Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What is a good book?

"The measure of a good book is not whether it confirms and informs what one already suspected or believed. No, the measure of a good book is one that makes you think hard about those previous ideas and beliefs, sometimes reinforcing, sometimes critiquing what one has thought."—Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (blog)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How to influence the culture

In a modern secular state that doesn’t honor God or follow his precepts, citizen believers must hold the political powerbrokers liable for the evil that they allow. Sin invites God’s judgment on the whole nation because abortion, sexual perversion, abuse of the poor, violence, pornography, divorce, and the like empower Satan’s rule. National sins cause the righteous to suffer with the unrighteous because they all participate in the same political unit. Social transformation happens when the people turn to God and reorder their society so that God’s precepts are reflected in the culture. To do this, the church shouldn’t seek to create a political theocracy. Rather, it should seek to grow the kingdom of God so that God’s influence reaches into all aspects of the society.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 105 (emphasis added)

Saturday, October 27, 2018


From Jesus Creed
We condemn the attacks on innocent lives and the murder of Jews at the the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The anti Semitic rhetoric and behavior that incite these violent acts are inexcusable and indefensible. We pray for our Jewish friends and neighbors and call on all people to turn from violence and perform deeds of mercy, love, and justice. We call on Christians and churches to be God’s agents of love, reconciliation, and peace.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tests, tests, everywhere are tests

I don’t recommend using spiritual gift inventory tests for many reasons. First, the Bible doesn’t model that approach. Second, the process is cognitive and may not include prayer, spiritual discernment, or the affirmation of others. Third, normally, the lists only include gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament. For example, Christians know that God calls and gifts people for music ministry. That isn’t listed as a gift in the New Testament.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 59

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Why are we always trying to put everything into a nice little package and test it? (Rhetorical question)
&tl;/idle musing>

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What have we lost?

Before the global advent of Pentecostalism, the holiness movement emphasized that sanctification evidenced Spirit baptism. Accordingly, “Walking in the Spirit” and bearing the fruit of the Spirit indicated that God’s Spirit was working in a person to transform the person into the image of Christ (Gal 5:13–26). Much of that emphasis has been lost in Pentecostalism because it focuses on gift manifestation instead of holiness.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 52 n. 4

Friday, October 19, 2018

No hierarchy here!

Contrary to what some believe, God has not fixed a spiritual hierarchy within the church that says that some Christians are more important than others or that some spiritual gifts are more important than other spiritual gifts. Instead, when seen from the perspective of the whole, every spiritual gift and every believer is of equal value. Allow me to re-emphasize this point. A believer’s worth is not determined by the spiritual gifts that the person exercises. Rather, believers should draw their identity and self-worth from Christ, not the gifts that they manifest. In light of this truth, it is essential that every believer identifies how the Holy Spirit has shaped him [or her] for ministry so that the person can develop his [or her] gift and mesh his [or her] gifting into the whole.—William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 46

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Give me your rich, your empowered, those desiring to control

Oh, wait, that's not right, is it? It is supposed to be
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But, in actuality, it has never been so. Take a look at the post on the Anxious Bench today. These paragraphs are especially heart-rending:
During this period, as would be the case during subsequent refugee crises in history, Americans strongly opposed accepting refugees. In July 1938, one public opinion poll published in Fortune found that only 4.9% of Americans surveyed believed that the United States should accept political refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. In an era of virulent anti-semitism, Americans appear to have been especially reluctant to accept Jewish refugees. In January 1939, in the wake of Kristallnacht, a Gallup poll found that 61% of survey respondents did not believe that the United States should open its doors 10,000 German refugee children, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

American immigration officials were able to prevent refugees from entering the United States by relying on the immigration quotas established by the Johnson-Reed Act, but also by using an extremely stringent interpretation of public charge rules. As Stephen Porter points out in his book Benevolent Empire: Power, Humanitarianism, and the World’s Dispossessed, President Herbert Hoover in 1930 directed American consuls to apply public charge rules strictly, in response to American fears of labor competition during the Great Depression. The use of public charge rules ended up allowing the United States to admit far fewer immigrants than what was permitted under the Johnson-Reed quota limits, which were already set at unprecedentedly low levels. By restricting immigrants only to those who had wealth, the United States used less than 20% of its available immigration quotas, and immigration during this period dipped to its lowest level since the United States began keeping records in the 1830s. Importantly, the United States made no exceptions to admit refugees or asylum-seekers.

Anti-Semitic immigration officials were particularly harsh when applying the rules to Jewish applications for immigration. “Virtually all Jews applying to enter the United Staes to escape persecution abroad were required by the State Department Visa Division to have affidavits filed on their behalf by a sponsor in the United Staes promising to support the immigrant if granted admission,” Porter explains. “While other poor and potentially dependent immigrant applicants also had the affidavit requirement applied to them, contemporary refugee advocates and later observers have noted that it was applied much more strictly and systematically to the Jewish refugees, partially the result of strong pockets of anti-Semitism among American consuls abroad and their counterparts in Washington.”

Christian nation!? Hardly! We need to repent on our knees. And by repentance I don't just mean mouth a few words and feel sorry about how or ancestors behaved. I mean change the way we behave! Our descendants (if any survive!) will judge us as mercilessly as we judge others...

Character counts

The basic point is that those who would speak for God should embody and display the qualities of God in themselves, and have a concern that others too should genuinely engage with the life-changing truth of God; although recognition of people with such qualities is not self—evident but requires existential openness. At root, I argue that the discernment of claims to speak for God is a particular form of one of the most fundamental and enduring issues of all human life: How can we know whom to trust?—I Still Believe, page 209

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! And his point that it is the character of the person that counts is spot-on. Especially in these times of alternate facts and half-truths (ok, I'm being generous; wholesale lies would be more accurate), the character of the person counts. If the person's life doesn't align with scripture, then question very closely whether or not it's of God. Sure, God can and does use ungodly people, but be very cautious! If someone is living an opulent lifestyle and claims to be helping the poor, a red flag should go up! If someone puts the US flag (or any other flag!) before the cross, be very cautious of accepting their truth claims. And if someone openly brags about their sexual bravado... well let's just say, I have a real problem seeing that as anything other than childish and the sign of a very insecure person who needs Jesus desperately. And I see people who defend that behavior in the same light I view some of the medieval popes who endorsed certain rulers for the sake of territorial protection...
<idle musing>

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The joys of (not believing in) inerrancy

OK, I confess that I've never been a fan of inerrancy, going all the way back to the original Battle for the Bible, always seeing it as a distraction from really grappling with what the text is saying. For one thing, everyone defines it differently. And my experience over the years is that the proverbial person in the pew thinks it means oral dictation, which it definitely is not—and that's about the only thing inerrantists will agree on! So, this little excerpt from I Still Believe was refreshing:
It is a liberating experience for a biblical scholar to be free of the a priori affirmation of inerrancy. Not only do a host of problems dissolve, but new options become available and at the same time the Scriptures become more alive. Without having to hide or ignore something, one can enjoy the feeling of honesty.—I Still Believe, page 111
<idle musing>
Several years ago I was reading Greek with another person just for the fun of it. We would take a book in the New Testament and spend about an hour just sight-reading it. If we got stuck, we'd pull out the lexicon. After we had been doing this for several weeks, the person I was reading with told me how freeing it was to let the text just speak without coming to it looking to confirm a belief! I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised, as I have rarely (I wish I could say never) come to scripture that way. I don't believe in inerrancy, but I certainly do believe in inspiration, and to use scripture as a weapon to prove a presupposed belief is to me a form of heresy! But on reflection, it helped me understand the approach to scripture among some people.

Lord keep me from that attitude! May I ever come at scripture with an open heart and mind, seeing what you have for me that day!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I Still Believe

I built a new bookcase yesterday&mdaah;I was out of room in the other ones. In the process of rearranging things, I came across a book that I had read about three years ago now and never excerpted; my yellow stickies were still marking the spots. So, for the next three days, I'll pull three excerpts that jumped out at me three years ago when I read I Still Believe.
I grow disheartened when I see the Bible hijacked and turned into a sword of hatred instead of a ploughshare of love. Although I do not imagine that biblical scholarship is single—handedly responsible for the thin gruel offered as the gospel in too many congregations—across the spectrum of the church’s life—neither do I see that biblical scholarship is serving to challenge and enlarge and instruct as it might.—Berverly Roberts Gaventa in I Still Believe, page 89

Monday, October 15, 2018


I wish I could get the adult males in this country to give as much consideration to their own souls as they give to the standings of their particular sports teams.

How would our country change if we could get people to spend four hours considering their own souls and their lives and their future with the concentrated attention they consider the strikeouts, the stolen bases and the rest of the baseball game?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 168

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hard words

The only way to help the world is to stay free from its brainwashing. The man who has adopted its ways can never help it. It is by standing aloof from its ways that we can help it. The aloof man is the only man that can do any good. You can only help a sinner by going contrary to him.

There is only one way to bless mankind, and that is by opposing mankind. For wherever mankind is wrong, and wherever he is different from God, it means that brother must be divided from brother and husband from wife and children from parents. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). You must be sober and prayerfully beware the world’s propagandas. Do not sell yourself, and do not allow yourself to be slowly reasoned into wrong by the counsel of the ungodly. Better to be a radical on the right side than weak on the wrong side. Better go too far than not far enough.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 163

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Babylon, here we come : (

What is it going to take to wake up the Church . . . to keep the world from using the Church to achieve its own ends? I wonder what kind of Babylon and beside what waters we are going to sit bitterly and hang our harps and refuse to sing? I wonder what Ezra and Nehemiah will be sent to lead us back to the land again, purged of our idolatry and washed this time by the blood of the Lamb?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 162–63

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Foolish puppets

Those creatures that bow and spread their wings, and run swift to do the will of God, and have no mind but God and no will but His, are the most free creatures in the entire universe. Those creatures—that’s us—who try to be free from the will of God succeed only in becoming victims to the propagandists who want to make us think the same as they think and feel the same as they feel about things; they are slaves.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 160

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of the lyrics of an old Randy Stonehill song, Puppet Strings from the album Welcome to Paradise. The refrain goes like this: "We are all like foolish puppets who desiring to be kings / Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings."

Ain't that the truth...
</idle musing>

Monday, October 08, 2018


But there is the freedom. Love never feels slavery, and love never knows bondage. That obedience to Jesus Christ, which Paul called slavery, is not the slavery that imposes itself from the outside by laws, nor by the introduction of alien ideas into the mind. It is the happy, joyous bondage of freedom and love; and the holiest and most free creature in heaven above is the angel that is nearest the throne of God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 160

Friday, October 05, 2018

To whom do you listen?

The warfare is between the counsel of the ungodly and the counsel of God. Which shall control your mind? You are a pawn and a puppet caught in between, and if you are not awakened to it, you will learn the ways of Babylon and Egypt. You Will pick up their notions and think the way they think and value What they value and love what they love and ignore what they ignore.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 159

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Just stop it!

I try to avoid commenting on political issues, but this is too much!

As an article at the Atlantic says:

Even those who believe that Ford fabricated her account, or was mistaken in its details, can see that the president’s mocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
You have sown the wind, now be prepared to reap the whirlwind. You have sold your soul to the devil in exchange a for a sop of political influence. You turn your back on blatant sin to gain a little bit of a pat on the back and empty rhetoric.

But the biblical prophets have a different viewpoint, as does the New Testament. Take a look at Amos 5:

7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:

“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.

The Day of the Lord
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (NIV)
And what does James say:
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)
Good news? The gospel is supposed to be good news. But in the hands of the current thought leaders of the evangelical movement, it is bad news unless you are the very people who were Jesus's greatest enemies.

Repent! Repent before the lampstand is removed (let the reader understand!). Your children will judge you for your stand. Make them proud by standing with righteousness and justice instead of political game-playing that will only sully the hands of those playing. It will never bring about the righteousness of God. That comes by repentance—real repentance, not mumbling a prayer, but as the CEV translates μετάνοια (metanoia) "change your hearts and lives." As the old Anabaptist saying goes, "There is no salvation without transformation."

Stop putting Nationalism before Jesus! God will not tolerate rivals. Update: Read this post at the Anxious Bench, an evangelical blog. Here's taste:

Rather than granting women greater legal protections against harassment and abuse, they [evangelicals] prefer to ascribe to husbands and fathers the power to protect women. But by placing such trust in patriarchal power, there is little recourse when those very men betray the women they are ostensibly responsible to protect. For some evangelicals, this scenario is simply unthinkable. For many more, their default setting is to believe men, not women, when allegations of abuse surface. And to blame women, not men, when women do come forward.
Read the whole thing! Be among the 36 percent who think character still counts!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The importance of libraries

"Our great public libraries and their counterparts in schools, prisons, colleges and hospitals are founded on a powerful idea--the idea of equality and democracy, of universal empowerment for working people.... A modern library is the Common Room at the heart of its community, supporting learning, health and well-being, helping people get online, use Council services. It brings people together of all ages and faiths, helps overcome loneliness and social isolation in every town, city and village the length and breadth of our nation.... How a civilized nation treats its libraries is a barometer of how it values its citizens."—Nick Poole, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Too true

Contrary to conventional wisdom, sin as understood in Scripture is not a misstep here and there. Nor is it limited to the actions of an individual. Sin is a condition and a ruling power. We are in bondage to our own insatiable egos and their illusion of control. Such hard truth about the human condi- tion has o en been set aside in today’s church. It has been so -pedaled or forgotten as churches have opted for the upbeat and positive, or for a faith that says little that is dire or truthful about the human condition.—The Usefulness of Scripture, page 90

Monday, October 01, 2018

Who's in control?

Somebody is going to control your mind. Who is it going to be? Is it going to be the advertiser? Is it going to be the public school? Is it going to be the media? Or is it going to be God? You have to make up your mind on that, my friend. Whether you want to or not, somebody is going to control your mind; who is it going to be? “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 159

<idle musing>
This was written sometime before 1960. Advertising has only gotten worse since then. Back in the 1970s, researchers estimated you saw about 500 ads per day. The most recent figures I can find say that we see anywhere from 5000 to 10000 ads a day now. That's a ten to twenty-fold increase! And you think you aren't influenced by them? Think again!
</idle musing>