Saturday, December 31, 2011

the village--new place, same nonsense

I guess I'm a bit behind on things, but it looks like Emergent Village has moved, insofar as a basically virtual nonentity can be said to move. Perhaps there are still hangers-on at the old site, but there's a new one up now, too.

Ok, so, but as they say, the more things change...

Mary, Joseph, and Mysticism: by Bruce Epperly

Many years ago, during my days as a university chaplain, I led a weekly prayer and meditation group. We practiced centering prayer, Quaker silence, visualizations, and lectio divina.

Well, there's a whole mess of mess right there.

First, I'll say that you should go here, The Inventor of Centering Prayer Teaches Us What It is For, to learn what this is all about.

Next, read this by Thomas Keating, one of the guys who started the practice of centering prayer. The is the quote from the web page, "Father Thomas says, "If you don't want to become God, you've missed the boat. If you're too humble to think you can become God, if you think you are not worthy, that is a false humility, because it's not yours to decide." It's God's choice. According to Father Thomas, it is your duty to become God. Centering Prayer and contemplation are the only modern methods that we have to listen to God, to perceive God, and to see the world as God sees it. Listen in as Father Thomas offers you the invitation to become God."

Centering prayer, then, is a continuation of the temptation of Satan in the Garden--that you should become like God. Centering prayer is evil and blasphemy, and should be avoided.

There is no better example of this active mysticism than Mary and Joseph’s responses to God’s invitation to be partners in the incarnation.

Funny, but in the biblical accounts, there is a very distinct lack of mention that Mary and Joseph practiced any things like centering prayer or other supposed spiritual practices or mystical whoop-de-doo.

We don’t know how Mary was chosen to bear this special child. Was she the first one that the angel asked? Had others been overwhelmed or resistant, knowing the personal and social cost of an unplanned pregnancy? Did Mary exemplify certain character traits worthy of divine interest? I don’t know the answer although I think all three options have some plausibility. God’s call to Mary and us is always personal and contextual, time bound but with everlasting consequences. Our response always bears our own individual signature and creativity.

Another example of reading into what the text says.

Luke 1
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

So, see anywhere that says the angel got it wrong before? Or, let's be honest, that God got it wrong? Does it say that Mary was better than anyone else? About the only virtue she could be said to have had was that she was still sexually pure, a virgin. The passage says nothing about her being especially virtuous. She was, in fact, just like the rest of us--a sinner, in need of a Savior. The passage mentions nothing about her supposed worthiness, but she had none, it was by God's grace that she was favored to bear the Christ-child. just as it was by God's grace the He chose the exiled Moses to free his people from Egypt, chose the boy David to become king of His people Israel, and so on. It was not a matter of worth.

Well, back to the announcement to Mary. When the angel came, she was inquisitive and surprised. In words later echoed by the Beatles, Mary responds, “Let it be.” In other words, I am open to following God’s vision, embracing it in my own flesh and blood. She is no passive clay manipulated by the unilateral potter. She joins agency and receptivity as she opens to God’s movements in the birth of her child. She is an active mystic – encountering divinity and then choosing to follow God’s vision in her life. She chooses incarnation, the holiness of birthing, for herself, Joseph, and the coming child. But, it is clear that “she chooses.”

Look at the passage above. The angel declares what is going to happen. He askes no question, he seeks no permission. That Mary was willing for the child to be born of her is evident and commendable of her, but there is no hint in the passage that she chose it.

Mary is perplexed, and so is Joseph. The exact details of this child’s birth are less important than the responses of the actors involved. As many biblical scholars assert, unusual births are common in the annals of great spiritual and military leaders. They are somehow set apart by the divine for a special mission and this begins at conception. This fact does not nullify the Christian affirmation of the virgin birth, but it invites us to ask whether or not the virgin birth is essential to the story. Is the incarnation about supernatural interventions or the natural holiness of flesh and blood and the world in which God’s quest for healing and salvation take place?

So, while this guy doesn't necessarily deny the virgin conception and birth of Christ, he's attitude is "No big deal". If Mary had slept with a real guy and gotten pregnant, no big deal, either, I suppose.

The 'holiness of natural flesh and blood'? Remember what Keating said, and see how that view is polluting this EV writers views. The supernatural, things like the virgin birth, are downplayed, to the elevation of the natural.

First, we can experience God in life-transforming ways. God is not aloof, but present in cells, souls, and communities. A one-dimensional faith – defining everything according the tenets of the modern world view – robs life of beauty, wonder, and amazement. The incarnation raises all life to revelation; each moment – even tragic moments – as a potential theophany. Sleepers awake! God is with us!

So, the incarnation of Jesus become about God being somehow accessible by mystical exercises. Yikes. All life is revelation? Yeah, not in the Bible.

Second, God comes to us through many ways – personal visitations (Fatima, Medjugorje), visionary experiences, dreams, intuitions, synchronous encounters).

Apparently, though, not through His Word. Any strange and bizarre experience is ok, but looking at the biblical text and studying it, apparently that's optional.

Third, divine encounters enhance rather than diminish freedom and creativity. Graceful visitations invite us to greater agency. God wants us to be companions in healing the earth, whether in the process of conception, child-bearing, and our ongoing care for the safety of our children and all children.

Oh, yes, the emphasis on creativity. I'm almost to the point of thinking the creativity is the real god of postmodernism.

Where does the Bible say that God wants us to be companions in healing the earth? Is that what the Great Commission was about?

Oh, well, the Village has moved, but it's taken the whackiness with it. If the sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result, then shouldn't the failure of the original Village have told these guys something?

One last thing. Read this guy's article in full, see how he spends more time reading what he wants to read into the text of the conception of Jesus, and see how his method is not really all that much different than what Mark Batterson does in The Circle Maker. And see what that book is such a wreck.

Friday, December 30, 2011

a rather dull and boring edge

One of the things that puts any kabosh on any attempts I may want to make to trust the people in 24-7 Prayer, and that overrides my attempts to give them the benefit of the doubt, has to so simply with those they insist upon partnering with. For example, there is this church, which is connected with their organization in New Zealand.

Edge City Church, the link goes to the page where the audio for this sermon can be found.

The sermon I'm listening to is by a woman named Julia. She "exegizes" the biblical account of Mary and the conception and birth of Jesus. What is she saying?

Well, let's see...

The accounts were definitely written from a man's point of view, as they just don't give the kinds of details women would want. Men just don't see a lot of detail, or at least the types of details women would notice. The Bible gives only "a man's amount of information".

If women had written the Bible, it would have been a lot longer, with a lot more detail, and somehow the book of Numbers would have been more interesting. Don't ask me why any of that is true, or even relevant to the topic of the conception and birth of Jesus. Hey, I'm just a guy.

Maybe the reason Moses wrote the Bible instead of Miriam was because the scribe, the guy putting words into the clay tablets, just couldn't keep up with Miriam as she was talking. I'll assume all of that was, somehow, meant for humor. But the fake stammer, apparently in an attempt to imitate Moses, was rather off-putting for one like myself, who has suffered from much that same kind of problem.

Advent means pregnancy. Actually, I thought Advent meant arriving. Like when the one guy a few years ago was making a big deal about the advent of Google, he certainly meant that the advent or arrival of Google was the big deal, at least in his own mind. Advent, in the Christian calendar, has to do with the birth of Christ, His arrival.

The life of Christ in us is like the pregnancy of Mary. Oh, joy, unfounded and unsupported assumptions and metaphors. This lady claims almost complete ignorance of "exegizing", so is it any wonder that her attempts at it wind up really being eisegesis, or reading into the text, and not exegesis, reading and understanding what the text itself is saying.

At least she admits it's a metaphor, for any credit that may be worth (precious little, if any).

She must be using The Message, because she's reading a verse from Luke 1that says that Mary said "I'm bursting with God-news". Really, why is the Message such a popular translation? I've read parts of it before, and it's style isn't modern, it's stilted. Like that. Who would use a word like "God-news"?

Apparently, all women who are pregnant are bursting with God-news. Nope, Mary being pregnant, no big deal. Oh, btw, I guess that explains why so many of those pregnant women go get aborted that child in them that causes them to be bursting with God-news.

And, apparently, the passage in Luke 1 in whatever translation she's using also has Mary saying "He took one look at me, and look what happened". To this lady's mind, apparently that's an excuse many women have made when in the same condition. This part of the message is very distasteful.

I'll agree with her some that we may tend to idealize Mary's pregnancy, not to mention the birth of Christ. Concerning the latter, we have carols that have lyrics like "Silent Night", when very likely it wasn't really a very quiet night at all, or "Little Lord Jesus no crying he makes", when Jesus as a newborn would likely have cried if He had been awakened by the nearby cows. So, a bit of a point for her, but, seriously, this is still not exegeting the text at all.

Apparently, being pregnant or having just given birth means people will talk about all kinds of bizarre things with you in public. I'll take her word for it. She's had a lot more experience at that than I, being just a guy, will ever have. Or, hopefully, that's just a Kiwi thing.

As she points out, the Bible doesn't talk about that stuff all that much. Why she is, while "exegizing" the text, I'm not sure, either.

Now, she'll continue using the metaphor of Mary's pregnancy, or maybe pregnancy in general, to discuss the idea of the life of Christ inside of us.

Pregnancy is uncomfortable, but it will be worth it. I've no doubt.

She's "exegizing" the cankle now. Again, she admits it's not in the Bible. For whatever reason, she's showing pictures, anyway.

The life of Christ inside of us can require discipline, and what she calls the uncomfortable process of change.

To kind of pause things a bit, I've made a bit of a search of the few resources I have, to see what the Bible say about this idea of "the life of Christ". It seems to be a surprising rare phrase, at least in the one concordance I've looked in, which is a fairly good one but, I'll admit, not exhaustive. Only one verse seems to have that phrase, in II Corinthians 4. Here's some context.

1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we
faint not: 2but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking
in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the
manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s
conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is
veiled in them that perish: 4in whom the god of this world hath blinded the
minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. 5For we preach not
ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for
Jesus’ sake. 6Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness,
who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in earthen
vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not
from ourselves;

8we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto
despair; 9pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed;
10always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of
Jesus may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are always
delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be
manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in
you. 13But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is
written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore
also we speak; 14knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise
up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15For all things are
for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may
cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. 16Wherefore we
faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is
renewed day by day. 17For our light affliction, which is for the moment,
worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;
18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things
which are not seen are eternal.

So, there is mention of "the life of Christ" in that passage. It still seems, though, that she is using it in a slightly different way than that passage does. For one thing, this passage doesn't liken it to pregnancy at all. We are not pregnant with the life of Christ, but rather as the passage says, we are delivered over to death so that the life of Christ may be manifest in our bodies.

She's treating this "life of Christ in you" in an almost therapeutic, Oprah-fied way. We should allow it stretch and grow us. Again, look in the passage above. It is in bearing about in our bodies the dying of Jesus that this life of Christ may be manifest in our bodies. When we are delivered to death for Jesus' sake, the life of Jesus may be manifest in our bodies. Here's an excerpt from a commentary about this passage.

10. bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus — that is, having my body exposed to being put to death in the cause of Jesus (the oldest manuscripts omit "the Lord"), and having in it the marks of such sufferings, I thus bear about wheresoever I go, an image of the suffering Saviour in my own person (2 Cor 4:11; 2 Cor 1:5; compare 1 Cor 15:31). Doubtless, Paul was exposed to more dangers than are recorded in Acts (compare 2 Cor 7:5; 2 Cor 11:26). The Greek for "the dying" is literally, "the being made a corpse," such Paul regarded his body, yet a corpse which shares in the life-giving power of Christ's resurrection, as it has shared in His dying and death.

Brown, David; Fausset, A. R.; Jamieson, Robert (2011-06-02). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible (best navigation with Direct Verse Jump) (Kindle Locations 86449-86455). OSNOVA. Kindle Edition.

A pregnancy will speak for itself. Well, yeah, after a while, it will.

People out there, lost people, people you work with if you work with lost people, are not looking for lectures of sermons, but just looking for you to be you. I'm not sure exactly what that means. The real me is a despicable, sinful person, full of evil, whose attempts are righteous works are merely putrid rags. Those aren't just words, I know rather well how evil and sinful I am. I do at times give an echo of sorts to Paul's words about doing what I know I should not do, and not doing what I know I should do, and realizing over and again how wretched I am, wanting to be saved from this flesh of death.

Don't be boring. Really? That's what the pregnancy of Mary is about, not being boring?

Hold faith in the story of God inside of you. What? Isn't that putting faith in the wrong thing?

But thing big thing is, at least so far, to make sure that what you say or do meets the approval of all those other people around you. Don't be boring to them, don't force your beliefs on them, don't talk about things too very much to them.

Sometimes we don't allow God to be God in those around us. That is a rather strange phrase.

There is a place for community, or rather the Church. We are told to not forsake the assembly.

She believes the story of Christ inside of each of us is more powerful and more compelling than we may realize. What is this? Faith in the story of God, the story of Christ inside of us? What about faith in God, the life of Christ in us?

Apparently, hugging etiquette among Christians in New Zealand is very complicated.

In the most disturbing part of this 'sermon', a bit before the end, she tells about giving a friend of hers, who is not a Christian, a CD of her music. The friend admits that she uses the CD in meditation that involved crystals and incense, her CD is this woman's meditation music. And this speakers response to this? "That's awesome! I love it! Because she is finding His face, she's locked the door, she's trying to get away, and in every way that she knows she's looking for a little bit of a God-moment, and she's actually looking for a spiritual peace time-out, and something I've created off the God inside of me brings peace". Much of this 'sermon' has been ridiculous, but this is blasphemy.

And here we have it, basically a waste of a sermon, exegeting pregnancy far more than anything said in the Word of God, with the topper that it is cool to practice unbiblical mediation so long as it is done with her music that was created off the God (or maybe god) inside of her. Outside of an occasional random good point, all who heard this 'sermon' basically wasted their time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

they had jaw-clenching faith?

Sometimes you have to get out of your routine so God can speak to you in a nonroutine ways. I knew that I couldn’t just preach a sermon that weekend; I needed a word from the Lord. And God gave me one. During one of the teaching sessions, God gave me a promise to stand on and I put every ounce of my weight on Exodus 14:13 – 14:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

What would be the hardest thing to do with the Egyptian army charging straight at you at full speed? The hardest thing to do is precisely what God told them to do: stand still. God doesn’t just play chicken; He also plays flinch. When we find ourselves in this kind of situation, we want to do something, anything. We have a nervous energy that wants to solve the problem as quickly as possible. But God tells them to do nothing but pray. The closer the Egyptian army got, the more intense their prayers became. They clenched their jaws. They stood their holy ground. They prayed like they had never prayed before.

Zondervan, (2011-12-13). The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears (Kindle Locations 1912-1921). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. Mark Batterson

Here, let's look at the account in question.

Exodus 14
1And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto the children of
Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol
and the sea, before Baal-zephon: over against it shall ye encamp by the
sea. 3And Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in
the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. 4And I will harden Pharaoh’s
heart, and he shall follow after them; and I will get me honor upon
Pharaoh, and upon all his host: and the Egyptians shall know that I am
Jehovah. And they did so. 5And it was told the king of Egypt that the
people were fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was changed
towards the people, and they said, What is this we have done, that we
have let Israel go from serving us? 6And he made ready his chariot, and
took his people with him: 7and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and
all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over all of them. 8And Jehovah
hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the
children of Israel: for the children of Israel went out with a high hand.
9And the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of
Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping
by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon.

10And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes,
and, behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were sore
afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto Jehovah. 11And they said
unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us
away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to
bring us forth out of Egypt? 12Is not this the word that we spake unto
thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For
it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the
wilderness. 13And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still,
and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will work for you to-day: for
the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more
for ever. 14Jehovah will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

15And Jehovah said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak
unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16And lift thou up thy
rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children
of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground. 17And I, behold,
I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them:
and I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his
chariots, and upon his horsemen. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I
am Jehovah, when I have gotten me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his
chariots, and upon his horsemen. 19And the angel of God, who went
before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of
cloud removed from before them, and stood behind them: 20and it came
between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the
cloud and the darkness, yet gave it light by night: and the one came not
near the other all the night.

21And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and Jehovah caused the
sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry
land, and the waters were divided. 22And the children of Israel went into
the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto
them on their right hand, and on their left. 23And the Egyptians pursued,
and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his
chariots, and his horsemen. 24And it came to pass in the morning watch,
that Jehovah looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the
pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians.
25And he took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily; so
that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for Jehovah
fighteth for them against the Egyptians. 26And Jehovah said unto Moses,
Stretch out thy hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon
the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. 27And
Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its
strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and
Jehovah overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28And the
waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even all the
host of Pharaoh that went in after them into the sea; there remained not so
much as one of them. 29But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in
the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right
hand, and on their left. 30Thus Jehovah saved Israel that day out of the
hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the
sea-shore. 31And Israel saw the great work which Jehovah did upon the
Egyptians, and the people feared Jehovah: and they believed in Jehovah,
and in his servant Moses.

So, please read that scriptural excerpt, and if you can, show me where it says that "The closer the Egyptian army got, the more intense their (the people of Israel's) prayers became. They clenched their jaws. They stood their holy ground. They prayed like they had never prayed before."

Now, it does say in v. 10 that "the children of Israel cried out unto Jehovah", but when you look at the next few verses, it was likely not them crying out in faith. They weren't clenching their jaws, standing their ground (holy or otherwise, and likely otherwise in this case), and while I'm not sure if they had ever prayed like that before, maybe it could be said that it was among the first in a long line of complainings that the Books of Moses record that they did.

In other words, God didn't do anything here because of them. If anything, He worked His miracles in spite of them. They were the ones complaining, saying it would have been better to have stayed as slaves in Egypt. Moses stretched out his hand, and God parted the waters of the sea and dried up the land. Outside of complaining, the only thing the people did was to cross through on the dry ground God had supplied for them.

In more other words, Batterson is misrepresenting things in this account. It does not say that the people prayed, except maybe to complain of their lot. It does not say that their prayers became more intense as the Egyptians approached, except maybe in the whining index. It does not say that they clenched their jaws, but opened them in laments of impending doom. It does not say that they stood their holy ground, but that God provided them dry ground to walk upon. It does not say that they prayed like never before.

Nothing God did was in response to their prayers or faith, because they didn't pray, and they had no faith. God was the one who told Moses to move the people to a place where Pharoah would decide to pursue them. God was the one who hardened Pharoah's heart, so that he decided to follow Israel. God was the one who put the angel between the camps to protect Israel. God was the one who told Moses to lift his hands, and God was the one who sent the wind that parted the water and dried up the land. God was the one who caused problem among the Egyptians, then told Moses to lift his hands again so that the waters came together again and killed the Egyptians.

As v. 30 says, "Thus Jehovah saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians."

What is remarkable in this account is that the people did nothing to help themselves, even their prayers seemed to have been merely complaints. It was God who saved them, they themselves did nothing to save themselves.

Batterson simply doesn't impress me as one who so much reads what's written as much as he reads into what is written what he wants to be there. Oh, he may take a pen and circle phrases or verses all over his Bible, but he doesn't seem to understand content or context. Here, he simply completely reads into this account the jaw-clenching faith of Israel, which is completely absent in the account itself.

become a yoda of prayer?

It is a habit to be cultivated. It is a discipline to be developed. It is a skill to be practiced. And while I don’t want to reduce praying hard to time logged, if you want to achieve mastery, it might take ten thousand hours. This I know for sure: the bigger the dream the harder you will have to pray.
Zondervan, (2011-12-13). The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears (Kindle Locations 1209-1211). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. Mark Batterson

In this section or subsection, as it looks to be only a couple or three pages if it were in print, Batterson writes some things about people mastering things like playing a musical instrument, writing, some athletic things, and so one. He writes that the thing the people who master these things have in common is that they have put in over ten thousand hours of practice.

So, to understand what Batterson is saying in the paragraph above, you have to keep that in mind--he is likening prayer to a natural endeavor, one that can be practiced and mastered.

Sickening, isn't it.

What, for example, constitutes prayer "mastery"? To look at Jesus' parable of the prayers of the Pharaisee and the publican, the Pharisee had no doubt logged in many hours of prayer. It was a part of the job. The publican, being rather a social outcast due to his occupation, likely didn't pray all that much, certainly not as much as the person whose job was religious leadership. Yet, it was the prayer of the publican, who simply begged God for mercy, that was acceptable, and the publican who left justified.

I'm not sure where the Bible says that God keeps some kind of a clock, and when we've reached 10,000 hours God levels up our prayers, and we get a "Prayer Master Jedi" plaque to put on the wall, or maybe a black belt in prayer. And we can look with kindly condescension on those who have only put in about, oh, 1,734 hours. They're trying, they'll get there, while we get busy going up to 50,000 hours and leveling up even further.

For most of my life, it seems I've heard about these people who have been called "prayer warriors". I've come to where I'm no longer convinced there are such people. Oh, there may be people whose prayer rhetoric gives the impression of being authoritative, that they come off like God is or should be listening especially closely to them. But simply because someone can sound like that doesn't mean that their prayers have a special line to God, that they can get God to answer their prayers when He doesn't seem to be listening to anyone else you ask for prayer.

Nor is there such a thing as prayer "mastery". All of us who believe begin in the same place, repenting of our sins, and we continue to do that until the time we die. We all thank God for His blessings, we all bring our petitions to Him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Madonna Confirmed as Halftime Act of 2012 Super Bowl


(Really, what is it with the Super Bowl and horrid halftime shows?)


(They've had a few pretty good ones, but the last one I really liked us the one with U2.)


(And last years was awful. But Madonna? I fear that will be a noticeable step down from BEP, which is saying something.)


Monday, December 26, 2011

needless circles

The earth has circled the sun more than two thousand times since the day Honi drew his circle in the sand, but God is still looking for circle makers.
Mark Batterson, Zondervan, (2011-12-13). The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears (Kindle Locations 80-81). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

This is one of those statements that, biblically, makes no sense. The story of Honi's drawing a circles in the ground and praying while standing in it does not appear in the Bible at all. Honi seems to have lived in the time between the Testaments, and the stories about him seem to have a mythical element to them; for example, there is the story about falling asleep and waking up 70 years later. The story about him praying the circle also has a mythical flavor to it, as it has him having to correct God about the rain, as God seemed to having a klutzy day 'cause he kept making it rain either too softer or way too hard.

So, the idea that "...God is still looking for circle makers" seems rather strange, because there is no notion in the Bible that God ever looked for circle makers in the first place. The practice of drawing circles either while prayer or to pray within is nowhere commanded in Scripture, either Old Testament or New. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, there is no mention that they should kneel to ground and somehow ascribe a circle around themselves. When Paul went to a city to preach the Gospel, there is no mention of him awakening early each morning and hiking around the city as if such a practice should have somehow grown the church in that city and made his efforts at evangelism that much more effective.

And the timeless truth secreted within this ancient legend is as true now as it was then: Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don’t require divine intervention. But ask God to part the Red Sea or make the sun stand still or float an iron axhead, and God is moved to omnipotent action.
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears (Kindle Locations 81-84).

There are several statements in that excerpt written with an air of absolute certainty, yet to me they seem to lack any biblical support at all.

For example, if "Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers", then one would think it would be stated pretty plainly, in so many words, in the Bible. Yet there is no such thing stated; in fact, one could say that the New Testament teaches rather the opposite, with one exception. Jesus, for example, tells the disciples to pray for the rather mundane need of food to eat each day. When Jesus prayed before His death, his prayer was a petition that the cup should be passed from Him, but also an acceptance that the Father's will be done. When Christ in Revelation sends a message to the poor and persecuted church in Smyrna, He says nothing about them needing to engage in bold prayers that they should be delivered from their poverty and persecutions. When Paul addressed the many offenses of the Corinthians, he says nothing about them need to honor God by praying more boldly for whatever they would want. Rather, things like contentment are stressed and encouraged, and enduring to the end. Among the types of people whom Jesus called "Blessed", there were the meek, the persecuted because of righteousness, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the mourners, the poor in spirit. There is no mention of the bold in prayers.

As I said, there is one exception. In one of His parables, Jesus contrasts the prayer of a Pharisee and that of a publican. The Pharisee boldly praised God for his righteousness, but the publican humbly begged for mercy. But it was the publican, whose prayer was far from bold, who was justified. I will write more about this in a moment.

If "...God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less", then should we not expect such a thing to be fairly plainly stated in Scripture? We have a good idea of the things that are offensive to God, all the sins we commit, both plainly and secretly, things socially acceptable and socially rejected, things we know look bad and things that feed our self-righteousness by making us look good. The committing, for example, of blatant adultery, and the secret adulteries of lusting after another. But I have not seen anywhere that states that a lack of big dreams or bold prayers is anywhere considered offensive to Him.

If "...your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God", then where is such a thing stated in Scripture? Is having food for each day an impossible task for us? For some it may be, for others it really is almost routine. For the disciples, I must say that it doesn't seem like they were hurting on that front.

But I wonder what, really, Batterson means by praying for what is "impossible to you". In the book, he mentions things like his church acquiring a building for a coffee house, his church purchasing a whole city block, his church finding places to meet. But are these things really impossible? Those who do not worship God start up coffee shops, buy buildings, even find places places to hold religious ceremonies and worship whatever false gods they worship. Nothing in the book is necessarily impossible for a person with reasonable gifts and talents to do--maybe not easy, but not in itself impossible.

There is one impossible thing, though, that we can pray to God for. There is something impossible for any human to do, something only God can do. Christ came to earth to suffer and die as a sacrifice for our sins, for we could not rid ourselves of them. We can repent of sins and believe in Christ, and God will forgive us of our sins and give us eternal life, in much the same way as the publican was justified for his humble prayer for mercy on himself as a sinner.

There is a sense in which we may bodly approach the throne of grace, to receive help in time of need. But there is no guarantee that that help will be a new building, a larger church, a dream come true. Paul was right to pray to God concerning what he called a "thorn in the flesh", but God did not take it from him, but rather gave him the grace sufficient to endure it, and so Paul came to rejoice in his weakness. There is a sense in which we may pray for boldness, as the Apostles did early in Acts, praying that they should boldly proclaim the Gospel as the powers in Jerusalem began roughing them up some.

But there is no guarantee in Scripture that your dream of having a 10,000 member church will be honored, no matter how much you think it would honor God to have it and pray for it. There is no guarantee that you will prosper. There are guarantees that those who live godly in Christ will suffer persecutions. There are guarantees that just as the world hated Christ so will it hate those who love Him.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

wallis attacks fox with bad theology

Continuing the tirades against Rick Perry's statements about the War of Christmas, head Sojrone himself Jim Wallis weighs in with a hit piece.

The Real War on Christmas ... by Fox News

Fox News’ “war” is designed to criticize the “secularization” of our culture wrought by atheists, agnostics, liberals, leftists, progressives, and separation of church and state zealots— i.e. Democrats. This irreligious coalition force is allegedly waging a strategic offensive on Christmas, trying to banish the sacred symbols of the season, denying our religious heritage, and even undermining the spiritual rubrics upon which our great nation is built.

Well, at least Wallis has the list of usual suspects correct. But, in typical liberal fashion, it's the perpetrators who are the actualy victims, while the people crying foul about it are the ungodly oppressors.

But, on to the bad theology.

What is Christmas? It is the celebration of the Incarnation, God’s becoming flesh — human — and entering into history in the form of a vulnerable baby born to a poor, teenage mother in a dirty animal stall. Simply amazing. That Mary was homeless at the time,a member of a people oppressed by the imperial power of an occupied country whose local political leader, Herod, was so threatened by the baby’s birth that he killed countless children in a vain attempt to destroy the Christ child, all adds compelling historical and political context to the Advent season.

Now, as you man know, the most convincing lies contain a bit of truth in them. Some parts of the first part of that paragraph are fine, as far as they go. Christmas is the celebration of God becoming flesh, of the birth of Christ. After that, well...

I'm trying to remember where in the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ it is said the Mary was a teenage girl. I know the popular depictions--young, pretty, and all that. And maybe they're right. But I can't remember it being said, that way or this. At the risk of sounding like McLaren, what if Mary was actually in her twenties or thirties, and rather on the homely side? Would that add or take away anything from the account?

Now, concerning the economic status of Joseph and Mary. From the account Matthew 1, where we are told that after the dream Joseph took Mary as his wife, are to we assume that they were a homeless couple? It seems to hint rather that he had a place for his wife and family. They may not have been very wealthy, as some have hinted at concerning the sacrifice in Luke 2, but they were not homeless, as Wallis wants us to think.

When Wallis starts going about Jesus being "...a member of a people oppressed by the imperial power of an occupied country...", we can see his own politics coming in. It's a true enough statement, Israel was under Roman rule and occupation, and that seems to be almost a non-issue in much of what Jesus said and did in the Gospels. It does seem that the people were expecting the Messiah to come and liberate them from people like the Romans, but Jesus had a much more serious thing to liberate them from--their sins.

This is important. Jesus was not leading some kind of Occupy Jerusalem nonsense. He was not interested in trying to throw down Herod. When asked about paying taxes, He said that they should pay to Casear was is due to him. Some at Sojo try to read a dismissive or sarcastic tone into Jesus' statement here, but that is not hinted at in the text.

And, finally, Herod did indeed kill many children in trying to kill Jesus. Later, the Israelites were the ones wanting to kill the adult Christ. Roman and Jerusalem, Jews and Gentiles, all stand condemned for the unspeakable crime of rejecting the Messiah.

It is theologically and spiritually significant that the Incarnation came to our poorest streets. That Jesus was born poor, later announces his mission at Nazareth as “bringing good news to the poor,” and finally tells us that how we treat “the least of these” is his measure of how we treat him and how he will judge us as the Son of God, radically defines the social context and meaning of the Incarnation of God in Christ. And it clearly reveals the real meaning of Christmas.

Wallis is not the first person I've heard make a big thing about Jesus not being born in a palace, or being born in a rural area, or whatever. I remember a few years ago watching a church's Christmas play, where a character depicting the innkeeper mad a speech about the gift he was giving the Christ child was indifference. I don't know it that innkeeper was indifferent, busy, or what have you what not. Angels appeared to the shepherds, though I would guess none came to the innkeeper to tell him who was to be born that night near to him.

Later in life, Jesus did claim the prophecy in Isaiah to Himself, saying it was fulfille that day in their midst. The sick were to be healed, and the poor were to have the Gospel preached to them. We would be wrong, though, to say that this was some statement of class warfare on His part. Many people of means and power, like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus and Lazarus and the rich young ruler and the Roman centurion, seem to have heard His message and found it at least interesting, even if at least one went away saddened by His demands for him. It seemed the materially well-off had the Gospel preached to them, too, along with the poor. Because, ultimately, all of us are paupers in spirit, dead in sins, helpless to help ourselves, and in need of forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice.

And, finally, Wallis tries to throw in the social gospel--that "the least of these" are somehow all the poor or prisoners or whomever is suppose to be, in the eyes of ones like Wallis, that least. It's always funny how context is never brought in here, for example that Jesus' statement was "the least of these my brothers". If any are brothers of Christ, it is those who believe in Him. Many Christians are in hard situations, persecuted for their faith in Christ while living in cultures that are actively against those beliefs, in prisons, denied jobs and forced into poverty, sick for various reasons. In one of the epistles, we are told to do good to everyone, but especially to those of the household of faith. The Church is to look after it's own first, while not neglecting the needs of those outside.

The theological claim that sets Christianity apart from any other faith tradition is the Incarnation. God has come into the world to save us. God became like us to bring us back to God and show us what it means to be truly human.

There may be a good bit of truth in Wallis first couple of sentences there, except that I wonder about what he means by some of the words he's using. But Christ came to "show us what it means to be truly human"? What does that mean? Rather, as Paul said, "Christ Jesus came to save sinners".

Last year, Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas. Clean water for the whole world, including every poor person on the planet, would cost about $20 billion. Let’s just call that what it is: A material blasphemy of the Christmas season.

Well, let's go here, shall we? What, for example, is Sojourners' budget? How much do they spend on, for example, their magazine? How much during the year do people donate to them? How much to they pay their staff? How about the head Sojrone himself? He doesn't look like he's struggling, and he's had a few books that have sold big. How much have people like Soros donated to Sojo? Maybe Sojo can release their books, and Wallis his own, so that we can stand and be amazed by their amazing generosity as they condemn Americans of spending to give gifts during Christmas?

Whether Americans, or anyone else for the matter, are as generous as they could or should be, is an interest question, and perhaps one impossible to answer. But it does seem that, whenever a disaster happens in the world, Americans by and large are generous in trying to help--donating to send aid to those places, sending the aid themselves, even going their themselves to work. No doubt people from other nations do the same things, I've no wish to hint otherwise, but Wallis' claim that Americans are somehow unspeakably greedy among all the peoples of the world seems to fall flat.

I am not judged by Wallis' standards and shoddy interpretations. Before God, I am condemned as a sinner, but in Christ I have forgiveness of sins.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

stop making it about us

There's something in us as human beings that needs to know that the impossible is possible. Have you ever thought about that? You need to know that you're not restricted to the boundaries of time and space and possibility. And that's really what's going on in this reading today. John is asking of Jesus, 'Are you the one? Are you the Messiah?'. And Jesus doesn't give him a kind of a theological expose on his Messianic qualities, he just says 'Do you know what, John? The impossible is happening. And that, we imagine that when the news gets back to John, that's what we imagine fills his heart with hope. Yes, the one we've been expecting is here. He's on his way. What's the impossible in your own life that you need God to do? What's the impossible that you're still waiting for?
24-7 Spaces 2011 Advent videos, day 6

First, the passage.

Matthew 11:2-6
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

The lady speaking the video is using the rather questionable The Message version of this passage, with some problematic wording in places. But that may be something for later. It is her own statements that are here in question.

For example, she says that we humans need to know that the impossible is possible. Not sure where that is ever stated, or where it may be at in the Bible. Very likely, what is considered "impossible" is not really impossible; for example, me getting an ace while playing disc golf. It's not impossible, but considering that I'm a rather bad player who rarely even gets birdies, an ace is very unlikely.

Now, God healing a person, very possible. God made us, God is all-powerful, Him healing the sick or raising the dead is very possible for Him. He made the worlds simply be speaking, healing an ear drum or skin disease would be no problem.

What, then, is the issue? God is a person, He has a will, He decides what He will do. If God wants to heal a person, He can do so, and whether they believe in Him or not, or have faith that He can do so or not, is not an issue. God does not need your permission to heal you or anyone else.

To sound like your annoying grade-school English teacher, it's not a question of "Can God heal?", because He certainly can, but "Will God heal?".

But, what is this reading, this passage, about? It's for sure not about God being able to do the impossible for us.

First, it's not about us. It's not that we can't learn something it, but the people mentioned in the passage are John, Jesus, and some of John's disciples. I don't see myself in it, nor do I see the lady in the video, nor any of the rest of us.

Now, let's see Jesus' answer. He lists some things that He was doing--healing people, raising the dead, and preaching the good news to the poor. The lady in the video seems to think there is not much theological in it.

By contrast, let me take a bit from a commentary on Matthew.

Jesus shows a tactful kindness in dealing with the questioners: No sharp rebuke for their tardiness in acknowledging Him, no dogmatic reply to cause resentment. He appeals to their and their master’s knowledge of the Old Testament prophecy concerning the characteristic work of the Messiah. They could believe the evidence of their eyes and ears: The blind were receiving sight, the lame were cheerfully walking about, the deaf were enabled to hear, the dead were being awakened, the poor were being gospeled, were receiving the glad message of their salvation through the preaching of Jesus, Is. 35:4-6; 61:1-2; Ezek. 36 and 37.
Dr. Paul Kretzmann (0101-01-01 00:00:00+00:00). The Popular Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (Kindle Locations 2768-2772). Pirate Christian Media. Kindle Edition.

Let's look at some of the passages he references here.

Isaiah 35:4-6
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 61:1-2
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

The commentator points out that Jesus' list is of the things that are "the characteristic work of the Messiah", a far cry from what the lady in the video said about it not being "a kind of a theological expose on his Messianic qualities". It seems that Jesus, then, is not just giving a random list of his deeds, but rather pointing out to the disciples of John and to John himself that He was doing the things that the prophets had said the Messiah would do. It was, to that effect, a very theological expose.

To make this passage about what supposedly impossible thing we need God to do for us is to absolutely cheapen the message in it, that Jesus is confirming to John and these disciples that He was indeed the one they had been waiting for, the Messiah, the Christ.

Indeed, John, who it could was in need of some impossible things happening, was not going to have those impossible things happen. He was in prison, and Jesus was not going to do the impossible things for him by somehow breaking him out of prison. John was going to be beheaded, and Jesus was not going to find his body and bring him back to life. Jesus was not telling John to expect anything impossible like that.

Rather, Jesus was going to do the thing closest to the impossible that any person could imagine. A God who could create the universe with just His words, who could cause the sun to stop in the sky and even go backwards at one point, who did the wonders in Egypt, what could be so difficult for Him? But the redemption of mankind, the forgiveness of our sins, the saving of our souls, that took the breaking of the body of the Son of God. Let mankind find a cure for any disease imaginable, let man use science to make the human body as perfect as possible, yet this one thing, the forgivenss of sins, would be far beyond anything man could do to accomplish. That is the thing Christ did for us, by sacrficing Himself for us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

sojo descends to open blasphemy

I though Sojo showing a video a men dressed as nuns singing Handel was bad enough for one week, but leave it to Sojo to prove that I'm not yet cynical enough.

This is a continuation of Sojo's attacks on Rick Perry, and the most distasteful of the bunch. As far as I know, no Sojrone was involved in the making of this blasphemous video, but boy, do they ever approve its message. And though there are few comments, they are all for it, too.

"Jesus Christ of Nazareth would like to take this opportunity to refute Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's most recent TV ad." for the win!

And the message of the video is pathetic.

Not that it's new or news, but let it be known that Sojo is indeed shameless, and since Wallis condones this type of thing by allowing it on his blog and not removing it in a reasonable time, he is party to it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

can we stop misusing I Kings 19?

We always expect God to speak dramatically because He's God--booming voices, earthqukes. And this passage reminds us that we have a God who whispers, a God who speaks between the lines, a God whose voice is easy to miss. Where might I hear the whisper of God today?...Who do you know that is in the wrong place? Pray for them now, that they hear God whisper this Christmas, somehow, somewhere, saying "What are you doing here?"...God, we pray that you would whisper this Christmas, to prodigal, to people who are far from you. Would you bring them home? Would you whisper into their consciences, into their families, and into their dreams?
Peter Grieg, in Day 11 of the 2011 Advent videos from 24-7 Prayer

These statement are based on I Kings 19:9-13.

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Ok, let's look at this.

I'm trying to think of what things were like when God spoke to other people in the Bible. There was the time He addressed Moses from the burning bush. There was the time He (likely Christ) came with a couple of angels to Abraham and they talked concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. There was the time He came in a cloud to Sinai when He gave the law to Moses. There were times, such as with Gideon and Daniel, when He sent angels to give His Words. There were other times with the prophets when He gave them visions. And there were other ways in which God spoke to the prophets but that weren't really expounded upon.

So, given the various and sundry ways that God spoke to people, why is it that this one time with Elijah is taken out from all those others, and treated as if it were and is normative?

Plus, look at the passage itself. Grieg can make a big deal about God whispering, or at least speaking in a still small voice as other translations put it. But the thing is, when God spoke to Elijah, Elijah heard a real voice, not some kind of voice speaking between the lines or whatever, or to his conscience. It was a voice he heard with his ears, not a vaguely-there feeling.

In a sense, I'm in an awkward position. On the one hand, I'm not a cessationist. On the other hand, charismatics have made an absolute embarrassment of the spiritual gifts. And this emphasis on things like hearing God's whispers, based on the misapplication of this I Kings passage, is an example.

Getting into whether or not God talks to people to tell them to go into ministry, or to move somewhere else, or whatever, is not something I want to go into here, probably because my own mind is still not settled on it. But I no longer buy the idea that the voice of God is some kind of inner voice or whisper to the conscience. That sounds very new-agey.

Rather, it seems it would be wisest to point out that God has already spoken, and we have that in God's Word, the Bible. The truth is, in most things, we already know what to do. We don't have to stand in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store, trying to hear some strange inner voice to tell you to get Colgate or Ultrabrite or the generic store brand or maybe not to brush your teath at all.

So, can we please stop with the misinterpretations and misapplications of Elijah hearing God speak to him. Please.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

verbal gaffe bias

Well, the bias is in how, when one person makes such a gaffe, it's big news and used against him, while when another person makes the kinds of gaffes, it's pretty much ignored.

For example...

Perry's gaffes continue to add up

Ok, Perry has made some gaffes. Acknowledged. And so what? Given that he has proven himself a capable governor, not perfect but capable, I'm willing to overlook a few slips like that.

If the press wants to make a big deal out of Perry's gaffes, all well and good. But, then, there is another person in power out there (probably more than one, but let's focus on only one for right now) who has proven himself equally inept, if not more so. Particularly when away from his trusted teleprompter.

Barack Obama: Gaffe machine

Even President Obama makes verbal gaffes

So, if you find any media person out there at a place like MSNBC saying that this person's gaffe show he is not qualified for his current position of power, please let me know. But if his, usually more serious gaffes aren't disqualifiers, then neither are Perry's.

Friday, December 9, 2011

perry doesn't back down!

That's honking off the Sojrones.

God's Politics BlogPerry Defends his "War on Religion" Attack Ad

PERRY: Well if you sit down with the bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church, they can give you a very clear understanding of how this administration has gone after their charitable operations, on whether it’s trafficking in individuals or whether it’s those hospitals and those clinics that choose not to do abortions because they have a conscious reason not to and it’s their belief and their faith not to give those abortions – so there’s a clear attack on the Catholics in particular from that perspective.

But when you think about the left in general, which the president is obviously a great part of – not allowing our kids to pray in school, not allowing to celebrate Christmas. I mean, the idea that the left continues to send the message of listen – we, our First Amendment right is freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. And that’s what the left has tried to do, is force all of us who are people of faith to basically say you can’t be involved in the public arena. And that is just wrong.

And dippy sojo comments.

When Governor Perry--I'm sorry to say he's my governor--and other "culture warriors" perpetuate the falsehood about children not being allowed to pray in school, they are either ignorant, or they are intentionally lying. I don't think Governor Perry is ignorant

Governor Perry (I wish he were my governor, but sadly my state seems to like lib-inspired misery) is spot-on. There is no myth about kids not being allowed to pray in schools, because it isn't a myth. Oh, sure, if you want to do it quietly and on-the-sly, so be it. Or, as I remember during a college graduation ceremony, you give a rather lame PC type of prayer to some unnamed power out there somewhere.

And when it is allowed, it certainly isn't because the people on Sojo's side of the issues aren't trying to ban it. This article also has a bit more on the issue.

We included the following quote from the U.S. Department of Education Secretarys Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, which specifically addresses student prayer during non-instructional time:

Prayer During Noninstructional Time

Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction, subject to the same rules designed to prevent material disruption of the educational program that are applied to other privately initiated expressive activities. Among other things, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other noninstructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities. While school authorities may impose rules of order and pedagogical restrictions on student activities, they may not discriminate against student prayer or religious speech in applying such rules and restrictions.

So, yes, kids are still technically allowed to pray, but this is a far cry from the prayer and religious instruction schools could give.

Before 1949, public schools were actually allowed to have religious education teachers, who would instruct the students in the Christian faith and moral values. In that year, the Court stated that public schools could no longer do this because it “breached the historical separation of church and state.” However, the Court did allow a “released time” program, which permitted students to leave school early in order to attend religious instruction given at their churches [2]. By having the students leave school grounds to receive religious instruction, the Court believed that it had reached an acceptable compromise by preventing the violation of the establishment of religion in public schools but still allowing everyone’s religious freedom.

So, kudos to Perry.

so, no war on Christmas?

Kinda a follow-up to yesterday's post.

Media Finally Outraged Over Christmas Censorship – When It Involves the Word ‘Gay’

While the overall premise of the piece is interesting, this is what I want to focus on.

What you may not have heard covered in the MSM was an essay penned by one Colin Curran, a 16-year-old high school junior from New Jersey. Taking to the Huffington Post during this same time period, Colin told a story about a high school assignment which involved creating a music playlist for a young children’s holiday breakfast. There was one catch – none of the songs could contain a certain set of offending words, such as Christmas, Hanukah, Jesus, God, or Santa Clause. The reason, Colin explains, is that the “principal does not want to offend anyone with belief-specific music”.

So, this kid couldn't choose songs that had anything to do with the One whose birth is celebrated at Christmas. Heck, even Santa was verbotin, because I guess what with the word "santa" meaning "saint", that just wouldn't be PC.


So, let's see...there goes "Silver Bells", because it mentions Santa. No "Rudolph", though I guess "Frosty" may survive the cut so long as it isn't too closely linked to the cartoon. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" gets axed. Ah, but wait, this kid could still put "Jingle Bells" on the list. Can't offend anyone with that one.

Oh, wait, maybe the PETA kids. After all, it's about riding in a one-horse open sleigh, which means that the poor little horsey is pulling the sleigh, running around and probably cold. Can't have that, gotta nix that one.

Wow, I'm struggling to find any songs at all that this kid could have put in this program. But we must press on, because woe betide if we offend anyone at all in our seasonal music, except those religious people who wonder what happened to anything about the Christ child whose birth is celebrated at Christmas. Don't worry about them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

rick perry must NOT apologize

Rick Perry Must Apologize

Oh, dear, and what did Perry say that Wallis thinks is oh-so horrible???

In case you didn't quite catch it all, here's the text:

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."

Sounds to me like Perry's pretty much spot-on. No wonder Wallis objects vehemently.

Wallis' response is full of LOL fail.

Governor Perry and President Obama, like millions of other Americans, are Christians. Both of them.

See. Told you. LOL!!!

I'm not on board with everything Perry seems to believe or all he has associated with, he seems a bit too cozy with some of the KC false prophets and apostles, but compared to Obama he's pretty solid. At the least, he hasn't had a pastor going around spewing "God d--- America!!".

Not all Americans believe the same things or worship in the same way, but that doesn’t mean there is a “war on religion”

In America, we respect and support religious liberty.

Oh, maybe we used to. But thanks to people like you, Mr. Wallis, Perry is right that kids can't openly pray in school or, at least in some places, can't celebrate Christmas. Heck, just this past year, one school was even offended by the idea of Easter eggs. What did they call them instead, Spring Spheres?

What denigrates our religious heritage is to accuse someone of sincere faith who disagrees with you by perpetuating the myth of the “war on religion” and accusing him of being a foot soldier in the battle.

No, it doesn't. People like you, Mr. Wallis, who claim to be Christian but mock everything the Bible teaches, are the ones who dengrate Christian heritage.

Diversity of opinion and beliefs is also what makes this country strong.

Coming from someone who's constantly claiming that everyone must agree with him, and who claims that he speaks for God in regards to politics (what else does the title "God's Politics" mean?), you're the one who seems to not welcome diversity of opinions and beliefs. Of, sure, you'll claim to be ecumenical, Mr. Wallis, but isn't it odd that your ecumenism is based on agreement in political aims and means?

Governor Perry should take the ad down, apologize both to President Obama and the American people, ask God for forgiveness and make amends for perpetuating polarization and disharmony in the body of Christ.

Candidate Perry should NOT apoligize. He is simply speaking truth, and offending people like Wallis is part and parcel with speaking truth. Wallis is the one who should be asking God for forgiveness, for misrepresenting Him and His Word into somehow supporting the leftist socialist agenda, supporting sloth while punishing work, promoting class warfare, and openly claiming Christ was a socialist. He is the one who is "perpetuating polariszation and disharmony in the body of Christ".

And if Perry were to repent of listening to and supporting false apostles and prophets, all the better for him.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

making a mockery of the Hallelujah Chorus

Let it be known that the decadence of Sojourners and those they support no know bounds.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: Sing it, Mr. Sister!

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from an unlikely gaggle of nuns — in full habits. They are members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, an all-men's chorus from Dallas, Texas. The Chorale has traveled to Europe, performing sold out concerts in Barcelona, Berlin and Prague; as well as two appearances a Carnegie Hall.

So, men dressed as nuns singing the Hallelujah Chorus is a rendition worthy of Sojo approving and displaying.

Now, who is this Turtle Creek Chorale? From their website's mission statement.

Celebrating a positive image of the gay community and partnering with artists and organizations that share our values and mission.

Although the website itself has little information about them, it does mention a smaller group that is a part of them, the Strangerettes. Basically, a group of men who dress up like show cowgirls and perform in, perhaps among other things, gay pride events. Look them up, if you're curious.

So, basically, TCC is a bunch of people living in open sexual sin, encouraging others to accept them in their open sexual sinfulness, and thus mocking the message of the music like the Hallelujah Chorus by dressing in religious drag while singing it.

No wonder Sojo approves.

This is why I always wonder why some people insist on playing nice with people like the head Sojrone, Jim Wallis. For example, in a recent debate between him and Albert Mohler, a man for whom I have great respect, while I thought Dr. Mohler made great points against many of the things Wallis tries to teach, in the end there was still a sense that they were playing nice. It was mentioned a few times that before the debate they prayed together.

Why? What makes anyone think that Wallis prays to the God of the Bible? His entire "God's Politics" thing engages in open mockery of the Bible, Sojourners' Sojrones can't dig deep or far enough to find things that are contrary to biblical teachings and morality, and hold those things up as things to accept and celebrate. A while ago, they held up for approval a calendar of Unitarian churchmen who posed in the nude. They approved the bloody movie "Red State", while of course coming out against such movies as "Courageous". They have lent unquestioning support to the rabble and lawbreakers of Occupy Wherever, encouraging them in their disruptions.

The impression I get from the early church is that they were not so nice when it came to those who taught things contrary to the Scriptures. When, for example, a man in Corinth engaged in sexual immorality, Paul told them to cast him out (later, that man repented, and Paul said they were to accept him back). Paul's words were unsparing when he addressed the Galatians about those who were trying to say that they needed works as well as faith in order to have salvation.

This Sojrone's promotion of this Chorale's mockery of Handel's work is an attempt on this Sojrone's part to support this Chorale's agenda. If Wallis is truly a Bible-believing Christian as he claimed in his debate with Dr. Mohler, let him start policing his blog more vigorously, so that sin and immorality are not encouraged.

(yeah, like that's gonna happen)

Monday, December 5, 2011

so, don't attend the game

Well, it's that time of year again. The time when we really have to raise the question "What on earth are the college football people thinking?"

Now, granting, I think that having LSU-Alabama in the Championship game makes a lot of sense. But, still, I can see how OSU is rather unhappy with it. And there are a few other schools that could be considered reasonable contenders, too.

But, like the last few years, we're going to have lots of bowls, from the smallest ones with 6-6 teams to the so-called Bowl Championship Series games, which while most will have good games and be meaningful to the ones playing, in the end they will be essentially meaningless, except the Championship game.

(Btw why is it called the Bowl Championship Series? After all, there is only one championship bowl game, and there is no series of games that decide which teams play in it.)

Now, concerning the other bowl games, I completely understand why fans of schools in some lesser bowl will attend the game and go nuts there. If, for example, your team has made it to the Music City Bowl, which is kinda a lower-level bowl, well, the game is gravy. Likely, your team is not a serious Championship contender, so making any bowl game at all is an accomplishment. Go, and enjoy.

But if you're the fan of a team that is in a BCS bowl, especially a regular in such bowls, maybe it's time to rethink it.

Look, college football needs a tournament system. Period. This "championship by polls" thing just isn't working. Too many teams that should get a shot at the crown are denied it, and consigned to playing in games that mean nothing.

But the current system does one thing--it makes money. That's not a bad thing, but it's working against any hope of having a playoff system set up anytime soon. We can cry about it, but why would anyone change something that, while not perfect, is working well enough?

But what to do?

You, the fan, have one vote. It's not an official vote, but it's important, nonetheless. That vote is something like this, to not attend the meaningless games that the BCS has put your team in.

(Granted, it would I think be even more powerful if the teams themselves didn't play, but there may be things like contracts and agreements involved, and I'd rather not go there).

The point is this--such events are spectacles. They rely on having huge stadiums filled to overflowing with loud, enthusiastic fans. And, of course, fans want to attend. Very understandable.

But if these big, nationally-televised games were played before chirping crickets, well, the BCS folks may actually think that they need to finally listen to what the fans really want. And soon, too.

It's an idea. I do think that not attending, having the games played before mostly empty seats, people not watching the games on TV and not spending money in the cities where the games are played, will certainly draw attention to some fan unhappiness with the current system. Especially if you're an OSU or Stanford type of school, and you have been a serious contender the whole year but kept out for having one sour game (and because you lost later in the year than 'Bama did), you should really not support the thinking that puts your team in a meaningless exhibition.

Well, that's my idea, for what it's worth.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

peter rollins' broken bible

Ah, yes, more Rollins philosophical drivel. This time, somehow seeing the Bible as literal and inerrant is somehow impossible. Yawn.

Philosophically speaking the claim that the Bible in its entirety is literal and inerrant (i.e. self-evident, internally coherent, and a reflection of the mind of God) operates as a ‘master signifier’. This means that it is a claim without any specific content that is worn as a badge to let you know what team you play for. It doesn’t matter too much how you actually fill in this empty container as long as you make the claim. It functions then as a shibboleth that identifies you as being in a certain tribe.

Wow. Yawn.

So, saying the Bible is true in all it records and inerrant is somehow an empyt claim, "whith any specific content"? Really? I'd say Rollins was speaking in ignorancy, except I don't believe it of one so miseducated; rather, I think he knows that what he's saying is false, but wants to believe it anyway.

Just to show you how empty it isn't, take a look at this.


The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To Stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.

The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God's own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large.

There is much more to it than the couple of paragraphs above.

So, no, the only empty thing here is Rollins' claim that biblical literal truth and inerrancy are empty. His claims are empty of any truth.

I've found it a truism, that when people like Rollins' accuse their opposition of something, you will find that they are themselves doing the things they accuse others of doing. Rollins' non-literal bible, where for example God is not allowed to explain Himself and where fictions like Lilith are somehow useful for explaining away the Bible's claims, is the real attempt to cut up the Bible and make it an object of human creation, something he and others like him may praise to the heights as they cast it down to the depths, may claim to love even as they slice and dice and abuse it.

I will take the literally true and inerrant Word of God over the illogical musings of Rollins any day.

celebrate or not, as you wish

Thanks to the time I've spent on the internet, I've learned a few things. One of them, which seems to pop up this time of year, is that there are Christians out there who are simply not comfortable with Christmas. My ideas concerning this are as such.

1. There is nothing in the New Testament that tells us to observe Christmas as the birth of Christ; therefore, to observe or not is up to each person, family, or church. Those who think it would be wrong for them to observe it are free to do so, so far as I'm concerned, as those who are ok with it, like myself, are free to continue doing so.

2. Just as I offer no condemnation to those who do not observe Christmas, so I expect them to not condemn me and people and like me who do.

Various argument are given concerning why or why not. Certainly, some aspects of how the holiday is popularly celebrated are worthy of questioning and even discarding. One could make the case that the shops start far too early in pushing for Christmas, though I'm tempered a bit in my criticism of that by the idea that stores are simply acting like stores. Still, it was a bit unsettling to see so much Christmas stuff up a few days even before Thanksgiving.

Some will go on about "commercialism" and "consumerism". I'm starting the doubt the existence of those thing, and to consider that it may be better to call them what they really are should they actually exist, things like greed and covetousness. Those things really do exist, but the point is, they exist in all of us, all year round. If anything, considering how much Christmas shopping can be about giving, one could say that at the least those things are tempered to a degree, though being fallen humans they are not completely absent.

And I could almost support a moratorium on any movie or show with the title "X Saves Christmas", X meaning any character or group or whatever. Yes, even something like VeggieTales' "The Toy that Saved Christmas". Enough, already.

And R&B and rap artists should refrain from ruining any more Christmas songs.

Anyway, to my mind and for what it's worth, Christmas is optional, and you may or may not celebrate it if you wish.