From My Heart, Out Of My Mind

How often do churches as church open their Bibles?

Posted by Don Bryant on June 5, 2014

Local pastor Darryl Dash says we open our Bibles during the sermon but they then “stay closed as elders meet to give oversight to the ministry of the church. They stay closed as deacons administer the the church. They stay closed as pastors meet one-on-one with members of the church. They stay closed as committees meet.”

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Winsome Words 6/5/14

Posted by Don Bryant on June 5, 2014

So many people are privately drowning. Stop handing out bricks. Jared Wilson

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Who didn’t know that Tullian Tchividjian would go off the rails?

Posted by Don Bryant on May 25, 2014

Many at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, the church founded by D James Kennedy, had their suspicions when Tullian Tchividjian was nominated for the position of Sr Pastor. Time has proven that he breeds controversy and not order and peace. The controversy is unnecessary and provoked by him.

With the founding of Liberate he has launched into what many consider to be a “too close to antinomianism” ministry. In antinomian thought justification alone begins to swallow up the Christian life, leaving little room for the struggles and anguish of the process of justification. Some have charge him with antinomianism. I do not – yet. However, his formulations are controversial, and like Norman Shepherd on justification, Tchividjian lacks precision and and clarity and will not debate his doctrinal positions. I have listened to some of the Liberate speakers and am uncomfortable with their “hyper-grace” terminology and lack of balance.

Together for the Gospel has removed him from their blog with an awareness that he does not speak for the mainstream of the Reformed and is the cause of unnecessary controversy. Rather than take the hit, Tchividjian launched. He took the leadership to task for their handling of  CJ Mahaney, made it clear that Keller and Carson are lying, and in general pleads his own righteousness.

Actually, there is a way for him to express his concerns and follow his conscience in all these matters, but it would be a more adult way. It would not need the atmosphere of controversy to prosper and to balance the tradition to which he now belongs, the Presbyterian Church in America. I fear there is a natural hot-headedness and a need for controversy being demonstrated. Stay tuned. Unless some people more mature pull up to the table whose help is accepted, Coral Ridge and company is headed for some rough seas.

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Winsome Words 5/10/11

Posted by Don Bryant on May 10, 2014

“God’s loving care comes to us largely through the labor of others.”  Tim Keller

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The Future of Protestantism

Posted by Don Bryant on May 1, 2014

The question of where Protestantism is headed fascinates me. It is clear that it is already not what it was, as hard as some try to drag it back to the 16th and 17th centuries. With the virtual death of the mainline denominations in America and the explosion of the charismatic/Pentecostal movement, as well as the new accessibility of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, the speed of change is picking up. Protestants hardly know where to turn as old alignments cave in and forces are pushing them into newer configurations.

Peter Leithart continues to be a serious conversation partner in this discussion as he speaks for the reality of one people of God and calls Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants to move beyond tribalism toward Reformed Catholicism. I think he has seen the horror of a Protestantism that cannot stop splitting. He also sees the major bodies of RC and Orthodoxy as bearers of a defective Gospel though carriers of classic Christian confessions. Where is it all going? The Future of Protestantism is a conversation between Leithart, Carl Trueman and Fred Sanders held this week at Biola. It is worth a serious listen. Stick your head up above your own foxhole and make an attempt to survey the landscape of the wider church. It’s bewildering. But perhaps there is a rhythm that can be discerned that patterns the future for us.

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What’s the value of the liturgical calendar?

Posted by Don Bryant on April 30, 2014

For some years now I have made a practice of observing the Church Year, something with which I was totally unfamiliar, even through my seminary years. Now a large part of my spiritual disciplines revolved around its seasons. There is a Church Year calendar over my desk.

I think for most Evangelicals the Church Year looks too simplistic, too bare of the fullness of our faith. It seems that so much gets left out. However, I have found that it keeps calling me back to the center – the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of our Lord. It is around these realities that our faith turns. When these are lost sight of, diminished, left un-preached, and un-taught, we are on a trajectory that leads away from Christ and might be guilty of having itching ears, failing to simply abide in Christ.

After 40+ years in ministry, I have lived long enough to see what happens to a church when it loses touch. No longer satisfied in the classic statements of our faith and in the essential beliefs of the Gospel, soon the church finds itself confused, weak and no longer clear on what it has been called to proclaim. The space left empty by the absence of this “Gospel Satisfaction” gets filled with secondary things that soon become primary things.

In my own life I have had to pull myself time and again into the center as I explore, expand and investigate. I have been known to get lost! The Church Year gives me the handrails to keep me on the path of the Gospel once delivered. I would not make the claim that this is necessary for all. But I would make the claim that its absence is the cause of much vagueness in our Christianity.

Here is a short video reflection that highlights the benefits of the Church Year.

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God and the Gay Christian

Posted by Don Bryant on April 22, 2014

Today is the official release of Matthew Vines’ volume, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. Vines has gotten a lot of press as a spokesman within the Evangelical church for ssm. He is soft-spoken, articulate, kind, and speaks the lingo Evangelicals want to hear – including a supposedly high view of Scripture. Vines’ publisher — Convergent Books — is closely related in organization and leadership to evangelical publisher WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. This would seem to present ssm as some sort of option among Evangelicals. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, responds, “What is new is the packaging of the argument and the fact that this is being published — at least to some extent — within evangelicalism by an imprint associated with WaterBrook Multnomah that is targeting itself toward the evangelical community.”

Also released today is God and the Gay Christian? is a 100-page critique of Vines, edited by Al Mohler, who also contributes a chapter. Other contributors are: James M. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology; Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies; Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history; and Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling. Burk, Strachan and Lambert teach primarily for Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.

Here we go folks. The players are getting into the ring. Many of the blows that have been landed on Evangelicals are from those outside Evangelical camp and vice versa. This is within! It won’t be so much about Vines. It will be more about Evangelicals who are looking for an off-ramp to move away from this issue, diminish its significance, consider it as just one among many issues we are allowed to disagree on, and then move on to other things. It is not going to be that easy. Those who will not declare themselves one way or another, who refuse to address the morality of ssm, will be safe for awhile. But ultimately the rift is only beginning. And the rift, as it almost always is, is about the nature and authority of the Bible.

Of course, this debate will not touch the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church. Their acceptance of historic Christian morality is a done deal. They are not even having this discussion, even as they are not discussing the ordaining of women to the priesthood. Watch as Evangelicals continue to slip into these communions due to their strong moral commitments. Evangelicals who do so will have to seek ways to diminish some of the doctrinal barriers that continue to exist between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, particularly over justification by faith alone. Evangelicalism in the West might have to shrink for awhile as it clarifies what its moral commitments really are. SSM won’t be the only topic. The Evangelical comfort with easy divorce and cohabitation is going to come into the crosshairs, too. It will be hard for the Evangelicals to isolate ssm from its own looseness on other issues of sexual morality. It is already happening and will only pick up speed. Western Evangelicals better be quick to settle this one or increasingly be marginalized by the worldwide communion of the Evangelical church.

In my own ministry I have made it clear that I stand with the historic church on what constitutes marriage. But I have so far not publicly taught on ssm for the simple reason that the Evangelical church needs to be clear on its own acceptance of divorce as normative, a de facto state of affairs, if not exactly a doctrinal surrender. Let’s start there. The church as it is made up of 50% of its marriages dissolving and then remarrying or cohabiting, often with multiple remarriages and multiple partners. Given this state of moral condition, it does not have much of a platform to address the sexual immorality of anybody.

We all fall short. No arguments there. But it’s not about that. It’s about the teaching position of the church, its moral aspirations and vision. Does the church teach, support and expect “one man, one woman, with children, together for a lifetime”? Hardly. As far as I can see, it is the Roman Catholic church alone which nurtures this vision. While I do not support many of the ways it seeks to enforce this vision and its often heavy-handed authoritarianism and legalistic process for annulments, it has not accommodated the cultural pressures to diminish the sanctity of marriage. There are a thousand qualifications I would want to make about this, but the broad outlines are clear. I regularly hear the horror stories of how the church has handled those divorcing and the piling on of unnecessary pain. It often, maybe even most often, is not very redemptive.

I am hopeful concerning this purifying process. The deep Christ-followers in the pews have grown tired of the waffling leadership of their churches. They will be encouraged that now choices will be forced and their leadership pressed out into the open on these moral issues. It will be dramatically clear if these leaders do not want to come into the open. Churches which are clear will be blessed with growing numbers of Christians who want to follow the Lord.

Of course, churches must not slip into legalism or harsh authoritarianism and must tenderly and mercifully exhort the flock of God. Some will be unwise and think that their stand of this or that moral issue will ipso facto make them a good church. Not so. At the heart of the church is love of God and love for people. This must be the root from which the church takes growth.

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Matt Taibbi To Lead First Look’s Next Digital Magazine

Posted by Don Bryant on April 22, 2014

Matt Taibbi is moving on from Rolling Stone after years of fierce writing about the 2008 financial crisis. Taibbi is one of the few who have kept the misdeeds of the financial industry alive and who has not forgotten what they did to the American people.

If I had a life to live over again, my avocation would be pursuing legislation that puts the financial industry on a level playing field with the rest of us and puts its leading miscreants in jail. The devastation they have worked on Americans is beyond weighing and describing. They changed everything for everybody, and then after that were invited into the White House to reconstruct the new economy after the meltdown. to this day, no one has walked the perp walk. They remain in charge, and not only in charge but financially profiting as much as before.

As a Pastor I have seen so many devastated lives flow out of the financial holocaust, so many retirements ruined, so many jobs lost, so many houses lost – all by people playing by the rules who had no idea that others saw them as suckers ready for a blow they could not see coming. The close collusion between Congressmen, White House and financial executives for a time rose above the surface for all to see, and now it has descended again. Taibbi reaches down into the abyss and brings it up for all to see. No one else has his energy level nor his writing skill to keep it before the common man.

Go to his page on Amazon to peruse his titles.

I am surprised how little involved the church is in uncovering this fiscal mess. It is not even on their screen as I sift through website after website, ministry after ministry. The church is preoccupied on taking care of bodies that float downstream rather than going upstream to see what is causing it all in the first place.

One thing is for sure. The financial powers have guaranteed that Walmart will have plenty of seniors to supply their stores’ employee needs for years to come. Every time you go to a Walmart and see a senior there, don’t imagine how happy they are to have a job. Consider what forced them back into the work place at the very point where they should be enjoying grandchildren, taking time to love and laugh, sit at the dinner table a bit longer than usual and share with their husband or wife, watch the early news and check Facebook photos of  new grandkids before slipping into PJs and reading a new book just checked out of the library.

Matt Taibbi doesn’t forget.


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Winsome Words 4/21/14

Posted by Don Bryant on April 21, 2014

The first sign of spiritual life is to feel that you are dead! —Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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The NY skyscraper that almost came down

Posted by Don Bryant on April 21, 2014

Fascinating documentary of the NY skyscraper that almost came down. A design flaw in the Citygroup Center was discovered that would mean in a certain speed of wind (with odds of every 16 years) it would all come down. Not just come down but fall to the side, creating a domino effect on nearby buildings. It all began with an architecture student calling the building designer revealing the flaw. An amazing story of catastrophe averted, right under the public’s nose with no publicity of the danger. Worth the watch.

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