Blog Archives

What is Wrong with the Church? It’s You, You’re What’s Wrong!


lucy surpriseThat’s right!  I said it, and for God’s sake SOMEONE had to tell you!  You still don’t get it, do you?  Your theology is warped, your view of worship is flawed, you are too worldly, you never share the gospel, you don’t give enough and you certainly don’t serve enough.  I could go on and on and on with your failures to live up to the standards of Christ as I see them.  What is wrong with Christianity you ask?  It is you, you are the problem.

I feel a LOT better now, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!

I want to say that on one hand, I am not being serious.  But on the other hand, there is some truth to what I am saying.  Let me explain… Read the rest of this entry

Start Your Day Off Right with this 1600 year old Prayer! (You can do it, and you’ll be better off for it!)


It’s old……but it is STILL good!

I often find nourishment for my faith when I read and pray through old prayers. Sure, the church has changed over the years. What it means to follow Christ in a fallen world hasn’t. Those who have faithfully walked the walk before us down through the ages, though gone, can still minister to us. One of the ways this can happen is when we read and prayer the prayers they left behind.

Today, I share with you a 1600 year old prayer from Basil The Great. I have updated it for the modern reader. The Thee’s and Thou’s have been changed.

O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation,
Who, because of Your clemency and incomparable mercy,
did send Your Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind,
and with His venerable Cross did tear asunder the record of our sins,
and thereby did conquer the rulers and powers of darkness;

receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication,
and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression,
and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us.

Nail down our flesh with fear of You,
and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil,
but pierce our souls with Your love, that ever contemplating You, being enlightened by You, and discerning You, the unapproachable and everlasting Light,
we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to You:

The eternal Father,
with Your Only-Begotten Son,
and with Your All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit,

now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Amen

An Ancient Theologian explains Tradition


“The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas…”

Interesting!

We don’t often re-blog other posts, but this was such a thought provoking and stimulating article that we just had to! Mike discusses the framework we should use to interpret opposing views of what Scripture says and how we should use the early church Fathers to aid us in that. Be challenged!

We also wanted to introduce you to Mikes blog, so take a few minutes to check it out. You will probably hit the “Follow” button like we did.

Dead Heroes Don't Save

Irenaeus, a 2nd century theologian, defended Christianity from the Gnostic philosophies that were popular at the time. His 5 volume work, Against Heresies, dedicates the first two volumes to describing the Gnostic views and then precedes to dismantle them in the remaining volumes.

saint_irenaeus_oflyonsThroughout the work we are invited to explore the fundamental beliefs of the early church as they are contrasted with the opposing system.

Underlying Irenaeus’ defense lies the questions: how do we know what the truth is? and how do we decide between different interpretations of Scripture?

The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas – which centered on two gods – a good one and an evil one. It was the evil god who created the physical world that we must rid ourselves of.

View original post 1,019 more words

State of the Gospel: Why Christians Are Leaving Church Too


Why Christians are Leaving Church I think you are going to want to read this upcoming post, based on a recent study.  It is now up!  Brace yourselves though, because this stuff is going to be hard for you to handle.  After you read through it, make sure you answer the poll questions at the end.

What is the MOST Important Element of Corporate Worship for You Personally?


Are We REALLY Totally Depraved?


total-depravity2Grab the kindling wood and bring your lighters! If you continue reading this post, you may feel the urge to use them!

At least that is what I anticipate with this post on Total Depravity.

Before you light the fire, you should know up front that this post is simply me letting you in on the discussions that take place inside my head!  I’m asking you to consider some of the questions I ask myself while I think out loud about what Total Depravity means.

To start off, let’s define terms:

The Western Protestant church views T.D. this way:   Total depravity is the fallen state of human beings as a result of Adam original sin. The doctrine of total depravity asserts that people are, as a result of the fall, not inclined or even able to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, but rather are inclined by nature to serve their own will and desires and to reject the rule of God.

“The immediate concomitant of the first sin was the total depravity of human nature. The contagion of his sin at once spread through the entire man, leaving no part of his nature untouched, but vitiating every power and faculty of body and soul.” Louis Berkhof

This means that the fundamental nature of mankind was changed on that day. Whatever Adam’s human nature was before his sin, it became something different after the fall.  As a result, Read the rest of this entry

The Total Inability of Calvin To Explain Man’s Ability to Respond to God?


Man's Inability and CalvinTotal: Completely, Absolutely

Inability: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity

It is true that humanity can not come to Christ unaided. The Scriptures and the early church agree on this. Both sides of the Monergism vs Synergism civil war agree on it. Without God’s grace no one is able to come to Christ. Period!

But what does that actually look like and how does it work? The truth of the matter is that no one really knows and those who say they do don’t understand what they are saying. How God works this out in humanity lies within the mystery of God himself.

Calvin and the “ists’ his teaching has inspired believe this means that humanity can not even respond to God unaided. They teach that man must first be born again and then exercise faith in Christ. One can not say “yes” to God until after the new birth takes place.  Which leads them to teach things like this:

“This doctrine of total inability which declares that men are dead in sin does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that anyone is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is equal in itself, nor that man’s spirit in inactive, and much less does it mean that the body is dead… The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volition, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

“The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volition, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions.”

Essentially, reformed theology teaches that Read the rest of this entry

Contending for THE Faith?


calvinism2Things are slow around here so when I saw this and I just couldn’t resist.

That sound you are hearing?  That is me stirring the pot!

Calvin’s faith is certainly different from the faith of the early church, but is it going to far to say he reinvented or re–delivered a new faith?

You decide.

Play nice, please.

The Least Most: Our Top 5 Posts That Nobody Read!


 

The Least Most Read PostYes, it is that time again.  The “Best of” posts are all coming out.  (Find ours here)   Today, as an act of humility, we present our Bottom 5.  They are our least read posts of all time. 

Now, we humbly suggest that they occupy the bottom NOT because they were poorly written or were uninteresting.  No!  We believe you (yes you) were too busy doing other important stuff on the days these came out.

So, go ahead and read one.  Or two.  Heck read them all! 

It is a little bit late but Happy New Year! Read the rest of this entry

Bible Study Resource Alert: Verse by Verse Commentary on the Gospels by The Early Church!


The Golden ChainThe Catena Aurea (also called The Golden Chain) is a tremendous resource for any pastor or believer who desires to know how the early church understood scripture.  It is a verse by verse commentary on the four Gospels by the church fathers that was compiled by Thomas Aquinas.

For each of the four Gospel writers, the Catena Aurea starts by indicating the verses to be analyzed, then phrase-by-phrase, provides the early Fathers’ insights into the passage. It includes the work of over eighty Church Fathers.

The four volume set will cost you about $150, but thanks to Catechetics online, you can read these works for FREE!

Here is a sample of their commentary on John 3:16-19

16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  18. He that believes in him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Read the rest of this entry

Great Resource Alert: The Writings of the Early Church All In One Place and FREE!


The Writings of the Early ChurchIntroducing a GREAT resource:  Early Christian Writings

Early Christian Writings is the most complete collection of Christian texts before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The site provides translations and commentary for these sources, including the New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers, and some non-Christian references

If you want to read ANY work from the first 325 years of church history, you will find it at this site.  Free.

 

The Top 10 Posts of 2014


 

Not for itching ears top 10 2014That’s right, my friends.  The following post contains our own version of the Top 10 list:  The top 10 posts written at Not For Itching Ears this year.  We want to thank all of you for taking time to visit our site, read the articles, like them and comment on them.  It means a lot to us and it makes blogging fun!

We work hard on all our posts and are glad when they get attention. Starting it off, we have  Questioning Our Protestant Tradition of Sola Scriptura.  We wrote it in December and it is this year’s winner in two categories.  The most read and the most commented on.   In fact, it received more comments than any post ever.  All time!  Surprisingly, the debate was friendly.

We didn’t expect the About Jim  page to get a lot of activity and boy were we wrong!  Who knew? It is the 10th entry this year.  There are some thought provoking articles in between those two.  You may or may not agree with our conclusions, and that is perfectly fine.  We want Not For Itching Ears to be a place to discuss the issues without the name calling that is sadly typical in the blogosphere.  We might not agree on anything, but it is enriching to discuss the issues, get clarity on other peoples positions and agree to disagree if need be.

So without further commentary, here are our Top 10 Posts of 2014!

Our Top 10 Post of 2014

Questioning Our Protestant Tradition of Sola Scriptura

Worship: Why Your Church Is Failing And What You Can Do About It

Is the Casual Approach to Church Producing Casual Christians?

Why God Might Not Be Concerned About Our Doctrinal Differences

Idol Worship: How Your Church May Be Doing It and How To Fix It

It’s Official: People Don’t Want to Sing So Much on Sundays

God Doesn’t Need Our Worship….We Need It!

How To Get More Men into Your Church Service…the Easy Way

An Open Letter to the Worship Leaders in the Evangelical Church

About Jim  

Are the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Views on How One is Saved Actually That Different?


What-must-I-do-to-be-saved Not for itching ears

Not Really!

I am beginning to think that there is less disagreement between the Protestant view and the Catholic / Orthodox view on salvation than we realize.

The misunderstanding is a result of how each part of the church defines “salvation.”

When a Protestant talks about “being saved”, “getting saved”, “accepting Christ” or any other number of terms we use for this, we are primarily referring to the idea of forgiveness of sins. Our sins are forgiven when we “come to Christ”. We have been ‘saved” from sins eternal penalty.  We can not earn this forgiveness of sins, it is a merciful free gift from God and we resist anything that makes it look like it must be earned.

In this sense Salvation IS an event, we have been forgiven of our sins!  However, Read the rest of this entry

Questioning Our Protestant Tradition of Sola Scriptura


Not for itching ears Sola ScripturaNothing but Scripture?

It is becoming apparent to me that no church, no theologian, no follower of Christ actually lives out their faith based on the idea of Sola Scriptura.

Sola scriptura as a principle states that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian.   The Protestants among us recognize this and embrace it wholeheartedly.  It sounds good on paper.  It really does.  Why do we need anything but the Scriptures to help us form the doctrinal positions that shape our faith?  “WE DON’T” shout the reformers among us!

The problem with their answer is it is demonstrably not true.   I’ve never met anyone who actually practices this idea and neither have you. The New Testament church certainly did not.  Read the rest of this entry

Can You See The Difference Between Contemporary Worship and Early Church Worship?


Contemporary worship vs Early Worship

Inspiring Lives From Church History: Perpetua, Felicitas and Their Companions a MUST Read account!


perpetuas victoryPeople have been living and dying for Christ for over 2000 years and history is full of wonderful examples of men and women who followed Christ faithfully. We can learn a lot from studying their lives. Yet, there is something truly compelling about those who suffer for Him and pay the ultimate price for their faith.

When I read the historical record of what some of these ancient brothers and sisters went through, it challenges me deeply. I often wonder how I would respond in such situations. I guess we won’t ever know unless and until we find ourselves in the same place. The one thing I can say with certainty is Read the rest of this entry

What a Prayer! Not Bad for Being 1600 Years old!


sould foodI often find nourishment for my faith when I read and pray through old prayers. Sure, the church has changed over the years. What it means to follow Christ in a fallen world hasn’t. Those who have faithfully walked the walk before us down through the ages, though gone, can still minister to us. One of the ways this can happen is when we read and prayer the prayers they left behind.

Today, I share with you a 1600 year old prayer from Basil The Great.  I have updated it for the modern reader.  The Thee’s and Thou’s have been changed.

O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation,
Who, because of Your clemency and incomparable mercy,
did send Your Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind,
and with His venerable Cross did tear asunder the record of our sins,
and thereby did conquer the rulers and powers of darkness;

receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication,
and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression,
and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us.

Nail down our flesh with fear of You,
and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil,
but pierce our souls with Your love, that ever contemplating You, being enlightened by You, and discerning You, the unapproachable and everlasting Light,
we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to You:

The eternal Father,
with Your Only-Begotten Son,
and with Your All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit,

now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Amen

Is Worship A Life Well Lived or A Song Well Sung?


worshipasasong2We love to discuss those things we are passionate about, don’t we? Be it our favorite football team (THE Washington Redskins), politics, sports, movies, cultural issues. Heck we even argue about beer! Remember the Miller Lite commercials? For years, Miller Lite drinkers, including the likes of Rodney Dangerfield and John Madden, bickered back and forth on our TV sets. The argument? What made Miller Lite such a great beer. Some said the drink tasted great. Others said it was less filling. Though they were very entertaining commercials, it makes one wonder: Don’t we have anything better to discuss than beer?

Of course we do! Over here at Not For Itching Ears, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about a topic that is higher up the food chain: Worshipping God. If you read these posts (millions of people do each hour) Read the rest of this entry

Why God Might Not Be Concerned About Our Doctrinal Differences


blog-oh-my-god“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

I asked, as my friend looked on in utter disbelief at what had just been said. We had been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I have lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)

“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!

I can’t argue with that!

What perplexes me though, is that there are so many different types of churches. Clearly a lack of unity within THE church has eluded us. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That is a pretty significant difference. We can’t all agree on how many books are actually in God’s Holy Word! That also seems significant. Some of the churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with one’s salvation, while others teach that it has a lot to do with it, still others are somewhere in-between. Maybe it is just how I think about things, but I would have to say this one is a critical difference of doctrine. We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.

Then we have us Protestants who agree to disagree!

We agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We believe there is such an important and critical thing as the Atonement, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe that people worked miracles, but can’t seem to agree on when or IF that has stopped. We can’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship. We can’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ. We can’t agree on what it means to follow Christ. We don’t agree on a host of important issues.

The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects that argue amongst themselves and who can’t seem to agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is foolish and wishful thinking.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion.   It would seem the Father didn’t answer that one in the affirmative. Or am I missing something?

Why would God have allowed that to happen?

Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost.

If the church is so important to Him, and if the purity of the Gospel and the doctrinal teachings that stem from understanding it correctly matter so much, why didn’t he step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Church? Why would God allow the church to embrace a false gospel that would consign its followers to hell? Why didn’t he intervene? Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.

Of Course Catholics believe that the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church had existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther and the young punk come along and want to change the whole thing. It is understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.

Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. Make no mistake about it; God knew what the result would be of doing nothing to stop these movements. Because of the omniscient nature of God, combined with His foreknowledge, the ensuing doctrinal mess would not have surprised him. He knew it would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!

We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.

But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split. It is not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. In all three cases, God allowed it to stand. In all three instances, The Father had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to. Even when, in the case of the Reformers, God knew that a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal disunity would surely result if He did not act. Still, he refrained.

This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Most assuredly, the doctrinal differences we have killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God?

Before you get the kindling and light the match to burn me alive at the stake for the heretic that I am, realize that I am not saying that God does not care about the Gospel or the church. That is not what I am saying at all. Actually, I don’t know what to think about all this. This is a conversation I have been having, largely in my own mind, for quite some time. I thought I would put it out there for others to interact with and see how you might approach the topic.

Why do you think God did nothing to stop any of these movements?

Read another thought provoking post on worship:  God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!

Can You Write a Better Worship Song Than These Song Writers? We Don’t Think So


Enjoy this satirical look at modern worship lyrics. Song writers were challenged to write a worship song using the name of Soap Opera’s as their dominant lyrics. Hilarious, and surprisingly similar to the typical worship song being written and sung in churches across the USA.