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Sometimes Our Biggest Problems are Staring us in the Face!


Life's biggest problems

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

The Whole World Stops For 4 Weeks Tomorrow. So Must We


world-cup-2014Every four years, the world effectively shuts down for the greatest sports event on the planet.

What is that event?  Most Americans can’t answer that question so we share the answer here:

The World Cup!

That time is upon us, it starts on Thursday.

Not many people know this, but over here at Not For Itching Ears, we are hard core futbol, or soccer fans. We watch every single game. No matter what time the game is on, we watch it.   What’s not to like about it?  204 teams compete over a three year period to win an invitation to the World Cup, which happens every 4 years.  The host country team gets  in free.    So there is some great competition.

To make room in our schedule, Not For Itching Ears will be on vacation until the World Cup ends.  We have priorities, so we will also be foregoing all yard work.  All items on the “Honey Do” List have been temporarily removed.   We were supposed to be in Brasil for the games, but alas, we are not!

Soccer is God’s greatest gift for world evangelism.  It is an instant conversation starter.  Just ask ANY non-American, male or female, who they are rooting for or what they think or their countries chances and you’ll have a 5 – 10 minute conversation about soccer.  After that, the rest is up to you.

Our staff is rooting for in this order:

1. The USA and Ecuador (it’s a tie actually) Neither will win, but Ecuador has the best chance of advancing out of their group.  Sadly, the USA is in the “Group of Death”

2. Any South American Country

The teams we most want to lose: Ghana, (sorry friends, you have beaten us one to many times) and Mexico. You can’t throw beer bottles at the USA team on their home field in the USA and expect us NOT to despise your team (we love you though!)

Take my advice: Stop blogging for a month and enjoy the World Cup. See you Mid-July!  If you don’t know much about it check out this article on the Ten things Non-Soccer Fans Need To Know About the World Cup. 

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

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


nada-zip-zilchNothing

Zip

Nada

Zero

Zilch

Nil

That’s how much our worship of God adds to God.  Our “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him.  Put another way, God doesn’t need our 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 doesn’t need our worship, why does he require it?

Is it because he’s the ultimate egomaniac?

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’s 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!

God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him.  That’s why God demands our devotion.  There’s no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him.  We become like the one we worship.  God, in his mercy, created us to become like him.  If that’s going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our “Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most” list.

Looking at worship this way means leads to the understanding 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’s one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship.  It has the potential to profoundly shape us. Yet, we squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.

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!

Two Different Views of Salvation: Protestant vs Orthodox – Which Makes More Sense to You?


If you are like me, you might not even know what the Orthodox Church is!

The Orthodox view salvation and the purpose of mankind through a different lens than most Protestants do. In this short video, you will see a very accurate portrayal of mainstream protestant soteriology which you will recognize immediately. You will also be introduced to the Orthodox view.

After you watch it, come back and share your thoughts about the video. Which view best represents the Gospel in your opinion?

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


American Idolatry_revised“If it feels good, do it!”

This has been one of our favorite slogans since the 1960’s.  It seems that the American church has adopted a similar pragmatic view for church: “If it makes people come to church, we should do it.” Today, church leaders of every persuasion are willing to try anything if it works in drawing more people into their services.  If it “works” then it must be fine and stamped with the  approval of God Himself.

I can hear you now saying “Of course this is true!  Why on earth wouldn’t it be?”

Because it wasn’t!

One of the things that is clear for any to examine is that… Read the rest of this entry

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


Failing worship gradeFrom my view in the cheap seats, it seems that what it means to worship God has become open to interpretation.

Can I worship God any way I want to?

Does church leadership have biblical authority to design a worship service anyway they think is best?

Judging by the state of worship in the American Evangelical church, the answer is Yes to both questions. And boy do we ever take this permission seriously!

It would appear  that Read the rest of this entry

Do You Know How The Early Church (Pre-150AD) Spotted a False Prophet?


Not For Itching Ears-false-prophetTest your knowledge of early church history in our latest poll.

There are 5 answers to choose from.  Only one is correct, based on the “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentles by the  Twelve Apostles” or what is more commonly called the “Didache” and other early church writings.  The Didache is a well received document from the early church.  The date of its writing is hard to determine, but most scholars put it somewhere between 50 AD and 150 AD, very close to the time of the Apostles. It is not part of the Bible, but it is a very good document to read if you want to learn how the early church understood the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.

Can you identify the correct answer?  There is only one correct answer in our poll, but that does not mean there were not other indicators.  There is only one correct answer in this poll.

So, how did the church identify a false prophet in the 2nd century?

 

Take the poll and then go here for the answer

It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.

They Devoted Themselves to What?


disbelief not for itching earsI’ve never heard of this translation before and I don’t think it is correct. It does seem to accurately reflect the direction of the church in the USA though. Here’s a quote of Acts 2:42-45 from the New Testament For Today’s Christianity.  Check the Greek and you decide. Read the rest of this entry

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


bethechurch“Whatever Works!” 

That is the take many younger pastors have on Paul’s “I have become all things to all men…” mission strategy.   Now, we take it to the next level.

It is always a challenge to get men to attend church.  They just don’t want to come.  They see it as a complete waste of their precious time.  Yet, somehow we must reach them. I absolutely believe THAT!  But how to do it?  Perhaps a little creativity is in order.  So, if you don’t mind thinking waaaaay outside the box, or care about church history or any parameters the Scriptures might lay out, try these pragmatic suggestions.  Several studies suggest that this new approach will pack the house. Read the rest of this entry

Leaders: You Can Make Your Public Prayers More Meaningful


write your prayersWhen I was a new worship leader, I prepared like crazy for Wednesday nights and Sunday Mornings! I made sure the music charts were written out and CORRECT and that everyone had the one they needed. I would play through the songs multiple times on my own and work on any tough parts. I would create interesting modulation changes! This was all before we even rehearsed the team. Probably like most worship leaders, I took it seriously and prepared everything.

Except for any prayers!

Prayer was the one thing I didn’t need to think about ahead of time. I could always pray in front of others. I had no fear of it, loved doing it, and could make it up on the fly. I was good at it. Or so I thought.

Then one day, it happened.

I listened to several of my preaching tapes, and I was horrified at Read the rest of this entry

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


lucy surprise“We sing too much in church!”

Whenever I say this, those who hear me have one of two responses.  The first one is absolute total agreement, usually told to me via a whisper in the ear or a hand written note that self destructs after I have read it.  There can be NO evidence of this solidarity.

The second response is a casual search for matches, wood and rope so I can be burned alive at the stake as a heretic.  OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit about the first response, people don’t actually pass me a note that self destructs, but you get the idea!

If you have spend any amount of time on Not For Itching Ears, then you are aware of our thoughts on corporate worship and the need to reform it.  We thought it would be a good idea to create some polls about various aspects of corporate church life, and see what readers thought.    So, we created several of them.  The results are still coming in, but so far Read the rest of this entry

Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off The Moral Hook


I'm Right and You're WrongI feel like I need to get something off my chest.   It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.

You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:

Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?

I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.

Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?

Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!

What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?

Whenever I hear that, I  feel like saying “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”

This article was not written by us over here at NotForItchingEars.com.  I found it over at www.Careynieuwhof.com.  You can read the article on Carey’s site here:  http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/02/why-christians-should-let-non-christians-off-the-moral-hook/  I think he makes some great points in this article, and I thought it was worth reposting.  So here it is:

Think it through.

Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.

Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100% agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:

1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do. It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite, because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.

2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place). Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christians friends. Is that a surprise, really? I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live? Exactly.

3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

4. Judging outsiders is unChristian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

So what can you do?

1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them. Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.

2. Empathize with non-Christians. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are you might be doing exactly what the non Christians in your neighbourhood are doing. Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.

3. Hang out with non-Christians. Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence. As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith. I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.

4. Pray for unchurched people. It is impossible to remain enemies with someone you genuinely pray for daily.

5. Live out your faith authentically. Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.

I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.

And, then, the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.

Visit Carey’s site for more of his take on Church life and Christianity:  http://careynieuwhof.com/

Saturday Soup for the Soul


sould foodFor Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I Cor. 5:7b-8

9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:9-11

20 Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. I Cor. 15:20-22

Inspiring Lives From Church History: Hesychius 300AD


The_Christian_Martyrs_Last_Prayer_by_leon_geromePeople 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 that Read the rest of this entry

Are You Running from God in The Valley of Transformation?


running from dangerDuring the 1996 Superbowl, Nissan launched its now famous “Life is A Journey, Enjoy the Ride” advertising campaign. In the two-minute spot, a young boy finds himself in an underground garage, where a mysterious man shows him some old cars. As the boy begins to leave, the old man offers him a parting word of sage advice: (You have to say this with a thick Japanese accent for the full effect) “Remember….Life is a journey. Enjoy…..the ride.”

Of course the commercial was designed to sell Nissan’s, so people could “enjoy the ride” in a nice car! It had a different impact on one young pastor who was watching.

I paused to reflect on my life and the journey I was on Read the rest of this entry