Putin: America is “Godless”

Anyone old enough to remember the height of the Cold War can appreciate the irony here.

Two of the great knocks on the old Soviet Union were their intense persecution of Christians and their institutional Atheism. In fact, American leaders appealed to the Christian sensibilities of Americans in their opposition to Communist efforts at world domination. The best leader in that era, President Reagan, highlighted that contrast on the world’s biggest stage.

Fast-forward thirty years, and the roles have reversed.

Whodathunk that the Russian President–a former KGB man himself–would sound more like George Washington than our own President?

As far as I know, Putin is a political opportunist who couldn’t care less about God.

Still, the irony is priceless.

Welcome to Post-Christian America, Part 1

On Friday, the Supreme Court handed down its “gay marriage” ruling, single-handedly throwing out thousands of years of law, fact, and history and redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, and imposing that on all fifty states. In doing so, SCOTUS has dismantled most of what remains of our connection to common law. This is the telos of the Sexual Revolution.

Welcome to post-Christian America. It’s been here for a while, but on Friday any remaining doubters were silenced.

Does this mean that government is going to be rounding up Christians and putting them into prison camps? Does this mean that government is going to start shutting down churches? Not by a long shot. At least not for a couple decades.

But make no mistake: if you are a Christian and hold to the Biblical teachings with respect to life and sexual ethics, then the public square has become an order of magnitude more hostile. Where the perspective of the Church was once afforded great respect, that is no longer the case in America.

What it does mean: people who hold to particular viewpoints are going to be increasingly marginalized. This is already happening, and you can expect this to intensify.

  • If you’ve ever publicly expressed support of historical marriage–in word, financial contribution, or membership in a church or related organization–you may have trouble finding a job in many companies. This is because (a) the Internet is forever, and (b) businesses use data warehouses and data mining to get the goods on almost anyone. And the HR departments go to great lengths to screen out potential employees who “may not be a good fit for our progressive and forward-thinking organization.”
  • If you’ve ever publicly expressed support of historical marriage–in word, financial contribution, or membership in a church or related organization–you may be in danger of losing your job. No, your boss isn’t going to call you into his office and say, “You’re a homophobe; you’re fired!” What is more likely to happen: when layoffs become necessary, then your name will be on a short list of those first to go. It will be couched in terms of “fiscal fitness”, but in reality it will be a personal decision.
  • If you’re in the military, you’d best keep your mouth shut. Chaplains are already under assault: a Ranger chaplain has received a career-ending “letter of concern” for providing Biblical references in a suicide prevention class, and a Navy SEAL chaplain–who was called the “best of the best” on his latest evaluation–is on the verge of dismissal for sticking to Biblical teachings regarding homosexuality.

If you’re a business owner, you have seen the handwriting on the wall. Bakeries, caterers, and florists must accommodate gay weddings; religious-based objections have been shot down in court. Expect more such encroachments on Christian business owners.

While Hobby Lobby won their case over contraception funding, the same cannot be said of those businesses that directly serve the wedding market. Freedom of association is dead, unless you are a Muslim business, in which case no one will touch you for fear of getting beheaded.

As for churches and parachurch organizations, you’re going to have to look long and hard at the whole tax-exemption paradigm. President Obama’s own Solicitor General, when asked about this in the SCOTUS hearings in Obergefell v. Hodges, admitted, “[it’s] going to be an issue.”

If your church or organization is tax-exempt and refuses membership to gays, that tax-exemption will be on the chopping block. It won’t happen tomorrow, but make no mistake: it will eventually happen. You need to prepare for that eventuality, and you need to do that sooner rather than later. Now is the time to start thinking about an exit strategy from that tangled web of tax-exemption.

A good friend of mine, a pastor at a church in Kentucky, has done this with his church from day one: when he started it, he did not go for tax-exemption. Churches like his won’t be facing the financial crunch when the shoe drops, at least not on that front.

If you’re starting a church, then you would do well to forego tax exemption. Yes, it will be a pinch in the wallet, but at least it’s easier to build from that baseline now than have the rug ripped out from under you later.

Once that happens, the losers here will be the needy. Fact is, the soup kitchens, orphanages, and homeless shelters are supported by financial contributions from churches–many of them large churches. The loss of tax-exemption will directly impact the outflow of services to those in need.

The one good thing here: many pastors will leave the ministry. Why is that a good thing? The good ones–whom God has actually called into ministry–will remain. As for those who leave, I have two words: good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you in the rear-end. The good ones may go underground, but they’ll be bold, strong, and courageous.

Public education will become the new laboratory for the sodomites. You can expect sex education curriculum to become more intense in their indoctrination, eventually beginning in preschool. Academics will write history textbooks and recommend  literature selections in English classes in ways that advance the “equivalence” of sodomy.

Whereas parents once were able to opt their children out of public sex education, districts are going to make it harder for parents to do so.

If you are a parent, then this is the perfect time to consider homeschooling. Christian private schools will be under assault, as their tax-exemption will be threatened. Moreover, tuition may become unaffordable as many parents flock to a limited number of such schools.

Homeschooling, on the other hand, gives you more control over your children’s education. And contrary to the grumblings of the critics, (a) there is great flexibility available, (b) you don’t have to be a genius to do it, and (c) you can ensure that your children receive essentials–reading, writing, math, science, even the classics–while avoiding the leftist social agenda.

Even then, the game has fundamentally changed, and isolation from the world is impossible. Like the Christians of the First Century who lived their faith in an environment more hostile than the post-Christian West, you must live out your faith without compromise while providing for your family. You must interact with this post-Christian world, and your children will grow up in this world and must learn to function in it.

I’ll cover that in Part 2.

SCOTUS: Sodomogamy Now the Law of The Land

I’ll comment later, but to make a long story short, here it is: this should not be surprising. A Court that decides that personhood isn’t really personhood–and is allowed to get away with that–and eventually decides that marriage can be redefined by judicial fiat, is out of control.

We now have that oligarchy about which our Founders warned. The issue is how the people respond to this.

Tullian Tchividjian Admits Affair, Out at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

This is a major reason why I place little stock in the “celebrity preacher” circuit. That is not to say that this does not happen in smaller venues; it does, and I have seen it happen.

At the same time, let’s be honest here. Tchividjian was recruited by Coral Ridge because their numbers were down since Kennedy’s death; they looked to him to bring more people in.

In other words, they were not recruiting him on the basis of his character but rather his charisma.

I’m not saying that Tchividjian is a bad human being. Apparently, his affair began in the aftermath of his wife’s own affair. That complicates matters in ways that are not typical when pastors fall.

And no, I’m not excusing what he did; he knew better, and he betrayed the Body, his family, his local church, all for some temporary comfort that was not his to take.

But my larger issue is what I would call the “cult of personality” that many Christians attach around their favorite pastors.

I’m old enough to remember the scandals, and I’m enough of a student of history to know that this is nothing new in the celebrity circuit. Aimee Semple McPherson, anyone? How about Kathryn Kuhlman?

When I was in college, I attended an Assemblies of God church most of the time. I did not myself identify as a charismatic/Pentecostal, but that was the church to which I had a ride every Sunday. They were good folks, and I liked the pastor, even if I did not agree with him on some details. But there was one tick in my britches: back then, it seemed that many people in those circles fawned over the every word of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and Pat Robertson. There were even some Robert Tilton fans. Except for Robertson–who has had many controversies of his own–all of the above crashed and burned in scandal.

Today, I see a similar dynamic: many people tend to hang on the every word of Piper, Keller, Dever, Chandler, whatever the neo-Calvinist flavor of the week happens to be. “Piper put it like this in a sermon last week”…”Keller said THIS the other day”…”Chandler addressed [X] the other day”.

Don’t get me wrong; I like Piper, Chandler, and Keller, even though I don’t agree with them on a few things. I like their general approaches to Scripture, and the insights they often bring to the table, even if I do not buy into the neo-Calvinist paradigm like their “true believers” do.

And THAT is the problem: the “true believers”. They have created cults of personality around celebrity preachers. Many pastors are structuring their churches around paradigms envisioned by these mega-stars; others are re-preaching the sermons of the celebrity preachers, often verbatim.

(Not only is that plagiarism; it is outright laziness. If you are a pastor and you are doing that, you need to either repent or resign. If you’re going to preach to me, I want to hear the product of YOUR reflections on Scripture, YOUR handling of the word of truth, YOUR fighting the good fight, YOUR discernment of issues that are on the horizon against which the Scriptures warn people. Don’t tell me what Piper said; I want to hear what YOU have to say.)

Having said that, it is a very sad day for the Church. The Tchividjian scandal is not good news.

Whlie I would hope that the larger Body in the United States would take the time to revisit the celebrity preacher circuit, I’d say there’s still a fair amount of itchy-ears out there on the lookout for the next dynamic speaker.

100 Miles of Rain: Preservation Pedal 2015

This year, the Kentucky Century Challenge rides have been very eventful. The Redbud Ride began with two hours of rain and cold temperatures; the Horsey Hundred was perfect but for the drunk driver who killed Mark Hinkel.

While The Preservation Pedal was devoid of cold weather and drunk drivers, it was nothing like the hot and sunny ride around Winchester that we enjoyed last year. Tropical storm Bill made sure of that.

Like the Redbud Ride, the forecast was very fluid: for most of the week, the forecast had been for severe thunderstorms. On Friday, the forecast ranged from heavy rain to strong thunderstorms to scattered thunderstorms.

In the interests of safety, the Preservation Pedal organizers cancelled their support of the 100-mile route, and allowed century riders to ride two loops of the 51-mile route. The Kentucky Century Challenge committee also allowed riders to do an “alternative century” if they decided they did not want to brave the weather: they could do any verifiable 100+mile distance by July 26, provided that they had already registered for the Preservation Pedal.

Many riders took that option, quickly planning a ride for next Saturday that would involve the original 102-mile Preservation Pedal route.

I, on the other hand, decided to take a wait-and-see approach. If it was raining, but without lightning or tornadoes, I was willing to ride. Otherwise, I was going to opt to do the Louisville Ironman course–112 miles–next week and count that in lieu of Preservation Pedal.

So yesterday, I arrived early and–to my surprise–it was light rain but nothing really bad. Two others from the group with which I ride showed up. We headed out at 6:30.

Due to the road conditions and the rain, we decided to go easy. We were, for the most part, very familiar with the route because it dovetailed with the Horsey Hundred route and the weekly Midway rides organized by the Bluegrass Cycling Club. The bonus: by doing the 51-mile route twice, we were going to do the half-mile Peaks Mill climb twice. I was looking forward to that one!

The first 11 miles were easy; we arrived at the Millville stop before it was even open. We briefly took time to drink and then headed out to Stamping Ground. For most of that 19-mile leg, the rain was steady but bearable.

At Stamping Ground (mile 30), the rest stop was just opening, so we were able to get some goodies, use the port-a-potties, and head back out for the 21 miles to complete the first loop. On this leg, we encountered some heavier rains: on the downhills, the rain felt like pins and needles.

Pulling into the halfway point, we were soaked but feeling very good. I wasn’t even tired.

On the second loop, we encountered a rain delay when we arrived at Millville (mile 62). No sooner than we got there, the torrential rains kicked in. We decided to just sit it out and chat with a few other riders, as the weather radar indicated the worst was almost over. 15 minutes later, the rain let up and we headed out to Stamping Ground.

The 19 miles into Stamping Ground were fairly easy: the rain was very light, the temperature was mild, and there weren’t any brutal hills–only rollers. I was feeling very good: neck was only mildly sore, but my butt wasn’t sore at all. My legs were also feeling very good. Honestly, I felt I might have plenty in the tank at the finish.

That last 20 miles were mild. The rain was pretty much gone, except for some intermittent drizzle. I also enjoyed doing the Peaks Mill climb the second time. Once we got to US-127, it was pretty much downhill and flat from there.

was still soaking wet from all the rain, but–other than that–felt great at the finish.

Overall, very few riders showed up for the century option yesterday. Normally, our slow-ride group gets passed quite a bit by others who start later. That didn’t happen this time. The rest stops were darn-near empty, with lots of goodies available.

For this year, I decided that anyone who does all four Century Challenge rides is going to have some serious bragging rights forever.

While I don’t want to take away from anyone who does the “alternative century” next Saturday, I think there’s something to be said for doing your ride on the day of the event.

This year, I signed up for the Louisville Ironman triathlon, which involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon. It’s on October 11, and–if I don’t like the weather–it’s not like I will be able to do an “alternative Ironman” to get my medal.

My point: every endurance event is going to have a “suck factor” involved. Unless the conditions are fundamentally unsafe–lightning and other severe weather are my deal-breakers–I think you just have to embrace the suck and fight through it.

Having said that, I understand why the Kentucky Century Challenge folks went with the “alternative century” option, and I can’t say it was a bad idea. (After all, the forecasts were for severe weather.)

After all, this gives incentive for riders to register for the Hub City Tour in September; it allows those who missed the Redbud Ride a chance to stay on track to earn their 300-mile jerseys; and it also provides incentive in future years for people to take on the Kentucky Century Challenge.

Still, like I said, those of us who braved all three–through the cold and rain (Redbud) and the rains (Preservation Pedal)–will have bragging rights.

The official century rides on my end are over until September (Hub City Tour). Still, in the meantime, I plan on riding the Louisville Ironman course at least once in both July and August.

In terms of Ironman preparation, I can feel the progress. This is the best I’ve ever felt at the end of a century ride. I felt like–if I’d had my running shoes and shorts–I could have done at least a half-marathon.

TWW and Acts 29: My $0.02

First, a couple disclaimers:

(1) While I am a complimentarian, I like the work of at The Wartburg Watch, as well as Watchkeep (by Amy Smith).

(2) I empathize with TWWs concerns about the neo-Calvinists, particularly those who flirt with the overly-authoritarian church model.

(3) I believe Mark Driscoll got what he deserved.

(4) I also agree with TWW about C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

—-

Having said that, I also think TWW raises some issues regarding the Acts 29 Network of churches.

TWW has written several stories involving Acts 29 churches and harsh discipline. We believe that the legend of Mark Driscoll lives on. We hope that Matt Chandler will take time to review the problems inherent in this network. Here is one such story on Countryside Christian Church (they even have some documentation as well!)  Do Acts 29 Churches Share the Same DNA as the Mothership – Matt Chandler’s The Village Church?

As a nearly 8-year member of an Acts 29 church, I can answer with two words: it depends.

The problem you have is not so much the Acts 29 system; the plurality of elders is as workable as any other church governmental model. As for how elders are chosen, again, it depends on the church.

In any church, the leadership can easily become a good-old-boys network. In most Baptist churches, deacons–who would be analogous to elders–are often nominated by members, but–in reality–are approved by the other deacons (and even the pastor). You can’t say that such a model cannot be abused.

Whether the model is more democratic or more authoritarian, the fact remains: any church governmental model can be abused. We humans have ways of exploiting just about anything.

As for authoritarian an Acts 29 church is, much of that depends on the way the church was founded, and the visions of the leaders. At my church, it’s an atmosphere of substantial liberties. As long as members aren’t engaging in flagrant immorality, the elders are not interested in micromanaging anyone. In a case like Karen’s, it is doubtful that the elders would have objected to her seeking a divorce or annulment. As for her husband, they would have been pretty hard on him, referring him to local authorities.

OTOH, I realize that other Acts 29 churches are more micromanagy while others are taking this “covenant membership” business to provide what you rightly call “Hotel California”: you can check out anytime, but you can never leave. My take: these folks are gung ho for the 9Marks/SGM/Whatever NeoCalvinist Celebrity Flavor Of the Week puts out. These pastors often lack wisdom that comes from the knowledge of history; they often have MDiv degrees and have drunk the Neo-Calvinist Kool-Aid, fawning over the every word of Piper, Keller, Mohler, Dever. Ask the young hot shots some hard questions, and watch them offer canned answers. That tells me they haven’t thought; they just drink Kool-Aid.

(FWIW: I’m not knocking Piper or Keller; I’m just saying we need to be careful not to fall for the allure of the celebrity circuit. I’m old enough to have seen a number of high-flying hotshots bite the dust.)

Unfortunately, the Acts 29 churches that aren’t causing trouble aren’t the ones making the headlines.

Like I said, it depends. Personally, if I see a leadership that is run by young neo-Calvinists who went to neo-Calvinist seminaries AND–here’s the catch–provide canned answers to hard questions, my advice is RUN…DO NOT WALK.

Women in Ranger School, Part 3

That eight women made it through RAP week of Ranger School was impressive. I didn’t think that many would make it into the Darby Phase.

While none of the eight passed the Darby Phase on the first try, they were eligible to recycle.

However, none made it on the second try: five were bounced out of Ranger School, while three are eligible for a “Day 1 Recycle”: they will have to re-take Ranger School, starting with RAP week.

Things for A Real Date

Paul Hudson has written a piece titled 11 Things That Are Supposed to Happen on Real Dates That Don’t Anymore.

I like the flowers … and spending too much time getting ready … and I just assumed people were nervous?

I imagine that not always knowing of someone well could deter picking up and dropping off a lady on a first date, unless she isn’t living alone – I’m thinking safety … wanting to have her own vehicle, not wanting him to see where she lives, in the event he creeps her out.

What do y’all think?