31 January 2012

Will There Ever Be A Time?

After reading Voddie Baucham's blog post here, I read his post on Facebook, the one that linked here, to James MacDonald's blog with an interview of three pastors. The interview was done after the Elephant Room 2 and its blow back (see previous post). Naturally, I clicked the video to listen to what these pastors had to say. These three pastors happen to be black. A point I shouldn't have to make at all, by the way, but sadly find that I must.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not black- though my coloring is a bit more swarthy than my befreckled sister's. I was born in Oakland, California, and grew up in the East Bay during the 60s and 70s. I am not unfamiliar with history having majored in it in college. I do have black friends and am aware that there are cultural differences. You want culture clash? Try having the Sicilian matriarch on your father's side hate your mother and her Irish heritage. Look, let me speak plainly. Ethnicity brings different cultures to the community. So does our tendencies toward shifting our geographical locations. The culture I found in the East Bay was not the same as what I found in far northern California and certainly not what I found in rural Kentucky. It's a good thing. It's the reason I can eat lasagna and drink sweet tea during the same meal and why I know a gnocchi from a hush puppy.

So there I am, fat, dumb and happy to watch the video to see what these men had to say about Elephant Room 2 when I start hearing terms like "Black Theology" and ask myself, what the heck is that? Really, what is it? You study theology and you learn all sorts of things but in studying theology, even at a master's level, no one ever taught me "black" theology. Arianism, Arminianism, Calvinism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, Docetism, orthodoxy and heresy... those got covered... but somehow the all my professors, including the black ones, neglected my education and skipped right past "Black Theology." OK, I am being a bit tongue in cheek here... but I think you get my point.

Then it happened. I heard something from Bryan Loritts that pushed me right over the edge. I couldn't believe my ears. I actually listened to this section several times and still cannot want to believe it. In discussing ER2 and some criticisms he said this:

"Some of the strongest reactions from people were from African Americans in the blogosphere and umm.... I am just going to say it... who strike me as wanting so bad to be in the white theological world. To take a little bit of a tangent here and I'll get back... The loudest conservative voices in the Evangelical world, in my estimation right now, are your older, white, reformed voices. And so that implicitly sends the message that mature Christianity, in the conservative Evangelical world, is older white. And you've got some African Americans who so idolize that, what some people would call white idolization, that they then feel as if they've got to be the voice for black culture to speak against people like T.D. Jakes." He goes on to talk about the reality of black being a complex thing.

What in the world??

Lord, will there ever be a time a black man can be criticized for the content of his character and the words he speaks without that criticism being rejected because it was delivered by someone of a different color? Heck, a black man can't criticize a black man's words without being accused of doing it because he wants to fit in with a bunch of old white guys. Brother Loritts, you should be ashamed for playing the race card. Jakes is being taken to task for his doctrinal position, not his skin color. James MacDonald et al are being taken to task for not calling a modalist a modalist. Shame on you men of God for stooping so low.

While man's search for truth in the judicial system purports being blind and isn't, God is not a man that He should lie. God's truth is true no matter the color of the skin of the person speaking it. The gospel does not mean one thing to the 'white' person and another to the 'non-white' person. It is not changed for one person over another. The gospel saves to the uttermost the soul that trusts in Jesus. Period. Untruths about God are detestable no matter who may utter them and should be confronted.
Mature Christians know bad theology when they hear it and must speak against it when they do. Christian maturity is not limited to color or age.

Post Script

Thank you God for directing me to listen to an internet radio program. Just when I was percolating and festering about the shameful comments by a man of God... I got to hear some real men of God deal with the race card Elephant in the Room. My bible prof once taught me that flattery was the most hurtful of evils to perpetrate against another. How hateful do you have to be to tickle a person's ears and shake their hand as they are on the pathway to destruction? So good to hear men of God standing up for truth; calling a wolf a wolf. Saiko Woods your ministry saved my sanity tonight, I was sincerely encouraged. Ya'll can have a listen here.

Why I Love Jesus and Reject Islam

Every now and again I get the opportunity to use my blog for something more important. Much more important than my ramblings. And how fortunate for you, today is one of those days. I never thought I would be promoting a hip hop kind of video, but I am. If you're a Muslim, watch the video to get a better understanding of what Christians actually believe. If you're a Christian and you doubt that culture can be used advantageously to spread the gospel and teach sound doctrine, watch the video. Here is great example of using media in a God honoring fashion.

You can find more from IV His son here . If you'd like to see more of this type of video, visit here and donate what you can. Yeah, I did. Who would have thunk it at my age... going all hip hop and rap and stuff!

30 January 2012

Bumpers of Conviction

Ever have one of those days where everything you read convicts you? I feel like I am a pinball and I am being launched with sparks, bell rings and little bursts of energy into the bumpers of conviction that surround me. Never thought of my spiritual journey like a pinball game but that's sort of a perfect analogy for today. I keep being bounced about, falling into holes only to be shot out from the other side of my tiny universe into the next bit of truth or obstacle. I don't mean to sound disrespectful nor do I want to be guilty of blasphemy, but I can actually picture the Holy Spirit using His flippers to keep me in the field of play. Of course His aim is spot on. I've never thought about the sting that little silver ball feels until now. Conviction is sweet but it costs a bit of your backside sometimes.

The ladies bible study I am leading is something I spend a lot of time grousing about. I love the ladies and the time I get to spend with them. They are a sharp group and they keep me honest. I don't mean to make you think I grouse about them at all. It's the book we are using. I take offense at the author's use of terms like "partnering with God" and "allowing the Holy Spirit." I am always ready to correct her. "Ladies, we do not allow God to do anything, we submit to Him! He allows us to breathe!" Or, "We are not partners with God we are partakers of His grace. Big difference!" Ptooey! Take that for your smarmy, seeker sensitive vocabulary! Always ready with my doctrinal white out I feel like Graham Norton with my hand poised over the lever while an audience member sits in the little red chair and tells a story. Say one thing I don't like and poof! You're gone! If you're thinking I have been manifesting the sin of pride, you may have a flair for the obvious.

So then, imagine my surprise to end this week's work with a "Pzoom! Ding! Ding! Ding!" -in your face- face palm of conviction; one born from reading the words of the very same author I have been correcting. Oh yeah, she nailed me. I won't go into detail on what she said that convicted me, it was my conviction and not likely yours. Besides, it isn't what she wrote but that it was her words God used to whack me upside my pointy little proud head to get my attention. God uses means and in this case He used someone I wasn't expecting. Someone with whom I frankly thought I had a superior understanding of the Word. Not fair, God! I thought I was straightening out her points and You go convicting me with her words? Ouch! OK, I'll promise to do better!

Seriously, it's given me a lot to think about and, I dare say, repent over. To make certain that I do give myself pause, meditate over the truth and repent of my sinful attitudes, the next piece of studying I did involved this gem:

"....the moving cause of self-denial is the Lord and not man himself. Man is too deeply immersed in self-love to be able to rid himself from it. Even if he could divorce himself from this, he would not be able to bring himself into the opposite virtuous disposition." Wilhelmus àBrakel

I can't pick myself up and dust myself off. I can't change things simply because I will it. The only way this gets better is for God to do it. I am completely dependent on His mercy and His desire to sanctify me.

1Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

And it's a good thing He is faithful and will complete the work He began in me. Next time you get the feeling God is playing "whack-a-mole" with you remember it is for your benefit and His glory. Conviction is a good thing.

28 January 2012

Nubs of Life

For Christmas my sister gave me some bulbs to raise indoors; four narcissus and an amaryllis. I enjoy plants and flowers so it was a sure bet for me to consider them as a great gift and I do. Who needs extravagance when you can have a bit of God's creation to behold? Full of patience and discipline-(she said with her tongue embedded in her cheek), I planted the bulbs immediately, neglecting chores and anything else that had a prior claim to my time. As reward for my labors the narcissus are in bloom. As I sit here and type their fragrance is sweet and permeates the house. The scent is lovely but could have become overbearing easily enough. Fortunately the weather hasn't been at all normal and I've been able to have open doors and windows. It feels special to have them, like they have grown quickly in response to my tender care.

The amaryllis, on the other hand, I feared was a lost cause. In the same time span the narcissus have grown, bloomed and are now dying back, the amaryllis had not, by all appearances, seemed to grow at all. I despaired that it never would. Today, as you may well have suspected by the tense of my verbs, adverbs and adjectives, I discovered that the amaryllis is alive and doing fine. I made the discovery as I picked up the pot and headed to the garbage can. I came that close to throwing it away.

Thirty-three days of nothing and as if on cue, the amaryllis poked out the tiniest nub, the teeniest tip of one green leaf, barely visible at all- but there. My discovery was made at about 0500 this morning. It's about 1435 now and the tip is almost 1/4" tall. Dang! I am going to be obsessed with measuring the growth now that it's started! A gift of beauty that also tantalizes my geeky compulsiveness. What joy! What rapture! (I know, what a weirdo!)

My old cowboy mentor used to tell me that before a horse does something it gets ready to do something. If you learn to recognize him getting ready, you have a chance to change his mind. He also told me that people were the same way. Most of what I learned of value in communication with others, I learned from him. He was a wise and plainspoken man. I wondered this morning what sort of cowboy wisdom Dusty Rhodes might impart about my amaryllis bulb? Before long I was thinking about sanctification and judging people by their fruit.

I didn't initially see the nub of life on the amaryllis bulb. The soil that came with the bulbs is very similar to sawdust or peat and when I grabbed the bulb to toss it, I didn't expect resistance. Though the bulb appeared dead and lifeless from what I could see, what I couldn't see were the elaborate root systems below the soil line that anchored it in the pot. That little bit of unexpected resistance made me look for the cause and in this case, I found life.

It wouldn't take very much effort at this point to come up with some cheesy metaphors and analogies comparing people with the secret life of this flower bulb. I could spin the story to say if Christians offered the world a tiny bit of resistance the world would be more likely to investigate what makes us tick. Or I could say people are like the bulbs, their road to sanctification and the landmarks they find along the way are different and need different amounts of time to complete. Perhaps I could remind you that you don't really know what's going on unless you look at the whole picture. You need to consider factors that you might not see unless you investigate beneath the surface. A sermon on patience, perhaps? There are a plethora of possibilities.

Maybe I will just tell you that I am happy to report my amaryllis is alive and well. I am stoked to see what sort of bloom I get from it and to find out if it is going to be fragrant like the narcissus. I might make it my science experiment and take pictures of it as it grows. Mostly I want to enjoy it while it's here. I planted the bulbs in anticipation of flowers to enjoy. When I thought the amaryllis was dead, I was disappointed. Now, the anticipation has returned and it makes me feel giddy as a kid anticipating a trip to Disneyland. The fact that my sister knew I would enjoy it is worth countless riches to me. That's all. My amaryllis lives, I am happy. The end. Make your own analogies and comparisons, I have to get back to my bible study.
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
(1 Peter 1:24-25 ESV)

26 January 2012

Elephants for Dummies (Like Me)

I have been wondering what all the talk about The Elephant Room is about. I hang out with folks on the net who are wicked smart theologians and apologists. The kind of folks who don't just know the word patristics, like me, but who are intimately familiar with their writings and can quote them as readily as I quote The Princess Bride or Monty Python. Hanging out with these folks doesn't make me smart nor does it mean I am up on all the things I should be. In fact, in writing this I am about to expose just out out of the loop I have been. Oh well. Here I go anyway.

I saw my friend, Lane, post this url on Face Book and was sort of amazed at what I was reading. A Christian being forced to leave a Christian function?What is The Elephant Room? Did I really just read that? Realizing I was completely ignorant about the pachyderm on the premises and not wanting to expose my ignorance, I was tempted to simply read the opinions of my friends on the matter. If I have learned anything from these brainiacs it's to go to the primary source to form your opinions. I am lazy. I could talk myself out of asking my friends questions about Elephants but next I had to resist the urge to see what Phil Johnson, Tom Chantry and others whose blogs I read have said. Instead, I went on a Google mission to find out what in the world was causing such a hubbub among my friends.

I found myself on James McDonald's blog. I am not unfamiliar with his work having done a bible study of his. What I remember about the bible study was that it wasn't completely awful. It wasn't a study from a reformed position but I am rather used to that and thought that there was more value in his work than most others who are not reformed. In other words I don't have a really awful opinion of the man. A few more clicks and I found myself on a site that had several teasers for people to watch. Apparently the DVDs are for sale if you want to listen and watch all that they have. My initial thought after watching the teasers from the Elephant 1 was that I wouldn't pay for the set. I might pay for the opportunity to sit at the table and discuss positions with the men involved but I am not cutting lose with even the $39.95 sale price for the set.

I have a pretty thick skin about most things. I rant and rave in cyber space because it's fun and I can. There is a difference between having a tough skin and having abnormal tissues caused by disease like elephantiasis. Yeah, after reading and listening to the teasers I felt like I needed to be inoculated with some good sound doctrine. I am not wicked smart but I do have some critical thinking skills and a foundation of sound doctrine, thanks be to God and then men and women He's put in my life to teach me.

I am not opposed to the idea behind what McDonald is trying to do here. In fact, I think more of this sort of round table should be done. I am not certain that it needs to be a pay-per-view money maker, but we won't go there for now. I also want to say right up front that I found these men engaging. I would love to hold a dinner party for one or more of them and just sit down and talk. I love a good chin wag with story tellers like me and I could see having some real belly laughs with at least McDonald and Driscoll. That said, I know why my friends are not fans of The Elephant Room because I had problems with some things that were said.

One of the things that bothered me about a video clip of McDonald talking to his guest, I apologize I don't know who he was, he (McDonald) starts on a tangent about blessings and money. He said he was offended by the idea of keeping a pastor poor because it would make him humble. I couldn't agree more. The bible says the ox is not to be muzzled and the laborer is worth his wages. Unfortunately, as he continued, he seemed to be equating monetary rewards and blessings from God. He spoke of giving Mark Driscoll a gift and telling him to tell his children that gift came because of his faithful work for the Lord. He (McDonald) wants children to know that blessings flow to the faithful and there is plenty and abundance -not poverty -when serving God.
Oh my word. Did he really say that? Yeah, he did.

What a terrible idea to plant in a child's mind. If I serve God I will be blessed with money? Really? Great motivation for serving God; what or how much can you get from Him. This is blab it and grab it theology in its first stages. Bless me. Give me. It's all about me. If I am a believer I will not suffer poverty. Absolute nonsense and antithetical to what life as a believer is all about. Heck, even Rick Warren started his purpose driven book with "It's not about you." We don't serve God because He blesses us. We serve God because He is God and we are not. Monetary blessings are not the target we should be aiming for. Granted, I got to listen to just a few seconds of their conversation but McDonald selected that clip and I have to assume he selected it because it represented his position. I am not saying that Christians cannot be blessed monetarily but rather that Christians should never expect or presume that their worship will be paid. If God chooses to bless or withhold blessings, no matter what form the blessings may take, He is still deserving of the same worship. Period. God does not bless all who are His with money and I resent the implication that He does. It has no foundation in Scripture.

In a different clip where the panel is exploring where the lines should be drawn when preaching and referencing culture in sermons, McDonald is playfully teasing Driscoll about using his pulpit to review movies. Driscoll says something that I wish everyone would think about. To summarize his point, all movies, advertising and literature should be thought of as a sermon. They are preaching their world view when they sell you anything or entertain you. Amen to that. This was the valuable part of the discussion. The part I took offense to? The idea that sermons need to be tweaked to mean something or impact the micro culture surrounding the church they are pastoring. What? If that was logical why would the gospel, having come to a culture we here 2000 years later have absolutely nothing in common with culturally, be of any value to us?

Gospel and culture do not have to be melded into some user friendly amalgam of three parts entertainment and one part truth. The true gospel withstands the test of time. It was fashioned in eternity past and saves to the uttermost without being tweaked at all, thank you anyway. People will either understand their need for salvation when confronted with the truth or they will not. Repentance does not come from learning about cultural pitfalls no matter how accurately described the pitfalls may be. The gospel preached without benefit of programs or entertainment is about the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work. God's word does not return void. Why then is it not enough?

Speaking of enough, that's enough from me about Elephants. I could carry on a bit more. I just dipped my toes in the water. Yes I am critical of what I found. It's not all bad but it's not worth any more of my time. You can find some more cogent opinions and reading here, here and here. I figure the positive reviews will be found on the websites hawking the DVDs and such and I have given those to you already.

16 January 2012

Occupy Hypocrisy

I have absolutely no use for the Occupy Wall Street movement and those who are involved with it. None. Zero. They claim to be "The 99%" and I must ask of what? Did villages all over the globe lose their idiots? Really, just what group to do they purport to be a majority representation of? Perhaps that's the real question, because I do not want them to think for even a fraction of a second that they represent me. The kindest thing I can think of to say of these people is that they are booger picking morons. After reading this article in the New York Post I think I am being generous. Squatting in the home of a single father who is trying to work within the confines of law in order to keep his home? Really?

You may want to chastise me and tell me that they are simply misguided. Have at it. That may have been true at the beginning of this "movement" but any lemming with a brain and an ounce of integrity has packed up and, if they are smart, will hang their head in shame for having been there in the first place. To those who recognize their folly I say buck up! There's hope for being young and stupid or ignorant and misguided. It's called growing up and thinking critically. We all have done some silly things and most of us recover to become productive human beings. Think first. It takes some getting used to but it's worth the trouble.

To the BPM's still trying to make someone believe they stand for something noble I say get your sorry hypocritical butts off the sidewalks and out of other people's homes. Do you even recognize how incredibly stupid you are to attempt to profit or capitalize on the misfortunes of a man negotiating to avoid foreclosure while denouncing major corporations who are profiting from the misfortunes of others? Again. Really? Are you just that full of yourselves that you cannot see that you represent a real threat to our society? There is nothing so dangerous as a herd of stupid people who think they have a mission. Get a grip, get a job but mostly get out of the man's house. Someone ought to throw your sorry derrieres into a cage and let you occupy that.

11 January 2012

Walking Dead or Walking Wounded?

Over the holidays I stumbled upon a series that Netflix thought I would like: The Walking Dead (zombie alert, don't click if you're a siss..er... faint of heart). I like science fiction, especially when it flirts so shamelessly with reality that it makes you forget the event you're watching isn't occurring just outside your front door. It's the potential of its veracity that evokes the fight or flight mechanism we all share. I scared the scoobies out of myself watching the first season and as providence would have it, there was a season two marathon on AMC the very next day. Alone on the top of a hill, wind making the nekkid crepe myrtle branches rub on the vinyl siding, I sat transfixed in a sort of HDTV induced sensory overload. You should picture me in my recliner with my Winchester across my lap, eyes wide open and mind on high alert. I didn't really have my rifle across my lap but I kept thinking about getting it. I didn't only because I didn't want to stop watching long enough. OK, I am exaggerating but only to demonstrate to you just how involved I got in this series.

This is a well written program. It absolutely follows an age old formula but manages to make it work. It also poses some great ethical and moral questions. (Yes, Virginia, there is a difference between ethics and morals. Ethics are absolutes and morals are arrived at by consensus of opinion by the majority.) I don't really want to go into the details of the series because I don't want to spoil the program if you're like me, a little twisted, and might want to watch it. If you've seen the movie 28 Days Later, it is very similar. Besides, this isn't a review of the program. If this was meant to be a review I would give it thumbs up, five stars and a big heck yeah! What I mean to write about is the difference between being one of the walking dead and one of the walking wounded, a question posed by the series in the season two finale.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what differentiates the walking dead and the walking wounded and decided that time is the only thing that distinguishes the two. The walking wounded are the walking dead. They just haven't ripened yet. The second important question the program asks is what kind of person are you? Are you one that sees the walking dead as walking wounded and want to cure them? Or are you one who sees them as one more way you might become infected with their incurable disease; dead already and a threat to your safety? Do the wounded get put down before they have ripened or do you wait and hope that they won't ripen before a cure is found?

What kind of girl am I? I wasn't having you picture me with my rifle across my lap for dramatic effect. If you're wounded you're dead. If you're going to try and take me or anyone else with you, you're going to suffer from some lead poisoning. I am going to survive you and your contagions. I am going to make certain the ones I love are going to survive you and I wouldn't have a sleepless moment for pulling the trigger in order to protect them or me.

Then I began to think about sin and how we are all enslaved to it. Some of us, by God's grace, will be set free from the law of sin and death through faith in Christ. As I considered my response to a television program and my response to knowing that real people, people whom I love, will slip into a Christless eternity, I would have to confess to there being a huge disparity between the two reactions. I'd have no problem defending someone I love from an outside threat, the inside threat they face is more important and I am afraid at times to warn them. I am afraid to pull out my high-powered doctrine gun and dispense the gospel to them. It might not be the right time or place. I may not have the right to speak of the things of God because of my sinful behavior, I don't want to seem offensive, I want to be more winsome, the list goes on and on.

It's really easy for me to listen to be critical of other Christians. I expect sinners to act like sinners and I expect Christians to be different. How is it that I missed those expectations for myself? I have to stop watching television. It's too convicting.