Jesus Who?

The University of Exeter in the UK, did a study on kids and their understanding of Jesus in hopes that they could develop better teaching materials for religious classes.

It turns out that most kids have no concept of who Jesus is and are greatly confused as to His death and resurrection and the stories of Scripture.

In reference to the Resurrection, one boy asked: “If he rose from the dead, how come he ain’t here now?” Others wanted to know why Jesus didn’t help them today, and why he doesn’t “come down” and tell everyone He is true.

Certainly we have seen that the Church of England has lost some integrity and has resorted to strange tactics to get people to come to it so there may be some faults in their teaching ability, but I really don’t think the kid’s ignorance of Jesus is really much of a problem.

Kids don’t understand anything! The idea of Christian education for kids is to give them a foundation. I don’t fully understand the resurrection either. But you gotta start somewhere.

Sharing The Love

Christ is the answer to all the world’s problems. I fully believe that. He is The way, The truth and The life. But just telling a dying world, who has no concept of what they are doing, that they need to ‘let go and let God’ does not help.

Being perfect helps no one. Jesus lived a perfect life, and that helped no one until he died and rose again. Jesus’ perfection was part of a larger work, the work of redeeming the world.

God loved the world, that’s why He sent Jesus Christ. Why would God, who is perfect, love this messed up place that is destined to destruction? The same reason believers, who are perfect in Christ, should.

Love. One of the hardest concepts about God for me to grasp is why He loves this world. The answer is quite simple, He loves what He has made regardless of what He has made has done to itself.

The essence of love is humility. The essence of humility is humiliation. Dispensationalists would rather show you their timelines with the artwork than show you love.

The underlying reason why dispensationalists do not offer any help to the world is because we are better than the world, the world is going to pot and nothing can stop God’s plan, I have the chart to prove it.

God is better and more perfect than any dispensationalist. He wrote a whole book to help life on earth. The reason He did that is because God so loved the world. We know this because He demonstrated His love for us by sending Christ.

It’s time for us perfect people to take a lesson from our perfect Creator: humble yourself, love the Lord and love your neighbor. It’s quite simple really.

Outraged At Christian Welcome

The openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., said in an opinion piece published Friday that he was only showing “Christian courtesy” in welcoming an “ex-gay” group to his city Saturday, CBS News reported.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome you,” the mayor wrote to the notoriously anti-gay right-wing activist group Focus on the Family, which organized the conference. “We are so proud to have you here in the Palm Springs area.”

But the city’s gay residents were “completely unified in their outrage” about the mayor’s letter,

Well, it’s at least nice to see that Christians are the source of outrage rather than being the outraged ones. Rather refreshing. The mayor is right, of course, and it is nice to see a “man” take a stand for decency. All the cries for us to be tolerant of gay people is not so easily returned.

Dispensational Happy-Happiness

One of the main characteristics of dispensational thought is our sufficiency in Christ. Believers have been placed into the Body of Christ spiritually speaking. Paul describes it as, “It is no more I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”

There has been a vast branch of dispensationalism that has espoused the concept of the victorious life. Let go and let God. Christ has made me perfect, therefore I am and there is nothing I can do to make myself any better.

As much as I agree with the spiritual truths these statements are based on, the fallout has been near disastrous.

We tend to sit back and bask in the glory of being perfect in Christ and just go on and rest right there. Ahhhh! “Nothing I can do to make myself better, Christ said ‘it is finished,’ don’t want to call Jesus a liar!”

This mentality has also contributed to our laziness. It has contributed to an “us and them” mentality. You’re all messed up, but we’re perfect so join us. The dispensationalist’s answer to all the world’s problems is, “Hey, take God’s grace, let go and let God, be perfect as we are perfect.”

Lazy. While relaxing in our own sufficiency, we have let the world slip on by. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to be perfect and victorious. It is only when the perfection and victory of Christ are shared that the Body of Christ is truly edified.

Big Man In Cubbies

My son began work in the Cubbies program at our church’s Awana club. He got his vest this past week and is quite proud of it.

I’m not sure how much of the Bible memorization is sticking with the boy, especially considering he can’t talk. But you gotta start somewhere. He gets into it more than I expected.

Enjoy the cuteness. And pray for my boy.

Military Prayer

The Military Chaplains Prayer Law has recently passed the House and is now up for debate in the Senate. It says, in part, “Each chaplain shall have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience, except as must be limited by military necessity, with any such limitation being imposed in the least restrictive manner feasible.”

That means that you can pray to your God but shouldn’t mention specifically who he is out of respect for other religions present. A response by a military chaplain says that should be no problem because the majority of chaplains have all ready been doing that.

His conclusion: back in Washington, a thoroughly inconsequential debate is taking place about prayer while important things such as military pay, medical benefits and housing are put on the back burner. These are the very benefits many soldiers are including in their daily prayers.
Let’s answer these prayers quickly.

And as far as prayer surviving in the military, no worries. To paraphrase a saying: “As long as there are soldiers in foxholes, there will always be prayer in the military.”

So, basically what he’s saying is, “God wants us in Iraq.”

The Problem With Eschatology

Eschatology is the study of The End. The End is the guy who plays at the end of the line and is eligible to receive forward passes. Oh, wait, wrong book.

If you are interested in the End Times, the rapture, the millennium, etc, then you are a dispensationalist. Covenant/Reformed people view the Bible as history, telling what already happened, not as a way to figure out the future.

Many Covenant types, as far as I understand, say the Kingdom is already here or that we are all going to live in the peaceful rule of God at some point. What you do here now physically will make it into the Kingdom.

Dispensationalists think this is the craziest thing they’ve ever heard.
First of all, believers are going to be raptured, so why should I care about what I leave on earth anyway?

Secondly, there is going to be a tremendous Tribulation where just about everything is destroyed and humanity is left in chaos and the odds of any of your work making it through that are slim to none and slim just rented a car.

Thirdly, God says He’s going to melt this place with fire and start over with a new heaven and new earth. Even if any of your stuff made it that far, it won’t make it through the fire, baby.

This has largely kept dispensationalists fat and lazy. We watch a lot of TV. Go Bears! Whoohoo! By focusing on The End, and having the timeline all worked out, we fail to take care of the Present real well.

Now, is the accepted time. Now, it is high time to wake out of sleep. There is a reason for us being here. There is a real world we are to be engaging, not just watching and condemning from the comfort of our favorite chair. “Mm-mmm, yup, you see that? One step closer to the Rapture brother.”

As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The mark of genius is the ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas at the same time without losing the ability to function. For example, one should be able to see that the situation is hopeless without losing the will to make it otherwise.”

Dispensationalists have a great opportunity to demonstrate their genius, which is vastly different from what they’ve been demonstrating for the past 200 years.

Death Penalty For Cheeseheads?

Wisconsin is going to have a referendum in November about whether to have the death penalty. I live in Wisconsin and I vote, so I will have to come up with an answer by then.

I go back and forth on the issue. I can see the point from both sides and can use Scripture to back up either one. Here is part of one “Christian” response to the death penalty I read today:

“Our position is not simply being against capital punishment, but rather, it is a bold, clear declaration of the sanctity of life and the right to life. Our conviction is that taking human life violates our deepest belief in God as Creator… When the state responds to this evil (murder) with vengeance (the penalty of death), we believe it increases the credibility of violence as legitimate…”

That sounds nice but I’m not sure the arguments hold up so tightly.

The idea that punishing violence with violence emcourages more violence is rather shallow. Violence would be here whether you responded to it or not. To me that point, although probably true, is silly because not responding to violence also leads to more violence. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi were shot after all. Christ was crucified. We live in a violent world.

God, the Creator of Life, views humanity as special, but He also views many of them as deserving Hell. He also made laws about stoning kids for cursing their parents. Romans says he gave the authority of wielding the sword to government.

At the same time, God is love. He is the giver of life, not death. Jesus said to turn the other cheek, etc.

The basic point is that I would never be able to kill anyone, legally or otherwise. If someone killed everyone I know, I still would have a hard time killing them. So, if it were just me the law was being made for, then no, I would not support the death penalty because I could not do it.

However, it’s not just for me. It’s for a lot of people. I can see the argument the other way too. I’m all for the convenient removal of evil people. The Bible seems to support the idea of capital punishment for governments but not for individuals. So, on the other hand, I would support the death penalty.

I’ll have to think further.

Celebrity Conversion

Jonny Lang, who became a best-selling musician around the age of 16, has turned to Jesus.

“I told people, ‘If Jesus is real, then He’s going to have to show up, because I’m not going to just believe in this.’ Strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened. God revealed Himself to me and literally, in a moment, delivered me from every addiction that I had. I had no desire to go back to those things after I had that experience with Jesus.”

He never elaborates on what the experience was but most people who are “converted by experience” have a fall in the not too distant future. Lang is from Fargo and I remember seeing him play in person at a MN Twin’s game. He’s a blue’s guy and is quite talented. Nice to have him on our side.

Byron Nelson

Byron Nelson, one of golf’s greatest champions and a champion for his faith in Jesus Christ, died Sept. 26 at his ranch in Roanoke, Texas, near Dallas. He was 94.

Nelson, once asked how he would like to be remembered, had said, “I think the thing people will always talk about me is my degree of consistency on the golf course, winning money in 113 tournaments, but I want to be remembered as a good man and a Christian man. That’s all that really matters.”

I have heard of Byron Nelson and new some things about him but I never knew he was a Christian type. Always nice to see a man maintain his testimony to the end.

Speaking Of Education

My daughter told me yesterday that they were going to have “Nate of Americans” come talk to them today. I was anxiously awaiting the report. I was expecting some guy to get up and say, “Hi, I’m Nathan, My friends call me Nate. Nate of Americans.”

So at supper we heard the report. Apparently, and I did not know this before, Nate of Americans live in RV’s and eat blue corn. I asked my daughter where Nate was from to which she said with all honesty, “England.”

“What?”

“England.”

“How can they be Native Americans from England?”

“Dad, that’s what my teacher said.”

It would be utterly fascinating to be able to open the card catalog in my daughter’s brain and pull out the “Nate of Americans” card and see what facts are listed under that heading. Oh well, she doesn’t throw like a girl.

God And Schools

Another school in Colorado has someone in it shooting and taking hostages. This time it appears to be a “grown up” and not one of the students. I have no idea what the circumstances are here in this case, but it brings up a good illustration.

Back in 1999 when Columbine got shot up by two idiots, the typical Christian response, phrased ever so cleverly, was “When you take God out of schools you let Satan in. What did you expect was going to happen?” Which is completely non-helpful.

God is still in the schools, assuming, of course, that there are still Christians in school. And, it’s not like Satan was never allowed into a school when we had school prayer.

The easy response is to get prayer put back in schools along with “Christian values” teaching. Probably not going to happen, and furthermore, probably wouldn’t make any difference anyway.

Instead of turning to politics for the answer and promoting the passing of a bill, which is always easier because it is tangible (you know when you’ve won and when you’re done) we have to approach the issue by faith.

Obviously this is a symptom of a larger illness. There is no easy answer. My point is precisely that. Blaming it on the lack of school prayer has little, if anything, to do with these events. Trying to get school prayer back in isn’t the answer either.

You’ve got to start with the individual, the family, the church, and then the public institutions. If you don’t want people shooting up schools, then don’t do it, don’t ignore your neighbor who may be close to flipping out and raise your kids properly.

Dispensationalism And The World

As I said in my previous post, I’d like to give a dispensationalist’s point of view on world events. Pat Robertson is the most vocal dispensationalist and he’s not doing me any favors. He does not represent any dispensationalists I know.

Dispensationalists are rather quiet when it comes to world affairs. There is a good reason for this—we believe the world is going down the toilet and then God is going to rapture us out, so why bother?

We stress verses like, “set your mind on things above, not on things of this world.” “A good soldier of Jesus Christ does not entangle himself with the affairs of this world.” And so on.

I agree. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye toward the world either, which has been our typical response.

Most Christian commentators on the world are Covenant/Reformed. There’s a good reason for this—they believe they are redeeming the world and ushering in the Kingdom, therefore what we do “secularly” in the world is of utmost importance.

I have much respect for many Covenant/Reformed thinkers. They do their homework and are very intelligent and well read. At the same time, I don’t agree with their conclusions!

I’d like to offer the dispensational spin on things. For too long dispensationalists have just chalked up things as “one more thing I don’t have to think about” instead of honestly attempting to grapple with a situation and offer a solution.

I feel like a Democrat after awhile—having no platform of my own, other than ripping apart the other guy’s. My hope is to ask the right questions, be hesitant with any answer, and yet represent my faith responsibly.

For Everything A Season

I have been doing The Anti-Itch blog for a couple years now. The main thrust has been to illustrate the silliness of the modern church.

It’s a rather negative subject and although it has a point, it does tend to get old after awhile. I’m getting a bit tired of finding fault and it is not doing anything good for my all ready bad attitude. Readers generally don’t hang around real long either.

That being said, instead of finding fault with the church on a daily basis, I hope to change the focus to more about how the church can approach our world. I believe that any honest look at the world by believers should begin with a critique of their group (1 Corinthians 5:12,13).

I’ve done that for several years now. Now it is time to move on.

One of the things I have pointed out over the years is just how dumb Christians sound. The only voice that is heard on political, social and other issues is whacko-evangos. I’ve heard enough of Pat Robertson. I’d like to give a try at giving a legitimate Christian response to the world.

Being a dispensationalist, I am particularly distressed by the level of inanity that marks my “party.” So, my ultimate purpose will be to give a dispensationalist’s take on our world.

All that being said, I’m still going to show Jesus sightings!

Church Discipline Lawsuit

A woman is suing a church after she was publicly disciplined for having an affair while in the midst of getting a divorce.

She resigned her church membership – she was a co-founder of the church – because its bylaws set forth procedures allowing the congregation to discipline her and others for inappropriate behavior.

However, Westbrook met with church elders and later distributed a letter about Penley’s decision to get a divorce. The letter said she was involved with another man, although it didn’t specify the nature of their relationship.

The letter urged church members to shun Penley as part of a “tough love” approach for her to see her errors.

I think church discipline is one of those things. Indeed. It should be done because the Bible says so. However, it should also be done the way the Bible says. Sending out letters detailing a person’s sin is hardly what it is, in my humble opinion.

Will be interesting to hear how this one works out.

Severed Heads No Longer Cool

A leading opera house has canceled a 3-year-old production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” citing authorities’ fears that it posed “incalculable” security risks because it featured the severed head of religious figures, including Muhammad.

The opera also includes the heads of the Greek god Poseidon, Jesus, and Buddha. However, the reason the opera is being cancelled is because of Muhammad’s head for fear of retaliation.

Which strikes me as weird seeing as how the Pope and George W. all tell us that Islam is a religion of peace and should be respected and revered for its contributions to the way of life of peace-loving people all around the world.

What’s to fear? I just don’t get it.

(Isn’t “A leading opera house” an oxymoron?)

Jesus Beats Aliens

A border community outside El Paso recently gave a firm “no” to a plan to add the security of the National Guard, deciding a statue of Jesus on the cross is protection enough.

Cristo Rey is the name of the mountain at the center of the controversy. It is a popular place for illegal aliens to cross into the US. But the mountain is also a Catholic site of worship.

“For us, it’s a sanctuary, a place of worship,” Sunland Park Mayor Jesus Ruben Segura says. “Having troops on the mountain is not appropriate.”

So instead of posting troops there, they will trust that the Jesus on the cross, that was placed there in 1940, will protect them, as He has for the last 66 years. Right. Got it. Carry on.

Freedom Of Religion

I have been reading The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll. The scandal is that there is no evangelical mind. Christians have become intellectually lazy and left the intellectual world.

I agree with him at times. Am lost by him at times. I disagree with him on some things as well.

One point he made was that Christians have always celebrated how wonderful it is to have religious freedom in America and, indeed, it is great.

However, this has made the American church very competitive. American Christianity has many more denominations and divisions than other countries’.

Noll suggests that America’s church has stopped teaching doctrine and instead gone into doing whatever attracts a crowd. The church down the street is not on the same team, they are the competition. In order to survive, a church must be as attractive as possible to stay in existence.

Sound doctrine is rarely attractive.

I think that is a great insight.

God’s Oversight

Not doing something bad is not the same as doing something good.

Go ahead, read it again.

One of the perks of being a pastor is that I get to listen to people’s excuses as to why they aren’t doing things. It is amazing to me how often the Bible is used as a reason to NOT do something.

At the same time, for all these people who are so obedient to Scripture, there is a surprising lack of times when I hear, “You know, I was reading in Ephesians 4 that I’m part of the body who is supposed to be carrying out the work of the ministry. Please, what can I do?”

It’s truly amazing. Yet while these people stay home from church and resist every offer to get involved and help edify the Body, they can list all the Bible verses for why they don’t drink, go in debt, stay away from restaurants that serve alcohol. Why they don’t criticize George Bush or why they don’t play football on Sundays, etc.

It’s weird how the Bible prohibits so many things and yet doesn’t once address anything we are supposed to be doing. Weird. One would think God would have mentioned something for us to do in all those pages.

One World Religion

Pope Ben recently got in trouble with Muslims over some comments he made about Islam and violence and so forth. Since then, he and the Catholic Church have been bending over backward to appease Muslims since they threatened violence to him.

The Catholic Church has been trying to show that they have always enjoyed Muslims. They even point to an earlier decision by the Church in Documents of Vatican II promulgated by the Ecumenical Council, 1963-1965, which states: “the Church now affirms that all peoples of the earth with their various religions form one community; the Church respects the spiritual, moral and cultural values of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.”

See, Catholics and Muslims have always gotten along just fine. Everyone relax and love each other.

Then in Britain, the Coronation of the Prince of Wales is coming up where “Prayers and readings from other denominations and religions, including from the Muslim, Sikh and Jewish faiths, are expected to be included in the ceremonies marking Prince Charles’s accession to the throne.”

“The coronation service needs to find the right way of including people of other faiths,” Canon Hall told The Sunday Telegraph. “It must be different in some ways because of the nature of society and how things have changed.”

Indeed. The End is Near, and not just because football has returned to Satan’s playground, New Orleans, either.

Learn Something New Every Day

The other day while doing some reading, I came across a quote of Revelation 21:19-20 talking about the 12 stones used in the foundation of the New Jerusalem.

The commentator mentioned that many have used the reversed order of jewels as a refutation of the zodiac. That’s about all he said about it, to which I said, “Huh?”

So, I looked it up on the internet, assuming I would find some fascinating stuff. Indeed I did.

Here is a link talking about the jewels of the priests garb and the New Jerusalem and links it to the beginning of zodiac stones.

This link talks about the twelve nations of Israel with birthstones.

Here’s a whole Bible study on the subject.

Call me stupid, but I had no idea.

Falwell On Hillary

Jerry Falwell, while making wry remarks about the upcoming election to the Values Vote Summit said the following about Hillary Clinton.

Falwell drew cheers and laughter when he said, “nothing will energize my (constituency) like Hillary Clinton,” the Times said Sunday. “If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”

The basic point is that Falwell’s followers, supposedly Christians, fear Hillary Clinton more than the Devil.

I believe he is probably right. Christians would. Shows just how much time we’ve spent hammering politics and not teaching Scripture!

Why fear a woman who can’t even inspire loyalty from her own husband?

RC Sproul

I got a few boxes of books from my dad’s office and have been working my way through them. I pick a book at random and begin reading.

The last one I picked was Surprised by Suffering by RC Sproul. I have heard of Sproul but don’t recall ever reading anything by him.

This book was OK. It was a fine read. I didn’t think he brought up anything revolutionary, he went to all the passages you would think he would go to. I felt the book was more about death and resurrection than it was about suffering per se.

It was a fine book. If you have questions about death, resurrection or speaking to dead people, you may find this book of use.

The Sad Comedy Of Religion

There are a lot of sad people out there just looking for something to believe in. Then there is another group of sad people just waiting for someone to believe in them. When the two groups mix, strange things happen.

Evangelist Jose Louis De Jesus Miranda believes he is the second coming of Christ. He has tens of thousands of followers around the world including in our enlightened US of A.

Devotees believe they cannot sin as long as they follow De Jesus. A Queens mother of three says as a Catholic she always felt guilty for something and is at peace with De Jesus’ sin free religion. Claudia Salazar says, “Some people say he looks like the devil. If that is true, I say I want to be with the devil because he makes me happy.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Sermon On The Mount Rocks

While taking a walk in the Scottish countryside, a couple noticed a strange rock formation.

“I happened to look back and see this strange shaped rock. I couldn’t believe it. I thought at first it looked like an angel and then I realised that it looks a lot like Jesus stood there, with his arms outstretched, looking down on his flock, perhaps preaching to them. My husband agreed totally and we took some photographs.”

“There’s also grass on the top of the rock that looks like hair. We have been calling it ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ ever since,” she added.

The article does not post a picture of the rock, which is a bummer. I was hoping to have my faith bolstered today.

New Blog

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you all formally to my new favorite blog, Get Religion.

It is done by religion reporters and is quite interesting. There is a permanent link to it in the sidebar on the right. Enjoy.

Madonna On Crucifixion

Madonna has some ‘splainin’ to do and so she has.

“There seems to be many misinterpretations about my appearance on the cross and I wanted to explain it myself once and for all. “It is no different than a person wearing a cross or `taking up the cross’ as it says in the Bible.

My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole.”

She added, “I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing.”

Jesus would be on a concert tour making more money than any female artist in music history? Interesting.

Jesus Has A Big Nose

Conroe, Texas has now been put on the map. A woman there has seen an image of Christ when light shines through her front door.

If you go and look at the picture, which I can’t copy over to here, it actually just looks like light shining through the design on her front door. However, she believes it’s Jesus.

She considers her foyer a sacred part of her home and didn’t question why this image is here. “I feel pretty secure when I see Jesus Christ lands up on my door step,” said Glover.

Sounds like she’s just begging to be robbed.

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