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Joe Fleener

Joe Fleener's Public Library

  • Lucas wanted to make a movie that would teach children the central ethic of right and wrong, good and evil. "I want[ed] to see if I can bend their lives at a particular point in time when they're very vulnerable," he recalls, "and give them the things that we've always given kids throughout history. The last time we had done it was with the Western. And once the Western was gone, there was no vehicle to say, 'You don't shoot people in the back' and such."
  • In the new version, it is Greedo who shoots first, by a split second. Deeply offended fans saw it as sacrilege; Lucas will probably go to his grave defending it. When Han shot first, he says, it ran counter to "Star Wars' " principles.
  • Partly so he doesn't have to read the worst about himself and his movies, Lucas says he has assiduously avoided the Internet since 2000 - no Facebook, no Twitter, no e-mail even - but that doesn't mean he avoids people.

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  • Ministry is an odd endeavor. We minister the Word, pray, counsel, disciple, evangelize, teach, and preach, but seldom do these efforts produce immediate and concrete “results” that prove our labor was beneficial and effectual
  • Though the invisible nature of ministry can be discouraging at times, it also serves as one of the most encouraging aspects of gospel ministry. We never quite know what the Lord is doing or has done.
  • Pride is an enemy of ministry and a harbinger of discouragement.

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  • It is such a blessing to meet and talk with so many Christian women who desire to grow in God’s Word. However, it is also disheartening to see women, across the board, caught up in poor theology. And it often causes discord in the church. Many of these women are under good preaching, and they claim to have a high view of Scripture. And yet some of the material they are studying with other women in the church, or reading for their own personal growth, contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. How can this be? Why are numerous women embracing false teaching?

  • But, I think progress can be made on this question if one important distinction is maintained, namely the difference between writing a manuscript and using a manuscript.  The former is a very helpful and worthwhile exercise (particularly for younger preachers).  The latter, in my opinion, can seriously hinder a preachers development as well as the effectiveness of their delivery.
  • This is why reading a sermon manuscript rarely works.  Reading simply doesn’t sound the way preaching sounds.  It sounds, well, like reading. They are two different genres.

  • Of course, I'm not opposed to someone discerning a vocational shift. Not everyone who leaves the pastorate does so out of cowardice or sin. What I am opposed to is the supposition behind his departure--the reason he gives for leaving. For Dobson, he's been on a journey which started one place and is leading him to another; specifically, to the edges of faith. In actual fact, he's exactly where he's always been. His self-professed goal was always to be the cool pastor with the cool shoes. It's not that he's journeyed away from the "center" of faith. No, he's just stayed in the center of the zeitgeist--in the "mainstream" of a culture which is rapidly leaving Christian orthodoxy behind. He's not energized with a boyish, effrontery audacity, he's paralyzed with fear. 
  • As a young, fit, white, upper-middle class male, Dobson's sermon is not a rebellion to his culture. It's a product of his culture
  • The mystery and romance he attempts to conjure around his spiritual evolution is laughable to anyone with a television. He's not moving forward into the unknown; he's sitting perfectly still in the safe, cozy space where Oprah is queen, tolerance is the law, and anyone with a firm opinion on just about anything is suspect.

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  • First, the church needs to understand that the forces pressing for her theological and moral dissolution are deeply embedded in the currents of the modern world. 
  • We need to understand that Biblical illiteracy is no longer simply an informational issue, a lack of knowledge of the biblical text and story line.  The problem is not simply that people have never heard of Noah or even perhaps Jesus. It is the fact that they do not even think any more in terms of the most basic categories with which the Bible operates, perhaps most fundamentally the idea of human nature as a given.  And they do not even realize that the way they think now is not the way it has to be.  The task that lies before the church is thus much vaster and more difficult than we could ever have imagined.
  • Third – and I know you are all just waiting for me to say this -- churches need elaborate confessions

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  • A heretic usually has no problem in affirming the Scriptures as the Word of God. Their problem almost always arises from a perversion of the meaning of God's Word.
  • All heresies are errors, but not all errors are heresies
  • Earlier in the seventeenth century, John Ball made the point that through ignorance a Christian may misunderstand many things in God's word, but not be in danger of damnation

  • Without knowing it, I was awakening to what Psalm 19 tells us so clearly, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

  • In a post-Freudian, post-Foucaultian world, the very notion of discipline sounds repressive and abusive, yet Machen clearly understood that this is vital for a healthy church.
  • Machen grasped the basic Pauline point that the primary area of combat for the church is the church itself.   Writing in the midst of the Roman empire, Paul has almost nothing to say about the empire; instead, he focuses his attention on the doctrine and discipline of the church.  The war will be against those who have an appearance of godliness, yet who deny its power.  
  • Many churches have done a decent enough job of maintaining an orthodox confession of faith on paper; but practice has undone them.  The battle against liberalism has been generally conceived of as a doctrinal struggle.  And so it is.  But in the current climate, the connection between doctrine and ethics is critical; and practical failures are proving lethal.

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  • No scholar—or as far as that goes, not even a madman—predicted that at the end of the twentieth century Christianity would not be recognized even as a cultural factor in Europe by the nations that today compose the European Union.


    No prognosticator predicted that more Christians would be worshiping each Sunday in China than in Europe or North America.


    And, what might be surprising to us today, even the greatest mission leaders at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910 had pretty much given up on Christianity in Africa. Most of the missionary leaders, even in their most optimistic moments, thought Islam had the upper hand and believed Africa would become a Muslim continent. Fast-forward and we find that the opposite is true, for there are more Christians than Muslims in Africa today.

  • You will be reminded how many people don’t know the gospel
  • You will pray more
  • You will gain a better understanding of people

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  • fifty years of being in the pulpit of Alfred Place

  • Another theme in Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism is liberalism’s functional abandonment of history as a source of any authority
  • o reject the authority of history is thus to engage in a form of Docetism.  It is also to reject the authority of doctrine or to turn doctrine into the psychological constructs which undergird liberalism and make Christinaity into nothing more than a religion of sentiment and feeling
  • Because he held to a high view of the church as an institution, and of her offices, officers and confessions, history was inevitably of vital importance to the particularities of Christian belief and practice in the present.

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  • These days the media are overflowing with comments and analyses of last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. One particular angle is consistently ignored – or banished: religion.
  • In spite of IS’ own constant and unambiguous references to Allah as the motivation for their terrorist acts, politicians and mass media alike consistently refuse to acknowledge religion, let alone mention it.
  • Religion is thus a total taboo in the narrative of the fight on terror. There are two reasons. One is political correctness: the ideology of secularism propounds the doctrine that religion is irrelevant, as it is not one of the ideals of the Enlightenment and must therefore be ignored, except in so far as it is made the object of derision ad scorn. The other, and more significant, reason is that there is little sensibility to religion and spirituality in Europe – and none whatever among the political elite.

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  • Simon Gathercole says it is “the most comprehensive interdisciplinary synthesis of biblical and astronomical data yet produced. . . .  a remarkable feat.”

  • Connecting Christ and the Proverbs isn't so easy.
  • If the book of Proverbs is the book of Wisdom - and it is - we are bound to confess as Christians that the Son of God is both Wisdom and the author of wisdom (Prov. 2:6).
  • In the end, I believe that Proverbs was written to/for Christ (and by Christ); and because we are in him, they are written also for us. This might mean, regrettably for some and happily for others, that Proverbs 31 is not first about our wives, but about the church. 

  • Christianity is much more than getting your doctrine right.


    But it is not less.

  • I was surprised at how much of our conversation centered on the ethics of same-sex attraction. In one sense, Gagnon agreed with our contention that the desire for sinful sex is a sinful desire. But still, he argued hard against our interpretation of James 1:14-15. He does not believe that the desire mentioned there is sinful/culpable.
  • DeFranza mentioned that she too supports gay marriage (which she has written about elsewhere). That is the first time I have ever heard of an ETS member openly supporting gay marriage in a presentation. Second, after the presentations, the moderator said that the papers represented a good range of “evangelical” opinion on the subject of marriage. Apparently, he even included Gushee’s presentation as within the pale of evangelical possibilities.
  • Bottom line: It seems that there are some ETS members who regard support for gay marriage as an evangelical option. Moreover, the sexual binary of Genesis 1:27 seems to be up for grabs as well. If these views have been expressed before at an annual meeting, I am unaware of it. This may very well be a first.

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  • To begin with a question: What would Gresham Machen think of the current state of the union with regard to sexual ethics and the connection between these and the increasing pressure on religious freedom?  I suspect he would be shocked by the particularities of the case, that the most private of human activities has become the most pressing public issue of the day and the single biggest factor in the challenge to religious freedom in the United States.  Yet he would also surely roll his eyes, for recent changes in America do little more than confirm his belief that the church is a body of pilgrim people, never truly at home in this world prior to the consummation of all things at the end of time.
  • The first area of interest is the point which underlines much of Machen’s analysis in Christianity and Liberalism and that is that Christianity is a religion of dogmatic assertion, while liberalism is a religion of sentiment or feeling.  Machen summarizes it this way:
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