Archive for September, 2013

Sunday, September 29; A day for Michael and all Angels

September 27, 2013

While many Anglican churches will pass by the observance of St. Michael and Angels on Sunday September 29, Michaelmas, as it is sometimes known, is an old and hallowed observance. It is even part of the court calendar in many jurisdictions. The fall term of the United States Supreme Court begins on the first Monday in October, shortly after Michaelmas. Gabriel and Michael at the two angels named in the Protestant canon, but the apocryphal books also name Raphael and Uriel.

Christians have a special advantage in recognizing the unseen realm through which we wander. Paul warns that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12 ESV). The Epistle reading for today also deals with conflict, but this time the armies are made up of heavenly beings.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev 12:7-12)

The text does not say exactly what caused the heavenly war, but it would not be unjustified to suggest that Satanic pride was at the center. We learn on Heb 1, for example, that there is a divine plan to place human beings over angels in the heavenly order. For the Evil One, this elevation of such disgusting two-legged creatures must have been the ultimate slap in the face. Michael and his angels have a different view altogether, one that stands in awe of divine wisdom. This is not a blind brainless submission, but a deeply help trust that, whatever plans may be conceived by the Almighty, they are always altogether good.

The holiness of heaven and the grimy self-aggrandizement of ego cannot live peaceably together, so there was a celestial housecleaning in which Satan and all his followers were cast out. It was an eviction in which the forces of wickedness were utterly removed. Good news for the heavenly courts. Not such good news for the residents of planet earth.

It is bad enough that the old serpent deceives the world with his pleasant sounding words. Oh, no. Don’t worry about that fruit. You’re not going to die. That was the beginning of falsehood. Having flat-out lied to our first parents, the demonic forces continue their plans to ruin humanity by their unceasing accusations. The forces of darkness take full advantage of a fallen nature to thwart God’s loving plan for the creatures he made in his own image and likeness. There was a time when the fallen angels enjoyed a close relationship with the Eternal, but the resistance has ended all that, and Jesus has won the final victory over death, sin and Satan.

But now things have gotten even worse for mankind. It is a fearful thing to know that we are wrestling with supernatural beings who are well aware of their final condemnation. The plots of Satan and his angelic followers are rotten, desperate and disrespectful acts against the divine majesty.

This is exactly why Paul instructs believers to put on the full armor of Christ (Eph 6). Christians must be able to stand against the forces of Saran. Our Coptic brothers in Egypt, and Christians throughout the Middle East, are courageously taking on the enemy today. How are they doing? Headlines can be misleading. John correctly observes, “they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Conquered? Absolutely.

The armies of wickedness are subdued by an act of Divine-human cooperation. It is the blood of the Lamb that subdues the ancient accuser, and it is joined to the patient lives of Christian people who trust in God’s word and live by the gospel truth. It is the believer living out the inspired word of God, knowledge of the Creator’s purposes joined with actions to bring one closer to the Almighty.

When the Lamb was laid in a tomb, it seemed that his life and ministry were for nothing and the worldly powers had won the day, as they so often do. All of the disciples, except John, ran for cover. Pilate slept sound while Mary and the followers of the Anointed One doubtless passed a sleepless night. Throughout a careful reading of scripture we see how God makes strength out of weakness, and that is exactly the case with Jesus and the Christan martyrs who have followed his lead.

So what? As believers, we have an understanding of creation that is hidden from those who do not know Christ. The created order, every aspect of it, is good. All of the angels were created as powerful invisible agents of the loving and covenant-keeping God. Every one of them was good until a number of them began to rebel against The Lord’s plan for mankind. They know their fate already, and so do we.

And the other angels? “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14) They are our powerful unseen servants, doing our work and God’s. They are sent, and therefore under orders, from the heavenly throne. to look after the’s elect. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that the righteous angels are most useful in helping us stand against the spiritual forces of evil. This is a little insight into our cooperation with the Living God. The angels are part of God’s eternal plan to bring us into close relationship with Himself. We are not alone.

EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer p. 251)

Big Brother 15: guilty pleasure or morality play? #BB15

September 20, 2013

True confession time. While I was taking my final academic classes for a MMin, teaching an Old Testament continuing education course, team-teaching an adult-ed class on the 39 Articles, and helping a friend start a new Anglican church, I spent far too much time following the CBS  dirt-cheap summer replacement for something that might require paying real writers and performers, “Big Brother.”

I would like to take just a moment to condemn the racist, sexist, homophobic and totally uncivil behavior displayed by the “house guests.” Do you see my finger wagging? I’m serious about this! Something better be done about this right now or I am coming down with the belt! Do you understand me?

WHEW! That feels better.

It looks like some things have happened to several of the cast members. Third-place (zero money!) Spencer from Conway, Arkansas is fighting for his job at Union Pacific because of his trash mouth, and probably most of it has to do with his unspeakable commentary in the “off” hours concerning women. Runner-up GinaMarie ($50,000) got the ax from East Coast USA Pageant. Andy,, who won the whole shootin’ match ($500,000) is in trouble with the Du Page University on account of his allegedly racial slurs. Aaryn supposedly was terminated for her awful comments on anybody different from Aaryn. You see, I follow this nonsense.

It would be more comfortable to just push the blame off on my lovely bride, Marie, but it would be a lie. She tempted me, but I fell. There is something hypnotic about bad behavior. To face this a bit more directly, it can be a dangerous thing to let this kind of stuff inside one’s brain. I claim to be no better than the men and women on the tube.

I feel sorry for the cast members who have paid the price for giving voice to evil thoughts. They are being punished because commercial enterprises do not wish to offend anybody, not for any moral shortcoming. In other words, it is acceptable to hold the worst opinions of other people, and even to act on them, but it is never permissible to speak what is in your heart. Do whatever harm you wish, and remember to be deceptive as well.

God created men and women in his “image and likeness.” Humans reason, communicate, and seek to control. These are the God-like functions that set us apart. Because every one of us possess some divine characteristics, it is never acceptable to attack another person. It is equally wrong to go off on a group. Those targeted classes are bound to be different, disadvantaged, worse off, poor, or despised. The creator addresses this directly with the nation of Israel as it wandered in the desert. Moses says more than once in Deuteronomy that the people of Israel should remember that they were aliens in Egypt. We have no lasting city on earth but we are looking for an everlasting city (Heb 13:14).

The answer is to change our minds. The attitudes of hatred and rejection toward Muslims, homosexuals, people of different races and religions, and the just plain different are rebellious against God’s desire to build a people for his eternal kingdom. We are not entitled to speak ill of God’s other children. End of story.

Pope Francis: Gays, Abortion: Catholic Church’s Obsession #PopeFrancis #Catholic

September 19, 2013

Pope Francis is back in the news and this time it is a long-form print interview. That means that it is more substantial and presumably less likely to be misinterpreted. Here is a segment of the story, followed by a link to the longer article and some commentary from me.

Pope Francis faulted the Roman Catholic church for focusing too much on gays, abortion and contraception, saying the church has become “obsessed” with those issues to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all,” according to an extensive new interview published Thursday.

The church can share its views on homosexuality, abortion and other issues, but should not “interfere spiritually” with the lives of gays and lesbians, the pope added in the interview, which was published in La Civilta Cattolica, a Rome-based Jesuit journal.

“We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” Francis said in the interview.

“The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,’ Francis said. “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”

The 12,000-word interview ranges widely, touching upon the pope’s personal faith, the role of women and nuns in the church, Latin Mass and even the pope’s favorite artists.

Here is a link to the longer story.

Pope Francis: Gays, Abortion Too Much Of Catholic Church’s Obsession.

And the New York Times story is here.

And here are a few further thoughts.

This interview will be especially important for so-called “liberals.” I use that tag with caution because the liberal-conservative, one side is headed to heaven and the others are going straight to hell, division really does not work out well in religious discussions.  It actually does not work in political conversations any more either, but that is for another forum.

Progressive Roman Catholics, especially nuns, will make a lot of this new papal statement, and I want to be careful not to diminish what I think Francis is saying by pointing out how it will be received. I expect the altars of EWTN will be draped in black and poor Raymond Arroyo will announce that the Pope has lost his mind. The right-wing politicians that are always made comfortable at Arroyo’s side will ignore this pope much like church progressives have given little credence to his predecessors.

This interview may have some serious political consequences in the United States, so I will attempt to chose these words carefully. It is very possible to misunderstand this, or any, pope because they are not Americans and are naturally suspicious of a country which is so rabidly individualistic and shamelessly materialistic. Our media is especially suspect for church leaders from someplace else. This needs some unpacking.

Yes, the American news establishment is owned and managed a bunch of egotistical and generally under-educated individuals who are a lot more interested in making a buck than getting it right. When the pedophile priest story began to explode some years ago, church leaders dismissed the stories as the product of irresponsible American journalists. The people at the top of the Vatican do not “get” the USA.

If the Roman Catholic Church actually plans to tone down the current message on abortion, contraception and gay marriage, this ought to have a tremendous negative impact on American social conservatism. I say “ought to” because it is a long way from the Sistine Chapel to Branson, Mo. American conservative Roman Catholics will try to ignore this or twist the meaning, but bishops do take orders from Rome.

This is where things get sticky. One must wonder if Pope Francis has any awareness of how close the American branch of the Roman church has gotten to one political party. This same pope has embraced the notorious fugitive from justice, Cardinal Bernard Law. In any decent society, Law would have stood trail for his protection of pedophiles and be securely locked inside a prison instead of the Vatican’s luxury suites. Pope Francis is no man of steel.

This interview must also be reviewed from the ecclesiastical perspective. The pope is speaking as a pastor and his concern is the winning and care of souls. He is making a practical point that is hard to dispute, no matter one’s partisan position. His word “obsession” is very strong and one must wonder if it will be softened by Vatican officials in the next few days. Regardless, Francis is telling the church to emphasize God’s love for man and his invitation for us to join him in building his kingdom in expectation of the King’s coming.

Francis knows that conflict does not sell. It is unattractive and marks the church as being out-of-touch with real people. As one who often dwells on the doctrinal side of things, I must add an “amen.” As an Anglican, I see Roman Catholics as an important part of the living Body of Christ. We are the true living presence of Jesus in the world and when our words are full of division and mistrust, we do him dishonor.

Jesus is present in the gospel narrative as compassionate and involved in people’s everyday concerns. He does not compromise on morals and doctrine, but he builds relationships first. There is no easy way. Jesus says to grab your cross and come along to your own execution. It is not exactly “tough love,” but Jesus proposes love that is strong and selfless.

The commercial, political, material interests are taken up with the self-worship of pleasure, power and greed. Pope Francis proposes the right corrective, the gospel of salvation. It is a message that starts with divine grace and love.

Political activists have nothing to fear, until Jesus comes back. In the meantime, most people never have a serious thought anyway, and certainly no deep religious reflection. For those who have ears to hear, even among evangelical Anglicans, the Pope’s call for pastoral action is still big news.

Top Ten Reasons to enroll in the New Testament introduction

September 12, 2013

UPDATE: The class is still taking students. You can join in the second week and easily catch up! The meetings are going to be very enjoyable and educational.

It is back to class on September 17.We will be meeting in Little Rock in the St. Andrew’s Anglican Church library, but there are some slots available for out-of-town folks on WebEx. Why might you bother taking a class from some Nobody in Arkansas? Glad you asked that question. Here from the “home office” is the Top Ten list of fairly good reasons to know more about the New Testament.

1. We focus on Jesus and placing the student in relation to the the sacred text and the Savior.

2.The Nobody who leads the class has just completed (we hope!) the academic requirements of an MMin. It’s not like attending Oxford, but one does pick up some basic biblical skills. Mr. Nobody specializes in probing discussion starters.

3. The text is Gundry’s New Testament Survey (Fourth edition). Much cool reflection, great charts, useful maps.

4.The meetings are not dull lectures, but lively discussions with smart classmates (Several advanced degrees and one has a Ph. D.).

5. The 7 PM Central Time works out well for many people, and things wrap up at 8:30.

6. Yes, you do have to read sections of a book, but there are no exams or papers. It is a non-academic course designed for lay leaders and folks who want a deeper spiritual experience from Bible reading.

7. You do not have to be an Anglican to participate, and those of us who are Anglicans promise to be on our best behavior.

8. Reasonable tuition and the book is under $20.00 on abebooks.com, although by now you might need to break down and buy the Kindle version.

9.It is easy to drop Pat Lynch a note: plynch@swbell.net.

10. You are bound to learn SOMETHING and develop some real friendships.

What does the Bible have to say about the crisis in Syria? (hint: nothing. absolutely nothing)

September 12, 2013

In my younger days, one influence on my spiritual development was the teaching of Herbert W. and Garner Ted Armstrong. These guys ran an outfit known as the Worldwide Church of God. it still exists, but the surviving organization is considered “orthodox.” Back in the day, however, it printed such monumental (and bogus) collected lies as The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophesy. That the United Kingdom and the United States were to be read in scripture as modern Israel (the tribes of Ephriam and Manassas respectively) is not a new idea and the Armstrong’s were merely building upon the “identity movement.” Let’s see: Turkey was Edom, Babylon was… well you known damned good and well who Babylon was, Denmark was Dan, France was Ruben and Egypt was Egypt.

The Armstrong guys were outright heretics who denied the Trinity (the heresy) and demanded Old Testament law, dietary, festival and obligatory tripple tithing (the errors) from the well-fleeced faithful.

With this load of religious baggage to tote around, I always shudder at the charlatans who deceive the gullible believers. Peter Enns has an article on the exploitation of bible-based fear over Syria that is well worth your time. Follow the link below.

What does the Bible have to say about the crisis in Syria? (hint: nothing. absolutely nothing).

How I spent my summer vacation

September 7, 2013

Life was so busy this summer; one would think I was getting stinking rich. The work was just that hard and, now that fall is almost here, let it be known that. It would be great to find some small part-time something to do. There were a couple of classes to be taught and there were also two courses at the Anglican School of Ministry that will complete the seemingly endless Master of Ministry program. In the middle this overload, I agreed to serve on the strategy team planting New Hope Anglican Church of Little Rock. It starts weekly services on September 15. More on that later.

The act of teaching tends to educate the instructor as much as the student. There was that adult education course on the 39 Articles of Religion at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Little Rock. Now tell me true, how many churches will allow a class on pure doctrine? This is one of the reasons St. Andrew’s is such a great church. And it is treating me very graciously as I help my friend Sam Murrell begin to lead an ACNA congregation.

There was a “continuing education” class on the Old Testament that, as the instructor, caused me to gain some new insights. There is a fresh appreciation for Isaiah, and the second Isaiah. Now do not go tearing your cloths off and start barking at passing cars. I do not personally care if there were six guys named Isaiah. The book is historically accepted into the canon and that is good enough for this little guy in Little Rock. This is one of those non-academic programs that does not have exams or papers and does not issue a diploma. The students are great people who study hard because they want to know more about the faith and get closer to Jesus. This fall I am dong a survey of the New Testament. We will see how these books of Holy Scripture are applicable to everybody today. You will gain an entire new outlook on the Christian religion. Being an Anglican is not necessary for admission and there are some spaces available on WebEx for out-of-town folks. We have wonderful and enlightening discussions.

I also took two classes at the Anglican School of Ministry. These represent the final work in my Master of Ministry program. Spiritual Formation (THE 504 at ASM) deals with the health of the soul and is one of the most useful classes in which I have participated.  This one had a load of reading: Leanne Payne on the Healing Presence, Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, and my old friend (well, he feels like a friend) C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. These were great and had much practical and inspirational content. Have you read Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God? This is the finest insight for a holy life. Of course, that seems completely beyond all practical possibility in a world dominated by getting more stuff and getting more pleasure. Brother Lawrence has a simple rule of non-stop conversation with the Almighty. It is powerful. Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy is 400 pages of good advice on the Christian life. He masterfully paints the picture of a safe and good world, ruled by a loving and caring God. In this class, the student develops a devotional reading journal for 45 days and develop a plan of scripture and inspirational readings. I used the Daily Office of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as my framework. Keep in mind, this is a “journal” in which one comments on what the readings say and the personal meaning with application. This is an incredible experience. My instructor was Dr. Mark Quay, who is also pastor of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Without Dr. Quay, I would not have begun this journey in his den as part of the inaugural ASM class. This academic journey has made me into a different person. (Don’t worry, I still have the old “Bad Pat” kick!)

My other academic course was Sacramental Theology (THE 606 at ASM). There was so much reading! The final paper assignment was at least 15 pages on the “missional” understanding of Sacraments in the Anglican tradition. The final product was 22 pages of text (and a 2-page bibliography). There is nothing like the researching and thought process of organizing a paper to impart a deeper understanding of the subject. This was a fine class. I am very grateful to my instructor, Dr. Michael Pahls for his leadership and helpful observations. Many of my friends have helped me out with encouragement, prayer, and financial support. I need prayer most of all for good decisions and wisdom.a

My friend, Rev. Susie Wiggins, compares seminary to killing birds. You kill enough birds and eventually somebody gives you a degree. I hope to get my Master of Ministry in the next few weeks. Many people ask me what I plan to do with it. The answer is “nothing, absolutely nothing.” That somewhat sarcastic answer reflects my typical use of humor to keep people at distance. I am not one of the young hot-shots, so I am really not so sure what God has in mind. Ordination? If that is in God’s good plan, he will take care of it. I would like to do more with my little school – Christian Foundations for Ministry, write more on this blog, and finish the book I have halfway completed.

The Glad Streams blog has suffered. I plan to write much more this fall and maybe even start a podcast. I am still looking for that part-time gig and, sometime soon, God will see to that. I am blessed.