Surviving Domestic Violence. Sin Boldly Episode 141

imagesI was joined by Renee Jackson, a new friend who has written a book about surviving domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence for almost two decades, Renee bravely shares her story of how she got in and how she finally got out of a very scary situation. Many thanks to Renee for stopping in!

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below.

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A Brief Note on Using “Yahweh” in Worship

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In June, we are going to employ a small change in our worship. In an effort to both be more faithful to the text of Scripture and to reflect the personal nature of God, we are going to use God’s proper name whenever it appears in the day’s lessons. God’s name, as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 is Yahweh, or sometimes seen as YHWH. (Hebrew does not have vowels, so the “a” and “e” are later additions.) That word translates roughly to “I am what I am,” and that is usually what is written in Exodus 3. This is the name God gives for Himself when Moses asks for his name as he prepares to go back to Egypt to plead for the Israelite’s freedom.

God’s name is at least a little mysterious. What does “I am what I am” mean? Perhaps God is indicating he is the ground of all creation, the foundation of all that is. From Exodus 3 on (and even in Genesis), Yahweh is the proper name of God. This is not the only name for God; “El” or “Elohim” is a generic Hebrew word that means simply “god” and it is often used. But Yahweh is God’s proper name, if you will. You will know when you come across it in an English translation because Yahweh will be transcribed as LORD that is the word “lord” in all capitals or small capitals. (WordPress does not allow me to create a “small capitals” version of “Lord.”) “El” or “Elohim” is translated as “Lord” with small letters. Perhaps out of an abundance of caution or a willingness to show respect to those who would be offended by using the name Yahweh, the name of God is never written or spoken in most English translations.

There is a growing sense, however, that using Yahweh has benefits, and doing so with respect does not bring us close to the edge of blasphemy. Some newer translations now translate “Lord” as Yahweh directly. The benefit is that using God’s proper name puts us closer to the relationship the Israelites enjoyed with God. That is, their relationship with the revealed God of the Bible was personal and not merely “official” (as in, dealing only with God’s office or title of “Lord”.)

And if you employ God’s name, it opens up the scriptures to a highly personal and even intimate relationship with the revealed God of the Bible. Consider this example from Joshua 24:15: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” “Lord” is a perfectly good and respectful word. But replace the two uses of “the Lord”with Yahweh and the effect is more personal and even dramatic. For we do not worship or know a generic god. We know the personal God of the universe, named Yahweh!

As we use “Yahweh” in worship, my hope is that you will grow in your relationship to the personal God we worship. Employing the name He gives Himself will open up His reality in a way that “Lord” alone falls a bit short.

A Revival Review. Sin Boldly Episode 141

07-02-03This solo episode looks at the sermon that began the so-called Brownsville Revival in 1995. Was this a genuine move of the Spirit, or a planned and orchestrated event? Is this preacher uniquely endowed with a divine anointing he can share with others or is he engaging in old-fashioned manipulation techniques and peer pressure? We also look at an update from Willow Creek and a church in Birmingham that actually endorses segregation.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below.

When to Fire a Priest. Sin Boldly Episode 139.

2018-04-30_-_Catholic_bigotryThis solo episode looks at the firing of House of Representatives ChaplainFr. Patrick Conroy. What “truth to power” did he speak that got him canned? Then we look at the Beyonce Mass, held also to speak truth to power. (A laugh riot, I know!) Finally, we look at the latest trend in the evangelical church: racial reconciliation due to racial disparity. Is that the work of the Gospel or something closer to Marxism?

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below.

Ten Things Scarier than Demonic Possession. Sin Boldly Episode 138

catholic-church-exorcism-trainingThis solo episode looks at the renewed interest in exorcism and asks if there aren’t far scarier things than demonic possession, a rare, but media-friendly occurrence. We also look at why those who are “spiritual but not religious” experience higher depression rates and the latest, greatest Contemporary Christian worship song about God’s reckless, crazy, insane, ridiculous and absurd love. I know, icky, right?

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below. 

A Debate: God and the Problem of Evil.

evilexists2This is the audio from a debate hosted by First Evangelical Lutheran Church on April 19, 2018 on “God and the Problem of Evil.” Houston Community College professors Evan Friske and Brian Deer square off on how the “Triple O God” (omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent) can exist while so much evil remains in the world. This is a formal debate that allows for equal time among the participants. About 200 were in attendance, including many college students, so it was a great night to introduce the next generation to the world of debate.

A technical note: for some reason, my lapel mic did not pic up on the recording, so I am hard to hear at times. Apologies for the mishap!

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below. 

Cory Booker’s Inquisition. Sin Boldly 137.

694940094001_5769018865001_5769010087001-vsA solo show that looks at Cory Booker’s disturbing line of questioning to a Secretary of State candidate, Billy Graham’s marriage, and whether God and the Church are in competition with one another.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below. 

Top Ten Services of the (Liturgical) Year, Part 2

120513_0013-14smallLast week, I began a curious and potentially heretical list of the top ten liturgical services of the Church year. In truth, all services are fruitful to a life of faith. But my goal is twofold: to help us appreciate the rhythm and pattern of the Church year and to help us see better attendance at some extremely important services that are often ignored. So without further ado, lets jump into the rest of the list. 

8. Reformation Sunday. The most controversial thing about this being on the list is that it is only celebrated by Lutherans and other Reformed folk. Well, we’re Lutheran, so it stays on the list. This Sunday is not just about Brother Martin’s famous 95 Theses or about Lutheran distinctives, even, but rather about the work of the Spirit to sanctify the Church for the sake of its mission. We celebrate the Reformation because the Gospel was rediscovered and because the consciences of God’s people matter. 

7. Christ the King Sunday. Another “capstone” Sunday, this festival marks the end of the liturgical year as the following Sunday is always Advent 1, the first Sunday of every Church year. This Sunday reminds us of the high note on which things always end for Christians, with Christ as victor and Christ as King. This Sunday also always falls close to elections, so it conveniently reminds us that Christ is the sovereign king of all, even as we elect men and women to office. 

6. All Saints Sunday. Built into our life together is an annual remembrance of the dead and the newly baptized. This Sunday is also a wonderful reminder of what a saint is: a baptized believer in Christ. That is what makes one a saint, not a number of posthumous miracles or an especially renowned life on earth. All Saints Day (or Sunday) wonderfully marks endings (death) and new beginnings (baptism), both rooted in baptism. Coming to see more and more the power and comfort of our identity as Christ’s baptized people is always a good thing, and All Saints Sunday goes a long way in that regards. 

5. Ash Wednesday. Well, Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, is unlike any other service throughout the year, and combines both a reminder of our immanent death and promise of new life in Christ. It is point blank Law and Gospel as clear as day in one service. 

4. Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Spirit is particularly lifted up two Sundays per year: Pentecost and Reformation. Pentecost is rightly seen as the birthday of the Church, the day the Spirit is sent by Christ to give life to the Church and strengthen it in its work. The Spirit’s work in the Godhead is to bring men and women to confess Christ as Lord, and this dramatic story in Acts 2 shows its powerful beginning. Since we are still living in the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led era of the Church, its hard to overstate the importance of this festival. 

3. The Easter Vigil. This would be number one on many people’s lists, and I understand why. It is often considered the liturgical “crown jewel”. Historically, it was the time when catechumens of the Church would be baptized, and that is still true in our tradition when possible. What the Vigil does so well is rehearse Salvation History, from creation to Fall to prophecy to restoration: it sets the stage for the resurrection and is unlike any other service of the year. It would be nice if we could do all four parts of the Vigil (the fourth part being the Lord’s Supper on Easter Sunday), but it would involve either an 11:00 pm start time or a sunrise service. We simply roll that portion of the Vigil into the Sunday service and call it a day. This unique service still deserves to be at the top of the list.  

2. Easter Sunday. Can’t argue with this one being on the list. It’s the day we specifically focus on the resurrection of Jesus! Of course, every Sunday is a remembrance of the resurrection. In the end, we are a people of hope and a people of joy precisely because Jesus has been risen from the dead. This event is truly the watershed moment of cosmic history. Why is it not number one? It certainly could be, but you wouldn’t need a resurrection without…

1. Good Friday. Again, you cannot separate Good Friday from Easter. I get that. And Good Friday does not offer the full promise of Easter. But the death of Christ is so central to Christianity that observing it should be our top priority on that day. This is where God’s wrath and justice are satisfied. And the utter pathos of our friend, brother and Lord Jesus enduring suffering for our sake is worth observing with the full reading of the passion (at the very least!). Because every Sunday is a day of resurrection (and we do not tend to see every Friday as a day of crucifixion), observing the crucifixion in an intentional fashion is simply critical for Christians. That’s why it makes number one on my list. 

Responding to Kurt Vonnegut. Sin Boldly Episode 136

Buckley-popupThis solo episode begins with a response to a quote from author Kurt Vonnegut that often makes the rounds on social media. In the quote, he asks why the Beatitudes are not on the walls of the Pentagon, seemingly chastising Christians for “only” adoring the Ten Commandments. Its a good example of “too clever by half” atheistic rhetoric. I also look at a number of megachurch-related topics.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here.  That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below. 

An Unusual Argument Against Megachurches

6a00d83451dafb69e200e54f30e8818833-640wiAs time marches on, we advance. At least in terms of better business practices. We constantly build better mousetraps, utilizing wisdom from failed experiments to improve. We have engineered our way to perfectly safe airplanes, we are constantly figuring out ways to reuse and recycle resources, and corporations merge to take advantage of efficiencies. Indeed, efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to making a dollar, so it only makes sense that as a society, we will become more and more efficient in all manners of life. 

The centralized, big box model of retail spaces – and even Amazon of course – are models of efficiency. “Volume discount” is the name of the game. The Church seems to have caught on. One of the ways the Church is “efficient” (though this has happened rather organically rather than by a board’s vote) is by having large, centralized congregations able to serve thousands of parishioners instead of hundreds. Since congregation will have some fixed costs in its operation – assuming it deems it important to have a piece of property, sufficient insurance, and some staff – why not decrease the fixed costs by having more people at one location? 

This is a good model for hardware stores and condominium development. But does it work in the Church? Is it a business model we should emulate? In the Church, the costs for these kinds of efficiencies are largely ministerial, a realty that has been pointed out at length over the last several decades. For example:

  • Most megachurches basically look the same and offer a bland, pop aesthetic that is meant to be familiar and comfortable to the unchurched. But it sure doesn’t do much to communicate an otherworldly, kingdom-centered reality! Its quite often a Top 40 rehash with an “inspirational” message at best.
  • There is relative anonymity at megachurches for many, as many leave as easily as they arrived. This “observer-only” reality creates the need for the “real church” work to be done in small groups, a potentially profitable or a potentially disastrous model depending on the health of the small groups.
  • The highs and lows of authentic community and personal relationships to clergy are missed out by most who merely attend these churches. 
  • Most importantly, we are seeing a deplorable loss of solid doctrine as Biblical teaching is sacrificed on the altar of appealing to non-believers. 

But I’d like to offer an unusual argument against megachurches: what we gain in efficiency, we lose in communal presence. Think of it this way: for every one Home Depot, lets say that four small hardware stores are put out of business. If the same is true when other big box retailers roll into town, is it true for the relationship between megachurches and normal ol’ small congregations? It seems so. Most attendees at megachurches are not new Christians; they are pulled from small and perhaps struggling small churches that cannot “compete” with the programs, comfort and predictability of large institutions like megachurches. 

Slowly, as more megachurches arise, the neighborhood churches close up shop, unable to maintain the fixed costs necessary to survive. Churches end up vacating where people live and end up as complexes along major thoroughfares or interstate highways. That effectively removes them from day-to-day communal life. The good and perhaps even irksome reminder that the Church is present, living, and active is quietly lost. Maybe it is more efficient to have one Home Depot rather than four neighborhood hardware stores. But the same is not true for the Church. It would be far better to retain four neighborhood parishes than have one megachurch, if, for no other reason, that is four times the statement to the world that we (Christians) are here and we intend to press on with our mission, never forsaking our location but using it instead as an outpost in the mission field. 

“But wait,” you say, “that’s four times the infrastructure cost! Consolidating is so much more efficient!” Only in an age where we tolerate Christian giving at the 2% clip would we think this way. Christians can and should easily be able to afford the upkeep and purchase of more properties, even if it is “less efficient”. We should even find ourselves in the position of a public nuisance, so present and so prevalent that government entities and businesses should have to compete with us for available land.  

Besides, as the megachurch model continues to prove it will not save or grow “Christendom” (if you will), but essentially produce consolidated congregations, it should be clear that the megachurch model is no guaranteed path to “success”. So lets go back to the plan before: multiplication of congregations, raising up sufficient leaders, generosity among Christians, and making a statement to the world that we are ready and wiling and able to serve within neighborhoods, and not just at the megacenter on the highway.