Blog Archives

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 Calvin

Total: Completely, Absolutely

Inability: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity

It’s true that humanity can’ 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 how does it work? Nobody knows and those who say they do don’t understand what they’re saying. How God works this out in humanity lies within the mystery of God himself.

Calvin, and the the followers he inspired, believe this means humanity can not even respond to God unaided. People must first be born again and then after that, exercise faith in Christ. One can’t 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 human beings do not have the capacity to desire God, to obey Him or answer when He calls. I have wrestled with this pretty much all of my Christian life for several reasons. Three of which I now share here.

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

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.

 

Blogging Tips 101: Becoming A Better Blogger


Becoming a Better BloggerYou will love it and hate it.

It is both rewarding and frustrating.

You will see it as a good investment of your time and a gigantic waste of your time all in the same week.

You may want to give it up and you will think  you can’t live without it.

Welcome to the world of blogging.  Can we sign you up?

I started this blog back in 2010 with my very first post, Whatever Happened to the Message of The Cross?  Since then, we have posted hundreds of articles and had thousands of comments and conversations.  I have experienced every single one of the things mentioned in the first paragraph of this post!  Yet I am still here, typing out my thoughts.  Even after all this time, I still love blogging!

If you are reading this, you are either new to blogging or you have been doing it a for a while.  Either way, I want to help you become a better blogger.  I am not talking about writing better blog posts.  Rather, I want to share my thoughts on how YOU can become a better blogging person!  I am going to assume you already know what your topics are, and where to go to get help to become a better writer.  I want to help you become a better blogger so that your experience blogging is as enriching and rewarding as it can be.  So here is my advice: Read the rest of this entry

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  

The Early Church Teaches Us…How To Pray! Instructions on the Lord’s Prayer from the 300’s


not for itching ears It's Old but it still goodIt’s old….But it is still GOOD!

Quite good as a matter of fact.

Recently I read through perhaps the earliest Catechism of the church, St Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechism c. 350ad. The only possible earlier one still in existence today is the Didache, though some people dispute that being a Catechism.

Reading through that was simply amazing. I will be sharing a lot on this in upcoming posts. Today, I wanted to give you a taste. Enjoy Cyril’s instruction on what the Lord’s Prayer means. You might be a little surprised! Read the rest of this entry

Sometimes Our Biggest Problems are Staring us in the Face!


Life's biggest problems

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

Worship Leaders: It IS all about YOU!


All about youLike it or not, if you are the worship leader at your church, it IS all..about…you!  Just not in the way you would expect.

You are in charge of planning, preparing and executing one third to one half of the entire service.  How well you do that is essential to the people you are charged with leading week after week.

I know there is a lot more to being a good song leader than what the congregations hears on Sunday morning.  It takes a lot of work away from the stage to create a service that effectively inspires God’s people to worship rather than being entertained.  The responsibility for that lies squarely on your shoulders.  In that sense, it IS all about you.  It is about how you view the gathering and how you prepare for it.

Choosing Better Songs

If you want the majority of the men and women in the congregation to sing with the team, you Read the rest of this entry

Is the Casual Approach to Church Producing Casual Christians?


it's worseIt is worse than it looks!

It doesn’t  matter which study you read about the church, because they all say pretty much the same thing:  The church is in decline.

The church is in trouble.  I don’t need to read a study to know this.  I have observed it over the years in countless churches that I have visited.  Churches are weak and though they may have exciting services, they are largely failing to develop strong, grounded and mature Christians.  The church at large (there are exceptions, of course) is also failing to impact the lost around her.

The statistics on this are over-whelming and should stop every pastor and leader dead in their tracks so that we immediately fall on our knees to cry out to the Lord “What are we doing wrong?”  Sooner or later that will have to happen.  Let’s pray it is the former!

Is This Decline the Result of a Flawed Church Model?

I have a theory.  It goes something like this:  The decline we are seeing in the church is directly related to 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