Friday, January 26, 2007

The American Church in Crisis- The Rise of the Pharisees

You can’t escape the large number of verses in the New Testament that deal with strained or broken relationships. The gospel was born out of a struggle. Indeed a war with the price of blood was waged for the redemption of man. 

The problem of sin nevertheless still impacted the apostles and early converts to the new faith. The controversies came in as the church began to struggle with outside opposition, often resulting in persecution and death. 

The church began to struggle with false teachers and the new age of Christian liberty and conscience. Jews and Gentile were new converts to a new law of love and a path to God purchased by God incarnate. The opposition was also supernatural and strategic. 

 The Christian walk is a joyful celebration but also a “boots on the ground”, all out assault. It is an internal peace of the presence and power of God along with a fantastic display of battle wounds and setbacks. The key to any victory in any competition is harmony. A unified team is hard to defeat. The Bible makes it clear that our head is Christ. He is the cornerstone of our foundation, and we should strive to be unified in Him. We are to forgive, bear with, go the extra mile with. How are we doing? Any Google search will reveal that the American church is rife with tremendous infighting and splits. From worship wars to translation debates, the American expression of the evangelical church is imploding. 

 What is the problem? While it may seem trite and shallow to suggest a straying from Biblical truth and sound doctrine, I believe it is just that. The inspired writes of the New Testament urge us to pursue peace and purity while accepting and watching out for the weaker brother. 

 In a Nov 5, 2006 broadcast of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton and a panel of pastors do a splendid job of presenting perspective from Romans chapter 14 in our current culture. The discussion centers around a common problem within the church. What is the relationship of Christian liberty in the gospel age to God’s moral law and the binding of conscience? Paul and Peter themselves went through a similar controversy regarding the early cross-pollinization of Jews and Gentiles. 

 The Pastor roundtable gives us great insight into many problems today and the news is sobering. We are more like Pharisees than children of the living God. Our culture is teaching us to opine and judge. Our news programs are centered around argumentation and debate. We are quick to judge, quick to speak, and very slow to listen. We think with our eyes and reason with our lips. 

 There are some great ideas in this broadcast. 
1-We violate the Christian idea of humility the very minute that we are worried more about our neighbor than ourselves. 
2- We are in the wake of modern universal principles where wisdom and prudence has been replaced by policy and procedure. 
3- Christian liberty is an appendix to the doctrine of justification. We can believe in justification but be in bondage ( the judgment of works) if we violate liberty. 
4- In view of the mercy of God, we should live lives that are distinctly different. God’s moral laws are the same, but now our motivation is different. The law of the gospel is love. 

 The bottom line- to the degree that I use my spirituality to judge and condemn sheds a lot of light on my possibility of being a Pharisee. The more oppressive my ways the more in error I am likely to be. I pray that we somehow find a spirit of unity. It is vital to potential victory in this current culture. I have been told that the way porcupines sleep together is that they have the ability to pull in their quills. Isn’t it time to put off dissension and put on love? Please pull in your quills and forgive. Our society is teaching us to use wounds as a weapon. There is a lot of power in pain in American culture. Is this what scripture encourages? 

 Hebrews 13:13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he (Jesus) endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God 

 Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 “The lessons my mama taught me were to always treat people right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. 

It don't cost 'nuthin' to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breakin' your word to someone.” Paul “Bear” Bryant 

 Stephen Grellet, French/American religious leader (1773-1855) said, "I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any creature, le t me do it now. Let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again." 

 Until the Lord comes or closes the curtain on our society, let’s keep up the work of grace and peace!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Deconstruction Cut and Paste

Sorry I don't have all the info to give credit

Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 – October 8, 2004) was an Algerian-born French philosopher, known as the founder of deconstruction. His voluminous work had a profound impact upon continental philosophy and literary theory.

In contemporary philosophy and social sciences, the term deconstruction denotes a process by which the texts and languages of (particularly) Western philosophy appear to shift and complicate in meaning when read in light of the assumptions they suggest about and absences they reveal within themselves. Jacques Derrida coined the term in the 1960s, and found that he could talk more readily about what deconstruction was not than about what it was, most especially in reply to questions posed by others about it.
Subjects relevant to deconstruction include the philosophy of meaning in Western thought, and the ways that meaning is constructed by Western writers, texts, and readers and understood by readers. Though Derrida himself denied deconstruction was a method or school of philosophy, or indeed anything outside of reading the text itself, the term has been used by others to describe Derrida's particular methods of textual criticism, which involved discovering, recognizing, and understanding the underlying—and unspoken and implicit—assumptions, ideas, and frameworks that form the basis for thought and belief, for example, in complicating the ordinary division made between nature and culture.

Derrida lays many of his presuppositions out in a hard but very important essay called Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. You can tell what it is going to be like from the title! The argument goes as follows:

1. Western thought and language have always had a fixed centre in absolute truth. This places limits on what it is possible to think or believe. It provides a foundation for being (ie what we are), and for knowing (ie how we think). Absolute truth provides certainties.
2. However Derrida’s underlying assumption is that there is no God in the equation to guarantee such absolutes, and hence ideas about certainty are now ruptured. He concludes that any idea of a fixed centre was only a structure of power imposed on us by our past or by institutions of society, and does not in reality exist at all.
3. Hence for Derrida there is no ultimate reality, no God outside the system to which everyone and everything relates. Instead the only relationships that we can know are within the system of the world which Derrida calls discourses. For him ultimate reality is only a series of these discourses.
4. Because there is no fixed centre, there should no longer be any limits on what it is possible to think or believe. We should literally be able to think anything. We can be playful and flexible about the way we think, when we realize that “truth” and “falsehood” are simply wrong distinctions to make. Indeed they are just a destructive and harmful manifestation of that power structure.
5. Therefore we must stop considering everything in life, culture and thought in relation to absolute truth. To not do so is, for Derrida, oppressive and immoral.
6. Derrida says that history is traditionally thought to be determined by Being. In other words God guarantees history There was a beginning and there is an end to which we are working. Most human optimism for Derrida springs from this fact. The whole of science for example is based on the fact that true things are there to be discovered and worked towards.
7. However this idea of history is what stops people thinking radical new thoughts because the assumptions we pick up from history are oppressive. But the fact that people can and do think radical new thoughts is seen to deny this oppressive version of history, and, of course, any absolute Being behind history.
8. Derrida’s ideal of play or flexibility therefore completely denies the possibility of absolutes or of God.
Emergent writers criticize our emphasis on the verbal and written as a product of Enlightenment modernism. Yet postmodern approaches to language are clearly more dangerous. Deconstructionism, its predominant literary theory, seeks to sever the link between words and the things they signify, so that defining words is seen as an exercise in power rather than submission to reality. While no Emergent writers would endorse this theory in full, their usage often reflects its influence. Gross oversimplifications, subtle redefinitions of common terms, and elegant vagaries are maddeningly common. For example, they regularly dismiss their critics for “labeling” or “in-grouping and out-grouping,” but are somehow unaware of their own dependence on caricatures of other Christians for nearly every argument. Captive to the preeminent postmodern virtue of tolerance, stark value judgments are concealed behind seemingly charitable phrases like “I’m just not interested in … or I don’t have time for a Christianity like that…”. Unwary readers are often simultaneously inspired and confused, sensing that something is off but unable to put their finger on it. The problem is a low view of language, and a low view of language leads to a low view of our speaking God.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Running God’s Glory out of the Temple: Why these are Dangerous Times for Our Churches and Our Nation

We are in critical and perilous times as a nation. The influence of post modern thinking has caused an erosion of Judeo-Christian values. The light of Christ is dimming to a flicker of an ember as we are swallowed up in consumerism and values based on feelings and selfish desires. The Bible based churches in our land are facing a full frontal assault of the enemy and largely responding with impotence and fatigue.

This same battle is happening in our midst. We are engaged in a struggle for the future and direction of the visible representative of the body of Christ.

Many Bible believing and teaching Pastors are under satanic attack. This tension and discussion is not unique to Pastors who boldly teach the whole counsel of God. Jonathan Edwards was dismissed from his church and found great resistance throughout the course of his ministry. John McArthur was himself under great criticism and almost lost his church as he preached from God’s word.

Why the problem may be us and not our Pastors.

In II Timothy 3, Paul tells us a lot about what is happening in our culture today.

"1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra”which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Many pastors and people who have positions of spiritual authority will continue to struggle as these characteristics become more prevalent in our land and in our congregation.

Reasons for these persistent problems:

#1 Our culture resists authority when it goes against them. “Every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33.) It is common now to resist the God ordained authority in society. Romans 13 tells us to accept this chain of command and be submissive. Our culture is uncomfortable in doing so.

#2 Our culture wants ear tickling feel good sermons. The largest congregations in our nation today contain more fluff than stuff. Expository preaching is on the decline and entertainment based presentations are on the rise.

#3 Personal holiness is out of style.

#4 Leisure and consumerism dominates our idle time.

The consequences:

The book of Ezekiel is arguably the saddest book in all of Scripture. It documents the decline of God’s presence and His glory leaving the temple.

I truly believe that we are witnessing this same movement in our land today. We are driving God out in the midst of our rebellion and our land is becoming desolate in its wake.

EZ 2:1 And he said to me, Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord God. 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.

EZ 11: 12 and you shall know that I am the Lord. For you have not walked in my statutes, nor obeyed my rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you.

EZ 12:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house

EZ 13:22 Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life,

2 And the word of the Lord came to me: 3 Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? 4 Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. 6 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7 For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the Lord will answer him myself. 8 And I will set my face against that man.

There is still hope:

I have grown tremendously in Christ since coming to my church and learning under the leadership of my pastor. My knowledge of the Bible has deepened, my love for Christ has grown more passionate, and my ministry has been fruitful. We have seen changed lives and restored marriages in our small group. My wife and children have grown. Our Sunday school class has been amazing. We love memorizing the scripture together!

The gospel has never been hindered and our mission is one of hope and excitement. Our church has been involved in faithful laboring for Christ in Nashville and around the world.

My church has a tremendous ministry in our academy with a promising future and momentum.

We are on the threshold of seeing great fruit for the cause of Christ in a strategic city in our nation and world!

People are in need of the hope of the gospel. The Holy Spirit can use even our missteps and weaknesses for His good and glory.

I call on us to pray for the peace of the church and ask for prayers, petitions, and fasting on behalf of all pastors and churches. May we weather this attack of the enemy and move on to more glorious and fruitful days ahead.

Ez 11:17 "Therefore say, Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Warning to Warriors

Been reading an excellent book by Max Hastings called Warriors. I am becoming more and more convinced that our culture is less and less comfortable with strong leaders who fight by conviction and principle. Enjoy some of his quotes:

"Warriors are unfashionable people in democratic societies during
periods of peace ... [But] in times of war, fighting men are suddenly
cherished and become celebrities

“In civil life, people with a penchant for fighting are deemed at best
an embarrassment, at worst a menace.”

Every army, in order to prevail on the battlefield, needs a certain
number of people capable of courage, initiative or leadership beyond the

A greek or roman soldier was required to engage in hours of close
quarter combat with edged weapons capable of hacking through flesh.

Part of the nobility of the warriors calling stems from in part from his
acceptance of the risk of losing his own life while taking those of others

In every society on earth, the most durable convention, from ancient
times until very recently, has held physical courage to be the highest
human attribute. For thousands of years, in nations dominated by the
warrior ethic, this quality was valued more highly than intellectual
achievement or moral worth.

Many acts of heroism have been committed in the active hope of
advancement or glory.

Eager warriors are generally disliked and mistrusted by those of a more
commonplace disposition.

Many celebrated warriors are detested by their contemporaries.

All armies need a handful of soldiers who possess an extravagant warrior
spirit to fight alongside a majority of other soldiers who threaten the
success of such army by their eagerness to preserve their own lives.

Successful warriors are often vain and uncultured- but their nations in
hours of need have had cause to be profoundly grateful for their
virtues, even if they have sometimes been injured by their excesses. For
all their social limitations and professional follies, the warrior is
willing to risk everything on the field of battle, and sometimes to lose
it, for purposes sometimes selfish or mistaken, but often noble."

If you are a man's man and have grown up fighting for what you get- look out- this culture will not accept you with great comfort.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Am the Most Dangerous Man in the World?

In the Nov 13, 2006 edition of Newsweek Magazine, renowned atheist, Sam Harris unleashes his heartfelt beliefs about people of faith…. we pose a “tremendous danger.”
The basic points of Harris’ arguments include (1) science has forever debunked faith, (2) Christians’ belief in the end of the world give them “no incentive to build a sustainable civilization,” (3) religion elevates morality over human and animal suffering, and (5) because of fanatical belief, religion is the most dangerous institution in the world.
While I may be wasting time and ink writing a rebuttal to Mr. Harris, I can’t resist using my newly declared notorious state to ease the fear of all the atheists and agnostics within my reach.
I do want to make it clear that to treat all faiths as equal is the most improper presupposition of our post-modern carnage. All religions are not the same. They have different systems and practices. I do believe that jihadist Islam poses a violent danger to our world today. All religions have the possibility of perpetrating great oppression and harm. One has to look no farther than the Crusades to see the destruction that misguided human beings can cause in the name of religious belief.
But even in the case of the Crusades, there are fundamental differences in belief.
The Crusades demonstrate followers of Islam doing what their faith requires them to do and followers of Christ ignoring what their Savior requires them to do. The Crusades represent Islam at its best and Christianity at its worst.
To lump all religions together for the purpose of generalizing criticism of faith makes as much sense as criticizing all people of non-faith by the adherents of the North American Man Boy Love Society (NAMBLA).
I am a teacher and coach at a Christian School in the United States of America. I love my wife and three children. We read the Bible, pray, worship in a local congregation. We live about as simple a life as one can live in the 21st century. We give to missions and desire to tell others what the Lord has done for us. May I use this simple and dangerous position to counter a few of Mr. Harris’ assertions?
One, science has not eliminated Christian belief or doctrine. It is proper to say that the relationship between Christianity and Science is not without controversy. There has often been strenuous debate between the Church and scientists, who often held the same beliefs. As a believer in Christ and the Bible in 2006, I can say that we live in advantageous times because of the light of science and the truth of Scripture. Both are helpful when they are properly placed according to their use. Science is limited concerning many matters of life and faith.
Today, there is a scientific jihad as non-faith scientists try to use reason to trump faith. They use superiority of educational pedigree to intimidate the public.
The average person today does not understand, for example, that traditional Darwinian evolution is no longer acceptable as an explanation for the origin of life as we know it. When scientists say, ‘Evolution is a fact” they are not honestly representing the actual assertion of that quote.
There is ample scientific data that supports ‘microevolution’ and many natural history museums have altars to that truth. Microevolution is the accepted and provable truth that certain species have changed through slight, successive adaptations based on the ability to survive the environmental challenges to their survival.
The problem with this scientific mantra is that it is the end of the statement of fact and the beginning of the propagation of the myth. In the study of evolution, there is no observable data to support ‘macroevolution” or the ability for these adaptations to change into new species. M.I.T. physicist Geoffrey Schroeder correctly points out his analysis of the impressive display and tribute to evolution that is found in the Natural History Museum in London. “It is all impressive. Impressive, until you are able to walk out and reflect upon that which they are able to document. Daisies remained daisies, moths remained moths, and cichlid fish remained cichlid fish. (The Science of God pg. 31).
When non-faith adherents attack intelligent design and other theories about the origin of the species as “faith” and their acceptance of evolution as “science” they are pulling a slight of hand. All debates about the origin of life are debates of faith and not observable by true science.
As a Christian, I see little controversy about what science has discovered and what the Bible teaches. I believe in the existence of God and the creation of life. I believe God has given science as a wonderful gift to uncover His grand design. Science does not discredit the Bible at all. If anything, it helps the Bible make more sense. My better understanding of the natural does not negate my belief in the supernatural. When science stays within its proper boundaries, it strengthens our wonder about the majesty of the Designer!
The second incorrect assumption asserted by Harris is that Christians have no vested interest in preserving civilization. I will admit that we often stumble in our mandates from the Creator, but Mr. Harris does not understand Biblical teaching on our responsibilities to our bodies, our nations, and our planet. God has instructed His followers to be good stewards of all with which they have been entrusted. C.S. Lewis correctly pointed out “If you read history you will find that Christians who did most for this present world were those who thought most of the next.” (Mere Christianity 134) A recent book suggests that current data demonstrates that Christians give more and do more than their non-faith counter parts. How many “Atheist Homes for the Poor or Orphans” exist in the world today? To assert that Christians have no vested interest in this present age because of the hope of Jesus’ return makes as much sense as a student wanting to destroy his undergraduate resume because of an eagerness to succeed in graduate school.
Christians are re-discovering our need to serve the poor and help the weak. History shows the church to often be slow in addressing human misery, but Christians are found in every hard circumstance loving. serving, and persevering. People of non-faith, if true to their world-view, should turn to destroy the weak as an act of nature’s law of survival of the fittest.
Harris’ weakest argument is his assertion that Christian’s obsession with right or wrong leads to unnecessary human or animal suffering. It is also the atheist’s weakest position. If there is no God, what is justice? What is love? Why is goodness even a pursuit? Why be unselfish? Why have any values at all?
The belief in right and wrong is what holds the world together. Even though we debate what is right and wrong, our belief in right and wrong is universal and necessary. The fact that values sometimes rule over human comfort is actually a comfort in and of itself. Values restrain our harmful human impulses. Restraint produces order.
As a Christian, I do value life as a gift from God and this belief requires me to hold life as sacred. I do believe God has clearly communicated his desires for love, service, truth telling, and unselfishness. The more we hold to these values, the better life is. Test tube ethics will always default to heartless pragmatism. In a world without values, the atheist’s utopia would be the horrible display of death and oppression that would make Joseph Stalin look like a saint.
Is the Christian Church “dangerous?” Christianity has done more to promote love and humility than any other movement in history. If you remove Christian work and influence, how many hospitals, homeless shelters, orphanages, educational institutions, good laws, powerful leaders, and beautiful artists would never have had the positive influence and redemptive power that the world has enjoyed?
The bottom line is that our greatest danger is that we ever lose the life and faith of Jesus in our society. The cultural landscape grows darker and colder as we stab at the Creator and deny His right for our adoration. The time for repentance is now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Year and New Posts

I haven't posted in a while. Our school changed the internet filter and I am blocked from school. I hope to transfer some of my writing by e-mail to home and post from here. Look for some new info to be posted shortly.

God bless!