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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

Warning: Reading the Early Church Writings May Challenge Your Faith (So don’t it!)


“Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Or so the saying goes. In essence it means that those who don’t consider the past, when making choices in the present, will likely arrive at similarly bad conclusions. This phrase strikes a chord with many. Perhaps it is because we tend to always look forward, seldom pausing to consider the past. Part of our DNA seems to include the belief that the next best thing is just up on the horizon. Who can blame us? Isn’t it often true? At least with technology it is. The next generation computer, or Iphone or IPad is going to be better than the previous one. Things we build seem to improve over time, as we discover new ways of making them faster, smaller, bigger, cheaper, and more reliable.

Many within the evangelical Christian community seem to adopt this same belief when it comes to understanding Christianity and how that applies to our corporate lives. We are often looking for the next thing, God’s next move, a “new and improved, better than the old” way of Read the rest of this entry

The Last Thing God NEEDS is YOUR Worship


nada-zip-zilchNothing

Zip

Nada

Zero

Zilch

Nil

That’s how much your worship of God adds to God. Your “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him. Put another way, God doesn’t need your worship. In fact God doesn’t need anything from us: our money, our time, our dedication, our service.

Theologians refer to this as God’s Independence:

“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.” Grudem, Systematic Theology.

The New Testament states it this way:

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25

Is God An Egomaniac?

Think about this: If God does not need our worship, why does he require that we worship him and him alone?

Is it because he is the ultimate egomaniac?

Is it because he loves to hear the sound of his own name on the lips of his adoring fans?

No. When we look at God’s acts in history that is not the picture we see. It must be something else.

We All Worship Something

Humans are pretty predictable. We are the ultimate evaluators. We evaluate everything in life and prioritize them according to what we think is best. For example, I highly value guitars. But I value my wife and children more. There is really no comparison; I rank family higher in importance. What do I value more than family? Whatever the answer to that questions is, I may value something even more than that. I can keep going up the ladder of importance until I finally reach that one thing I esteem more than anything or anyone else.

Whatever that thing or person is, that is what we worship. We all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves!

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

I submit to you that God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him. I think that is why God demands our devotion. There is no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him. It has been said that we become like that which we worship. God, in his mercy, created us to become like him. If that is going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most.

Looking at worship this way means leads us to conclude that worship, though directed at God, is truly meant to serve humanity.

We are to worship God, not ourselves.

But God demands our worship, NOT for himself but for the good of his people.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

On a side note, that is one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship. It has the potential to truly shape us, but we often squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.

It May Be A Legal Right, But it Seems Wrong, Doesn’t it?


Aborted Baby2“Give the priest your newborn child! He will place it into Molech’s hands as your offering. You are not allowed to weep as the infant is burned alive. Instead, rejoice as you seek his favor!”

I cannot imagine what that scene would be like. Watching somebody sacrifice their newborn child would be a totally new category for me. What feelings would be aroused as I stood there and witnessed a human infant being placed ALIVE into the white hot iron hands of Molech and then burned alive? Would I rush to the child’s defense? Would I try to talk his/her parents out of it? Would I accept the fact that they could do anything they wanted with their child and leave them be? Would I turn my eyes away or would I watch it unfold? Would I shrug my shoulders in indifference? What would you do? Read the rest of this entry

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

Poll: Are You Attending Church More or Less These Days?


Why Christians are Leaving ChurchIn a recent post, we discussed a study that concluded Christians and non-Christians are both attending church services much less today.   If you missed that compelling post, you can read it here: Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches.

Today we want to give you a chance to chime in on the topic, and we have two polls that allow you to do that.  The first one asks if you are attending church more or less these days.  There are several answers.  Please don’t answer the way you would like to be able to answer or how you think you should answer.  Just the way it really is in your life at this moment.

The second poll asks why you are attending church less.  You have several option here as well, even an “other” where you can write in your answer.  There is also an answer for “I am attending church MORE”  and “I am attending about the same”

Thank you for voting and please feel free to share these polls with your readers or re-blog this post.  If you look at the results so far, it seems to coincide with the study.  The more answers the better, so share away!

Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches


Why Christians are Leaving ChurchThe church may want to stop focusing on those elusive and extremely sensitive “seekers” for a while, because now, even believers are starting to leave the church.

We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then.  Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen.  But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.

In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you.  I warn you:  Brace yourself!

I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective.   In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.

“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”

When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:

  • Prayer
  • Family or friends
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Even having children

But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.

That is staggering in its implication.  Christians of all Read the rest of this entry

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?


If Your Church Eliminated Singing, Would You Find a New Church?


A Prayer to Jesus from the 1400’s: Be Everything to Me, Lord!


lifechangeSoul of Christ, sanctify me.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, inebriate me.

Water from the side of Christ, wash me.

Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

O Good Jesus, hear me.

Within your wounds hide me.

Permit me not to be separated from you.

From the wicked foe, defend me.

At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to you

That with your saints I may praise you For ever and ever.

Amen.

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

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

A Very Old Prayer for Your New Year!


Guide me on the journey4The following New Years prayer was first offered back in the 1700’s. It is from the largely forgotten deposit of the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These people knew God and they certainly knew how to pray. We can learn a lot from them. They are written in old english. I have updated a few outdated words and changed the Thee’s and Thou’s to make it more 2015. However, they still have the feel of that era. This prayer, along with many others, can be found in a book titled “The Valley of Vision”, by Arthur Bennet… 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