Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas story retold in a surprising way:

If you want to cut to the chase, just skip my musings and go the bottom of this post and click on the link.
Merry Christmas.

I always thought it was kind of strange that some Renaissance artists would paint pictures of Biblical scenes but dress the characters in the garb of their day. I figure Raphael and the other artists of the 16th Century knew that Mary didn't wear the clothing of the Italian women of their time. They had to have known that there was no reason for the infant Jesus and John (the Baptist) to be playing with a cross--think of what the cross meant at the time. They knowingly placed their Biblical scenes in surroundings that were a millennia-and-a-half out of synch.
I'm way far away from being an art expert, but my guess is that they were trying to communicate a timeless message in a way that would communicate with with their contemporaries. You can let me know if I'm wrong, and I'll leave it up to better heads than mine to comment on whether or not they succeeded at all. You can see some examples of this kind of art here.

All of this was really a fairly long-winded introduction to a video that someone sent me. I have in mind some friends of mine who decry against the use of technology in regard to worship to such an extent that they feel it necessary to defend themselves against the accusation that they are Luddites. I received the link to this imaginitive video from a friend. Someone took the story of Christ's birth and presented it in a totally anachronistic way. I'm not trying to say it is high-art or anything, but it worked on me.
What if the ubiquitous ability to post online messages were available to the characters who make up the Christmas story?
I encourage you to look.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hauling Water to a Thirsty, Unbelieving, Unconvinced World:

The view through my keyhole is narrow--bound as it is by my perception--but, magnified by the Internet, it is long.
Some friends of mine serve as Christ's witnesses in Phnom Penh. The tragic bridge collapse, of a few days ago, took place in their neighborhood. T. recently wrote:

We're writing with sad hearts. As you've probably seen or heard on the news, the
Water Festival ended with tragedy here in Phnom Penh last night. The latest
reports are claiming about 400 people died and 400 more were hospitalized after
a stampede on a bridge not too far from our apartment.
. . . To be honest, we are feeling sad and frustrated. . . . 400 people almost all of whom did not know Jesus suffocated or were crushed to death, 400 families lost
children, parents, siblings and just as many are in hospitals fighting for their
Because there was no way to really help besides praying for the families, I spent the day driving my motorbike with as many cases of water as I could carry to deliver to families waiting outside three of the major hospitals which received stampede victims. . . .
At the last hospital, the people in charge directed me to take the water to the place where families came to claim bodies. There were so many exhausted, hopeless faces. I felt incredibly inadequate showing up on a motorbike loaded down with a measly 10 cases of water in the face of such loss; but the workers there were kind and thanked me. . . .
The scripture comes to mind, "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42, NASB95)
My friend sees his act as insignificant, and by the metric of the horrendous scale of the disaster, I have to agree, but apparently there is a Divine measurement that imputes far greater significance to a moped loaded with water delivered by a kind, though foreign face.
A few days after receiving the note above, I happened to see T. online. We chatted for a moment. He observed that most of the people affected by the tragedy believe in reincarnation. They are comforted that because these loved ones died in such a terrible manner while participating in a religious event, they would come back in a better state in the next life. He asked,
"How do we argue with that?"
I don't think my friend's question was primarily intellectual. He is well versed in apologetics, and knows how to share the Gospel. His query came from the gut more than from the head. How can we take away this shred of hope--false, though it may be--when lack of language, trust, and cultural awareness make it nearly impossible for me to share the real hope. Like his meager offering of water in the face of such overwhelming need, T. felt that what he had to offer was inadequate.
My reply to T.'s question, "How do we argue with that?" was brief.
"We don't."
I went on to offer some further explanation about how we trust God to penetrate hearts with the Good News. He and I know, however, that such penetration is usually frustratingly slow and sporadic. I wished for a jet plane, a couple of cups of coffee and time to listen and talk.

I share some further thoughts here not only, not even primarily, for my friends there on the front-line--I figure they already know more than me--but mostly for all of us who constantly struggle with questions related to tragic events.

  • First, T., though your offering of water is literally a drop in an ocean, you were precisely and profoundly right to offer it.
    I don't have his book in front of me but Theologian and pastor, Millard Ericson, in his book, Christian Theology, makes the important distinction between a pastoral and a Theological answer to the problem of evil. People who are hurting are much more in need of a drink of water, offered from a kind hand, than they are a tightly reasoned Theodicy offered from a brilliant mind.
  • While my answer was brief--partly due to the constraints of i-chatting & slow-typing--I still think it is right. Clearly there is at least (I say "at least knowing that many, to one degree or another, hold to and practice evidential-apologetics.) an element of truth in presuppositionalism. Our task is not so much to prove the validity of the Gospel as to proclaim it. We believe that "Life and reality make sense only on the basis of Christian presuppositions." ( As Jesus said, "If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. (John 7:17, ESV) There is always an element of risk in faith, at least on the front end. No apologetic safety line can make the plunge into faith--especially when the starting point is a culture largely devoid of Christian influence--totally free of fear. Examples abound of those who received the Good News when it appeared to many outsiders that it was totally unreasonable for them to do so. Later they found it made perfect sense. Often those Saul/Paul-like conversions lead to significant penetration of the truth of God into a people-group. Keep hauling water, both in plastic bottles and the "Living" kind.
  • We cannot get away from the reality that our security in the Lord is not primarily based on our complete understanding of His ways, but in our trust of Him. We need to refer to Deuteronomy 29:29 often.
  • We are far better to offer no answer than to traffic in easy, pat, feel-good pseudo-truths. Following another disaster, Al Mohler shared some words worth reading in this regard, "God and the Tsunami."

To my friends in Cambodia, thanks. To the rest of us, Let's haul some water.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We were sitting around the THANKSGIVING table. Ours was not a wealthy home, but it was one where the ample provision of the Lord could be seen in many ways.
  • We were all healthy.
  • My dad had a good job, with which to provide for the family.
  • Our home was warm and secure.
  • It was the time of the "Cold War." Vietnam was still on the horizon. My dad, a vet of WW2, and neighbors who had fought in Korea were home on that Thanksgiving Day. Though from an earthly viewpoint our peace was secured by M.A.D.. It was peace. The boys were home.
  • Our table was indication of the plenty that we had. There was a car in the driveway, a TV in the living-room, beds for all, and blankets on the beds. We had bikes, ball-gloves, roller-skates and dolls that cried. Christmas planning, if not shopping, had likely already begun.

Yet on that day of plenty, a Day that had been set aside to acknowledge that, there was an awkward pause before the meal. I don't remember all the details. Perhaps the presence of guests created embarrassment. At that time none of us was particularly "religious." I don't remember whether a prayer was offered or not. I do remember the strangeness. We were gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, and no one was interested in offering thanks.

I hasten to add that this condition was corrected in my family. Later my dad became one who delighted in reminding his kids of God's blessings and leading us in offering thanks. I think I can confidently say that all my siblings are living lives of gratitude. I know I'm trying.

I write this with the knowledge that Thursday in a great many homes Thanksgiving Dinner will be served, but no thanks will be offered. I'm hoping that perhaps in a few homes this will encourage a family, blessed like mine was fifty, or so, years ago to hold hands and praise Him from Whom all blessings flow.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The Barna group recently posted some interesting results from a survey related to Calvinism in today's evangelical world. "Is There a "Reformed" Movement in American Churches?"
Those of you who read magazines and blogs have likely noticed descriptions like "The New Calvinists," or, the "Reformed Movement." Until I read this article I was one of those who would have said that the theological wind was blowing in the direction of an emphasis on Divine sovereignty. My thoughts in that regard had to do with the popularity of some writes and preachers who it seems to me are on that end of the spectrum--Piper, Keller, DeYoung, Begg, Harris, and Mohler. A number of magazines have covered the phenomenon, here.

I won't quote any numbers from the survey, you can read it, but, at least it seemed to me, the survey results do not bear out any move toward Geneva. I would appreciate your take on these numbers and observations on the trend, or lack thereof, in general.

There was one aspect of the crunched numbers that reinforced a personal observation--"nobody is any one thing anymore." It used to be that if you identified a trait associated with say Calvinism, or Wesleyanism in a person's Theology, that you could with reasonable confidence conclude that this person also held to most of the other tenets of that Theological system. No more. Note this observation from the survey: "The study found that 31% of pastors who lead churches within traditionally charismatic or Pentecostal denominations were described as Reformed, while 27% identified as Wesleyan/Arminian."

It kind of reminds me of the pastor who went to a pastor's fellowship that had experienced a schism along Calvinist/Arminian lines. When he registered, for no reason that he could identify the receptionist sent him to the Arminian group. Not recognizing him, some of the delegates asked who he was and why he decided to join their part of the fellowship. When he told them that he had no choice, but was sent, they threw him out. Not knowing where else to go, he chose to go to the Calvinist meeting. You can finish the story. :) The moral is there are a lot of folk who don't fit in either end of the convention hall.

Maybe we can help each other understand what is going on.

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Complicated . . .

but politics often is.

Since it involves Sarah Palin, and she's been good enough to call my house several times in the last week, I thought I'd share something with her here. She didn't leave a number for me to call her back. I'm sure it just slipped her mind.


I may not have all the details, but here is what I understand. Joe Miller, a friend of yours, won the Republican primary.

Incumbent Republican, Lisa Murkowski was not willing to rally behind Miller. Instead, with the blessing of much of the GOP establishment Ms. Murkowski is mounting a write-in campaign.

One can make a case that Murkowski had somewhat of a contract to respect the will of the primary voters. She lost. What she did seemed like bad style to me. I think her explanation, she wants the "people to have a choice," is pretty lame. Seems they had a choice and it wasn't her. I'll let others decide whether what she did was ethical. Is there such a thing as political-ethics? If so, my guess is a lot of politicians skipped that class.

I live a long way from Alaska, so I don't know much about what happened next. I understand that Murkowski's campaign was able to get some consessions from a judge, making it easier for a voter to write in. Included in these consessions was a ruling that poll workers would have a list with the names of write-in candidates who asked to be put on the list. Write-ins have to be spelled correctly. Murkowski is not the most common name.

Now, a radio talk show host--who looks a lot like a young Rush Limbaugh--gets involved. As I understand it, Dan Fagan, began promoting the idea that every Tom, Dick, and Mary, especially if their last name ended in "ski," should call the judge and get their name on this list. The idea being, this would make it harder for voters to find and copy Murkowski's name. Understandably, the Murkowski campaign was not happy with the radio voice. They made threats and Mr. Fagan found himself suspended.

There were some other media misactions, directed at Miller, that took place about the same time. While not directly related, they no doubt helped fuel to the ire.

OK, I'm not commenting on Politics, Governor Palin, I just want to talk about what is right.

I agree that as long as Fagan is not violating a law he has the freedom to spout his stuff. I have weighed-in, in the past, on protecting the freedoms of folk with whom we don't agree. (See my post from 8/24) I don't know, so I won't argue with you when you say that Miller is being treated badly.

What bothers me is I don't hear you saying that political decisions should not be decided by tricks and obfuscation--tricking people into spelling a name wrong. We should help people get the truth, persuade them to act on that truth, and pray. Winning by tricks may produce a short-term victory. It is a sure route to long-term disaster.

We can't tolerate underhanded behavior on the part of those who support our causes. If we don't condemn this stuff, at the least we appear to support it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Not only this month, but all year there are people in my life who let me know I am appreciated. A week or so ago a lady who attends my church told me that she appreciated the fact that her son "got" the message. It had given her good opportunity for conversation. A new couple expressed appreciation for the investment that I and others at CBC are making in their lives. A colleague in leadership has graciously, and conspicuously worked with me in hard times. My wife not only thanks me for sharing the Word of God in my messages, she does so with an obvious awareness of, and yieldedness to the word that was shared in the sermon. A gentleman who is part of my church just let me know that he would help me get to a meeting to which I need to go.

Perhaps the greatest appreciation: I just got off the phone with someone in whom I have invested years of ministry. We were talking about plans to invest what she/he has gained in a new generation of ministry.
There are those I have pastored who show their appreciation for what I have passed on by making tough, but right decisions.
My wife and I received gifts from our congregation this month. We appreciate each sincerely given offering of appreciation, but these "life-gifts" mean the most.
Thank you.

With that in mind I want to take a moment and mention pastors I appreciate.
Rev. Eugene Marsceau was my pastor in my later childhood and teen years. He became my Father-in-law. He taught me to love the word of God, and that people matter. Most of the churches he pastored were not successful in the way that gets one written up in a book. He succeeded with me. He is with the Lord now. I appreciate him.
Rev. Victor Decker was my pastor my last two years in college. He didn't treat me like one of the boys from the college. He regarded me as a young man headed into ministry who needed all the guidance and challenge he could give. Pastor Decker traveled more than 500 miles for my ordination. He modeled faithfulness. I appreciate you, Pastor Decker.
A pastor in another town ministered to a loved one of mine. As I put it Pastor Kirk "walked to Hell and back" with him and held his hand the whole way. I appreciate that, brother.
My Son, Chris, is Pastor of Global Outreach in a church that has more people in it on Sunday morning than live in the town where he grew up and I still pastor. I appreciate your passion, son. I greatly enjoy the relationship of colleagues in ministry that is ours. One of the most fun phone calls I ever made was calling first First Baptist in Mound City Kansas, and asking for Rev. Merrell, adding, "This is Rev. Merrell calling."
A appreciate my guys who are in Ecuador, Honduras, New Zealand and Allentown PA. It is an incredible joy to see Doug, Fred, Pink, and Daniel serving the Lord, making a difference for Him in this world. On days when things look black I hope it helps to know that I appreciate you.
I am privileged to have two friends in ministry, Billy and Dan. All three of us are pastoring our first churches. Two of us have grown gray and one nearly bald in the work of the Lord in this little mill town. These guys have pastored me, visiting me in the hospital, helped me bury my dad, and labored to keep me on track. I have breakfast with them most Thursdays. I appreciate you guys.
One of the titles by which my Lord goes is the "Chief Shepherd" (Pastor).
Lord, I so much appreciate the fact that You never leave or forsake me, and for more than thirty-seven years You have given me the opportunity to share in the work that You are doing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some Further Thoughts on Fundamentalists and Evangelicals:

In a recent post I referred to a series of articles by Kevin Bauder. My knowledge of Dr. Bauder is limited. He is the president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis. He is a self-described Fundamentalist. A friend of mine who moves in those circles indicated as much. Reading the articles I am referring to will confirm this. I make this point, because what he has to say is much more significant because of who he is.
While Dr. Bauder espouses historic Fundamentalism, he levels some much needed criticism at some of the misdirected rancor, and foolish distinctions within the movement. I thank him for writing about a subject that needs to be carefully and bravely explored--. My previous post gives some of my thoughts on the matter. Though I applaud the gist of Dr. Bauder’s series and appreciate the courage that it took for a person in his position to write this series, I do have some problems with some of his thoughts. Apparently Dr. Bauder doesn’t even entirely agree with himself. If I understand his most recent post in the series, it is a rebuttal of the post prior. I guess arguing with one’s self is a sure way of assuring that you have a worthy opponent.
My intention had been to write somewhat of a critique of Bauder’s series. I have since given up that idea. I encourage others to read the series. Perhaps this blog can be the venue for a conversation about the ideas the series raises.
Here is one thought, another seasoned servant who observed the same problem but proposes a slightly different corrective:
A fellow pastor who has also raised this issue is Charles Wood (Woodchuck). He sends out a daily email, The Woodchuck’s Den, with content of interest to guys like me. For decades Pastor Wood identified himself as a Fundamentalist. He is a Graduate of Bob Jones University and he pastored churches aligned with Fundamentalism. In a recent email Wood identified himself as follows, “I consider myself a conservative evangelical, with that position delineated by the wall of Biblical inerrancy and authority.” This is not the first time Wood has used this description. In previous emails he has articulated an observation that I have made as well. Those who call themselves Fundamentalists but who live close to the boundary that separates them from the Evangelicals near the line on the other side have much more in common with their near neighbors on the other side than they do with many who also identify themselves as Fundamentalists. The same can be said from the other side. Like Wood, I frequently use the Conservative Evangelical nomenclature.
I hope I am not misrepresenting my cyber-friend, Pastor Wood, but I think he proposes forming a new group out of the Fundamentalists and Evangelicals who live close to the border. In my thinking I have already done that. Bauder wants to maintain the distinction. He sees the differences as important enough to do so. But he very much wants us to ratchet down the name-calling. He praises the Conservative Evangelicals for their defense of sound doctrine in recent decades. He speaks with approval of some within his own camp who have reached out to Conservative Evangelicals in constructive ways. “They are aware that historic, mainstream Fundamentalism has more in common with conservative evangelicals than it does with many who wear the Fundamentalist label.”
I sincerely hope that others will add their voices to these men’s. These posts on this blog represent my attempt.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Open Letter on Quran Burning:

I am double posting this. I just put it on my STTA blog.

An Open Letter to the Pastor and congregation of Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida: Pastor Jones, you and I have not met, and I'm not familiar with your church. I was glad to read a statement attributed to you, that your ministry stands for the "truth of the Bible." That is a passion that I share. It is on that basis, and that we both lead flocks entrusted to us by the Chief-Shepherd, that I ask you not to burn a copy of the Quran.Several of the news articles I have seen and heard ask you to reconsider Saturday's ceremony, because it is offensive to Muslims, or because it endangers people--in particular members of our armed forces. I agree in part with your reply to these critics. While these ought to be, and I am sure are, matters of grave concern to you, they are not sufficient reasons to compromise the truth. However, I would ask you to consider the following: Islam is a religion that knows no separation from the state. In the mind of the Muslim there is no secular and sacred. A "good" Muslim government provides an environment in which its citizens can--in a sense must--be good Muslims. Of course the Mosque is in total support of such civil rule.The church, on the other hand, always has been, and very much needs to continue to be, counter-cultural. While Christians are instructed to be good citizens, we do so in full awareness that we are citizens of another, a greater, an eternal realm. The civil authority put our Lord to death, and sentenced millions of our sisters and brothers to the same fate. The Bible does not encourage us to expect much more from the goverment. We are to be the conscience to our nation, not the Bureau of Publicity-stunts.Yes, we are at war--ideological as well as military--but it is not the task of the church to wage that war. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the Crusades.
While we disagree with the truth claims contained in the Quran (and other purportedly holy books that contradict the Bible) we ought to treat these books with respect--at least in the presence of those who honor them.When the Apostle Paul was building his case that all the world stands guilty before God, one group of people he addressed was his own nation, the Jewish people. Of course Paul's countrymen were adamant about avoiding any hint of idolatry (Romans 2:22). The apostle challenged them, however, with the possibility of having desecrated temples through robbery. Apparently this was a practice that was not unknown. When Paul and his companions were brought before the judgment seat in Ephesus it was said in their defense that they were "neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess [Artemis]." (Acts 19:37)Acts of desecrating the objects of worship of others--even false objects of worship--are not in keeping with the pattern we find in the New Testament. (The fact that we do find such actions in the OT I can't consider at this point, beyond saying that we know things this side of the cross that were unknown in that era.)
When Paul found himself in one of the most pagan places in the world, Athens, he did not go about knocking down or defacing the idols and altars to false gods that were there in abundance. Rather he used the presence of these objects of worship, and the hunger in the hearts of the Athenians that these objects brought to light, to engage in one of the most brilliant pieces of evangelistic discourse ever recorded (Acts 17).
We are told, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." (Romans 12:14, NASB95) And to not "pay back evil for evil to anyone. . . . If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." While burning a copy of the Quran might make some of us feel courageous and righteous, I would recommend that which takes far more courage, and not only feels righteous, but is righteous and spreads righteousness.
Some folk I know have offered to study the Quran with nominal Muslims. As the emptiness of the book--and even more so, the emptiness it leaves in the heart--is made clear, my friends have been able to share the truth of Jesus Christ with these folk.
Another friend of mine--a tall red-head (well, it is mostly gray now)--pastors a church and leads a school in a Muslim land. He has not led followers of Mohammed to to become followers of Christ by burning copies of the Quran. He has done it by loving those whom others--even their own Muslim neighbors--have rejected. That kind of love will shine brighter and farther than any fire you will start this Saturday. Pastor Jones, I urge you not to burn the Quran, not because it is risky, but because it is wrong. Sincerely in Christ, Howard Merrell It's STTA.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Well worth reading . . .

I plan to read it again.
This is from Billy Graham's grandson. Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian.
Pastor Tchividjian makes a point I have been making for years. I love it when people--especially well-known people--agree with me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Folk thinking about what is going on in New York:

I haven't forgotten about the Fundamentalist - Evangelical article. I'm letting it digest a bit & will get back to it.
Meanwhile, on my other blog, Something to Think About (See sidebar), I recently posted something about the controversy over the Mosque near ground zero. Since I also send STTA to a mailing list I received some replies.
Below for your convenience, I have copied the original post. After I have cut-and-pasted some of the thoughts I received. Good stuff. It would appear that folk are doing what I always hope they will do with STTA--think about it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This could get me in trouble, but think about it:
At this point I can't imagine that anyone in the whole country is unaware of plans to build an Islamic-Center/Mosque at a site so close to where the twin towers were destroyed on 9/11 that the building currently on the site is damaged from the landing-gear of one of the planes. Various polls indicate that most Americans are opposed to it being built there. If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf calls me and asks my advice, I'd encourage him to build the center elsewhere. (If you are reading this Feisal, my number is in the book.) However . . .Whether our nation is a "Christian" nation or not, from a historical perspective is a subject of sharp debate. Based on influence that the Bible and Christian thought have had on our culture and institutions, it seems to me that in that sense we are. We need to be aware, though, that our Founding Fathers clearly, and purposefully chose not to create a government that supported a particular religion over others. I doubt that their thinking went much beyond a consideration of the spectrum of Christendom, and perhaps Judaism, but the laws they left us, confirmed by two-and-a-quarter centuries of practice clearly extend freedom of conscience even to those whose faith is radically different than the majority view. One of the wonderful freedoms we enjoy in these United States is that minorities are protected by law. As long as the few are exercising their rights lawfully, the majority cannot deprive them of that freedom.In recent years many communities have become opposed to churches being built in their "back-yards." Objections range from traffic congestion, to noise, to loss of tax revenue. I wonder if there are other reasons that lurk below the surface. I'll not step in the same mud-hole as our President, but I do think we have to be careful how we frame our argument. Some of the rhetoric being used to discourage the building of the Cordoba Center in Lower Manhattan could be, with little change, used to oppose my grandmother's church from building a new Worship-Center on the south side of Hometown USA.Let's just make sure that we speak in favor freedoms that we might need.It's STTA.


One respondent corrected some information: "Its not a mosque though, nor is it called the Cordoba center any longer. Its just called I think Park 51." I'll not take the time to sort out what is the current working name, etc. The respondent did go on to say that the Islamic Center would include a "prayer space." I'm not sure what the distinction, if any, between that and a mosque would be. I'll leave that to others.
The same respondent: "It was supposed to promote tolerance and inclusion of multiple faiths, but so much for that now.Some folks brought dogs to protest the morning prayers at a prayer space a few blocks away from the proposed Park 51.. classy.Ballot initiatives and movements are growing to make new mosques illegal. (I should note that similar things have just occurred in France and Denmark)
Its pretty ugly up here about it.. really embarrassing stuff. Its mainly related to the election cycle. . . . shameful."

Several respondents agreed with my sentiments--it shouldn't be built there, but it is legal for them to do so. One said, "I really hope it doesn't go up."

Interesting comparison: "Should the Japanese build a monument to their victory at Pearl Harbor AT Pearl Harbor? Probably not."

One reply recommended that if they do build it, the best response would be to ignore it. Don't let them control how we feel. "So many choose to offend. So many choose to be offended."

As I expected some readers had another view:
"You must not listen to talk radio, or you'd know there's a whole lot more to this issue than meets the eye, rendering your position way off the mark." (For the record, I had been on the road & listened to 3 radio talk-shows on the subject. It was partly what encouraged me to write.)
After referring to the similarity between interpreting scripture and the US Constitution an old friend said, "The intent of the authors has long been set aside by both conservatives and liberals, making the verbiage of the constitution fair game for most any agenda. And so the argument goes . . . until Christ returns.The building of a mosque is not a religious matter with Islam. It is an act of aggression by an enemy of the state. To apply religious freedom concepts to it is to use the wrong constitutional sections in a very unwise and improper manner." [emphasis added]

Finally, one reader offered some thoughts on even-handedness and government neutrality:
" I am concerned that the Orthodox church that was destroyed is about ready to give up fighting with the Port Authority on rules and regulations that are keeping them from building. Will the mosque encounter the same rigid standard? I thought government was to be separated from the church? If so, why is the government giving the impression they are pushing this matter forward and paying for some of the groundwork?"
This concern is bolstered by the fact that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is currently on a good-will tour as a representative of the United States.

Think on, pray much. The answer is not in a hole in New York, but on a hill in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Both Embrace and Reject Fundamentalism:

Several years ago a Bible College instructor whom I greatly respect came up to me after I had been privileged to preach in chapel at the conservative, I think in the good sense of the word, Fundamental, Bible College where he teaches, and observed, "You are on a crusade, aren't you?"
I was glad he noticed. I'm not sure if he intended his comments as I took them, but I was encouraged. Perhaps I am the ecclesiastical version of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills hung from steeples, but I do continue on, lance in hand.
As far as I understand what it means to be one in the historic sense, I am a Fundamentalist. As far as how Fundamentalism has come to be defined at this point in history, I utterly reject the label. Too many Fundamentalists became too committed to too many principles, convictions, and conclusions that weren't fundamental at all. They allowed--in some cases caused--themselves to be defined by what music they didn't use, what Bible translations they rejected, which well known Evangelicals they separated from, etc., etc. They made silly distinctions, such as separating from Theologically solid people who failed to do due diligence to some Fundamentalist sacred-cow, while continuing to tolerate--in too many cases even embracing--those who hold to heresies like King-James-Only-ism. No wonder many young people who grew up watching these contradictions rejected the whole business.
When I've had the opportunity--they are few, and my circle of influence is small--I have challenged this drift in our movement. Thus my friend's observation: It may be a tempest in a Theological teapot, but I am crusading when I have opportunity.

Recently I came across an article by Dr. Kevin Bauder, President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis. Bauder appears to be a Fundamentalist with solid credentials, yet in his article, "Let's Get Clear On This," he chides his colleagues for some of their foolish distinctions and lack of sound thinking. I highly encourage you to read the article and then the follow-up articles, The follow-up articles are listed in reverse order. As of today there are eleven. You need to scroll to page two in order to find the first one, "Now, About Those Differences, Part 1 - Why This Discussion?"

The whole set of articles is well worth the time it will take to read them. I'm so impressed, I'll be taking time to read them again. I hope to post some comments on this blog. I welcome yours.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The consequences of a life lived based on lust:

Last Sunday we dealt with the horrendously ugly story of John the Baptist's death by beheading in Mark 6.
The consequences for John were obviously tragic. I found that it didn't work out so well for Herod, either.
William Hendriksen comments based on extra-biblical records:

a. "The increased displeasure of many of the Jews." Matthew records that Herod Antipas had been afraid to kill John because he feared the people. They recognized John as a Prophet. (Matt. 14:5)
b. "The wrath of Areta, the father of Herod’s rejected wife.
Aretas bitterly resented what Herod had done to his daughter. He therefore waged war against him and “in the ensuing battle the entire army of Herod was destroyed” (Josephus, Antiquities XVIII.114, 116, 119, for points a and b)."
c. "Banishment.
Herod Antipas later allowed himself to be persuaded by Herodias to go to Rome in order to be elevated to the rank of king, the same rank that had been granted to her brother Herod Agrippa I. However, when the latter informed Emperor Caligula about the aspirant’s plotting against the very ruler whose special favor he was now seeking, the result for the conspirator was perpetual exile to Lyons in Gaul."

Antipas was driven by a habitual pattern of giving way to whatever he wanted, and an unwillingness to do the right hard thing.

It didn't work out well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Al Mohler has posted 3 great articles related to the family--specifically the family in America--June 17, 22, & 25.
  • The first has some troubling thoughts about all the digital input that comes into our homes and lives--especially the lives of young people. I saw an illustration of the problem just yesterday.
  • The second asks some questions and makes some observations about the shift in the workplace from predominantly masculine to feminine.
  • The third is based on a Newsweek article. Is the family needed?

They are worth the time to read.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

There are still ladies who desperately need to touch His garment.

We are working our way through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday Mornings at CBC, so a few months ago, when I saw this article, I made a note of it. Tomorrow I'm dealing with the passage of Scripture that contains the account of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for 12 years, Mark 5:25-34--the lady referenced in the article's title.
We too easily divorce ourselves from the world of Scripture. "That was then; this is now." we too eagerly say. This article brought me up short. Not only does it talk about a group of ladies who are dealing with a horrendous disability--often totally unnecessarily--but it helped me realize in a new way that people haven't really changed all that much in the past two millennia. When it comes to needing the Lord, they haven't changed at all.
Jesus and the Unclean Woman

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Desperately Searching for Balance:

As I get older it is harder to stay balanced.
It certainly applies to me physically. I used to come down stairs in a sort of controlled fall. I could kind of kick my feet over the edge of each stair-tread and let gravity do its work. Now, with the stiffening of joints and the slow-down of my synapses, I tend to have a definite one at a time gait, and I often use the handrail. Staying upright, adapting to rapidly changing conditions and sensations, and doing so without looking like an utter fool has gotten harder--much harder.

What is true about descending a staircase is more-so in regard to mental/emotional/spiritual matters:

  • Part of the problem is I see and have seen the damage that comes from a lack of balance. In the same way that part of my perceived--or actual--clumsiness on a set of stairs results from my awareness of what a fall can do to my old body, my struggle with balance in other areas comes from disasters that I have seen--and caused--over the past decades. How much time do I allow "Joe Waste-a-day" take up in my schedule? I have offended Joe's sister because I didn't take time to listen when he was hurting, and I've shown up on Sunday morning unprepared because I allowed him to cut into study time. Balance!
  • I know that to be effective in ministry I have to be me. I've tried, and failed miserably, to exposit like MacArthur, tell stories like Swindoll, command a platform like Stowell, and administer like Maxwell. Yet I know that Popeye was on a route to failure with his, "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam." In so many ways "I yam" not good enough. I need to grow, to become, to expand.
  • Everyday I face decisions about doing things that will benefit me, my family and my ministry in the long-term. Often focus on those big-picture matters are crowded out by the mundane. Sunday is always coming. There are always people with current needs. My desk needs cleaning & my grass has to be mowed. I know that if I will invest time and effort into long-range preparation that my right now tasks will be easier to do tomorrow and next year. I can't afford, though, to neglect a "must do" today for the sake of a "need to do" to be ready for tomorrow. Sometimes the urgent really is tyrannical to ignore its siren--as on an ambulance, not in mythology--call is to assure disaster. Yet to let it rule my life is to assure a painful death by a thousand undressed wounds.

I'm trying, but not coming as near to success as I wish I were, to remember, and act on the basis that:

  • People matter. My computer will return to silicon. People will be somewhere for ever.
  • Yet properly used, the computer can enable me to do my job better than I would with just a pencil.
  • I shouldn't flatter myself, I'm not nearly as important or essential as I often think I am.
  • Having said that, if God can use others who put on their pants one leg at a time, He can use me. By His grace and enablement I am significant.
  • Don't spend more time on something than it is worth. A significant part of balance is proportion. For instance, I figure I've spent enough time on this. . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

If you agree with me, I'll be glad to listen:

I read a post today on Rod Dreher's blog, that jogged several things in my mind. They settled back in what seems to be a pattern that clarifies some things for me. Maybe this will help you see some things more clearly, as well.
Dreher's post is about epistemic closure--what we mere mortals would call closed-mindedness--and how to avoid it. Embedded in the post is a video by David Logan that is worth watching. It is part of what helped things gel in my mind.
The video is about tribes--not exactly Navajo or Apache, though in a sense these people-groups would fit the definition, but tribes in the postmodern sense--the clumping together of people to protect one an others mutual interests under the pressure of living in a culture where there is no overarching morality that provides security.
There is no need to repeat his stuff, I encourage you to watch the video, but looking at things through his paradigm there are the Timothy McVeys of the world--thankfully a distinct minority--the people who truly love life and bless others, and three other gradations in between. There is kind of a social inertia in these groups. Upward mobility is hard, partly because of isolation, much of it self imposed.
The video, though, is not the main point of Dreher's post. He gives a summary of a list by Will Salitan about keeping a properly open mind. He has a link to the original list of 10 points. Dreher picks four. Since the list by Salitan was published on SLATE it isn't surprising that it is critical of political conservatives. The point is basically that conservatives choose to only allow input that would confirm what they already believe. Not only is it true about some (many?) conservatives, it is a syndrome that is applies to a great many of us in a variety of realms.
I'll comment on some ways this filter-the-input mentality affects my realm:
We are instructed in scripture to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23, Matthew 15:18, but that cannot mean to never entertain a thought that challenges our mental status quo. The Apostle Paul for instance was knowledgeable of the pagan philosophers of his day. Peter's command to be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope . . . (1 Peter 3:15) implies a dialogue with those who hold another view. Yet, many evangelicals live in a world in which every element of their lives is hyphenated with "Christian." They listen to Christian-radio, shop in Christian-stores, wear Christian T-shirts or ties, etc, etc.
In our fear of not being polluted are we failing to influence? And, just perhaps, are we failing to learn some things that might be good to know?

Some other quickies:
I've read a number of criticisms of John Piper for inviting Rick Warren to speak at his conference. Maybe we should cut them some slack. Could it be that the contact will be profitable?
Many specialists in "discernment" seem to major on rationale that sounds an awful lot like:
We know that buzzards sit on eggs. This activity results in the proliferation of buzzards, an obnoxious bird, covered with germs, declared unclean by the Old Testament. A recent article in a well known periodical documented Daisy the beagle-hound incubating a clutch of eggs. Buzzards were seen circling above Daisy--clear evidence that these were buzzard eggs--at the least, Daisy showed a lack of proper regard for decency by appearing to contribute to the buzzard population. Howard Merrell once owned a beagle. Clearly he is a buzzard-sympathizer--if not a vulture in disguise.

I understand the need for proper separation, but could it be that in our fear of being exposed to something bad that we fail to be challenged to learn something greater?
There is a tendency to ridicule, or be dismissive about that, and those, with which, or with whom, we disagree. I'm somewhat of a fan of a very well-done blog, Front Porch Republic. Reading the thoughts of the ladies and gentlemen there helps keep my epistemic door open. My measurement of the discussion on FPR is "how far over my head is it this time?" Yet for all of the intellect on display, on the site, there is an unfortunate tendency to caricature and make-fun-of folk who hold views that the learned authors there choose to not consider. Sarah Palin is called a sex-pot, and evangelicals are presented as buffoons.
I would be amiss if I did not confess my own tendencies in this regard:
Yesterday I had to stifle an urge. In a magazine I saw an ad for a big gathering of Christians featuring well-known preachers. There on the page was a gentleman who a few years, ago if memory serves me well, did Fundamentalism a great disservice by doing a very good job presenting a very wrong concept. He was one of the best known proponents of the King James Only Movement. There on the same page was a man I admire greatly. I almost went into the guilt by association mode. Thankfully, I stopped--As Barney Fife used to say, "Nipped it in the bud." A practice I hope to practice more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Her price is far above rubies:

(I want to let as many of you as possible see this, so I'm putting it here as well as on the Something to Think About blog. Thanks to Janet Patton for reminding me about the description from Proverbs 31 that I put in the title.)

When I was in my fourth and fifth years of college I attended a small church in northeast Pennsylvania. The first year I was there I was separated from my fiance', Kathy. Just a few weeks after we were married we moved into our first home, a mobile-home out in the country between Baptist Bible College and the Osterhout Bible Church. There were many reasons why those two years in the little church by Susquehanna were a great time in my and our young lives. High on the list, though, of benefits of worshipping and serving with that group of country and small-town folk was the fact that Agnes Decker was the pastor's wife.
She was a pastor's wife in the old sense of the role. The life of the church was marked by her hard work, hospitality, teaching, compassion, willingness to do what needed to be done and prayer. She helped a guy who missed his girl feel at home and embraced us as newly-weds. We were welcomed to the Decker home on several occasions. Mrs. Decker, and her daughters, whom she had trained, were great hostesses and cooks. There was nothing fancy there, just good and plenty served with love.
In her later years, until her health declined, Mrs. Decker carried on a ministry via email. It was much the same as her ministry in person--she passed on what she had gained, shared kind words, and offered and encouraged prayer.
Mrs. Decker's funeral is tomorrow. To all the family, Kathy and I celebrate with Agnes Decker's life lived to the glory of God, and we pray for you in your time of loss.
Heaven will be sweet. Let's lay up treasures there. I think Mrs. Decker modeled that. I hope at one of the suppers in glory--surely there will be supper there--I can wait on Mrs. Decker. I fear, though, that she'll already have her apron on.

It's STTA.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The New Athenians:

In Acts 17, Paul met a group of people who "used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new." (Acts 17:21, NASB95) So, when this little Jewish guy showed up talking about a strange god and the teaching associated with his worship they were ready to show up and jaw about it.
OK, I'll confess I just got something in my email in box that smacked me a little, so make allowances for the personal, here, but I'm struck by how many of the decisions and changes that people, especially young people make are motivated by the quest for novelty.
It seems that the folk who met Paul on Mars Hill were looking for something new to think about it. "Tell us something that will stimulate our minds, challenge the old ways of thinking, or give us an opportunity to practice our skills of argumentation. Some of my New-Athenian friends share that spirit. They are constantly reading, searching the web, blogging, and talking over their favorite adult-beverage. More of them, though, in my limited experience are not after something new to think about a novel experience. I have noticed for years that Boomers like me tend to buy stuff, houses--then bigger houses, cars--then nicer cars, clothes--then more clothes, etc.--closets, garages, and storage units full of stuff. The late George Carlin's routine about stuff was so funny because it was true. (I'm not posting a link, because his routine is also somewhat vulgar.) But I digress, back to the NewAthenians, they come from a generation who seem to be more interested in buying experiences than stuff. Their parents have full houses, they have passports full of stamps and frequent-flier accounts overflowing with points.
Mom says, "You would think since our son-in-law, has decent job, that he and Sally could afford a decent bed for the guest room." Dad replies, "Well, I don't wonder. Have we ever been to Europe?"
Paul told Timothy, "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires." (2 Timothy 4:3, NASB95) If possible I think we are beyond that. Not only do the New-Athenians want to have their ears tickled, but the other four senses as well. Music is not evaluated based on whether it communicates truth, but by whether it is contemporary, cutting-edge, relevant, in a word new. Churches spend a great deal of effort and money making things look, feel, sound, and smell right (I'm not talking merely about properly cleaning bathrooms, but incense, etc. Since many new ministries adopt a coffee-shop motif, and other contemporary pastors and evangelists seem to think that it is impossible to have a meaningful conversation with a person of this generation without sharing beer or ale, even taste must be included in the mix. Stuff comes to my inbox all the time, from church decor, to stuff to project, to new paradigms for preaching and ministry, to new music, to books that promote new stuff, it is clear that a who industry has built up around reaching out the New Athenians.

That day on Mars Hill Paul presented something revolutionary. A concept so out-of-the-box that it stretched the impress-me-with-something-new minds of all but a few of the Athenians to the point of rejection. I fear that in the same way New Athenians reject this truth.
I fear that Athenians Old and New are looking for something with which to amuse themselves, something to tickle their ears (and other senses). The truth Paul was presenting, if accepted, radically changes lives. "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33) So Paul went out of their midst. 34) But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them." (Acts 17:32-34, NASB95)
The five senses are gateways for the communication of truth. There is certainly nothing wrong with presenting that truth in stimulating, artistic, even entertaining ways, but bottom-line the question cannot be:
"Is it new?"
"Did I like it?" or
"Do I feel better?"
But, "Is it true?" and if it is, "Am I willing to change my life accordingly?"

Monday, April 5, 2010

Roeder, Tiller, Obamacare, & Me:

Two recent news stories have raised the issue of submission to government authority--or looked at from the other direction, civil-disobedience--to a higher level of discussion in Christian circles:
Scott Roeder, who readily admitted killing abortionist George Tiller has been sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for fifty years. Since Roeder is fifty-two years old. It is almost certain that he will not leave prison alive. In his trial Roeder claimed that his killing of Tiller was justifiable homicide. His defense consisted of arguing that his killing of Dr. Tiller was justified because it resulted in saving many innocent lives--the many unborn children that Tiller will not abort. This defense is inhanced when one considers that Tillers' death might cause other abortionists to quit, saving even more lives. The fact that Tiller was well known as an abortionist who would perform late-term abortions, even when other abortionists and clinics refused, certainly raised the outrage of pro-lifers in reaction to his practice, which came to a sudden stop, when Roeder pulled the trigger.
I spoke with a Godly, law-abiding, gentle man last night. I think his take on the case is typical. "I can't condone what he did, but I don't like the fact that he was sent to jail while nothing is done to the abortionists who kill babies."
I ask myself: Suppose Roeder were released from prison on some odd appeal--one of the jury members owned stock in an abortion-center, something like that. Mr. Roeder decided to leave Kansas and was looking for a nice quiet place to live--a place like Covington, where I live. At the same time a retired George Tiller-like retired abortionist was looking for a house to buy. Both of them looked at the house next to mine. Which one would I want as a neighbor?

The other item of news, is one that was impossible to miss. The massive Health Care Reform Bill just became law. In spite of the Executive Order signed by President Obama many who have looked into the 2,000+ pages of regulations have concluded that it will mean money that comes from American tax-payers will pay for abortions.

So, was Scott Roeder justified in killing Dr. Tiller? There is no doubt that killing the abortionist prevented him from killing hundreds of children. Is killing Tiller the equivalent of shooting a man running toward a loaded school bus with a bomb in his hand?
The law and the court say no. You can do some web search on JH and you'll find that from the accepted definition Roeder's guilty verdict was appropriate. Among other criteria the threat has to be immediate. Dr. Tiller was not scrubbing for an abortion in church, where Roeder killed him.
When Paul told the Romans to submit to civil authorities, I think we can be sure that ths government of Caesar was involved in taking innocent life. In a short time some of those innocents would be Christians slaughtered in the arena. That knowledge was not hidden from the Holy Spirit as He moved Paul to write, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." (Romans 13:1, NASB95)

A similar, though less violent, question relates to taxes. If in fact it is demonstrated that, in spite of assurances made to Representative Stupac, my tax money is used to kill unborn children, should I then refuse to pay my taxes?
The question wasn't related to abortion, but Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:15-22, "Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”
Famously, Jesus replied, ". . . render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

I'm looking forward to hearing from some of you, but my answers are:

While I sympathize with Roeder, and would much prefer him as a neighbor to a retired abortionist, had I been a member of the jury I would have had to vote, "Guilty."

And, I figure that, yes, indeed, some of my taxes will fund abortions--which I totally oppose--yet in a few days, I will go through my yearly tribulation associated with paying my tax. I'll work hard to pay the government no more than I owe, but I'll conscientiously pay what I owe.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Here is the conclusion. You may find the way he gets there informative and interesting.

From an Article on Al Mohler's blog:

The modern world does not exist without science and technology, but science does not rule the world. In a democracy — especially a democracy governed by the First Amendment — a healthy debate on all these issues will reach virtually every American institution, including the public schools. School boards and legislatures are answerable to the people — not to a regime of scientists.

Science is a cultural product that inevitably reflects the society it serves. This can be as breathtakingly impressive as the NASA missions to the moon, or as morally reprehensible as the Nazi medical experiments. Modern cultures cannot exist without modern science, but science is not the non-ideological and non-political world of knowledge many presume it to be. That presumption, to borrow Charles Haynes’ words, is “both wrong and dangerous.”

(Read it all)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

They are wacko, nut-jobs. Just because they quote the Bible, that does not make them Christian!

I heard a snatch of this on the news, while I was doing something else, so I didn't get it all, then a colleague sent me this link about the Hutaree. A so called "Christian" militia group in the Midwest. The members of this group are arming for a battle that they claim is predicted in scripture. According to the article linked above, the Hutaree
planned to "levy war" against the U.S. government. To incite such a war, the group planned to murder law enforcement officials and then follow up their initial attacks with a separate attack on the fallen officers' funeral(s), where a large number of law enforcement personnel would no doubt be gathered.

When I looked at the Hutaree website I didn't see that plan, but I can't say.

A couple things concern me--maybe alarm me:

First, these folk appear to be serious nut-jobs. We can't totally ignore the websites and rhetoric of groups like this.

Second,the story about a member fleeing from the FBI, crawling through a creek and then traveling by car, checking in on the Internet at WIFI spots, reminded me of some friends from my youth who were caught up in a similar cultic organization. The sad thing is the communist takeover that my friends felt was sure to come and that caused them to run and hide, never did come. Sadly, their life has decimated by other problems. Could these real problems have been avoided or dealt with had my friends not used up so much time and effort fighting--or preparing to fight--a menace that never materialized?

Third, some elements of the media seem to be implying that this is normal behavior for Christians, or at least those dreaded right-wing evangelicals. The article referenced above contains this:
With other news of vandalism and harassment from right-wing activists angry about the passage of health care reform, some commentators are already depicting the arrests as a further sign of how conservative activists are promoting violence in their ranks.

Fourth: When we as Bible believing Christians use language that is needlessly inflammatory, and when we fail to condemn groups like Hutaree we give credence to the view that puts Millions of Americans who will worship the Lord this Easter morning on the same plain the camo-wearing, gun-toting radicals who were just arrested.

The Huteree has an unbiblical eschatology, they hold to the idea that if God says He is going to do something that He needs people to help Him along, and they completely miss what the Bible says about being a good citizen (Romans 13, for instance).
I don't know who they are, but I know what the Huteree is not--Christian.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pictures from my 60th:

Click Here:

Our Ethical Health is What Really Needs Reform:

I've been thinking about the recently passed health-care bill, and the "process" that led to its passage. I'm amazed at how many people I run into who are angry, sad, afraid, or in other ways very upset about what happened in Washington. Comments contain words like, trickery, liars, flim-flam artists, devious, weak, sold-out, just-in-it-for-what-they-can-get. To say the least a great many people are upset.
There are thinkers and doers more capable than me who are encouraging political action. I'm listening, and I hope you are, as well. Rather than add my voice to the political conversation, what I want to do is seize on this teachable moment to point out how this monumental legislative/political struggle has shown that our culture is no longer standing on a foundation of truth and an ethic of right and wrong. Congress, and way to many of those of us who vote for congress-persons have taken our ethical motto from a popular advertising campaign and comedy routine, "Git-er-done!" I would add one word. "Just git-er-done!" Whatever it takes, whatever corners must be cut, however deeply the truth must be trampled into the mud, no matter if people less powerful than we must be hurt, just make sure at the end of the day that the task at hand is done.

Herewith I offer my top ten (maybe with a bonus or two) ways you know your ethics are slipping (or are already gone):

10 When you have start most of your statements with, "What I really meant was . . ."
The Bible puts forth this simple ethic, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." (James 5:12)
9) When the question that precedes any promise made is what, "What will you give me if . . . ?"
In describing the man of sterling character, the Psalmist describes him as someone "Swears to his own hurt and does not change." (Psalm 15:4, NASB) He keeps his word even when it costs him. From beginning to end, many of those who have populated the news have offered their oath to the highest bidder.
8) When your attitude about rules is, "If they will help me accomplish my goal, I support them, but if they are in my way I'm prepared to ignore, distort, or change them in a suspect way.
7) When those who are weak are looked at not as someone to be protected, but someone who can be used, ignored, or run-over to accomplish my goal."
6) When the ethical positions of others are instantly labeled as prejudices, thus making it easier for me seek to buy, beat, or ignore them.
5) When I am prepared to introduce totally unrelated incentives to accomplish my goal.
"If you won't tell mom, I'll give you my ice cream." can easily become, "If you don't tell the boss about me padding me my expense account I'll take your weekend on-call shift." which is just a short distance from, "If you'll vote for this bridge in my district, I'll give my vote on this legislation that affects an entire nation for decades."
4) When you are willing to listen to, and act favorably on the kind of approach in #5.
>3) When self-interest, like keeping my job, not getting caught, being reelected, or ending up with more at the end of the day, trumps all other concerns.
Look at Habakkuk 1:16. The ancient Chaldeans were so dedicated to the God of "WHAT WORKS" that offered sacrifices to the tools of their trade.
2) When you outsource matters of conscience to others.
I.E. Students who figure it is the teacher's job to keep them from cheating, workers who only work when they have to, drivers who only obey the law if they think there is a cop watching, or congressmen who say, "'If you don't tie our hands, we'll keep stealing." Character is what you are when no one is watching. Only a culture that has no respect for character continues to honor those who demonstrate that they have none.
1) When the prime question ceases to be, "What should I do?" and becomes a combination of, "What do I want?" and, "What can I get by with?"

11) When the word "principle" is almost always preceded by some version of "compromise" or followed by "but."

12) When people are expendible but getting what I want is not.
Read the rest of Psalm 15 and note the restraint of the man of integrity. The Archangel Michael showed Satan more respect than many of the addressed as "The Honorable" show one another.

Monday, March 22, 2010

When I got up this morning my health was not significantly different than it was last night when I went to bed. My knees are still a little stiff--not bad, though, for an old guy who wrestled, jogged, skied, and in other ways used them fairly hard. Though I haven't checked, I assume that my cholesterol still tends high. I took my meds. My gutter still needed fixing, and last night's storm caused some water to leak in my basement. I don't want to diminish the importance of last night's "historic," "precedent setting," and "breaking" legislation.
But more important than my knees, and blood-stream and anything that happened in any capital last night, God is still on the throne. The Lord Who gave comfort to the Jews in Exile in Assyria and Babylon, Who encouraged the Maccabees as they fought the Greeks--elephants and all--Who kept the early Christians calm as they faced lions in the arena, and gave courage to Wycliffe, Luther, Huss, and thousands of modern Christians who stand firm in hard-times, is still on the throne.

Yes, write your congressman, vote to "throw the rascals out," or keep the less rascally in, but don't forget the source of our real security.

I've been thinking about hope--Easter is coming. There is hope on this side of the cross, no matter what congress does or doesn't do.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sausage, Laws, A Dead-Horse, and US:

One of my Father-in-law's favorite jokes had to do with a man who decided to market rabbit-meat by grinding the little critters up into sausage. It turned out, though, that it takes a lot of bunnies to make a batch of sausage so the entrepreneur came up with a solution. He'd simply mix in a little non-rabbit meat. He had no trouble getting horse-meat in large quantities so he began a little. No one seemed to notice, so he added a little more, and so on.
One day a suspicious consumer asked him about the mix. He assured the consumer that his sausage was 90% rabbit--Nine rabbits to one horse.
Lately the news has been full of references to sausage-making. The references, or course, are to law-making,
not meat-packing. A lot of us smell some equine in our hare.
Instead of just griping about the "mess in Washington," perhaps it would be profitable to do some self-examination. Is my speech marked by integrity, or am I trying to hide a dead horse?

It's STTA.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two worthwhile pieces by other guys:

I read stuff on Front Porch Republic fairly often. I find Mark Mitchell to be thoughtful, and kind, even when he is taking on issues with which he very much disagrees. Here is an article he wrote about Ms. Coach. I've been teaching a group of Junior Hi kids in Sunday School about gender-role models, etc., so I found the article quite interesting.
(I need to say that there are some articles on FPR with which I disagree. In fact I find some of them needlessly insulting. It is not a Christian site, but if you know how to eat fish, you may find some stuff worth thinking about there.

Then there is an aritcle that encourages me greatly. My son, Chad, has been on a major Christian-growth curve for the past couple of years. Here is an article that gives some of his thoughts on a rich Old-Testament passage. Not bad for a guy who manages chickens.
He's still working on it, but it is worth thinking about.

Micah 7:16-20

16 All the nations of the world will stand amazed
at what the LORD will do for you.
They will be embarrassed
at their feeble power.
They will cover their mouths in silent awe,
deaf to everything around them.
17 Like snakes crawling from their holes,
they will come out to meet the LORD our God.
They will fear him greatly,
trembling in terror at his presence.
18 Where is another God like you,
who pardons the guilt of the remnant,
overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever,
because you delight in showing unfailing love.
19 Once again you will have compassion on us.
You will trample our sins under your feet
and throw them into the depths of the ocean!
20 You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love
as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago.

I think that I am finally, maybe, starting to understand God’s grace. I have been thinking about this passage for a long time. I used it as an example in a lesson I taught a few Sundays back, and realized that there was just so much more here, than I had originally seen. Verse by verse, we see so much of who God is, and what His grace is all about. We see a picture of who God truly is and what makes Him happy. He is powerful, sovereign, Holy, fully at rule. Yet unfailingly loving, faithful, compassionate, timeless.

We see a picture of the awesome power of the Lord. Nations will be embarrassed by their feeble power! Even crawling out of their holes like snakes to come and meet the Lord our God, in total awe! Sheepishly, scared, reverent, yet compelled to come. This is an amazing picture of a sovereign God, completely at rule. His rule can not be questioned! Even nations, powerful nations, are feeble in comparison. I picture leaders stricken silent, with the sudden knowledge that their words don’t measure up in HIS presence. Snakes crawling out of their holes, fearing Him but coming to meet Him. It is impossible to view a right picture of God, seeing Him for who He truly is (Holy, Sovereign) and not be in awe, not fear Him and tremble at our unworthiness to be in His presence. Our unworthiness in comparison to His Holiness demands consequence. There is no hiding, so we come out of our holes, trembling at the thought of what we deserve, knowing that He has all power, knowledge and authority to exact our deserved consequences on us.
As I read the verses again, I wonder, “Do I ever come to a place where I am in awe of the Father? Where the sounds of the world around me, all its distractions are inaudible due to my complete attention on Him?” Am I ever intentional about seeing Him for all He is? Then bowing in awe?
This is fast becoming one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Maybe the truest picture of God’s grace that I have ever read.
In verse 18, the author recognizes that ONLY God can pardon. The same God who causes nations to be embarrassed and feel feeble as they tremble, is the God who pardons! He hates my sin, but does not stay angry with me! And why? Because He DELIGHTS in showing me unfailing love. It makes Him happy to love me! The God who puts nations to trembling, DELIGHTS in showing me his unfailing love.
His Power is shown in v19, and His power stems out of compassion. Even in His power HE is showing me unfailing love. Out of compassion he exacts consequence upon my sin, and NOT upon me. Out of compassion he acts in great power, not toward me, but toward my sin. He sees me separate from my sin.
V19b, I love this part: He TRAMPLES my sins under His feet and he throws them into the depths of the ocean! He ALWAYS wins over evil. Sin has no place with Him, and puts it away from Him! Picture that, a rock being thrown into the ocean. How insignificant and forgotten that rock becomes in the expanse of an ocean! It barely makes a ripple, maybe a small splash and then, it is consumed, it disappears, it is gone. And not only is it under water, but the waves of the ocean and the currents of the water continually bury it further under. Even breaking it down further, until it is gone, unrecognizable, forgotten forever.
I can in my mind picture throwing enough rocks into a river or a small lake to be able to finally discern a pile of rocks, maybe even change the flow or landscape of the body of water, But an ocean? Dumptrucks of my sin (rocks) could be dumped into an ocean of grace and still they would be buried, and rendered insignificant under the waves. His grace is like the ocean! He throws my sin into an ocean of grace. He forgets my sin, but remembers me with unfailing love. That is what God’s grace looks like.
And finally, verse 20, He will show me His faithfulness and unfailing love just as He promised Abraham and Jacob. His promises are still true, and just as relevant as they were in the Old Testament. Our God is timeless, and His promises never expire. I can rest on the same promises as Abraham and Jacob. God is eternal. Eternally Good. Eternally powerful. Eternally Loving. Eternally Holy. Eternal Grace.
Thank you Father for your ocean of grace. For trampling sin underfoot. For loving me unfailingly. For Delighting in your love for me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just, Don't Bother Me. Radical Independence:

There has never been a time in the history of mankind when we have not resisted the obligations that come to us because of relationships. Cain plaintively, and probably angrily, asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
I see the question/objection being posed louder and more frequently, than ever.
Each of us are in a variety of relationships--family, work, church, teams, friendships, citizenship, etc. To one degree or another we all gain benefits from these circles of connection.
I'd appreciate your input on this matter, but it appears to me that there is a growing unwillingness in our culture to allow those various interconnections to meaningfully affect the life we live. It's as if we join the "Ford Drivers Club" so we can enjoy the good times, but then get terribly upset when one of our fellow "Fordies" questions our decision to buy a new Chevy.
It shouldn't surprise you, since my life is very tied up in the church, but I see it clearly in the way people regard their relationship to the community of faith. "Church should comfort and encourage me, never confront me."
My post on February 4, a review of the book Sex and the iWorld, speaks to this point, as well.
Like I say, I'd like to hear what you have to say.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Thoughts from a Friend on Lent:

(If you aren't a regular follower of this blog--and that would include most of you--you won't have any context for the well-thought--primarily because they aren't my thoughts--comments that follow. I wrote several short spots about Lent "from a guy who is more likely to have lint on his sweater than ashes on his forehead." These were sent out as daily Somethings to Think About, and can be found at I also posted some articles in an earlier entry on this blog.)

A friend who identifies himself as one of the "younger, thinking Christian[s] who is turning back to tradition," that I mentioned in one of the earlier article. I can tell you that he is a thouhtful person. LIke many young people, he is in a time of transition. His thoughts are worth considering.
While I have been enjoying your reflections, there is something lacking that I would like to comment on. There is very little discussion on the aspect of community in Lenten tradition, as well as other liturgical tradition. Is Lent Biblical? In the strictest sense, certainly not. However, it is a long standing church tradition that has been observed my many different theological traditions in the Church. It varies of course. I am giving up meat, so should I eat fish on Fridays? Or is Sunday a Sabbath from my fast where I can eat whatever meat I want? But you have covered all of that.

What I think is lacking in STTA is a reflection on the drawing into community that Lent and other traditions bring to traditions. There are certainly people who practice Lent in isolation. But I would argue that that lacks a fundamental understanding of liturgy. Tradition [liturgy] is necesarrily tied to community. It is its fundamental means of continuation. Tradition does not come about because individuals engage in a practice. It is passed from one person to another historically. That is how it becomes tradition. It is passed through community. This can be cross-applied to a contemporary community as well. An individual engages in tradition as a member of a community. Without a broader community engaging in the practice, there is no tradition. For Lent that broader community is the Church. (Hopefully, it is also a local church, such as mine, that is practicing aspects of liturgy together and being drawn together through that practice.)

So I guess what I am trying to say, is that community is at the heart of Lent, and tradition. That is what makes it beautiful. That is why it is important to me. In practicing Lent, I am being drawn in to Church tradition and taking part in a specific practice with others world-wide. I am also taking part in this with my local church community in a way so that we can engage in communal reflection and repentance. The individual sacrifice is important, but it's not a draw for me. I am far from an ascetic. But once you bring in the broader community, there is an aspect of 'should.' Not in a "I'm a better Christian because I don't eat meat for the next 40 days," kind of should. But in a "As a member of this community, you should join with us in practicing Lent, whether that means giving up chocolate, TV, or something else." So that's what I think about.

I would have to say that my young friend is right, not only specifically in regard to a missing element in this discussion, but more generally and profoundly, in that God never intended for Christianity to be a solo performance. While my assembly of believers is not one where we encourage one another to observe the Lenten Season, it is an assembly that nurtures me in pursuing a more Godly life. That is an aspect of Christian experience that I need more of, and I need to do more of.
So, thanks to my young, thinking, backward-looking (in a good sense) friend, for giving me something to think about.
By the way, as I get my heart ready for the somber observance of Christ's death and the joyful celebration of His resurrection, I'm planning to read through--using a Gospel Harmony--the life of Christ.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Different View from My Keyhole:

As I type, I'm looking out on green, and flowers, and palm trees. I'm a guest of my friends David and Joyce Owen. They are missionaries with Liebenzell Missioun USA, and Dave is the President of Pacific Islands University. We just finished our annual, three-day Board meeting.
Serving on the board of PIU is great privilege. It has given me opportunity, in a very small way, to have an impact on the growth of the church, and indeed the entire future, in this unique part of the world.
I'll share some more later, but let me simply say right now, I'm reminded of the little children's song we sing, "Red, brown, yellow, black, and white . . ." Not only does Jesus love all the people of the world, but in their heart all the people of the world have the same needs.
You folk back home, enjoy the brisk air.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


For the next several days I'll be sharing some daily thoughts about Lent on STTA. If you don't receive it via email you can find these thoughts on the STTA Blog. It is linked on this site. I guess you could call these posts, "Thoughts on Lent from a Guy Who Doesn't Do It."
I'll be putting some additional information here.
I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Here is an article from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which will likely tell you more than you want to know about the subject of Lent, but hopefully will contain somethings that will interest you:

Here is an article from one of the more thoughtful Evangelicals of our day, John Piper, about some ways you might want to consider that might help you accomplish some of the good purposes of Lent in your heart:

The Reformers made these points against unreformed Rome, but they were well aware that in making them they were fighting over again Paul's battle in Romans and Galatians against works, and in Colossians against unauthentic traditions, and the battle fought in Hebrews against trust in any priesthood or mediation other than that of Christ. And (note again!) they were equally well aware that the gospel of the five "onlies" would always be contrary to natural human thinking, upsetting to natural human pride, and an object of hostility to Satan, so that destructive interpretations of justification by faith in terms of justification by works (as by the Judaizers of Paul's day, and the Pelagians of Augustine's, and the Church of Rome both before and after the Reformation, and the Arminians within the Reformed fold, and Bishop Bull among later Anglicans) were only to be expected. . . .
To the Reformers' doctrine of justification by faith alone Reformed theology has held down the centuries, maintaining it to be both scriptural in substance and life-giving in effect.17 This tenacity has, however, involved constant conflict, as it still does. Two things have long threatened the truth as stated: first, the intruding of works as the ground of justification; second, the displacing of the cross as the ground of justification. Both are familiar weeds in the church's garden; both express in very obvious ways the craving for self-justification which lurks (often in disguise!) in the fallen human heart.

Read the entire article by J. I. Packer,SOLA FIDE: THE REFORMED DOCTRINE

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Helping boys become the right kind of men:

Right after the Superbowl I posted a Something to Think About piece that spoke about an obvious theme in the Superbowl ads--the struggle with being a man in today's world. (Click here, and scroll to Monday February 7) In that post I referenced an article by Al Mohler.
Since then several readers commented on the my piece. One mom of a young teen guy, after commenting on the difficulty of encouraging guys to defend the honor of women in today's nonviolent era, said of her son, " He is very protective of [his sister]. I get that this is an internal "thing," a built-in impulse, probably a God-given reaction to defend, but isn't it just easier to give the kid a bottle of masculinity? [referring to a new line of "hyper-masculine" cosmetics for guys, mentioned by Mohler in his article]Problem noted--yes, but solution found--no."
I also noticed since I wrote the article that I actually had missed a couple of commercials about the issue. Several talking heads on TV have also picked up on the theme. I'm not sure if he intended it as such, but Mohler posted another piece about young men that is a good follow-up.

OK there is the background for what can be a great conversation. I am confident that my friend is not the only one who has questions about guiding boys into becoming solidly Christian men. Some books by good people have been written on the subject.
What ideas do you have?
What has worked?
What books or other resources have you found helpful and why?

Try to keep your input short. Check back, read the comments, and let's help one another.

Let's see where it goes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A review of the book by Dale S. Kuehne, SEX and the iWORLD:

In a world where the Ten Commandments are banned from court houses and social Mores are consistently ignored or overthrown what rules are there to guide us in our social interactions? Dale S. Kuehne observes that there are three taboos which govern the “iWorld,” his descriptive title of the dominant culture of the West in the Twenty-first Century:
1. One may not criticize someone else’s life choices or behavior.
2. One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others.
3. One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent. (p. 71)
Brave or not, this is the new world in which we live.
In Sex and the iWorld Kuehne contrasts three paradigms for finding meaning in life—the tWorld, traditional, the past; the iWorld, individualistic, the present; and the rWorld relational, proposed. While a discussion of sexual matters is very much a part of the book, the presentation of the three worlds is much broader than that. Sex, being an important part of who we are and our relationships, serves in the text as a window into relationships in general.
The first four chapters provide a description of, and contrasts between, the tWorld and the iWorld. The fourth chapter is devoted to an examination of “humans, human relationships, and sexuality” in the iWorld (p. 44). The rest of the book is devoted to describing the rWorld. While Kuehne is not heavy handed in his treatment, he does make it clear that a world in which relationships, with our God and others, dominate is superior not only to the individualistic way of life that dominates the West at the beginning of this millennium, but to the traditional patterns that gave meaning to life from the Greeks through the Cleavers (Ward, June, Wally, and The Beaver).
The difference between the three worlds can be seen by asking a denizen of each realm a basic question: How does one achieve happiness? The tWorlder would reply that one achieves meaning in life by accepting the role into which she or he is born, respecting the boundaries that define how one lives in that realm and then living life fully in that capacity. The citizen of iWorld is all about removing all impediments to freedom and self-expression as the means to achieving the good life. While the rWorld advocate would say that we were made to relate; we are at our best when we respect and develop relationships—with our Maker, with family, and others. While the tWorld and rWorld have some key similarities, Kuehne makes plain:
I do not want to return to the tWorld, and this book does not recommend that we try. The tWorld contained much that was good and that is consistent with my faith, but unfortunately it also contained many evils. . . . Instead I am arguing that in rediscovering the relational essence of Christianity and in seeking to live accordingly, society would actually be doing something that has never been done well. In short, I am asking you to be open to the possibility that what I am about to describe is something that has been often misunderstood and never fully lived. (p. 97-98)

Anyone who is aware of the radical changes that took place in our world around the 60s will be familiar with most of what Kuehne has to say about the contrast between the t and the i Worlds. Anyone familiar with the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, relationships, and meaning in life will likewise be disappointed if he is looking for something new in the author’s proposal for a new paradigm. But, then, didn’t Solomon say that the quest for the novel is a fruitless search? In spite of the book dealing with mostly familiar material the organizational matrix Kuehne provides is worth the read. Actually, if a reader figures that he already mostly knows about the information referenced above, what he might want to do is read the introduction, then read chapter 10, and then decide whether to read the rest of the book.
The author labors the point that this is not a Christian book per se. Kuehne identifies himself as a pastor and professor of politics. He claims to be writing primarily as the latter. A non-Christian will likely find the disclaimers disingenuous. As a conservative Christian I found them unnecessary. As one who preaches from and seeks to live by the Bible, I found little if anything with which to disagree. The author is in favor of traditional marriage, does not accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, and rejects the idea that for a person to not fulfill his sexual desires—whatever flavor they be--is the sure road to unfulfillment, if not downright neurosis.
From my perspective in the pastoral trenches it was a worthwhile 220 page read.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Blind Side

Last week my wife and I went out on a date and watched the Movie, The Blind Side.
We liked it. My interest in the movie was piqued by a review/news-story in World Magazine, A couple of other folk that I know and trust spoke well of it, so . . .
The Tuohy family, though like many of my friends in some ways, is differnt than the average church family with which I am familiar. As their son says, they own like a million Taco Bells. (I'm drawing that from memory, so cut me some slack.) They live in a house that tempted my wife to envy, drive BMWs, and have their kids in a private school that is obviously a place where the kids of well-healed Christians can go be educated safe from the unwashed masses.
The movie milks that stereotype for a while. The school is devoid of people of color, except for Big-Mike, the young man the Tuohys rescue. At first most of the teachers--in particular one old, very-white male--portray the snooty attitude that the critics of Evangelicals love to characterize us with. This tension comes to a head at a lunch with Mrs. Tuohy and some of her friends. They are giving the commonly held view that we should help the unfortunate, but let's not get involved to the point that it gets messy. Leigh Anne Tuohy--whom my wife greatly admired for feistyness--let them know in no uncertain terms that she could buy an overpriced salad somewhere else.
One of the reasons that I would recommend that Evangelical Christians watch this movie is it challenges us to step out of our comfort zone. In one scene Leigh Anne is interviewing a potential tutor for Michael. All the questions have been asked when Miss Sue--this is Memphis--says that she needs to reveal something before they are done. Is she a convicted felon, was she fired from her last job for stealing family heirlooms? No, she is a Democrat. It is almost over-the-top, but not quite. Having some friends who fervently believe in the Inspirtation of Scripture, the Diety of Christ, the Substitutionary atonement, and that Ronald Reagan was our greatest president--all on an equal footing--I understood the line. Mr. Tuohy's joking response about having to adopt a black son before becoming friends with a Democrat helped redeem the mood.
All of us who have ever tried to do anything for someone have heard lines similar to one offered to Leigh Anne, "You have changed his life." Likewise all of us who have ever tried to help someone for the right reason understand Leigh Anne's response, "No, He changed my life."

I liked Quintin Aaron's (Michael Oher)acting job. He kind of reminded me of Clint Eastwod in an old Italian Western. Most of his lines were facial expressions. If I don't say I liked Sandra Bullock my wife will be mad at me, but I liked the way she played the role even without the threat.
In short, these are real people. They come across that way. The movie entertained me, and challenged me. There is some languqge I wouldn't particularly want younger kids to hear, and there are some intensly emotional scenes. The Plugged In review gives plenty of information about the films content.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Thoughts on New Year & The Old One:

Kathy and I were able to visit with both our sons and their families over the holidays. We attended church with Chad, Tanisha, Christopher, Carrington, Madeline, and Kendal on the last day of last year. Chad wrote following after processing the introduction to his pastor's message. Amen! to Pastor John & Chad:


I hear so many people saying "good riddance" or "thank God that year is over" about 2009. As our pastor pointed out last week...."God was still on the throne during 2009" and "will be still in 2010." I have been thinking on this alot this week. While God is not a vindictive God and does not hurt his people, and does not deal in vindictive punishment, He does however allow us the consequences of our decisions, our actions. He is sovereign, fully in charge and fully at rule, and nothing caught him off guard in 2009 or any other time. In his Omnipotence He knows what we need, and what needs to happen. In his Sovereignty he interjects where He knows he should, and allows things to happen so that we will eventually have the chance to make the decision of coming to the end of ourselves, and turning to Him. I am thankful for the good and the bad from 2009. The good that blessed me, and the bad that blessed me in "pruning me" for new growth, and turning me toward the Sovereign Father!

I pray that 2010 will bring more growth, in me and in my family. and that I will more than any other year be able to lead my family closer to HIM.