Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Bodily Resurrection: Wright, Alcorn, and more

12:52 PM
The current issue of Newsweek includes a commentary by Lisa Miller entitled "God's Miraculous Makeover." The piece discusses a renewed Christian interest in bodily resurrection, and is a worthwhile read.
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Bruce's Latest Christian/American History Chroncile Piece

6:04 PM
Requested by Ryan, here is the text of my latest letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle.


Blake Dunlop (Jan. 17) argues that America “was substantively a Christian society” in the 1770s, and that colonial theocracies did not exist.

Let’s examine these claims.

In 1740, H.F. Uhden published “New England Theocracy,” one of many volumes documenting colonial theocracies. He speaks of the “Expulsion of Roger Williams,” the Baptist who “first contested” the “established theocracy” (of Massachusetts Bay Colony). From Williams forward, Baptists who lived in theocratic colonies were beaten, whipped, jailed, exiled, and had their children and lands confiscated — all by order of the theocratic state for practicing their faith convictions. Some Quakers were executed for their faith. Only members of the established church had citizenship rights.

What of religion in the revolutionary era? Baptists were yet jailed and beaten in Virginia and Massachusetts. Approximately 15 percent of Americans attended church. And while most of the nation’s founding fathers had religious beliefs of some kind, most were deists. Only one, Samuel Adams, professed orthodox Christian beliefs.

In the colonial era a “Christian society” was one in which proper beliefs were enforced by edict. American politicians of the late-18th century refined this concept, rejecting theocracy yet speaking of a nation providentially blessed and mystically guided by a Creator or Supreme Being. Many years later, in the 1950s, specific references to God were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, currency, and oaths of office recited by federal justices and judges.

In short, the evidence is indisputable that theocracies existed in the colonial era. But the question of a Christian society is more complicated. In terms of church attendance and public God language, today’s America is much more “Christian” than that of the 1770s and 1780s. And in regard to human rights, American society today is much more Christian than during the slavery and Jim Crow eras.

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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

11:06 AM

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?


There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

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The End of Myth

9:59 AM
By Jonathan Brink:

I’d like to propose a question. What if the real provocative element of the emerging church is that it is the outcome of the end of myth? And with the end of myth comes the loss of traditional powers and the freedom and responsibility to become what Jesus invited us to be.

Tony Jones recently posted the provocative question, “Who Decides Orthodoxy?” At its heart is the question of authority, power, and even control. He proposes the following statement:

The Magisterium were those responsible for the traditions of the church, or essentially deciding orthodoxy. Wikipedia describes it this way:

    Magisterium is a “teaching authority, of the Roman Catholic Church”.

    The word is derived from Latin magisterium, which originally meant the office of a president, chief, director, superintendent, etc. (in particular, though rarely, the office of tutor or instructor of youth, tutorship, guardianship) or teaching, instruction, advice.

    “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.”

In many ways, the Magisterium enjoyed tremendous power. They were the holders of orthodoxy or truth, which is a rather profound responsibility. They were THE authority of the church for the people. The historical reasoning for the Magisterium was the necessity of protecting church doctrine in response to gnosticism. Someone has to hold the discernment of truth.

But with that role came the adulterated power of myth. The adage, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” became true. Truth is fueled by information, and the Magisterium controlled the information. And if an idea can control people, why not use it. (And I am in no way suggesting that every Pope or bishop abused the power given. But history clearly reveals some did. Pope Leo X’s indulgences, their response to Galileo’s discoveries, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and even our century’s priestly molestations. Sadly, the bad Popes happened.)

The power of myth is essentially this: If I control truth, and you want to know truth, you need me. And if you need me, I can tell you what to think, how to act, and even where to give your money. I can even create visions of a hell that exists when you don’t follow me. I can in essence control you through fear. And when the cost is your soul, the weight gets increased exponentially. And worse, I don’t need to be right. I just need you to believe I’m right.

Over time, this truth that I have told you becomes established truth, meaning a large group of people buy into it. It becomes tradition and even myth. The stories becomes larger than their original ideas. And in an era that relies on tradition and even myth, stepping outside of it becomes a ticket to excommunication, torture, and even death.

(click here to read the entire article)

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"The Great Emergence"

9:03 PM

This book has had profound implications on my understanding of what we got ourselves involved in here at Trailblazer Ministries in Bozeman, Montana. I find myself in a great group composed of truth-seekers and mavericks that embrace a forward style of thinking coupled with a broader understanding of our past. This did not happen by accident. As I look back at my own personal journey to how I have arrived with such a group in a college town in Montana, I notice that my own story parallels what Phyllis Tickle says is happening all over the world. Without even knowing it, people everywhere have been exploring the same conclusions as I have. Tickle observes that movements like this occur in Christianity every 500 years or so, “a semi-millennial rummage sale,” and I feel honored to have been lucky enough to find myself in such a time of transformation.

The transformation she speaks of has not come about suddenly. She gives us a “Google Earth” view of history over the last couple centuries that primed us for what is happening today. By the way, my usage of Google Earth as an example of Tickle’s approach is indicative of the age of information that has brought us together in Bozeman. Just as we came together through networking and seeking answers using our computers, Tickle says this technology enables us and the priesthood of all believers in ways the Reformation could have never envisioned, “…To the extent that faith can be formed or dissuaded by the contents of the mind as well as those of the heart, then such license has huge implications for the Great Emergence and for what it will decide to do about factuality in a wiki world.” I start off by acknowledging this as one of Tickle’s points because if it were not for email and the internet, our group may have not found the means by which to form and the seeds of the Great Emergence may have been much slower to grow in our area. As with the rise of Protestantism and the influence of Gutenberg, “which would be impossible to overstate the importance of the printing press in 1440… that made Holy Writ more or less available to everyone, thereby enabling sola scriptura and the priesthood of all believers,” it is absolutely analogous to the central importance of the World Wide Web to the Great Emergence. In the post-Protestant era, Christians have slowly been gaining the tools by which to share ideas and communicate efficiently in this present age where the divisiveness of denominationalism has kept us separated since the printing press first placed the bible in the hands of believers.

In this book, she lays out the gradual steps that have brought us to this Great Emergence that we see happening today. From the Reformation five hundred years ago, she covers the history of events, conflicts, and teachers that have continued to withered away Luther’s principle of ‘sola scriptura, scriptura sola’ as “having been little more than the creation of a paper pope in place of a flesh and blood one.” These events always leave us with a common question, “Where now is the authority?” From the unlikely influences and effects of Copernicus, Darwin, Faraday, Freud, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Marx, to the advent of television, radio, and the automobile, the marginalization of grandma, the role of Rosie the Riveter, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Drug Age, one question always arose, “Was the Church capable of being wrong? Yes. It was that simple and that devastating.”

As the church enters another inevitable period of social/political/economic/intellectual/cultural shift, the overarching question of “Where now is our authority?” is the same now as in previous semi-millennial rummage sales of the Church. Tickle illustrates how four different categories of Christianity will be affected by this current time of upheaval (the Liturgicals, the Social Justice Christians, the Conservatives, and the Renewalists) and how the Emerging Church sprouts out from the middle of all these influences. “The whole progression from distinct corners to a gathering center was precisely and exactly what sociologists and observers of religion had predicted would happen. The fact that the emerging pattern was following a predictable trajectory did not at first seem to inform most established churches and their governing bodies, however. What they saw, by and large and only at first, was a generational issue: the young were leaving as the young always do, as the boomers had done and the Gen-Xers after them.” Tickle continues to say that this dramatic change from the inherited church is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is, and the backlash to this movement will help to form the shape of the Emerging Church.

In answer then to the overarching question that is asked whenever the authority of the church is questioned, the emergent Christian will sometimes choose to say, “…either ‘in Scripture’ or ‘in the Community.’ More often though, he or she will run the two together and respond, ‘in Scripture and the Community.’” “…The end result of this understanding of dynamic structure is the realization that no one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire ‘truth’ of anything, either as such and/or when independent of the others. Each is only a single working piece of what is evolving and is sustainable so long as the interconnectivity of the whole remains intact.”

This is a beautiful illustration of what is to come from a more holistic Christianity. She concludes that Christianity will evolve into “something far more Jewish, more paradoxical, more narrative, and more mystical than anything the Church has had for the last seventeen or eighteen hundred years.” As for her saying that it will evolve into something more Jewish, I think she means coming into a clearer realization of the Judaism in which Jesus lived, focusing on the context of the narrative that we find in the New Testament. In a recent interview, Andrew Perriman draws this conclusion, “It seems to me that most of the change that we see taking place is driven not by theological reflection but by something much more instinctual, much more pragmatic, which then dresses itself in whatever theological categories are to hand.” Tickle’s focus with this book was pointing out the natural, instinctual, and pragmatic changes taking place but the changes through theological reflection that Perriman points out in his books are equally important, I feel. Personally, my first conflict with the inherited church came through reading about how preterism impacts the debate on Genesis and Revelation in Tim Martin (our neighbor and friend in Whitehall, MT) and Jeffrey Vaughn’s Beyond Creation Science. Various forms of preterism seem to be a common thread in the teachings of many of the leading teachers in the Great Emergence and I feel that preterism will be synonymous with this movement and this may have been something that Phyllis Tickle has overlooked in this book.

Tickle has done Christendom a great service with “The Great Emergence.” I like how she makes things make sense. I have agreed with some of the emerging Church’s critics in the past that it is like trying to nail jello to the wall in figuring out what emerging Christians actually believe. What we are left with from Tickle’s book is a complete awareness of the conversation, the wrestling, the journey, or the transformation that is taking place right before our eyes. What blows my mind is that I (or we) have found myself here in this conversation having no idea how I got here (a victim of circumstance perhaps), but Tickle shows exactly how this happened from her top-down perspective.

“The duty, the challenge, the joy and excitement of the Church and for the Christians who compose her, then, is in discovering what it means to believe that the kingdom of God is within one and in understanding that one is thereby a pulsating, vibrating bit in a much grander network. Neither established human authority nor scholarly or priestly discernment alone can lead, because, being human, both are trapped in space/time and thereby prevented from a perspective of total understanding. Rather, it is how the message runs back and forth, over and about, the hubs of the network that it is tried and amended and tempered into wisdom and right action for effecting the Father’s will.”

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TrailNotes Update: God's New Year

6:51 PM
From the January issue of TrailNotes; I'm still in the process of compiling the newsletter, so if anyone has anything that they'd like to add (articles, news items, recipes(?), etc.), please email them to me at:

God's New Year

For many people, New Years’ is a time marked by contrasts. Often, we find ourselves making resolutions for the coming year while reflecting on the successes and failures of the year before. While New Years’ resolutions are often light-hearted (and rarely carried through to a satisfying conclusion), we find ourselves hungering for change and growth beyond that which we experienced in the previous year – we find ourselves, in fact, searching for new beginnings. While the New Years’ holiday is often a time of raucous celebration, behind the wild frenzy that characterizes the onset of the new year is a basic human yearning to cast away old, worn out ways of life and begin a new and exciting adventure. Yet rarely do we see, clearly marked before us, this path of new beginnings – and as a result, we take on various resolutions, in the hope that changing some minor characteristic, such as our weight or physical attractiveness, will give us the “fresh start” on life that we are searching for.

Much like the New Years’ holiday, true Christian faith is a celebration of new beginnings. The Christian story points us to the God who stepped down from Heaven and entered into the milieu of human history in order to begin the work of a new creation and inaugurate a new way of life for His people. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!” Our God is in the business of creating that which is new and exciting, and even a cursory look at creation should tell us that God delights in bringing forth things of beauty, majesty, and at times even whimsy. With the coming of Christ, God’s New Year begins, as the invitation of a new beginning is extended to humanity and something fresh, something new enters into the stream of human history.

Naturally, God’s New Year requires that we step out of the year that is drawing to a close, even as we step into the new year that He is bringing about – just as 2008 must end before we can step forward into 2009. We are called to take up a serious and binding resolution to check our baggage at the door, so to speak, and to come into God’s New Years’ celebration carrying nothing of the tired old ways we have left behind. God made this point vividly clear to the Prophet Jeremiah, when he challenged Jeremiah to go down and pay a visit to the local potter. There, at the potter’s house, Jeremiah saw the potter working on a clay bowl, which had become deformed and misshapen in the potter’s hands. Not willing to give up on his creation, the potter broke the misshapen vessel down and made it again – as an exquisite new vessel befitting the potter’s true intentions (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

Like a potter working with clay that has been marred, God desires to “remake” all of us, but in order for this “remaking” to take place, the old clay must first be broken down. In a famous passage from the third chapter of John’s Gospel, we find Jesus instructing the learned Nicodemus that only those who are “born again” may enter into God’s Kingdom (John 3:3). Sadly, the term “born again” has been much abused in our culture, but Jesus’ meaning remains clear – those who desire to enter into God’s new creation must become new creations themselves. We must be born a second time; not, this time, as physical children of corrupt and warring humanity, but as spiritual children of God and heirs of His Kingdom.
This, then, is the promise of Christianity - no matter how marred we may have become, no matter what our background or circumstances, God is ready and willing to give us a fresh start at life. But, as Paul tells us in Romans 6, this new beginning requires that we first put away the "old man" and embrace the new creative work that God is bringing into the world through Christ. God is not in the business of changing minor characteristics, and Christ didn't come to earth to offer fad diets or easy financial schemes. What God is after is the whole person, and in the final estimate, the whole of creation itself (see Isaiah 65:17). It is no surprise, then, that when John was given a glimpse of God's New Year's celebration in Revelation 21, he heard Jesus saying: “Behold! I am making everything new! (Rev. 21:4-5).”

There can be no doubt that we are living in uncertain times, as economies crumble and nations march towards war. Yet, in the midst of such striving, we can find peace in the assurance that even now, as human institutions fail and trusted paradigms falter, God is at work among us, "making all things new" right here in the Gallatin Valley and all over the world, as lives are touched by the gospel of Christ. There is still much work to be done, and we can truly confess with Peter that we look forward to the day when God’s new creation is fully and firmly established throughout all of creation (2 Peter 3:13).

Nevertheless, we can celebrate each day in the light of God’s New Year, for with the resurrection of Christ the cork has already been popped, the ball has already begun to drop, and, for those who have been born again to participate in the redemptive work of God, the party is already underway.

This is, ultimately, what we are called to celebrate each week, in whatever way we may gather. Far from being a somber and downcast occasion, true Christian fellowship should be marked by celebration and mirth. Now, more than ever, the world needs to hear the shouts of joy ringing from our churches (and perhaps even a firecracker or two), as we celebrate the new creation that God is bringing about right here among us, one life at a time.

I pray that this new year would be one of bright new beginnings for us all, and that God would use our humble ministry, and the ministries of our Christian friends throughout Gallatin Valley, to shine forth the magnificent truths of His redemptive grace as we celebrate and proclaim the fact that we serve a God who makes all things new. So let’s pop open a bottle of champagne (or sparkling cider, for us Southern Baptists) and celebrate – because in God’s Kingdom, every day is a new beginning!

In His Peace,
Pastor Michael
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This video brought tears to my eyes

7:24 PM

This video was dated January 5 and as of today, January 7, three of these UN schools have been hit by heavy artillery. In one school in northern Gaza, 400 civilians were crammed inside seeking shelter from the rain of bombs. After the school was targeted, more than 40 lay dead in the rubble. If that school was the one you see in the video, at that rate--one out of every ten people you saw in this video are already dead.

I wonder if the woman with her three children made it out safely. I wonder about the man with 61 members of his own family in the school, how many family members did he loose? Did his granddaughter escape the barrage? I wonder if the cute kid in the red sweater is alright.

Sources now say that over 50 percent of the 680 dead and the over 4000 wounded Palestinians are women and children. The IDF was provided GPS coordinates of these schools by the UN and identified the schools as refugee centers. The people were told to leave their homes and seek shelter in the schools. More or less, all the UN did was provide the IDF with target coordinates for their artillery.

I realize there is not much we can do here in the peaceful and beautiful paradise we call Montana to directly help these people. We can send money for food and medicine, etc. We can support organizations that give these people direct aid. Of course, we can pray. Possibly the greatest thing we can do is promote awareness. Tell people that they paid for those bombs with their taxes.
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Bruce's "Christian Nation" letters to the Chronicle

7:56 PM
Hello everyone, I apologize for being absent for such a long time. We have been spending time with family the past week or so, and I've not been on the Net much. Michael, appreciate your note about your critique of MacArthur and you starting the prayer forum. Ryan, your comments about Hamas/Gaza/Israel are the right kinds of things to be asking. There is much blame to go around on both sides of the Middle East conflict.

You guys asked about my recent letter published in the Chronicle. The Chronicle website only keeps daily editions online for a week at a time, so the December letter to the editor is already down (and I don't have a copy of it on my computer). But a follow-up letter was also published on January 1, and is copied below.

I will not be able to join you guys this Thursday, but hopefully next week. May God grant all of us Grace this new year, and guide us in the living out of truth in our actions, and the embodying of grace and love to all whom God places in our paths.


Blake Dunlop’s (Dec. 28 letter, “U.S. is indeed a Christian nation”) assertion that America was founded as a Christian nation does not square with historical fact. Christians of the late 18th century would be astonished that contemporary Christians believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation.

Yes, theocracies existed at the colonial state level prior to the American Revolution (and persecuted Baptists, Quakers, and non-Christians). However, at the insistence of Baptists, Deists, and many others, our founding fathers rejected theocracy and chose a secular government structure. Yes, some states continued to collect taxes for churches into the early 19th century, because some Christians yet yearned for some degree of theocracy. And yes, people of all manner (not just Christians) in the late 18th and 19th centuries spoke to the vague notion of “providence.” John Jay’s reference to “providence” is akin to the deism of most of our founding fathers, as is the formal offering of prayer to a distant universal force or supreme being.

Baptist leader John Leland declared, in 1794, that the state has no reason to care whether “a man worships one God, three Gods, 20 Gods, or no God.” Baptists as a whole helped ensure that America’s founding principles, in terms of religion, were religious liberty, separation of church and state, and pluralism.

In short, America, like most other nations throughout history, has always been a nation of religious persons (as Tyler Mills in a Dec. 29 letter, “Why try so hard to downplay religion?”, correctly notes). But unlike all other nations prior to the late 18th century, America is a secular nation that believes the best way to honor religious faith — and lack of faith — is to separate church (and mosque and synagogue) from state.

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The Hanukkah Massacre in Gaza

9:43 AM

What has been happening in Gaza makes me sick. The massacre of Palestinian people that just happened to take place over the celebration of Hanukkah should be an eye-opener for Christians in America. Wake up America! It is so easy to turn a blind eye to what is happening over there but as for me, I can’t ignore it. Hundreds of civilians, men, women, and children have been bombed in the last few days and all our government, media, and (some) churches can do is give full support for Israel rather than condemn the killing of innocent people. Over 3 million people are imprisoned in Gaza and the West Bank and are essentially being starved to death by the Israeli government and thousands have died over the last few years. This is an issue that should not be ignored.

Here is an interview of someone you most likely have not heard of. Rachel Corrie had spent some time in occupied territory and this is what she had to say:

Rachel was later murdered in 2003 by a bulldozer operator as she tried to prevent him from demolishing another Palestinian home.

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