Roses Have Thorns, But Not Always

Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.

(Proverbs 14:13)

In the lobby of my church a sudden outburst of laughing will pound through my office walls. At times I will look out just to see what is so funny. And it is funny, what I see. There may be two or maybe ten who are all enjoying a good story or the end of some tease. But I know these people. There is the one who is still recovering from surgery and has burdens for her family and their faith. There is the one whose spouse is a broken person who brings so many burdens into the home and lives of the family. There is that person whose job is currently up in the air and the reality of the unknown is upon him. I see the parents laughing who have a wayward child and they are very concerned.

If I wanted to stop any of that laughter all I would need to do is pull one of them aside and inquire as to how is the situation, the burden. Laughing eyes will reflect the burden and pain that is just below the surface. Tears or anguished faces will appear and a softer, heavier voice will speak.

For all of us there are times of great laughter that hide the pain we suffer within. It is the reality of living in this broken, sinful age. We will hold in our arms a small baby and be filled with joy never knowing that the end will be grief. We will walk down an aisle to marry only for the end to be grief. We will start out our life in college and in the end is grief.

We must never forget that many things in this life bring joy. And we can enjoy them as such. But like the thorns of the rose so too do all things bringing joy. So we hold things that belong to this age lightly. Rejoicing in the times of joy and weeping with those who weep in grief. We gather together on Sunday to hold up fists of rebellion to the gods of this age as we declare by faith that God the Father “. . . raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21)

Jesus tells us that we will never taste the fullness of death, called the second death, if our hope is in Him alone. Peter tells us we are kept safe by God’s power so that even if we have grief and sorrow we shall never be lost. Paul tells us that by the great love of our heavenly Father we were forgiven and raised up with Jesus Christ in the heavenly places all because we are in union with His Son.

I need to remember this more each day.

And so do you.

What Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Tell You

Yesterday I posted a brief bit on the annual report for Planned Parenthood.  I pointed out that they had over 300,000 abortions in 2014, essentially wiping out the entire city of St. Louis in one year. That works out to be one every 90 seconds or so if you are wondering.  Or, in the time it took me to write that post about 10 babies died in the wombs of their mothers.

Well today I want to look a bit more at their report and write about what they won’t tell the average reader.  They write:

Teens who need an answer right away to an urgent question can now reach us on their phones or through their computers. . . .We now have more than 200 college campus groups — a 182 percent increase from three years ago — at universities ranging from Yale to Wellesley to Spelman. Additionally,1,503 peer educators (half of whom are people of color) partnered with Planned Parenthood educators at 42 affiliates and conducted sex education workshops on issues such as healthy relationships and birth control for youth in their communities —reaching nearly 100,000 young people across the country.
So they are reaching the teen community through their chat apps and they are training women to educate the young ladies on “healthy relationships.”  Really?  Here is one undercover video (very graphic) by Live Action where a 15 year old is counseled that BDSM and such is “normal” as long as it is consensual.  Here you have one of those trained educators  helping a young lady understand what is healthy.  Isn’t it nice of her to point out that there is a sex shop that is just across the street?

Not convinced?  That is isolated?  Nope, you can go to Live Action’s website and see other undercover videos of Planned Parenthood clinics helping with all sorts of sexual issues that are incredibly graphic.Remember that Planned Parenthood is at the forefront of resisting and fighting any legislation that involves parental consent on anything related to birth control and sexuality.

Planned Parenthood and many other organizations are working hard to normalize sexuality in ways God forbids.  As a pastor I witness the fallout of this constantly, to the point that even the most innocent term I utter can carry a sexual innuendo for many young people. In addition, abortion is now seen by too many as something that is normal, acceptable and proper.  The shift of thinking is almost complete for the question asked is what is “right for me” whereas the proper question is “what is right before the Lord?”  Parents, grandparents, and church leaders need to be constantly aware of this pressure for the younger people to conform their minds to this age.

A Yearly Destruction of St. Louis

The annual report for Planned Parenthood is out.  You can read it at the link provided and it is well done!  Clean wording and great images all portraying a happy and victorious group of women rising up out of their struggles to better things.  Did I mention that you can read it?  You should for it is very informative.

It tells you that they will never stop fighting for the right to do abortions.  Never. They portray an attractive, happy young lady who shares how through their birth control program she is now free to pursue her dreams.They share how they are able to help through text and chat programs young ladies who had unprotected sex and are worried they might be pregnant.  When that happens Planned Parenthood offers “emergency contraception.”  One wonders what this contraception might actually be if the young lady is already pregnant.

But down on page 18 there is a simple line item that breaks my heart.  “Abortion Procedures . . . . 327,653.”  Over 300,000 babies killed.  Over 300,000.  How do we even grasp the enormity of that number.  The best I can do is point out that the population of St. Louis is 318,000.  So as a nation we killed every person in St. Louis last year.

And we shrugged.

If the blood of Abel was crying out from the ground to our Lord and Maker for justice then how great the cry must be now?

Some thoughts to end this little post:

  • How do Christians respond to this atrocity in the public square through politics and the courts?
  • The Church must grasp that many of those who hear the gospel are those who have participated in this act in one way or another.  How do we reject the act yet call them to repentance and faith in Jesus?
  • The Church must be ready to remember that each of us is a utter sinner apart from the grace of God.
  • Yet we also must be faithful to the commands in Ephesians 5:11, “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”  Such a difficult balance.
  • Finally we must see that the ultimate way to attack this great evil of abortion is through the gospel message.  Only when dead hearts are made alive by the Spirit and people truly trust and follow their Lord will we see change.

Keeping It in Perspective 12/30/2014

Just read a powerfully written post by a young woman listening to her husband call hospice for her.  We end this year in various life situations and if we are not careful we begin to think that ours is the greatest or most difficult.  These little posts are to keep everything in perspective.  Here is a bit of what she wrote:

So, there it is. My little body has grown tired of battle and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus- and He will provide it. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love will cover us all. And it will carry us- carry us in ways we cannot comprehend. It will be a new living and trusting for many in my community. Loving with a great big open hand to my story being the good story- even when it feels so broken.

Read the rest here . . . .

The Piano Guys

I lived in Idaho for my formative years of Jr. High School and college, though college was a bit vague since I either skipped classes or slept through them.  What stood out for me though was the huge presence of the Mormons in our area (near Boise).  When my father was looking for a solid church it was not an easy task, essentially you could choose between the Mormons or a Nazarene church.  Being Christians we obviously went with the Nazarenes.

That last sentence could be seen as jarring for some due to the tremendous job the Mormons have done in marketing themselves as a Christian church.  They are not.  Sadly in the current state of the Church in America this is not so clear as you can read from one man who accepts the title of an Evangelical “beg[s] to differ” on that cult thingy.  The man is wrong in every way that matters but, of course, this post is not about Mouw and his horrid, dangerous words.

This is about the Piano Guys, who are somewhat of an internet sensation and are fun to watch and listen to.  I like their music but I have noticed lately many people posting videos of them and at times posting them in the context of being Christians.  They are not. They are Mormons.

Some will say, “So?” and it is a legitimate question.  The music they do is good stuff and as a Christian can’t we enjoy their music?  As is typical of me I think it is not such an easy thing to decide but I have made my personal decision and I write it out here for others to consider.  Is there a qualitative difference between the Piano Guys doing Christmas music and Mannheim Steamroller, who don’t connect their music with a claim to being Christian? I think that there is even though I know others would disagree.

When I grew up in Idaho the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would always do a huge TV special of Christmas carols.  We would not watch it.  The reason was that they were a cult who did not even truly believe the words they were singing and in fact actively proclaimed a different gospel.  I didn’t appreciate that distinction then, but I do now.

When the Piano Guys do a Christmas carol they are doing it with the belief that they are both Christian and that they believe  those words, at least in some way.  They will posture themselves as Christians.  And unsuspecting, poorly taught Christians will hear them, click on their website and see nice things about their belief. Go ahead and click that link to Mormon.org at the bottom of their page.

BAM! John 3:16 right off the bat (assuming you are clicking near around the time I post this).  You don’t get more Christian than that do you? Click on that link and the next page you can see at the top that you can read about the Christmas Story. There you will see a nice, vanilla description of the birth of Jesus with closing words being, ” As we embrace His teachings and follow the example of His perfect life, we can become more like Him, and experience true peace and joy.”  Imbedded in that sentence is the basic lie of the Mormons, salvation is not in Jesus alone, it is through following His teachings and living in a proper manner.  But if you are a weak Christian like so many are, then this sounds good.

What is missing?  Well little things like that God the Father is only one of millions of gods who exist.  That our “salvation” is not apart from our works but because if them.  Jesus’ death is not one that secured anyone’s salvation or forgiveness of sin.  There is a lot more but this post is not merely about the beliefs of the Mormon cult.  If you want to read a bit more on their false view of salvation this page is replete with them, though you have to read with care.  My “favorite” quote on that page is how the fall of Adam “wasn’t all bad because they could now feel great joy. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)”  Thank goodness that now we can feel great joy because we are dead in our sins!

So, a little post became a long one.  Here is my point.  If you listen to the Piano Guys as a Christan just be aware of who they represent.  Be wise as to how to speak of their music and to whom you recommend them.  They are not neutral regarding your Lord, they advocate a different gospel of which Paul would say that they are “accursed.”  For me, they just are not on my play list.  If you lean toward my thoughts then I recommend folks like Page CXVI, Cardiphonia, or Sojourn Music to name a few.

Edited to fix some egregious errors, more to be found late I am sure.

Without The Text Nothing Means Anything

A vague title, I know but it captures my thoughts at the moment as I am finishing up reading material on my text I am preaching on from Ephesians 4:7-16.  The issue centers around Paul’s apparent use of Psalm 68 to speak of Jesus giving gifts to us.  I have read the six most popular views by commentators and scholars for the fifth time. I have looked at the arguments pro and con from every perspective I can imagine and I step back just shaking my head.  Remember, these are the serious interactions:

One view is that Paul simply is choosing to use the Psalm wrongly and doesn’t care.  He will use the bible as he wishes for his theological interpretations.  A second view make the “argument” that Paul is simply quoting from memory and got bit of it wrong.  Oopsie!  A third tries to say that Paul is taking his quote from the Aramaic Targum.  Unfortunately that was written around the fifth century A. D.  Which reveals that the advocate for this view doesn’t think Paul really wrote it and that it was done much later than any conservative scholar would allow.  Then there is my favorite, a fourth view that says that Jesus ascended into heaven as Jesus and then descended not as Jesus but as the Spirit (read the passage if you are confused, it is 4:9-10).

All of this leads me to my point.  Each of the above views comes because the scholar rejects in one way or another the biblical text as true, trustworthy.  The result is that now the text can mean anything when it is a difficult passage.  Just say that the writer made a mistake or some such drivel.  Once a scholar steps away from the text as being true and right anything can go, it is really only limited to his mind and will.

This is all great for the scholarly world because every time a new view is postulated it gives everyone a lot of new material to work with.  Meanwhile the guy working for Snap-on Tools or the single mother with two children are ignored.  These people for whom Christ died are not fed.  Frankly they are not even in view.

As a pastor who seeks to teach deeply and yet with the purpose of building my church up in truth this sort of stuff is just wearying.  You wade through endless words that are written not out of faith but unfaith, not with trust but in distrust of the bible.

The church does not need another commentary that will fill up the pages with endless arguments that flow from unbelieving minds before the commentator works out his conclusion.  The church needs men who will sift through those who are the doubters and double-talkers and bring to the pastors and students the food from the text, presented as their faithful efforts in presenting the truth as truth.

Does The Gospel Matter once You become “Big?”

I have not blogged for quite a while for many reasons, mostly because when I sat down to do so all I would do is glower a lot and then, in the words of the great detective Nero Wolfe, say, “Pfui” and be done with it.  But three things lately have drawn my mind to dwell on them enough that I have decided to toss out a few posts just for my own sanity.

Rick Warren is not a man I respect nor is he a man I want to emulate in my pastoral ministry.  His many bestselling books are all I need to know that he is a man to avoid.  I nearly pulled my hair out when John Piper invited him to speak as at his “Think” conference in October, 2010.  I, out of respect for John decided to listen to Rick’s message and walked away with a profound sadness for a man who could say so little.  Later John gushed over the message speaking of its depth and I wondered if I heard the same one he did.  Tim Challies did a devastatingly accurate portrayal of the problems with having Warren speak.

Then Warren comes out with a movement to try to find common ground between Islam and Christianity.  This sort of silliness only occurs in America, trying that in Iraq or Syria right now would be quite deadly.  A lot has already been available online so I won’t waste the reader’s time dissecting it all.  But here is a quote that gives a sense of how dangerous Rick’s thinking is on this subject.  It is a quote of a message he gave to a roomful of Muslims:

You know that obviously as an evangelical pastor, my deepest faith is in Jesus Christ. But you also need to know that I am committed not just what I call the “Good News,” but I am committed to the common good. And as the Scripture says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I am commanded to love and I am commanded to respect everybody. Everybody. Now I was asked to speak to you about how Muslims and Christians can work closer together for the greater good, in our world. And I will tell you that I am not interested in interfaith dialogue, I am interested in interfaith projects. There is a big difference. Talk is very cheap. And you can talk and talk and talk and not get anything done. Love is something you do. It is something that we do together. Love is a verb. Now as the two largest faiths on this planet, Muslims and Christians, we must lead in this. We must lead. With over one billion Muslims, and over 2 billion Christians, together, as half the world, we have to do something, about modeling what it means to live in peace, to live in harmony. (source)

As a pastor I find myself becoming angry for there is nothing in that paragraph that I do not stumble over.  The words of the first line become completely empty with the words that followed. And yet he is still held up by many to be a man to hear and respect.

But finally I came across a book in which he wrote the introdution. It is a book extolling the love and mercy of Mother Theresa.  A woman who has reached almost mythic proportions in the minds of many, most of whom have never actually researched her. A woman who was Pelagian in her theology and who offered not one poor soul in India any real relief from their core problem, sin and separation from their Creator.  She was in many ways like Dr. Kevorkian, simply helping a person go more comfortably into death and into the eternal wrath of God without any hope.  Here is his words:

A handwritten note from Mother Teresa hangs on my office wall. It says, ‘Be holy because the God who created you is holy and he loves you.’ Mother Teresa didn’t just believe those words; she incarnated them . . .

By the time she wrote the note I’ve framed on my wall, leaders from around the world would listen to Mother Teresa. Why? I call it the Mother Teresa principle: The more you care about the powerless, the more power you have. The more you serve those with no influence, the more influence God gives you. The more you humble yourself, the more you’re honored by others. This is the great lesson I hope you’ll learn from this book.

Jesus said it this way, in Mark 8:35 : “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”

Don’t just read this book. Let it change the direction of your life. Let it cause you to investigate the One who so transformed Mother Teresa that she was able to walk away from everything we spend our lives trying to attain. Discover her motivation, her method, but most of all, her Master.

On this 100th anniversary of her birth, I leave you with my favorite Mother Teresa quote: ‘God doesn’t ask us to do great things. He asks us to do small things with great love.’ Find a place to do that today.

So here again we have a “great” Christian leader who can’t even figure out if Mother Theresa understood the gospel. So where are the articles decrying this sort of horror?  Where are The Gospel Coalition’s writers? Why are the big names staying silent.  Does the gospel mean anything once you get big enough?  Do we just all smile and say nothing because of his influence?  How does the Southern Baptist Convention in California stay in communion with him?  I just don’t know.  But as a pastor whose influence is limited it drives me batty.

If you want to read a bit more about Mother Theresa Tim Challies did a great post on her as well.

How to read well. . . or at least better

I am gifted (and I mean that word in the fullest sense of the word for it has nothing to do with me) with an ability to read fast and comprehend well. It made a very full schedule in seminary, work and ministry very workable in that I usually had all my semester’s reading done no later than the first month. I honestly had a sense of guilt when I would watch fellow students groan as they saw the reading requirements in each class knowing that it was a crushing burden for some of them.

Having said that I also read for a living. I have piles of books everywhere you might look. My kindle is full of them, not to mention my truck seat, my wood shop, my office both at home and church as well as scattered all around my house. So though I read fast and well I have also learned over the years to read better. That is what I want to share here.

There is nothing I can do personally to help a person read faster. The best tip is to not let yourself sound out the word with either your mouth or mind. Just let your eyes go over it. The moment you start pronouncing you dramatically slow down. See? Easy, just stop doing that.

But the reality is that it isn’t easy so I decided to give you a few pointers on how to read well rather than to read fast. For those of you checking out already because you are saying you are too busy read this.

1.    Have a pencil and take notes.
To those who are believers of keeping your pages clean I say in the words of Nero Wolfe, “Pfui!” Keep your fiction clean. But a serious book needs serious notes. Develop your own system but make notes. I have a hierarchy of marks I do in my margins. I seldom underline anything. An asterisk is very important. A check mark is a key point in a larger point in the paragraph so that I can find it quickly without rereading the whole paragraph. Draw a line down the side of the paragraph that is useful. If the author says that there are three reasons for something, stop reading and skim read to find where each of them are noted and highlight them. I usually circle them or make a small “1,” “2,” and so on. Then go back and read through carefully now that you know he is making and argument. Note conclusions (I usually put a “concl” in the margin). Just doing these little things will allow you to engage the author rather than be a passive reader led down any path the author desires.  Click on the image to see a larger view of a sample page.reading

•    Be awake.
Sounds obvious but it is amazing how many people will try to read near the end of the day after working hard. That is silly. Plan a time to read. For most at work it would be during lunch or one of the mandated 15 minute breaks. It means you stop working for just a short time and intentionally read. For mothers it means reading while naps are taking place or once dad comes home.

•    Don’t get too comfortable.
But don’t be uncomfortable. Reading is a task so get a good chair and sit properly. Don’t dismiss this too quickly either. I get better reading done on a dining room chair (all wood) than I ever do lying on a couch (which is my position for reading fiction). When I need to study I am always, always upright in a chair.

•    Good lighting.
Ummm, you have to be able to see the pages.
Four free, cheap ways to improve how you read. You are welcome.

Keeping It in Perspective 7/26/2014

We must pray for the Ukrainian Church:

Churchmen were tortured and murdered the day after they were captured.

Four members of the Transfiguration Evangelical church murdered by pro-Russian terrorists for ‘sectarianism and treason’ against the Russian people were buried in Sloviansk.

Read the rest here . . . .

Miscellaneous Monday

So summer finally decided to show up in Wisconsin.  For those who know me this is not good news.  I hate feeling hot, my body hates being hot and sweat rolls off my head like I am in a shower.  All of that to say that I hope summer is short this year.  Well, that is my introduction to this post so let’s move on to the links.  Mind you, these are just a collection of things I found funny, clever, or interesting.

I have no idea if the World Cup is still going and really don’t care.  But apparently everyone is contractually required to do a post about it.  So here is mine.  Mind you it actually is cool.  Make sure you hover your mouse pointer over the 1930 T-Model image, you will thank me later.  Actually do it for all of the balls.

I don’t know why, but I just like this picture.  Mind you I would be tempted to kill our dog if he did this.

I don’t have a sliding glass door or I would so do this to my grandson.  And speaking of grandchildren I thought this kid was not real bright but then I watched my oldest granddaughter vaguely eat her frozen custard last night.  Since I know she is brilliant I am forced to change my position.

I found this to be a real good read on something I had never thought about.  Do you know why one fish’s flesh is orange and another fish’s flesh is blue?  No?  I didn’t think so, which is why Miscellaneous Monday exists.

There is some seriously good footwork in this gif but no matter how many times I watch it I always end up thinking about the disparity in their height.  The dude looks like a 12 year old.

This is just a small quote from this article which will then compel you to read it. ” When I tripped, I reached reflexively to break my very real fall with my completely imaginary left hand. My fall was instead broken by my nose, and my nose was broken by my fall.”

I would want my money back…seriously.  And this guy should not be allowed to buy things until he understands how they are to be used.

So yesterday I was telling my son-in-law about a guy who had a pot-bellied pig for a pet.  That is the only reason I am posting this picture.  Oh, and then we watched watched what we think were two little bats flitting around in the back

I saw this a month or so ago and forgot about it. Apparently babushkas in Russia are still learning how technology works.   I think it is hilarious but I really want to know how it ended.  Regardless she has a good friend to help her.

Here is a great gif of Shanghai.  Apparently it is two pictures 20 years apart from each other.  Wow.

What do you do if you are stuck in an airport overnight?  Check out what this guy did, brilliant!

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

%d bloggers like this: