Friday, March 23, 2007

Attwood, movie star!

then click on "video brochure"

Well, I still believe I'll keep my day job.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bonhoeffer on Life and Death

Whenever Christ calls us, he leads us to death.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

War and homosexuality arose in our fellowship last week. My point was that yes, indeed, it is apostasy to give hearty approval to sexual perversion, which homosexuality is, but when Paul talks about it, the ground of his teaching is how God has washed and set apart to himself homosexuals, extortioners, immoral people, murderers, and such like. So if that's not happening in your church, if homosexuals are not coming and finding real freedom along with these others, then you and your church need to shut up about this until they do.

And if it's not OK to give hearty approval to homosexuality, it's not OK to give hearty approval to aggression and the robbery, domination, and murder of other people so that we can be good friends of this world. That's at least as contrary to the Bible as the other - everyone agrees that Hitler's aggressions and mass murders were a more serious matter than his homosexuality, which no one even cares about in comparison, not even Dobson, Robertson, or Falwell.

Christians read in 2 John 10-11 the following: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds."

Accordingly, they won't let a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness in their house because they're wrong about the doctrine of the Trinity and some other things like that. But they send greetings and encouragement to American soldiers who are wantonly killing thousands of people and subjecting millions of others to a regime of daily terror that they sure wouldn't want in their neighborhoods. In giving them such encouragement - totally contrary to how Jesus said to do to others as we want done to ourselves - they certainly become partakers in their evil deeds. Talk about straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

In truth, it's fine to invite the Mormon or JW into your house and share the word of truth with them, agreeing where we can and disagreeing otherwise in mercy and truth. And it is certainly right to show kindness to soldiers, just as Jesus did to Roman soldiers in his day, but in such a way that does not encourage them in the evil work they have been sent to do. If I were in Baghdad, I would not hesitate to hand one of the occupiers my cell phone to call home, but he wouldn't think I was praising his activities, which bring bloodguilt on me and every other American citizen.

It's just essential not to make people feel good about doing evil, because "a flattering tongue works ruin." In Acts 12 we read that 16 soldiers were guarding Peter so that Herod could lead him to execution after Passover. The angel of the Lord rescued Peter and Herod "examined the guards and ordered that they be led away." That "examination" may well be imagined. Being good soldiers and obeying orders did not save them; it destroyed them. Jesus did not send us into the world to teach men to blindly follow orders like them, thereby making us guilty of their blood.

The Bible does give us some models. For instance, Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, and when he was healed by Elisha, he became a worshipper of God and pleaded with Elisha about his situation. So when he had to go to war against Israel, God rescued him in a remarkable way from doing evil, causing his entire army to be captured with no one's death and then sent home, ending the war (2 Kings 6:8-23).

It costs a lot for soldiers in a war of aggression not to participate, especially if they have no other skills. But it's hard for a prostitute to walk away from that life, and yet that's the death Jesus calls her to. Christians all agree, don't they? And it's a big thing to tell a homosexual to walk away from his lover of 20 years, isn't it? How then can we tell him to do that while we agree that it's OK for the soldier to keep on terrorizing and dominating other people made in God's image just like us?

Bonhoeffer is right. Jesus always calls us to our death - the prostitute, the homosexual, and the soldier in the imperial army too.

And he calls to our death anyone who speaks such truth. How can I tell the prostitute to walk away from that life if I'm not ready to help her do so? That will cost me. How can I call the homosexual out of that life if I'm not ready to offer him a better and truer one. That will cost me too. And how can I call American Christians out of their commitment to militarism and bloodshed, their religion of human sacrifice, without it costing me? I don't know how to talk to these people without being impatient and needlessly rough. I can't say it's OK; I can't pretend it's no big deal. God just does not blow off innocent blood, so I can't either, but how do I really help them out of that?

I do know that I don't have it right, and that I'm going to have to die some to find out.

"Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to OUR death."

And as it happens, it's the only way to our life. The proverb, often quoted by Christians, rightly says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death." And why is that? Because the way that seems right to each of us is to avoid the death to which Jesus calls us, and that death is the only way to life.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Cheap grace, costly grace

Cheap grace is grace without the cross, grace without the living incarnate Jesus Christ. Costly grace is the gospel. It costs people their lives. It cost the life of God's son, and nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

How do we manage without the cross? The Christoids readily supply the answers. Religious enthusiasm and exciting music just as it is written, "They sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play" - before their own understanding of God, the calf which they had made. Sacrifices and hard work instead of listening to what God actually says, like the scribe and Levite passing by on the other side to keep themselves ritually pure, and like Martha thinking it was more important to run around and do things instead of listening to Jesus. And as Bohoeffer most immediately had in mind, being careful to fit in with our "fellow Christians," like the German Christians giving the Hitler salute in their churches and showing what loyal and patriotic Germans they were - the words of Jesus be damned - so that we have the assurance that we're pleasing God because our crowd all agrees.

This all involves lots of work, lots of ways to suck up and earn the praise of men. We can do all this and prove to ourselves that any inconvenience and pain involved shows that we love God - being very careful not to let what God says lead us into lonely and unpopular places.

But how do we know we actually love Jesus? Listen to the man himself: "If you love me you will keep my commandments."

That means that if we're not keeping his commandments we are not loving him. All the stuff that we do is just religious garbage. If you want to know how you feel about Jesus, and about his Father, just read Matthew, chapters 5-7. You love him if you're doing those things, and if you're not, you don't. Does anybody love Jesus, as he sees it? And is there any other way to see it?

The reason we hate Jesus is that we do understand - very well - that he calls us to follow him to the cross. What does that look like each day?

Turning his gaze on his disciples, he was saying:

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."

Why? Because the rich in this world have their kingdom in this world. Our religious leaders don't even hide it, referring to "their churches" and "their ministries" - their own kingdoms. When they attain this, when they fill the pews with their own disciples and admirers, they feel successful and spiritual - being no longer poor and therefore alien to God's kingdom as they possess their own.

"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh."

If we're not hungry now, when God is hungry, we're being fed by the world, and the world only feeds us when we give it what it wants. That always means we're not giving God what he wants, because he does not want us spreading our legs for the world in order to receive its consolations so that we don't need God's comfort. "Whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself the enemy of God" (James 4:4).

"Blessed are you when men hate you and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day, and leap, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way their fathers used to do to the prophets."

Do you feel blessed in these circumstances, as Jesus says his disciples are, or is your relationship with God so non-existent that you can't imagine knowing that God is pleased with you unless the crowd of fellow "Christians" around you is assuring you of how wonderful you are - even though the Bible is extremely clear that such approval by all is experienced only by the false prophets and their disciples?

"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also,; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold from him your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to do to you, do to them in the same way."

Look long and carefully. This is what grace costs you. It's costly. We can't be his disciples and stay as we are except for what we don't like about ourselves. Nice, tame little Jesus giving us success in self-improvement has nothing to do with Jesus.

Then again, grace is truly free. All this works when God shows up, as he did for Jesus. And he will show up for us exactly when we show up for him, as Isaiah 1:16-8 and 1 John 1:5-10 do promise us.

John the apostle testified that these commandments are NOT burdensome - and they're not if we learn from Jesus how to do them. We do these things by coming to Jesus as he told us to do and being given his rest (Matthew 11:28-30). That rest will be ours as we learn to do the truth in which he found rest himself - and no other way.

Cheap grace is the "grace" we give ourselves and each other apart from God. Jesus describes it as follows:

"Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to do to the false prophets."

John the apostle advised, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I, readers, have sought to be rich, have sought to be well-fed, have sought to laugh now, and have sought to have all men speak well of me. How about you?

In so doing we have sought multiple dimensions of eternal woe, beginning right now in this life. Can we afford grace this cheap?


Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Peace and safety"

"Peace and safety," the slogan of the disciples of Antichrist (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Antichrist, whose doctrine is peace and safety for ourselves by waging war on others and terrorizing them with the sword, freedom for ourselves by leading others into captivity (Revelation 13:10).

I begin here a series based on the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spoke truth to the power of the Nazis while his fellow "Christians" almost all deserted the gospel to follow German nationalism.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace has to be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. Battles are won not with weapons, but with God.

Well, that's why we delight in war (Psalm 120), and hate peace, isn't it? He's talking about us, not others, isn't he? Let's break down this remarkable statement one thought at a time.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety.

But the Bible does acknowledge that we need safety, doesn't it? God says to the righteous, "I will set him in the safety for which he longs" (Psalm 12:5).

But Jesus says, "I am the way," not "safety is the way." It is certain that he said that because he had found for himself that his Father is the way (and we too are called in this way to become the truth we live). The way of safety and Jesus the Way are not identical! We pick one or we pick the other. In Matthew 24:12-13, Jesus makes our choice here the whole issue, the one thing that decides whether we are saved or perish: Because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

It's simple. Those who are not provoked by lawlessness to stop loving and to protect themselves and assure their own safety in this world - who endure to the end in the word of Jesus (John 8:31-32) - will be saved. Those who worship the god of their own security will always endanger and terrorize others to do so, violating the command of Jesus. For all their zeal for him, filling their churches and shouting "Lord, Lord," he will say "I never knew you, you workers of iniquity."

That end is maybe not safety after all, is it? The only real safety is under the Father's love, and he loves and keeps us when we keep his commandments. He gives us safety, but not as the world gives, not as we give it to ourselves.

For peace has to be dared.

Yes, but not proudly. We'll dare peace as we confess how we love war, how we love our cowardice that causes us to shrink back from the word of God to protect ourselves and violently force everyone else to change so that we don't have to, to make every one else take risks so that we can keep feeling secure in our illusions. We must dare to learn and confess the truth about ourselves, no longer calling ourselves right and true by calling everyone around us evil and liars, even God (1 John 1:6-10).

It is the great venture.

As Paul wrote, "He is our peace." It turns out that finding Jesus and finding peace is exactly the same. It is the great venture. Nothing else is worthy of human beings. We are made for this. In so doing we become truly human as well as partaking in the divine nature, because it doesn't happen unless God himself is around, who made the heavens and the earth, and who alone is able to do this great thing in us. "If you continue in my word, you shall be my disiples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

It can never be safe.

The first thing everybody knows about Jesus is that the truth took him to the cross. We all know that if we follow him, we'll wind up there too. In fact, we find out that to follow Jesus is to carry it on our way, the cross like Jesus himself being our way, not just our destination. We are tasting of it every day, and if we won't go there, we'll wave goodbye, even if we hide our falling away under any amount of religious excitement and zealous actions

To walk with Jesus is indeed to walk in the valley of the shadow of death - all the time. But that's exactly when and where we learn that he is our shepherd. Read the 23rd Psalm. All those good things are for those who will walk with him in the valley of the shadow of death. If we won't let him take us there, we can kiss off all the rest.

Peace is the opposite of security.

Peace grows out of being in the truth with God and with others. That guarantees that all who hate the truth because they have other priorities will hate us too, because we are becoming the truth that they hate. Security that the world gives is what people rely on to live with being without hope and without God in the world. If you pick that, you have fallen from grace; you have decided to make it without God. Take a long look at this choice. You remember the guy in the Indiana Jones movie who picked the wrong chalice? Don't let the old knight say of you,
"He chose poorly."

To demand guarantees is to mistrust and this mistrust in turn brings forth war.

Of course we ought to mistrust lots of folks. We ought to mistrust the devil, and the promise of wonderful things when we yield to the temptaion to do evil. We ought to mistrust our own deceitful hearts, which are so expert at rationalizing folly to our own destruction. We ought most of all to distrust the guarantees and security that this world offers or that we can devise through our own schemes.

We demand guarantees becuase we do not trust the love of God who made us and will never deal falsely with anyone. People demand guarantees of us only because they do not trust us, and that's why we demand guarantees of the true God.

It's not a problem to feel that way. But it is a problem not to bring it up. Real trust begins with telling God and other people that we don't trust them, and why. You can't always trust other people to handle it if you confess your mistrust of them - but God has heard this before. He can handle it. Tell God you don't trust hium today! Don't forget to tell him why, and to give him a chance to answer, just as you want other folks to do to you.

Battles are won not with weapons, but with God.

Weapons are what we rely on when we think God won't show up. So before we pick up the weapon, we'd best work out why we think God won't show up, and how we can imagine anything can work out right if he doesn't. We can't pick up the weapoin safely until we know how to live without it. The conquest of Canaan started with crossing the Jordan dryshod with just the hand of the invisible God holding back the water, and then everyone being circumcised at Gilgal in the midst of their enemies so that they were perfectly helpless - protected by nothing but God's invisible hand.

You can't pick up the sword without it turning you into a devil and killing you, until you know that kind of shepherd's care.

Maybe we're right to think God won't show up for us. Maybe for the same reasons we wouldn't expect him to show up to help others with their schemes.

Well, that's where the real battle is, isn't it: what is wrong with us that makes us deserve to lose? Shouldn't we ask that question often? Don't we wish everybody did?

Our first battle is to work things out with the God of truth so that we don't deserve to lose. We'll find out in that process that some of these battles aren't God's battles, that we're fighting for Satan or our own fearful lusts, and that we don't have to fight them. That's peace, by any definition - for things to be OK without having to fight. Victory isn't making others right. It's being made right ourselves by God so that life is OK no matter what anyone else does.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Star Wars, Republic and Empire

The disintegration of the American republic into an empire with empty republican forms as happened to Rome has now become obvious to many. The Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer saw this coming over 25 years ago and located the cause in the idolatry of personal peace and affluence. One of the more astonishing features of the American scene today is how Christians, many of whom know and honor Schaeffer, are foremost in despising his warning and in heartily embracing the abominable values that he identified as the root of the trouble.
But then they despise the words of Jesus in their Bibles in the same way, so what's the matter with me that this should surprise me?!

It has struck me for a long time that the enormously popular Star Wars movies fascinate Americans because they portray the struggle between America as it would like to see itself and America as it truly is. Even in such details as the empire ruling subject planets through local thugs like Jabba the Hutt, the portrayal of American empire is very realistic. The dress, demeanor, speech, and behavior of imperial storm troopers is also most accurately portrayed - compare the resemblance of the scene in Tatooine with the Americans in Baghdad, so similar except for the far greater brutality seen in real life Baghdad, Tel Afar, and Fallujah.

This illustrates another point in which Francis Schaeffer showed great understanding - the importance of arts and culture in revealing the deep realities of any society and its true beliefs.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lonnie Frisbee

A couple of weeks ago, our Bible study watched the documentary Frisbee, the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher (to order, go to

Lonnie Frisbee was the preacher by whom in 1969 and 1970 the Jesus Movement made Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel a big deal, instead of just another uptight, powerless little fundamentalist church.

He was also the preacher who in 1980 brought miraculous signs and wonders to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, making it and John Wimber a big deal.

He was also a homosexual, and so both denominations painted him out of their histories, like the commissars disappearing from portraits of themselves with Stalin when they were led away in the purges.

The question Lonnie's life poses is, "How could God so powerfully back up a homosexual, while hiding himself from supposedly faithful preachers like Chuck Smith?"

As we finished watching the movie, it became obvious. Frisbee had a problem with sexual perversion, which he knew was a problem, and which he did not say was OK. The church leaders who used him and disavowed him had a problem with loving this world - and they teach in every way that that is OK. They shill shamelessly for their favorite empire, for its violence, mass murder, and robbery of other people. They tirelessly promote their own survival and glory in the sight of men, distancing themselves from Frisbee because it doesn't look respectable for their ministries to have originated in the preaching of a homosexual, rather than embracing this inconvenient truth because that is how it went down, how the God of truth chose to do it.

Lonnie Frisbee had a sexual perversion, which nobody even tried to help him with. They have - and love - a spiritual perversion, the love of this present world. They love its pride of life and its empty praise. They love being called by men teachers, leaders, pastors. They love the sea of upturned faces. They love being respected and thought important by men, and so they take care not to be associated with an embarrassment like Lonnie Frisbee's sex problems.

And they love this world's power - its marching men, its cruise missiles and bombs and aircraft carriers, its flags fluttering in the breeze, its "shock and awe" - and they love to hide from the bloodshed and the cry of the oppressed upon which all of this "glory" rests. They love to identify with all this and show off how on board they are with all of it.

All of this is friendship with the world, and as James says, this is how they make themselves enemies of God. They do not realize that all this "glory" is wholly incompatible with the glory of God that is found in the shame of the cross - and that's why they are strangers to the glory that God revealed in Lonnie Frisbee.

It seems strange to Christians that God would back up a homosexual like Lonnie Frisbee rather than all these well-behaved Bible teachers, but if we consider Adolf Hitler the mystery vanishes. Hitler was almost certainly a homosexual, but hardly anybody cares, including these men who think it's the biggest issue of our time. In Hitler other sins appear more serious, such as wanton aggression and mass murder - the crimes these "Christian leaders" and their followers heartily support today in Iraq and around the world.

As Frisbee documents, God seems to feel that way too. Being a screwed up homosexual bothers God less than being bathed in innocent blood and being a friend of this world - in love with its lying, its pretense, its robbery and murder, and its oppression and cruelty. If we have sexual screwups, let's get that worked out, but if we're enemies of God by loving this world and all its ways, let's get on THAT today!

If we diddle with that, leaders and teachers, shutting our ears to the cry of the poor and being partners in shedding oceans of innocent blood, let's not be surprised if God backs up a homosexual while giving us the back of the hand, just as he has done to John Wimber and Chuck Smith.