Friday, September 26, 2014
Paul, the proverbial founder of the Confessing Church Movement, has often said the major problem in churches is the Bible is no longer the God-breathed authority for faith and morality in churches.
Many/most (you speculate) churches no longer consider the Bible to be divine revelation without parallel; but rather a witness among many to what, uh, maybe, uh, could be, uh, never really know for sure, is divine revelation for faith and morality.
Twain? Maclaine? Osteen? Philistine? You pick!
Many/most (you speculate) churches think anybody's word is as good as anybody else's word on any subject: "I know that's what Jesus and the Bible say buuuuuuut I think."
So that's why there's so much theological/spiritual confusion reigning in many/most (you speculate) churches.
With no absolute standard for faith and morality, there's no, uh, absolute standard for faith and morality.
Hence, there are very few standards left in many/most (you speculate) churches.
Many/most (you speculate) churches operate like D.C.
What's popular...right now...rules.
Faith/Ethics are chained to emotion, exigency, and existential appeal.
Howard and William Hendricks have written one of the best guides for devotional Bible reading that has ever hit my desk: Living by the Book.
It's a how-to get the most out of reading the Bible.
Sure as heaven ain't...
They have a chart on page 208 titled "What Does the Bible Really Say?"
Graphically, they illustrate the aforementioned: "Nearly every major heresy begins with a misreading of the Biblical text. Here are a handful of common misstatements, as well as what the Bible says."
They juxtapose "What Some People Say" to "What the Bible Says."
People: "Money is the root of all evil."
Bible: "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).
People: "Jesus never claimed to be God."
Bible: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).
People: "All religions lead to the same end. No one religion is right."
Bible: "There is salvation in no one else" (Acts 4:12).
Now go back to the proverbial founder of the CCM.
People: "Marriage is between two people."
Bible: "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female...Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife..." (Matthew 19:3ff).
Did you know that when our government and even some mainline denominations deliberate on the meaning of marriage, they don't just read what the Bible says about it?
Did you know that when the current Governor of Illinois celebrated an extra-non-Biblical meaning of marriage that had just become law that he quoted 1 Corinthians 13 out of context to pretend a fashionably popular and contemporary prejudice about marriage is somehow consistent with Biblical revelation?
Now go back to the proverbial founder of the CCM.
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Approaching the first tee with my favorite Special Olympics world golf champion, I was already simmering.
A text reached me just after slipping on my plastic cleats that another storm was brewing back at the fort.
This one could boil over at any moment and fill up my calendar with my least favorite ministry: damage control.
Of course, being a presbyter in the PCUSA, I'm used to damage control.
It happens after every GA meeting.
Be that as it is, back to the text.
Disagreement over a memorial.
Help me, Jesus!
While my disinterest in trinkets, relics, brass plaques, and other stuff related to the first few of the big ten along with my continuing obsession with Matthew 15 and 23 have made it really, really, really easy for me to moderate hotly contested meetings on such non-kingdom-rising-and-falling matters, folks are often trying to suck me into such encounters and convince me that I should care about 'em.
I think of the dear friend who made an appointment to see me about the changing of the big people's choir's name from chancel to adult.
Response: "You want to talk with me about that? O.K., I love you; so I'll listen. Buuuuuuut ya gotta know that while I love and care about you, I just can't work up any emotional energy, physical strength, intellectual curiosity, or spiritual sensitivity to deal with that. Ya see, and if you don't, I'll try to help, my plate is kinda full with people in hospice and nursing homes and facing serious surgeries. I'm counseling fractured families and marriages and... Then there's our denomination. It's in so much conflict these days and I'm getting pressured from folks who are elated by what's going on and those who wanna exit faithfully from what's going on as I try to convince 'em that it's more Biblical and incumbent upon sacrificially suffering servants to remain faithfully like Wallace, Hamilton, Luther, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, King, and... Besides that, my youngest needs wheels and I need new shoes for my pony and my wife is ticked because I don't spend enough time at home already and there are these two football players that I've been counseling because...
Are you beginning to catch my drift, darlin'?"
Wonder of wonders, miracle of...
We'll see about the text.
BTW, Billy is my therapist as well as golfing buddy.
He told me to focus on the game and stop thinking so much about...
Shot my best round of the year...even without yellow balls.
Think about it...
Jesus didn't like clergy who were spent sooooooo much time on such inconsequential stuff at the expense of "the weightier matters" of faith.
Annnnnnnd I've been wondering why we/I/they do?
Here's my guess.
I may be wrong.
I think we spend so much time on such ___ because we lack the emotional energy, intellectual curiosity, physical strength, and spiritual sensitivity to engage in 'em.
I think everything and everyone are sooooooo out of control in our world, America, churches, schools, market, families, marriages, and all of the below that we, uh, satisfy, uh, gratify, uh, concentrate, uh, pleasure ourselves on such ___.
I may be wrong.
Maybe that's why it's easier to be embrace or accommodate/enable apostasies in mainline denominations and America.
Maybe that's why it's easier to exit from 'em and join another ecclesiastical franchise or renounce citizenship and move to...
It's much harder to remain and resist faithfully.
That's what I think.
I may be wrong.
Tony once told me that one of his favorite things in life is to listen to smart people say stupid things.
Some of the aforementioned and not-mentioned-but-on-the-tip-of-cognizance come to mind.
Buuuuuuut maybe, and I may be wrong, smart people spend sooooooo much time on stupid things because they feel sooooooo impotent when encountering those "weightier" matters.
It's kinda like rooting for the Cubs or a Republican in Illinois.
All I know is it's easier to spend time on the inconsequential...or...elate...or...exit...
Maybe it's just because we're really not thaaaaaaat smart.
Maybe we can't figure out things for ourselves.
Could that be why He gave the book to us?
Blessings and Love!
Monday, September 22, 2014
Wedding photographers don't believe me when I first tell 'em, "I have no rules. It's not my wedding and I'm not paying you. The bride makes the rules; but if I were you, I'd also check with the bride's mom."
Some wisdom comes from experience.
Apparently, wedding photographers have collided with too many clergywomen/men with excessive, unreasonable, myopic, picayune, egotistical, and traditional more than theological control needs over the years.
Matthew 15 and 23 keep coming to mind.
Anyway, I'll never forget one of my first session meetings in McMurray, Pennsylvania.
A proverbial church lady with a hairstyle appropriate for the 40s and reeking of perfume that could knock over a bull at 40 paces tilted her head and said with a nauseatingly saccharine smile of insincerity, "We know you have your first wedding here on Saturday, Dr. Kopp, and it's important for you to know we do not allow flash pictures during the service. We expect you, before the service begins, to announce that to everyone."
Amused more than surprised, for I'd been around long enough to know how the idolatrously inane often inhibits the Christocentrically important according to the book in most of today's churches, I responded with an equally nauseatingly saccharine smile of insincerity, "I don't recall reading anything from our Lord in the Bible about flash photography; sooooooo I guess it's more a matter of our personal prejudices than Christian principles. As your undershepherd to the Good Shepherd, my responsibility is to differentiate between our personal prejudices and God's will as personified in Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture. While I see no Biblical principles at play here apart from some hyperbolic understanding of decorum and reverence that, again, seem more personally prejudicial than Biblical and feel, from my own personally prejudicial perspective, some would consider me to be rude to commence such a festive occasion with such a pejorative rubric, I acknowledge your concern and, if it is the will of the session, I will introduce you or another elder before the call to worship to make that announcement."
Though my response probably concluded any chumminess avec that elder, she dropped her head without comment; and, without any additional commentary on the topic that could hardly be considered consequential to the rise or fall of the kingdom, we moved to the next item on the docket.
My daddy provided this counsel years before: "You must learn how to tell people to go to hell in a way that they're looking forward to the trip."
C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce: "Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good."
Continuing, "I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right; but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it."
Concluding, "It is still 'either-or.' If we insist on keeping hell...we shall not see heaven. If we accept heaven, we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of hell."
Matthew 15 and 23 keep coming to mind.
Mainline denominations along with most sideline ones are "irretrievably apostate under current management."
Again, and I may be wrong, there are three ways to respond.
An elated embrace of the apostasies by those who never really wanted to follow Jesus by the book.
Exiting faithfully by those who want to follow Jesus by the book.
Remaining faithfully as part of the faithful remnant by those who want to follow Jesus by the book and have not given up the fight in a Wallace, Hamilton, Luther, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, King, and...kinda way.
What kinda pictures are we presenting/taking?
Are our ministries about prejudices or principles?
How do we respond to wrong/bad/evil?
Are we elated, exiting, or remaining?
Did Jesus ever embrace wrong/bad/evil with elation...or even accommodation which is kinda the same thing in a results kinda way?
Did Jesus ever exit or back away from collisions with wrong/bad/evil?
Did Jesus remain...until it/He was...finished?
Matthew 15 and 23 keep coming to mind.
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Way back in the early 80s, Tony, a sociologist by profession and motivational speaker by reputation, observed, "Denominations are done."
If you look at the stats, denominations are dying if not done.
While I may be wrong, I know, for example, on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois that maybe a handful of people really care about "our" denomination and maybe 40% of our membership even know we're in one and they'd have to be reminded!
I was talking with one of the brightest presbyters in my franchise at a judicatory meeting not too long ago.
He said, "A college student asked, 'Is Westminster Presbyterian Church a part of Christianity or some other religion?'"
Think about it.
Sounds like a virus from Capron, Illinois.
Every young pastor of every vital and growing church that I know either isn't part of any denomination or puts their affiliation in the smallest font possible in their literature.
Tony was right way back in the 80s.
Sadly, too many older pastors like moi and denominational jingoists/idolaters have their own Jeffersonian Bibles that have omitted what Jesus said about new wineskins and continue to long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.
That's why their churches, to borrow metaphors from the 7 letters of Revelation, are morgues with steeples at best and lampstandless at...
Don't get me wrong.
I'm all into 1 Corinthians 14:40.
Without some kinda gatekeeping and accountability, you'd have churches using Joel Osteen books for CC classes.
Yet, especially in the mainliners, there's only minimal Biblical, confessional, constitutional, historical, traditional, and common sense gatekeeping and accountability.
If you're not under God as best exemplified in Jesus and explained by the book, you're like American morality captive to the latest popularity polls.
Faith, for them, is all about feelings and opinions and desires and...
"I know that's what Jesus and the Bible say; but I think..."
Truth is there's more gatekeeping and accountability going on in networks of Biblical remnant churches that are under God as best exemplified in Jesus and explained by the book.
That's because remnanters don't need anyone/anything other than Jesus by the book for gatekeeping and accountability.
They are developing networks of gatekeeping and accountability that are far more faithful to Jesus by the book than those formerly faithful mainline denominations.
Eugene put it this way for me back in October 2011: "Motivational speaking is often a sly way of manipulating. You don't have to motivate Christians."
Christians believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and only Jesus is Lord and Savior and behave like they believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and only Jesus is Lord and Savior by the book.
That's the only gatekeeping and accountability that matters to Christians.
All I'm saying is denominations, especially the mainline ones, have no credibility to claim gatekeeping and accountability raison d'etre because they have made up definitions of gatekeeping and accountability apart from Jesus by the book.
They may be nice organizations; but any connection between 'em and Jesus by the book is increasingly coincidental.
Remember, if Satan likes to quote the book every now and then to score points among the ignorant...
He said/asked, "You've been saying the PCUSA and other mainline denominations are 'irretrievably apostate under current management.' What do you mean by that?"
Response: "I mean mainline denominations that have moved to the sidelines of American cultural relevancy have so distanced themselves from former fidelities that their leadership, especially clergy, will have to be born anothen in a John 3 kinda way before they can ever turn around and back to Jesus by the book. Annnnnnnd byyyyyyy the waaaaaaay, this ain't really anything new. Remember, it was clergy who conspired with an accommodating secularist and ignorant laity, Greek synonym being idiotes, to murder Jesus."
He asked, "But what about lay leaders? Don't they have any responsibility for what's gone wrong?"
Response: "Shepherds don't follow sheep! One of the great bastardizations of the leadership charisma in too many of today's churches is thinking/acting as if everybody's called to undershepherding in allegiance to the Good Shepherd and that anybody's word is as good as anybody else's word or any subject. It's like Macleod always told us, 'I'm going to have a layman preach on Layman's Sunday when they have Layman's Sunday at Mt. Sinai Hospital and I get to do brain surgery!' Barth said, 'It's not a matter of whether one wants to preach. It's whether one can.' Frankly, designations and wall hangings mean nothing. Vanities! John Robertson once told me, 'Too many clergy separate themselves from God by degrees.' I know people who have no degrees or designations or wall hangings who are much better preachers and gospelers and disciplers than the ones wearing those fancy robes sporting fancy titles that Jesus didn't like either. So, yeah, I blame it on the clergy more than anybody else. Read Matthew 23 for more on that!"
He asked, "You've been quoted for years as saying you will not leave 'one stinking denomination for another stinking denomination.' But isn't there something that could push you over the top and cause you to join one that, maybe, stinks less than yours?"
Response: "While I may be wrong, I think I'll be forced out first for not affirming or accommodating or paying for and participating in their apostasies; or, at least, not looking the other way. And if you've been reading anything that I've written over three decades, you know I'm up with that in the Biblical tradition of remaining faithfully a la Hamilton and Luther and Bonhoeffer and...Jesus! I've written and said enough about that. If you don't get it by now, either you're really thick or don't wanna get it. But, yeah, if I'm not forced out but they make it mandatory for me to pay for and participate in anything that contradicts Christianity as personified in Jesus, prescribed in Holy Scripture, and upheld by over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity, I'll just ask our leadership and membership to ignore 'em, network with other parts of the faithful remnant, and pray and try to be faithful to Jesus by the book. No splash. No dash. Just, uh, praying and trying to be faithful. But I sure as heaven won't exchange one set of ecclesiastical chains for another set; especially 'cause the old denominational wineskin's dead anyway. I remember Tony telling me back in the..."
Really, it's not that complicated.
It's only hard to figure out what it means to follow Lord and Savior Jesus by the book if you don't really wanna follow Jesus by the book but wanna make it seem like you're following Jesus by the book by making up stuff that kinda seems like it might be somewhere near Jesus by the...
Getting back to Eugene, I remember sitting next to him on his back porch at Flathead Lake in Montana and thinking, "He is a man of primary source."
That's why he breathes truth.
That's why he breathes common sense.
That's why he breathes...Jesus.
He just explains what's there in Jesus by the book.
He doesn't make up stuff apart from Jesus by the book.
That's why he keeps saying it's simple.
That's why he's not into reams and reams and reams of paper/overtures/declarations trying to explain what's in the book.
All ya gotta do is read the book...over and over and over and...until ya get it/Him.
I may be wrong, and I am always eager to be corrected and will confess publicly and pray and try to repent fully, but I am convinced, until proven otherwise, that all of this denominational talk - elating or exiting or remaining - is symptomatic of the disease of just not following Jesus by the book.
No meetings after meetings after meetings after...
Just Jesus by the book.
Sooooooo as long as I have the freedom to follow Jesus by the book and not waste my time on..., I'm remaining, with prayers and energies, faithfully.
If that freedom is taken away from me, I'll be forced out or...
So far so...
Blessings and Love!
Monday, September 15, 2014
Not long after being ordained, I was asked, "So where did you go to cemetery?"
"That's seminary," I replied.
He repeated, "So where did you go to cemetery?"
I got the point; and I've been trying to get it ever since if you know what he meant.
I always misspelled a word on liturgy worksheets that I gave to our secretary for Sunday bulletins in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania.
It was my first year at the church after being ordained; and I misspelled that word all year long.
Across the top, I intended to write, "A SERVICE FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD."
Instead, always as in every week for a year, I wrote, "A SERVICE FOR THE WHORESHIP OF GOD."
Actually, I'd catch it just before handing it to the secretary and, in those days, get out my liquid paper to try to hide it.
I did that every week for a year until I got the point; and I've been trying to get it ever since if you know what He means.
I miss stuff.
How about you?
Have you ever stopped and asked, "How did I miss that?"
One of those big moments happened in October 2011.
I was spending a week with my covenant brothers and Eugene in Montana.
While Eugene was certainly used by God to open our eyes to many of the treasures of increasing intimacy with Him, the big moment came very early one morning while reading Matthew 15 and 23.
Read it now.
Anyway, as I read it, I kept asking myself, "How did I miss that?"
Why do I..when Jesus didn't?!
Why don't I...when Jesus did?!
Thoughts of cemeteries and whoreship came to mind.
Sanctification is a process.
If we're praying and reading the book, we get holier.
If not, not.
We miss things along the way; and by God's grace through the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, we pick some of 'em up every now and then.
Yeeeeeeeet, we still miss more things along the way and won't get it all together until...
That's why we need Jesus.
He fills in the gaps/blanks until then.
Looking at the PCUSA and other sister cemeteries and whoredoms, I've come to realize they don't need sanctification.
You can't get better at something that you've quit.
Renewal is a silly notion as well.
You can't renew something/someone that ain't been newed.
Studying in Rome in 1973, I asked Father Fachtna McCarthy when they were gonna, you know, get with the...
He said, "Some bishops and cardinals are gonna have to die."
Yeah, that's right.
John 3 comes to mind.
All of it/Him.
Blessings and Love!
Friday, September 12, 2014
Did you hear about the church in Texas that paid millions to get out of the PCUSA?
Talk about blood money!
They must've really wanted out.
They must've wanted to get out sooooooo badly that they're willing to pay the salaries of people who will make people twice as fit for hell as they are themselves for years and years and years and...
I wonder how they rationalize that.
I preached there once.
Long time ago when I was an important pastor with lots of $ at my disposal.
That was kinda fun; 'cause I was invited to lots of stuff by people who wanted some of that $.
CFP+PUBC=PFR comes to mind.
Not to mention some really nice private CCs.
I loved it...until God started plaguing me with, uh, a, uh,...conscience.
Be that as it was, I wish I had that kinda money now.
I'd buy a new car for my wife and take her on a nice vacation to Hawaii or something...like my buddies who are still holed up in those high steeples as long as they, you know, don't, you know, preach about, you know, taking Jesus, you know, that...
I'd do for my kids what I can't do because I didn't/couldn't/can't/won't, you know, play the church...
I'd even have money for yellow golf balls!
I don't regret it.
"What does it profit a man to...?"
I've learned people who really believe in eternity don't trade it - prostitute themselves - for temporal...
Anyway, I may be wrong, but I think there are three reasons why that church paid so much blood $ that will enable apostasy for years and years and years while they insulate themselves from it for three reasons: (1) They could; (2) They're used to separating themselves from people different from them because really rich churches are often as segregated as CCs; and (3) They think they're better for it in some kinda delusional some-ecclesiastical-clubs-don't-stink-as-much-as-others-do kinda way.
BTW, if I had that kinda money, there would be no homeless or hungry children of God in Belvidere, Illinois.
Hey, fat cats in Texas, test me!!!!!!!
I'm getting lots of texts, e-mails, and snail mails about my insistence on remaining faithfully as part of the Biblical witness/cooperation/call to remnant.
I don't do Facebook; so I don't know what good, bad, and ugly things have been...
I've heard I've avoided some buckets of ice; and while I've got some people who are really, really, really mad at me for my stubbornness about not doing Facebook, I stopped as soon as someone from the past...
You know what I mean.
Getting back to the contacts, this letter kinda saddened/sobered/challenged/chastened me in a confirming kinda way:
I've been angry with you ever since you left us. You came as a very young and bright preacher who was much more conservative than Dr. ___. You turned our church around to your way of thinking in less than two years and we were growing so quickly. Then you left for an even bigger church in the South. Nobody is perfect. But I want you to know that much of what you did has been undone by preachers who followed you. This church could have really been something. But you left for something that you thought was better. I do not really know where you are right now. I have never visited that part of Illinois. I just hope you stay. I read about what you are doing now in our church in The Layman. Then I started reading your blog. I just hope you stay with it this time. I know some of your friends have left. Have you ever asked them why they stay in America? America is worse than our church! If they have so much courage to quit the church, why don't they quit America? Why don't they move to another country? Why do they still pay taxes? How courageous is their faith? I applaud what you are trying to do. I just hope you stay with it this time. You were a good pastor to my family and me. You were always there for us in the hospital and always made time for us. I just wish you cared about us enough to stay with us. I hope you don't mind me telling you what I think. I know you always listened to me. I just wondered why you would not stay. Was it your ego? Did you think you could do more for the Lord in a bigger church? I know your people will be blessed as long as you stay. We were sorry to see you go. I still remember the woman from New Jersey who came to your reception when you came. She said, "Love him while you have him because he will be gone before you know it." Some anger grows in me again about you leaving. I will stop now. I just can't stop from thanking God for what you did but did not finish.
With more good memories than bad,
Jeff and I are the geezers in our covenant group.
We often talk of the old days when we really looked forward to going to presbytery meetings for substantive reports and debates; and really liked each other even across the aisles.
We get wistful.
The younger members, who say they never recall such times, just shake their heads at us.
Jeff and I know it's not a matter of if but when...
At the last presbytery meeting, a friend said to me, "Oh, great to see they haven't kicked you out yet!"
If Jesus remains right, it won't be long before...
Blessings and Love!