Author Archives: MzEllen

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This has been rattling around in my head for a while, and it’s time for me to put it all in one place...into words.  As of May 19, the song "Reckless Love" (by Cory Ashbury) is #1 on the Christian Music Song Chart.  This song is controversial (at best) and worshiping a false god (at worst, and is what I have become convicted of.)

Singing can be an important way of learning...and what we sing when we worship "sticks" - if you don't believe that, try saying the ABC's without singing.

Discerning the difference between right worship and wrong worship is as life-saving as discerning the difference between food and manure.

I'm organized this into these sections:

  • Reckless Leaven - how much falsehood is "too much" when we're singing about a sovereign and holy God?
  • Reckless Theology - Can God be divorced from His love?
  • Reckless History - are all of these examples in the song "reckless?"
  • Reckless "Bibling" - do we dare use a word to describe God that God uses to describe evil?
  • Reckless Portrayal of God - If God's love is reckless, then God is not sovereign.

 

1. Reckless leaven

I had somebody say (not address me *directly* but a sort of side swipe) that it was sad that people “get hung up on” that one word (reckless.)

How much dog s&#t does it take in a batch of brownies to make the whole batch inedible?

Or (using a Bible metaphor) How much leaven does it take to leaven the whole lump?

This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. ~~Galatians 5:8-9

The Bible also says to

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)

- closely means...pay attention to the little things - because even one word can lead you to false worship.

Getting "hung up" on one word is the difference between "close watch" and "sloppy."

2. Reckless Theology

Below are the words of the writer of “Reckless Love.”

"When I used the phrase, 'the reckless love of God,' when we say it, we're not saying that God Himself is reckless, He's not crazy. We are, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. But what I mean is this: He's utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His own actions with regard to His own safety, comfort and well-being. He doesn't wonder what He'll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line, He simply puts Himself out there on the off-chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return." - Cory Asbury.

 

Definition of reckless (merriam-webster)
1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences

Question:  Can a perfect and holy God lack caution?  Can a righteous God be irresponsible?  Is God careless - of consequences or anything else?

If your answer is “no” - then this one word indicates a wrong-headed idea of the nature of God.

2. Can we divorce God from His attributes?

God is love.  To call His love reckless is to call *HIM* reckless, since it is impossible to separate God from His attributes.

Could I say, “it’s not me that reckless, it’s only my driving?”  or...”it’s not me that’s reckless, only my drug use?”

If your answer is no, then if God’s love is reckless...God is reckless.

3. Reckless History

Let’s imagine that you are alone in the house and have a 1 year old and a 3 year old that are playing in the back yard.  The 3-year-old wanders off.  Would it be “reckless” to leave the one at home go look for the other?   Yes.

But...if you had a sister in the house to watch over the one, while you go look for the other...not reckless.  Ask yourself...on the night of Christ’s birth...did the angels appear to one shepherd, or more than one?

If your answer is “more than one,” then the word “reckless” does not apply to "leave the ninety-nine".

4. Reckless "Bibling"

Does the Bible use the word “reckless?”  How?

(ESV)

Proverbs 14:16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.

Luke 13:15 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

2 Timothy 5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

(CEV)

2 Peter 2:10 The Lord is especially hard on people who disobey him and don’t think of anything except their own filthy desires. They are reckless and proud and are not afraid of cursing the glorious beings in heaven.

(NIV)

1 Peter 4:4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

Even Bible translators understand that to be “reckless” is not a good thing.

HOW DARE WE DESCRIBE GOD WITH A WORD THAT GOD USES TO DESCRIBE EVIL?

5. Reckless Portrayal of God

Let’s look at the song-writer’s explanation (perhaps the most important piece.)  This takes a bit of “connect the dots” but they’re important dots, in order to get what is being said about the nature of God.

Specifically: He doesn't wonder what He'll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line, He simply puts Himself out there on the off-chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return."

Question 1: Does an omniscient (all-knowing) God “wonder” (to think or speculate curiously)  about anything?

Can  the God who can number the hairs on my head fail to *know* without any doubt...what He will gain or lose by anything?

If your answer is no...then you do not worship the god of Reckless Love.

Question 2: What does “off-chance” mean?

If I were to ask any person reading “I’m writing this on the off-chance that somebody will read this with an open mind”...

Off-chance = hoping that something may be possible, although it is not likely:

This meaning is vital to understanding Ashbury's god.

  • the god of Reckless Love, died on the cross - on the off-chance that somebody *might* look back and return his love.
  • This  god of Reckless Love does not know the future.
  • The god of Reckless Love does not *hold* the future.
  • This god of Reckless Love hopes that some will come to salvation, but does not hold it likely.

(by the way, this idea that God cannot/does not/will not know the future is a belief called "open theism" - "Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God. They are potential–yet to be realized but not yet actual." ~~Clark Pinnock)

If God's love is reckless, then God cannot be sovereign.

Does God know the future, including who will turn to Him?

If your answer is yes, then you do not worship Ashbury's god.

The next point is an “internal debate” between Reformed Theology and others.

The God I worship does not *need* to “wonder” about *ANYTHING.*

He does not “wonder” if anybody will love Him back...because He sovereignty elects those who will.

  • It is God who opens the eyes of our hearts.  
  • God who wills us to believe.
  • The God I worship knows the future, holds the future, *makes* the future.

Scripture convicts me...as well as my conscience and the song-writer's own words...that for me to sing “Reckless Love” is to worship a false god.  Here I stand.

 

 

 

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Phil and I have been discussing this exact topic - how Christian should respond to the state's newly revised definition of "marriage" and what to do when pastors can no longer, with good conscience, act as state administrators

In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women.

As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-­habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends. Now marriage is being fundamentally redefined, and we are ­being tested yet again. If we fail to take clear action, we risk falsifying God’s Word.

The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.

Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.

Please join us in this pledge to separate civil marriage from Christian marriage by adding your name.

Drafted by:

The Reverend Ephraim Radner

The Reverend Christopher Seitz

Link here

1) Remember "Palin Derangement Syndrome?" It happens with other people also.

When you are so determined to see bad in all things that even tangentially touch a person, you've got DS (Derangement Syndrome)

2) I am in NO WAY supporting or agreeing with the sins that Mark Driscoll as committed in his time at Mars Hill. I hope that he, his family, his church, and all those who have been injured by Driscoll's leadership find healing, repentance and forgiveness.

~~~

Warren Throckmorton has been making much hay over Mark Driscoll.

Some of the posts have been right on target. Others miss the mark.

Still others are full on "MDDS" (Mark Driscoll Derangement Syndrome)

When you go on the attack, aimed at John Piper, because he didn't say everything that you think he should have said in an ELEVEN MINUTE podcast, you've got MDDS

When you question the integrity of other authors, based on the fact that they use the same publicist as Driscoll, you've got MDDS.

When (this was a commenter) you suggest that Christian authors should not sell their work, but give it away as a PDF and wait for folks to "donate" what they think the work is worth---forgetting that the HOST of the blog you're commenting on is an author who (wait for it...) SELLS HIS WORK, you've got MDDS.

I've been following Throckmorton for a while, and his encouragement of the haters is disturbing and disheartening.

The information he puts out there is (perhaps) necessary, for those who have sat under Mark Driscoll, and want to keep tabs on the information in one place.

BUT...in order to keep the true haters (and MDDS) under a little more control, I'd suggest closing comments on all new posts concerning Mark Driscoll. If readership continues, Throckmorton will know that his information is still getting through to the right places.

If readership falls if commenters cannot continue ranting - that's a clue that Throckmorton's most common function has been to provide a venue for MDDS.

that should be worth thinking about.

This is my second time through this book, the first time I breezed through, this time I want to get at what he wants to get at.

Worship matters. It matters to God because he is the one ultimately worthy of all worship. It matters to us because worshiping God is the reason for which we were created. And it matters to every worship leader, because we have no greater privilege than leading others to encounter the greatness of God. That's why it's so important to think carefully about what we do and why we do it.

The first chapter is about how Kauflin started his career, and about a really dry spot he went through. Frustrated and tired, he was pointed again at the cross (a good thing.)

What I hope to get from this book HOW worship matters, as well as WHY worship matters.

There is a line that Sunday morning groups need to grapple with, that many don't: what is the difference between being in a performance group, and being in a group that deliberately leads a congregation in corporate praise?

That's not a matter of how to choose songs, that's a matter of leadership technique.

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Every once in a while, there is a book that I just cannot finish - it's not worth my time.

This month, it's a fiction book (murder and general mystery book) titled "Liquid Fear."

Even with the plot already laid out, I don't get it.

well, I do get it, but I'm not enjoying it. Others might, it's just not my deal.

For me, Book Fail

I am starting on a task: to memorize the book of Philippians. So far, I have chapter 1, verses 1-7 (7 is shaky)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

It struck me again, the "why" - it's the Gospel.

Why does Paul thank God for the Philippians? Because of their partnership in the Gospel.

What is the good work? the partnership in the Gospel.

Why does Paul hold them in his heart? they are partakers with him of grace (the Gospel)

I am puzzling over verse 7.

NIV renders it

whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

vs the ESV

or you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

It seems a little thing, in the NIV Paul comes first, in the ESV, the Philippians come first.

But it is a big thing:

In the NIV Paul puts himself first, and (given the lack of punctuation in the translation, is taking the credit for himself.

whether I am in chains or [whether I am] defending or confirming the Gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.

The two acts are as one - in chains or defending and confirming

In the ESV, Paul puts other first:

YOU are all partakers with me, BOTH in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel

the "both" specifically makes them two different acts.

The Philippians shared grace with Paul while he was imprisoned and they shared grace when they defended and confirmed the Gospel.

To me, that becomes important in knowing the character of Paul.

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I have heard it said (correctly) that the early Christians faced a moral world that in either the same depravity, or worse than what we see now.

Well, farther back than that.

If the Hebrew people had not lived surrounded by idolators and other evils, they would not have fallen in WITH them. So the evidence is that their world saw evil, as ours does.

The Jews just before Christ had forcibly dispersed, and some had returned; and the evil that they saw was as evil as today.

I think (purely subjective) that today seems more difficult for us because it appears so new to us. And (objectively) we do see things that we have NEVER seen before.

Was immorality rampant in 1st Century Rome? Absolutely. Was it worse than today? I don't know. Some say yes, others say no.

I think that we feel it more because Western Christians have long enjoyed "majority rule," thus staying safely wrapped in the insulation of tunnel vision.

The phrase "total depravity" best describes the world, and always has. We expect it.

We grieve - yes, for that depravity, but we grieve having to stand by, seemingly helpless, watching the DECLINE of our country and culture, at a breakneck speed.

Homosexuality is the best example.

Only a couple of decades ago, we (collectively) viewed same-sex-sex as abnormal. We knew gay people, we loved them as friends and family, but we loved them, not their chosen lifestyle.

Gay people sometimes (perhaps often) faced bullies and that should never have happened. People should never see bullying as acceptable.

In (culturally speaking) a very short amount of time, we see a decline.

- Traditional family unit (dad, mom, kids) and the gay community as outliers.

- A move away from the traditional family unit with the introduction of "consequence free sex" and "no-fault-divorce" (note: we do find good and Biblical reasons for divorce, and I don't find "nobody's fault" on the list.)

- With the traditional family unit undermined, open acceptance of the homosexual becomes tolerated by the culture

- As single motherhood becomes more acceptable, homosexuality becomes not only tolerated, but acceptable as a viable option.

- Demand of recognition of gay relationships becomes more popular, as does public spending for single motherhood.

- Demand of recognition of gay relationships becomes the demand that the culture view those relationships as identical to heterosexual relationships.

- The demand to see homosexual relationships as identical becomes the demand for culture (via "we the people") to sanction these relationships.

- the demand for sanction becomes the demand for approval

- the demand for approval becomes the demand for celebration by all people.

- the demand for celebration becomes the demand for participation, regardless of sincerely held religious convictions.

As Christians today look around and see our spiritual siblings SUED and FORCED to provide services to ceremonies found morally offensive, I find myself able to identify with Christians in other times and places, who steep in total depravity through no fault of their own.

We, who enjoyed cultural insulation for centuries, may find this a difficult transition. No, we WILL find this a difficult transition. From power to weakness, from majority to minority, from peace to persecution.

Is the "remnant" ready? I want to be part of the remnant - and I know I'm not ready. If the "steps of grieving" can be applied to this - I'm still in the "denial stage" but we need to get ready.

We need to be in the world, but not of the word. Persecution awaits, Jesus promised. Whether we will be found worthy of the persecution that HE endured, is yet to be seen.

(In preparation for the upcoming election cycle - with an eye toward "where faith and politics intersect."

when I discuss the "contraception mandate" or the "gay agenda", I specifically use the term "leftist" instead of "liberal."

I've heard the question asked again and again, "why can't we reach a compromise?"

I believe the answer lies in the "rise of the wings" - classic liberalism and classic conservatism had much in common. When the "wings" - right wing and left wing - move further and further apart, compromise becomes more difficult.

Classic conservatism and classic liberalism had, more or less, the same goals. Left wing politics and right wing politics do not.

One problem is that modern politics don't use Biblical meanings. Christianity stresses personal responsibility, while the following thoughts on political conservatism stress societal responsibility. Liberal politics stress individual rights, but not responsibility.

A couple of basic definitions:

Conservative: A traditional conservative will support any social institution (public or private) that promotes and maintains social order and public good. A traditional conservative will emphasize the social/societal (both social responsibility and social benefit) over the isolated individual. (link)

Liberal: When the term “liberalism” (from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “pertaining to a free man”) first emerged in the early 1800s, it was founded on an unwavering belief in individual rights, the rule of law, limited government, private property, and laissez faire economics. These would remain the defining characteristics of liberalism throughout the liberal epoch, generally identified as the period from 1815-1914.

I'm looking for a simple comparison between "conservative" and "right wing" - which will be useful. But for time being, here is a short comparison between "liberal" and "leftist:"

Similarly, a liberal believes in and defends our Western heritage, while desiring to make it more egalitarian. A leftist is instinctively hostile to the Western heritage, regarding it as fundamentally unequal and therefore bad, and only redeemable through radical change. link

we are seeing it more and more, most publicly in both the "gay marriage" debate (you WILL celebrate the gay, or be sued) and the Hobby Lobby decision (Leftists are getting ever more open about wanting to eradicate religious liberty.)

And so it begins.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

This time around, one line stood out: "Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace."

Peace is a big word.

In this passage, "peace" is peace with God.

God is a God of love; He is also a God of justice. That's not contradictory: perfect love demands perfect justice, and that doesn't mean justice for me, it means justice for everybody.

Justice doesn't mean that the person who wronged "me" gets what they deserve: it means that the God of justice demands payment for each sin committed.

Only when justice is satisfied, can peace begin.

Jesus was pierced for our transgression; THAT chastisement brought the elect peace with the Father.

As I transition churches, preparing for my move, I want to take the time to say what New City Church is doing right.

1) it's not about the style, it's about the substance. There are old hymns that are not good, there is new music that is wonderful. Both old and new, take the good, leave the bad.

2) what is good - songs that point to Jesus. Those that point us upward, not to within ourselves.

3) (from "Worship by the Book") What is the most important instrument of worship? The congregation. What is right, is making the congregation the most important instrument of worship. That means not disrupting worship with the band, not drowning out the congregation with the band.

4) A vital skill to have is knowing the difference between performance music and corporate worship music. There's a place for performance music; but it's not necessarily corporate worship music.

Corporate worship music is not performance music where the audience sings along.

I have been blessed by my time at New City. They've got it together, in a lot of ways.