Archive for the 'preaching' Category

I so wanted to do my own post on this subject, but I don’t think I’ll say anything remotely as interesting or compelling as what Tim Keller says in this sermon. I’ll just provide the link and give you the chance to listen to a fantastic sermon by an excellent preacher.

Arguing about Politics

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First of all, go watch this message.  I’ll wait.  What I’ve got to say pales in comparison.

Very powerful stuff, IMHO.

One ancillary statement that Matt Chandler made, though, stuck out to me because of prior conversations here.  Several pastors/teachers have been repeatedly thrown under the bus by ODMs and their ilk because they chose to speak at conferences or churches where the other speakers didn’t agree with them theologically — sometimes with significant differences.

The “unequally yoked” phrase from 2 Corinthians 6:14 gets hideously misappropriated and gross exaggerations like “partnering in ministry” get bandied about.  Not surprisingly (and I say this with regret, because I are one), a lot of such silliness comes from those that would consider themselves to be of the Reformed community.  I point that out because Chandler is a Reformed guy and this was at T4G, which was lousy with Reformed guys.  So when he talked about the issue, this was not two hyper-Pelagians discussing it over a beer.

The embedded video below (in case you haven’t listened to the whole message yet — you heathen) kicks in at the start of the statement that’s relevant to this post.  As background, he’s talking about the vision that he had for his church when he first started pastoring.  The statement runs for about 1 minute, 25 seconds (you can quit listening when he says “I’ll be working”).

In a minute and a half, Chandler crystallizes what I’ve believed for some time. I don’t think I ever want to hear that “partnering in ministry” crap again.

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Chris noted in a previous post that we have a very diverse set of voices reading and commenting on this blog and I would like to hear some of that diverse perspectives.  I have to deliver a sermon on the subject of worship within a few weeks. The sermon will be one in a series about spiritual growth, worship being one aspect of that. I would like to hear your perspective on worship.

My main scripture will be Luke 7:36-43 where the immoral woman (I assume a prostitute) crashed a dinner party of some very religious people to worship Jesus.

Luke 7

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.[h] 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[i] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

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Or, Thought for the Day #35.

Either way, I came across this quote in Mark Noll’s new book The New Shape of World Christianity. We are rather myopic, I think, when it comes to Christianity. I confess this as my own sin and I have learned it as sin, in large part, due to my class on Diversity in Education at CSU. What I mean is something like this. I understand race relations, for example, from my point of view and, to be sure, I have defended race relations from my point of view. I didn’t grow up  in the deep south. I didn’t grow up in the turbulent 60-70’s when race relations were evolving into something beautiful. Race relations in this country have been forged red in tooth and claw so I chose the word evolving on purpose. But my viewpoint on race has been large myopic; cloudy at best, utter darkness at worst.

And so it is too with Christianity and how I view it. I may not like it, but since going to college in 1991 I have been involved in any number of congregations: University Christian Church in East Lansing (near MSU); Brandywine Christian Church in Appalachia (deep Appalachia!); Chester First Christian Church (on the Ohio River); North Madison Church of Christ (near Cleveland); and Kalamazoo Christian Church (near, at the time, Upjohn & WMU), East Palestine Church of Christ (my home church, large and white). There have been others, too, along the way, but no matter where I have gone, or where I have preached, or the level of conservatism or liberalism embedded in the local community, Christ has always been at the center of the church. The cultural situation that surrounded and influenced the church has varied, but there always was, at the center, Christ.

I believe, by and large, my transportation to so many different congregations, in so many different parts of the world, in so many different cultural settings was a part of God’s plan to strip me of my myopia and ignorance concerning his plans, for his church, in this world. His plans are majestic, grand, involve all peoples, all cultures, all ideas, all nations, all tribes, all tongues–the grand mosaic that makes humanity beautiful and majestic. When I went to Brandywine Christian Church in West Virginia, I had already been largely influenced by the preacher of a university church (he was largely intellectual), an old school revival style preacher (he was largely emotional and loud), and four years of college chapel & lecture series preachers (they were largely agenda driven). I was in a rude awakening on my first day when I went around to greet people in my suit and was told, by the Methodist preacher, to ‘lose the suit.’ I would have been better off wearing overalls or waders or an orange vest emblazoned with a hunting license on the back.

What worked in those previous cultural situations would in no way, shape, form or other work in Brandywine, West Virginia.

So all the churches have been different whether it was a small country church in East Arbela, Michigan or a larger Suburban church outside of Detroit. With Christ at the center the church formed and was shaped–but never were cultural considerations or influences absolutely removed, and I am not so sure that Jesus is interested in doing so anyhow. There is simply no avoiding the influence of culture in the church.

There’s more to this story of my journey in faith, but I do believe that, again, the reason for my sojourn is so that the walls of my christian prejudice would be utterly destroyed and crumbled into nothing. The Law of Conservation of Energy does  not apply when it comes to the demolition of our sin and God is relentless in his work to purge us of what we think is important–it’s no easy task and He does not fail to meet with stiff resistance; still he wins. I tremble; I crumble.

My point is that Christianity is not defined by American culture everywhere even if it is defined by it here in America. Christianity, with Christ at the center, is its own wherever it is. And that is part of Noll’s point:

In a word, today’s Christian situation is marked by multiplicity because of how deeply the Christian message, fully indigenized in local languages, has become part of local cultures. The new shape of world Christianity offers a mosaic of many, many varieties of local believe and practice. Immigration, the modern media, global trade and the ease of contemporary travel have stirred this mixture. In many places it is possible to find traces–or more–of American influence. But the multiplicity goes far beyond what any one influence can explain, except the adaptability of the Christian faith itself. (27)

And in a strange, rather ironic twist, it appears from Scripture that the culture we have inherited and inhabited will not finally be abolished or abandoned, but will remain as a part of what makes us as unique as snowflakes:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” 11All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying:
“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

I think there is more to the story, but for now, maybe what we are learning (at least I am) is that with Christ at the center, culture isn’t all that bad of a thing. And by that I mean, all of them–not just the American one. Maybe culture is as beautiful and majestic as the people who create it. We do not have to hope and pray that everyone become white, conservative, American evangelicals in order for them to be a large part of that throng who gathers around the Lamb.*

What do you think?

*You know, I hope, that I am referring to those parts of culture that are beautiful and majestic: Language, art, traditions, habits, etc. I am not, most certainly not, referring to those things that are aberrations and perversions of the beautiful.

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Those “born again from above” are regenerated by the Holy Spirit at the Father’s good pleasure, not by how YOU present it.

This comment was posted recently by a detractor who occasionally visits us here at CRN.info. As is often the case, the comment thread had taken a turn to a minor subject that was both irrelevant to the original topic and also the topic of heated debate. In the midst of a discussion about presenting the Gospel in varied ways this comment was inserted.

Now, theologically I would agree. Yet, theology is not what we were talking about – we were discussing practical issues and strategy of Gospel presentation. And while the two are, of course, nearly inseparably intertwined – they are still two separate issues.

This comment represents a whole (and here I freely admit I am raising it as a metonymy) school of thought – a school that derides new ways of delivering the old message, that mocks the need for considering the position of the hearer, that scolds others for trying to be relevant to unbelievers. Now, I also grant that there are those who take this too far – yet our detractors often throw out the proverbial baby with their bathwater

Since I am working on my doctorate in missiology, the issues surrounding the communication of the Gospel cross-culturally are of particular interest. Therefore comments such as the one above pique my interest.

Then I read this in a mission’s publication:

After several people died in Brazil’s Pacaas Novos tribe due to illness, the missionaries felt they needed to speed up the sharing of the Gospel. The missionary with the best grasp of the language stood in front of the people and started sharing. His delivery was animated; he wanted to convey how important this was. Another missionary seated in the middle of the group overheard one man ask another what the missionary was talking about. “Oh, don’t pay attention to him, he’s just drunk,” said the other.

More time learning the culture and the language revealed that only when they were drunk did the Pacaas Novos stand up and talk to a group. So everything the missionary said that day was discounted and ignored, due to the culture of the people he was speaking to. (emphasis mine)

So apparently it does matter HOW you present the Gospel.

Of course, opposition to new methods is nothing new. William Carey was confronted one day by a man in England who objected to new ways of reaching the heathens in far off lands – “If God wants to save the heathens” he was told, “He can do it without your help.” What the man objected to was change… he also objected to a message that challenged his comfort, his way of thinking, his assumptions about God.

Here we are 200 plus years later and people are still saying- “God can save the heathens without you repackaging the message.”

I suppose these missionaries could have skipped the study of their intended people group… they could have stood there and “Preached the Gospel” in the Pacaas Novo language and assumed they had done their duty (does this bring any videos to mind?). How many times a day in America does someone think they have fulfilled their calling to preach the Gospel – yet, due to their lack of understanding those to whom they preach… that is all they have done – “preached.” They have “communicated” nothing.

The missionaries were not satisfied with just preaching the Gospel, their goal was to communicate the truths of the Gospel. And this is a completely different endeavor. Often the latter measn the former… but the former does not guarnatee the latter.

Even though it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates a person upon salvation to the pleasure of the Father – it does indeed matter how WE present that truth.

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Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you not to obey the truth, to whom before your eyes Jesus Christ was written among you crucified?
:2 This only I would learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing of faith?
:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now perfect yourself in the flesh?
:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain, if indeed it is even in vain?
:5 Then He supplying the Spirit to you and working powerful works in you, is it by works of the law, or by hearing of faith?
:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.
:7 Therefore know that those of faith, these are the sons of Abraham.

We have discussed the issue of salvation on this site many times and I can confidently say that we are in unity on this subject that salvation comes through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and that we are reborn by the Spirit. The works of righteousness that follows rebirth are a result of that what the Spirit has already done inside.

Now I have these questions for you:

  • Can any works of righteousness make us more righteous?
  • Or can any sin make us less righteous?

What do you say?

This guy seems to think he has the answer (does anybody else see the resemblance to Nooma here?):

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I went out to eat with my wife this evening and when the food was done we ended up at the Half-Price Bookstore–which is like a cigarette after s**. Oh, :)

While at the Half-Price Bookstore, I picked up a brand spanking new hard cover copy of the ESV–the latest rage among the neo-Reformed. It sure is pretty.–inside and out; I love it.

Seems there is a lot of conversation lately about the proper use of words and what words we are allowed to use when we speak or preach. Some preachers have been taking a real hit from some who think their words are too, uh, vulgar. I have already blogged about this just a bit; some of you have commented.

Lately, I have been reading the Prophet Ezekiel. I thought you might also enjoy this chapter of Ezekiel, 23,  that I read tonight because it speaks to our time, our day, our culture, and our church. I have left the footnotes intact for your benefit.

Oholah and Oholibah

1The word of the LORD came to me: 2(A) “Son of man, there were(B) two women, the daughters of one mother. 3(C) They played the whore in Egypt;(D) they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms[a] handled. 4Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister.(E) They became mine, and they(F) bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is(G) Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

5“Oholah played the whore(H) while she was mine, and(I) she lusted after her lovers(J) the Assyrians, warriors 6clothed in purple,(K) governors and commanders,(L) all of them desirable young men,(M) horsemen riding on horses. 7She bestowed her whoring upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them, and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted. 8She did not give up her whoring(N) that she had begun in Egypt; for in her youth men had lain with her and handled her virgin bosom and poured out their whoring lust upon her. 9Therefore(O) I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, after whom she lusted. 10(P) These uncovered her nakedness;(Q) they seized her sons and her daughters; and as for her, they killed her with the sword; and she became(R) a byword among women,(S) when judgment had been executed on her.

11(T) “Her sister Oholibah saw this, and she became(U) more corrupt than her sister[b] in her lust and in her whoring, which was worse than that of her sister. 12She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses,(V) all of them desirable young men. 13And I saw that she was defiled; they both took the same way. 14But she carried her whoring further. She saw men(W) portrayed on the wall, the(X) images of(Y) the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, 15wearing belts on their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. 16When she saw them, she lusted after them and(Z) sent messengers to them(AA) in Chaldea. 17And the Babylonians came to her(AB) into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them,(AC) she turned from them in disgust. 18When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. 19Yet she increased her whoring,(AD) remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt 20and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. 21Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed[c] your young breasts.”

22Therefore, O Oholibah, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers(AE) from whom you turned in disgust,(AF) and I will bring them against you from every side: 23the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans,(AG) Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them,(AH) desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them, officers and men of renown, all of them riding on horses. 24And they shall come against you from the north[d] with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples.(AI) They shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield, and helmet; and(AJ) I will commit the judgment to them, and(AK) they shall judge you according to their judgments. 25And I will direct my jealousy against you,(AL) that they may deal with you in fury. They shall cut off your nose and your ears, and your survivors shall fall by the sword.(AM) They shall seize your sons and your daughters, and your survivors shall be devoured by fire. 26(AN) They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your beautiful jewels. 27(AO) Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and(AP) your whoring begun in the land of Egypt, so that you shall not lift up your eyes to them or remember Egypt anymore.

28“For thus says the Lord GOD:(AQ) Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate,(AR) into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust, 29and(AS) they shall deal with you in hatred and take away all the fruit of your labor(AT) and leave you naked and bare, and(AU) the nakedness of your whoring shall be uncovered. Your lewdness and your whoring 30have brought this upon you, because(AV) you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols. 31You have gone the way of your sister;(AW) therefore I will give(AX) her cup into your hand. 32Thus says the Lord GOD:

“You shall drink your sister’s cup
that is deep and large;
you shall be laughed at and held in derision,
for it contains much;
33you will be filled with(AY) drunkenness and sorrow.(AZ) A cup of horror and desolation,
the cup of your sister Samaria;
34(BA) you shall drink it and drain it out,
and gnaw its shards,
and tear your breasts;

for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. 35Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because(BB) you have forgotten me and(BC) cast me behind your back, you yourself(BD) must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.”

36The LORD said to me:(BE) “Son of man,(BF) will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Declare to them their abominations. 37For(BG) they have committed adultery,(BH) and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even(BI) offered up[e] to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. 38Moreover, this they have done to me:(BJ) they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and(BK) profaned my Sabbaths. 39For when(BL) they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day(BM) they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And behold,(BN) this is what they did in my house. 40They even sent for men to come from afar,(BO) to whom a messenger was sent; and behold, they came. For them you bathed yourself,(BP) painted your eyes,(BQ) and adorned yourself with ornaments. 41You sat on(BR) a stately couch, with a table spread before it(BS) on which you had placed my incense and(BT) my oil. 42The(BU) sound of a carefree multitude was with her; and with men of the common sort, drunkards[f] were brought from the wilderness; and they put(BV) bracelets on the hands of the women, and(BW) beautiful crowns on their heads.

43“Then I said of her who was worn out by adultery, Now they will continue to use her for a whore, even her![g] 44For they have gone in to her, as men go in to a prostitute. Thus they went in to Oholah and to Oholibah, lewd women! 45But righteous men(BX) shall pass judgment on them with the sentence of adulteresses, and with the sentence of women who shed blood, because they are adulteresses, and blood is on their hands.”

46For thus says the Lord GOD:(BY) “Bring up a vast host against them, and make them(BZ) an object of terror and(CA) a plunder. 47(CB) And the host shall stone them and cut them down with their swords.(CC) They shall kill their sons and their daughters, and(CD) burn up their houses. 48(CE) Thus will I put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done. 49And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and(CF) you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and(CG) you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”

Footnotes:

  1. Ezekiel 23:3" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21011">Ezekiel 23:3 Hebrew nipples; also verses 8, 21
  2. Ezekiel 23:11" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21019">Ezekiel 23:11 Hebrew than she
  3. Ezekiel 23:21" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21029">Ezekiel 23:21 Vulgate, Syriac; Hebrew bosom for the sake of
  4. Ezekiel 23:24" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21032">Ezekiel 23:24 Septuagint; the meaning of the Hebrew word is unknown
  5. Ezekiel 23:37" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21045">Ezekiel 23:37 Or have even made pass through the fire
  6. Ezekiel 23:42" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21050">Ezekiel 23:42 Or Sabeans
  7. Ezekiel 23:43" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=47#en-ESV-21051">Ezekiel 23:43 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain
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OK…I know there is a lot of…uh…controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll. People don’t like his mouth…they don’t like his Calvinism…they don’t like that he hangs around with the so-called ‘big-wigs’ of the Reform party church, they don’t like that he talks about s** from the pulpit, and much, much more. The guy can’t win. I understand. Driscoll is a complicated kind of fella. Here’s where the irony comes in in this post.

Our good friend and truth defender Mike Ratliff wrote this the other day at Walk By Faith:

The vast majority of evangelical Christians exist in an extremely shallow spiritual condition. The Church worship they experience is man-focused. The sermons they hear from the pulpit are specifically designed to offend no one. There is little if any mention of sin, the need for repentance or Biblical discipleship. Their shepherds are guilty of being more concerned with numbers rather than the health of the flock. To these ministers, size matters. The larger the better, therefore, they preach vanilla, seeker-sensitive, feel good sermons that attract those who have no use for what the Bible says about sin and its consequences. They design their Sunday morning worship service to entertain the goats rather than to feed the sheep. The flock’s Bible knowledge is rudimentary at best. (My emphasis.)

OK. OK. So everyone, or at least the ‘vast majority’ of those of us who actually have the calling and nerve to stand behind pulpits and preach on Sunday mornings are white-washed here by Mr Ratliff–and, as you can see, our congregations aren’t any better. You know what they say about preachers. Those who can, preach; those who can’t sit in the pews and throw rotten tomatoes. It’s rather easy to do isn’t it Mike? What did the church do before we discovered the Holy Spirit given spiritual gift of blogging?

Then tonight, as if I am not stupid enough, I decided to go to Slice of Laodicea for a quick laugh before bed and I saw this: I’ve Had it with Mark Driscoll and His Mouth (posted by ‘admin’). When I clicked the embedded link it took me here: I’ve had it with Mark Driscoll and his mouth. Now it’s Personal. When I get there, I read this:

My wife told me about a sermon Pilgrim Radio was playing on the radio as she was returning home from the grocery store with our young children in the car. She said that the man preaching (she had no clue who he was) was talking about “prostitutes,” “whores,” and “lesbians” and that he kept using these expressions as if trying to be shocking.

Bingo! My wife who knows very little—if  anything—about Mark Driscoll hit the nail on the head in her evaluation of him.

She then told me that this same man began talking about wives in submission to their husbands and how oftentimes men abuse this. Instead of using an innocuous example to make his point, what did Mark “The Cussing Pastor” Driscoll do? Why, he did what apparently comes so natural for him: Driscoll expounded on such abuse by illustrating an example in which men misuse their wives’ submission by making them watch porn!

Are you kidding me? That’s the best example he could come up with? For crying out loud, my kids were in the car and heard this trash before their mother turned it off. Does this guy’s mind ever come up out of the gutter for air? (Their emphasis.)

Now for the record, I happen to agree that Driscoll’s ’sex sermons’ are, well, dumb. However, you know what? No one is forcing me to listen to them. I also understand that he is speaking to a specific audience.  And, to be sure, I don’t listen to ‘Pilgrim Radio’ so that’s not an issue either. I guess as the adult in my family, I have the right to censor what my children listen to also. We prefer listening to my own recorded sermons and I don’t let my wife go anywhere alone with my children. (*smile*)

What bugs me is that this person, the one hosting ‘DefCon’, gives us no context whatsoever for the words he cites as offensive. Interesting, isn’t it, that those words are offensive in a sermon but not in a blog post? And if it was offensive on the radio, how is less offensive to repost the same words on the internet where it is more likely that children will find them? I might need to put a net nanny on my computer to block DefCon and protect my children! Still, all jesting aside, what is the context of the sermon? Give us a link so we can hear it and see if you have judged Driscoll correctly.

Please, provide some documentation. As it is, this is just hearsay. Without context and documentation, none of us has any clue if you are telling the truth or just randomly attacking someone you don’t like. You mean this was the first time, you who had Pilgrim Radio linked on your blog, that you heard Driscoll at that hour? You mean you didn’t warn your wife before letting her go? I seriously don’t understand why you didn’t just warn your wife ahead of time to avoid that hour of radio broadcasting.

On another note, fact is there are a lot of whores in Scripture. It might be fun to do an entire sermon series on the whores of the Bible. We could talk about The Great Whore in the Revelation; Mary Magdalene; Rahab; Israel (as described by several prophets); the whore that anointed Jesus with her tears; the whore that Jesus saved from a stoning; the whore in the book of Judges who was cut up and mailed out to various parts of Israel; and so on. So many whores, so little time. (Oh, wait, that doesn’t sound right. Strike that last phrase.) Still, I guess if we are to follow the advice of DefCon, then we preachers must leave out a significant part of the Bible’s witness. ATTENTION ALL PREACHERS: Don’t use the word ‘whore’ in sermons because there might be women and children listening whose ears will fall off if they hear such words.

We live in an impure world. There are whores and queers and lesbians and dykes and transsexuals and crossdressers and pedophiles and prostitutes and alcoholics and murderers and thieves…oh, and the list could go on and on and on and on forever ad infinitum. Are you offended by words? Seriously? Then you should hide in a room with ear muffs. These are the very ones Jesus himself spent considerable time with during his earthly life. “The whores all seem to love him, the drunks propose a toast.” Only Rich Mullins could use the word ‘whore’ in a song and have it sound so elegant, so wonderful. (Better break all my Rich Mullins CD’s this weekend.)

I am angry; spittin’ angry. Let me ask you what is worse. Is it worse for a preacher to preach the truth and use words like whore, prostitute, lesbian, and porn (you know, words that Mike Ratliff wants to hear since these are words that describe ’sin’ he believes is missing from most sermons in American churches); or, is it worse to sit behind a computer monitor and blather on criticizing a man called and ordained by Christ to preach the Gospel because he does use words like whore, prostitute, lesbian, and porn?

I guess we’ll just forget about ever preaching from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Song of Solomon, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, the Prophets, The Gospels–ah, we may as well just forget about preaching anything from the Bible because there are all sorts of offensive words in the Bible, words like whore, death, murder, s**, prostitute, and so on and so forth. God once told Ezekiel to cook food over human excrement. What word does God use when he talks about human excrement? (Better throw away my Bible tonight so that I am not offended by God’s use, his own God-breathed use, of the Hebrew word for ‘human excrement.’ (See Ezekiel 4:12.))

So here’s my question, to either Mr Ratliff or DefCon, or anyone else who wants to answer: Are we preachers to be offensive or not? Driscoll clearly offended someone, and yet it was too much. What about the offense of the cross? Can we preach that? Oh, probably not since there were actually, shhhh!, naked people there being crucified. Can you people please make up your minds about what we preachers can and cannot say from the pulpit so that we don’t hurt your precious ears? Could you, like, write up a list of words your itching ears want and don’t want to hear? And Mike, if you are listening, I guess you should start listening to Driscoll. Since you want sermons that are designed to offend someone I’m guessing Mark’s your man!

The ADM’s of the world are fond of throwing out some Scripture on their blogs so as to prove their point. Well, I am a preacher so let me throw out some Scripture too:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Preach the Word, he wrote. He didn’t say leave any parts of it out of our sermons–All Scripture is God-breathed; even the parts we find offensive. Like when David’s son had s** with David’s wives in public!  He said ‘preach the whole counsel of God.’ I agree with this conclusion written to a very long essay on this very topic:

So, when we teach the whole counsel of God, we, like Paul, shall emphasize the things unique to Christianity and in the process give godly instruction about living by faith in this sinful world. The “all truth is God’s truth” credo is not helpful in this and often serves as a stumbling block. The question “is it true” is a good one, but inadequate in itself. More important is: did Christ command us to teach this?

Paul told the Ephesian elders: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.” He wrote this to Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2Timothy 3:16). Timothy was also ministering in Ephesus. It is clear that “all Scripture” is profitable and the Christian teacher and preacher should not avoid any of it. Though we may not be able to expound every single verse of the Bible in a lifetime (though surely a worthy goal), we should never avoid a verse or a topic for fear the audience might not like it. The whole counsel of God is relevant, applicable, and needful to every generation in every culture throughout the church age. There will be no situation in which it will be any less “profitable” than it was for those under Paul’s and Timothy’s ministries. May God give us grace, courage, tact, and insight as we set forth to proclaim the whole counsel of God. (Bob DeWay, at Critical Issues Commentary on line. From the essay, “The Whole Counsel of God: We must teach what Christ commanded to be taught; not what people consider “relevant)

Yes. Yes. Yes. Preach on! This is true! That means that occasionally us preachers are going to have to use words like whore, prostitute, lesbian, and porn in sermons because, evidently, even these words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, or, if you prefer, God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). I guess you pew-sitters are gonna have to decide if it is better for those of us who are ordained and called to preach to obey our God’s call or back down in the face of your complaints. You seriously need to read Scripture some time–to your wives and children and yourselves. You need to be offended, and if you are not, I seriously doubt it is the Word of God you are reading.

PS-The author at DefCon was complaining because in Driscoll’s sermon, he was talking about porn. Re-read this:

She then told me that this same man began talking about wives in submission to their husbands and how oftentimes men abuse this. Instead of using an innocuous example to make his point, what did Mark “The Cussing Pastor” Driscoll do? Why, he did what apparently comes so natural for him: Driscoll expounded on such abuse by illustrating an example in which men misuse their wives’ submission by making them watch porn!

Are you kidding me? That’s the best example he could come up with? For crying out loud, my kids were in the car and heard this trash before their mother turned it off. Does this guy’s mind ever come up out of the gutter for air? (Their emphasis.)

Again, we have absolutely no context whatsoever for this assessment. Still, I wonder how this is different from this.

When we began dating, I noticed that he would never ever comment about a passing woman or look at an attractive female. In the mall, he deliberately turns his head away from stores that feature immodest and in some cases, pornographic displays. Nothing said, just quick evasive action. That sends a message to a wife that she alone is valued and cherished. (See also the last comment left by ‘Steve.’ I don’t see much difference except that Driscoll is in a pulpit and ‘Steve’ posted on a blog.)

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I don’t very often post sermons here, simply because I really don’t listen to a lot of recorded sermons very often.  The other day, however, I came across s short sermon on Youtube by Greg Boyd entitled “The Pathology of the Religious”.  Boyd draws a lot from his book Repenting of Religion in this sermon (he also has a new book that touches on similar themes called The Myth of a Christian Religion), but the nice thing is that total sermon is less than 20 minutes long (I’m all for brevity when it comes to public speaking!).  I find Boyd’s comparison of a religious person to a clinically sociapathic person to be spot-on.  Please note that when Boyd uses the word “sociopath”, he is actually using it in the clinical sense and not as an ad hominem attack of any sort.  He is simply making the point that just as sociopathic people try to manipulate others by focusing solely on external behavior, a religious person attempts to in essence manipulate God.

I hope they are a blessing to you.

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Reflections on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009

“Faith has to do with marrying Invisible and Visible. When we engage in an act of faith we give up control, we give up sensory (sight, hearing, etc.) confirmation of reality; we give up insisting on head knowledge as our primary means of orientation in life. The positive way to say this is that when we engage in an act of faith we choose to deal with a living God whom we trust to know what he is doing, we choose a way of life in which bodily senses and physical matter are understood as inseparable and organic to vast interiorities (soul) and immense beyonds (heaven), and we choose to no longer operate strictly on the basis of hard-earned knowledge, glorious as it is, but over a lifetime to embrace the mystery that ‘must dazzle gradually/Or every man go blind.’ (Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way, 44; the quote at the end is from Emily Dickenson, The Complete Poems.)

I preached from Ezekiel 37 this morning but only the first 14 verses. The Lord takes Ezekiel for a walk through a valley, a plain—maybe the plain of Meggido—and shows him the remains of what had probably been a battle. The dead, likely of the losing army, had been left on the battle field. Their bodies over time had decayed and been picked clean by the animals and birds. All that was left was bones. A valley of dry, very dry bones. And as Ezekiel retells the events of that day, he recalled that the Lord had showed him all around the valley that day after setting him down in the very middle of that pile of bones. Listen to Ezekiel recall the day’s events.

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Ezekiel was shown a valley of desolation, a plain of hopelessness, the valley of the shadow of death. There was nothing there but death, dead, dry bones and that is all that Ezekiel saw. Ezekiel was far too literal; he hadn’t yet developed the eyes of faith, eyes that see what eyes cannot see. The Lord showed Ezekiel everything there was to see: A vast, endless, sea of dead, dry, very dry bones. From a purely human point of view, the question the Lord asked Ezekiel was unfair and I believe that Ezekiel’s answer betrays that: “Lord, you alone know.”

This was, I believe, Ezekiel’s way of giving a perfectly orthodox theological answer without being committed to faith: “You alone know Lord.” Yes. The Lord knows. I think it was Ezekiel’s way of saying something like, “Lord, you can do anything, but I seriously doubt that this valley of dry, very dry bones can or will live. You alone know, Lord; yes, I agree. But this is a valley of dry bones. That’s all I see. There’s no hope for this valley of dry bones. And yet, Lord, I will obey; I will speak.”

The thing is, that’s not what the Lord saw. Later we learn what the Lord saw. Listen to what the Lord told the prophet.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, `Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off. Therefore prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ “

That’s the difference between God’s view of things and our view of things. God sees the things that we do not, or cannot. God sees life where there is death; hope where there is hopelessness; the House of Israel where there is only a valley of dry bones. God sees things that we cannot. You might say that God has a sort of faith that we do not. I might say I want that sort of faith.

Maybe Ezekiel wasn’t quite ready to give up control; maybe I’m not. He knew what he saw: A valley of dry, very dry bones. Maybe he wasn’t ready to give up sensory control or his insistence upon a purely intellectual, visual, orientation to life. It’s not easy to live in that sort of, from a human point of view, randomness. We like control. We like knowing, seeing, hearing. We do not like things being out of the ordinary; we like routine. Faith is a way of living that says, if I may, ‘to hell with routine; to hell with what I know, see, hear; to hell with control.’ I know that sounds almost like anarchy, but I assure you it is actually the sort of life (the only sort of life) that can say, “Yes Lord I will take my son, my only son, whom I love, and sacrifice him on a distant mountain even though I don’t see the sense of it;” or “Yes Lord I will prophesy to a valley of dead, dry bones even though I don’t think anything will happen when I do;” or “Yes, Lord, continue believing in you even though there are people who want to kill me for doing so;” or, “Yes, Lord, I will dance and become even more undignified even though people will mock me, people from within my own family; or, “Yes, Lord, I will go to the world with your hope even though they will reject me and crucify me.”

That kind of faith is the kind of faith that defines the people of Christ. And it is also the kind of faith that we are asked to exercise in every situation. The hardest times to exercise such faith are the times when we happen to think that such faith isn’t actually necessary. “Oh, it’s a small decision. I can make it on my own. God doesn’t care what sort of toaster I buy. All I need here is common sense and Sunday’s ads.” But that is not faith. Faith is that extraordinary trust, small and often indiscernible, even when things seem simple and uncomplicated. It might be easy to display a herculean sort of faith during times of great stress and pressure and attack, but I think it is most important to practice such faith when things are at their easiest and least complicated. It shows that we don’t trust ourselves at all; that we need guidance in all ways.

If we don’t practice such faith then, do you think we will practice such faith when life is up in arms and the enemy is crowding us, desiring more space in our lives, when things are really, really hard? If I won’t have the faith required to preach faithfully to a captive audience (let’s face it, a valley of dry bones is a rather captive audience; they’re not going anywhere; they can’t do anything but ‘listen’), then how will I faithfully preach to a living body of Christ? (Maybe it says something about Ezekiel that the Lord entrusted him to preach to a valley of dry bones first before he asked him to preach to the ‘whole house of Israel’.) It’s a small thing to preach to dry bones; it’s quite another thing to preach to the Living Body of Christ. I notice Ezekiel did preach to the bones; we are not told that he preached this particular message to the ‘whole house of Israel’ (See vss 7, 10, 12-14.)

I know I am mixing up all these words: Faith, faithfulness, God’s ‘faith’, my faith. What I’m getting at though is that perhaps faith is the letting go of what we know and see and hear and the living of life that comes from knowing, seeing and hearing and instead living a life that is oriented around what God sees, hears, and knows. I mean think about it, what’s better? Preaching to what we see, that is, a valley of dry bones or preaching to what God sees, the whole house of Israel? But until we have the sort of eyes that see what God sees, the whole house of Israel, our efforts, our preaching, our faith—indeed, our very lives–will be full of frustration and futility.

We live by faith, not sight. But it’s that kind of faith; God’s kind of faith. So Ezekiel prophesied.

And there was a noise, a rattling sound.

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