Preaching as War

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Posted 4/12/13 at 11:29 AM | Michael Greiner

Preaching After the Nuke Lands

 North Korea will nuke someone soon. If not, then someone else will. Soon. Cain killed Abel, revealing the heart of mankind. Cain’s have been killing Abel’s ever since. Murder happens every day. The question of murder through nuclear weapons is not a matter of if, but when. And it will be soon.

How do I know? Leave 12 dieters in a room for a day with a plate full of double chocolate brownies. They will get eaten. And soon. It is the desire of those in the room. Mankind kills. Mankind advances technologically so that nuclear weapons multiply potential nuclear killers. Cain has a nuke. He wants to use it. He is going to use it. Eventually. Soon.

What does that mean for preachers? What do you preach after the nukes fall?

Answer: nothing should change in the pulpit.

A well prepared congregation will not expect a different message in the weeks after the nuke than before. However, if all is preached about before the nukes fall is the fluffy stuff of "helpful" sermons, short and tight, then the preaching will have to change, for it was wrong in the first place. If the sermons preached before the nukes avoided the tough subjects of the world, then preaching will have to change. FULL POST

Posted 11/27/12 at 4:49 PM | Michael Greiner

Ruining the Christmas Story

It’s that holly-jolly time again. Time to pull out the decorations and the lights and, since we love Jesus, time to pull out the old Nativity set. There we will find Mary, on her knees, wearing blue and white --the official colors of the Virgin Mother. There will be Joseph, leaning in, bearded, and admiring his amazing Son.

Jesus will have his place, laying in a wooden manger, the hay thrusting out the sides of his blanket of swaddling clothes. His face looks a little older than a new born, but that’s okay. He is the Savior. His arms are out to welcome a world “in sin and error pining.” Nearby are the cow, she is at rest, and the sheep, there are a couple of them. There is no pig --this is a kosher stable, after all.

An angel hovers above the a-frame, three-sided barn that contains the holy family. Above the angel, the star shines brightly, sending its golden arms out in all directions. Just outside the walls of the barn are three fine camels. Two of them are standing, one is down on his haunches. There are three kings --one is black, one is white, and one is Asian. They are there with gifts in hand, a rainbow coalition of worshipers from afar. FULL POST

Posted 11/14/12 at 11:33 AM | Michael Greiner

Called to Preach as a Pastor? What Now? Part 1: The Call

When I was 19 years old I became a Christian. I left home at 17. After two years on my own, my worldview changed immensely. I was not in college. I was not dependent on my parents. I had to find my own way. I felt free, yet directionless. Why I began to seek God at this time I did not know. But I did. At 19, I surrendered to Jesus. Today I am a 49 and have been a pastor for 16 years. How did I get here? How does someone become a pastor?

God calls whom He will. That is the short answer. There is no ideal pedigree for becoming a pastor. He picks preachers’ kids and pimps. You can be raised in a devout Christian home or, like me, a mostly religion-neutral home. You can be raised by chimps. God chooses whom He will and it is by His own calculations.

What does this mean? First it means, no one is called because he is impressive. It also means, the call to being a shepherd in God’s flock (and specifically a preaching pastor), is not a vocation that is open to anyone who wants it. God must choose. FULL POST

Posted 10/31/12 at 1:09 AM | Michael Greiner

What to do About Violence at Church

Over 30 years ago, a friend of mine told me the story of his pastor. He was in his study when an unknown man entered with a gun and shot him several times. The pastor recovered, fortunately. Why did this man shoot him? He was deranged. That’s all.

Then, today, I read a story about a pastor of a mega church, slain while in the church building. The killer drove his car into the side of the building, and then chased the pastor and beat him to death.

Now, I am a pastor myself. From time to time, I have wondered what I would do if someone “deranged” came looking for me with a gun. Bullet proof vest? Self-defense course? Should I be packing?

Unfortunately, killers don’t target only pastors. Sometimes “deranged” people come into church services and begin shooting anyone they can. I have often imagined what I would do if that happened while I was preaching. Would I run down from the front and rush the guy? Or would I use the advantage of the microphone to instruct the congregation, “everybody down!”? Or would I jump and roll out of the way, like James Bond, and flank the shooter? FULL POST

Posted 10/20/12 at 1:24 AM | Michael Greiner

Steve Martin, Dinesh, and Billy Graham

Before making movies, Steve Martin made his career on stand up comedy. One of his routines began like this, “Yes, you too can be a millionaire and never pay taxes.” Then he explains how to be a millionaire and never pay taxes. There are two easy steps. “First, get a million dollars. Next, don’t pay taxes!”

Simple, right? Of course, he knew what we were thinking, “But, Steve, if I never pay taxes, then the government will take me to court!” But Steve was ahead of us and gave us a plan.

“When you go before the judge, just say, ‘I forgot. I forgot that not paying taxes was against the law.’”

That was funny back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. However, if Martin had not been a comedian, but had spoken seriously, then he would have seemed insane. This past week, I heard a Christian I admired say something very similar -- and, unfortunatey, he was not joking.

Dinesh D’Souza stepped down as head of the King’s College in NYC. Why? The reason can be summed up in this one sentence that he spoke recently: “I had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced.” FULL POST

Posted 9/27/12 at 1:29 PM | Michael Greiner

The Sheep are Ready to Slaughter

Bill Clinton was the worst president in the history of the United States. He was not the worst because he was the worst man to serve. Who am I to judge such things?Most today measure presidential success by policies and economics. I do not. I am offering a spiritual measurement. Never before in history have so many Americans chosen spiritual foolishness than under the governance of Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton was and is a pathological liar. The evidence was and is everywhere. He lies about everything. He lies about things that matter (raping Juanita Broderick, sexually abusing Kathleen Willy, etc). He lies about things off the cuff, ("You probably think I taxed you too much. I do too.").

The Bible says that "If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked." In the United States, "We the people" are the rulers. We listened to Clinton's lies and agreed that he was honest. We celebrated him as the president and supported him to the end. We as a people listen to lies. We as a people have made our officials wicked.

Ironically, Bush was and is an honest man. His policies I largely disagreed with, and some I liked. But no one could find him lying. And yet, we as a nation, by the end of his time, called him a liar and said we don't need any like him. Regardless of policy and results, the spotlight was on the souls of Americans, and it showed our wickedness that we call liars honest, and honest men liars. FULL POST

Posted 9/13/12 at 5:46 PM | Michael Greiner

Uncle Abe's Tip for Approaching God

 An audience with God is no small matter. Abraham displayed great courage in approaching God with his questions. When he wanted to ask God to have mercy on Sodom, he did so very respectfully.

The Bible says he started the conversation by “coming near the Lord.” Imagine what that was like. God can hear you from wherever you might be, but it might feel safer to be at a distance. God tells Abraham, “I’m about to destroy Sodom.” Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lives there. Lot had come with Abraham from the old country, following his uncle --Uncle Abe had a vision --God said to leave home behind! Abraham believed God and went. Lot believed and went along too.

Abraham’s first thought, upon hearing that Sodom was to be destroyed, might have been, “What’s going to happen to Lot? He’s going to get killed to.” What would the relatives think? Brought him all this way from Ur, just to have him burned alive? That's no way to look after your nephew!

Abe wants to talk to the Lord about this, but the Lord can be frightening –He gets a scary look in His eyes when He announces He is going to destroy a city! He’s intimidating. He is also God. Abraham inches near to Him, and begins his questioning politely. Abraham asked his question. He wants to know if God would spare Sodom if there are 50 righteous people in it. God says that He will. FULL POST

Posted 9/10/12 at 8:37 PM | Michael Greiner

These are the Worst of Times (the Rise of Man)

 There has never been a worse time to be alive. The history of man is the history of wars. Cain killed Abel over vengeful jealous desire to have what he did not. The first son of man killed the second, and we have been repeating the exact sin for the exact same reason ever since.

Mankind wants what does not belong to him. He will get it by theft, by competition, by manipulating government, by amassing power, by war. Mankind denies --no, is highly offended by -- the idea that he is wicked. But his willingness to work for the downfall of others is obvious.

However, God in His kindness, put many graceful restraints upon mankind. He knows that we are wicked from birth, and so He interacts with us to keep us alive, keep us groping for Him. Some of those restraints we will never know until we get to heaven. After all, who can see the heavenly realm, and know the strong arm of God who sets boundaries on the demons, who sends angels to protect, who interacts with our thoughts and plans our days so that we will suppress our own desires for evil, and seek to do what is good? FULL POST

Posted 9/5/12 at 10:32 AM | Michael Greiner

These are the Best of Times (the advance of God)

 More people live on the surface of the earth today than in any time in the past. As I write this, the US census pop-clock estimates that there are 7,037,380,192 people on the earth. Of course, that is only an estimate. I mean, who can count that many people? Still, that is a lot of people.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was like a woman who put a little yeast into a lump of dough and worked it in until it permeated the entire lump. So it is with the Kingdom of God. Jesus declared the Gospel --the yeast-- into the lump of humanity 2000 years ago.

When He spoke the words about the Kingdom and dough, the lump was much smaller, as far as world population goes --about 200 million on the entire earth. When Jesus spoke those words about yeast, there were only a few dozen true believers on the planet. And, with the exception of Jesus Himself, those few had no idea what they even believed, yet! Within a couple of years from the time Jesus spoke this parable, the number of believers would become 120, and then quickly, 5000 or more. They were all concentrated in a small but important area of the world. The yeast was in the lump. The spread was about to begin.

The portion of the lump of dough that the yeast was placed was the Jewish part of the lump. If you are going to get some yeast into the lump of the world’s population, there is no better place to start. Why? Because the Jews are communicators and they live all over the place. Being persecuted for centuries is not pleasant, but it does present some strategic advantages for the spread of the Kingdom of God. FULL POST

Posted 8/29/12 at 11:28 AM | Michael Greiner

GROW YOUR OWN (adults, that is)

Two years after leaving home, I became a Christian. Big changes followed. My recreational habits, my words, my sense of purpose, my social circles, my interaction with extended and close family --all these underwent a revolution. Consequently, I thought, “I should probably make something of my life,” and decided to enter college at Penn State. More big changes!

College hadn’t been a part of my plan. Now, two years out of high school, my view on life had changed radically compared to that of my freshman peers. Learning to be a Christian in academia was also an unexpected challenge. However, I found joy and strength in what my new Christian-speak told me was called “fellowship.” I joined a Christian group (“fellowship”), where I could make friends and “fellowship” with them.

What a great situation for a young Christian! Young adults make the most exciting Christians. We were full of passion, zeal, idealism, purpose. However, I met a few Christians in these college Christian circles that are the reason for this blog post: the-about-to-not-be-all-that-Christian-who-had-been-raised-in-the-church type of person. FULL POST

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