We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Good, Bad, and Ugly


Well I got my computer back for the second time this past Monday, and it’s all fixed.  But it’s been a very chaotic week, so some of this stuff I’ve collected you may have already seen on other sites. On Monday I played for the graveside service after a funeral for a friend who died; 88-year-old Korean War veteran.  Tuesday the air conditioner got fixed after being without it for five hot and humid days.  Wednesday we traveled 93 miles north so I could play for a graveside service — one I got paid for!  Thursday was morning haircut and vet appointments, with evening band practice (70 miles east).  Yesterday was doing some service for an elderly couple, then up to the airport to photograph a rare, freshly restored B-29 bomber arrival, followed by a late lunch date with my wife.  Returning home for 15 minutes, we then headed back to the airport for a 3:30 appointment with a friend who works at Rockwell-Collins and who got me a pass to tour the B-29 (which was on its way to Oshkosh but stopped in Cedar Rapids to allow R.C. employees to tour it because R.C. did a lot for them).  We stood in line for 1.5 hrs and watched a nasty storm building (got some great photos of the storm) and, just when we were about 5 minutes from our turn to go inside the plane the downpour began and we were all ushered into the hangar.  Well I decided that was the end and we headed on into town to pick up photos which had been processed the previous day.  By the time we got home it was almost 7:30.  Whew!  Oh, and we got an inch of needed rain.  So now let’s look at this week’s news.

The Good:
A good examination of the reason “The Message” is to be avoided at all costs!

The Watchman Fellowship has published a profile exposing John Dominic Crossan.

Fred has posted episode six of his review of the book, “Navigating Genesis.”

Neil examines the Problems With Pro-Gay Theology.

I wish this was really true.

Good article about real spiritual warfare.

The Bad:
David Jeremiah is now promoting false teacher Sarah Young.

A Catholic university has bought into the “Islamaphobia” lie.  Wasting donors’ money.

A Trojan horse in women’s ministry.

The Ugly:


Eugene Peterson came out in favor of same-sex unions.  Oh, wait a minute, he has done some flip-flopping about them; Lifeway said they’d pull his books and suddenly he decided such unions weren’t right after all.  Another bad thing about this is that SBC leader Russell Moore says Christians should still read and learn from Peterson!

This is some old Benny Hinn stuff, including Suzanne Hinn’s teaching about a Holy Ghost enema, but it demonstrates just what charlatans they are (a commenter said that this isn’t Benny Hinn’s wife, but this article contradicts that claim).  These people are not Christians.

The love of money leads many “evangelicals” to embrace pro-gay theologyThis article demonstrates the same problem.

Mary Dalke has a very thorough study about the Roman Catholic Virgin Mary (which isn’t the Biblical mother of Jesus) and the so-called apparitions of her.  The RCC idolatry of Mary is a very ugly and demonic doctrine.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Treasury of Excellent Hymns


We have a treasury of excellent hymns, lying in a chest in an attic.  Bring them down.  This is not a matter of prescribing one style for everyone.  There are two reasons why.  The first is that those hymns we no longer sing represent a wonderful variety of styles already.  There are the straightforward American revival hymns (“Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”).  There are haunting Irish folk melodies (the tune “Slane” for “Be Thou My Vision”).  There are the poignant Negro spirituals (“There Is a Balm in Gilead”).  We have medieval plainsong, featuring some of the oldest extant melodies (“Creator of the Stars of Night”); harmonization or Renaissance melodies by Johann Sebastian Bach (“Jesus, Priceless Treasure”); melodies specifically written for fine religious lyrics (“Lux Benigna” for Cardinal Newman’s “Lead, Kindly Light”); lilting melodies from the Scottish tradition (“Saint Columba,” “Crimond,” and “Evan” for “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”); the powerful shape-note hymns from Appalachia; French carols; English anthems for the Church militant; texts whose authors range from the Church Fathers to the pious blind poet Fanny Crosby; melodies from the time of Ambrose to the beginning of the twentieth century, from every single nation in Europe.  If someone rejects all of that, it is not because he does not appreciate “the” style.  It is because he has a lust for destructiveness or because he does in fact want one style to prevail, the style of the jingling show tune, a style that has no place in the liturgy.

Some church choirs with a chokehold on the music protest that it takes them many long hours to learn a new hymn.  That would be true only if they were singing in harmony, and most do not.  It should take only a few minutes for anybody, in the choir or not, to learn to sing a new melody.  The old hymns were written precisely for congregational singing.  You do not have to be Beverly Sills or Mario Lanza to sing them.  They are waiting; just as if there were a great wing of a castle that no one every entered anymore, filled with works of art by the masters.  No doubt a painting of the Prodigal Son by Murillo or Rembrandt reveals its secrets only gradually, so that you can look at it for the fiftieth time and notice something that you had seen but taken for granted, such as why Rembrandt’s prodigal has a shaved head, or why there is a little white dog in mid-leap after Murillo’s prodigal, wagging his tail for joy.  But those great works also appeal to us immediately, impressing us with their beauty and suggesting that there always will be more, and more, to see and to learn and to delight in.  The great hymns are like the paintings in that way.  They give us riches at the outset and yet have more and more to give, in abundance.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, pg.39-40

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Drab and Garish Culture


Drab is a favorite color in our day; its companion is garish.  I defy any of my contemporaries to name one style of public building or style of dress or form of popular entertainment that is not now either drab or garish.  Our churchmen, no better educated than anyone else in the humanities and the Christian heritage of art, architecture, and music, have gone along with the movement, mostly drab, but sometimes garish, as witness the big childish banners blaring out a favorite comforting verse (never “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God”), the glad-handing ceremonies of greeting and peace-wishing, the rock bands in the sanctuary, big screens like stadium scoreboards to flash the mantras of the songs, and the smiling Protestant minister in jeans, or the Catholic priest with a jowly smile, far more comfortable joshing with the attendees than praying with the people who are, as he is, as well as we all are, on the inevitable journey to the grave and in dire need of the grace of God.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, pg.35

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Roots of Willow Creek


I’m still on a project of going through my apologetics file cabinet and cleaning out obsolete materials (it’s an arduous process).  This morning I came across a paper on which I typed this:

The following information is from notes gleaned circa 1990 from a television show about the Willow Creek Church.  The program extolled the virtues of this “church.”

The paper had tear-off edges with holes that fed through the old Epson printer I had when I first moved to Iowa in December 1995 but got rid of within a year.  So apparently I had found my notes and wanted to type them to keep on file on the old floppy disc.  

At any rate, I thought I’d share what the TV program (a “news magazine” in the Chicago area) had to say about Willow Creek, which was fairly new in their huge facility at the time, to show the bad ideological seeds which were sown for this mega-church.
==================

Bill Hybels did a door-to-door survey to find why people stay away from church, and that resulted in Willow Creek.  People need to be entertained, anonymous, and considered as guests.

Service is calibrated, choreographed.  Opening like a variety show.  Audience enjoys the performance.  Each “show” takes three weeks to write and rehearse.

Worship is safe, controlled, comfortable.  No strict emphasis on rigid morality.

Our target” is the “marketplace person . . .  Corporate culture.”

Culturally respectable, blends into surrounding environment.

Sophisticated packaging: Music, then mini-drama.

The building was designed to be inoffensive -- no religious symbols so as to frighten or intimidate people.  Looks like a corporate office complex.

Free market means competition to draw the crowd.

The pastors are called the “Management team.”  The program is called a “product.”

Yuppies are corporate people so you have to make them feel at home.  Packaged orthodoxy; everything is corporate language.  Marketplace person needs marketplace terminology.

“Post Christian” culture needs addressed as a separate culture.  “Demand a catering to popular tastes.

People need respectability and recognition; being part of a “big success story” at Willow Creek.  It’s reassuring to be a part of it:  “Our church is bigger than anybody else.”

==================

During this time of my life I was attending an LCMS Lutheran Church and my apologetics ministry was probably 95% about cults, while I was just beginning to study the Word of Faith stuff.  A fellow controller attended Willow Creek, and through him was the first I heard of the place.  However, it was difficult to believe he was a Christian because of his behavior and worldview, so when that TV show was advertised I wanted to watch it to see what W.C. was all about.  And watching that show explained everything about my co-worker.  I was shocked that such a “church” existed, and from then on I started studying more and more non-cult false teachings and false teachers.

Willow Creek’s philosophy has only  gotten worse over the years, as they have spread their ideology across the country.  Bad seed has grown very rotten fruit.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good:
Warning of Error.  Well worth reading.

A very good defense of an often-raised criticism of the Bible.

Excellent history lesson on the Reformation!


The Bad:
You have to read it to believe it.  When T.D. Jakes’ and Joel Osteen’s “ministries” are involved, it has to be bad.

I’ve been saying for a long time that Francis Chan is not a teacher/pastor anyone should be following.  The news now proves my warning to have been correct.

The Church of England spirals into apostasy.

Tim Keller’s church — need I say more?  Although I disagree with the article’s calling it “effeminate” because I think it’s just ballet, I still think it is inappropriate to have entertainment at a worship service.

Popular Christian music groups teaching heresy?  YES!  Excellent article exposing CCM for what it really is.

The Ugly:
An excellent example of the rank idolatry by the Roman Catholic Church and their worship — YES WORSHIP — of Mary.

“Practicing Christians” are too accepting of evil ideologies!  Real Christians should know better.

Patricia King is one of the worst false prophets/teachers out there, and this is an example of why she is to be avoided at all costs. She speaks nasty lies.

The deceit of the Seventh-day Adventists is getting more and more subtle, and they position themselves as great humanitarians.  Their false gospel continues to take more and more people into bondage.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Cat Story


I’M BACK!  Well, a wee bit of a return.  My computer problem wasn’t solved so it will be down again as another tech guy goes after it tomorrow.  But I thought I’d let you know a personal story about what’s been taking a lot of time this past almost two weeks, and it is a story of our cats

We’ve always had cats since we married 41 year ago.  Jill had 5 cats at home when I met her, and after I had been out of the Army for 9 months in December 1975 I took in a 6-month-old Siamese/Angora mix who I named “The Baroness.”  A fellow worker had too many kittens and was looking for homes!  That same month I moved from my furnished apartment to an unfurnished townhouse where I planned on bringing my bride home to 8 months later (had a lot of furnishing to do!).  

Jill told me I needed a friend for the Baroness, so in April 1976, while on a garage sale date looking to furnish my apartment, I got a kitten at house with a new litter.  He was a few weeks old, and black.  Before I came up with a name Jill was visiting with me when I had the kitten outside playing and getting covered with dandelion seeds, so he became “Dandelion.”  Unfortunately, while we were on an overnight visit to family in mid-August (a couple weeks after we married), we returned to find him near death; the vet said he had distemper and it was too late to save him.

In September we got a 10-week old kitty from the animal shelter; he was black with white paws and belly, and Jill named him “Bobby Sox.”  In January 1979 when we moved from Ohio to the Chicago area and rented a townhouse, we were only allowed one pet.  Since Baroness was the one I had the longest, we sadly gave Bobby Sox away.  (Five months later we bought a house.)

Well, the Baroness was alone for too long — it wasn’t until October 1982 that we got another 6-week old kitten — a calico (Jill’s favorite kind).  This one came from a family whose child was going to the same pre-school as our daughter, and whose cat recently had a litter.  As soon as we got her home she sat on the cedar chest in front of the window and watched the birds, so her name became Audubon.

In July 1987 the Baroness was suffering from kidney failure and had to be euthanized at 12 yrs old.  Very sad, and now Audubon was alone.

Since Jill wanted another kitty as a friend for Audubon, on our anniversary the next year we went to the animal shelter to find one.  We came home with two, both about 6 months old; a big furry, gray and white guy with a roaring purr (who we named “Thunder”) and a dainty girl with colors much like the Baroness (and she was named “Silk” because it was our silk anniversary).  Thunder and our son David (almost 7 at the time) became best friends, and those two were inseparable until David married and left home 13 years later.

Audubon had a long history of respiratory problems.  On Veteran’s Day 1990, while I was at work, she curled up on the sofa with Jill and stopped breathing.  So we now had just Thunder and Silk.

In December 1995 we moved to Iowa.  Silk began having lots of urinary infections and problems with lots of visits to the vet.  One day in the summer of 1997 we found her curled in the garden dead. Thunder was now alone.

Valentines Day 1998 we went to the animal shelter to find a friend for Thunder and we brought home a 6-month-old male with black paws and bib.  Jill named him “Moonshadow” because he followed us all over and his bib looked like a moon in the night sky.

Our next kitty was another calico, who was really our daughter’s cat, which she got from a friend.  She was just a few weeks old when Emily got her in June 2000, which now gave us a trio again. Her name was Marigold.

When Emily left home in October 2001 she took Marigold with her.  Jill had really loved that one (she loves all her kitties, but has special affections for calicos), and wanted a calico of her own.  It was another year before we got Autumn Grace, who was truly a gift from the Lord.  Jill wrote about how we got this precious kitty, if you care to peruse her article.  The funny thing was that Autumn became in charge of the two boys!

By the time Thunder was 20, he was mostly deaf and had some cataracts, but he was otherwise healthy and a lap kitty.  Sadly, he took ill late one evening and, before we could take him to the vet the next day, he died of kidney failure, just three months shy of his 22nd birthday.  Ironically, he died on our son’s birthday in 2009.

Within the next year or so Moonshadow began having medical issues and had to be treated for thyroid problems.  While he was still a happy cat, his issues became more and more difficult to treat until we had to euthanize him in August 2012 (1 month shy of 15 years old), leaving Autumn Grace all alone.

Jill wanted to get another kitty, but with all the expenses of Moonshadow I wanted to put it off.  As time went by we were afraid a new kitten would change Autumn’s personality, and she was such a sweetheart we didn’t want that.  She was a kitty who always slept with us after putting us to bed, and would wake us up in the morning.  She was the most lovable cat we’ve ever had, so when she became ill the late evening of June 28th, we were concerned.  She seemed to recover somewhat but in the morning she wasn’t doing good so we took her to the vet, who decided to do tests and keep her overnight. 

The morning of June 30th the vet called with bad news.  Autumn had a bowel obstruction, and her liver and kidney functions were decreased.  The vet said she could operate to see what the obstruction was (felt it was a tumor) but wasn’t sure at her age (2 months shy of 15) if she’d survive the stress of the surgery, and if she did survive, she couldn’t guarantee any outcome without knowing exactly what the blockage was.  We went to the vet’s and looked at the X-ray and did more consultation.  She had Autumn sedated for the pain.  We decided that the best course of action was to euthanize her, and that was the hardest decision ever.  We really, really loved that one, and a lot of tears were shed over the next few days.  For the first time in 41 years we had no kitty to come home to.

We decided that we needed a kitty, but we also knew we couldn’t replace Autumn Grace, since no kitty ever had such a personality.  We also decided that we’d have to get two so they could be friends. So last Thursday, the 6th, we went to the animal shelter and took home the only kitten they had (10 weeks old), a really pretty black and white male.  What to name him was the topic of conversation on the way home.  It didn’t take long, though.  You see, Jill had seen a PBS show about Wolverines early last year, and then last summer on our trip to Yellowstone she saw a book about Wolverines, which we didn’t buy and she wished she had; but I later got it for her for Christmas, and she has been reading it.  Wolverines have huge paws with long claws, and this little kitty has big paws and long claws, so his name is Wolverine.  He’s a bundle of joy.

Saturday morning Jill called the shelter and asked if they had any more kittens yet and, with an affirmative answer, we headed up there (half-hour drive).  They had five; four males and one female.  The female, 9-weeks old, was tortoise-shell, and she was too pretty.  So she became Wolverine’s sister.  Jill had a unique name for her; she had said if she ever got another girl kitty she would name it “Zuzu’s Petals” (and I’ll let you figure out where that name came from).  These two have been so much fun to watch playing!

This morning we took both to the vet, as required by our adoption contract.  Wolverine had lots of ear wax and an ear infection (which explained why his ears were bothering him) so he also got an anti-biotic. But Zuzu has ear mites on top of ear junk.  So the vet kept her to sedate her for clearing the ears and then gave her a treatment to rid her of the mites. They are both now back to chasing each other.

We still sorely miss Autumn Grace.
The new kids, Wolverine and Zuzu's Petals:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Early Church Views of Military Service

While there have been views promoted in the Church over the centuries both for and against military service, overall the attitude had been favorable — or at least not against it.  Several years ago I posted an article about war and killing, and you might look there for a good place to start on this topic.

The Religion Analysis Service puts out a quarterly apologetics letter, titled “The Discerner.”  The first issue this year (Vol.37/No.1) has a very good article about the teachings of early Christians and war, as they relate to the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and military service.  This current post is for highlighting early teachings of the Church as examined in “The Discerner.”

To begin with, I am going to heavily cite The Discerner’s article, Jehovah’s Witnesses, War, and Neutrality, Part 5, by Steve Lagoon, along with citations he provides from early Christian sources.  My intent is to demonstrate that military service in and of itself is not taught against by the Christian faith, nor is it against God to participate in military service.  Citations from Steve Lagoon will be in blue, while citations from early sources he cites will be in maroon.

As one would suspect, the actual picture of the early Christian view toward military service is much more complicated than the simplistic and misleading picture portrayed in Watchtower literature.

Certainly, there were many Christians in the early church that did indeed oppose military involvement.  However, their reasons for resisting military service were different from the Watchtower’s view, either because they were pacifists or because they rejected the idolatrous acts that were sometimes required of soldiers.

In neither of these cases is neutrality the issue, and in fact most Christians in the early church were patriotic toward the Roman Empire.

Further, despite the impression the Watchtower seeks to create, there were in fact many Christians in the early church who not only did not object to military service, but willingly served in the Roman military. . . . 

It will be most instructive to consider a fair and comprehensive summary of the early Christian view of military involvement by Church historian Louis Swift:
There were two sides to the issue.  The most vocal and the most articulate side was pacifist.  In this school Tertullian, Origen, and the early Lactantius stand out as the most reflective and persuasive writers…they leave no doubt that for them violence of any kind is incompatible with the demands of the Christian faith.  The other side is non-pacifist . . .  It appears, then, that these examples from Scripture were being cited by some as reasons for not following a strictly pacifist line of thought, and the very fact that Tertullian speaks at length about the moral dimension of military service is evidence that the whole issue had not been settled in the Christian community.  . . .

Swift provides a balanced assessment of Tertullian’s views on military service:
He [Tertullian] is the first Church writer to wrestle with the issue of military service in a concrete way, and his attitude toward Christian participation in war is anything but sympathetic.  It is fair to say that he is the first articulate spokesman for pacifism in the Christian Church . . . If he takes a rather trenchant position against Christian participation in war, he is not always consistent on this point.  Thus, in his Apology, which was written around 197 A.D. and which is a plea for fair treatment of the Christians, a certain amount of ambiguity is create by the pride he takes in the spread of Christianity even to the camps.  . . .

Swift then provides the most telling comment from Tertullian:
Thus we [Christians] live in the world sharing with you the forum, the market, the baths, the shops, the factories, the inns, the market days and all other commercial activities.  We, no less than you, sail the sea, serve in the army, farm the land, buy and sell (42.2-3).

Christians in the Early Church Did Serve in the Roman Military
One of the greatest Church historians, Philip Schaff, summarized the period this way:
In regard to military and civil offices under the heathen government, opinion was divided. Some, on the authority of such passages as Matt.5:39 and 26:52, condemn all war as unchristian and immoral; anticipating the views of the Mennonites and Friends.  Others appealed to the good centurion of Capernaum and Cornelius of Caesarea, and held the military life consistent with a Christian profession.  The traditions of the legio fulminatrix indicates that there were Christian soldiers in the Roman armies under Marcus Aurelius, and at the time of Diocletian the numbers of Christians at the court and in civil office was very considerable.

Another highly regarded church historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette stated:
Indeed, in its earliest days the Church seems to have regarded with complacency the baptism of soldiers and not to have required them to resign from the army.  Coolness towards the enlistment of its members in the army appears to have brought no very marked embarrassment to the Church . . .  To most Christians, however, at least in the first three centuries, the ethical problem involved in military service was not an issue.

It seems that the major problem with military service during the first few centuries was the frequent requirement for Caesar worship.  In this case the individual would end up either resigning from the military (if possible) or was executed for his faith.  Steve Lagoon’s article gives two such examples:

Marinus, who was beheaded ca. 260 AD, had been in service for long enough to warrant promotion to the rank of Centurion.  The eve before his promotion a rival denounced him as being unfit for promotion due to his Christian faith.  Marinus was given the chance to recant his faith, but he refused.

Julius, another veteran legionnaire in 303 or 304 AD, was confronted with new orders from the emperor that all troops must sacrifice to pagan deities.  In a long dialogue with the prefect Maximus, Julius defended his loyalty without the need to sacrifice to idols, having served for 27 years in seven campaigns and was considered an excellent warrior, with never a fault found in him by his commanding officer.  Since Julius refused to deny his God, and refused to participate in the idol sacrifices, he was beheaded.

The point of this article is two-fold: (1) to demonstrate that the early church did not see serving in the military to be against the Christian faith, and (2) to demonstrate that the Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be trusted when it comes to teaching about military service — any more than they can be trusted with any other teachings about the Christian faith!