Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Additional resource on the 5/27 message:

The message this morning is on a very Scriptural Memorial, Baptism.
In the message I will mention--at least I plan to--a debate between R. C. Sproule and John MacArthur on the mode of baptism.  This material can be found various places, but here is one link that will lead you there:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Some thoughts on Democracy, before the flag-waving holidays:

I'll get back to the thoughts on prejudice.  I have already decided.  :)
But, first, here is a package that needs to be delivered before the season is gone.
A slew--well maybe not that many, but several, anyhow--of patriotic holidays are in America's near future.  Of course this fall there is, also, a national election.  One of the goals of political campaigns is to maximize the distinctions (real or imaginary) between their candidate or cause and the opposing side.  Often patriotism and politics takes on troubling, almost, if not completely, idolatrous overtones.  On the other hand among many Christians there seems to exist a cynicism, often reflected in complete non-participation in the electoral process, that has set in.  "They're all the same." or, "A pox on both their houses." becomes the watchword.  As is often the case the truth lies in a position of tension between those two poles.
Here is an article written when the "cold war" was still hot, that articulates some much needed balance and points to some anchor points.

As I say the article was written at a time when the world could much more easily be divided into two sides--ours and theirs, Democracy and Communism, dare I say, "light and dark."  Some of the trends in the world since then, in particular the rise of militant Islam, highlight the wisdom contained in this article.  The article warns of a system that seeks to achieve monolithic control by either eliminating the religious institutions of a culture, or bringing them under the control of the state.  The Islamic "Theocracies" achieve the same ends by conflating the religious and the secular under one head who holds absolute power.  The trouble they have caused, serve to amplify the argument the article makes
I find the thoughts of the article as applicable today as they were thirty-one years ago.

A couple of credits are due.  Steve Cornell pointed me to the article here.  In his posting Steve gives a twelve point application-focused, summary of the article.  For those not ambitious enough to tackle the longer article I recommend the summary.  For those who read the First Things Article I still recommend it.  My friend Bart Gingerich writes for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.  IRD published the article in First Things when it was still in its infancy.  Anyhow, had it not been for the "Oh, this is Bart's outfit," connection I probably wouldn't have taken time to read the article, so, in a soft sense, he referred me to it as well.

I encourage your conversation around these thoughts.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Some percolations on prejudice:

As a 62 year old, with roots in the South who grew up in the Suburban North, and has lived his adult life in the small-town (barely) South, I have observed a variety of positions in matters related to prejudice.  Historically, in America, prejudice has had to do with skin color, what is wrongly called race. I say "wrongly" not only because of the information in the above article, or this one  which states that has been abandoned "as a biological category during the last quarter of the twentieth century," but, more so, because of my own unscientific observation.  President Obama is our "first Black President," yet his mom is Caucasian.  The same observation can be made in regard to the parentage of Halle Berry, Tiger Woods, and by-and-large the whole so-called "Latino" race.  The fact is racial labels are placed on people because of social, political, and geographic reasons.  Especially in places like America with our melting-pot history these distinctions have little if any relation to genetic reality.  (That is not to say, however, that such things have no reality.  The point of my musings is that unfortunately they do.)
Some of you have heard me tell about my personal acquaintance with the proximity in American history of radical segregation and exemplary racial egalitarianism.  I was helping a sweet older lady get through the horribly slow passage of time while her husband was in surgery.  Knowing she was interested in antiques, and things related to the Civil War, I told her about a gun I had seen a few days before (here is a picture of the type of gun or one similar).  Mrs. Rice got quiet for a moment and then said, "I think cousin so-n-so has Daddy's Civil War gun.  I was having this conversation more than a-hundred years after the surrender at Appomattox, so I assumed either she said "Daddy," but meant "grand"--or even "great-grand daddy," or that she meant "Daddy's gun" in the sense that he had inherited, or bought it somewhere along the line.  Over the next few minutes however, I probed and questioned a bit, and soon came to the startling realization that I was sitting with a true Daughter of the Confederacy.  I never did check, but she had to be one of the last living examples.  Her dad was one of the boy-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy at the end of the War.  He came home, and raised a family.  At some point his wife died.  He remarried, a much younger bride and raised a second family.  Frances was the youngest child of that brood.  Some quick arithmetic led to me realize just how close the war between the states was.  Is it any wonder that during my lifetime we had still been living down, and pushing back on the gross injustices that stemmed from a culture in which one group of people were bought, owned, and sold by another group.  This ongoing issue comes, in large part, from the fact that whether one descended from slave or master is largely clear by the color of ones skin.
A few years later the chairman of our local Democratic Party, a friend of mine and member of the church I pastor, asked me if I would deliver the invocation at a political event.  Mark Warner, current senator from Virginia, was beginning his run for governor of the Old Dominion.   We met on the courthouse steps passed pleasantries and shook hands.  I make an assumption here.  Mark Warner plays basketball.  I figure that at some point in the last few years he has been on the court with our hoop-shooting President.  So, I put my left arm around the shoulders of, and prayed with, a lady whose father fought in the Civil War--a conflict that at the least, had to do with enslavement of people from Africa who had been transported to America-- and with the other hand I shook hands with a man who plays basketball with the first African-American President of the United--a union made secure by the result of that war--States.
Taking the word at its simplest, to judge before, is it any wonder that throughout the past century,  and into this one, many Whites look at people of African extraction, and Black people look at Whites and make up their mind about them before they know anything other than their skin color?
It is explainable, but it is without excuse.  

The Bible gives clear input on the matter of pre-judging. 
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24, NASB)   
"Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5, NASB)   
Proverbs says,  "To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13, NIV)

That's enough to chew on for now.  Prejudice is foolish and wicked.  Nuf-sed, for now.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Some thoughts on the current marriage controversy:

I'll get back to that third thing that I've been thinking about, but for now, here is something else that a bunch of us have been thinking about.
Steve Cornell is a good thinker.  He comes from a solid conservative Evangelical mindset.
In this article,, he raises some questions that have been stewing in my mind.
Like many of you, for me, these questions are not merely theoretical.  I love people who have chosen the gay lifestyle (I say that carefully, knowing that they would likely reject that description.  I mean no disrespect.), so I am not only trying to be Biblically correct, but properly compassionate, as well.

Here, in outline form, are some of the things that have been ruminating in my mind, some of which Steve speaks to.  I would appreciate your thoughts.

  1. In this as in other areas we cannot expect the government to do our work for us.  Or to put it another way, not everything that we regard as immoral ought to be illegal.
  2. Having said that, there are totally secular reasons to regulate issues related to family and marriage.  Balance . . . 
  3. We have to, have to, have to realize that the public in general does not keep track of who is who in the Christian--especially Evangelical--realm.  When I say, with a very calm and reasonable manner, "I have some concerns about homosexual marriage."  many of those who hear me speak equate me with the likes of Fred Phelps.  This is one of the areas where I need to remember that I have a responsibility, and privilege to reach out to all kinds of people.  The primary function of the church is the preach the Gospel not lobby for legislation.
  4. It is important to proclaim the truth.  I need to make sure, though, in the words of Micah that I not only "do justly," but, also, "love mercy."  (6:8)
It is something we need to think carefully about.

Monday, May 14, 2012

If we had better background, we'd have less need for checks:

Like a great many churches and ministries we are starting to require background checks of those who work with youngsters.  A while back, when we were discussing how to proceed on this matter, I asked the group how many of them had had bckground checks done on them for Little League, Scouts, etc.  It was interesting that the response to the question divided the group almost perfecctly from an age perspective. With almost no exception, those who raised their hands were in the fifty and under demographic, while those with their hands down get a discount on their coffee at fast-food restaurants.
That chronological divide represents several changes in our culture.  Changes that we're not the better for.

We used to be people who tended to put down roots.  My grandmother, for instance, lived in the same little community for forty years.  Before she lived in Huntland Tennessee she lived in a couple of other little places not as far away as the morning commute of many moderns.  I can remember conversations on her front porch.  "You remember Joe Bob Sampson?  He married one of the Luttrel girls."  At this point in time none of the "Luttrel girls" had been girls for thirty years.  But somebody on the porch had gone to school with one of the girls, and another had sold a hog to Old Man Luttrel, etc.  Nobody needed to send out for a background check.  Checking with a couple of neighbors would yield all the information anybody needs, and more. 
That's no longer the case.

That same lack of community-stability that  keeps us from knowing about someone's past also makes it harder for us to do anything about an infraction of what is proper.  Small town justice in earlier times may have sometimes been cruel, but there was a certain effectiveness about it.  Communities knew who to watch for, who to avoid, who to warn others about, and because no one wanted to endure the humiliation associated with such contempt, it also had a preventative effect.  Families were made to feel responsible when one of their own violated community standards, so they helped reign in unacceptable behavior.  There have always been those who do terrible things, but today too many only have to be concerned about being caught by the authorities, and they can be eluded easier than family and neighbors in a close knit community. 

Unfortunately we may think that we are taking better care of our youngsters than we did in the past, by requiring things like background checks.  At this point I need to say that I'm not against responsible ways of checking on teachers and leaders.  I am in favor of doing it, but not because it is best.  It's not.  It is just the best we can do, with what we've got.  Likely you know people who have been through our latest and greatest checks.  Theyr'e reports came back A-OK, but they aren't.  Because you have personal knowledge about them you know that if the security checkers knew what you know, these folk would be sent packing.  It may not be your place to make that information known.  In fact in some cases it is your place to not make it known, but it ought to keep us from placing too much trust in the system.  Systems are poor substitutes for real communities.

Bottom line, I guess I'm glad that we are taking this step.  We ought to do all that we can to protect the children entrusted to us.  I'm just sad that we have to.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A couple of things have been brewing--slowly, kind of like sun-tea--for a while.
The first, the least brewed of the three, I talked about in another blog of mine.  It has to do with that can-do spirit that made America--and I'm sure a lot of other lands as well--great.  I fear it is something we are losing, but maybe not.  A couple of days after I saw the old gent I wrote about on the other blog, I was helping with a big ladies event that our church pulled off.  It was one of those events that you folk involved in church work understand.  Somebody says, "Let's do it."  to which some other folk say, Let's!"  And they're off.  Folk take a limited resources and produce maxi-results.  (See here
In this case the limited resources included a group of guys who volunteered to make the women's special evening more special for not having to prepare the food--don't forget the limited resource part. Catering was out. Anyhow at the end of the evening, when the work had turned the least attractive--cleaning up--a teen guy, a son of one of the other guys showed up.  Without any prompting that I saw this young man started busing tables and putting stuff away, all with a kind spirit and sweet attitude.  In addition to accomplishing a lot of work, he sure encouraged me.

Whether we are young and healthy like my teen friend, or old and nearly worn out like the man in the other story, each of us needs to ask, "What can I do?" and then, at least a great deal of the time do it.  I'm thankful for a couple of reminders about the virtue of just plain old hard work.

Soon to come, some thoughts on background checks and jumping to conclusions, prejudice.