Tuesday, September 30, 2008
From "The Wit Of Martin Luther" by Eric W. Gritsch
"If you believe that our society's greatest problem or any individual's greatest problem is behavioral, you have a weak view of sin, and the consequent weak view of grace. If you view sin in terms of actions and not primarily in terms of conditions, you will see the answer primarily in the terms of moral reform, not in terms of throwing yourself on the mercy of God. That is why Charles Finney, who said, "A revival is the work of man not God; it's simply the right use of means," was also the father of the temperance movement. You don't need a cross in this scenario, you need a kit to help you put your life back together or a law or a rule to govern your behavior so you don't get out of hand. No, I must insist secular humanism is a theological issue and when we put it in its natural theological habitat a strange thing happens; we realize that we ourselves are the secular humanists. LaHaye observes that the chief mark of secular humanism is to place man at the center of existence. But that is exactly what I see being done in churches across America. Aren't our testimonies designed to show people how God made me happy, how he satisfied me, how he worked for me? Aren't our worship services for our tastes very often and not for God's? Don't we tell people that once they become Christians they too will experience the abundant life? What we should be telling people is that salvation isn't a matter of God making sure we are happy with him, but his making sure he is happy with us, and that is why we have the cross at the middle of it all".
Monday, September 29, 2008
The flesh is our fallen nature. To say someone lives to please the desires of the flesh, does not mean he does only evil or is incapable of doing good. We are simply saying this person is incapable of doing anything spiritually good that would please God. The flesh is the whole moral temper disposed to evil and hostile to God. Fallen mans complete orientation is to his own selfish way. He makes deliberate choices that go against the will of God. A man once taught a message— “Why your dog does what it does”. Many dog lovers came out to hear him. He said “A dog behaves like a dog because he has a dogs nature”. Why does a sinner behave like a sinner? Because he has the nature of a sinner. He is controlled by the world, the flesh and the devil. He can not change his nature and he cannot overcome the world and the devil in himself. He needs outside help that comes from God. Deceived, disobedient and depraved people can do absolutely nothing to save themselves or to please God.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Our life was determined and shaped by the master of all evil, the supreme ruler of all the powers of wickedness. The world laughs at this. People don’t believe in the devil, but he dominates them and he persuades them to believe they are not enslaved, they are free. “The kingdom of the air” — can refer to either the earth’s atmosphere or to the realm of Satan’s authority or to the nature of these evil powers. They are supernatural spiritual beings ruled over by Satan (see Ephesians 6:12). “Those who are disobedient” — is a Hebraic form of expression used to describe the nature and essential character of unbelievers which is disobedience. All of this started in the Garden when Satan said to Eve if you eat of fruit of the tree, “You will not surely die”, Eve believed the lie and ate while Adam stood by looking on. Adam and Eve experienced immediate spiritual death as a result of their disobedience. Satan through his network of demonic associates influences the lives of all unbelievers, and seeks to influence believers. Believers are not fighting flesh and blood they are struggling against rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. One of Satan’s main tools for getting people to disobey God is getting them to believe lies. Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. Most Christians are looking for the easy life— no struggles, no problems, no pain, no disappointments, no strife, it’s a fantasy, a lie. Christians are in a spiritual battle whether they like it or not, its unavoidable.
When man's natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.(Martin Luther, 1538, in his foreword to a collection of chorale motets)
Friday, September 26, 2008
9. The Pastor refers to God only as “Jehovah” and constantly exhorts the congregation to “witness”.
8. New members are required to submit W-2's for the last 10 years.
7. Pastor regularly attends meeting at Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
6. The media refers to the church facilities as a “compound”.
5. You discover the church refers to the 10 commandments as the 10 suggestions.
4. The Women’s Quartet are all married to the pastor.
3. The chancel cross has been replaced with a bronze pyramid.
2. Pastor preaches an eloquent sermon on ancient heresies and the elders want to make them part of the doctrinal statement.
1. The New Member’s kit includes a Bible, church by-laws, and an Uzi.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The last dictionary definition of edge is "the verge or brink as of a condition". This is a reference to a mental or emotional condition when someone is on the brink of some kind of breakdown. I was never much of a student in school and to be honest the last thing I’d ever thought of doing was teaching or writing, but that’s what I do. I really appreciate the fact that God gives gifts to people because I know that whatever I’m able to do is a gift of God’s grace to me. The apostle said, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect" (1Cor.15:10). As I look over my life I know that any good thing in me comes by the grace of God. In my childhood you might have thought I was accident prone. I had 2 head concussions playing baseball, I was knocked out by being hit in the back of the head by a batter (I was the catcher) and one concussion playing hockey. I was the goalie because I couldn’t ice skate, so they stuck me in goal and I would wear my catchers mask, chest protector and shin guards. I was trying to clear a puck when a good-sized kid about 5 yrs. older knocked me down and I fell straight backward, hitting my head on the ice. The doctor told me I had to stop getting hit in the back of the head, the next time there might be permanent damage, I’m not so sure there needed to be a next time. This was followed by my geeky high school days where I was over-weight and with short hair and huge ears, nicknamed Dumbo. Add to that my drug fueled hippie days and combine that with playing Blues music. I know I’m only alive because of the grace of God. I’ll give you one example, I had a 1965 red Mustang with a 289, four-barrel carb, 4 speed stick. I would take LSD and drive at very high speeds down 8 Mile Road or out in the country, imagining that I was one with the car, my hand being part of the shifter, my feet connected to the gas pedal and the clutch, hallucinating as I drove. After my drug daze, Jesus found me and saved me. I then went through the difficult season of being a young Christian, you know having zeal without knowledge (always dangerous). I went through the crazy charismatics, the fanatical faith movement, the radical Christian school movement, the radical pro-life movement but by far the thing that was the most detrimental to my life, family and ministry was learning about grace. I began preaching the grace of God as understood by the great reformers and all hell broke loose. This is where I learned the truth that Christians can be the meanest people on the face of the earth. Everything in my life crumbled but out of it I have learned the sweetest truths I know. I learned the truth Joseph did, "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good". I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I also have continued to play and listen to Blues music because it touches me deeply, in fact at the end of most Sunday services, we break into a Blues song I’ve written or a Blues jam. I also enjoy movies, one of my all time favorites is Tombstone with Kirk Russell and Val Kilmer. I’ve seen this movie many times and if I find it playing on cable t.v. I’ll always stop and watch some of it, to the point of knowing much of the dialogue by heart. Every Tombstone fan will know this line— "I’m your Huckleberry".
I realized awhile ago that I would never be a typical pastor, I would never appeal to great masses of people or win any popularity contests, be embraced by the religious right or left, the emerging church, the church growth crowd, the faith/prosperity crowd, or most major denominations because one of things God developed in me through my crazy background is a real awareness for the phony and the insincere. It’s what Hemingway called a "built-in, shock proof crap detector". Let’s be honest, regardless of what church you belong to there’s a lot of insincerity and phoniness (you know– crap), which is one of the things that puts me on the edge.
This letter was written after 2 days of a strong flu virus that still has me reeling, I haven’t felt this bad in a long time, and a family crisis that was rather maddening. It’s always much harder to deal with family issues when you have the flu, I don’t recommend it. Oh well I’m going to watch "Lost" now and see if I can figure out when the world will end. The bottom line was best expressed in one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs called Saving Grace,"I put all confidence in Him, my sole protection is the saving grace that’s over me". Thanks Bob.
Paul begins by giving us the biblical assessment of human nature in these verses. There are only 3 ways to assess human nature: #1 People are basically OK. They are healthy as opposed to being sick or dead. Man is not as good as he is going to be because he is evolving, but he is basically good. Man’s nature is only slightly flawed— the world is getting better. The evidence is to the contrary, there are still wars, starvation, disease, economic turmoil, corruption, mans inhumanity to man. # 2.Man is not well, he is sick. There is something wrong but it’s not hopeless. People are still alive and where there is life there is hope. All man needs is the right environment, the right political philosophy, freedom from religion, freedom from God, or the right medicine and he will recover.
#3. The biblical view— man is not good, slightly flawed or sick, man is dead! “You were dead in trespasses and sins” (2:1). There is no stronger word than “dead” — You were not “almost dead”, not “desperately ill”, but dead — no life. This is spiritual death, the person is dead toward God, but quite actively involved in sin. Dead men walking! Dead to God, alive to wickedness. The sinner always follows the ways of the world and of the devil and spends his time fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Have you ever seen a zombie movie? “Night of the Living Dead”, “Zombies”, “Shawn of the Dead”. Zombies are people who have died but are still walking around. Their body is decaying and putrefying, rotting, stinking flesh. (Old song— “I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in”[First Edition]). This is the picture Paul paints of the human condition before God. Walking corpses, the living dead. Unable to understand spiritual things, unable to please God. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor.2:14).Sinners are trapped by the very things that are destroying them. They are subjects of the kingdom of darkness, captives of the devil and the flesh.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I learned about the edge from my dad. When I was young my dad worked for Baer Industries, a metal finishing shop. Mr. Baer hired my dad to run his shop because of my dad’s knowledge of the business. As the business grew under my dad’s leadership, Mr. Baer made him a partner giving him 10% of the business. Every Saturday he would take my brother Pat and I to do some cleaning. If you have ever been in a metal finishing shop you know how dirty it is. My dad left the safety of his position and went to the edge to start his own business. I can remember the day when we moved all these machines into this small building and Freer Industries was launched. Less than a year later my dad bought a building on Hoover Road between 7 & 8 Mile roads in Detroit. All through his life I watched my dad make moves in business that some would consider unsafe or risky but they always worked out. My dad did this consistently in expanding the business and in buying property, he didn’t worry, he just trusted the Lord. My dad was always grateful for every blessing he received, and he always helped others, both financially and by fixing or repairing something for them.
I have been blessed by many people I’ve had the privilege to know, who lived on the edge in some way. They are not perfect people but they are real. Their lives have not been ideal or pain free but just the opposite. And in spite of problems and setbacks they continue to live near the edge instead of the safety of the middle.
The edge does not mean you live a wreckless life or a purposeless life or a selfish life or a self-destructive one. That may fit the definition the world gives to people who live on the edge, but it has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. People who hurt themselves and others are not on any edge, they’ve fallen into a pit and are trapped by lies and self-deception.
There are certain aspects of my writing/teaching that have been toned down because if I were to follow every path my mind wants me to go down, I would offend everyone and there would be no point in writing because no one would be reading. My goal is to go along the edge, but avoid going over the cliff. Sometimes I know I go too far on certain subjects and have offended people, but at the same time it has registered with others who have felt the same way but never verbalized it. There are other times I felt I haven’t gone far enough. I know I have more sarcastic contempt for phoney religious people than I do for the real deal sinner. This area more than any other has gotten me in trouble with religious people, legalists, charismaniacs, prosperity psychobablers, well you get the idea, I’d better stop here.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A number of people have asked me what do I mean by the "Edge", in letters from the edge. First I am not talking about "The Edge", the guitarist from the band U2 ( of course that was obvious and you should have seen it coming). The edge is not a place where the majority of people live, it’s the out of the way, not mainstream. The edge is not for the faint of heart, the religious, the uptight, the easily offended or the fearful. It’s not for those trying to play it safe, those who are hedging their bets or those who have the next five years already planned out.
The dictionary defines edge as: first "thin, sharp cutting part of the blade", second, the edge is "the quality of being sharp-keen", third, "the projecting ledge of a cliff", fourth, "the part farthest from the middle", and fifth, "the verge or brink as of a condition". Some of this would apply to what I mean by the edge. I have always had a sharp cutting wit or sarcasm that has got me into a lot of trouble. I have always lived closer to the ledge of the cliff than on safer ground. I have always found myself involved with things that would be considered fringe by the majority, but I most identify with the edge meaning "the verge or brink as of a condition". There are some people who are always "on edge", which the dictionary defines as "so tense or nervous as to be easily upset, irritable or impatient", I am not talking about that. To me the edge is a place that always contains the possibility of danger or disaster. The edge is the place your mother always warned you about and told you not to get close to.
I remember an incident from my childhood (I was about 11 yrs. old), that happened at McKenney Elementary School, located at Pembroke and Burt Road in Detroit, Michigan (this is for those who might know the neighborhood). There was a ledge that was just below the 2nd floor window that my friends and I would try to walk the length of the building on. On this particular day I had leaned my bicycle against the wall where the ledge was. As I was walking the ledge this day, I lost my balance and fell off, right were I had left my bike. Oh, I forgot to mention that my bike once had a light on it that was held in place by two metal prongs sticking straight up, yes, you guessed it the light was missing, but the metal prongs were still in place. When I fell those 2 metal prongs went right into my left buttocks (for correct pronunciation of this word think Forrest Gump), breaking my fall. Needless to say I was in a great deal of pain, but I couldn’t tell my parents because we were told not to walk that ledge. I went home and tried to bandage my wound with cotton pads and tape. I went to the dinner table and sat there trying to pretend everything was o.k. but I was bleeding and finally had to tell my dad the truth. I said Dad I have to talk to you. He went into the bathroom with me and I showed him the wound. He calmly came out and told my mom we have to go out for awhile I have to take Mark to the emergency room. My mom didn’t find out what happened until we got back. To be contuined.....
Monday, September 22, 2008
From The wit Of Martin Lither by Eric W. Gritsch
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Dr. Hymie Gordon (Mayo Clinic): “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”
Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth (Harvard University Medical School): “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”
Dr. Alfred Bongioanni (University of Pennsylvania): “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”
Dr. Jerome LeJeune, “the Father of Modern Genetics” (University of Descartes, Paris): “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”
Rick Warren: At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?
Sen. Barack Obama: Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.
Posted by Keith Paulischek on August 18, 2008, on www.firstthings.com
Friday, September 19, 2008
Let me tell you why it’s foolish to try and hide from God---
First, it will definitely be unsuccessful because no one can escape God. David thought about it and asked "Where can I go from your spirit?" (See Psalm 139:7-12). God is present everywhere and He knows everything. You only exist in His universe because He allows you to.
Second, we increase our misery by hiding or running away from God. If you run from God who is the source of all good— "Every good and perfect gift is from above", the only thing you can hope to find is misery. Think of the misery the prodigal son experienced by his disobedience. It is really foolish to run from your Heavenly Father and your only true home.
The third reason it’s foolish to hide from God is that God loves you and cares for you even when you run away. Sin blinds us to the goodness of God, we choose to believe a lie that God was responsible for our pain and so we run from Him.
I believe many Christians have been fed a fantasy Gospel of success, prosperity, human-centeredness, self-esteem and victory, along with a complete under-estimation of sin and its consequences. It was the Laodicean church that said, "We are rich, we have prospered and there’s nothing we need". Jesus had a different view of things— "You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev.3:17). Jesus said this to people He loved, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline" (Rev.3:19).
Man’s nature is not slightly flawed, simply in need of more self-esteem, or sick, he’s dead! Man doesn’t need a operation, he needs a resurrection. Sin isn’t just a problem that caused you to come to Christ for salvation, sin is your problem your whole life. Real Christians are sinners until the day they die. The only way forward is the path of humility and brokenness but that’s not a popular message. How about this for a church advertisement: "Come to the Church of Humility and Brokenness".
God does some of His best work when we can’t make life "work". God is constantly teaching us to trust Him and humbly depend on Him. He is constantly working through our messy lives, redirecting us away from our sinful thoughts and actions toward our ultimate good.
Why run from God? Stop running and hear His voice as He calls to you. It is not an angry voice, it is a gentle, loving, patient voice. It offers you salvation through Christ. Run to God, He has not changed, He has not harmed you, He has done you no wrong, you have received nothing but good from His hand. We need the Gospel everyday, we need to run to God everyday. To a God whose patience and love are beyond comprehension, a God of grace and glory who alone is worthy of our gratitude and worship.
Last week I was listening to a Kirk Franklin cd, "The Nu Nation Project". It’s been a couple of years since I last listened and there was a song that brought me to tears that sums up my thoughts, "Jesus you are my joy within, You are the shelter from the wind, You’re the forgiver of my sins, Jesus you are, yea. Where can I go, who can I call, who’s there to catch me when I fall, Your hands they hold me through it all, everything I need you are". (Jesus You Are)
Thursday, September 18, 2008
My experience has been that most people have their own "disclaimer", it may not be written down but you know it’s there because they will not accept responsibility for their actions. We inherited this trait from Adam. When God came searching for him in the garden, he was hiding. God’s first words after man had sinned was "where are you?". First of all God knew where they were, He’s omnipresent, and he knew what they had done, He’s omniscient, his question was designed to get Adam and Eve to face up to what they had done.
I can remember as a child if I had done something wrong, I didn’t want to be around when my Dad got home. This didn’t just happen in childhood but even as an adult when I was living in rebellion, strung out on drugs and alcohol, I didn’t want to face my Dad, I was hiding. I have seen it happen with my own children and after many years of pastoring I have talked to many people who were in hiding, not wanting to face up to what they had done.
Adam answered God "I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid". Have you ever dreamed that you were somewhere in public and you realized you were naked? That’s a bad dream.
God answers, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?" Here comes the first disclaimer— "The woman you put here with me, she gave some fruit from the tree and I ate it".
Adam refused to take responsibility, he passed the blame to Eve, she blamed the devil, the devil said, "who me?". Sin is progressive, I heard a preacher put it this way, "Sin will take you further than you wanted to go, sin will keep you longer than you wanted to stay and sin will cost you more than you wanted to pay".
Adam should have said, "Lord I have sinned", but he accuses God of sin— "It’s not my fault it was the women you gave me!". Whenever we attempt to deny our guilt by blaming circumstances, we are ultimately blaming one of two possible individuals: God or the devil.
Are you hiding from God? Are you blaming God or someone else for what has happened in your life? More on this tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Read Stephen's Interview HERE
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
This has been one of my favorite albums since it first came out in 1979. I think Dylan has written some of the best gospel music of the modern era. The first time I heard the song "When He Returns" I was in tears. In 2003 Dylan put out "The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan" with a version of this song by Rance Allen that is outstanding. Nice picture of Bob and Eric Clapton.