Protestantism Archives

Overcoming Such Unanimity

Ben DeBono is one of the co-hosts of a podcast I listen to, "The Sci-Fi Christian".  I have the distinction of having named their alien mascot, "Theo".

Ben is a recent convert to Catholicism, while I am a  long-time Protestant. And yet there are commonalties that people tend to ignore too often. He highlighted one of those commonalities in a recent Facebook post.

Here’s a thought experiment for Christians arguing for biblical support of homosexuality and/or homosexuall [sic] marriage:

On the subject of homosexuality theologians as diverse as the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther and every other major pre-20th century Christian thinker stand in complete agreement. Such unanimity is all but unprecedented in the tradition. Even a doctrine as fundamental as the Trinity has greater diversity of thought than homosexuality.

Regardless of how you view the authority of tradition, doesn’t such complete agreement deserve to be acknowledged and taken seriously? If you say yes, how can you justify the near complete lack of engagement with the tradition by those arguing for an understanding of Christianity that is pro-homosexuality? Wouldn’t such a drastic change on this issue demand a lengthy and complete engagement with the tradition?

If you say no, how do you justify the implicit claim that your interpretive abilities are superior to 2,000 years of unanimous teaching on this issue – Protestant, Catholic and otherwise?

Ben shows that, over the millennia, smart Christian guys from all over the spectrum, have been unified on this topic. I made a similar point 2 years ago when I noted that the Bible speak of homosexuality 100% negatively, and of marriage 100% heterosexually. I said essentially the same thing, "Ignore all of that collected wisdom at your peril."

The religious Left has been accepting homosexuality as a "non-sin" over the past 40 years, and same-sex marriage as blessed just for the past 10 years or so. Relatively speaking, however, this is nothing compared to the unanimity of the faith for the last 2,000 years. If one is going to throw out 2 millennia of doctrine, you had better have a good argument that a) this is really what the Bible says and b) the other guys were wrong. Yelling "Equality!" is not such an argument.

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    When You Joust …

    Don’t aim for the straw man, go for the flesh and blood one aiming a lance at you. Read the rest of this entry

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      I quit

      Notice (for those who care):

      Today I’m still a Christian. I’m still in with this bunch of quarrelsome and hostile humans. I refuse to be arrogant enough to believe that my Western-bred, self-concerned, and individualistic mindset can circumvent the very humanity which leaves Christianity imperfect in practice.

      Also, in the name of Christ, I refuse to condone sexual behavior, whether it be hetero or homo, that is outside the boundaries God has set; I refuse to agree with liberal feminists who degrade women; I refuse to believe being Democrat or Republican is related to “Jesus is God, he died, and was resurrected”; I refuse to think secular humanism is valid (or new); I refuse to succumb to the self defeating views of methodological naturalism, yet continue to support research of the natural realm God created; and I refuse to be anti-life, specifically, the life of unborn images of God.

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        [I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they've had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

        #31  J. Beverly LaHaye. Concerned woman  b.1929 

        It might be said that Beverly LaHaye was present at the birth of the religious right, starting Concerned Women for America in 1979, the same year as Jerry Falwell launched the Moral Majority. She has been one of many people who have made it their vocation to provide a conservative Christian perspective on the issues of each day and to lobby for policies acceptable to Christians of the political right. 

         Although she began CWA to counter the National Organization for Women, the organization has become one of several Christian conservative groups that are, in many ways, interchangeable in their activities to counter abortion, gay rights, and liberal thought and action. In that sense, LaHaye represents many conservative activists like her, such as Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, Donald Wildmon, and Janet Parshall. She is the senior member of this group. 

         LaHaye was one of few women to emerge as public figures in the evangelical movement in this generation, although her prominence may be seen as a half-step in this regard because she emerged as part of a tandem with her husband Tim LaHaye, right-wing activist, then best-selling co-author of the phenomenally best-selling Left Behind book series.

        LaHaye started the Beverly LaHaye Live daily radio program in 1988 “to influence women and men to take political action, build strong families and take leadership in their communities.” The program was awarded the National Religious Broadcasters’ “Talk Show of the Year Award” in 1993 and was on the ari until 2004.

        ”Christianity Today wrote in 1997: “LaHaye spent the early years of her 50-year marriage raising four children and supporting her husband. While very much a traditional woman in one sense, Beverly LaHaye now heads the largest politically active women’s organization in the country. LaHaye said her radio show ‘combats the fiery darts of immorality, the entertainment industry, and school curriculums.’”[1]

        LaHaye’s legacy, like those who have shared the same mission and methodology, is hotly debated, not only on ideological grounds, but also in terms of the effectiveness of the frontal attacks on dreadful policies such as legalized abortion, and the ensuing harsh and hateful image that has been successfully cast by their opponents of these conservative Christians. Although one can question the efficacy of pastors and Christian leaders who turned from other areas of work to the political fight, there clearly needed to be a group of professionals who stood up for Christian values in the public realm, and did so as their day job. Beverly LaHaye took up the fight as a second career, after raising her kids, and she has spent her later years as one of the early and few women in the indelicate role as an evangelical storm trooper in the Washington.

        LaHaye has been frequently recognized for her leadership in the political and Christian community. In 1984, she was named “Christian Woman of the Year.” In 1988, she was named “Church Woman of the Year.” In 1991, she received the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Religious Freedom Award.” The Values Action Team of the U.S. House of Representatives honored her in 1994 for her service to the country. In 1992, Liberty University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities for her lifetime achievement in protecting the rights of the family. LaHaye currently serves on the boards of Liberty University, Childcare International, and the International Right to Life Federation. She and Tim LaHaye have four adult children, nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. They live in Southern California.


        [1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/march3/7t3066.html?start=2

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          [I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they've had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

          #38  Doug Coe. Stealth Networker  b.1928 

          Doug Coe, center, introduces the president to a friend

           

           It is hilarious to read about attempts to weave a master plan by Christians to take over the government or create a shadow group to corner some part of the culture. It is clear that anyone who attempts this has very little experience within the Christian sub-culture. Religious groups have a difficult time agreeing on much of anything, and there are many jokes about how “if you have three Baptists (or fill in your denomination) in a room, there are four opinions.” 

          Yet many have tried to find some nefarious motivation in the work of Doug Coe and his network, known by most as The Fellowship. Coe is perhaps the most effective networker in the evangelical world and he is likely the most invisible leader of a major Christian outreach. It is the secretive and silent nature of Coe and The Fellowship that has made them the target for conspiracy theories. Coe is reluctant to do public speaking, and he routinely denies requests for interviews and speeches to large audiences. Muckraking journalists have attempted to fill in the blanks left by Coe’s silence.

           Many praise the low-visibility approach. “It is a virtue to try to be anonymous in a town where self-promotion is so often the modus operandi of many who come to work among the powerful,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.[1]

           The Fellowship’s most visible program (although you’ll never see Coe on the stage or hear the organization make a pitch) is the annual National Prayer Breakfast the first week in February in Washington, D.C. This event, which the President always attends, is officially conducted by the House and Senate prayer groups; but The Fellowship is the group that makes it happen each year. 

           Although Coe is revered by evangelicals for creating places and relationships around Christian faith, The Fellowship is not a place of theological purity and the spiritual content is frequently superficial. Theological specificity is sacrificed in the interest of pulling leaders in the U.S. and around the world into relationships based on Christianity.    

           Nonetheless, Coe has had an enormous impact on evangelical outreach among the most powerful people in the world, and on maintaining at least the vestiges of Christian protocol in the Nation’s Capital through the Prayer Breakfast and related groups. In a survey of 300 top evangelical politicians, one third told author D. Michael Lindsay that the Fellowship was one of the most influential Christian groups in Washington, more than any other group.  According to Lindsay, “there is no other organization like the Fellowship, especially among religious groups, in terms of its access or clout among the country’s leadership.”[2]

          The extent of Coe’s influence in American politics is a subject of debate. Important figures have acknowledged his role on the national and international stage. Speaking at the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, President George H.W. Bush praised Coe for his “quiet diplomacy, I wouldn’t say secret diplomacy”.[3] Coe was a behind-the-scenes spiritual mentor at the Camp David Accords in 1978, working with President Jimmy Carter to issue a worldwide call to prayer with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

          One of Coe’s most publicized relationships is with Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Colson has described the key role the Fellowship and Doug Coe played in his conversion in his 1976 book Born Again (that’s why the word Fellowship is in the Prison Fellowship name).  Colson praises Coe’s work in his life as a young Christian, but he has been quietly critical of the lack of orthodoxy in the teaching and discipling work of The Fellowship. Colson has said he also has concerns about politicians using Fellowship events and relationships as a replacement for church. “A leading figure ought to belong to a church,” Colson said.[4]

          However, despite significant efforts, no one has been able to find anything but the highest motives in Coe’s work. As former U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson put it in the eighties, Coe “became the godfather; but for good, not for bad.  He became the mentor of dozens of seekers of Christ who came, like Nicodemas came to Jesus quietly by night, to ask Faith questions.” [5]

          A native of Oregon and a product of Young Life and The Navigators, Doug Coe was schooled in Bible memorization and study, mentoring, and discipling by Lorne Sanny and Jim Rayburn. He was also mentored for a time by a young Billy Graham.  In 1958, Coe was employed by Abraham Vereide at the International Christian Leadership, the parent of what has become known as The Fellowship.


          [1] http://www.worldmag.com/articles/15778

           

          [2] Lindsay, D. Michael. Evangelicals in the Halls of Power.

          [3] Sharlet, Jeff (2008). The Family: Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Harper-Collins.

          [4] http://www.worldmag.com/articles/15778

          [5] http://www.worldmag.com/articles/15778

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             [I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they've had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

            #20 R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Denominational whip  b.1959 

            Because it is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, actions by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) attract significant attention, and few people interested in matters of faith are neutral in their opinions of the SBC. With the current position of the SBC as a solidly conservative bastion within evangelicalism, it requires a 20-year journey to the early 1990’s to observe an interdenominational fight that almost thoroughly ousted leaders of the SBC who had begun to toy with more liberal theological positions.  Through the election of conservatives at the national level, Southern Baptists initiated a process to return the denomination to traditional teachings

             In that war for orthodoxy, R. Albert Mohler became a five-star general, leading first a cleansing of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he became president in 1993, and then joining like-minded conservatives to realign the denomination as a whole. Paige Patterson, former SBC president and also a seminary president, said that Mohler’s presidency at Southern—the denomination’s flagship institution—corrected theological leanings in the SBC. “Al Mohler has the brains of Erasmus and the courage of Luther,” Patterson said at the time.

            Shortly after his term as president began, Mohler drafted a policy (which was ratified by the trustees) that the Seminary would only hire professors who agreed to sign an Abstract of (theological) Principles (many professors had moved away from the tradition of Biblical inerrancy). Those who refused to sign were dismissed or resigned, which was approximately 75 percent of the faculty. During the two-year period after this policy was implemented, more than 50 percent of the student body transferred out of Southern Seminary to other academic institutions.

            The fall-off in enrollment was short-lived and by 2006 Southern Seminary saw the largest enrollment in its history, and the institution is now one of the most endowed and largest seminaries in the world.

            Mohler was also instrumental in the mid-1990s restructuring of the Southern Baptist Convention, which saw an increase in the influence of conservatives. After the restructuring had occurred, Mohler and others sought to enforce these doctrinal changes through the adoption of a revised Baptist Faith and Message in 2000.

            Today, Mohler– who Time magazine called the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”.[1]—has the most powerful religious blog in the country, and he has a popular daily radio program syndicated by Salem Radio Network.

            Mohler is in the middle of what may be his next theological battle: Southern seminary has become a Reformed hotbed, part of a trend in many of the leading evangelical seminaries. This surge of Reformed theology has divided Southern Baptist churches and raised questions about the doctrinal direction of the denomination. A LifeWay Research study released in 2009 reported about 10 percent of Southern Baptist pastors identified themselves as Calvinist, but that number is increasing. Twenty-nine percent of recent SBC seminary graduates espoused Calvinist doctrine.[2]

             Mohler writes, “Calvinism was the mainstream tradition in the Southern Baptist Convention until the turn of the century. The rise of modern notions of individual liberty and the general spirit of the age have led to an accommodation of historic doctrines in some circles.”[3]

            With the majority of Southern Baptist pastors preaching Arminianism and the seminaries becoming more Reformed, it’s too early to tell who is going to prevail in this doctrinal split. But if Southern Baptists allowed any kind of gambling, the good money would be on Al Mohler’s team. 

            Al Mohler  is a native of Lakeland, Florida. He attended received a B. A. from Samford University, a Baptist college in Birmingham, Alabama. His graduate degrees, a Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in “Systematic and Historical Theology,” were conferred by Southern Seminary.

            In addition to his position as president, Mohler also serves as Professor of Christian Theology at Southern. His writings have been published throughout the United States and Europe. He has contributed to several books including Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, Here We Stand: A Call From Confessing Evangelicals and The Coming Evangelical Crisis. He served as General Editor of The Gods of the Age or the God of the Ages: Essays by Carl F. H. Henry and served from 1985 to 1993 as Associate Editor of Preaching, a journal for evangelical preachers. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.


            [1][1] http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,443800,00.html

             

             [2] http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=27181&ref=BPNews-RSSFeed0111

            [3] http://reformedbaptistfellowship.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/southern-baptists-and-calvinists-a-response-to-elmer-towns-part-1/

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              The Many Worlds as Adiaphora

              Two well known strands of Protestant theology are the Calvinist and Arminian. There are a number of differences between these two schools but one of them keys on soteriology (salvation). Calvinists would hold that once a person is saved, he is always saved. Arminians dispute this idea. Consider the following thought experiment:

              1. A person, we’ll call him John, is born and arrives in his twenties. He is a devoted and sincere Christian.
              2. Then, in his twenties a series of circumstances arise and he loses his faith. Through his mid-thirties he is a not-Christian.
              3. Finally late in life and to his death he returns to the faith of his birth and is again a devout and sincere Christian.

              We add to this mix “device X.” Device X is trained on John and makes him into an human Schrödinger‘s Cat. If a particular nuclei is seen to decay … he dies. The state of this nuclei is tested at points 1 and 2 during his life. So we now consider if he dies at points 1,2, and 3 in his life and the soteriological implications of this.

              My (limited and likely flawed) understanding of the Calvin/Arminius dispute is that an Arminian would say he was saved at points 1&3 and a Calvinist would say at point 2 that even though John was not a believer that he (John) is still one of those saved that He (God) would still call him saved because He (being omniscient) knows that John will live through to point 3 and will return to the fold.

              This is where the Many-Worlds theory comes in. An Arminian could argue that each of points 1,2, and 3 the universe splits. In one universe he lives. In the other he dies. Therefore the Calvinist argument that God can know the result is impossible. Just before point 1, there is one universe. After point 3 there are three and in two of them John goes on to be saved and one in which he is not.  Therefore if Many Worlds is true God cannot say which John He is judging at point 1 … which is the Arminian statement on this question. Thus the Arminian view is compatible with Many Worlds while the Calvinist view is not.

              If one take (the seemingly obvious and innocuous) view that belief or non-belief in the quantum theory known as the “many worlds hypothesis” is adiaphora. It is not essential to salvation whether you give the theory credence or not … and that given the dependence of this particular dispute between these two schools on this point … that therefore this point is thus also adiaphora and not dogma.

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                21 Days of fasting: Day 21

                Today marks the last day of our 21 day Daniel Fast (and… I’ve already got the coffee-maker ready for Sunday morning!).

                It’s interesting how this year’s fast was so different from that of 2009. Certainly, the fact that our diet was not the same as that of last year has a role in the different fast experience. While our 2009 fast consisted of mainly salads, vegetables, and fruit, we chose to include nuts, legumes, and whole grains for 2010. And even though this change left me more satiated, I still found myself feeling somehow – full, yet unfulfilled – in the food department. Perhaps it was because of this feeling that I found myself fasting complete meals more often than I did in 2009. And while such a practice does make one feel hungry, such physical nudges are harnessed by the mind as reminders of God’s mercy, grace, love, authority, majesty, and power.

                Sure, I’ve been thinking about doing my awesome (imo) smoked ribs, or homemade pepperoni pizza (this time with some mushrooms on top). I’ve sat and watched Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins, and got the urge to make our own shredded beef tacos, along with fresh (or homemade?) corn tortillas, hot off the griddle. And then there’s our homemade spaghetti, with a meaty tomato sauce that’s been prepped with tons of garlic and steeped in red wine. Besides that, I’ve been looking forward to grabbing a double-meat burger, fries and chocolate shake, from IN-N-OUT. And all the while, I’ve come to the point of thanking God for the wonder He has created… the sights, sounds, textures, smells, and tastes. The love and care He has for us, created in His image, to not simply give us nourishment – but to lavish upon us a richness of the senses.

                If the bread we eat, which we do not live alone by, is so rich, then how much more so is the Bread of Life? How sweet on the lips is the Word of God?

                So, as the crackling sizzle of bacon permeates off the pan, as the intoxicating aroma of coffee wafts its way through the house, as the dark crimson enchilada sauce engulfs your enchiladas, as the tender morsel of pulled pork melts in your mouth, and as the enigmatic flavor of dark chocolate excites your taste buds, remember to thank our Heavenly Father, for His Love.

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                  21 Days of fasting: Day 14

                  Today marks the 14th day of our Daniel Fast.

                  During this time of prayer and meditation on God’s Word, I’ve found that my inadequacies at engaging in a fuller prayer life are surfaced. While others about me seem to readily spout eloquently laced verbal prayers, whether in a worship service or an informal gathering, I’d rather take time to think about what I have to say, and then say it – as succinctly as possible. While some leaders extol (even direct) congregants to speak their prayers and worship “out loud”, ostensibly so others around them can hear them, I prefer to quietly direct my supplications to God. While some fellow Christians claim to have conversations with God, I tend to read the prayers in the Bible not as informal conversation, but as meditative communion. As such, it can be very frustrating for someone like myself to model his prayers as many of those in the church.

                  As I’ve been reading Adam McHugh’s book, Introverts in the Church, I’ve been enlightened to many aspects of introversion that I was previously unaware of. One aspect that struck me, regarding this prayer issue, is that of how the typical introvert’s mind works. In a nutshell, while an introvert is typically quiet on the outside, inside his mind is racing from thought to thought, idea to idea, recalling and analyzing past events, and so on. This is exactly the type of process that I find happening with myself (and, silly me, all this time I thought I was just daydreaming!). What McHugh states, though, is that the introvert must learn to harness this thought pattern and not just let it run unhindered. As this applies to prayer, I think one must learn to take control of the various thoughts permeating through his head, and take cues from them as prayer petitions – guides, if you will, to your supplications.

                  Yesterday, I read, out loud, from our church Bible, in our church sanctuary. As part of our group fast, our pastor has instituted that our congregation read the Bible within our sanctuary. It is a wonderful opportunity to have God’s Word read out loud, completely through, within the walls of the church. Individuals and families sign-up for various 1/2 hour time slots, throughout the week, and simply arrive, read, and enjoy the presence of God. In the past, we’ve had members of our deaf church participate by signing the Word, and we’ve had an Old Testament scholar read in Hebrew. My reading, yesterday, stretched from Romans 14 to I Corinthians 6.


                  Romans 14, from the Bible in our church sanctuary.

                  Image – © A. R. Lopez

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                    21 Days of fasting: Day 11

                    Today marks the midway point of our Daniel Fast.

                    At this point, I have found the experience to be different from the Daniel Fast I participated in last year at this time. Last year, I inadvertently excluded nuts and whole grains from the menu, and the result was great hunger. Now some would say that, since you’re on a fast, shouldn’t you be hungry? Certainly, however while one is hungry on a fast, hunger should not be the focus of the fast.

                    Another aspect that is different from my fast of last year is the absence of the feeling of frustration. During most of my fast in 2009, though I engaged in the reading of the Word and in prayer, I experienced a great deal of frustration. That has not been the case this year. I haven’t experienced any great workings of the Spirit, as some of my more extroverted friends may have, but I have certainly experienced an immense amount of inner peace.

                    The reading of the Word has included the book of Acts. Some selected verses (all ESV):

                    All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. – Acts 1:14

                    And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42

                    Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. – Acts 3:1

                    But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. – Acts 6:4

                    So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. – Acts 12:5

                    Imagine what we could do if we would pray in the same manner as the early Christians. But, we’re too busy.

                    Between soccer games, movies, concerts, after-school events, happy hours, television, the internet, hobbies, work, etc., we might be able to squeeze in a 5 or 10 minute prayer… if we’re lucky.


                    Fresh strawberries. A great fruit item to our menu.

                    Image – © 2010 A. R. Lopez

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                      21 Days of fasting: Day 7

                      If you’ve ever limited your diet to only fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, then you’ve probably gone through the experience of your body reacting to the change in diet. I won’t bother you with the details, but let’s just say that your body lets you know, as if you didn’t already know, that something has changed in its normal diet sequence.

                      One side effect I will speak about is a bit of heartburn that woke me up last night, somewhere around 3:30 a.m. Now, normally I’d just try and deal with it – maybe some antacid or the standard baking soda routine. However, the main purpose for participating in a group fast is to draw closer to God, through Bible reading and prayer. Could it be that I was wide awake in the middle of the night for a reason? Well, regardless of whether or not the heartburn was providentially motivated, I took the time to enter into prayer.

                      Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to pray!

                      Psalm 29 was particularly striking, this week:

                      1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
                      ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
                      2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
                      worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

                      3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
                      the God of glory thunders,
                      the Lord, over many waters.
                      4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
                      the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

                      5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
                      the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
                      6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
                      and Sirion like a young wild ox.

                      7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
                      8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
                      the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

                      9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
                      and strips the forests bare,
                      and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

                      10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
                      the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
                      11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
                      May the Lord bless his people with peace!

                      Yes, the voice of the Lord is powerful, and His blessing is the only peace we should seek.


                      Apples, fresh or dried, are a wonderful treat during our fast!

                      Image – © 2008 A.R. Lopez

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                        21 Days of fasting: Day 4

                        While day 2 opened with a red sunrise, today closed with a red sunset. The heavens declare your glory, Lord! The vividness of the sunset was made even more astounding due to my vantage point, where I was able to look over the southern coast of California and see the crisp image of Catalina, one of its Channel Islands.

                        During our fast in 2009, I encountered more hunger pains by this point. However, we didn’t include nuts in our menu until about the third week. I believe a protein supplement is needed, while on a Daniel Fast. This year, we’ve made sure to include nuts and whole grains. Still, it was a bit disconcerting when a co-worker brought in some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! And while we essentially have no limit on the amount of fruits and vegetables we can eat, I made sure to pick up, and eat, one almond that happened to fall on the floor during lunch.

                        In Luke, I was impressed with the following line,

                        And he went out and wept bitterly.

                        Of course, it is what Peter did, after denying his Lord – and then gazing upon his eyes.

                        I’ve wondered what Peter must have felt, after having cursed at the notion that he even knew Jesus, to then look into his eyes. Although we are separated by 2,000 years of time, and the physicality of Jesus’ presence, are there times in our own existence when we deny Jesus? Even though I’m not a proponent of personalizing scripture in an attempt to make it “speak to us”, I do think we can take away application and personal significance from the Word.

                        And what are we to make of this denial? Bitter remorse… precisely because of the love Peter had for Jesus.

                        The good news is that Peter’s bitter weeping was not the end of the story.

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                          21 Days of fasting: Day 2

                          Today began quietly, with a beautiful sunrise lighting up a sky full of clouds with a deep, reddish glow.

                          No stomach growls until mid-morning, although I did have a bit of a caffeine-deprived headache (ahhh, coffee…). With this particular type of fast (I am doing) one abstains from meat, dairy products, and luxury foods. Luxury foods, in my case, would include sweets and products such as coffee. I’m limiting the amount of my intake for both breakfast and lunch, but have no restrictions with regards to the evening meal. Essentially, I can eat all the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains I want. As my pastor has said, although it might appear easy to engage in such a fast, after a couple of weeks you start to get pretty tired of carrot sticks!

                          Scripture reading today included the first few chapters of Luke. In meditating over the verses I was struck by the manner in which John the Baptist addressed Jesus the Christ. In our extroverted let’s-all-be-friends smiley culture, we many times run the risk of trivializing who Jesus is, and how we should relate to him. Yet here in Luke 3 we find John the Baptist, the one chosen to prepare the way for the Lord, explicitly state that he is unworthy to even untie the sandals of Jesus.

                          Prayer for today: Let us truly understand who you are, Lord Jesus, and the worship you are due.

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                            21 days of fasting: Day 1

                            In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks about believers engaging in three activities: giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. Note the grammatical structure of the following passages:

                            “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.” – Matthew 6:2 ESV

                            “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” – Matthew 6:5 ESV

                            “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” – Matthew 6:16 ESV

                            Indeed, a common thread in the three verses is Jesus’ use of the word “when”. His assumption, it would seem, is that His followers would make it a practice to give to the needy, to pray, and… to fast.

                            While there are certainly instances where a Christ follower may conduct a fast in private, there also is Biblical precedent for declared, group fasts. The church I attend has embarked on a 21 day fast, the duration being modeled from the prophet Daniel’s fast (ref. Daniel 1), beginning today, 3 January 2010. The fast is a declared fast, yet the manner in which each church member partakes of the fast is dependent on physical limitation and / or desired commitment. Our pastor has chosen to engage in a liquid-only fast. As for myself and my wife, we will be partaking in a “Daniel Fast”, in which we abstain from meat and luxury foods.

                            The point of this period of fasting is, quite simply, to draw nearer to God – to enjoy the blessing of His presence – to remind yourself that it is He who is worthy of worship. By abstaining from certain foods, one then has the opportunity to delve deeper into prayer and the reading of God’s Word.

                            Over the course of the 21 days I hope to post progress reports of what transpires, including the downs – and ups.

                            As for today, lunch was a light salad, with nuts, and sliced fruit. Dinner will be vegetable soup… wonderful in its own right, yet a bit lacking when not paired with the usual fare.


                            Image – © A. R. Lopez

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                              Ecumenical Thoughts

                              Mr Turk makes an interesting point in the conversation about ecumenical conversations, although I’m not entirely sure it’s the point he wants to make. A week or so ago he offered that those of other denominations, specifically the Roman and Easter churches were right with God only if they (accidentally) held to a Evangelical belief/approach to the Gospel. I think this point of view is held far more often by most people in every church/denomination. That is to say that any Christian church X thinks that members of church Y are in the soteriological pink inasmuch as those members in church Y (accidentally) hold to beliefs that are held in church X. That is, Mr Turk as an Evangelical thinks that the Catholic and Orthodox are saved if they hold an Evangelical understanding of the Gospel and those in the Roman hold that the Evangelical and Eastern are likewise correct when and where they (accidentally) hold to the Roman understanding of Gospel. And so on. Now I had been under the impression that I was “above the fray” in this regard. But on reflection, I am not. Read the rest of this entry

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