Monthly Archives: September 2006

who have never bowed to Baal

Met a pastor yesterday from Hollywood Presbyterian (http://www.fpch.org/)

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It is great being connected with people in other ministries/churches, here in Hollywood. Sometimes you can almost feel like in this city – that we are the only ones following Christ (which I know is not true at all – but some days it can feel like it). Probably similar to how Elijah felt in 1 Kings 19:
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?�
He replied again, “I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.�
Then the LORD told him, “Go back the way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! Yet I will preserve seven thousand others in Israel who have never bowed to Baal or kissed him!�
God speaks to Elijah and basically says — there are thousands all around you Elijash, who have never bowed to Baal and  who still follow me.

We did not even have a long conversation, and we are meeting to talk more next week for lunch – yet I know that Pastor Scott is one of those people here in Hollywood.

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fanaticism

I found on-line a short excerpt from Tim Keller’s forthcoming book. This excerpt is from chapter 4. I found it extremely insightful about many Christians today, and how non-believers respond to them. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Fanaticism

Perhaps the biggest faith-deterrent for the average person today is not so much violence and warfare but the shadow of fanaticism. Many non-believers in Christianity have friends or relatives that have become ‘born again’ and seem to have gone off the deep end. They soon begin to loudly express disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society�especially movies and television, the Democratic party, homosexuals, evolutionists, activist judges, members of other religions (all of which are branded ‘false’) and public schools. When arguing for the truth of their faith they often appear intolerant and self-righteous. This is what many people would call fanaticism.

What is the solution? Many people try to understand Christians along a spectrum from ‘nominalism’ at one end to ‘fanaticism’ on the other. A nominal Christian is someone who is Christian in name only, who does not practice it and maybe hardly believes it. At the other end of the spectrum a fanatic is someone who is thought to over-believe and over-practice Christianity. In this schematic, the best kind of Christian would be someone in the middle, someone who doesn’t go all the way with it, who believes it but is not too devoted to it.

The problem with this is the same mistake about Christianity that we saw above. It assumes that the Christian faith is basically a form of moral improvement. Full-blown Christianity, then would be Phariseeism. Pharisaical religious people know nothing of ‘salvation by grace’. They assume they are right with God because of their moral behavior and right doctrine. This leads naturally to feelings of superiority toward those who do not share their religiosity, and from there to various forms of abuse, exclusion, and oppression.

But what if (as we will explain more fully below) the essence of Christianity was salvation by grace, salvation not because of what we do but because of what Christ has done for us? This would mean that both the nominal end of the spectrum and the fanatical end of the spectrum were missing out on the core of the Christian faith. The extremists we think of as ‘fanatics’ are so not because they are too committed to the gospel but not committed enough. Belief that you are accepted by God via sheer grace makes you both confident (because you are loved) and humble (because you didn’t earn it.)

Think of Jesus himself. He was enormously bold and daring, casting the money-changers out of the temple with a whip (John 2:11ff,) calling the ruling power, Herod, a “foxâ€? and refusing to leave his territory, though he knew he wanted to kill him (Luke 13:31-32,) denouncing the religious and civic leaders for their corruption and injustice, though he knew it would cost him his life (Matt 23:27.) Yet he was gentle and embracing of people who were moral, racial, and political outlaws (John 8:1ff; Luke 7:36ff; 15:1ff; 19:1ff.) It was said of him he ‘came not be served, but to served’ (Mark 10:45) and he was so tender that ‘He will not quarrel or cry out…a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out… (Matt. 12:19-20).

So think of people you consider of as fanatical. They are over-bearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, harsh. Why are they so? It is not because they are too fanatically committed to Christ and his gospel, but rather because they are not fanatical enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding as Christ was. Because they think of Christianity as a self-improvement moral framework they emulate the Jesus of the whips in the temple, but not the Jesus who said, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.� (John 8:7) What strikes us as overly-fanatical is actually a failure be fully-orbed in our commitment to Christ.

Extremism and fanaticism, which leads to abuse and oppression, is a constant danger within the body of believers. But the answer is not to toned down and ‘moderate’ faith, but a deeper and truer faith in Christ and his word. The Biblical prophets understood this well. In fact, the scholar Merold Westphal documented that Marx’s analysis of religion as an instrument of oppression was anticipated by the Hebrew prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and others.[i] Marx was not original in his critique of religion�the Bible beat him to it! So while the church itself has tragically and inexcusably often been party to the oppression of people over the centuries, it is important to point out how Christian theology and the Bible gives us tools for unflinching analysis and withering critique of religiously supported injustice from within the faith. We have been taught to expect it and told what to do about it. Because of this, Christian history gives us many remarkable examples of self-correction.


[i] Merold Westphal Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism (Eerdmans, 1993.)


…never given a thought to Christ

I came across this quote today. God forbid for my family and I, or for you — to fall into this trap…
“There have been some who have become so occupied in spreading Christianity that they’ve never given a thought to Christ himself.”
– C.S. Lewis

It says in Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.

Let us pursue that today my fellow sojourners.


leaning on the everlasting arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine, Leaning on the everlasting arms;

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, Safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, Safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms. –Elisha Hoffman

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Victor – a great man

So Michelle, the kids, and I met the coolest guy today — Victor.

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Michelle was looking for some fabric to cover our little kitchen pantry area, and we stumbled upon this little shop called Thousand Fabrics in an L.A. neighborhood called Atwater Village, close to where we live.

Victor, who came from Mexico some 35 years ago owns the place. It has basically floor to ceiling fabrics in no particular order, organization, coloring, etc. – it is crazy in there.
I love hearing people’s stories, and asked about how he got into this business, how many kids he has, what part of Mexico he came from, etc. (I thought it was ironic when he told me that his son now works for the border patrol)

Anyway, he told me about how a kind, older business owner hired him, and showed him ‘the ropes’ of how to run a fabric business, and so years & years later — how Victor was able to open up a shop of his own. We got into a fascinating dialogue on the lack of mentoring that goes on today with older people helping younger people learn and grow.

I noticed he had a hand-painted sign, with his personal credo over the door when you walked out…

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Even though the fabric he has is great, his sign-making leaves a little to be desired. However, he said that he honestly pursues these things in his life. He does not always attain them he said — but he does pursue these things. And simply the pursuit of these things he said, would be an ‘excellent life’.

It caused me to think about what I am pursuing in my life, and especially what I am trying to instill into my family, and wondered if our children are ‘catching’ these things (as they say, more is ‘caught’ then ‘taught’)….Perseverance, character, wisdom, honesty, duty, patience, simplicity, etc.

That is our prayer for our children, and for ourselves.

Victor has been on my mind today, and I have been thinking about what defines greatness in a person. I really don’t know for sure, but I know what the world defines as great. Someone who is extremely wealthy, someone who plays professional sports, someone who is physically attractive, someone who is supremely talented in some pursuit. Yet, I thought – Victor is a great man because of what he has pursued, and is pursuing. Greater than most that I have met in my life.
God’s peace to you all.


gotta love this city

Even though I was driving somewhere at 7:30p tonight — (on a side-street no less), was stuck in traffic for close to 20 minutes to go about 2 miles ??!!

However, that being said — we love L.A. !! Where we are living now, is only 2 blocks from this big pool (that is free!), and a great soccer complex – which Caleb is stoked about…

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Also, another thing that we love is how diverse L.A. is — it is amazing. Michelle has found this very inexpensive grocery store ‘Food 4 Less’, which is not the creme de la creme of grocery stores — but it is cheap! Anyway, I realized when we were there on Sunday that we were the only ones speaking English on most of the aisles. Spanish for some, Armenian for some, Chinese for some, Korean (I think) for some, etc.

We are in a different world out here…

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great quote for the day

Sorry, been without wireless / internet for a while because of moving into a new place, but came across this quote yesterday and I really enjoyed it. I have been impressed by Rick Warren’s humility over the years, but also his passion for Christ and expanding His kingdom in this world. This quote really is a small micorcosm of his thinking…

“If you can’t ask God to make you a success at what you’re doing, you should be doing something else.”  —Rick Warren