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Monday, March 27, 2023

Holy What???




Holiness is a foreign topic for most people. Even Christians. We have a vague familiarity with the context in which it is usually found. 


First and foremost, we are told that God the Almighty is “holy.” As the Israelites were getting familiar with their Divine Deliverer, these words were given to them: “For I am the LORD your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44,  CSB) This is repeated three more times in Leviticus. 


New Testament readers are told, “That's why the Scriptures say, 'I am the holy God, and you must be holy too.’ (1 Peter 1:16, CEV) Rather intimidating instruction! The Hebrew word for holiness is q┼Źdes. That which is holy is sacred, in contrast to everything common and profane. How did we allow this to slip by?


I encountered the importance of the godly character of holiness in the foreword of Chuck Colson’s excellent book, Loving God. Chuck had come across a resource of profound insight on the subject written by theologian R.C. Sproul. It was titled (appropriately) The Holiness of God. Chuck stated that after reading Sproul’s book, he fell to his knees deep in awe over the holiness of God! 


I would later read that same book by Sproul. And others of his. R.C. was a man who clearly took God at His Word.


Holy. It’s one word—among many—that we abuse in our world today by minimizing its significance. How often do we hear holy used in conjunction with terms such as holy cow, holy moley, holy guacamole, holy hell (wow), holy cr*p, and the even more offensive holy sh**? Other variations certainly exist and all of them run quite counter to the instruction to be holy. Ironic. 


In our modern thinking, words apparently don’t really matter. This is why I was struck by a recent Christianity Today story titled, “Words are Holy. so Why Don’t We Talk Like They are?” It’s written by Paul J. Pastor, who is a pastor, author, and editor.


As Pastor states, “Today, we live in a crisis of language. Not only is the sacred nature of our words largely forgotten, but language is becoming degraded. In a world of significant social, ecological, and spiritual crisis, this may seem like a low priority. But healthy language, like clean air or water, is something we take for granted until it is gone.”


Pastor uses illustrations from the legendary George Orwell, who found political speech quite disturbing in his day. Imagine what his perspective might be like in 2023! Pastor determines this about our times, “So the great threat to language is not from a shadowy politburo. It is from the sheer disposability of words as part of a general glut of information. Words are everywhere. What is everywhere must not be precious. Language becomes disposable.”


What words can you think of that have lost their meaning? How about amazing. Incredible. Unbelievable. Even great. All attributed to ideas, thoughts, or acts that are nothing more than ordinary. And let me add one of my favorites to the list: perfect. I’ve heard waiters and waitresses use that word when I tell them we need a table for two. 


Admittedly, none of those word trivialities rank up there in my book with the abuse of the word holy


To be clear, our call to holiness is not a call to live a life of perfection. That is an impossible task and attempting to do so can quickly move into legalism. But our call to live righteous lives is the target for which we aim in the faith. Even in our language. 


How comfortable have we become with the abuse of the word holy? Enough so that when it is used in any derogative form, few are the souls who would dare correct or challenge it. Even among the church faithful.


I’m often haunted by Jesus' words about words. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37, ESV) I plead guilty to that charge often and have needed the healing words of forgiveness.


How about you? It might be worthy of some holy conversation!


That’s Forward Thinking. 


You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?


For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com


Articles of interest:

  1. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/march/pastor-cherish-holy-words-language-disposable-age.html?utm_source=CT+Daily+Briefing+Newsletter&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=227257&utm_content=12327&utm_campaign=email&vgo_ee=n9%2FuD7e5jNtHuxs8ncU17SBAWaAotQkn8fTjdS3g5M8%3D

Monday, February 20, 2023

Jesus Warned Us


The dust hasn’t fully settled yet. Two Super Bowl ads costing $20 million with the message that “He Gets Us” have pushed people’s buttons. Not all in a good way.

Before we look into the “down and dirty” responses to the ads, let it be known that MOST Super Bowl fans liked them. According to USA Today's annual Ad Meter, the “He Gets Us” ads (I have trouble calling them that) ranked one of them in the Top 10 and another in the Top 15 out of nearly 50 ads on Super Bowl Sunday.

Those messages went out to an estimated 100-plus million people. According to the website, the “He Gets Us” campaign seeks to "reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible and his confounding love and forgiveness.” One of the funding individuals is the co-founder of Hobby Lobby, David Green. Those who didn’t approve of the ads likely did not find Hobby Lobby’s full page Christmas ad to their taste either.

Anyone following this story would know that U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC as she is known), was repulsed by these two ads. In her own Twitter words she said, “Something tells me Jesus would not spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign.”

If for some reason you didn’t watch the Super Bowl, or didn’t see the commercials, you can easily find them. The first ad urged viewers to be more childlike and featured kids of different races. The second showed images of violent confrontations before sharing this message: “Jesus loved the people we hate.”

Did you resonate with AOC’s charge of making “fascism look benign?” Didn’t think so—assuming you are a person of reason.

In contrast we had the Super Bowl halftime show. I did not watch. But I’ve read the “reviews,” with sports talk radio taking tons of calls on Rihanna’s crotch grabbing and, well, you would know if you saw it. No comments from the New York Congresswoman on this, however.

But what I found particularly interesting were some of the comments from the so-called Christian community. According to Breitbart news, “Online commentary suggests the Christian community does not know whether to be hopeful or apprehensive about the upcoming ads, knowing that the Jesus of the Bible is often replaced by what Bible-believing Christians view as a false social-justice-warrior portrayal of Jesus to further leftwing cultural and political priorities and discard biblical moral teachings.” Ouch!

A friend who gives me frequent commentary on issues of the day sent this:

“Certainly a Person who is omniscient 'gets' everything. So if 'He gets us,' and He does, what's the message He is sending? That we are sinners, lost, headed for a fiery Hell, sheep who have wandered away, creating nothing but filthy rags as our best work on our best day. That's what Jesus 'gets' about all humanity, no exception. That's what the Bible teaches. Now, is that what's going to be on display for 100 million people in the Roman Coliseum Super Bowl tomorrow? Nope. Tomorrow you will see 'cool Jesus,' 'refugee immigrant Jesus,' which is to say no Jesus at all.”

Double-ouch!

My personal view is that the ads were powerful, accurate, and likely presented in a way that will draw interest to learn more. That is all we can ask of an invitation to discover what it means to follow Jesus. So I oppose those within the faith community who have criticized the campaign’s efforts.

As for society at large, after those living in Jesus' times witnessed His miraculous healings and assurances of forgiveness, His closeness to the Heavenly Father was simply too much to handle. So He had plenty of haters. It is why He told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 (NIV)

AOC and others find plenty to hate about the Christian community. It should come as no surprise. Jesus gave us a clear warning.

That’s Forward Thinking. 


You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?


For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com


Articles of interest:

  1. https://nypost.com/2023/02/13/aoc-accuses-christian-super-bowl-ad-of-making-fascism-look-benign/
  2. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2023/02/10/group-pays-20-million-super-bowl-ads-about-jesus/
  3. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/he-gets-us-responds-aocs-attack-christian-super-bowl-ads
  4. https://www.newsmax.com/newsmax-tv/kirk-cameron-aoc-superbowl/2023/02/14/id/1108548/?ns_mail_uid=803b3758-a8c4-40cf-bd05-c4d9e20f10a3&ns_mail_job=DM436152_02142023&s=acs&dkt_nbr=010104pk84pm
  5. https://nypost.com/2023/02/13/rihannas-crotch-grab-at-super-bowl-dominates-sports-talk-radio/

Monday, January 30, 2023

QBs with Talent on Loan from God


Okay. So the Super Bowl is set. We now know the Kansas City Chiefs are going back to the biggest game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles!

Three of the four quarterbacks who played yesterday are very open about their faith in Jesus. Can you name them? Before you answer, let me bring up another Super Bowl winning quarterback: "Broadway Joe" Namath.

Of any QB in our modern era, Namath personified the word brash. Other words and terms for brash include self assertive, full of self, cocky, arrogant, audacious — well, you get the picture. Oh…and you can throw in irreverent.

Namath’s nickname, “Broadway Joe,” came about after he appeared on the Sports Illustrated cover in 1965. That followed a photoshoot on Broadway. The cover photo proclaimed, “Football Goes Show Biz.”

Over 50 years ago, “Braggadocio Joe” made the absurd prediction that his upstart New York Jets would beat the NFL’s best, the Baltimore Colts, in Super Bowl 3. Which is exactly what happened. The legend was sealed.

Frankly, I’ve never cared for Joe Namath. But that’s me. Football heroes develop their own fan clubs.

I’m much more intrigued and supportive of the three quarterbacks from this past weekend who have boldly stood by their Christian faith convictions. That includes Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, and Brock Purdy.

During his college days at Texas Tech, Patrick Mahomes' mother said during an interview: “In middle school, he got real involved with his youth group, He got saved. There was a night at church, he had his hands raised to the Lord and he was singing…I knew where his heart truly is.”

Mahomes shares his faith with Twitter followers. He’s encouraged prayer for teammates. When former Chiefs QB Alex Smith suffered a season-ending injury, Patrick asked fans to pray for him in a special way.

Jalen Hurts plays QB for the Philadelphia Eagles. After first playing at Alabama, he then transferred to Oklahoma. He told CBS Sports: “… something that I've just matured in and realized, that God is everything and He's worthy of praise, You have to put Him in the center of everything that you do…And I know God has been there the whole entire way.” Humble, in a world of glory seekers.

And then there’s the newby: Brock Purdy. Since he became a starter later in the season for the San Francisco 49ers, he went 7-0. Not bad for a player who barely—barely—was drafted last spring. A final draft choice known as Mr. Irrelevant.

Purdy exhibited remarkable poise. His coach, Kyle Shanahan, said Brock is "definitely the most poised rookie I've ever had.” Purdy himself said he plays with a sense of “fearlessness,” claiming his Christian faith gives him peace and confidence in the battle.

Purdy’s Twitter and Instagram state, ”Believer in Christ." A certain Bible verse graces his Twitter bio — Colossians 3:23 — “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

Brock Purdy was interviewed on Sports Spectrum last August. It was then he announced he wanted to "be able to witness and defend the Christian faith as best as I can,” adding, "My identity is in Jesus.” I hope Brock is around a long time.

So what about quarterback #4—Joe Burrow? After winning the national championship at LSU, he’s already developed a swagger. And garnered a nickname: Joe Cool.

After winning the national title, the lsusports.net webpage quoted Burrow as saying: “I kept faith in myself the entire time…I knew the kind of person I was, the kind of player I could be, and I kept faith.”

An LSU site writer said, “Belief – in the hard work he put in and the football gods guiding his path – brought Burrow here.“

Faith in himself. Help from the football gods. Perhaps hanging out a bit with Mahomes, Hurts, and Purdy can keep Joe Burrow from building himself a legacy of brash. Like that Namath guy.

Hope so. Joe’s a great quarterback… with talent on loan from God.

That’s Forward Thinking. 


You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?


For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com


Articles of interest:

1. https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/eagles-qb-jalen-hurts-keeps-eyes-on-christ-god-is-everything-and-hes-worthy-of-praise.html


2. https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/qb-brock-purdy-guides-49ers-to-nfc-championship-my-identity-is-in-jesus.html?utm_source=ChristianHeadlines Daily&utm_campaign=Christian Headlines Daily - ChristianHeadlines.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=7637353&recip=530696604&aps=3573af02591190322d3d755259709c4e164f76edbce4ddda8e23716394da9d8f&lctg=53069660



3. https://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/idolchatter/2020/01/how-patrick-mahomes-was-transformed-by-his-christian-faith-and-uses-it-to-encourage-others.html


4. https://lsusports.net/news/2019/12/14/football-belief-in-himself-and-his-destiny-turned-joe-burrow-into-a-heisman-winner/

Monday, January 23, 2023

Well, Excuuuuuusssse Me!

                        




One of the many hilarious comedic routines from the incredibly funny Steve Martin was notable for this line: “Well, excuuuuuusssse me!” I’ll start there.

Truth be told, not all of our actions should be excused. In fact many should be called out. And when this happens properly, we should applaud.

This past week,  Rhonda and I went to see the latest movie starring Tom Hanks — A Man Called Otto. There were many praiseworthy things about this film. Showing a change of heart and character would be a couple. Enduring love for a spouse would be another.

The film was marred, in my opinion, by what most movie-goers would find as a great example of “acceptance.” It involved a former student of Otto’s wife (she had passed a few months earlier.) This student was delivering papers of some kind to the neighborhood. This being one of three jobs he/she held.

Note that last line. The character, named Malcolm, was transgender. Otto put up no barriers to conversation. Nor should he have. Otto did acts of kindness to help this person. As he should.

The painful part of Malcolm’s life included his being thrown out of his house by his disapproving father. (Otto tells him that his father is “an idiot.”) Malcolm is then welcomed into Otto’s home. A kind gesture. Malcolm seems to have adjusted well to his/her new “identity.”

This is Hollywood’s way of suckering people into thinking that transgenderism is full of stories like Malcolm’s. A deep dive into the significant emotional conflicts people suffer in attempting such a change is much closer to reality. Rather than confront the conflict in a caring, yet challenging, way we perpetuate a great crime on God’s design for humanity.

Another example. Well known recording artist Amy Grant was recently honored for her significant musical accomplishments. It was notable in that this was the first time the top cultural distinction at the Kennedy Center Honors was given to a contemporary Christian musician. She received a lot of press for this award.

More recently, she received press for another distinctive event. People Magazine reported that Grant is standing by her decision to host her niece's same-sex wedding back in November. She’s tried to avoid “social media criticism.”

In her own words, Grant told People: “I love my family. I love those brides. They're wonderful, our family is better, and you should be able to be who you are with your family and be loved by them.” And then added, "What a gift to our whole family to just widen the experience of our whole family.”

Contrast this with the recent decision by hockey player Ivan Provorov. He recently elected to sit out the warm-ups with his Philadelphia Flyers team rather than to celebrate their Pride Night event. In his words, “I had to stay true to myself and my religion." He’s Russian Orthodox.

Here’s my view.

First, “love” means accepting others' behavior/choices or you are not accepting THEM. No it doesn’t! (Murder, rape, larceny are the most obvious examples.) Less obvious are the personal choices on gender manipulation and sexual preference. The character Otto and singer Amy Grant did no favors, and left righteousness hidden by mere “acceptance.”

Second, “love = tolerance.” No, it doesn’t. When we fail to speak or live by the truths we’ve been blessed to have by God, accepting falsehoods weakens truth at its core.

Thirdly, “love means we must forgive.” Yes, if the offense is against us. We do not have the right nor the power to clear someone else’s account of wrongdoing. Excusing them is a possibility but rarely wise. And God never excuses sin. He covers it with His blood. His choice. His forgiveness.

Our call as followers of Jesus is to be bold witnesses in holding to Truth. As the apostle John explained, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3 (ESV)

Before God, we are all accountable. And there are no acceptable excuses.

That’s Forward Thinking.


You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?


For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com


Articles of interest:

1. https://www.movieguide.org/reviews/a-man-called-otto.html

2. https://www.ncronline.org/culture/amy-grant-queen-christian-pop-feted-kennedy-center-honors

3. https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/amy-grant-defends-her-hosting-a-same-sex-wedding-i-love-those-brides.html?utm_source=ChristianHeadlines%20Daily&utm_campaign=Christian%20Headlines%20Daily%20-%20ChristianHeadlines.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=7605714&recip=530696604&aps=3573af02591190322d3d755259709c4e164f76edbce4ddda8e23716394da9d8f&lctg=530696604

4. https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/milton-quintanilla/iowa-diocese-bans-use-of-preferred-pronouns-requires-parishioners-to-use-restrooms-matching-their-biological-sex.html?utm_source=ChristianHeadlines%20Daily&utm_campaign=Christian%20Headlines%20Daily%20-%20ChristianHeadlines.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=7610326&recip=530696604&aps=3573af02591190322d3d755259709c4e164f76edbce4ddda8e23716394da9d8f&lctg=530696604