Tuesday, June 30, 2020

High and Lifted Up!


In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.[Isaiah 6:1]

So begins one of the most powerful chapters in all of scripture, the calling of one of the greatest of prophets ever to walk the earth.

The seraphim flew about the Temple in the Heavenlly glories singing:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”


And at  the sound of their voices the very doors and thresholds of heaven shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

The next time we read that phrase it says:

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. [Isaiah 52:13]

This time it appears as a prophecy of the coming Messiah, the Suffering Servant and the promise of His exaltation even in humiliation. He is "high" (lit. elevated) and "lifted up" (lit. carried) on the cross and thereby exalted.  Can we begin to see that we may be exalted through suffering

Again in reference to our Lord and Savior we read:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. [Isaiah 57:15]


Jesus, who now reigns in Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father (the Judgement seat) says he not only dwells there but with those who have a contrite and lowly spirit. Note the contrast between high and lowly, between lifted up and contrite (sometimes translated as dust or destruction).

High and lifted  up! - The phraseology is largely limited to the book of Isaiah. Isaiah's call to the office of prophet (which is largely a call to preaching or proclamation - euangelion or evangelism) is an office all too often neglected in the mainline denominations today.  The office of pastor has been reduced to a touchy-feely, 1960's hippy, counselor, level by those who dare not pass judgement or announce God's condemnation on the ungodly or on sin (or on the financial supporters of the congregation they serve).

As I talk with pastors, all too often I hear this soft, mamby, pamby, counselor sort of drivel that seems to view everyone as a victim, even to the extent, sometimes, of enablement.  I think it arises from this image of Christ as the Suffering Servant. However, it too often seems to be an attempt to affirm, to curry favor with, or to otherwise give false hope to someone who might better be told to grow up and put their big boy or big girl panties on.

Too often pastors (and others) want to let people know that Christ understands their suffering and suffers with them. But we do this without any regard for the fact that so many of us suffer, not because of some quirky alignment of existential circumstances but because of of the very choices we have made.  Every wonder why so many poor people stay poor simply because they refuse to manage their money well?  Ever wonder why so many addicts refuse to get help because it is easier to just waste away? Ever wonder why so many marriages fail, simply due to the poor prioritization of the relationship?  Or why so many lives are cut off due to careless living? And folks want us to mourn with them, feeling sorry that their sins have finally caught up with them. You don't hear these words from the pulpits of many preachers today, in large measure because they are more fearful of losing their positions, their pensions, or their prestige in the community than they are of losing their standing before God Almighty, who is high and lifted up.  .

...my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. [Hosea 4:6]

I've written on this before but I often wonder how many serve in ministry without first being born again? Without a calling like Isaiah's? Without the "Woe to me!” cry, the  “I am ruined!" fear before God, the burning of the coal from the altar that not even the seraphim dared to touch?

Too often we have rejected the knowledge that God Himself has given us in His word. We exchange the truth of God for a lie, the lie of psychology, the lie of scientific inquiry, the lie of genetics or of sociological relevance...

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. [Galatians 6:7]

Remember the rebuke offered by the criminal who would be with Jesus in paradise that very day?

Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds... {Luke 23:40-41]

I wonder, if we truly believed that what is going on today is the due reward of our deeds (as a nation and as individuals), if we might be in a better position to process just how high and lifted up we truly are even in these humble circumstances

Paul confesses, and (for better or worse) my stated goal for many years has been:

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [Philippians 3:10-11]

I wonder if we can truly pray to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death?

Might we consider it an honor to suffer, not of our own accord but for the sins of others? And just what might God be saying to us today in light of what is going on around us

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Chapter 9 Questions


Feeding the Soul: Week 9 The Use and Abuse of Good Books–Part IV Chapter 9


1.  How do I, or do I, attempt to hone my use of the English language?


2.  How do I, or do I, attempt to develop my ability to witness to others of my faith?


3.  How should I develop my ability to witness to my faith with the limits of the language I do possess and in light of the cultural issues before me today?


4.  What specific faith questions do I have that I need to answer in order to be able to more fully witness to my faith (i.e. Do I know what I believe, assuming I know Whom I believe)?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?

The New "Unmentionables"

I am reading through portions of Calvin's Institutes, primarily because I may seek ordination in a new denomination and I want to more closely examine where I fall on the theological spectrum, should I choose to affiliate with any of them.  One question I am examining is that of predestination.  I have found so few people, outside of academia, who are actually conversant on the issue.  I include myself in that group and so am "boning up" on what Calvin actually said.  I find his writing to be challenging but extremely insightful.  I also find that reviewing that level of writing helps me to better convey my own beliefs.

A surprising aspect of Calvin's writing is his freedom in using terms such as "ignorant" to describe those without a certain level of knowledge on a particular subject, and"stupid" to describe, well, "stupidity."  Amidst all that is going on in the American social scene today, in disallowing the use of certain words, I am amazed that other words are tolerated.  It is nothing to hear people of significant social standing use profanity with impunity ((including the "Queen Mother" of all swear words) while having no tolerance for descriptive words such as "lynching."  Lynching was done to cattle rustlers, horse thieves, and murderers as well as in clearly racist settings.

So too, Statues of those who "owned slaves" are toppled irrespective of the value other aspects of their lives brought to the world, providing mixed messages of morality.  Other statues, such as the baphomet idol (satanic) are erected in Detroit with celebration, while some suggest that "white Jesus" in all forms ought to be destroyed. Statues of Martin Luther King Jr (a well attested adulterer), and others, remain in spite of the mixed moral messages given.  We are in challenging days with knowing how to address these situations. And language is failing us.  Even the conversations we are trying to have around these issues are being cut off by accusations like "hurtful", "hateful", "racist" etc.

So, enough ranting.  I'll let Calvin use "stupid" and "ignorant" because, irrespective of the manner in which they may be used by some, they are good words, descriptive words.  And reading classics such as those like the Institutes will serve us well in re-learning the power of the spoken word.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

"The Spiritual Life"

I'm struggling to read through 1984. It seems unnecessarily laced with adjectival descriptions to a distracting level, almost as much as the previously discarded "Brave New World."  I don't respond well to "It was a warm winter night and the windows, drenched from melting icicles, wonderfully blurred my view of the neighbors hideous Christmas display as the thought crossed my mind..."  I'm more of a "On that night, the thought crossed my mind..."; a get to the point kind of reader.

But as Tozer suggests, reading is a wonderfully blessed way of building our ability to express ourselves.  In my recent go around with the PC(USA) disciplinary system, I was struck by how the Investigative Committee report blew up the simple word choice I made in reference to a parishioner's FB posting (ignorance, which was an accurate use of the term) to one charge of "Disturbing the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church" and two charges of "Abuse of Pastoral Authority."  But it demonstrates the power of terminology to twist one's perception of reality. The lawyer who reviewed my response did an even more masterful job in the rebuttal which took ownership of my likely having used the wrong medium but then expressed justifiable concern over the "draconian nature" of the recommendations. Neither one, however, expressed my basic frustration with the hideous and blatant disregard for their own "Rules of Discipline." But that is the state of the denomination which is now fully infused with the godless tendency to disregard scripture and it's confessions, the engine which has driven the PC(USA) for almost 100 years now. (An engine which has replaced the Holy Spirit in driving too many denominations/assemblies today.)

Words shape our reality. Take for instance the phrase "Black Lives Matter."  Who, in God's green earth, could disagree with such a statement? Of course they matter. And yet, it leaves the door open to all sorts of possible responses, innuendo, inferences, and argumentation.  It is intended to argue against a much deeper reality, that some people, to their own shame, really do not think that black lives matter as much as other lives.  But, I digress.

I read a beautiful piece this morning that I think relates well to what we are experiencing with all the protests. It relates to Christians everywhere, but in particular to what I often call pew sitters, bench warmer type church goers.  These are the people who say "I'll pray for you" but you know the chances of their entertaining more than an occasional passing thought are severely limited. Then, even more pitiful, are those who say something like, "Sending good thoughts." What on earth is that about? But again, I digress.

The quote:

For too long we have thought of the Christian life as essentially either involvement in political, economic, social concerns that wear us out and result in depression OR activity which keeps the church intact and doctrinally pure. Our primary orientation cannot be an institution or some great cause or even other people, but first and forever. Unless our identity is hid in God we will never know who we are or what we are to do.  Our first act must be prayer, "Oratario." To be human is to pray, to meditate both day and night on the love and activity of God. We are called to be continuously formed and transformed by the thought of God within us. Prayer is a disciplined dedication to paying attention. Without the single-minded attentiveness of prayer we will rarely hear anything worth repeating or catch a vision worth asking anyone else to gaze upon. [From "The Spiritual Life" by John H. Westerhoff III and John D. Eusden]

The use of the phraseology "for too long," "primary orientation," "single-minded attentiveness" raise the level of the conversation in importance, by moving toward absolutism.  There is more in this paragraph, than I could ever possibly respond to in this mere blog medium.  It is something I will need to read, over and over again, of which to plum the depths.  And I think this is one of the points in our "taking care" to ensure the reading material we select is worthy of the time we will spend and not just some flirting, comedic, or romantic entertainment.

Far more important, than any march, any protest, any act, or any speech, is first and foremost, conversation with the Father.  I see no protest in scripture.  I see nothing but "come out from among them," in reference to attending to non-believers. I see no effort on behalf of believers to befriend or to support anyone aside from the great purpose of bringing them into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  I wonder what would actually happen, if instead of the pretend prayer rallies we see around the current protests, when popuar leaders carefully position themselves, making craftfully worded speeches and leading in tedious, vocalized prayers, if instead we would all sit quietly  before the Lord, for an hour, or two, or a day, or fasted for a week and prayed for His recommendation on what we as Christians should do, if we would find ourselves engaged in a completely different battle, against the powers and principalities of the air and the pretense of protest?

But how many of us, actually, pray? I mean sustained prayer, expressing our concerns, but then waiting, and waiting, days, weeks, or even months, if necessary, until we hear the voice of God directing our paths? God does speak. And His children know His voice. Perhaps if we first took the time to listen things might be different for us. That's what I love about the imagery of fishing - it requires peace, quiet, patience, and a willingness to simply enjoying being in God's great world. Prayer is like that, just spending time with God and having no other agenda. It's refreshing, renewing, restorative!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Open the gift!


The Tragedy of the Unopened Gift
by Gregg Levoy

"To sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed,
abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed-
until weeks become months
and months turn into years,
and one day you're looking back on a life of
deep, intimate, gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;
great bold prayers you never prayed,
exhilarating risks you never took,
sacrificial gifts you never offered,
lives you never touched,
and you're sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul,
and forgotten dreams, and you realize there was a world of desperate need,
and a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself -
you see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling.
You never got out of the boat."


Peter is the only disciple that could honestly say that "he walked on water". While he would not have gloated, he didn't need to. Though ashamed by his lack of faith in that momentary distraction, he had nonetheless demonstrated the courage to test it. 


Have you? Have you ever been corrected by the Lord for your lack of faith when you were walking in faith, trying to walk on water, daring to believe?  Or have you always been the pew warmer, the comfortably complacent one? 

It might be time for you to get up, get out, and stretch your faith.  What resources has the Lord provided you by which you will be judged for your use?  What possibilities are are being presented to you at this specific time in your life which may, indeed, be God's little nod, his direction, his calling to take that step.

Like Peter we dare not go unless it be the Lord. But we need to pray, Lord, if it is you, command me to come.  That's a powerful prayer. Are you ready? Have you counted the cost?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Pardon the Interruption...

The Love of God and Cumin


I don't like cumin. I'll tolerate it, but I don't care for it.  It is a strong spice.  In my opinion, it is a vastly overrated and vastly overused spice, particularly in this dry rub, barbecue, and chili type psuedo-cuisine that seems to be all the rage. Think "Man cooking". Tim Allen. Jet barbecues...


I've had it used well, particularly in South Asian cooking (from whence it originates), when there is but a hint of the flavor and it is nicely commingled with other spices.

But 99 times out of a 100, in my experience here i the west, it screams:  "I'm sorry. I used a cheaper cut of meat, but I used a lot of cumin so you can't tell!"  It hides the ground chuck that should have been ground sirloin or ground prime.  It hides the tri-tip that should have been sirloin, or the sirloin that should have been rib eye or porterhouse. It draws attention to itself rather than pointing the dish it is supposed to to lift up.

Now this might seem pretentious about my "refined culinary abilities" It shouldn't. I have none. .Rather it is to make a more significant point about God's love.

As I look around the news, the protests, the postings, I hear a lot about "social justice." It appears to me that "social justice" is a lot like cumin. Cumin is a fine spice, when used in harmony with other spices.  So too, social justice has it's place as an indicator (one amongst many) of our love for one another.  But just as too much cumin can ruin an otherwise good meal, an unhealthy focus on "social justice" can ruin an understanding of God's grace and our love.


Christians live in a fallen world, stained by sin.  So too, we live in a secular country where (whether you accept it or not) we are a minority. (Here I'm talking about born-again, Spirit-filled Christians). God's love is abundantly evident in creation itself, in the many varied aspects of humanity, in the plethora of cultures and climates.  God's love is evident in social justice, in forgiveness, in mercy, in joy, in peace, in patience...


But patience may  prolong injustice.  Mercy may embolden sin. Joy may mask denial.  Social justice is a part of the way in which God calls us engage the culture in which we live, but it is to be balanced, with grace toward those who aren't there yet, forgiveness for those who transgress its bounds, and joy as we work toward the goal of His Kingdom come on earth, His will being done even as it is in Heaven. There are times to lift up social justice as lacking, terribly lacking, fundamentally lacking. But the way in which we mount the argument says more about our understanding of what constitutes social justice than anything else.  Denying some social justice to lift up the other is counter productive. It serves only to polarize.  So the question must be asked, how can we model and appropriate a social justice campaign, a reasoned defense, an actionable claim while maintaining the integrity of our faith?

I love Smoked Brisket, a good steak, and even a good, spicy chili. But I don't want to taste the cumin.  I want everything to work so well together that the meal itself is amazing, with no individual spice drawing attention to itself and therefore drawing attention away from the meat.

So too, I don't want my arguments for, my protest about, or my actions to help, establish legitimate "social justice" to draw attention away from the Lord in whom  we find absolute justice.  It is a goal toward which we work, one that we will never fully accomplish this side of the new heaven and earth which is promised.  We pursue it with vigor and energy, intelligence, enthusiasm, and great humility, but only as one piece of the love of God.


How to make peace with God - Click on the pic!
I can't say what the answer is. I don't know. I do know, however, that for the Christian, social justice alone will not, cannot cure the ills of the world. Only making peace will do that. And social justice will only come as a result of that.

May God have mercy!

Chapter 8 Questions

As I prepare to post the questions for this week, I am mindful of several books, I have never read which I have recently felt a desire to purchase and put on my "to read" pile. The Brothers Karamazov is at the top of the list. But the weirder ones are 1984 and Brave new World.  Both of these two latter books rather tip the scales in the kind of "fantasy" literature I tend to avoid, but with all the press about them over the last several years, I thought I'd give them a "lookie, lookie" as my Kenyan friend used to say.  So with that confession out of the way, here are this week's questions to ponder...

  Feeding the Soul: Week 8 The Use and Abuse of Good Books–Part III Chapter 8


1.  How often do I seek to memorize scripture? Do I need to do it more?


2.  How do I use the information I receive through books to advance the kingdom of God?


3.  How many books have I found worthy of reading a second or third time? What does this say about my selection of reading material?


4.  My favorite passage of (memorized) scripture is:


     Why?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Week 8 - A means, not an end...

The next few weeks Tozer’s material will focus on the functionality, the purpose, the benefit of good books. Speed reading techniques, memorization, even quantity are all touched on this week as he expresses doubt that any of these could be a significant part of any reading program. The bottom line, for Tozer, is that any published material is only a tool, "a means", for better or for worse. The material we read can be of great benefit, to the scientific community, the faith community, and to general society. But so too, it can easily become an opiate. Many of us have friends and acquaintances who consider “having read” a particular book to be something of an achievement. These folks are quick to point out how they understand the celebrity/politician/situation better because of the book. But one needs to ask how we see them engaging to build a better church, to address a needful situation, or change their behavior as a result. We need to ask, "how has this book changed your life for the better? What do you do differently as a result of having read it?"

And so to we must ask ourselves: "How does our reading help us advance our profession for the sake of Christ? How does our reading change our living to become more Christ-like?" Some reading, of necessity, is appropriately speedy. I often do what I call a “grad reading” of a text or tome to access whether it is worthy of a deeper digestion. But that is a means to an end as Tozer points out. A book is just that – a means – a means of learning, or growing, of maturing, of changing, of equipping. So the question I tend to ask myself before pickig up a book is "how will this next book be the means to change in my life?"

I am currently reading through the Barbour Publishing

“Heroes of the Faith”series of missionary biographies. I read them as a reminder to me of the great men and women who have gone before me, as an encouragement to my faith that I do not tread this path alone, as a stimulation for the call I seek in retirement. A book that is of value only begins its work when we close its pages.

I also place a date in the front of each book I read (mo/yr) if it is worthy of reconsideration. And only the books that receive the dating stay on my shelves. If it’s not worth reading again, it really wasn’t worth reading the first time. With this, I have paired my library down significantly. It’s not a matter of whether or not I might read it again, but whether or not I know I will read that one again.

Now having said all of this I will admit I have a strong prejudice in my reading. I want adventure. I want to be challenged, intellectually to an extent, theologically to a degree, but mostly to change my life. I want to the book to so move me that, when I am finished, I will want to trade everything I own to be more like “that.” That is the lesson I want to learn, the challenge I want presented, the purpose for my reading.

As per Tozer, I also memorize snippets of Scripture and some great hymns to company me through the day. And I read to expand my linguistic understanding and ability to express myself. But that's getting into next weeks lesson.

How about you? What was the last book you read that "changed your living?"

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Answers

WEEK 7 Tozer Questions:

Again, I am going to answer the questions publicly this week.  I am open to cantankerous comments, and non-constructive criticism as well as the kinder, gentler, "more noble" responses that so many seem to want to receive themselves. 

I saw a recent meme on the internet that said "You don't want to hear my opinion. You want to hear your opinion come out of my mouth." I think that is the way of many. I invite you to express YOUR opinion.  I know my own all to well.  We all have one and they all stink from time to time. So let it fly in love and we can mud wrestle the truth into the Light!

1. What are some standards I can set to ensure that I do not waste time reading books that may be acceptable but not profitable?

One of the standards I have set re: books is the level of impact I can expect the reading to have on my walk.  I tend to avoid fiction (even historical fiction). I  tend to favor History, Autobiographies (which admittedly may be as much fiction as anything), and Biographies, Sociology, and Cultural Anthropolgy. 

I will read work by a "Christian" (author although I tend to avoid the Christianity self-help field). I simply ask myself, as I peruse the book (or the description) "Do I expect this to help me walk more closely with Jesus?" If the answer is yes, I take a closer look. If the answer is no, it gets thrown aside, just like I would with secular authors.

Another standard I use is the referral I receive from someone whose opinion I trust (if they have read the title they are suggesting). But then I tend to ask them how it impacted their faith. No response? Probably not going to read it.

And admittedly, the other standard is the publishing house, the book jacket, and the publicity surrounding the book.  Although, being on the New York Times best seller list is not a strength in my opinion as I find my taste at odds with most.

2. How do I react to the statement – “The soul that has had a saving encounter with God is surely beyond the possibility of a doubt?”

I agree wholeheartedly. I don't believe anyone who has had a genuine encounter with Christ will have any doubts about God's existence, his love, his ability.  We certainly have questions about how, or why, or when something occurs.  But we also remember that we are not God.  Our mind has no ability to even comprehend the great mysteries of God. He is wholly other. Perfect in all ways.  We are not. Our job is obedience, not counsel.  And the sooner we make peace with that the sooner we can get to work on the thing that matter.   An encounter with God himself, in his person, face to face, redemptive/saving/renewing style changes everything. It has never and will never answer our questions. So why waste time asking them?

3. What do I find threatening to my faith? What would cause me to doubt?

I can't imagine anything that would. Scripture tells me about he who is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE.  Everything else is simply an attempt to imitate that. Science, as wonderful as it is, is simply conjecture; an attempt to understand how things work under a very specific set of circumstances.  Psychology explores the depth of human behavior in response to various stimuli.  Sociology reports on our behavior and tries to classify us accordingly. 

Christianity is simply reality. It is truth. Through scripture is tells us who we are, whose we are, how ought to believe and behave, without conjecture, without regard to any particular set of circumstances. It defines everything in light of absolute and ultimate reality.  So everything else is judged in light of this.  Truth is truth and once we adjust ourselves to that everything else just falls into place.  Everything is understood through that. The why's the when's, the how's, the who's, there where's and the what's are all answered definitively and decisively.

4. How “healthy” is my reading diet?

I would say, when I read, it is very health. The problem is I am spending less time reading as of late, and that is something

5.  What is God saying to me about this?


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Chapter 7 Questions

 Feeding the Soul: Week 7 The Use and Abuse of Good Books–Part II


1. What are some standards I can set to ensure that I do not waste time reading books that may be acceptable but not profitable?


2. How do I react to the statement – “The soul that has had a saving encounter with God is surely beyond the possibility of a doubt?”


3. What do I find threatening to my faith? What would cause me to doubt?


4. How “healthy” is my reading diet?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?

Monday, June 8, 2020

Public Service Announcement - An Interruption



June 8, 2020

Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Coastal Carolina

This letter shall serve to inform you that I. Glen James Hallead, do hereby renounce the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its associated entities, including the Presbytery of CoastalCarolina, as per G-2.0509 of the Book of Order. For the edification of all interested, I append below a statement of the reasons which impel my decision.

Respectfully

Glen James Hallead


Addendum

Four anonymous members of the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, have brought three charges against me, which the Presbytery’s Investigative Committee has referred to the Presbytery’s Disciplinary Committee for evidentiary hearing. The charges consist of holding opinions deemed incompatible with the essential tenets of Reformed theology, and of expressing those opinions intemperately. To the former I steadfastly plead innocent but concede the latter, regretfully.

With its referral, though, the IC has recommended a two year suspension from ordained, validated ministry and a two year regimen of reeducation, the “satisfactory” completion of which “may” result in restoration of full ministerial privileges. Because of the draconian nature of the recommended punishment relative to the crime, the subjective nature of both the central offense charged and the determination of “satisfactory” completion, and the absence of any assurance of restoration even upon satisfactory completion, I respectfully decline to engage in the Presbytery’s disciplinary process. In further explanation, I make the following statement in defense of my renouncing jurisdiction:

1. As regards the first charge of “engaging in conduct that caused harm to the congregation” I regret that my public response to the statements on abortion made by two members of the St. Andrews congregation were worded in a manner that could be considered ill-tempered or intemperate. Pastoral sensitivity should have prevailed such that the conversation might have better taken place through more appropriate private expression of my concerns to the parties involved. In hindsight, it is clear to me that, irrespective of my good intentions, Facebook was not the appropriate venue for expressing my response to individually identifiable congregants.

2. My response to the second charge of “abuse of power and authority of the officer of minister” by using the church newsletter to regularly address known conflict, is similarly one of regret but, again, one born out of a lack of personal knowledge concerning the depth of the preexisting conflict within the congregation. Nevertheless. I regret that my comments were seen by my accusers as an individual affront to them personally which went beyond my general pastoral responsibility to guide the flock collectively toward an informed Biblical understanding.

3. The third charge of “abuse of the power and authority of the office of minister,” pertains to matters of the theology and polity of the PC (U.S.A.), which are matters of broad, ongoing contention with the denomination. Respectfully, I believe this charge, of advocating positions contrary to or incompatible with Reformed theology, is insufficiently grounded in fact and is fundamentally ill-informed. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has refused to identify what it deems to be the “essential tenets of the Reformed faith”, despite many opportunities to do so. Therefore, if the denomination has declined to define its theological boundaries, on what objective and nondiscriminatory basis can a trespass be found to have occurred?

I freely admit engaging in conversations with the Session regarding my concerns with some General Assembly statements and positions regarding human sexuality and the sanctity of life, but my concerns arose from a Biblically based, theologically Reformed, and pastorally reasoned concern for the direction I saw the denomination in which I served was heading. At no time have I ever led any person to believe I sought to leave the denomination over these concerns. At all times my aim has been renewal and reform from within through moral suasion and discourse. Notably, at no time did any member of the congregation express to me personally any objection to my voicing concerns about the denomination’s positions on human sexuality and the sanctity of life prior to filing the present charges.

Finally, since the denomination holds itself up to be a “big tent” denomination that celebrates and claims to provide constitutional protection for the rights of conscience this third charge is fundamentally ill-conceived and should have been held prima facie invalid. The Westminster Confession of Faith, included within the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),states:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and
commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it in
matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such
commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the
requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy
liberty of conscience, and reason also.” 6.109

Similarly, F-3.0101 of the Book of Order declares that “God alone is the Lord of the conscience”… Therefore, we consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable…” The referral, then, of this charge by the Presbytery’s Investigative committee, and the entertaining of this charge by the Presbytery’s Disciplinary Committee, belie an intolerance that is inconsistent with the denomination’s ideals of inclusivity and diversity. The die is thus cast. A reasoned defense against these charges would manifestly be an exercise in futility. Therefore, respectfully, I elect to renounce jurisdiction in accordance with G-2.0509 of the Book of Order.

Briefly...

2 brief, initial thoughts on this week's Tozer (chapt. 7) reading:

1.  The field of "Christian literature" provides just  as weak a choice of materials, and just as strong a set of options as does the secular field. Christianity 101 type books that never seem to move us into the deeper and higher theological realms of understanding may just as easily retard our growth in grace as a cheap Dime Store novel.

2.  An intellectual book won't necessarily  present truth, will not always reflect reality, in fact will often only provide cheap fodder for the brain rather than wholesome, nourishing food.  Scientific tomes have been written on senseless and meaningless concepts which only tickle the ears.

In these days, we are called to be particularly discerning. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Chapter 6 Questions

 Feeding the Soul: Week 6 The Use and Abuse of Good Books–Part I Chapter 6


1. How much time do I spend in contemplation of the truths revealed in the scripture that I read? How does this reveal the true depth of my love for the Word and my desire to grow in holiness?


2. What are some ways in which I can begin to take notes, share my impressions, discuss those truths, and otherwise process them in my community at church and with my social groupings?


3. What good books have I read lately that encourage me in my faith?


4. What are some books I’d like to read and how can I make the time to do so?


5. What is God saying to me about this?

Monday, June 1, 2020

Using Books...


This next section of our Tozer study utilizes some great imagery.  Even the title "The Use and Abuse of Good Books" is such an image.  It implies there are good books and bad books.  Throughout this first section that nuance is constantly present.

1. One image is the reference to a book that is "so interesting that we 'read it at one setting'". This, contrary to the inference, is not a good thing.  Tozer suggests, rather, that a good book compels us to imagine great things, to be set off on a journey, to think on our own. It is one that we want to learn from, to absorb, to spend time with.  It is one that stimulates our imagination. And, I hasten to add, a good book help us to reflect upon God and his greatness, upon humankind, and all of creation.

2. He also talks about being widely read. This is of particular note for preachers. Reading on a broad range of subjects, of course, should focus on the matters at hand - how best to tend to the sheep - discerning the social milieu, the economic challenges, the spiritual needs of the flock over which the "undershepherd" has responsibility. I believe that too many preachers today, "suppose", or  "like to think that", or call us to "imagine", and otherwise craft their message as if life were nothing more than a journey, or even worse a fantasy, rather than a God-appointed responsibility. The proclamation of the word becomes nothing more than "story-telling" tickling the ears.


3. Tozer also takes those of us responsible for preaching to task for our insipid use of academic language. I would add to this, our use of socially meaningless language such as "living horizontally instead of vertically" or vice versa;  our "frame of reference" and other such terms which avoid the common everyday, racy, colloquial, vernacular terms that can address our common life experience. 

We experienced a particularly egregious example of this in Thailand where, in some formal cases, speaking of the King, or of God, one needed to use Sanskrit, Pali, and other words because those matters were considered worthy of such deference, such that the common person, in too many cases, was literally unable to understand what was being said.

Tozer continues by referencing factual learning which is devoid of inspirational thinking.  I am continually amazed at preaching which seems more intent on convincing the audience of the preacher's knowledge of physical or social science, trends in culture, economic or physiological realities, than expositing the radical challenges, and even demands, of scripture.

"If knowledge about things constituted learning, the encyclopedia would be all the library one needed for a fruitful ministry. The successful Christian, however, must know God himself, and his fellow men. Such knowledge is not gained by assembling data but by sympathetic contact, by intuition, by meditation, by silence, by inspiration, by prayer and long communion"

So assuming that we choose material that is worthy of our time, that which directs us to God and to his magnificence in creation, redemption, provision, etc. we do well to take our time with it. Reading is fundamentally a learning process not a recreational process - "not for diversion, or for information alone but for communion with great minds." Spending time thinking about what we have just read, letting it impact our knowledge, inform our experiences, and shape our world, that's what a book should lead us to do.


Next week we will pick up the choice between good and bad books but for now we simply think in terms of the "why we read."  What a simple question to consider - "Why do we read?" "What is our motivation?"

MIA

         November 23-27, 2020 for Thanksgiving!