in NO God goes beyond your powerful logic."

"Stop playing games. I know all the arguments and debate. Your best debate for God is trumped by best reasons for no God. I have ultimately sided on the transcendental argument for the non-existence of God."

I laughed when he said it. It is not a unique position. Christian apologetics has become more grounded in a line of though called TAG or the transcendental argument for God which basically proclaims that without the existence of God you have no grounds to argue the truth of anything at all because God is a necessary precursor to anything universal like the laws of logic. Skeptics responded with TANG (transcendental argument for the non-existence of God) which plays off of TAG (which seems to support TAG)- but skeptics would say that TANG stands on its on.

So what do you do when there is the rock and a hard place disagreement? Give up and agree to disagree? Keep pressing until there is a cry of uncle?

I sipped my coffee. Had a brief pause. We looked at each other.

"So why am I here? You are smart. You have thoroughly studied the issue and landed on a premise. You are unswayed by anything you have read and not impressed with anything I might say or do. Why did you bring me here if you are so sure?"

"I guess I wanted you to see my pain up close. I want you to see deep in my soul and consider the darkness and watch your southern nice gospel grace be extinguished in the deep darkness of world hunger, brutality, fanatical religion, destitution, and my throbbing leg which has to be explained to the absent God."

I interrupted him. "Well then you failed. Because the light is not overtaken by the dark."

His rebuttal. "The darkness remains."

"Well then, Dr. House, let's try to turn on all the light."

He laughed and I laughed. We touched our coffee cups in a toast and I felt more alive than I had ever felt before.